Gunung Rinjani is the second highest peak in Indonesia reaching 3726m above sea level and is also a sacred volcano to the Hindus who often make pilgrimages there.
My boyfriend Dan and I had decided to trek up Rinjani but it wouldn’t be long before we began to question our decision.
I obsessed over pictures of Rinjani for a weeks filled with excited anticipation about this adventure. Seeing a live volcano would be a first time experience for me and from the summit you can even look into the volcano from above! I found the idea of it so exciting, surely it would be worth the 7/8 hours trekking each day for 3 days? A couple of days before we flew to Indonesia I was packing my warmest clothes as the mountain can get down to as low as 3 degrees at nighttime – having been traveling in South East Asia for 4 months and used to 34 degrees this would be a dramatic change – the excitement I had felt was replaced by anxiety and doubt about my ability to get to the top. If I wasn’t fit enough then I wouldn’t make it to the summit and see the volcano. I knew I had Dan with me which meant we could stick together but neither of us were very encouraging of the other, too absorbed in our own worries about our own abilities.
Before we knew it we were stood at the bottom of the mountain staring up out what would be the toughest trek we have ever attempted and three days of mental and physical exhaustion. For any of you reading this blog with the thought of potentially taking on Rinjani yourself, I can tell you – it is worth it but it’s not without a few ups and downs…
Below is map to show the trek route. We left from Sembalun and our decent was to Senaru. It is possible to do it from the other way however, I wouldn’t recommend doing so; it’s an even tougher climb. The trek would take us up on side of the mountain then down into the depths of the ranges by the volcano, lake and hot springs and back up and down the other side in just three days.
It was a beautiful morning, the sun was blistering across the hills and a delicious banana pancake was kindly prepared for us to get us ready for day one. My mouth was dry from nerves, making it hard work to chew, but I powered on silently singing Jack Johnson’s “make a banana pancake” in my head.
We were then joined by our new trekking buddies, Hassan and Charles, and it didn’t take long before we knew we had been well matched. They were similar ages to us, in their mid-twenties, and were in Indonesia for the weekend from Singapore where they were both working. As they climbed out of the truck we were relieved to see they were also kitted out in basic trainers and shorts, rather than full-on hiking-wear. We set off following Aduk, our guide. He was shorter than me, had a big grin, very basic English, and carried a backpack which I was sure was heavier than he was.
The first couple of hours flew by. We trekked over relatively level ground, dodging cow pats, enjoying the sunshine and being given plenty of water breaks. At about 11am we reached a concrete hut perched on the hillside which is where we were to have lunch.
We sat and chatted and relaxed as our porters got to work making tea, coffee, fruit platters and a huge cooked meal of Mie Goreng (a traditional Indonesian dish of a noodles and meat which is now my favourite new dish!)
Feeling rather overconfident at this point, we all dared to breathe that this was “easier than I thought it would be.” We were soon to be put through our paces. It was from here and for the next four hours that it would become tough.
We were warned by the porters that the terrain was only going to get steeper right up until we reached our first base camp. We reached another rest point which we welcomed as we were all now starting to break a sweat. We all became much quieter now; I think all of us were contemplating what an earth we had gotten ourselves into. So when a group of inquisitive monkeys came bustling over to see what food they could find we were all very glad of the humorous distraction.
The clouds had come in fully now as if the mountain was keeping the views a secret. It was here where I became in awe of the porters. Each one carried up to 45kg on a bamboo stick balanced across their shoulders. They took on the climb in none other than a pair of flip-flops, with wide smiles and cigarettes hanging from their lips. Wow these guys were machines!
One by one, exhausted and soaking wet from the rain, we finally reached the first base camp, 8665 metres above sea level and after 6.5 miles of uphill trekking.
At about 3:30pm, freezing cold and dripping wet, we climbed into our tents and remained there for the rest of the night only to be interrupted by a pair of hands that shot through the front of the tent offering a warm comforting dinner at about 7pm. We ate by torchlight, fingers numb from the cold and unaware of the terrible night we had ahead of us. At just 8pm we wrapped up in as many layers as we could find and attempted sleep. I ended up wearing two pairs of trousers, a big puffer-jacket and a hat, but I was still cold. The mats we were given barely gave any buffer between our hip bones and the ground. The storm around us got stronger and stronger, our tent allowing in the occasional drop of rain and the front section totally collapsed.
We were due to be woken at 2am in order to give us enough time to reach the summit, another 900 metre climb. I was really excited about this. The day had been tough but hadn’t pushed me to my limit yet and I was ready for the challenge. Plus the views were meant to be mind-blowing, based on the photos I’d seen, so couldn’t wait to get up there. We had been warned that this was going to be tough–some people are unable to reach the summit so we were very aware that we needed to make the most of every hour possible of sleep to make sure we had enough energy to make it.
