The Most Beautiful Trek

I started writing a blog because I wanted to write about my Rinjani trek. 

Rinjani was the first mountain I trekked that really tested my mental endurance. After we came down, I declared that I would never climb it again.

And yet.

I could never forget the beautiful scenes that greeted me each day on the mountain. Or the splendour of pre-dawn as we trudged doggedly towards the summit. Even though I felt half dead, my limbs weigh a tonne and the soles of my boots were shredded to bits by the screed.

I had thought nothing could beat Nepal. Until this.

A Journey Of Discovery

Aug 2005 was when my mates and I headed to Rinjani because Jun-Aug was the best time to climb Rinjani. Our friends went in December but failed to summit because it was too dangerous: cold, wind, wet.

We spent 4 days walking from Senaru to Sembalun Lawang. Senaru and Sembalun are villages at the base of Rinjani and most trekkers usually start from one or the other. For us, every day of those 4 days was a feast for the eyes. The landscape changed constantly as we moved from lower grounds to higher grounds and back down again but each was as splendid as the last. 

The trek started off innocuously. From Senaru, we entered a rainforest similar to those we had been to in Malaysia – big trees, dense canopy and all. Soon, we got to a height where we could see clouds drifting in, swirling, dancing and trying to engulf us. We stayed long enough only to finish our lunch, left and continued climbing until we were 1500m above sea level. When we looked back, we saw a beautiful sea of clouds floating above rainforest. 

By then, we had crossed into the the arid zone. The vegetation had thinned and the volcanic soil began to show more of itself. When we went around the little hilltop, we saw the emerald green crater lake. From there, we would descend all the way down to the lake itself. It was a steep descend that kept us on our toes and bums very often. But we never lose sight of the beautiful lake.

Close up, the lake felt much bigger than it had looked up from the hill. Most trekkers would camp here. We didn’t. We continued climbing up the steep jagged rocks till we reach the 2nd crater rim and set up camp there. This was better for us because this it put us closer to the summit.

The climb was unforgettable. One of the toughest I’d encountered. I saw Orion mid-slope in the pre-dawn sky and marvelled at the climbers who overtook us. I saw my mates leaning on their walking sticks as they attacked the loose screed determinedly. I remember that feeling of utter exhaustion while looking at the big stone near the summit. Then I dragged my tired feet across the ridge and planted them firmly onto the tiny summit. I never doubt that making it to the summit was what I wanted, and that made the difference.

The view from the summit wasn’t that great. And sunrise was long past (we were 2 hours late). But our hearts were singing.

Descending was much easier. We coasted down effortlessly as if on wheels. The same thin air that troubled us earlier on the ascent was moot.

There was no rest. We had a quick meal then packed up and headed down immediately for the next camp site. It was a very pleasant walk. Despite our fatigue we paused to snap loads of pictures: the yellow forestry trails, the green green meadows, the lush grass land. We could see the peak clearly on the way down and couldn’t help thinking: we were up there just now!

 Walking Sticks, Wet Tissue and Other Stuff

Someone gave us this advice: bring your full gear up ie proper hiking gear when travelling to a cold place (like Nepal).

And all the walking sticks we could find.

Wet tissue was also essential – we used it to clean since we couldn’t bathe during the 4 days in the mountain.

The fastest and best way to get to Rinjani is to take a direct flight to Lombok island (2.5 hrs from Singapore). You can also fly to Bali and connect by ferry (via Lembar-Padangbai) or by plane, if you are desperate or trying to kill time. Daily domestic flight information can be found here.

Have an experienced/reliable trek agency organise your trek for you. Usually the package includes 1 night stay at the base, 1 guide, porters, sleeping bags, all meals during trek, all overland transfers while on Lombok and trekking permits.  I recommend Am, who guided my group and also helped me organise other Lombok trips. Checkout his website here and here. Or email him: am_rinjani@yahoo.com.

Categories: Hiking, Throwback

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