Gunung Rinjani

Day 1:  

We woke up at 5am and collected our packed breakfast from reception. They knew we would miss breakfast as we were being picked up to go to Rinjani at 6am so they prepared bottled water, fruit and pastries for us. We packed up our two backpacks with as little stuff possible and headed to reception. An English speaking guide and a driver met us and showed us to the car. It took us 1.5 hours to get to Senaru and this man was driving fast as it was supposed to be 2 hours! I'm mean the kinda fast where I felt car sick and that never happens! Some how mr night owl (Lewis) managed to fall asleep, but I think that he was closing his eyes so he couldn't see how many close calls we had with scooters, cars and people! Arriving in Senaru I felt rather nauseated. We were offered banana pancakes and bottled water before we left but there was no way I was eating. We used a proper toilet for the last time before leaving. I had taken some antinausea and antidiahorrea medication as I was very concerned I was getting sick. We were talked through the trek at this shack they called an office before we left and they explained that there are thee positions and then the crater rim where we will be spending the night. The man was also running through all the list of stuff we should have brought and he was horrified when we said we didn't have long pants! He said that it's only between 5-10 degrees on the crater rim where we will be sleeping. We explained that it is winter in NZ at the moment so that's an ok temperature ! Maybe we will even get a better nights sleep. 

After all of that we got into another car with a different driver and they drove us into Rinjani National Park. Turned out the English speaking man who initially picked us up wasn't our guide for the mountain. Instead we had a young 24 year old Indonesian guy called Ajhib. I had this overwhelming fear hit me, I mean what the hell were we doing when we could have been relaxing on the beach! But we like adventures! We are NZers after all :) We pulled up to the entrance and our guide Ajhib said "lets go" and we grabbed our packs and started. I expected maybe some sort of safety briefing or a discussion about keeping Rinjani clean but there wasn't anything. It took a few meters for the nauseating fear to subside, I mean it was just Lew and I in the group anyway with our guide at this point. We would have two porters to carry all the cooking and sleeping equipment who had left earlier. We had been walking for just an hour and I was starving. I got out a muesli bar but struggled to eat it and breathe at the same time as we really pacing it up a steady incline already. Ajhib keep saying to us this is the easiest part and I was concerned about what was to come. 

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It took us about an hour to get to position one (601m above sea level) and that wasn't that steep but it was occasionally in the sun and very hot. Our new Adidas shoes (Terrex GoreTex) were awesome so far but ask us again in 8 hours if we still feel the same! Between position one and position two it took us about an hour but it was a much steeper track through the forest with lots of tree roots. Position two is 1500m above sea level. It doesn't sound like much walking so far but our legs were certainly complaining. Lew has some great conversations with Ajhib about NZ and the sports we play - there was lots of miming to get the ideas across! Super funny to watch.

We stopped for lunch at 11am just past position two and our porters which we had met up with earlier sat down and began making us lunch. There were two actual porters and a young boy of around age 16 (or younger) who was learning the ropes. They have to make 5 trips up Rinjani before they become actual porters. They are expected to carry around 14kg on their shoulders using a big bamboo or wood pole with equally balanced items at each end. Flip flops or jandal/thongs depending on where you come from is the footwear of choice. I did ask Ajhib if they wore flip flops because they couldn't afford proper trekking shoes. He said that they actually prefer the flip flops. Absolute madness in our view! But it reminded us of one of our friends from Colorado - John, when we came to visit us in NZ we took him on a hike and he preferred to wear jandals or even bare feet as well.  

They layed out a rug and got a couple of chairs and a lemonade for us. We sat waiting for lunch with the monkey's swinging in the trees around us. It did start to get quite cold as it was under tree cover and in the clouds which you could see moving very fast through the trees. We had to put a few extra layers on as the sweat on our clothes made us even colder. I spotted a few mosquitos so we went about covering ourselves with the incredibly potent deet bug spray. We put so much on we began coughing and spluttering. Lew was pretty unsure about the mosquitos and was super on edge (Malaria). I touched his leg once with my foot by accident and he jumped in fright. He was also asking me whether they can bite though his three layers of clothing!

We felt a tad uneasy about the food preparation going on but we didn't have much of a choice! We were starving and they did seem to be using bottled water up make stuff...with their hands! I was tempted to offer them some hand sanitiser. I did have one dehydrated meal in my backpack we could use if necessary (mmmm Mexican chicken with nacho chips). It did feel a bit strange as it was very much them and us and they made us food first. It was actually amazing for the fact that we were 1500m up a volcano - rice, stir fried vegetables, cucumber, chicken drumstick, some sort of crackers and an egg. Then they produced a plate full of fresh fruit- pineapple, orange and banana. Plus to top it off they offered us tea, coffee or ginger tea. Of course I was keen for ginger tea! Lew said water was fine but they brought him some plain hot water 😂. We just hoped like hell we weren't going to get Bali belly up here 😕. However, we were prepared for the worst as we had brought our own toilet paper and so many drugs to fix any potential medical issues. 