The rain died off at about 4am, two hours too late for us to get to the summit. I was gutted. Tied, grubby and frustrated I tried not to let my disappointment show as were had woken to a beautiful morning and the views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
No volcano though. It was hidden behind the trek up to the summit. I had to come to the realization that I wasn’t going to get the chance to see the volcano from above. This “once-in-a-lifetime-experience” was slipping between my fingers.
After a quiet breakfast we headed off down the mountain for our second day of trekking. We took on a very steep track, headed towards a lake, which sits between the circular mountain range. The steep path was better tackled sliding down on your bum, at points. This is where Dan began to struggle a bit. He is afraid of heights so this whole experience was way out of his comfort zone. Our three hour trek scaling down the side of a mountain took bravery and determination.
At 10am the clouds had come in, covering all views from sight and at some points we could see just a few metres in front. The hiking wasn’t too strenuous though and we reached the lake for a water break and some chocolate biscuits. Across from the lake is an amazing view of the volcano, unfortunately; again, the weather prevented us from seeing it at all. We were half way through our trip and I still hadn’t seen the volcano.
Aduk beckoned us to follow him. He took his walking boots off and stood there in bare feet. After a rather painful hobble over some rocks and a slippery muddy path we reached the most beautiful waterfall, which cascaded into a natural hot-spring lake. It was covered by a mixture of steam and clouds and it gave off a sort of mysterious magical aura. Below was a gathering of happy and excitable trekkers. We stripped off into our swim stuff and jumped in. Wow, the warm water against our tired muscles was sensational. The water can reach up to 50 degrees, just like a warm bath. We sat happily soaking it all in.
After another huge lunch we set off for the second half of the day. The rain did not give us a break. We took off across the edge of the lake and turned up the mountain. It was too cloudy to see the top and we were essentially walking up a small river so we marched in silence, focusing on one step at a time for a good few hours. The higher we got, the steeper it got. Dan was really being stretched now. Parts of the trek were almost scrambling up rocks with a sheer drop to one side. It took courage. It took precision too, as one foot wrong could be fatal. Our muscles ached, we were soaking wet to the bones and we had run out of chocolate.
Finally we reached the top of the ridge opposite the Rinjani summit separated by the lake and volcano. Aduk had said we could see the volcano from the top but the clouds would not budge. He wanted us to continue another hour down the other side of the mountain but this would mean we would miss any chance of seeing the volcano. As a team we decided we wanted to camp there and take on an extra hour the next day, in hope that it would be a clear morning at sunrise and we would finally get the view we had worked so hard to see.
I didn’t have a waterproof cover for my bag so I ended up using a bin bag to cover it which seemed not to have worked. Everything was soaking wet and so we had nothing dry and warm to change into. This was our low point. At 4pm we sat in our tents hiding from the rain unable to enjoy our surroundings. I was so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers, I was shivering and the disappointment of not reaching the summit and potentially not seeing the volcano at all began to wash over me.
Then finally we were given a break from the rain and we huddled up by a fire with our porters and Hassan and Charles and enjoyed a cup of tea and a chat before snuggling up in our tents.
I woke in the morning with a nervous tummy, hoping the weather would be good enough to see the volcano. I tentatively opened the front of our tent, peered round the entrance and was welcomed by a stunning view across the mountains. We all jumped out of bed and rushed up to the highest point we could find to get a glimpse of the volcano and it was there in all its glory, slowing puffing smoke from the top. It looked just like the pictures. In fact, it looked even better! We had just fifteen minutes before we had to get moving to catch up on our extra hours trek and we stood and soaked up the view. I want to remember it forever.
The trek down was slow and painful. Seven hours of downward climbing through the rainforest’s slippery surfaces meant our knee joints were complaining wildly for every small step down we took.
When we eventually had the finish in sight we hobbled towards it and collapsed with small “woop” of celebration. We had done it.
Dan and I took our aching muscles to Gilis Air, a small island just off Lombok where we could appreciate Rinjani from a distance!
If you are thinking about taking on Rinjani here are my top tips on what to bring and how to book to make sure you have the best possible experience:
Who to book with?
I decided to book with Rinjani Trek Club. Now be very careful because many other companies with the similar names exist online but I cannot vouch for. Here are the details of the company I used:
Rinjani Trek Club.
Raya Senggigi Km.08 Senggigi 83355
Lombok – Indonesia
Phone / Fax : 62  693202
Hotline : +62 81 7573 0415
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.rinjanitrekclub.com
I dealt with a lovely person called Rosa.
