Gunung Rinjani

Trip Start Mar 04, 2004
Trip End Jul 02, 2005

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Climbing Mt. Rinjani, the second highest mountain in Indonesia.

The Lead-up: On 08 May I finished did an early morning dive at the USS Liberty wreck in Tulamben, Bali and then spent the entire day getting to Sengiggi, Lombok. Many sweaty bemo rides to the terminal at Padang Bai with its persistent touts and hawkers, a 5-hour ride on a slow, rusty old hulk, and a two-hour shuttle to Sengiggi. The whole way I was plotting how I could afford and organize a trek up Mt. Rinjani, which is 3726m and my Lonely Planet says is usually climbed in 4 days, 3 nights. With the necessary porters, guides, gear rental and food this was looking to be a costly adventure. I hit some luck when out bus driver stopped me at a tour-booking office desparate to fill a spot on a Rinjani trek. I was able to get the trip at a 40% discount and it worked out to 650,000Rp ($108CAN) for 3 days, 2 nights with everything provided. Normal price is around 1 million rupiah. This took a lot of worry off my mind but it would have been an interesting challenge to organize it myself. I found a very cozy losmen, called Sonya's place, where the owners are actually Catholics. I just happened to be carrying three CDs of hymns with me and I let Maria, the matriarch, them borrow them. They were very nice to me, even giving me a free supper. I drank most of the night away talking diamond- selling and US drug policy with a Moroccan Jew from LA. We also went to the Marina Cafe nightclub to see a Surabayan cover band. On this supposedly Muslim island, these girls were wailing away US pop songs and wearing some rather provacative bits of material.

The Trek:

Feeling: My ass going numb because a transport screwup meant I had to sit on the back of a scooter for two-hours to get to Senaru, the jumping off point. Wonderful feeling of wind in the hair and freedom at first, then the numbness... The bite of a bamboo pole into my shoulder muscle. I tried carrying the porter's loads for a small bit of the walk. Shar carried over 25kgs, two loads balanced between a thick bamboo pole. Boh had a standard trekking pack, almost bursting with supplies. Our guide Mansur carried the same. The beads of sweat pouring off my face and body as I plow my way through the jungle track, which took up most of the first day. The searing heat in my breast as I drove myself faster than the others, just to gain a sense of isolation and aloneness in the Indonesian jungle. The deep chill at night on our exposed camping places and the much-needed heat of the fire and ever-present tea . The feel of rocks through my sleeping bag, mat and tent. The ache in my thighs and calves and near-exhaustion as I struggled up the unmercifully steep scree slope towards the summit. The exhultation as I let out a yell of triumph, having beaten all challengers to the summit, just before the sunrise.

Smell: The organic smell of earth and humid jungle. The sweet smell of Indonesian tea with sugar. The reek of 6 people who have busted their asses climing a massive volcano for 3 days. Peppermint leaves, found by my fellow trekkers, the German couple Mike and Katja. The light smell of sulphur of the hot springs we soaked ourselves in on the second day. The tartness of the Sasak (Lombok inhabitants) hand-rolled cigarettes.

Sounds: The slap of flip-flops in front of my as our porters navigated steep inclines and declines, sometimes running as well. One of the porters even went barefoot for the whole trek. A new meaning for the word hard-core. The screech of Old Man monkeys, first in the trees and then running from our rest areas as Mansur tries to scare them off with a rock. The clik-clak of the Austrian Seniors Trekking Clubs poles. My nearest adversaries on the summit climb and a major motivation not to be beaten by a 60-year old. The squawk of the live chicken our guides carried up the mountain and then slaughtered on the second day for our lunch. The varied bird songs and calls, changing with the elevation and terrain. The echo of my yell, across multiple jagged cliff faces.

Taste: The spice of Lombok village cooking, particularly the Sambai sauce. The much longed-for taste of chocolate, that very necessary accompaniment to all climbs. The sour-sweetness of fresh pineapple and papaya. The saltiness of homemade fried mountain dumplings.

Sights: View on the crater rim, our first night, which is of the Mt. Rinjani double caldera. This means there is actually a new, and active, volcano within the old crater. It is surrounded by a still blue lake and is a unique sight. The seting of the sun behind Mt. Agung, back on Bali. The green fields of the upper reaches of Mt. Rinjani. The bared teeth of an Old Man monkey as it charges me when I get to close. The delicate flowers of the fields. The slim, slithering snake that crosses our path. The view at 2:30am of the 800m climb that must be accomplished before sunrise at 6am. The epic, all-around view at the summit. The suns first rays hitting Rinjani and Agung. The welcome sight of banana pancakes made by our porters back at the second camp, which is at 2900m. Finally, the softly lit passage into Sonya's on the night of the third day, having returned safely and happily from my highest-yet climb.
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