Awwwwww… Would you look at those clean, happy, naive faces at the start of the hike.
Actually, our faces at the end didn’t look too bad either but in between is a variety of ugly, exhausted, despaired faces (and some smiling selfies).
Fadzly and I climbed Mt Rinjani from 11 – 14 September 2016, and, well, it’s really easy to say on hindsight that everything was not so bad but if I took myself back to moments like this:
Yeah, actually this bit was fucking hard. Like, I-teared-a-little-bit hard.
Anyway, here’s a little guide / our experience climbing Mt Rinjani, including information on the harder bits of the climb, the more beautiful bits of the hike, what to bring, the company we went with, toilet business, rubbish on the hike, and more! I wrote this really as some sort of remembrance for me, and for any of my friends who might do the hike in future. It’s gonna be a long one, so here goes!
Trekking Company: Green Rinjani
After a little research online (and it was little because I made my mind up pretty quickly), we decided to go with a 4D3N Deluxe trekking package (USD335) with Green Rinjani. Here are our reasons why:
- They’re environmentally-conscious
Our guides and porters took all of their trash down and even cleaned up after other groups sometimes. I saw my own guide stub his cigarette out and put it into a box, instead of throwing it on the ground like the others do. The state of the mountain in some areas are truly terrible. I didn’t take any pictures of the trash laying around but check this one out from www.saverinjani.com. There’s also the tree planting.
2. They’re socially-conscious
Aril, our guide, was a freelancer, and we found out that Green Rinjani pays their guides and porters the highest. This was super important to me. I didn’t want to pay for a cheap package if it meant that our guides and porters were being exploited. We also found out, (and confirmed what we read from our research) that John’s Adventure was one company to avoid. The company treats their staff very, very poorly (firing them when they get injured during the hike, for example).
3. The service was E.X.C.E.L.L.E.N.T from start to finish
Aril lent his jacket and trekking pole to Fadzly at no charge. He hiked all the way to the summit with us (not all guides do). Though he walked ahead of us (coz he was so fit), he would also be at slippery/tricky points to point out to us where to step so that we would not slip/fall. He lent me a hand to get me down quickly (my challenge is with descents because of my knees) and painlessly. He carried snacks and our water for us at certain points, took pictures for us. He was really funny, friendly and knowledgeable about the plants, wildlife and trails (he has been climbing Mt Rinjani for 20 years, since he was 7 – he jokes that it’s getting really boring). The porters were all extremely friendly with their own tales and jokes, cooked AMAZING meals and were always ready with the food and tent before we got to the checkpoints. That aside, we were picked up with no issues from the airport, transferred to the hotel quickly and easily after the briefing at the office, and taken to the starting point in comfort. On the last day, we were dropped off at the doorstep of our next accommodation after a final lunch.
My fantastic experience is not isolated, you can check out their reviews on TripAdvisor (like we also did).
Where we stayed the night before the trek: Rinjani Lighthouse
Funnily, thinking back now, this was the nicest place we stayed in during our entire time in Lombok. It had hot showers, was clean, and was very beautiful.
We were able to choose from a series of accommodation options based on the trekking package (where the night’s stay before the trek, was included) and decided on this after some digging around the interwebz. No ragrets. Check out these shots:
We arrived when the sun was already down. Pardon the messy bed and mosquito net.
This place was where we had our only hot shower for the trip. Hahaha.
Sunrise the next day. Beautiful! It’s worth mentioning that this place is elevated and surrounded by forests so the temperatures we experienced were a cool 23 deg. Lovely!
Walking to breakfast at 620am. A car would take us to the Green Rinjani office to drop our extra bags off before the climb, at 7am.
View for breakfast.
Someone is not awake yet.
THE HIKE – Day One
Gear required: Hot weather climbing gear. Slap on sunscreen or prepare long sleeves. Cold weather clothes necessary at base camp (late afternoon/evening time).
Cue the happy faces you saw at the start of the post.
We already met our guide, Aril, the night before, where he explained the route to us and checked all of our gear to make sure we had what we needed for the climb. Fadzly had to borrow a winter jacket (because he didn’t check the packing list and blames me for not telling him there was a packing list, lol what) and a trekking pole. Normally you have to rent it but Aril was very kind to just lend it to him.
Our route was going to be: start point > base camp [sleep] > summit > crater lake (+hot springs!) [sleep] > crater rim [option to sleep here] > Pos 2 [we chose to sleep here] > end of trek.
This part is your regular “hike” there are lots of ups and you are carrying your backpack, so you do get tired but nothing mindblowingly difficult.
Here’s me planting a tree as part of Green Rinjani’s reforestation programme. My concern is whether or not the tree will be taken care of :(. So my prayer is for our trees to grow big, strong and old! May it serve the land and all other living beings.
Really I was trying to take a photo of our porter’s really ripped limbs. The guy squeezing the bottle of water is our guide, Aril.
First meal of the trek! Lunch time. We didn’t take many shots of our food but it was great! There was always lots of protein options and carbs to tide us through. It was stuff like rice and meat+veggie. We had a green curry one night, gado-gado one night, and a delicious fried rice on our 3rd day which I polished off cleanly.
