Author Bio: Kristin Addis is the Chief Blogette at Be My Travel Muse – a website geared towards independent women travelers who like to head off the beaten path in Asia and Australia. She is a former investment banker and now leads a nomadic life, sharing her independent travel advice and budget plans from around the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I used to think that I didn’t like trekking. I thought it would be too buggy, humid, sweaty, and, well, jungly. Then I found myself in Indonesia where trekking volcanos is just what you do in between surfing and eating sate. Plus, I had been a lazy girl the previous months traveling through Southeast Asia, barely breaking a sweat and failing to do much to maintain my fitness level.
I don’t tend to plan much, but I knew I’d find myself on Lombok — the major island next to Bali — at some point during my six weeks in Indonesia. A friend asked, “are you going to do Rinjani?” to which I said, “Yeah! Why not?”, and a plan was hatched that easily. Several days later, I found myself in Senaru having booked a 3 day, 2 night trek with a local operator. The next morning I was on my way up the mountain with a dynamic group of two devastatingly attractive French couples, a spunky Brazilian girl, and an English giant named Charlie.
Unsure of what awaited me, I could never have known how astoundingly beautiful Rinjani would turn out to be:
The landscape was nothing like what I expected. I figured I’d have vines swinging down in my face, canopies of trees towering over me, and more mosquitoes than I could handle. While the first day was mostly spent in tree cover, it was surprisingly cool, devoid of mosquitoes, and punctuated by rolling, misty clouds. I stopped in awe several times, so glad that I had made the impulsive decision to take the trek.
The first day hiking around 9km was not too tough, but was still a great way to get some exercise and marvel at the beauty around me. My treat at the end of the trek was a cloud-free view of the amazing Rinjani volcano – still active and surrounded by an aquamarine-colored lake.
The evening was spent downing nasi goring (friend rice) with fried chicken and playing card games in our tents.
The next morning was a spectacular sight, with the sun rising over the colorful tents and the clouds parting every so often to reveal the Gili islands all the way to Bali. The glittering lights below that signified the closest town on Lombok made it clear just how far we had actually climbed. The afternoon was spent carefully climbing down steep stone steps to the lake below while the porters made quick work of them in their flip flops.
Finally came the last day of the trek. It would be the longest and would involve a 3am wakeup call to make it to the summit for sunrise. Part of the group stayed back, given the darkness and truly difficult terrain. Ever-stubborn, I could not possibly miss out on the sunrise, and elected to join the climb to the top.
I had been told that it was a bit of a challenge, but I brushed it off and arrogantly said, “But I climbed Mt. Kinabalu in one day last month, Southeast Asia’s tallest peak, I can do Rinjani, no problem!” This was mainly true until the last 1000 meters of the climb to the summit. The volcanic rock was loose and tended to result in two steps forward only to slip one step back. The intense wind chill made my hands numb and turned the climb into an epic mental battle.
Then, the view from the top after the sun rose made all of the effort worth it. For just a moment, I let myself forget that I still had about 8 hours of climbing ahead of me (what goes up must come down, after all). I embraced my fellow trekking buddies as we drank in the vista, staying as long as we could manage to ignore the heavy cold winds.
It turns out, despite my screaming knees and sore legs, I’m a trekker at heart and climbing Rinjani only served to reinforce my love of putting one foot in front of the other on a slightly vertical trail.