After a good week enjoying the beaches of southern Lombok, I needed to stretch my legs a little. What better way to get some exercise than to climb Indonesia’s second highest volcano (but perhaps the most beautiful)… I named the Rinjani volcano (3716m), which is located north of the island of Lombok.
After some research on the web, we decided that I would go alone on this trek. Even if it does not represent a major technical difficulty, the elevation changes are significant and the terrain is sometimes unstable. This is not ideal for Fabienne who has some knee problems (especially on the way down). So she will wait for me wisely on the Gili Islands (there are worse places to wait, right?) while I do the trek for 3 days – 2 nights.
Important Update: 2019
In 2018 there was a major earthquake on lombok and for almost a year the whole national park remained closed! Since summer 2019 it is again possible to walk in the park but on the other hand, the access to the summit and the lake remain prohibited!!!! In addition, the Indonesian government has set up a daily quota of walkers: 500 people can leave each day on one of the 4 official routes (the 500-person restriction includes guides and porters). If you wish to do the hike, check with the agency to find out about the detailed itinerary (which will probably be different from the one described in this article)
Beware of travel agencies going up Rinjani Volcano!
To climb the Rinjani, you will have to take at least one guide and often a few porters for camping gear and food (even if nothing prevents you from carrying your gear if you wish). You will therefore have to go through an agency to book the trek. So if you want advice, make sure to always double check all info by yourself! Because if you listen to the people of the agencies, this trek is super easy and can be done in flip-flops (I’m exagerating… but not even that much) ;-).
In reality, there is still 2000m of positive altitude difference on the first day. 600m of descent then 700m of ascent on the second day. And finally the main course with 1000m of climb for 2500m of descent on the third day! I can promise you that the 3rd day already hurt my legs before leaving ;-).
Should you go?
The questions to ask yourself are:
- Can I walk for 5-8 hours a day?
- Do I manage to climb AND go down 3600 meter (12’000ft) in 2,5 days?
- I am ready to sleep in a tent?
If you are not sure, or if you have no idea what climbing 3600 meters feels like I would advise you think twice before registering.
For the equipment nobody will tell you anything neither. If you want our opinion, good trekking shoes are a must. Besides if you have moutaineering boots it’s even better! the hiking sticks helped me a lot and you absolutely need warm clothes (small gloves and hat if possible) for the climb to the top on the 3rd day. If you want to see the equipment we had with us during this world tour, it’s here.
Where to book your trek? Where to start from?
You can book the trek from anywhere on Lombok or the Gili Islands but I strongly advise you to go directly to the village of Senaru, from where all treks start. On one hand you will have the possibility to go to Senaru by your own means (which will certainly cost less than in a combined ticket with the trek) and above all, you can arrive the day before the departure of the hike. Indeed, by taking a combined ticket from Lombok or the Gili (like me 😉 ), you will leave early in the morning from your hotel and will have difficulty arriving in Senaru before 10:00 am in the morning. While part of your group will already have been away for probably several hours on the slopes of Rinjani. In addition you will probably be able to negotiate a better price for the hike directly in Senaru (around 1’000’000’000 rupees).
Rinjani Trek: Day 1
So as I just mentioned, I left around 7:00 am in the morning directly from Gili Air (first mistake of the day ;-)). I would spare you the details but after a little boat trip, a disagreement, a waiting time, a car trip, here I am finally in Senaru for attention… 11:00 am!
“I’m alone and my group has already been gone for 4 hours… Great!”
I was quickly served a noodle soup as an energy boost for the 2000m climb ahead and I was made to understand that I would have to walk fast to catch up with the group. So I leave with a guide who will accompany me until we make the connection.
When he told me that we should walk fas, he wasn’t lying! 😉 We’re practically running away! I have to draw a lot from my reserves to follow the rhythm of my guide who is in flip-flop (but he also sweats 😉 ). At this pace we have completed more than half of the course in just 2 hours and we have one of our group’s porters in sight.
When you realize what it’s like to be a porter
My rabbit having done his duty, he leaves me with the porter. A small piece of man less than 1m50 tall who still carries a load of more than 30kgs. After only a few meters, I notice that he limps a lot and I wonder how he got there.