 Lunch took about an hour and we tried to eat as much possible so as not to offend anyone. They threw the leftovers to the stray dogs hanging around us and the monkeys were pretty quick to come down from the trees to collect the fruit! I went into the bushes to pee and it was just full of toilet paper, used tampon and anything else you could think of. So disgusting. Now I think they are a bit better at reducing the rubbish left on the mountain as the guides all have to carry a orange bag for rubbish with them. Being the tidy kiwis we are we already had started our own rubbish bag. I was developing blisters so before they got to bad I covered them and taped them down.

Starting again through the forest we left the lunch spot behind feeling a lot more energetic and with full stomaches. It was supposed to take us another 1.5 hours to get to position 3 (2000m) and then another 2.5 hours to the crater lake (2641m)). Gosh it seemed like a lot. The forest gave way to open grass and it became very dusty and a lot warmer in the sun. We became super sweaty again and probably didn't have any sunblock on since the sweat was just drilling off us. A little concerning since we were already peeling from previous days! We were absolutely powering up the mountain and came across position 3 within an hour. Ajhib kept asking if we wanted to stop but we kept just saying na let's just get this done! But there was one point at about 1230 pm when he did make us stop as he wanted to pray. He had even brought his prayer mat with him. It was a good time for us to reapply bug spray and sunblock anyways.

 I have to say the next part to the crater lake was the hardest. They told us at the briefing that this part was about 30 degrees inclination. It was straight up through the slippery dirt and it was hard to keep upright. We were so thankful for our shoes with massive tread on them! Our calves were killing us and we had to stop for a breather every 10 minutes or so. I kid you not the entire climb it felt like our hearts were jumping out of our chest. We had a slightly longer stop once we reached the top of this dirt hill and commenced yet another hill- this time it was super rocky and steeper. This was the final stretch or so our guide told us as we had 15 minutes left. We build up some stamina and told our guide let's get going. He was lying down having a rest, we like to think we were tiring him out since we were hauling it up the mountain. He also suggested we wait for the porters so that our tent was ready when we got up there. We said we didn't mind not having all that and we can keep going.

 The scree field went for what seemed like miles. Our plan was to just keep our heads down and hope that the time will fly. Plus we didn't want to look up at what we still had to go. I managed this for 5 minutes or so but made that mistake of looking up, I lost all will to finish this in that moment as it seemed never ending! Lew seems to have gained a bit of energy and was now encouraging me. He was looking buggered back when we were at the dirt hill. Our calves felt like they were splitting apart with every step up into another precariously attached rock. But as we came across a slightly flatter area we realised that the hill was over.  Ajhib pointed out this is where we are going to camp. At this point we wernt even at the crater rim and we were quite disappointed that we might not be camping with the volcano in sight. The guide put his bag down at another camp site and asked if we like that one. Then we realised we had a choice and we said we wanted to check out the crater rim and view into the crater lake.

 It was another 10 minutes up and down another dusty path and we were really hoping we wouldn't have to climb this every time we wanted to get some pictures. Our legs really wernt used to down hill so it was hard keeping them under control as the walk was a bit more undulating! It was an unbelievable sight coming up over a hill and having Gunung Rinjani (ie in Mt Rinjani in English) come into view. At this point the summit was covered in cloud so we wernt able to see that. We walked around a bit and tried to find a good place to camp. The only other people there at that point was a couple of porters setting up for their group. So we were very pleased we were the first westerners to make it up the mountain today. We decided upon a little spot on the edge of a hill that had recently been devastated by fire. We thought that hopefully there would be less rubbish and perhaps all the human excretment would have been burnt! It also had an a pretty good view for a time lapse right outside our tent!   It was such a good feeling finally reaching 2641 meters above sea level. Our guide Ajhib put down a plastic sheet so we could finally sit down. I was starving and pulled out some Frooze ball snacks and muesli bars we had brought from home. We admired the view, took some time lapses and Lew also flew the drone 1km away to try get a better shot of the volcano. The porters turned up 30 minutes after us and began putting up the tents. We felt like we really should have helped but our least favourite part about camping is setting stuff up and putting it away so it was nice not having to do that! Plus they looked like they had it sorted and we would just ruin their flow.

