Sometimes meeting people makes you take a brand new perspective on things, and experiences once thought of as out-of-reach suddenly become a possible horizon, as was the case with climbing Mount Rinjani (Lombok’s star volcano and highest peak at 3,676m), initially dismissed on financial, logistical and lack of fitness grounds.
I’ll never understand what motivated him to chat to us that day, but after meeting “The Blond” (only French people can understand this concept I’m afraid), an otherwise agreeable middle-aged Australian who approached our boat in Medana Bay, casually perched on his stand-up paddle board, one hand on the paddle, the other combing out a flyaway strand of hair, and who in five minutes demoted what I took for a once-in-a-lifetime experience I offered my kids to a poor man’s cruise, in comparison with the endless list of wonderful activities he had spoiled his wife and three children with while sailing on his huge catamaran for the last seven years, nevertheless, he can be thanked for the many fond memories we built on our two-day-one-night hike to Rinjani crater rim (2,639m) on Lombok.
From the luxurious complimentary stay at Pondok Senaru the night before the trek, where we were given the briefing and keys to two en-suite bungalows built on a hillside at 600 meters above sea level, and offering breath taking view of the rice fields, the mountains and the huge Tiu Kelep waterfall gushing from the jungle facing us, to the modest but generous meals carefully cooked by our carriers during the walk, we were pampered to bits and it felt good for once not to have to think for a few days, just follow.
What had resolutely tipped the balance in favour of doing the hike, despite a substantial investment, was a brilliantly articulated plea written by Zephyr, requested by me as a school assignment, who had pointed out exactly that, as one of his arguments, that it would be nice to have food prepared for us for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days. (“[…] In the morning, we wake up early-ish and we go to the dining room,… TADAA! Indonesian breakfast on the table […]”) As well as a much needed change of scenery, and building stamina, not only geographical knowledge, through our trip.
Banana pancakes and sweet condensed milk for breakfast filled us with energy to take on the world and at 7 am we jumped in the truck next to our gear, and three short Indonesian locals to be dropped at the entrance of the National Park. One of them, Uci (pronounced “Ootchy”), our guide, apologised for his poor level of English (it is true that we nodded more than once to statements we hadn’t fully understood despite him taking English lessons to be promoted from carrier to guide) and the other two a lot less talkative didn’t speak any English and we communicated mainly with smiles and hand gestures.
Kids surprisingly didn’t complain once and just sweat their way up the crater with gusto, while I, the weak link, was painfully trying to convince my legs to propel me forward towards the end.
Our carriers, though very short, wearing jandals, and balancing a big load on their shoulders, tents, mattress and sleeping bags on one side and cooking gear and groceries in a pandanus basket on the other, all fitted to a bamboo stick, were overtaking us easily after each stop, having to pack everything after us, and prepare camp and meals before we arrived.
We’ll remember, apart from the derelict entrance building, the path paved with lolly wrappings, the regular expectoration of our guide, the chain- smoking of guide and carriers, and the tempeh served at every meal despite our not liking it and leaving it aside, Zephyr proud as Punch to have his argumentation change our destiny, Azur miming the Little Mermaid during a game of charade, the raised shelters of pos 1, 2, and 3 providing much welcome rest, the aggressive monkeys lurking to steal our food and scared off by our pretend slingshot attacks, the sweet chirping of elusive exotic birds, the Alpine scenery with Edelweiss, the fog accompanying the last part of our ascend cooling us down with perfect timing, the worn-out Quechua tents, the three other groups of Australian and German tourists camping up there with us and no one else, the dug-out loo fenced by a tarp, the deep fried banana sprinkled with grated cheese and chocolate for afternoon tea, the gradient of bright turquoise to almost fluorescent yellow due to the minerals in the crater lake, the actually not-so-little young volcano smoking inside the crater, cloud-fishing and dust sliding at dusk, sun salute at dawn, pineapple pancakes, home-made fries and club sandwich for our last breakfast, and our crew photo at the end, where I realised just how short our carriers were.
A definite highlight of our stay in Indonesia, Rinjani has lived up to our expectations and beyond.