I paid 235 USD per person 152 GBP. I was asked for a 50% deposit to secure the booking and then paid the remainder at their office in Senggigi but could only pay in cash so be aware of this.
We left our bags with them with things we didn’t want to carry up the mountain and they successfully brought it to our Senaru which was really helpful, so you can trust them to do this OK.
The staff were incredible, the service was great, the food was amazing, the tents were mostly waterproof and so I recommend using these guys. Our guide was 23 year old Aduk and it was his first time being a guide but he had been a porter for the past 7 years. He knew the mountain well and led us safely through the mountain ranges. My other half is scared of heights and Aduk was kind and patient helping him and even supporting him at the most challenging bits.
The mountain opens from April each year as it is too dangerous during the rainy season, however, the rainy season held on for over a month longer than it should have which meant much of our trip was spent wet and we were unable to reach the summit. I have read lots about the trek being overpopulated and the mountain full of rubbish during peak season in July and August so I imagine the best time to go would be May or June.
What to pack:
- Suitable walking shoes which have already been warn in
- Warm clothing – it gets to 3 degrees and windy!
- Extra socks – some to sleep in too!!
- Small towel
- Warm Hat
- Tissue paper
- High energy food (chocolates, nuts, raisins)
- Headache tablets
- Deep heat lotion
- Torch light
- Walking stick – I didn’t have one and it was fine but it is recommended.
- Waterproof bag for camera and ziplock bags for passports and other electrical items
- Flipflops so you can get your walking boots off. But if it’s cold youll need to wear them with socks!
- 2 or 3 T-shirts
- Long trousers to sleep in (I ended up wearing two pairs!)
- Swim wear for the hot springs
- Cigarettes (I thought I wouldn’t smoke at all but was surrounded by the locals all having a puff at each break and so I did).
- Lighter x 2
- Heat Factory hand and body warmers (keep your sleeping bag and pockets warm for up to 20 hours)
- Extra batteries for electronics – the cold weather drains what you have.
- Light waterproof jacket for the day
- Warm jacket to sleep in
- Constipation tablets – the other option is to poop in a hole in the ground in a toilet tent surrounded by everyone…
- Hand sanitizer
- Ziplock bags for passport – if it rains EVERYTHING will get wet so make sure you have these for important bits and pieces!
- Plastic bags to separate wet/smelly clothes from clean ones
- Microfiber towel – lightweight to carry.
- Waterproof cover for bag
- Small mirror (especially if you wear contact lenses)
- Insect repellant
- Running trousers for day hikes – best decision I made to hike in my ¾ length sports trousers – they stretch and dry quickly which is perfect!
What Rinjani Trek Club Provides:
- STANDARD SERVICE: Maximal 6 person in groups
– Equipment: Big Tent ( 205 cm X 225 cm ), sleeping bag, 3cm Sponge Bed Mattress, toilet tent
– Fruits : banana and pineapple, orange, apple.
– Drink : aqua water, Guava Juice, milk, Isotonic / soft drink, coffee and tea
– Snack : Wafer, Biscuit, Tim Tam, Gabin.
– M- Meals 3 times a day:>Breakfast:
– Corn flake before the summit
– Toast + scrambles Egg
– Egg sandwich
– Fruits Salad>Lunch :
– Beef Sandwich + fried potatoes,
– Boiled Potatoes with Bolognese sauce
– Fried rice with sosis + fried chicken
– Soup / fried noodle + boiled egg
– Fruits Salad
– Rice with chicken Curry
– Rice with Gado – Gado + Tofu + Boiled Egg + boiled potatoes
– Rice with vegetable + mushroom soup + Fried Chicken
– Fried Rice with sosis + fried Egg
– Fruits salad
– Licensed and experience: Guide and Porter “Educated from search and rescue”
– Private Tent, Sleeping Bag, mattress,Pillow for deluxe, Toilet tent ( Budget no Toilet tent )
– Meals ( western and Indonesian food ) and drinks ( Aqua water, coffee, tea, milk )
– Gunung Rinjani National Park Entrance fee IDR. 150.000,-/person
– Free Internet Acces in our Office
– safety luggage storage
– Accident Donation ( No in Budget service )
– First Aid
– All Transfer in Lombok as the following program
– Pick Up service from Airport (minimal 2 people)
– All meals except those indicates in trekking program
– Porterage fee for personal bag pack / luggage
– Tipping & gratuities to guide & porter – we estimated this to be an expected 50000 rupiah per porter per day.
– Personal travel insurance, pre – trip medical immunizations
– All expenses of a personal nature
Good luck and enjoy!!