I trekked to the top of an active volcano and live to tell the tale. Mount Rinjani is a popular hiking destination in Lombok, Indonesia, towering 3,700m metres above the surrounding islands, sea and clouds.
Adrian had been wanting to do this hike for quite some time, so in honour of his birthday, we conquered the volcano together. We signed up for the 3 day / 2 night trek, which was the perfect amount of time. The days were long and challenging, but the timing of everything worked out perfectly.
I will do my best to summarize the trek to give you an idea if you ever want to do it yourself, or simply allow you to live vicariously through our adventure.
We started our day bright and early with breakfast at our lodge in Senaru, a nice veggie omelette, fruit plate and coffee, to power us through the morning. At 7:00am we were picked up by the trekking company in the back of a small pick up truck, alongside the rest of our group. A bumpy 30 minute ride in the flat bed of the truck brought us to the park entrance.We were pleasantly eased into the hike, walking through flat grassland for a couple of hours. We took a short break, hiked a bit more and then stopped for lunch. None of us were really ready to stop at this point, nor were we hungry, but that’s just how it goes. Our lunch consisted of some rice, a little bit of chicken and a few slices of cucumber and pineapple.The porters never ceased to amaze us. They climbed the mountain like they were strolling along the beach, carrying about 25kg of equipment and food on their backs, wearing only flip flops or bare feet.We continued to ascend steadily up to the crater for the next 4 hours or so. Raining on and off throughout the afternoon, we were quite soggy and chilly when we reached our first camping spot. There was pricey beer for $9 a bottle, but we weren’t too interested (Adrian was tempted) but after our long hike, all we wanted was the warmth of a tent and a hot cup of tea.Thankfully it did not continue to rain, as we were very certain our tent would not withstand even a light drizzle, as it had holes in the fly and only little twigs acting as pegs. Adrian and I changed into dry clothes and huddled in our tent for a couple of hours until dinner was delivered. We were served a nice bowl of chicken curry and rice, which we gobbled down happily (give me all the warmth and carbs!!). After dinner, around 7:30pm, we zipped up our sleeping bags and got right to sleep. We were zonked and knew we had to wake up at 2:30am for the start of our next day.
At 2:30am we awoke with a good morning call from our guide, as he approached our tent with hot cups of tea and crackers to get us going. We layered on all our warm clothes, hats and gloves and were ready to begin climbing to the summit at 3:00am. It’s amazing what energy you can muster in the middle of the night when you have a goal in sight. The climb to the summit was a challenging one. We were hiking in the dark of night, our path guided by our headlamps, doing our best to be aware of the slippery edges and steep crater drop offs around us. One step in the wrong direction and you could find yourself falling thousands of feet down into the black abyss of the crater below. The ground was made up of lose volcanic rocks, so every step forward came with a half-step sliding back, making for slow progress. However, slow and steady was the game.
There were portions that were less challenging, like the crater rim, and as the daylight came, it was much easier to take safe steps, even if the vertical was quite steep. We could see the summit most of the time, which helped in keeping us motivated. We noticed some people affected by the altitude, so we made sure to maintain a slow and steady pace and stop when we were out of breath.We reached the summit just as the sun peaked out over the horizon. It was one glorious sight to behold. It took us about 3- 3.5 hours from our camping site to the summit.
It was not as cold at the summit as I thought and the warmth of the sun helped a lot, so we were able to take in the views and snap some pics for around an hour.I was hesitant to descend, as my strength is definitely in ascending. Descending is hard and I fell on my butt countless times. The crumbly volcanic rock leaves you no choice but to “ski/skate” down, trying your best to stay on your feet, or at times just sliding down like you’re snow sledding.
The ‘jello-leg’ feeling was setting in, but we were all in good spirits and ready for breakfast. It took us just over an hour to get back to our site and we were greeted with coffee and a strange banana pancake. We nibbled a bit and then just ate some of our own granola bars and nut mix to supplement…A random monkey came and stole our leftovers! Ha!
We were able to rest for about 1 hour and then were told we would be doing a 2 hour descent to the crater lake, having lunch, visiting a hot spring and ascending another 4 hours to a neighbouring crater. This was the longest hiking day I have ever experienced, but it was well paced and somehow we all had the energy to keep going…12 to 14 hours of hiking is no joke! Our hiking buddies were two brothers from Germany, Max and Felix and they kept us entertained and in good spirits.The natural hot springs that are pictured above were the most amazing thing ever!!! It was such a cool (I mean hot) spot, the water was bubbling and quite hot. There were some pools that I could barely put my toe into and others that were as perfect as any hot tub. Oh how glorious this felt on our tired muscles.