Full of good intentions (and unaware of the weight of his load), I suggest that we exchange. He takes my backpack and sticks in exchange for his load attached to the ends of a piece of wood (second mistake of the day ;-)). But I quickly realized that I couldn’t carry this weight indefinitely and I resigned myself to alternating with him until we joined the rest of the group, about an hour later.
During this time, I had plenty of time to realize the titanic task of these porters! They carry up to 40kgs in flip-flops on paths that are already difficult for us to walk on with good shoes. I had already decided at that time to give them a good tip at the end of the hike. (and everyone should do the same!)
The summit is in sight!
I was getting seriously tired when we finally joined the rest of the group, i.e. the guide, 2 other porters and 5 Spanish friends working in Jakarta. The other porters then take over to help their companion who was really in a poor condition (woof!!!!!). As for me, I will accompany the guide and the Spaniards for the last hour of the climb to the edge of the crater.
Once we reach the top, we are rewarded with a magnificent view of the lake inside the crater. We can also contemplate the summit of Rinjani (our objective of the 3rd day), which dominates the opposite side. Once the camp is set up, the guide and the porters cook us a delicious Nasi Goreng which comes at the right time to recharge the batteries (rather empty in my case)… At 18:30, I already sleep, wrapped in my sleeping bag, the alarm clock set to 4:30 in the morning to admire the sunrise.
Rinjani Trek: day 2
It’s 3:30 and I’m already completely awake. I must say that I have had a lot of sleep. So I dress warmly and go out to find a good spot for the sunrise. I have every opportunity to observe first the day and then the sunrise. Around me the camp comes to life slowly (we are 2-3 groups on the camp). First the porters who are busy preparing a good breakfast for us and then quietly the people who wake up in turn to admire the sunrise.
After a good breakfast (coffee, fried bananas and toast), we leave camp to go down to the bottom of the crater. The trail is steep and slippery but the scenery is simply breathtaking! I do have a thought for my friend the porter who wasn’t feeling much better in the morning. I wonder if he will be able to transport his load to the bottom of the crater…
In the bottom of the Rinjani crater
Oncein the crater, we put our things down to enjoy the lake and the hot springs nearby. Unlike the Ijen volcano, the lake is not acidic and it is quite possible to swim in it. For my part, I preferred the hot springs. We have time to enjoy it well because the program of this 2nd day is not too busy….
After a good meal, we set off again to climb on the other side of the crater. I open the way with my friend the injured porter and still help him with his load. (the poor man had already had enough trouble getting it down to the bottom of the crater). We’re doing 50-50 because that’s the best I can do! The path is narrow and it climbs hard. We sweat in large drops.
It will take us 2-3 hours to reach the camp at the foot of the summit. Fortunately, our guide was careful with the breaks, the camp is quickly set up and we have already eaten at 17:00. As a result, we have plenty of time to rest before the famous 3rd day which promises to be tiring.
I say this because a second group arrived at the camp around 17:30. They just had time to set up camp before dark and had to eat in the dark… not ideal when you have to wake up the next day at 2:00 am in the morning to get to the top! I also take advantage of this time to quietly contemplate the beautiful colours of the day as it sets before wrapping myself in my sleeping bag. The alarm clock is set to 2 a.m….
Rinjani Trek: day 3
it’s 1:55 when I open my eyes. I am one of those people who often wake up five minutes before the alarm goes off. Who knows why! Fabienne says I’m stressed. I think I just have a good internal clock. The guide hands me a cup of coffee and some cookies. I am happy to have taken with me some dried fruits and cakes because with what the guide gave me it would not have been enough to get the energy to reach the top ;). I also take with me everything I have in warm clothes… I even borrowed my friend the porter’s hat (and I assure you it was a good idea). He will not need it because he will sleep longer with his friends and will prepare breakfast for our return from the summit.
