We don’t realize how many life changing or rather life enhancing decisions are made while lounging in university hallways, college canteens or over cups of coffee. There I was waiting for a lesson to start and looking at a photograph of a spectacular mountain in Indonesia, one I had never heard of before. “Let’s go here”, I said to my friend excitedly while we were planning our trip to the archipelago. Sure enough, there we were two months later standing at the gates of Gunung Rinjani National Park. We were all geared up for our three day hike…or so I thought… little did I know what lay in store for me.
Located on the Indonesian paradise island known as Lombok this National Park gets its name from Mount Rinjani (Gunung Rinjani) which is the third highest mountain in the country at 3,726 m. I was headed to Lombok from another set of islands nearby called the Gilis and we had booked our hike in advance there. We were met in Lombok by our lovely, smiling and endearingly tiny guide Remo. Remo smoked a whole lot and despite that you couldn’t begin to imagine the amount of stamina his 5ft self managed to contain. I at this point realized that I had travelled to Indonesia with only flip flops and no jackets whatsoever. Luckily the guys at the park offices were prepared for bumbling summer focused hikers like me and loaned me the missing wares.
‘Segara Anak Lake and the New Volcano’ © Charlie Proctor
My friend was raring to go and practically ran uphill the entire way (that’s a whole different story) while I on the other hand hadn’t had too much sleep the previous night. So there I was walking through a dense rain forest, looking less human by the minute and considering what my chances of a helicopter rescue were. Just as I was about to make a rather melodramatic appeal to Remo, we stopped for lunch; a traditional noodle soup cooked on the spot by the superhuman porters who it seemed had been waiting eons for us to reach.
‘Lunchtime Refueling’ © Christina Zierold
Post refueling things started looking up, literally. The climb became even steeper but luckily for me we were now out of the jungles and into the open fields and I was no longer a walking pool of sweat. I made my way to the camp site, narrowly avoiding being attacked by a few monkeys on the way and dived straight into my bright yellow tent to make up for being sleep deprived for almost 48 hours.
Next morning after a 6:00 am wake up and breakfast, we had to do our business out in the open (as you do when you are hiking) only this time we had pervert monkeys for company. It turned out to be quite a task as you might imagine (if you’d like to). We then made our way to the western part of Mt. Rinjani where amidst the sulphurous smelling waters of Segara Anak Lake lies a new volcano emerging from the centre. It was a breathtaking sight, which given the altitude we were at might not have been the best thing.
‘The Lush Rainforests’ © Charlie Proctor
We then continued our journey to some hot water springs enjoying fantastic bird’s eye views of the Gili Islands along the way. When we finally reached the springs it felt like I was being rewarded for my bravery and exemplary resilience. The springs formed a series of small waterfalls which acted as natural masseuses. It was much needed after the amount we had all walked (and fallen in my case). 8 hours after our spring jaunt we managed to reach the base camp and I almost wished for people waiting for us to applaud our massive efforts and our glorious accomplishment. That night I saw the Milky Way closer than I have ever seen it before and also the most moving and captivating sunset of my life. That night alone made over 20 hours of walking completely worth it. Despite freezing temperatures and a tiny tent, I slept like a baby with the goofiest smile on my face.
Next morning was Day 3 and all of it was spent in the descent which when you are going down a sandy slope with nothing to grab on to is no cake walk. However we all managed to make our way till the end albeit with a few bruises and scratches but nothing someone who’d just scaled Rinjani couldn’t handle.
‘Photos don’t do justice to the beauty of the sunset we saw’ © Charlie Proctor
The very last part of the hike involved walking through a village and I happened to catch my reflection after 72 hours and immediately wished I hadn’t. At the end of it all I am so glad we went on the hike because it is one of my fondest memories of the trip. I challenged myself physically, emotionally and mentally (I swear at some points I was having imaginary conversations) and was fortunate enough to witness some spectacular unparalleled beauty. That said, would I be accompanying a friend on another climb up Rinjani? Umm…not anytime soon (read: a million years). Been there, done that. It’s off my check list. Thank you very much, I earned it.
Written by: Ankita Mahabir
Photo credits: In respective photo captions