The ascent to our next camping spot felt long and hard. The climb was steep and I was starting to get tired. Adrian, Max, Felix and I kept pushing on, as we were told by the passing guides that it would be a “flat walk” and only take “30 minutes more.” Well that was a lie and one we kept joking about. Oh yes, this “flat stretch here is quite easy,” spoken as we were sweating profusely, scaling the side of a huge rock, Ha!
After about 4 hours from the lake we made it to our site and it was a beautiful evening.We relaxed camp-side for a while, waiting for dinner to be served. Dinner was a large plate of Nasi Goreng (fried rice with an egg on top), which was the most delicious thing after such a long day. I have never stuffed so much rice into my face so quickly. I had been saving a snickers bar in my bag, which Adrian and I shared for dessert, perfection! Shortly after dinner we went to bed, as we were exhausted and needed a rest for the next day.
The last day and descent back down. We awoke to a very chilly morning, but it was clear and the sun was brightly shining. We were served another sad pancake for breakfast, with bits of banana and no coffee, as somehow they ran out (wiping tears away). We packed up our site and headed out.
Surprisingly my legs felt ok. I was assuming they would feel worse, but they were just a bit tired and loosey goosey. The earth was still quite rocky at the start, but we managed slowly. As we descended further, the final half of the hike was through the forest, which made it much easier. We all had smiles on our faces, Adrian was playing some music for us all on his phone and we were all feeling quite accomplished. Hikers passing us, heading up the summit, were commenting how we all looked great, hoping that they would look the same in a few days time.
We passed lots of random “mountain dogs” and monkeys, taking breaks every so often to get our legs back.Our final meal on the trek was a big plate of Mie Goreng, or fried noodles. The same as Nasi Goereng, but prepared with noodles instead of rice. Both of these meals are standard fare anywhere in Indonesia, as they are cheap and easy to prepare. This meal was welcomed as we were all hungry for lunch. The noodles were served with a fried egg, cucumber slices and a large shrimp cracker on the side.At this stage all I was craving was some sort of fresh fruit or vegetable (ie. more than one bite of a cucumber). There were a couple girls sitting near us from a different trekking group who had a bountiful plate of uneaten fruit beside them. I sauntered over and explained to them how we had not be served anything of that sort and they graciously shared some pineapple and apples with me. Thank you!!!
Our experience hiking Mount Rinjani was a fabulous one. Although we were a little disappointed with our trekking company and the services they provided, the great friendships we made, the challenge and beauty of it all was well worth it.
I would recommend this hike to anyone who is traveling through or living in Indonesia.
Below I have included some more detailed reflections on our experience, must-haves, pros/cons etc. that may be helpful if you are considering this trek.
Mount Rinjani Trekking Must Haves:
- A quality trekking company: I can not stress this enough! Adrian and I found a company via TripAdvisor, where reviews should not always be trusted and were not very happy with the standard of things. Our tents, equipment, food and service were poor.
- Warm clothes: It can be around 5-8 degrees celsius at the summit, which feels chilly when you are used to 35C down below
- Headlamp: A must for summiting in the dark
- Rain jacket: It is common to hike through pockets of rain as you ascend through the clouds
- Hat and/or neck scarf
- Snacks: Trail mix, granola bars, nuts, chocolate bar etc. It is nice to be able to supplement the food served, which is sometimes necessary
- Poles & Hiking Boots (optional, but would have been nice)
- We had a great hiking group. You don’t get to choose this unless you’re already traveling with a group, but lucking out and having awesome people in your group can make a 12 hour hiking day feel like a breeze.
- The views were stunning. At one point I questioned, is this worth it? Yes, yes it was!
- Great exercise! Your legs might feel like jello afterwards, but all those steps are so good for you. I was wearing my FitBit and it calculated that on one day I crushed over 40,000 steps!
- Having great weather. We were blessed with sunny clear skies when we summited, I would have been a tad disappointed if we got to the top and could not see anything.
- Our trekking company was sub-par and very basic. I am flexible and able to adapt, but as we hiked alongside other companies and were able to compare (and at times feel jealous) what our company was neglecting or not providing.
- Some of our meals were very poor, which relates to the above
- Garbage on the trails. This is getting better, but it’s not perfect, as not all trekking companies pick up after themselves
- Human poo on the trails. Watch you step, or you may squish into a “log” 😛
- Take it easy and pace yourself if you have not climbed at high altitudes. You never know how your body will react, so take your time and let your body adjust. Forcing yourself quickly up to the summit can result in you not making it or getting altitude sickness.
If you have any questions about this trek, please don’t hesitate in asking.