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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Trekking Mount Rinjani

Our trekking trip to Mount Rinjani (a volcano that erupted around 1700 for the last time) started last Saturday at 6am. We were brought to Sembalu Lawang which lies at 900 metres above sea level (masl). First it was a nice and easy walk through landscapes that reminded us of the Savannah in Africa. For lunch we were already at 1600 masl, staying just next to an empty riverbed. But then it suddenly started to pour and the formerly empty riverbed grew to a roaring stream! At this point we had our first doubts about this expedition. Fortunately the rain stopped and a strong bridge led over the river. Now we came into territory that reminded us of Scotland and Ireland. Lots of hills covered with grass. The grass soon gave way to trees and the path got ever steeper. I was in the form of my life ;), but Christian and Nina had underestimated the difficulty of the track, so we made many stops on the way. Nevertheless we made it to the crater rim at 2639 masl. Just before the sun set we glimpsed part of the huge lake inside the crater.

Alin, our guide, woke us up at 3am the next morning to start the climb to the very top. The idea was to reach the top before sunrise. Because of the difficulties that the first day brought, Nina and Christian decided to stay behind. So I started the trip, armed with a torch, alone with En, one of our two porters. The first bit was the toughest, still half asleep we had to follow a path that went from flat to extremely steep within a couple of metres. Fortunately we reached the first plateau after a while and we took our first break. Slowly the path started to become more challenging, first it got steeper and then ever the more gravel covered the way until the path completely disappeared. Slowly it was getting brighter and I could see the top close at hand, or so I thought at first, then after I climbed this hill I saw the top still far above me. On the other hand, looking back, I saw how much ground we had already covered, so turning around was no question. The last bit was the toughest, every step had to be well planed to keep the balance and not to start sliding back down the mountain. But then I finally made it! Sunrise had happened an hour ago but I couldn't care less, I stood at 3726 masl and could see the whole crater, including the smaller active volcano Mt. Baru and the lake. Past the crater rim I saw all of Lombok including the Gillis. The way back down was far easier than expected, at times I was running/sliding down the mountain, boosting my self-confidence with every step, and we were back down in 2 hours.

There I got my well-deserved breakfast. As a bonus, we spotted two gray macaa monkeys in a tree nearby. Because the weather was overcast and rain was looming, we started our climb down to the lake immediately. Even so we didn't quite make it all the way. We were walking in pouring rain for the last half hour. To our shock the shelter at the lack was already occupied by fishermen and the porters of a group of guys from Singapore. We decided to wait out the rain and then start to climb the other crater rim to guarantee a safe and dry return to Senaru the next day. The way was very steep, towards the end we even had to climb up some rocks to follow the path. However, the crater rim was not our final destination. We climbed back down again for another half an hour to reach a shelter. By that time I was almost dead, no wonder, I'd been trekking for 12 hours straight and covered approximately 3300 metres in altitude difference!

Next day we got another early start at 5am to outrun the rain. From here on it was all downhill, first we walked through grassy hills similar to the ones on the first day, then we came into the jungle. There we saw another gray macaa monkey close to one of the shelters. For some time I was walking all alone, Christian and Nina had gone ahead and Alin and the porters were somewhere behind me, that was a pretty strange feeling, especially because the way was very slippery and I lost my footing more than one time. Finally, at 11am we reached Senaru, the final destination of our trek.

The Rinjani Trekking is praised as one of the most beautiful treks in South-East Asia and I wholeheartedly agree, the changing scenery and the challenging way were an incredible experience that I don't want to forget. As for Christian and Nina? They plan to come back better prepared one day and will reach the top. Good luck!

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