At a corner before a few steps away to the summit, I grasped for air. When I looked down, I shook my head. “What the hell am I doing here?” the words slipped from my lips. The steep sandy slope seemed horrible from here. I could not believe that I had climbed all the way here. I sighed and sat down again and pondered the time when it all began…

We arrived at Lombok airport from Kuala Lumpur at 7.30pm. I was worried that we might not get enough rest for trekking Rinjani on the next day. However, the thought faded for a while when I could not find the driver to Senaru who should be waiting for us at the airport entrance. They promised to pick us up (9 of us) from the airport with two cars. After a hectic search and phone calls with Angga (Angga is the contact person and guide from Rinjani Climber), I finally found Pak Ahmad waving his hand and holding a piece of paper with my name in a small handwriting. I sighed with relief and we went straight to a convenient store to buy snacks and mineral water. According to Angga, they would provide mineral water for us so it was up to us if we wanted to buy our own water.

[Checkout: Tips on Climbing Rinjani]

The conversation with Angga traced back 3 months before our arrival at Lombok airport. I had made many contacts with the local agencies but his service caught my attention. With reasonable price, they would provide tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats and food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, it was still a gamble considering that I had never been to Lombok and without any experience there, I let the fate controlled our destiny besides praying and hoping, things would turn out well and we would conquer Rinjani safely. Here we were in Lombok on the way to Senaru with two cars.

We stopped at Mataram for dinner at Nasi Padang Restaurant but I was not into it that much. Having a sensitive tummy caused me to be wary and careful over the food that I consume. Furthermore, we would be trekking Rinjani and camping for 3 days and 2 nights. There wouldn’t be any proper toilet but Angga assured to me one week earlier that they would build a toilet tent. I wonder what it would look like. However, I forced myself to eat my dinner without the soup and gravy. Basically, I needed to avoid fluid based food. Strangely, the white rice still tasted good even without the gravy.

The journey was long and tiring. At night, we could barely see anything other than locals doing their activities at the road side. Considering the time of the night, I was quite surprised to see some were still out but as we got closer to Senaru, the road became quieter with few vehicles passed by our cars. We arrived at Anak Senaru Homestay at about 1120pm and took all of our bags to the house. I finally met with Angga and he was not someone that I had expected. He was dark, skinny with about the same height as mine. We were all tired and sleepy but he insisted on having a briefing at the restaurant next to the home stays. Angga informed that the journey would be arduous. I was prepared to hear that because back in Malaysia, everyone talked about how difficult it was trekking Rinjani.

The unscaled map of Rinjani Hiking

On the first day, a truck would transferred us to Sembalun for registration and started the hike from there for about 8km to Plawangan Camp. We would be stopping to have lunch at Post 2 before crossing Bukit Penyesalan (Hill of Regrets). We were all wondering what was it about that we were going to regret? I had climbed a volcano before (Mount Fuji) and we would be going steep slopes with few trees for sure but Bukit Penyesalan was something new. After  that, we would camp at Plawangan Camp and continued the journey to summit starting at 2 am. We were told by Angga to return to camp by 9am and then continued the hike to Segara Anak Lake and camp at Post 4 near Senaru. The final day, we would be hiking for 4 hours to Senaru. The total of hiking distance is 25km.

The night felt short and we had to wake up at 6am for breakfast. The clock already ticking at 1am and we had to sleep before the challenging journey of trekking Rinjani tomorrow. I did not sleep well that night but nothing could be done. We had breakfast of banana pancake at 7am. After breakfast, we put our bags at a corner and separate any bags that would be carried to Rinjani by potters. We decided to take three porters to carry our bags and each porter was estimated to carry 25kg. The price was quite reasonable too at least for me. I would not mind paying if it could reduce the burden though. After ensuring that all the stuff was secured, we gathered at the entrance of the home stay for briefing. “This is it. Our dream will finally become a reality” I was extremely nervous but ready to face the challenge. With all set and ready, we hopped on the pickup truck and began an hour journey to Sembalun.

The home stays of Anak Senaru Homestay
Arrangement with porters
Speech before heading to Sembalun

It was not a pleasant journey. Even though it was fun at first, it got really dizzy after a while. I almost threw up but managed to control it by closing my eyes. Until the truck reached Rinjani Information Center for registration, my head spun but I forced myself to walk to the toilet and threw up. Pheww. What a ride. I went to the office and registered myself. This was the beginning. We were all given a red tag (which is still attached to my day pack until now) to show that we were entering the national park legally. With this red tag, if there is an emergency, the rescue effort is covered by the authority.  Emergency in this case will apply when an individual is not able to stand up at all. There had been cases of death while trekking Rinjani so the struggle is real.

