In the fall of 2017, my boyfriend and I went on a round trip through Indonesia. Here's how we ended up on a 3-day hike we weren't particularly prepared for.
"They say that the most memorable moments in life are either your worst or your best. Hiking to the top of Rinjani was both."
During our holiday we had planned to visit three islands: Java, Bali and Lombok. We had round trip tickets Brussels-Jakarta, but decided to fly straight through to Lombok first. After a 30 hour journey and 3 lay-overs we were finally boarding our last flight to Lombok. So far Indonesia was making me feel more and more like Brienne of Tarth with each stop. #tallgirl
Getting our golden tickets
Stepping off the plane in Zainuddin Abdul Madjid International Airport, we were approached by the brightly smiling man who was driving us to our hotel. He greeted us with his best English, which was limited, and guided us to the car. After dropping our luggage in the trunk, we headed towards our hotel.
A few minutes into the drive, he started asking about our plans for the trip. We mentioned that we were thinking about climbing Mount Rinjani. I had read about it online and for some reason really wanted to do it. #FOMO He smiled and nodded, but the conversation didn't last long and we started focusing on the views again.
However, ten minutes later, after one or two phone calls on his part, we stopped to pick up, what first seemed like another passenger, but appeared to be a tour operator for Rinjani hikes. #whatacoincidence Suddenly we were "trapped " in a car with our driver and some guy trying to sell us tickets.
Inevitably, another few minutes later, after some pathetic price bargaining from our side, we were the proud owners of two round trip tickets to the top of Rinjani. #greatjob My boyfriend and I both agreed this was our first #lessonlearned on "bargaining for dummies". We paid the guy part of the total amount in advance (in order to get food supplies etc.) and he gave us our voucher and went on his way.
(If you want to know how much we paid, scroll down to the end for more information.)
Locals often try to sell you stuff the moment of arrival, before you get a chance to learn the true cost of things and compare prices.
The physical challenge - Day 1
Our trip started two days later, in the middle of the night. Our hotel was located a few hours drive from Rinjani's starting point, so our alarm was set for 1:30 AM. #Iknow Our driver picked us, and all our belongings, up at 2:00 AM and we started the first day, once again sleepy, in a strange man's car in the middle of the night in Lombok.
It was pitch black and clear that the rest of the island was still fast and sound asleep. We drove for several hours without seeing but a few meters ahead on the road. Around 5 A.M. we passed through a small village, just a few minutes into the adhan (call for prayer). The villagers were all dressed in white, which in the light of our headlights made me feel like we just entered a ghost town. #walkingdead
As soon as the rest of our group arrived (a sporty guy from Holland and two Japanese girls with plastic bags full of energy bars), we got to jump in the back of an open truck towards the entrance of the park, where we had to register. Registration is required in order to have an overview of who is in the park at what times. It makes setting up rescue parties a bit easier as well. At least it made my mind feel at ease.
After registration (and our last chance to find a decent toilet for the next three days), we hopped back onto the truck and were brought to the starting point of our tour, Sembalun Village. At the entrance of the park, we had the chance to buy some last minute things, such as a cap and sunscreen. We all met our guide and just a few moments later, started our climb.
About 3 minutes into the hike, we realized we had underestimated it quite a bit. My boyfriend's back(pack) was not fit for a three day hike, his shoes weren't going to make the end of the trip #RIP, the sun was just mocking us and I was out of breath after about 20 steps. (Yes I'm in great physical shape. #couchpotato) From that moment on, we were already the long tail of our group, and the annoyance of waiting on us grew larger by the minute. So by the end of day 1, they didn't wait any more and our group got separated by hours.
Even though our group wasn't much of a team, there were about a 100 people who had started the climb at the same time. Everyone was divided into small groups with one guide and two or three carriers. (It comes as no surprise that half of the town's people are Rinjani tour guides or carriers, going up and down the mountain twice a week.) This means that #youneverwalkalone and that, at least every half hour, you get to pass some other sweaty swearing tourist who's having a worse day than you. Although it sounds masochistic, it does lift your spirits enough to keep going. #sharedpainishalfthepain
At noon, food was prepared by our carriers, who race up the mountain barefoot, somewhere half way up the mountain. We got to eat our first rice/noodles with chicken among the mountain monkeys we were explicitly told not to feed. And temperature was getting a bit better than before. After lunch we started the second part.
Following a lot of swearing, sweating my ass off, wishing we had taken the motorbike down and hearing the guide say "just a little bit further" for the last 5 hours, we finally arrived at the crater rim, half an hour before sundown. #victory I had never felt so much relief in my life. I couldn't believe day 1, was finally over. And I'm not sure if it was the anxiety or the beautiful view, but the moment brought me close to tears.
We sat down for a few minutes before dragging ourselves to our tent, which was set up for us by the carriers #heaven. As it can get quite cold up there once the sun is down, we decided to get into some warmer, sweat-free clothes and freshen up (read: wet wipe). During dinner (which was the same as lunch and would be the same for the next 2 days), we watched the sun set from our tent which was magical. We both felt some sort of victory and pride to have made it that far, and the view aided the muscle pains.
As soon as the sun was down, around 9 PM, we fell asleep just seconds after putting our head down, marking an end to our 20 hour journey that day.
There aren't many times when I'm happy having to get up at night to pee. But this time I was, or I would have missed out on an amazingly beautiful starry sky. Luckily for my boyfriend I was too afraid to pee alone, so he had the pleasure of accompanying me and seeing it for himself. #couplegoals
On our way to Mount Doom - Day 2
Around 1 AM, we woke up again, this time by moving flashlights and the sound of early-birds #ugh. Even though it was still the middle of the night, we knew, it was time to start the final climb to the top (the crater rim isn't the highest point). Fortunately, this climb is #optional.