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 With the tent set up It provided us some shelter from the elements. We decided to give ourselves a full body wash with some wet wipes we had brought for $1.20 yesterday at a minimart. BEST item we brought with us as we were covered in dust, sweat, sunblock and mosquito spray! Feeling more human we changed into some clean clothes and relaxed for a bit in the tent. They brought us some fresh made popcorn and some ginger tea. We tried to get as much fluid into us as possible as we were a little concerned about only having been to the toilet once today! Things felt well worth the climb - amazing what a bit of food, fluid and feeling clean can do to your mindset. We decided that whilst it was hard it was better than we though. Majority of the climb was actually in the forest so we didn't get too overheated. It also wasn't as long as we expected. Perhaps it was kinda like home when the doc sign says it will take four hours and we do it in two but we wernt sure. We couldn't get a straight answer from Ajhib as to whether we were fast 😉. We left the tent at about 5.45pm dressed up in our warm merinos and wind jackets to get to the top of the small hill a minute away to watch the sunset. Lew shot a time lapse and it was one of the most beautiful sunsets we have seen. The cloud cover had dropped and was flowing over the hills below. On the other side near the summit the red of the sun was lighting it up . We had a chat to a couple - one from Paris and the other from Montreal. We got a few tips on driving through the Pyrenees for a few weeks time! They got called to dinner by their guide but by this stage the sun was almost down and the full moon was already coming up on the summit side. The cameras really didn't do it justice. That's when our guide called us for dinner. Lew stayed with the time lapse and I went to collect our lovely fried rice dinner. Impressive once again! He came to join shortly and we finished dinner in the tent and tried to do some stretching as we knew we would be sore tomorrow! Lew was tempted to try and do a star time lapse but the moon was very bright. Using a star finding app he also found the southern star was difficult to find possibly because we are so close to the equater you can't see the rotation of the earth which is crucial for that type of star lapse. We planned to get up early tomorrow to watch the sun rise but didn't want to have to set an alarm. We snuggled into our tent with a broken zip, supplied mats to sleep on and a sleeping bag. We were please the lighting wasn't that great as we really didn't want to see the state of the equipment! The zips on the tent were broken and whilst trying to fix it we ended up completely breaking it. It was super windy and we were concerned about animals getting in. We left it half open and went to sleep. The two porters, guide and trainer porter were all in one tent a similar size to ours so they must have been spooning to all fit in there! 

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Day 2: 

It had been a rough night. At about 1am Lew had heard animals outside and ended up taping the door shut. He thought they were possibly wild dogs eating all the food remains from the camp sites. He said "well I didn't want to wake up with one licking my face!", I thought that was probably not was I was afraid they would do to me 🐶.We were sleeping sideways so we kept rolling down the hill and the mats were so thin you lost feeling to your shoulder and hands every time you lay on your side. It was also very windy and with the tent door not properly closed there was lots of dust coming in. I cheated and took some antihistamines that make me sleepy but Lew was up most of the night probably still concerned a wild dog would lick his face. We didn't know what other animals lived up here either.

 We were woken up just before 6am to the sounds and smells of cooking and the sun was just beginning to rise directly in front of our tent and up over the summit. I don't envy the people who started walking at 1am to try and get to the summit before sunrise. Seems like such a long way and other we met who had done it said it was very difficult and frustrating. They said it was just mainly slippery shingle towards the top and you have to climb basically on your hands and feet to make it. If you are planning on summiting instead of starting in Senaru like we did you usually start at Sembalun Lawang. From Sembalun Lawang the hike up to the crater rim is a shorter distance but can be much more difficult in the heat as there is no jungle. You stay at a different campsite that is larger and according to the couple we met you are able to buy Bintang (local beer), water and other supplied from some stalls. From this camp site you can complete the final assault and then finish your day up at the crater rim camp site that we stayed in before descending the next day. All up it can be done in three days. The one thing we were disappointed with was the fact that we brought our togs and a towel to swim in the crater lake actually named Segara Anak meaning child of the sea. But from our campsite it would be another 3 hours so there was no chance of that. 

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Position 3 came about very quick and shortly after that we headed back into the shaded jungle. By now we had passed at least four groups of others that were camping at the crater rim with us and had left earlier. The jungle was very technical with lots of roots that you could easily trip on if you didn't pay attention. Still passing more people we spoke to our guide and decided we didn't want to stop for lunch at position 2 since it was only 9am and he said we probably had only 1.5 hours left. We had a huge breakfast also and we knew that the porters were behind us and we would have to lose time on the beach in the afternoon waiting for them.

