Gunung Rinjani : The trek you will never forget
Day 1 : Senaru Village – Sembalun Village(1,150m) – POS 1 (1300m) – POS 2(1500m) – POS 3 (1800m) – Sembalun Crater Rim (2639m)
Begin: Sembalun Village 1,150m;
End: Sembalun Crater Rim 2,639m
Elevation gain: 1489m;
Time: ~7 hours of walking
We woke up at around 6am, to get ready as well as just nice for sunrise but little more than 4 hours of sleep. A simple breakfast consisting of banana pancakes and coffee, plus a dose of adrenaline and excitement is enough to keep me awake while being transported to Sembalun Village (45 minutes) to settle some simple admin matters and registration at the Rinjani Information Center (RIC). We also left some stuff at the guide’s house so that we don’t have to bring everything up to Rinjani.
Sembalun Village (1,150m)
The trek starts from Sembalun Lawang(1,150m) at around 9am and takes around 1.5h – 2h. It is a nice breezy walk with a gentle ascent, first walking past the villages and their planting fields, the cattle grazing areas before going to the open grassland. Beyond which, the majestic Rinjani will peer at you while you march forward.
I remember the first moment Rinjani pops out in full view. While just admiring the villages and farmland, I turn the corner and suddenly this gigantic great slab of rock, like one of those paper cones at the clinical water coolers, staring at us, or other mere mortals undaunted, leaving me slightly awe-struck all excited-jumpy inside as I go, “Holy! Thats where we would be soon! We’re climbing that!”
POS 1 (Pemantauan) 1300 m
We took a 5-10 min break before moving onwards. In my mind, “Break? Why? Lets move on.” Hindsight 101, take breaks when you can.
POS 2 (Tengengean) 1500 m :
After the break, we embarked on a similar walk, except we started ascending. We walk on for another hour for some warm-up calf exercises before taking another short break,
POS 3 (Pada Balong ) 1800 m :
We stop for lunch though I wished we could walk on further. My mindset at that time was that I don’t need to eat much as I would rather just push myself all the way, reach the end and rest.
Although the trek wasn’t very steep or long, I guess carrying a load makes me slightly weary such that at the moment i unload, I was suddenly pretty glad we stopped for lunch. My shoulders were starting to hurt slightly. The bright side is that you can see other groups also stopping for lunch and if they stop later you can see their slightly shagged faces as they climb up and that glitter in their eyes when they realize its lunch. Lunch was around 2h at POS3. There are also monkeys roaming around so entertain yourself.
The chicken looked big when they were cooking it, but it’ll magically shrink in size when it is on your plate. I half suspected someone stole the meat away, but thats how kampong chickens are.
You are bound to notice the amount of trash at the lunch area, especially after preparing the lunch. The instant noodles plastic cups/bags littered on the ground, the non-biodegradable items that are happily thrown around is a worry. Despite how wonderful the hike is, seeing all this litter around makes me feel quite sad, as well as confused over whether my impact is actually making this worse.
Would a greater influx of hikers help change this situation by creating a better culture, or would it become worse? Either way, everyone please take note of your footprint.
Sembalun Crater Rim (Pelawangan Sembalun) 2639M :
After lunch, is where the real trek of the day starts. It is first a continuation of the grassland uphill, gradually getting steeper like a gym machine cranking up the resistance. Slightly higher up. the scenery will start to change as you will start to be surrounded by the massive pine trees called “Cemara”. Here, you will go through patches of forest, lean against some trees, grab whatever branches for support as they become your silent best buddies in this hike. This time, it’ll take 2-3 hours of unrelenting uphill.
As we go higher, there are a few vantage points where you can catch the trail to the summit, like a boomerang trail hooking across the clear sky. You will continuously see a “summit” which is actually just another ridge, but the view is still amazing.
After climbing the last turn, you will be rewarded with absolutely magnificent and unforgettable panorama. My view is always focused on the next step, or looking at the person’s bag or ass in front of you, once you step out into the clearing, the amazing view rushes at you, like breaking into another world. Rise above the fluffy mush-mellow clouds and they slowly part to grant the entrance of the volcanic lake Segara Anak (Child of the Sea Lake) and crater rim. On the other side of the view, you can see North of Lombok and the Sembalun village, and further ahead you’ll see the Rinjani summit.
I thought it was the end, but we walked further down to get a better camp spot. So the earlier you arrive, the more chance of you getting a better spot. That is also why the porters rush ahead to secure a good spot. There is actually a mini-race between the porters. At that moment I was all ready to lay down my bags and just lie down, but there was another 15 minutes to go to our spot.
Like pampered hikers, we just threw our stuff down, while the porters helped us fix up the tent. They also lay a mat for us while they prepared dinner, and we just sat around, too exhausted to do much except the enjoy the beautiful view and wind. It is also a good thing to reach up here fast so you have more time to enjoy the view while the sun is up. I realised that it might be better to camp further up so for the summit climb, you climb less in the early morning.
Enjoy the sunset, as it descends very quickly. The golden glow of light enveloping over the area is a sight to behold. Once the sun starts to set, the temperature starts to drop quickly too. The wind chill is especially cold.Within 15-20 minutes, boom, suddenly its dark and cold. By then, we were shivering and wearing our jackets while eating our dinner.
After dinner, I simply crawled back into the tent to rest for the summit climb. Its another 6 hours of sleep before a whole day of climbing. It gets really cold so I was wearing my jacket even in the tent, while the howling wind played outside. Although the climb wasn’t that difficult, it was still strenuous and my legs were wobbly. I just spent my time stretching and hoping that my muscles will recover for the summit climb.
TIP : Wake up in the middle of the night, at around 11pm-12am when everyone is definitely asleep. If the sky is clear, get out of the tent ( the wind isn’t very strong usually at this time), and enjoy the scenery. I had this experience when I woke up to pee. The gazillion stars twinkling; the hushed atmosphere as everyone is sleeping in the tents that dot the landscape; hearing my own breath while at the top of a mountain, is a feeling I’ll never forget. If you like staying up awake at 2-3am, this is for you.