I seriously doubted I could do the Mount Rinjani hike about four hours in on the first day. My backpack was soaked through with sweat, I’d drank litres of water and still wouldn’t pee for another 24 hours – so complete was my exhaustion. My face felt swollen from exertion and my shit knee was throbbing like a bastard, although I’m not sure why bastards are particularly known to throb.
To say it’s a challenging hike is an understatement. The volcano is Indonesia’s second highest, one of the 127 active volcanoes dotted throughout the archipelago, and it’s considered the toughest hike in the country. The first day is 2100 metres straight up through unforgiving tree roots, heavy rain at times and a rocky climb, often through viewless cloud. Eight hours of gruelling effort to get to the rim of a volcano – a place that is suddenly all worth it as soon as you see the view!
But I’ll back up.
After a 5am start from Senggigi beach I jumped on a bus that drove through dense green to the North of Lombok – arriving in a small village to meet my little group of fellow trekkers. I was worried I’d be hiking with a semi-professional German outdoor team, and that I’d be dragging my 42 year old arse all the way up from the back of the group.
Fortunately I couldn’t have dreamed of a better bunch of people to be hiking with. Four Dutchies and an Austrian guy, all at least 20 years younger than me on average, but some first time hikers, one with a genetic knee impediment, and two guys way fitter than me. But I’m happy to say I was never behind more than about half an hour.
I was to be sharing a tent with Lidewei from Utrecht – a girl built like a Nordic Viking with a smile like sunshine. She had been travelling solo through Australia, New Zealand and now Asia. I liked her immediately. Especially because she had hardly any knee cartilege, a crappy pair of grip-less sneakers, and had never hiked before, in other words, she was perfectly matched to my pace. She would be my motivator and vice versa when all we wanted to do was stop and eat chocolate.
Some moments throughout the first day I had to remind myself how much I wanted to see the volcanic crater, how much I wanted to know what it feels like to swim in hot springs within it’s peaks. At other times I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and focus on the moment, breaking up the day by metres and hours, believing that it would all be worth it.
It absolutely was. To stand on the edge of the volcanic rim, looking down at the smoking core and watch the clouds float by, I knew in an instant that it was worth every drop of sweat.
I was elated, buoyed by the thought of what it would be like getting deeper in to the crater tomorrow…