All of us looking fresh before the hike
The starting point via Sembalun

We returned to the truck and it went to an unpaved road in between shops at the town center. This was the place where the journey commenced. It was already hot at 10am so I had expected the hike to be an awful journey. At first, the path was all clear and we did some minor climb here and there but it was not that hard. Eventually, we hiked a steep slope and reach the end of the easier path. We rested and waited for everyone to be here and resumed the journey and entered a forest. Finally, the shades that I had been looking forward all along were here to protect me from the naughty sun. I did not want to leave the forest but the trekking had to continue on. When the forest finally ended, the savanna was becoming more prominent. The path was dustier and I had to cover my nose and mouth with my palm. I did have a mask but each time I put it on, I could feel my hot breath which made me uncomfortable. I eventually gave up the mask until we reach Post 1. It was very hot at the moment and there were no trees to protect us. The hut was too small to fit all of us in. We decided not to wait here too long and continued the hike to Post 2 where we would be eating lunch.

It was hot
The trail was easy
This is where the easy trail ended
And then the beginning of Savanna
Tall grass. Great for ’emergencies’
The pole was really helpful

The hike was moderate but the heat was unbearable. I wish this would end soon but I doubt it would end anytime from now. Suddenly, rush of clouds came to block the scorching hot sun. It was a grateful moment for us. More clouds coming in and we were technically hiking without sun from Post 1 to Post 2. As we arrived at Post 2, my stomach was growling madly. I was extremely hungry but the porters were not here yet. We had to wait for a while and ‘enjoying’ the view of other fellow hikers having lunch and lounging. I swallowed my saliva many times looking at the food. Not long after that, the porters arrived and they set up open tent for us to rest. I took off my shoes and wiped my feet with wet tissues. It was so hot that my feet were becoming very sweaty. I wiped the dirt off to avoid getting blisters and thank goodness, I did not get any blisters throughout the expedition. Suddenly, the porters and Angga came and brought the food to us. It was just a simple instant noodle with fruit but it tasted so good at that time. It was the best moment ever. Even though I was expecting chicken because I saw them cooking the chicken earlier, the chicken was for dinner so I let it go.

Lunch preparation
Watermelon for appetizer
Instant noodles with egg and vegetable
Dessert: Pineapple and oranges

It was already 2pm and we were one of the lasts to leave Post 2.  We should depart earlier to avoid arriving at Plawangan Camp after dark. Anything could happen in between so it was important to be prepared. Besides, we had been resting for too long. Just like First Newton’s Law, an object at rest stays at rest. We would need to start all over again. Furthermore, the trekking would be getting more difficult as we would be going through Bukit Penyesalan. I was losing it though. I did not have the energy and motivations that I used to have when I hiked Kinabalu and Mount Fuji. I was so tired and every step up it felt like a chain was chained to my legs. Eventually, when the hill became more difficult, we got separated and I was hiking without my team mates. I was not worried at all because the trail was very clear and there were many hikers and porters too. Some of the porters were resting at the rocks and I did not dare to compete with them. I was gasping for air most of the time and stopped many times along the way. The fog had also clouded the vision and there was no clear view besides the spooky looking trees covered by the fog.

The vandalized marker
Somewhere at the beginning of Bukit Penyesalan
The porters

It was already 4pm and I had been climbing this endless hill for two hours. Every time I reached the top of the hill, another hill appeared. No wonder it was called Bukit Penyesalan. Well, because of the obvious reason. It was pretty quiet for me but my mind was talking and thinking at the same time. To keep myself going, I had to talk to myself in my mind and reminded myself that this was not the place to give up. Sometimes, I let the songs played from my earphone to cheer me up. Then, I happened to pass a group of Malaysian and one of them stopped and talk to me. He told me that he was leading a group called PPD Outdoor Cast who happened to be his students at Polytechnic Port Dickson. “As a teacher I must lead good examples to my students” he explained. It was nice to finally talk with someone after more than an hour of just talking to myself.

