Mount Rinjani, situated in the island of Lombok, is the second highest volcano in Indonesia. It is well known for it’s stunning crater lake, spectacular views over Lombok and it’s neighbouring islands, and also the gruelling climb to it’s summit. After hearing about how tough it is to reach the top and how you should probably be a relatively experienced hiker to undertake such a climb, we, of course, decided to give it a go! (because, you know, we ARE experienced volcano climbers…oh, wait)
We had heard a lot about Rinjani, and how some people felt it was the best part of their trip to Indonesia. We, and our travel buddy Stijn, really wanted to climb a volcano while we were here and we also wanted to visit Lombok, so why not combine the two? We decided to head straight there after catching the fast boat from Padangbai, Bali to Lombok, and so we booked to stay in the Dreamcatcher Camp - which was just round the corner from the start of the Rinjani Trail up to the second summit.
Just a quick(ish) word on the Dreamcatcher Camp. This is the first place we have been to since we started travelling that we have felt like we are actually backpacking and that our life is now that of full time travellers, rather than just being here on holiday, and this was such an incredible feeling. As soon as we walked down the little stone steps, passed the wigwam and the view of the rice paddies, we felt like we were welcomed into the Dreamcatcher family. Sam, Kelda and their staff (and also shout out to the dogs Mario, Ginger and Loko) have done such a great job in creating a beautifully chilled out, snug and welcoming place out of a small patch of land, a lot of wood and some brightly coloured paint! Yes it’s basic, with an outdoor toilet and shower (and basically outdoor everything actually), but this just adds to the amazing and unique vibe of the place and makes you feel like you are experiencing something that you wouldn’t find just anywhere. They also organised the whole Rinjani trip after we messaged them through their Facebook page before arriving, and they lent us the all important socks/trousers/coats/waterproofs/dog which we travellers were too unprepared to bring with us in the first place! As we embarked on our journey into the clouds, you could definitely feel that the people at the camp were fully behind us and genuinely wanted us to make it to the top. We are so glad that we chose to stay here, so even if you don’t fancy climbing a volcano but you’re still keen to visit Lombok anyway (and don’t mind going back to basics), then definitely look up the Dreamcatcher Camp - thanks guys, we hope we’ll be back! (And thanks to Nina Verstappen for recommending!). We booked to stay at Dreamcatcher through www.booking.com and they also have Instagram if you want to check them out!
Images © Rico Wijaya
So, it was nice and sunny, we were kitted out with all the essentials - 3 guides/porters - Hendra, Eddy and Puat - and our own bodyguard in the form of Mario the dog, and we started the first day of hiking along an 8 month old trail. The aim by the end of the day was to get to basecamp at 2900m - piece of cake, right?
The walk was (I struggled to find the right word to put here, there are so many words to describe!) - it was…we’ll start with interesting. When I say interesting I mean in terms of the SO many different types of landscape we walked through. There was tropical jungle, so dense it was dark pretty much the whole time, and so still it was a little eery. It had forested woodland with monkeys shouting at us from the trees (which Mario promptly bounded off into the undergrowth to bark at for a while) and more tree roots than path. There was also extremely tall grass with little spikey plants that left burrs on your clothes, so overgrown you could barely see the path; we were walking into the unknown most of the time. From basecamp to the summit there was barely anything but a few clumps of sparse trees every now and again and a whole lot of loose, gravelly lava rocks which made it difficult to climb the last few hundreds of metres. The slopes of this mountain had pretty much everything.
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The walk, although beautiful, was incredibly difficult, and that was without the rain. A tropical downpour chose to come down on us - and I mean really really come down - as we were starting the final ascent to basecamp; which coincidentally happened to be the steepest and most difficult part of the entire trek (but maybe this was partly because of the rain). We kept expecting to come out of the clouds at any time and the rain would stop, we could put up the tents and settle in for the night after a long day, but the clouds just wouldn’t go. We finally reached the camp after a crazy climb - which included a few tears from me, a bit of swearing loudly at the rain that was soaking through our jackets and bags, and some unbelievable motivation from Will.
Eventually we got the tents up, we had relatively dry feet and we had had some delicious food made for us by the guides, when the rain stopped and we could settle down for the night. We were woken around 5am to get ready for the 2 hour trek to the summit and this was perfect timing to watch the sunrise as it broke over Rinjani.
The difference in the atmosphere that morning was a whole world away from the previous evening - there was barely a cloud in the sky and the view was absolutely beautiful. Some more walking/struggling to walk ensued, complete with cold wet shoes, bags around our socks to try and keep them dry, and very sore legs - but saying that, we all had a renewed sense of purpose which definitely helped to drive us on towards the end goal.
With Will (not by his choice) and I bringing up the rear, we finally reached the top of the second summit - 3350m above sea level. At this point I’ll let the photographs do the talking bar one word - WOW.
And then, we went back down!
In all seriousness, if you are thinking of climbing Mount Rinjani, it is an extremely tough hike. This is probably true for most volcano treks, although they all vary in difficulty. You’ll definitely need a certain level of fitness, and maybe more importantly, positive mentality, if you want to make it to the top - or at least make it there without a tremendous struggle and still be in a good mood. The people I climbed Rinjani with had these traits - Will regularly climbs and worked as a labourer at home and Stijn runs varying long distances most days of the week, so has super strong legs and a crazy amount of stamina. Also, both of them are incredibly positive people (this only faltering when we had walked the steepest part of the trail in the pouring tropical rain - understandably). I on the other hand could definitely have done with a much higher fitness level and I will be the first to admit that. My legs felt like they would give way any second and I had to take so many breaks the porters were most definitely wondering what an earth I was thinking taking this on. Even though I am normally a pretty positive person, the climb up Rinjani, and especially the weakness in my leg muscles, seriously tested this. If I hadn’t been climbing it with people I am super comfortable with and who didn’t have the positivity of Will and Stijn, I don’t think I would have made it to the top (and I would have wasted everyone’s time and a big chunk of my budget coming back down after only half a climb!).
It really was tough, and even though the view from the top was stunning, the sense of achievement and the reality that we actually made it to the top still hasn’t quite hit me yet because of how much I struggled - however I’m sure it will sink in once I can feel my legs again!
If you have made it to this point in the post, thank you for taking the time to read it - I know it is quite a long one! There was so much to write about Rinjani and I really wanted to share how it felt to undertake this trek - although my views are not necessarily those of the people who accompanied me. I want to get across that climbing Rinjani is not to be undertaken lightly, I still can’t quite believe I did it but it certainly is an experience I will never forget.
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Thanks for reading!
Ellie and Will