Day 8: Mt Rinjani
A 4:30am wake up call is not a great way to start the day. Neither is realising that you will miss the free breakfast buffet. I tried to push these pessimistic thoughts from my mind and get excited for what lay ahead.
I felt like I was in a dodgem car for the 90 minutes it took to reach the tour office, being flung around sharp corners at impossible speeds. Somehow we all made it alive. The banana pancake breakfast served to us while we waited for everyone to arrive made up for it a little.
All up there were 11 on the tour, split into two groups: my group consisted of four, the other of seven. I wasn't sure why we were split up when we spent the next three days by each other's sides, but there must have been some reasoning behind it. Once we were ready, we were all squashed with our day packs into the back of a pickup truck and driven for an hour to the park office. We signed our lives away and commenced what would be a three day trek to the summit of Mount Rinjani, the second tallest volcano in Indonesia. It was also an active volcano, last erupting in 2010. A nice, calming thought to keep in the back of our minds.
A relaxed start to the trek.
The first part of the walk was relatively easy. Checkpoint one was reached within an hour and a half, where it then took the same amount of time for our porters to prepare lunch. Veggie noodles, egg, rice, fruit - it was a great spread and worth the wait.
Our lunch being prepared.
After lunch we were faced with another 90 minute undemanding stroll, although Fundi, our guide, wanted to stop every 15 minutes or so for a break. In the end a few of us across the two groups became a little frustrated at the slow pace (me, in a hurry? Never!) so we continued on ahead by ourselves. The track was easy to follow and there were several other groups around, giving us almost zero chance of becoming lost.
The last two to three hours of trekking were definitely more difficult. Steep, slippery, dusty, loose pebbles - this was what I was expecting. We stopped occasionally to catch our breath but mostly we were eager to reach camp before dark. The path steered us in and out of clouds, until eventually we were above them. At last we made it, met by dozens of other hikers and tents that had already been assembled. We started the day 1100m above sea level, and now we had reached over 2600m. Even though it was challenging, I loved the feeling of accomplishment that overcame me as I summited that final hill.
The camp site was incredible. Situated on the crater ridge, Rinjani loomed menacingly over us. Turning away from the volcano we were met with sweeping views across Lombok, with the crater lake sitting in the foreground. It was an extraordinary location, made slightly less special by the hundreds of other people also at the camp, everyone jostling for a prime photo-taking position.
Camping at the foot of Mt Rinjani.
The sun slowly set behind distant mountains, drawing all the warmth out of the air. I quickly put on every piece of clothing I had brought with me, but it wasn't enough to protect me from the chilling wind sweeping through the camp. We spent ages looking for our group, hoping our tents would be set up and ready to climb into. While we were searching we stumbled upon a "shop", with a local man selling a few basics out of a tent for weary travellers. Danny's face brightened when he saw the Bintang, and he immediately bought a can. I was happy with a packet of biscuits, glad to have something to settle my rumbling stomach.
Sunset from camp.
Just when I thought I was going to die from hypothermia, Fundi located us and directed us towards the tents. We jumped straight into our sleeping bags, eating the tasty fried rice dinner in bed. Fundi announced he had a surprise for us: Bintang! Danny was ecstatic; me, not so much. If only Fundi had stashed a bottle of wine or vodka in that pack of his...
With dinner done we wrapped ourselves up tightly, not prepared for the freezing temperatures on the mountain. Danny dozed off straight away and slept peacefully. I spent the whole night shivering, unable to warm up. I tried to pretend I was back on the beach, sipping a cocktail while the sun blazed overhead. It didn't help. It was a long night.