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It was an ungodly 2am on the second day of our trek when our guide woke us up to make the final push to the summit of Gunung Rinjani, the second highest volcano in Indonesia at 3,726m. Due to the fatigue from the previous day’s climb and not getting much sleep that night, I stumbled out of my tent groggy and weary-eyed. I was grateful that the weather was good, though: clear skies, a full moon and no strong winds.
As we laboured painfully upwards, the night was silent, except for the rhythmic scrubbing of our boots against the volcanic scree. A thunderous boom shook us from our lumbering stupor. An eruption! We had heard the sound throughout the previous day, although then, it sounded like distant thunder when we were less than halfway up the mountain. But now that we were near the crater, we could literally feel the earth tremble beneath our feet.
We sprinted to the top of crater and, gasping for air, peered down into the volcano’s heart, catching a glimpse of a fast disappearing red glow, with a faint plume of ash rising. We were a bit too late to catch that eruption, but the disappointment would be short-lived. Later, there was no shortage of eruptions as we climbed higher, with hours of uninterrupted views of the action!
Rinjani: Not For The Faint-Hearted
Climbing Rinjani isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s well worth the effort. Rinjani is a semi-active volcano and lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire, an of Danau Segara Anak, with great views of the volcanic cone as we made our way up the west crater rim.
Just below this area, there was little or no wind, and the smell of sulphur lingered in the air. The frequent eruptions also forced us to wear masks that filter out volcanic ash, which would rain down in the still air following each blowup. We took all this in our stride, and did not find it at all uncomfortable, merely interesting.
We decided to keep Day Four free and easy, depending on how far we got on Day Three. We probably could have spent our last day relaxing if we had walked faster on Day Three and reached our final destination, Senaru, a traditional village on the western base of Rinjani. However, we chose to take a slight detour by spending our last night in the jungle, and then continuing our walk to the village the following morning. All things said, Rinjani was a rewarding experience, with fantastic scenery best savoured in good time and at your own pace.
Essential Prep Tips For The Trek
■ Opt for the four-day itinerary.
There are options for a three- or four-day trek. For a more relaxing expedition, go for the four-day adventure. For a small fee, a porter can be arranged to carry your gear and belongings.
■ Start from Sembalun Lawang and end in Senaru.
You’ll have the option to start from the east (Sembalun Lawang) and end in the west (Senaru), or vice versa. Go for the former. This gives you the option to relax in the hot springs after the summit climb. The trail is quite rugged and challenging, and it is best suited for the experienced trekker or the adventurous traveller.
■ Go with a guide.
Reliable trekking information for Rinjani is hard to come by, or is usually out of date. So the better option would be to go with a guided expedition. Arrangements to climb Rinjani can be made when you get to Lombok, or in Singapore with local trekking expedition operators such as Adventure Quests.
■ Train for your trek.
The best way to prepare is to carry a heavy backpack and walk up a hill or stairs. Start a few months before your trek, and gradually increase the intensity.
■ Get good trekking shoes.
Go in the late afternoon when your feet have swelled a bit during the day. Once you’ve put on the shoes, try walking around to make sure your heels do not lift too much. To gauge if the shoes are too tight, first ensure that your heel touches the back of the shoe. Then, kick the wall a few times with the toecap. If your toes touch the end of the boot on the first or second kick, they’re too tight; they should only touch on the third or fourth kick.
SilkAir flies three times a week to Lombok, Indonesia.The island is the gateway to Gunung Rinjani and is also a great place to chill out after a climb.
When To Go
The best time to go is during the cool and dry season from April to October. For more details, go to
In Sembalun Lawang, one of the better maintained accommodations is Lembah Rinjani Homestay,near the Rinjani Information Centre. The rooms are simple but clean. In Senaru, we recommend the Pondok Senaru Cottages, which is located in the hills right next to the entrance gate to the Sendang Gila Waterfalls.