Volcanolovers in Indonesia
August 2008 – Four CopiPanas members hike this idylic mountain. For CopiPanas, this is the second time we make a trip to the top of Lombok Island. And this is our story. When seated in row 18 onboard Garuda GA-430 Airlines, I was still wondering if my decision was right to climb the mighty Rinjani.
For it is 3726 M, steep, treacherous-and-slippery-near-the-top and ice-cold, and I will be 50 in less than 2 months, that’s why. Well, it was too late. The stewardess has already closed the airplane door. One hour 45 minutes later we landed in Selaparang airport of Mataram. Four of us, Budiyono, Luki, Masood and me, were met by Ruslan, the driver from the Trek Organizer.
Mataram was cloudy when we rode the car from Selaparang Airport to Hero Supermarket to buy breads and drinks. Then we drove through Pusut forested hills, and Ruslan told us stories around the re-emerging tourism in Lombok after many years of dimmed lights on the island’s west coast. Along the roads the grey haired monkeys sat wisely on the tree branches and by the roadside amidst the shower that wetted the road.
Then the road descends to the lowland of open area with abundant cashew trees. We saw some ladies sold sate-ikan along few kilometers close to Bayan Village, but we were too busy discussing Lombok and Rinjani to make a stop. By the time we wanted to try sate-ikan, there was none anymore. We must have that sate-ikan on the way back, for I know in my heart they must be just delicious.
Senaru was a lively village on a steep ascending narrow street, 2 hours from Mataram, in the early afternoon. It was dusty, but fine for the Pondok-Indah Homestay where we stayed in, because it is separated from the busy sloping street by a wide garden. The night in Pondok Indah Homestay was quick and a little bit sleepless. Actually because of excitement for hoping a tough climb. Not really because of a barking dog that barked in a nice 3 barks sequence.
By 7:00 our gears and logistics are packed on a pickup car. The well-built Suzuki Carry took 9 of us, with 2 sitting on top with some luggage. Yes, on top of the back roof. An hour of meandering road, first descending to Bayan Village and then ascending to Sembalunlawang where we registered ourselves at the National Park Office. Then back to the Bawaknao Village a few km down the road. Departing from Bawaknao (900 M) saves climbers 1 hour of hot and dusty savannah trail.
Bawaknao to Post-1 was 1 hour, hot and dusty as we expected. There was a 15 minutes of shades when we walked across a small group of grown up big trees, with monkeys jumping from branch to the others. Then it came the hot savannah again. The t-shirts were very soon wetted by the sweats of the thirsty trekkers. The porters walked in front of us swaying with the heavy carriers of tents, sleeping bags, foods, water etc. Eggs were contained in a soft egg-shaped wrapper tied on top of all the other stuffs. All were balanced into 2 and mounted on both ends with a 3 feet bamboo resting on the shoulder of the porters. We wondered how many eggs would survive this trek to the top.
Post-1 was a shelter amidst the hot yellowish green savannah. The stop was literally seat, drink, chat and sleep. A 15 minutes sleep and another 15 minutes for muscle stretching were so precious after a sleepless night in Senaru. Then, on we marched to Post-2, still trekking along the savannah, crossing several concrete bridges. The bridges must have been there for the planned road crossing the national park’s savannah. Thanks to the villagers who refused the plan.
It was 1.5 hours to Post-2 that is located close to a small water spring. There we had our lunch, cooked by the skilled porters. Accompanied by many other trekkers, we were ready again for Post-3 by 12:30. From Post-2 it was 1.5 hours of mildly ascending trail to the 1800 M high Post-3, just after a stony curved trail near a hard lava bedded river. We took a short rest for 15 minutes, then on we marched again by 14:15.
