Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Conquering The Sleeping Beast - Mount Rinjani 3D2N (Part 1/2)

"If I get over 100 likes for this profile picture, I'll start up a blog and blog about my Rinjani trip"

And that's how we got here. 104 likes in a couple of days and I had to stick to my promise to produce this blog post. I haven't been blogging for years and I used to only blogged about my personal encounters and feelings, so travel blogging is kinda new to me. Let's see if things gonna work out the way it played out in my head, shall we?

The profile picture with 104 likes (as of 31 July 2016)

Here's a little bit of background info on Mount Rinjani, just in case you have not heard of this beautiful mountain and are too lazy googling it. I mean, that's the whole point of reading this blog post right? 'Cos I'm supposed to lay down all the info for you. 

About Mount Rinjani

Mount Rinjani is an active volcano located in Island of Lombok, Indonesia with the elevation of 3,726m above sea level, making it the second highest volcano in Indonesia (the highest volcano in Indonesia at the moment is Mount Kerinci). 

I first read about Mount Rinjani when my bestie, MJ (get used to this name, she'll definitely be making lotsa appearance in this blog, shall I keep blogging) climbed it, back in June 2014. After reading her post on Facebook, I did some googling on this mountain and that fact that it's an active volcano had me sold. Although it lies 3,726m above sea level which is actually lower than Mount Kinabalu (4,096m), hikers who have scaled both mountains will assure you that Rinjani, despite being lower than Kinabalu is a much tougher hike (after doing both, I strongly agree with this claim), and is not to be taken lightly. Many attempted the summit, only to fail to do so, reaching only the crater rims. 


With that in mind, training is a must and I had been running frequently several months prior to the hike. I was training for my upcoming half marathon (December 2016) anyway, so it's a routine that I just have to follow through. There's no mountain for me to climb in Singapore with the highest hill being just 163m (yes, I'm talking about you Bukit Timah!), so I resorted to climbing the stairs to get my legs muscles trained up. So if you come from a place where there are some descend mountains and hills to climb (i.e. Malaysia, where I came from), do it and train yourself adequately months before your Rinjani hike. All those training will pay off, trust me.

Getting there and booking a guide

The easiest way is definitely to fly into Lombok. Alternatively, you can also get to Lombok by taking a boat/ferry/domestic flight from Bali. AirAsia Malaysia was having flight promo somewhere end of last year and after psycho-ing a friend of mine, Yee Lu to tag along, I proceed to contact Hajar from Hajar Trekking Planner (which was introduced to me by MJ) to arrange our hiking package. Once a specified date is agreed upon, I proceed to book flight return tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Lombok and from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (yes, it was way much cheaper than flying direct from Singapore and better flight time too) 

Hiking package is always cheaper if there are more in a group so I spread the news around my group of friends who might be interested. None can make it, but at the very last minute (roughly 3 months before the trip), Wendy decided to tag along. As I confirm on the additional headcount with Hajar, she book the same flight as ours to Lombok.

We initially book the 4D3N package, fearing that it will be too tough for us shall we attempt to make it in 3 days. However, after much consideration, we change our package to 3D2N and decided to spare the last day to explore Gili Islands. Fortunately, Hajar was very understanding even though we made the changes only 2 months before the hike.

Our 3D2N hiking package includes the following (in case you are wondering):
- One night accommodation at Senaru Village on the day before the hike
- One trip to waterfall if reach before 3pm the day before hike or if descend from the mountain before 3pm (either way)
- Porters (carrying food, equipment, cooking equipment)
- One Guide
- Airport pick-up on the day of arrival
- Transport provided to airport, or hotel or destination of choice on the day we descend
- Camping tent, sleeping bag, toilet tent, food and drinking water for the 3D2N
- National park entrance fee is included in the package price

*In case you need someone to carry your personal belongings, you will need to hire an extra porter. We hired one to share among the 3 of us.

**If you are a solo backpacker, you may also join the Sharing Package where they will group you with other hikers. It's less luxurious compared to the Private Package, and no one will be waiting for you if you are slow, but it's much cheaper.

Day 0: Lombok Airport - Senaru Village - Tiu Kelep Waterfall

We arrived at Lombok International Airport at 11.30pm and after clearing immigration and buying sim cards, we are met with our driver, Tony. 

On the way to Senaru Village, passing by beautiful beaches

The journey to Senaru Village takes approximately 2.5 hours, so we stopped along the way to have our lunch. 