 The jungle kept going and by now our toes were very sore from hitting the front of our shoes.  Lew was trying to walk down sideways to save his toes but just ended up with large blisters on the side of his feet. Our thighs were certainly were doing all the work today! I watched a few times as Lew stumbled on branches and rolled his ankles (don't worry they are super flexible and recover straight away!). We had passed what we though was a couple of Australian guys at position two and we knew they were walking pretty quick too so we upped the pace so they couldn't catch up. Just before position one they did catch up as our guide had to stop to alert some other porters who were heading up to tell our porters not to bother with lunch. We could hear the flip flop noise of their guides jandels and the sound of them talking. It made us walk faster ignoring the pain in our feet! For those of you who don't know Kiwis and Australians always have a bit of a rivalry- especially in sport such as rugby (we always beat them 😉) so in this case it wasn't any different. No way were we letting them pass us! We ditched all the breaks that were offered to us and powered on down through position one. From here it was 20 minutes until we reached the gateway to end the climb. The auzzies followed is all the way down as they decided not to break at position one as well. Their guide was hot on my heels but we wernt letting them past. They were going about the same pace as us anyways. As the yellow archway symbolising the end came into view we felt relief. Lew said his toes were numb at this stage and we felt that all our toenails would possibly fall off from trauma! Our guide gave us both a high 5 as we passed under the gate and we walked over to the book to sign our a names out. Now that we knew we bet the auzzies down we could relax and take some pictures. Our guide offered us Pocari Sweat which turned out to be like a gatoraid drink. I told him Lew and I would share so he could have one also. We had photos under the archway with our guide asking the Auzzies to take it for us. I said to them " that accent sounds familiar!" And he goes to me "yea Australians and South Africa sound similar!" Hmmmm so we just busted out arses for a pair of South Africans! Oh well we would have hated being passed anyways. I don't think a single group passed us on the way up or the way down! Our porters were only about 15 minutes behind us which I was super surprised about. We were quick but they still had to deal with jandels and carry a huge load down. We got photos with our entire group and didn't think we would see them again so we tipped them 100,000 each. We gave our guide about 120,000 (approx $10 NZD each). That was actually all the money we had left! The 15 minute walk from the base out to where the car would meet us was the hardest the entire day. Lew and I both looked like we had something stuck up our bums whilst walking as our feet were that sore! We would have done anything to ride a scooter or be carried down at that point! Entering the end of the road where we would be picked up there was another guy from Senaru trekking there to welcome us. He was very excited saying "welcome home!!" Very loudly and giving us a high five. In the background there was music and drums playing. We thought surely they don't do this for everyone who comes off the mountain. Still we don't know what it was for but it was traditional Lombok dancing and they were handing out fresh coconuts for everyone to drink. Our guide was amazed, it was supposed to be 5 hours down and we had made it in 2.5! It was only 11am at this point too. We had to wait 10 minutes or so until the van got here and we sat amongst the locals also enjoying the dancing. One porter was taken on the back of a scooter with his long pole full of items either side hanging off his legs. I hope he doesn't clothes line any people on his way back! The van finally arrived and we got in, our guide and other young porter who was learning sat in the back with the boot open. I tried to ask them if they wanted a seat inside as we could easily fit them but they said they were fine. We arrive at the place they call their "office" which was like a shack with a bathroom and a fridge full of cold drinks. They offered us a cold towel and some fizzy. We washed our face and hands and then I decided to clean the mass amounts of dust, sunblock and mosquito repellent off my legs with it. Taking our shoes off was one of the nicest feelings. Lew had brought his jandels and I had brought a pair of white flimsy jandel like things from the hotel which were probably just for going to the spa and back. Lew had quite a bit more damage to his feet with a couple of huge blisters. But we were pleased to be down with all limbs attached. Earlier I had asked our guide what happens if someone gets injured on the mountains and jokingly asked whether he could carry Lewis on his shoulders (the guy was smaller than me!) he laughed and I never got an answer! Maybe if we had known we might not have basically run down from the summit..

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 The porters and guide made us banana pancakes with chocolate syrup and toast with cheese inside. If you know me well dairy doesn't exactly agree with me but after they went to such effort to make this for us 2641m above sea level I decided I should probably just eat it and deal with the consequences. Lew and I had both fixed up the back of our heels with plasters to prevent the redness turning into blisters. Lew even cut his toe nails in preparation for the decent as we knew our toes would be slamming into the front of our shoes all the way down. Going to the toilet was difficult as the wee tent with a hole that they had set up for us had broken zips so you had to squat and hold the top and the bottom of the tent with your hands to prevent all the other campers from seeing you! We had collected up all the toilet paper and rubbish we had used as it was a disgusting reminder of how much waste humans can make by just looking beyond our tent. What a way to spoil a national park. 