When our guide came to our tent asking if we were joining, my FOMO made us hesitate a second, but one look between me and my boyfriend made it pretty clear there was no chance in hell we were going to mount doom. #fuckthisshit So, we scooted a little closer together in our sleeping bags and enjoyed another 5 hours of much-needed-sleep and some new-found love and appreciation for one another. #twopeasinapot
In our defense, only half of the camp actually joined this part, as we still had a full day of hiking ahead. Adding another 3-5 hours climbing a steep and sandy hill was not something we'd been waiting for. (FYI: If you've ever climbed a sandy hill before, you know that 2 steps up also means 1 step down.) We'd also have only a few hours until sunrise. If we didn't make it to the top in time, we probably had a worse view than from the crater rim. #thanksbutno
After sunrise, once the real adventurists (or show-offs?) got back to camp, it was time for breakfast and start the first part downhill, towards the hot springs and the lake in the middle of the crater.
I wasn't expecting to have such a hard time the second day, as I assumed going down would be much easier than going up. But I didn't take into account the exhaustion from the day before (where I clearly reached some physical limits), the excruciating heat and the fact that we kept getting more and more behind on our group. Which meant our breaks were getting shorter (they arrived - waited for us - we arrived - they started moving again). Another bonus was my boyfriend who literally lost the soles of his shoes on that mountain. #ripshoes He only made it to the end of day 2 thanks to our guide who traded shoes and finished the rest of the hike of flip-flops.
After 4 hours (we always took at least one hour longer than advertised), we reached the lake in the crater of the mountain. We didn't make it to the hot springs, as it was another 15 min walk and we just couldn't bring up the energy. We tried swimming in the lake but the water was cold and so we never really made it in. But nonetheless we enjoyed the nice view and the fact that we made it so far.
The rest of our break was filled with sleeping and not much eating on my part. I couldn't bring myself to eat any more of the noodle soup and eggs, which smelled worse with each meal. So I decided not to and lose even more energy (just to keep things interesting). #rookiemistake
After the lunch break, which wasn't much of a lunch nor of a break for me, we had to start another climb towards RIM I. The usual climb takes about 2 hours, but the steepness (we had to use hands and feet at some point) combined with increased exhaustion made us need at least 3-4. The views however kept getting better and better.
Around 4 PM, I had a small breakdown. At that point, we'd had to stop almost every ten steps to catch our breath. And my sugar levels were low, thanks to me skipping lunch. So I couldn't hold down the tears any longer. It was the first time ever I was truly mad at myself for being in such bad shape.
Right on time some French tourists passed by, sharing their energy bar with me so my sugar levels rose a little. And after a few minutes of self pity, we started to muddle through. (Not having much of a choice, helps motivate of course.) In the mean time, being in so much shit together, made my boyfriend and I bond for life.
We reached the second camp site, 2 hours behind our group members (not the last ones though), right before sunrise. I was even more glad we made it this time, as I knew we were heading towards Day 3, and therefor the end of our journey aka the beaches on Gili Islands.
We waddled over to our tents, ate dinner inside as it was getting very cold and went straight back to sleep. This time, we didn't go out to see the stars. Exhaustion had taken over.
The end was near - Day 3
The last day we were woken around 6 AM, right before sunrise so we could enjoy it during breakfast. I woke up a lot more cheerful than the day before because I knew I would have my ass in a lounge chair by the end of the day. #Gili I could not wait to start the last part of the hike.
The rest of the hike was downhill, and the landscape became more Jungle-like, which meant we had to watch out not to trip on tree roots every few steps. But being in the shade of trees made sure the temperature of the hike was a lot more agreeable than before.
After a few hours we learned that at the end of the hike, there would be a small shop selling soda's and small stuff to eat. As of then, a nice cold coke was all I could think about. It motivated me to keep up the pace. At the end of the day, it was the best damn coke I ever had.
At the finish, we said goodbye to our guide and carriers (tipped them (as our life savers)) and were transported back to Restu View. There we waited for our ride to Lombok's port and a boat to Gili T paradise. There wasn't much talking during the wait, recovery was sstill in progress and it would take a few more days of poolside paradise before the smiles returned. But we made it through and it turned out to be one of the best adventures we had together so far! It made us bond, break our limits and in the end memories for life.
Hope you enjoyed our experience of the trip. Even though it might sound like 10 min of complaints. After a few days, I felt so proud for conquering it and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
Read below to find some more logistics to better prepare than us!
Logistics of the trip
Some final tips and tricks
Bringing energy bars or drinks is no overrated luxury (but ration it).
Good shoes are a must.
Wet wipes feel like heaven at the end of the day.
Warm clothes for the nights as it gets really cold.
Sunscreen and a hat prevent you from also having sunburn-pains.
Stop and enjoy the views enough when you're there.
Be in some kind of shape at least.
How much we paid
We each paid € 125 for a 3-day hike, including food, drinks, sleeping equipment, carriers, a guide and transport (excl. tips). When talking to other people on the hike, we realized we paid a relatively fair price, as prices ranged from € 90 to € 250. So we did alright. #score #notsuchdummiesafterall
Don't book online, book locally when arriving and compare prices if you can
The map below shows you an overview of the hike. We started in Sembalun Village and ended on RIM II the first day. This is where they set up camp to stay the night. The second day, we (or some of us) went from Rim II to the Summit and back all the way to RIM I, where we spent the night the second day. During the second day there is a pit stop at the lakes and hot springs at lunch time. On the last day, we went down from RIM I to Senaru village where a truck picked us up to go back to the Restu Viewpoint.
There are several variations of this hike you can take.