When the clouds are almost gone

Suddenly, the clouds and fogs were gone. The peak of Rinjani suddenly appeared behind the clouds. It was too far high up. I was not sure if it was reachable. What a bummer. The slope going to the peak was too high and long. I could see it from here. Not letting myself got distracted, I forced myself to hike slowly up the steepest hill of Bukit Penyesalan. This time, it would lead me to Plawangan Camp Site.

Rinjani summit seen from Bukit Penyesalan
The view of the crater
It was so cold but the sun warmed us up
Little celebration
During sunset

At about 530pm, I reached the camp site but most of the porters were not here yet. The tent was not set up for us too. Some of my team mates were already lying on the dirt and enjoying the sunset. It was too cold. Four hours ago, I cursed at the sun but now I longed for it. The sun ray was the only hope to warm me up. The wind chill was too hard on us. I did not have enough layer to protect my body from the cold temperature until one of the porters that carried my bag arrived. I quickly went inside the tent and took off all my clothes and wiped all over my body with the wet tissues and then settling down in my fleece and wind breaker. Without noticing the surrounding, the sun was already gone and it was so dark. The other two of my team mates were not here yet. I was quite worried because it was cold. I hope they arrived as soon as possible. Fortunately, when we were about to have dinner, they arrived safe and sound. I was glad everyone was now here and it went well for all of us. Then, we went to sleep with butterflies in our stomach thinking of the summit that we must conquer tomorrow morning.

I was awaken by the noise coming from outside the tent. When I checked the time, it was already 1.30am. Thankfully, my body was not that sore. Probably due to the medicine that I took before sleeping. I got myself prepared and got myself ready for the summit attack. It was horribly cold that night and it was dark. Every one had left except me and 3 others including Angga. When I hiked for about 10 minutes, I realized that my headlamp was not that bright. The battery was draining and we had another 4 hours to go before sunrise. I did not want to fall in the crater. I was quite panicked at that time but Irwan, (one of my team mates) came to the rescue by offering his tiny torchlight. Thank goodness.

The darkness of early morning for summit attack

Even though it was just 20 minutes of hike along the rim, I did not have the motivation that was needed for me to get through. It was dark and dusty and this time around, I had to cover my nose and mouth with the mask. My breathing was too warm and it did not help to make me relax. It was tiring too as the air got thinner at this elevation. I stopped many times and I believe now that everyone from my team had went far ahead. There was no chance for me to reach them. The journey got more challenging when the rim ended at a steep slope. The slope terrain was covered with thick sand and it was very slippery. Sometimes, I did slip but managed to catch my way up. It was so steep and horrible. I did stop for countless of times to catch my breath. Thousands of meters down from where I stood, the tiny specks of lights coming from the towns below sparkled. I wished I would have been sleeping like them. But no, this was not the time for me to allow the negative thoughts. I must push through no matter how hard it was. Finally, the slope ended and the long hike on a saddle of the crater began. The agony of climbing a sandy slope finally ended but another torment came when the hard cold wind slapped me. There was no turning back. I had to push through and hike as fast as I could. Even if I stopped, I would stop by facing the crater the opposite of the wind direction.

I was exposed to the chilly wind for more than an hour now. Eventually, I sat behind a rock blocking the wind. I sat there and wandering where were all the people went. There was nobody in front of me. The only signs of those at the front were the specks of lights near the summit. Those behind me was also way behind based on the tiny specks of lamp light. I sat there quietly. Only eerie sound of the wind could be heard. I yawned many times but tried my best to stay awake. My eyes slowly shut and my body began to relax. Pap! I slapped my face hard and immediately stood up and composed myself. “No, I can’t and I should not sleep. If not will catch hypothermia”. Then, I set my foot to continue the hike to reach the final slope leading to the summit. It was almost 5am now, but I only reached the beginning of it.

I noticed the turquoise light appeared at the horizon. The sun rise was coming soon so I pushed myself hard to climbed faster but I slipped back by 2 steps. It was so difficult going this 60 degrees slope. To make it worst, the slope was covered with tiny rocks and sand. This is the hill to hell. I could tell that I would not reach summit by sunrise. I almost gave up but there was no turning back at this point. I just need to push myself further even crawling was the only option which I literally did at one point. At 6am, the sky was now orange and red. The sun would peek out anytime soon. I was at only the quarter of the slope. Every three steps up that I took, I would stop to catch my breath. This trek was nothing close to ordinary.

