“So, after hiking for 7 hours we’ll go to sleep, get up at 2 a.m. hike to the top, see the sunset, hike down to our camp, have breakfast, hike down the volcano and up it again at which point we will sleep and hike down to the village for another 5 hours and we’ll be done”. I grin at the camera, fully believing this is doable, but there is an edge to my smile. We have been sick not two weeks before and we are going to attempt to hike gravelly terrain for three straight days. Sounds like a great plan! Regardless, I am SO looking forward to this!
A few hours before filming my own version of 3-op-reis, we arrived at Sembalun from where we would begin our hike. Halfway from the beach we’d been put in a new car with a driver that didn’t speak any of the languages we do – gotta learn to trust people on the road – and apparently, neither did the hotel owner, or concierge or however he was. Both men seemed very confused about us. “You from bookingcom?” they’d asked and I had assumed we’d be fine.
However, they kept looking at our papers, clearly trying and failing to read them and sounding very concerned. I decide to call the local number of the hiking company to see if everything is in order. She assures me we are at the right place on the right day and that our guide will meet up with us soon. I ask her to explain to our driver and hotel-man what we are doing here and to ask if anything is the matter. 5 Minutes of “aaaaah, ooooh ok” of the hotel-man and after him the taxi-driver, we are happily shown to our room – without explanation of what exactly was the matter. Our room is very basic and by now we are really trying not to be worried about the next day.
As we are having dinner – at the hotel, the hotel-man was sort of concerned about us walking off – the guide appears. This small Lombok 19-year-old is called Luke (really Lukeman, but Luke is easier for tourists) and still has stiff legs from finishing the hike today. I am not at all sure about him, but will quickly learn to trust his considerable ability in the days to come. He explains to us what we are about to do (the same story I repeat on camera – always wanted to present for “3-op-reis”) and then leaves us to sleep and get enough rest for the coming days.
Up up up we go
The next morning, we rise early to a rising sun to pack our day bags – we’ll just have to trust our big backpacks are indeed brought to the next hotel – strap on our hiking shoes and get started. We have a small breakfast and then Luke arrives so we can finally get started.
Like real hikers we sign the register – how I feel like a woman who hikes now! Realising of course that real hiker women probably don’t get this exited about signing a register – and realise we will be amongst the oldest people climbing the mountain. I wonder why that is. Is hiking for young college students, is perhaps Lombok more suited for young adventurous people? I’ll probably never know and don’t have much time to consider it, because after just one kilometre more we enter the gates of the national park and our hike up mount Rinjani has officially begun.
The first couple of hours we ascent at a gentle pace. The heat makes me sweat and I have to work out a bit, but this is great fun. After about an hour, my mind stops it’s incessant brooding, thinking, talking, chattering, worrying, exclaiming over every detail and settles into the momentum of our walk, gently ambling along, but not proving the rollercoaster maze it sometimes is.
We make good time and as we are overtaking the carriers (men of all ages, smoking like crazy and carrying up loads of up to 40 kilo’s on bamboo sticks while wearing flip-flops) we shout out “selemat bagi, apa kabar? Baik baik” – good afternoon, how are you, good good – and they laugh with us. Erik jokes he will beat them to the top, which they think very funny. A little while later we will have an hour lunch break and these man laughingly pass us again, shouting the same phrases and making it appear as some sort of mountain conversation we can all enjoy.
At lunch, we meet another couple that we have a lot of fun with. Tom and Sophie are two Brits who have decided to do this hike in their nikes (insert, walking down the street – mountain - with my nikies on). We tease one another and decide to make it a race to the top. It’s a friendly race and we will overtake one another quite often during the next few days.
Up up up even steeper, we go
After lunch, things start to get harder. The ascent becomes steeper and often I feel like am walking stairs made out of tree roots. The ground is dry dust and with every step we take a flurry of it takes flight. That sounds beautiful enough if you imagine sunlight slanting through it like pictures on Instagram will show you, but in reality it blocks my nose and because I have to use my hands to clime the tree root ladders so often, I soon have a dirty face that makes the porters laugh when they see me struggling along.
Erik meanwhile, appears not to have any trouble at all; his beautiful strong legs carrying him up the mountain like he was meant to do this. He encourages me to push myself and manages to make the porters chant my name in encouragement. “Addy, Addy, Addy!” It brings me to the top, but nearly in tears that I do not have the energy to spill, so I ask them to please stop. Let me get into my own little corner of misery that I know I will only escape by pushing myself for another hour, another half our, another fifteen minutes, another ten, five.
Getting to the crater rim
And then we’ve made it to the rim and although the struggle is not forgotten, it is forgiven, because this moment is already worth it. We get to our tent – thankfully already set up by our amazing porters (I am clearly not yet as tough as I’d like to believe) and have a rest, waiting for team U.K. to come to our tent (they beat us to the rim) so we can enjoy a well earned drink and come what we really came to do; enjoy the amazing view.
We can look straight into the volcano, seeing the lake and the tiny – well, seemingly tiny of course – active volcano in it. The mountain we are climbing continues on the other side and we catch glimpses of it through the deck of clouds that is passing us by as the sun is setting. I feel like I am in a kind of heaven, where I can nearly touch the clouds in much the same way as seeing them from a plane. The speed at which these clouds move up and down the mountain is staggering and only now am I fully appreciating why people always say that the weather up here – or up any mountain really – can change in a matter of minutes.
These clouds are bloody cold though, so I quickly pull on all the warm clothes I’ve brought, Erik no longer laughing at what he thought was ridiculous to carry with us all the way from Amsterdam, through Bangkok, Koh Tao, Kao Sok Lake, Georgetown, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bali/Ubud.
Dinner is a lovely curry with white rice and as I am taking a rather spicy bite a look through the gap in the clouds all I can think is “this is what I came here for; and it is perfect”. Feeling tired, but in a good way I am happy to see a view that will escape many people – conveniently forgetting that we are up here with about a hundred other people, like most nights during the hiking season.
I make a promise to myself then and there. I will make it to the top and all the way down and I will remember this feeling so back home I can find ways to incorporate this feeling in my normal life. I will find new ways of exerting myself and finding places of beauty like this – needless to say, by now that promise has already proven difficult to keep in normal ordinary life.
After dinner, it gets dark – and cold – quickly and we get into our thin sleeping bags, dirty but unable to get clean, so simply accepting the fact we’ll be dirty for another two days. I am scared the sleeping bags won’t provide enough warmth in the predicted 5° C night, but as I am reading my book – yes, I brought one with me on a hike, screw the tiny increase in weight – I can almost feel it radiate the warmth back to me. Putting in earplugs against the sound of the porters having a party and pulling my cap and hoody low over my head, I fall into a deep but fitful sleep. At 2 a.m. we’ll be awoken to start our ascent to the top!
Keep posted for day 2...