With the Spanish friends, we go up in a single line following our guide. The path and the terrain are not easy. We are indeed walking on a kind of volcanic gravel and I am very happy to have my hiking poles with me. Unfortunately, the people in my group do not have any and have to use their hands a lot to avoid slipping. We go along a ridge and the wind blows hard! At the first break, people with wind breaks wear it to protect themselves. We don’t stop for long to avoid getting cold. We continue at a good pace to the top!
Some tips for climbing on top of Rinjani
But I prefer to warn you that this climb is not necessarily for everyone. The slope is steep and the terrain slippery. In addition, once you have climbed the 1000m to the top of Rinjani, you will have to go down the same path (and it is not easier on the descent). So if you already feel tired after the first two days, don’t try to reach the top at all costs. Save your strength to descend to the foot of the volcano. You will need it! I saw several people finish the trek on their knees because they had already exceeded their limits when they climbed to the top. It is better to be an adult and know how to say stop at the right time.
Well then it must be said that the sunrise from the summit of Rinjani is something pretty special. Perched at the top, you can see all the surrounding islands: Sumbawa, Flores, Bali, the Gili! And the view of the lake inside the crater is absolutely incredible. It would indeed be a pity to miss such a spectacle, probably one of the most beautiful views I have seen since the beginning of this trip around the world. However, as I said earlier, with the wind it is very cold. So don’t forget to bring a hat, gloves and several layers.
Getting back down from the top of Rinjani
After spending nearly 2 hours enjoying the view and immortalizing the moment, it was time for us to go down again. It is also quite amusing to finally see the path where we went up at night… Although sometimes it’s better not to see it ;-).
For me, the descent to the camp was more like a ski run in boots (fortunately I had the sticks) by taking a few photo breaks. It did not take me more than an hour to get down there. A descent that has not been fun for everyone (I am always surprised to see the differences in ease between people on the descent…. There are really people who don’t have the technique for that…)… Some people needed up to 3 hours to get back down.
When I arrived at the camp, I had the happy surprise of being welcomed by a banana pancake and a coffee… the dream! It is by far not the best pancake I have ever had , but it is the one that made me most happy. While I was enjoying my breakfast, my Spanish friends arrived as well… After an hour, we finshed our breakfast, packed our things and were ready to go down another 1500m. It took us 5 hours to go through this last section and even if there is nothing particular to report, I advise you to walk quietly because with fatigue, you can quickly get hurt. A Spanish friend of mine has stupidly twisted his knee and spent a bad last hour walking.
Who is this Rinjani trek for?
In the end, it is clearly not a hike that I would recommend to everyone, but if you feel fit enough to do it, you will be rewarded with landscapes from elsewhere. The lake inside the crater is absolutely splendid and you will have the opportunity to observe it from all angles. And what about the sunrise from the top??? A magical moment that I will not soon forget…. But once again, don’t underestimate the difficulty of this trek and leave well equipped!
- Go to Senaru by your own means and book the trek in one of the village trekking agencies. I went through the “Restu by view” agency and I was very satisfied with the service. You should be able to negotiate a price between 1’000’000’000 and 1’200’000 rupees for the 3 days – 2 nights trek. But be careful, some people I met paid up to 3’000’000’000 rupees for the same thing. It is also better to sleep on site so that you can leave early in the morning on the first day.
- As for equipment, don’t forget good trekking shoes, hiking poles (if possible), warm clothes (small gloves, hat) and a windproof jacket. Also take a headlamp for the last ascent.
Some tips for the road
- Take some food with you in case you have a cravings. I found that overall the food was served enough but in the morning before the last ascent for example, we were served only a few cookies and coffee. So I was quite happy to have something to eat with me!
- Do not underestimate the difficulty of the trek. There is about 40km of walking to do over 3 days! 2000m of climb on the first day. 600m of descent for 700m of climb on the second day and finally 1000m of climb for 2500m of descent on the 3rd day. If you feel tired after the first 2 days, do not try to reach the top at any cost and keep your energy to get back down.
- Finally, don’t forget to tip the porters. The effort they make to allow us to do the trek in the best conditions is incredible and their salary is minimal. If there’s one time you shouldn’t be cheap, it’s this one.
So, do you feel like climbing the Rinjani volcano????