Lunch at Warung Dakota: Mie Goreng, Kangkung Pecel, Ayam Bakar Madu and Nila Bakar

After 1 hour of lunch, we continue our journey to Senaru Village. We reached Senaru Cottage (our stay for the night) at 4pm, where we finally met our handsome guide, Hajar. After checking in to our room, we were brought to the nearby waterfalls. 

Some river crossing to get to Tiu Kelep waterfall

As the sky was getting dark (we were behind schedule by an hour as we spent our time buying sim cards and having long lunch), we decided to skip the first waterfall - Sendang Gile and proceed to Tiu Kelep waterfall instead. 

We were all wearing flip flops, so crossing those rivers to get to the water became quite a challenging task as we struggled not to slip and fall. After all, the real hike is tomorrow and we couldn't afford to injure ourselves. 

After approximately 1/2 hour of walking and river crossing, we finally reached the beautiful Tiu Kelep Waterfall, where foreigners can be spotted taking a dip in the water and taking photos. I tried getting closer to the waterfall but fearing to get my camera wet, I stayed far away. 

Tiu Kelep waterfall
We spent a good 15 minutes at the waterfall, immersing ourselves in the tranquility of that place while breathing in fresh air. We then went back to the Cottage to freshen up and had our dinner before heading to bed.

Fried chicken, omelette, potato soup and stir-fry mixed vegetables for dinner

The girls went to bed that night at 11pm, with smiles on their face. I stared at the ceiling for a while, thinking about what to expect the next day. A mixed of emotions ran through my head. There is excitement, and there is fear. The day is finally coming and I'm not quite sure I'm ready for it. I took a deep breathe and assured myself that everything will be fine. 

12 midnight - The day has come. The day I've been waiting for. I shut my eyes and let myself fall into layers and layers of dream. 

"The very same mechanism that produce excitement also produce fear, and any fear can be transformed into excitement by breathing through it"

Day 1: Senaru Village - Sembalun Village (1100m) - Sembalun Crater Rim (2639m)

We woke up the next morning as early as 6 to pack our belongings and to have our breakfast by 6.30am. Hajar had promised to come pick us up at 7am as the journey from Senaru to Sembalun will take approximately 1 hour and we are scheduled to start our climb at 8am. 

Fried rice for breakfast

From left: Me, Hajar, Wendy and Yee Lu (photo stolen from Hajar's Facebook)

The lodging's staff were still sleeping by the time we were ready at 6.30am. We literally had to wake them up for our breakfast to be prepared, so by the time breakfast is served, it's already 6.45am. Thankfully Hajar was also slightly late, arriving at 7.15am which allow us to finish our breakfast once he arrived. We loaded our bags into the truck and make our way to Sembalun Village at approximately 7.30am.

Picking up the porters on the way to Sembalun Village

Me getting all excited for our hike
As we drive into Sembalun Village, the mighty Mount Rinjani spotted from our truck
We reached Sembalun Village around 8.40am, stopped by the National Park office and get ourselves registered. Around 9am, we started our hike from the village, entering some villager's orchard along the way until we reach an open field. 

Entrance Ticket

Let the hike begin! Rinjani in the background covered by clouds

The girls and I were well prepared with sunnies, cap/hat and sunblock applied all over our body, expecting direct sun exposure but the weather was surprisingly cloudy. Uh-oh... if it's cloudy, it'd probably rain and that's certainly not a good sign. We kept our fingers crossed, hoping that it at least wouldn't rain, not until we reach our campsite. 

After 2.5 hours of walking, we stopped for lunch, somewhere near Pos 2. As Hajar led us to our lunch site, our jaws dropped to see that a mat has been laid for out as if we were on a picnic and there's even 3 folded chair. Okay, that just feel very luxurious. Were we really on a hiking trip? Once seated, my jaw dropped even lower to see Hajar walking towards us with 3 cans of coke, 3 plates of salad as appetiser and fruits. Are we seriously getting this much of food for the whole trip? My answer - pretty much, yes! :) 

Beng beng chocolate bar, coke and fruits

Salad as appetiser
While waiting for our lunch to be served, I walked around, taking in the beautiful sight and of course, some not-so-beautiful sight. Although the entry fee to the National Park covers the maintenance of the path, the mountain is still is littered with detritus thrown away by the guides and porters. 