I was above the horizon
The sunrise was blocked by the hill
Sun was out
The view was amazing
The notorious slope
Shadow of Rinjani

The sun was finally out but it was blocked by the hill. I could not see it from here but I did not dare to push myself further. At this point of time, I did not care if I was going to miss the sunrise. I met one of my team mate, Ayu and she was there going up slowly. I called her and the only thing she could say was “Why am I signing up for this?” Yeah, me too. I did not have the answer. However, the summit just few steps away. I pushed myself harder and reached the summit where the other team mates were already resting at one area. I just went pass them and took picture overlooking the crater. I was quite upset with the slope and the whole trek to this summit. It was very difficult for me. Nonetheless, the view was breath taking and made the whole process worth it.

At the peak of 3726m above sea level
Taking last view of Rinjani before descending
Time for ski
The monkeys had way better stamina than me

The sky was blue but I was ready to go down now. It would be very hot if we delayed the descent. The descent was not that bad because we were able to ski down at that slope. My shoes were filled with sands and I needed to took off my shoes and remove the sand at the bottom of that notorious hill. We continued the journey down but this time I was enjoying the beauty of Rinjani, left and right of the saddle. On the left, the crater was magnificent. The Barujari Hill was looking dangerously pretty. She was still active. On the right was the view of Lombok where the clouds could be seen generated at the crater rim. It was getting hotter at 9 am.

Lounging with a great view
Where the clouds got generated

I finally reached the slope where I was struggling earlier this morning in the dark. I got to ski again but fell once. Ouch, it was hurt but thankfully nobody saw it. At 10am I reached Plawangan Camp Site. We were late by an hour but there were some of the teammates who were still climbing up there. I did not think we could begin the journey to Segara Anak Lake before 1pm.

The camp site at Plawangan looking like a fence from here

Angga approached me and suggested that we stayed for another night here and return to Sembalun tomorrow. I did not hesitate and agreed with the proposal. I would rather stay another night here then hiking for another 8 hours and reached Senaru Crater at night. However, he suggested for those who still wanted to go to Segara Anak and hotspring, they would lead the way down and must return back to Plawangan. At first, seven of us agreed to join including me. However, two bailed out even before passing the small hill next to our camp. I also bailed out after 20 minutes hiking down the crater. I could envision the trek already. We would hike down a vertical wall for 2 hours but we also need to come back up for 3 to 4 hours. Besides, the temperature in the crater was too hot to handle. I rather hike back up to the camp.

The view of the crater in the afternoon. It was extremely hot
The trek going down to the crater or Segara Anak Lake

At the camp, Angga told us that we could still go to the spring where they get the water. After 20 minutes, we reached the spring and I saw the other 3 of my team mates were already at there. They apparently bailed out after me. I had foreseen the situation earlier I guess. The spring was very cold and nice but the surrounding was not pleasant. There were a lot of trash and monkeys annoying us. However, I did take a shower and it was good. The water was presumably clean because we had been drinking and eating with the water. It was the mineral water that Angga mentioned earlier to me.

The view of sunset from the tent
Chilling out

That night, we just enjoyed and gathered around the campfire. It was a nice moment to just chilled out and had fun talking about the experience today. I could not imagine if I decided to go to Senaru. We would probably still hiking at this time. But tonight we got to sleep early and I slept for 9 hours. The next morning, we could enjoy the sunrise that most of us had missed yesterday. It was so beautiful and mesmerizing. It was a symbolic of our victory and accomplishment in trekking Rinjani.

From Malaysia with love
The descent
Waving goodbye to Rinjani Summit
Plawangan getting further away

At 7.30am, we hiked down using the same trek going up. It was pretty nice and the view was so good. Even though it was hot, the trees were there to give us shades. After 6 hours, we reached Sembalun Town. It was awkward to actually return to the place where it all began. However the journey was a voyage to remember and definitely made me stronger and prove that I could do better next time as long as I lose some weight.

Until next time

The DOs and DON’Ts

  1. Bring water bottles and wear long sleeves and buff to cover yourself. Don’t forget hat
  2. Bring enough layer to protect yourself from extreme weather
  3. Use hiking poles to make the hike easier
  4. Bring enough medicine to make sure you are well and fit enough to reach summit
  5. Mask or buff is necessary due to dusty trails
  6. Don’t give up