19 October 2014

Rinjani: the mighty volcano of Lombok

Early morning view on Rinjani from the village where
the hike starts 
Number three in altitude in Indonesia, Gunung Rinjani is quite an impressive volcano – actually it is two. Because in the big crater there is a smaller volcano growing in the middle of the crater lake. A spectacular view that is totally worth the great effort it will cost you trekking up there.

You can book the tour either on one of the Gili Islands, online, in one of the cities on Lombok or at the foot of Rinjani itself. You can book two day one night tours to the crater or you can book three day two night trips including the peak. We decided to go to the crater only, as Lisa does not like hiking anyway and a good 2000m trekking straight uphill in tropical climate seemed challenging enough.


Shortly after starting the hike
In the cloud forest (between 1500 and 2000m)
To start the hike as early as possible and do the hottest part of the hike during the coldest time of the day we slept one night in the “base camp” in the homestay of our operator. The night was already quite cold and so we were looking forward to move a bit. They promised us a good breakfast and snacks before the tour, which turned out to be a banana pancake and a cup of tea. Fabs had to ask for another pancake, as one is not enough for him before an eight hour hike. Lucky he is well experienced and could take care of that. If you have never hiked like this before, the situation could turn out rather risky, as all you get during the trip is Nasi Goreng after very long waiting periods on the road. We were freezing while waiting for our lunch and quite annoyed as we usually prefer to do the hike and then relax properly instead of letting our muscles cool down and then start again with a full stomach. But everyone has his own hiking culture, I guess we managed to fit in in the end.

Almost there!
The way starts on an altitude of about 500m above sea level. After signing in, everybody walks on a narrow street through the jungle and the last villages. Soon enough the first break comes up and you can watch monkeys in the forest, playing around, waiting for food from the tourists. As you continue, the forest changes many times, according to the altitude first the trees get shorter, the kinds of trees change, until you enter a Savanna style part, and finally all the trees are gone. The top part is very tricky, as you climb very steeply on sandy ground with canyons of the volcano opening on both sides. While trying to not slip, you 
continuously have to give way to people who descend already, which makes it even more challenging.


Camp on the crater rim
Just before you are ready to give up, the last bit of climbing over volcanic stone, feeling like a capricorn in the Swiss Alps, suddenly the path gets flat, easy to go, and then… probably everything is covered with clouds. You can barely see anything, you are wet, freezing and sweating at the same time, and it really sucks. But suddenly somebody starts with a “woaaaaaaaah” sound, everybody speeds up to see it too: The crater lake with a baby volcano in it. Amazing! You just feel happy and you know, tomorrow you will see a magic sunrise. And that makes it worth it. When the first sun beams let you spy the incredibly beautiful natural spectacle…


Sunrise on the crater rim - the peak is in the back
But it is not over. You have to go down again. After a night freezing in the sleeping bag and barely closing the eyes (rat noises because of the garbage that attracts them, snakes, maybe, sounds, snoring, porter party in the tent…). So after the whole spectacle you pull yourself together and try to do your best. Which was easier than imagined. After only six hours you arrive completely done with blisters, broken toe nails and shaking knees but extremely happy back in the base camp. Being a little proud that you are one of the cool guys that the tourists in the village are pointing at. One of the crazy people who went up Gunung Rinjani.

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