It's getting cloudy (and of course, it rained later)
Just a small fraction of detritus disposed while cooking. These are actually everywhere (ps: not our porters)

"Rinjani still has a long way to go in terms of creating awareness on preserving the environment but I do think we can help do our part. Always talk to your guide that you wish for them to respect the nature and traverse without littering. "

We consistently talk to Hajar about it and thankfully, he and his team do not litter, well, at least not that we notice (I'll give him the benefit of doubt and trust him on this). Be sure to also make sure you collect your own litter and dispose it when you return to Sembalun/Senaru Village after the hike. 

Hijacking other team's hut, where the porters were also preparing lunch

While waiting for our lunch to be served, it was suddenly raining, and we had no choice but to take shelter at one of the hut already pre-occupied by another of travelers, while our porters get their cooking station covered up, so that they can continue preparing our lunch. Turned out the group of two male travelers are also from Singapore (okay, technically the girls and I are Malaysian but we work in Singapore) and they were actually on their way down from the summit. We had a great time chatting with one of the guy (the other one was very quietly and we didn't even exchange greetings) while passing time (waiting for the rain to stop, waiting for our food). 

Right before Pos 3: it was drizzling, so we had our raincoat on

Finally, as the rain stopped, our lunch was also ready. We quickly finish our lunch and continue our journey in hope of making it on time to our campsite. Besides, we were warned that the path from Pos 3 to the campsite was the toughest (apart from the path to the summit tomorrow morning), so we'd better hurry. Weather proved not to be on our side that day as it poured again as we reach Pos 3. With our raincoat on, we continue our journey to the campsite. 

12 tents set up for a group of 23 Thais we saw on our way this morning
We finally reached Sembalun Crater Rim at 4.30pm, which was 2.5 hours ahead of our schedule. What?! That came as a surprise to me as I was not checking on the time all the while that we were hiking. We started an hour late than our scheduled itinerary, and had a long lunch due to the rain earlier and yet we reach the campsite at 4.30pm instead of the scheduled 6pm. Even Hajar was surprised with our speed and praised us for having good tempo (Later that night, Wendy came to a realisation the rain had dampen the volcanic soil and that it had became densed instead making our ascent slightly easier than it should have been on a dry sunny day).

Enjoying the view while waiting for our tent to be set up
The porters who went ahead of us after lunch was only starting to set up our tent, so while we wait for our "bed" to be made, we wondered around, taking in the breathtaking view.

The clouds cleared their way, revealing the summit of Mount Rinjani

The tents were finally ready after about half and hour and we cleaned ourselves up with wet wipes and changed into warmer clothes as the sun starts to set and the cold night stepped in. By the time we came out from our tents, we were once again amazed, this time with our toilet tent.

Hey there, I can see your head! Thank god, girls don't stand when we pee

That night we had banana fritters and curry for dinner and the curry was the best meal I had for the entire trip. Perhaps, it was the cold weather? Nonetheless, it warmed our stomach that night.

Banana fritters with shredded cheese


After dinner, our porter, Lee came over with a mini stove, kettle and cups. Ah-ah.. Perfect! We spent the night listening to his hiking adventures as well as love stories. Hajar then joined us and we had fun teasing each other and laughing with the jokes they told us about. I bet they trying to break the ice and ease our tension.

Drinking hot tea and having a good chat with Lee, our porter

Failed attempt at capturing milky way

We ended the night at 9.30pm and headed to bed hoping to get as much sleep as we could. What we never expect is to be rolling in bed the entire night, not getting any sleep. I stayed in bed until the alarm rang at 1am. Shit... I didn't sleep for even a second! How am I gonna reach the summit? This is bad... really really bad. This spells disaster... 

"The mountain is calling and I must go"

[... to be continued

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  1. Hi there Catherine! I'm heading to conquer Rinjani with my friends next week. May I know where you got your SIM Card, which company it was from and would it recommend we use it?

    1. Hi there, the simcard we bought was XL. I'm not sure where you can get that 'cos it was purchased by our guide since the one we originally bought at the airport had no reception at the mountain and even Senaru. XL has the best coverage in Lombok if not mistaken. U can try your luck at the airport, or get it in town, or on the way from airport to your destination. Hope this information helps.

  2. a very long journey to discover the beauty of rinjani mountain, a very useful article for every traveler who wants to discover the meaning of every journey that is taken, and make your life more beneficial to others.

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  4. I impressed with your article. Tq for sharing amazing place. Keep on updating
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    Angkor Wat
    Top Tourist Places
    Best Temples

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    Thing to do in Siem Reap
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