Base camp – we were quite tired already. We reached here close to 5pm and rested while the crew prepared dinner.
Inside of our roomy tent. This is where you’ll have your wet wipes “shower”. Fadzly and I tended to wipe off at the end of each day’s hike, before dinner.
That purple box you see is our toilet. Haha. I believe the Standard package comes without the box and while initially hesitant to go with the more expensive Deluxe package – I thought I had no qualms going in public – I eventually admitted that this little box was a big plus. The porters would dig a hole for you and you’d do your business there. This was also great because 1) shit would not be lying around (oh, we saw some piles) and 2) peeing in public is one thing but as a girl, taking a dump in the wild was very unnerving – and you can’t go unless you’re relaxed, y’know?
THE HIKE – Day two (Part one)
Gear required: Top and bottom base layers, winter jacket with hoodie, windproof layer, gloves, headlamp, trekking pole, lots of steely determination. If you’re with a company, you can leave your bags behind, which is an immensely helpful thing.
Day two started at 2am. For some reason, I kept going to pee and could not fall asleep the evening before :(. We had started resting at 8pm, which would give us a nice 6-hour sleep but I think I only had around 2 – 3 hours of shallow sleep. What do you do though? Onward you go.
The stars we could see were RIDIC. But it was very cold and we were kind of sleepy still and so there was no time for picture taking. Our porters would take care of our belongings while we left with just a bottle of water and our gear.
The start of the hike was kind of tough, with steep sandy slopes, and you can only see what your headlamp illuminates. I quickly realised this was kind of a good thing, you only see the path ahead of you and not how much more you have to go. So you just keep taking that one step forward, and then rest when it gets tough.
So much of this was a mental challenge as much as it was a physical one. At one point I started singing to myself to pep myself up. I laughed out loud when Aril started playing music on his phone and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” came on – “When your legs don’t work like they used to before…” HAHAHA. NO SHIT.
We had two and a half hours of trekking before we hit the hardest part of the entire climb. Bear in mind that we were already half shattered (and this was like 5am?).
In daylight, this was what we needed to climb. In the dark, you had zero fucking idea.
The sunrise was early that day, and we were already slow, so we missed the spectacle. But it was still spectacular witnessing the sky change colours as we were climbing. The following pictures are taken by our guide, Aril.
Fadzly pausing for a shot. We would go down to that lake (left) later that day.
What we could witness of the sunrise.
The climb up. Spot me on the left in the turquoise hoodie.
People behind us. Do you see Fadzly?
A completely candid shot I didn’t know Aril captured. This was one of the most mentally-challenging things I’ve ever faced. The elevation was steep and the scree was impossible to ascend steadily. You would take five hard steps and randomly slide backwards three times. It feels like you’re walking in the same spot. REMEMBER WE ALREADY HAD A HARD HIKE 2.5 HOURS AGO.
When it was dark, it was feeling that the summit was too far and that I wasn’t going to make it. Once the sun came up, it was knowing that the summit was indeed too fucking far. Hahaha.
I went into mindfulness and gratitude mode, thanking all the parts of my body for working up until this point and that no matter how tired it was it still took one step at a time. That helped a lot. Finally what worked for me was to just climb 10 steps at a time, disregarding how many times I slipped back, and then rest. With every 10 steps I looked up and felt like I wasn’t even getting close. But with every few stops I also looked back to tell myself that, hey, look, you started from the bottom, so you’re definitely moving. Don’t be disheartened!
Am not even sure how I’m smiling here. I legit teared twice in frustration and reconsidered my decision to go into outdoor adventure guiding.
Fadzly and I had a real laugh at this picture, coz we zoomed in and found this:
Here’s a face that says he’s had enough. Hahahahahahha. Truth is he was a wonderful hiking partner. He took the water bottle from me because I was getting frustrated with it and continuously encouraged me.
Anyway, pushing on, we finally made it. Way beyond sunrise but, we made it!!
Fadzly and I were reflecting on hindsight, that for us both, by the time we got to the summit, it was more of feeling “thank god it’s over” rather than “yay we achieved something!”. I was so knackered I couldn’t appreciate being up there – but I could have. So if you’re going up and you find yourself completely wiped out at the summit, I implore you to take a step back and shift into joy and celebration. You just reached the top of a mountain, enjoy it!!! I sure wish I did! It’s the one little regret I have.
Anyway, after taking our pictures, guess what?
Now we have to go down! Bloody hell.
Quickly I discovered that going down was 3 times easier than going up. Because we just slid like we were skiing (sort of). I had bad knees so Aril took my hand and guided me down. We got to the bottom of that slope in probably 30 minutes. Ascending was mother bleepin’ hard and going down was a breeze. Lol. The rest of the descent back to base camp was actually still long and challenging, mainly because you were so tired and the morning sun was now in full force.
I wish I could say I got back to the tent and K.O-ed but I couldn’t actually fall asleep because the noon sun was cooking me in our oven of a tent. I took what rest I could and then the next hike was to the lake.