Very soon the mildly ascending trail became very steep, must be at least 30° in average. In some places the ascents must have been 45° or even more. Fortunately, the soil was hard and not slippery at all. Our muscles worked so hard, all out to reach the Plawangan Sembalun Crater Rim. The picture of warm fire and sweet hot tea were dancing in my mind, helping me negotiating the ever steep Bukit Penyesalan. It was 3.5 hours of precipitation amidst the cold and wet air on 2000 M+. When we reached the Plawangan Sembalun by 17:45, there were already many trekkers’ camps. The bright colors looked beautiful from a distance. Some trekkers sat by the rim looking quietly at the looming Segara Anak Crater Lake. Really eerie scenery to the Segara Anak Crater Lake, 600 M down there.
The dinner was big, bigger than we could eat. Some long haired long tailed grey monkeys were always present, watching us having dinner in the hope we would spare some. But we did not for we know they would be spoiled and would come closer from time to time.
Very soon we found ourselves in the tent, in the warmth of our jackets, double hulled trousers and double socks. Do not forget the gloves before slipping into the sleeping bag. And all bags and shoes inside the tents, beware of monkeys. We ignored the almost full moon in order to prepare ourselves for the final ascent the next morning. We knew it would be tough.
Quite a sleepless night again. Not sure why. By 2:00 we were waken-up by the porters to get ourselves prepared. A light breakfast of biscuits and hot tea. By 2:30 we marched to the peak. The 1st 1 hour was easy although the temperature began to chill us. It must be close to 10°C with the wind blowing from our left. After a short break very soon we found ourselves in the open without trees protecting us from the wind chill. We think it must have been at least 3200 M, already over some peaks of volcanoes in Java. And really, the almost full moon light strangely added the feeling of cold. It just helped us on less depending on our headlamps.
Getting colder and colder we slowly marched towards the south-east where the peak is located. Now the terrain changes to unconsolidated gravel. The ascent has become steeper towards 30° degree + and Anom, our guide sought cover behind a large standing rock, where we spent 15 minutes of nice doze.
The lights from the trekker’s headlamps were twinkling far above us, somewhat brighter than the stars. Once every a while I looked up and realize the peak is still there. It did not come closer, so I had to climb and crawl for now the gravel has become “one step up 2/3 steps down”. Very slow, albeit my exploration on stepping and crawling techniques.
It must have been 3500 M when the sun rose in the east. The warm beautiful yellow ray very soon ignited my soul to make the final ascent. It looked close to the 3726 M, the peak of dream of amateur climbers like us. Believe me the 226 M looked so close for it is always >45° degree ascending. So close but so hard. Just 30 minutes from the very peak a young lad gave up for the gravel was so uncompromising to his torn mall model shoes…. 🙂 By 7:30 I was the last person arriving at the peak, joining my 2 colleagues and Anom the guide.
I looked for Mount Agung peak in the west and it was looming over there on top of the white clouds over Bali Island. Then the Bali Sea up north just beyond the Senaru village, some Gili islands up north-east. Then the mighty Mount Tambora down there above the white clouds over Sumbawa Island to the very east. “Agung and Tambora, wait for me. I will come to you!”
By 8:00 we marched down the peak. I have never been skiing in my life but it must be like what we did. We simply kept ourselves standing while sliding down one foot after the other. The gorges to the left were a little bit scary, to the right it was gently sloping with edelweiss bushes all over it. Very quickly we came to the leveled fine sand narrow trail. Then some meandering gravel trail amidst the hot dry air. Only 1:45 hours going down from the peak to the Plawangansembalun camp compared to the 5 hours going up. Now you can imagine how steep and tough it was when we went up.
Back in the camp area most of the camps have gone and several new ones were being erected by the porters. The Plawangansembalun looked totally different from yesterday afternoon. No more laughs and crowds, the sound of pine trees blown by the easterly wind dominated the air. One hour sleep before a hefty brunch, then a struggle to finish the big brunch of pancakes, toasts and fruits. Do not leave a plate of any food on it because the long haired monkey will be more than ready to snatch it. They are spoiled careless trekkers who leave foods, thus developing the taste for modern human foods.
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