We packed up and I presumed we would have to wait for the porters so Lew got his drone out and got some footage. Our guide tried to tell me he needed to use the toilet and asked me to go up the hill so he could go. Took me all awhile to understand what he wanted me to do! Quite a few of the groups had already left and it was about 7.50am when our guide told us we didnt need to wait for the porters and we could just leave. We felt bad leaving them with all the tents to take down and then having to carry it. I had rolled up the sleeping mats and sleeping bags earlier to help but when I walked past they were re doing them. Whoops!

 Starting the downhill walk felt good, I wasn't sore at all but I don't think Lew slept well and complained of having very sore legs. For those of you who are Les Mills fans I think it was the grit cardio/plyo work outs that I was doing before we left that was my saving grace 😜. The first part of the descent was the worse. The volcanic rocks were loose and it was very steep, but we descended it a lot faster than going up it yesterday. Next we got to the sleep hill of dust and this was incredibly slippery. I fell once but managed just to get my hand covered in dirt and saved my bum and backpack! We were reliving how hard this was the day before as we powered through all the areas we had to stop for a break yesterday. Our guide kept asking us if we needed to stop for water or a break but we declined saying we just wanted to get down.

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They continued to apologise for the fact that they didn't have the car ready to go back to Senggigi because they didn't realise how quick we would be. They said we were the fastest yet. We kept saying that we were just keen to get back to the beach! After 40 minutes of waiting - mainly checking social media and for me continuing to write the blog the car arrived. We had said goodbye to our guide and porters earlier. We hoped they got the afternoon off since we were quick instead of taking most of the day. In the car we had another guide James who spoke excellent English as he was in college training to be an English teacher. He said he hoped to be able to move to somewhere like Dubai and work in a hotel. He was lovely and we chatted most of the way home. The driver was called Mr Toto an Indonesian man who didn't appear to speak any English. The drive took the full 2 hours this time and we drove at a much more sensible pace than going to Senaru. We told James this and he said the driver we had is the fastest in the entire office and that he usually drives like a mad man. Still even at the slower pace Lew and I were feeling carsick again because the road was super winding and we were still passing cars and scooters often. We had run out of money to tip them both so we dug into our supply of American dollars- they were pretty happy with this. We got dropped at the door of the hotel so so ready for a shower. They put us through the metal detectors and we made our way into the hotel. On the way in we noticed some scales and decided to weigh our bags. Lews would have been about 12kg and mine 7kg if we included the now empty large bottles of water we were carrying up. We both showered for at least 20 minutes each as it took that to remove all the dust from our bodies. Changing into fresh clothes was a feeling you usually take for granted but not today. For lunch we ate this small one serve dehydrated mexican chicken meal we had brought from a store in Christchurch in case I wasn't able to eat any of the food on the mountain. After being away from home a week we realised we really missed eating a good home cooked meal. Not that this was anywhere close to it since it was dehydrated but we cook a lot of Mexican usually. Lew update his family that we were alive and intact and we then headed down to the beach.

We had booked in a 7pm Balinese massage as our reward for the climb. It started off with an foot scrub before we were led to a couple of outdoor massage tables. It was the first time either of us had a massage - other than the half hearted ones you give each other for 5 minutes or the one from your mum! It felt like a very long hour and at times we were pleased we were lying face down and they dug into our right calves. There were some good facial expressions going on. I had to hold in the giggles as they massaged my feet. I think they could tell they were ticklish as they didn't stay there for long. Once we were finished they lead us to some seats by the water where we had the most amazing ginger tea I have ever tried and some biscuits. We relaxed for awhile watching a large crab on the beach scuttle around. We hadn't much other than some fries in the pool side bar to prevent us thinking of food the entire massage. We took a Blue bird taxi ( these are the safest and are metered) to a place called the La Chill Bar for dinner. We sat in bean bags on the beach eating spring rolls and Lew accidentally ordered a large Bintang instead of a regular one. An Indonesian man came to speak with us for a bit and he was quite funny. He asks us lots of questions about NZ and even about whether we were in a honeymoon or a holiday. He was even cheeky enough to ask Lew if he would marry me one day. The man stayed for ages and your become a little apprehensive about where the conversation is going. Because usually they are trying to sell you something. Sure enough he brought out these hand made wooden spinning tops and explaned a game the locals play. The  of course we were asked if we wanted one. He tried 100,000 (10NZD) and I said no 10, 000 ($1 NZD). I managed to get him down to 35,000 ($3.50 NZD) and it was a deal. He left us alone after that. We ate and caught a taxi back to the hotel where it felt like such a treat to sleep in a clean comfortable bed! 

Shannen Kennedy