THE HIKE – Day two (Part two)
Gear required: Hot weather climbing gear. Feel free to change back into shorts.
Day two is a long day. We left the base camp at around 1pm after eating lunch.
The next part of the hike was not difficult and was one that I really enjoyed. It was fairly flat and took me through lots of forest and tall grass. Lots of time and ease to take pictures!
Amazing porters carrying about 30kg each and traversing everything with just flip-flops. They are seriously incredible.
The lake is my favourite, favourite part of the whole hike because of the gorgeous scenery and laidback itinerary (pics later, which we snapped the morning after). We got here around 3-ish pm and settled to make camp. Our porter then walked us to the hot springs which we were SO looking forward to.
We have no pictures but the warm water was extremely soothing to our muscles and it felt amazing to finally get the grime out of my fingernails and wash my hair. We could even do some laundry. Man, I didn’t know rejuvenated until I experienced being in a hot spring after 2 days of hard hiking.
Got back to our tent around 5pm and waited for dinner. Then Aril (guide), Sudirman, Awal and Suma (porters) made a campfire!
This was when we really got to spend time with these guys! Making jokes and hearing stories… Aril talked about ghosts and that stopped Fadzly from going out at night to pee. Creeped me out too, admittedly, lol.
THE HIKE – Day Three
Gear required: Hot weather climbing gear.
We went to bed at around 9 or 10, I believe. And this time I had the most delicious sleep. Woke up with the sun at around 6am. We had the luxury of having breakfast at around 730am, and needing to leave only at 9am.
Because it rained slightly and anyway clouds come through so frequently, our clothes were not that dry. I strapped some still-wet clothes to my bag (Osprey Kyte 36), which worked well!
Best breakfast with the forest around me and beautiful view in front.
Aril and Sudirman messing around with our camera. Haha.
Today we were hiking our way to our third campsite, which you can choose to either be at the second peak, Pos 3 or Pos 2. We had decided on Pos 3 because that meant a 4 hour hike down (instead of 7) on the last day, but when we hit Pos 3, we decided that with my bad knees, we should hit Pos 2 so that we didn’t have to wake up so early on Day Four.
Lunch time at the second peak. The views are supposed to be nice but it was cloudy – so we saw nothing – and cold. We had to get our jackets out.
No picture of the meal but this was the one I polished off. Fried rice with egg, chicken and keropok!
Aril, our friendly guide and part-time cook.
A peak inside a porter’s basket.
Made it to Pos 2. The descent was actually quite long so we were happy that we decided to do it on this day rather than on the last day. We reached camp only at around 5pm? The hike down was very similar in scenery to any nature reserve in evergreen Singapore, with the added perk of cool, dry weather.
Last dinner for the night. Instant noodles and getting to try the guides’ sambal cholit! They ate it at every meal with rice. It’s Lombok’s version of sambal that is really like a salsa (with visible tomato chunks), slightly tangy and with a strong taste of belacan (dried shrimp). I loved it! Sadly it was too spicy for me so I couldn’t take much.
THE HIKE – Day Four
Gear required: Hot weather climbing gear.
Not much to say! We packed up, and began the descent, which I think was for about 1.5 hours or 2 hours.
There it was, the end of Mt Rinjani. We still had a short walk to the carpark where our taxis were waiting. And on the way there Aril took us to a waterfall viewpoint as well as pointed out cocoa and coffee fruits.
I also told myself that I would get the slippers that the porters wore. They must be some kind of magic, right?
The brand is Sky Way – which they pronounce “skee-wai”. I found it in a souvenir shop for IDR11,000 (SGD$1.20).
Before I end the post, I wanted to share a couple of tips for the hike that we didn’t find on other sites.
- Cut your fingernails as short as you can. The trails are dusty and grime does get stuck under your fingernails.
- Trying to figure out how much cold weather gear to pack was tricky. In my opinion: pack two top base layers (one for every evening/night, another for the night of the summit hike), one bottom base layer, a really good windproof winter jacket (with hood) and you’ll be good for the cold nights. I didn’t have windproof jacket so i improvised with a raincoat jacket on top of my winter jacket.
- Bring a small bar of 100% natural, eco-friendly soap and you can clean up at the hot springs.
- Bring biodegradable, eco-friendly, bamboo-based wet wipes (NooTrees is a good brand) so they can be buried in the toilet holes when you clean up after your business. Please still take your “showering” wipes down the mountain.
- Buy Biore’s Sara-sara body powder sheets. Use them after the regular wet-wipes wipe down. These will leave your skin feeling dry and smooth. I’ve tried many, many brands and these are the best.
- Bring non-sticky makeup wipes to clean your face. They’ll clean it best.
- If you have compression tights, bring them. They’ll help you recover or keep your muscles from getting sore.
- We didn’t need any insect repellant even though the trekking company said to pack some.
And that’s it!
If you read everything, thank you! I hope it was helpful or interesting for you.
Would I do the hike again? Yes, minus the summit. If anything I’d very much like to go back to the lake and hot springs. Maybe camp a few days there, in fact.
If you’re doing the hike, I wish you all the very best. Try to remember to enjoy every bit of the hike :).