*—, —-, —–..* This was how my heart was reacting on the first night we arrived in Lombok…
*Thump, thump, thump…* This was how my heart was behaving on the last night of camp….

The Beginning
It seemed impossible then that I will ever have the chance to climb Rinjani. Friends who had been there raved about the breathtaking views but cautioned about the challenging terrain. I don’t know why, I just have the urge to go (maybe cos close friends had been there, so I must go too.. hee.. haiz, guess that’s the real me).

Every now and then I will bug Yin to go Rinjani and when she finally said ok, we started to persuade our other “targets”. 1st was Chris who easily said yes (*haha) thou he must also drag Wei Peng (Wp) along… and before we knew it, we have a large contingent: – Tony with his friends Rachel and Zhenwei (Zw),  The bros – Mike and Zhi Xiang (Zhix) and finally Weizhen (Wz) and Jelyn who after much efforts gotten their leave approved.

Booking our Silkair flights to Lombok was another challenge.  We were looking at the 2 public holidays in August — National Day PH and the Hari Raya PH, thou for me National Day PH was an ideal date but soon, like the current erratic stock market, the air tickets for National Day week increased from $387 to $576 within days. After much deliberation, we decided to go on the Hari Raya PH (27 Aug to 3 Sep).

Next is getting a good trek operator. Yin had initially intended for the operator which Audrey’s group had engaged last year.  The price of their trek then was amazingly cheap and the guide was superb according to Audrey.  Guess inflation in Indonesia has taken to new heights, the trek package costs us double and the operator wasn’t that friendly after much email exchanges, so we decided to give that up and engage Lombok Network Holiday, opting the Deluxe package.

The 4D3N trek itinerary was initially suggested to start from Senaru where the summit attempt will only be on the last day of the trek. *Gulp* Don’t think anybody will want to wait till then to do the summit considering it to be such a hard trek, so we requested to do it the other way round, starting from Sembalun village and summit attempt on the 2nd day.

We’ve heard it time and again that Rinjani will be an arduous trek. In order to prepare everyone who were not that very fit to begin with (except maybe Tony and group) to not suffer more during the trek but to at least enjoy some moments during the trek, weekly training at our very own Bukit Timah hill (BT) was arranged. I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout every Saturday. There’s always around 10+ enthusiastically trekkers and their friends turning up for training to show the support for us — the Rinjanians-to-be.

We meet up every Saturday at 915am for warm-up and starts the rounds at BT at 930am sharp.  The aim was to complete rounds of stairs training in BT.  The “Killer stairs” in BT has since then become our “friend” where we, without fail to go up and down it at least 2-3 times… For some variety, we also did a 20km walk (abt 4hrs) from Woodlands to BT on 1 Saturday (to clock some mileage on walking).  After 12 Saturdays of training, the day finally arrived.

The Day
27 Aug 2011, Saturday, 1300Hrs.  We met at the airport ready for check-in (of cos, after we fulfilled our citizen’s duty to vote for the new president).  Zw who has hurt his fingers in some freak accident was not able to join us for the trip but turn up at the airport to show his support.  Audrey and Kenn, who had already scaled the heights of Rinjani also came to send us off.  Jelyn started to have the jitters.. The atmosphere around was still generally calm and peppy.

The Rinjanians-to-be (without zhix, cos he anti-social)

Is that Rinjani or Agung??

The flight was smooth. Saw this mountain from the plane when we are reaching Lombok.  I am still wondering what mountain was that.  Was it Rinjani? or Agung at Bali? After about 2hrs 25mins, we arrived at Lombok International Airport (a very small one).  While queuing for immigratiion, we met a group of Malaysians who were also there for Rinjani but for their 2nd time -.-||

From the way they related, climbing Rinjani was an easy feat for them.. blah…..

We arrived at our 1st night stay – Senggigi Graha Beach Hotel.  The representative from Lombok Holiday Network, Mr Wayang gave us a short briefing on the trek. He started to describe each terrain of the trek, I heard the terrible summit, the dangerous rocky terrain from Sembalun crater rim.. all these sent my heart to stop every now and then.  Gosh, this is it, really.  The trek was just hours away… we’ve to prepare and get ready to set off from the hotel at 5am tomorrow!!

Day 1 Senggigi -> Sembalun Village -> Sembalun Crater Rim, overnight in tent
At 500am, we gathered at the hotel lobby, waiting patiently for the van to come to pick us up to the trek point at Sembalun Village which will be about 3 hours drive from Senggigi. It was a winding drive up the mountain which made me feel like puking especially after having breakfast in the van, but luckily we arrived soon after the thought of vomitting.  While some of them went to the Rinjani Information Centre (RIC) in Sembalun Lawang to register for the trek, some of us make use of the time to go toilet and collected our 1.5L mineral water.  We also met up with our 2 mountain guides, Mr Samon (think is right?) and trainee guide Mr Saras, and 13 porters.  Yes, we were all amazed by the large troop going up the mountain with us.  Basically, they will be with us for the 4 days, carrying our tents, utensils and food.  We also hired 2 more porters to carry our personal belongings.. each porter to carry about 20-30kg load and cost us about USD80 each (another inflation, it was communicated earlier to be USD60). Actually at first I thought all 9 of us (except Tony, who is carrying his own load) can pack all our belongings for the trek in 2 big backpacks.. well, it proved too much.. in the end it’s 1 backpack to 2 of us.

the porters wannabes

Ok, all ready to go now.  The time was 920am and we started our trek from Sembalun village.  A gentle ascent walking through open grassland with Mt Rinjani looming in front of us.

All ready to go!
Lush greenland

Rinjani.. looming ahead of us
Start of the ups

A steady hike for almost 2hrs+ we reached Pos 2 Tengengean (1,500 m) for our lunch (or was it Pos 3 Pada Balong (1,800m)??). There were also other trekkers stopping here for lunch.  At this moment, ominous clouds began to overcast the sky and it started to drizzle.. aiyo.. please please just rain only now.. praying for good weather for the rest of the trek.  We witnessed the rubber timing of our chef/trek. Waited for almost like 1hr+ (in fact for every meals) before we were served Lombok coffee and tea first.. The coffee was bitter, sugar required.  Lunch was maggi mee soup with an egg and generous servings of vegetables. Hot maggi mee soup was always the best choice of food for such weather in the mountain.. (*haha)

Posing before lunch

Worried that we do not have enough energy for the rest of the day, we were also given rice.  After the meal, it’s toilet break… we gals decided to walk further up the trail and find some bushes to do our small business.. the one and only sheltered toilet at the area, as advised by Zhix, was to hold your breathe and not to look down, finish it swiftly and run out.. arrgh… so guess the bushes were better.  Thanks to the guys who stand guard below and help to stop some porters/trekkers who are ready to go.

Cooking our lunch
Yummy maggi mee

After lunch, we continued the trek up to Sembalun Crater Rim (2,639m), this is about 3.5 hours climb amidst the pine-like Casuarinas species locally known as Cemara.  The trek was tiring especially we were moving higher in altitude.  I’ve to stop every now and then to sip some water and panting hard.  My legs also getting heavy.  This was just the 1st day of trek :S and I felt like I’ve trek for a few days!

Rinjani.. where we will be trekking the next day

At about 5pm, we reach Sembalun Crater Rim.  The view here was fantastic, all of us was so excited, despite the strong wind blowing at us, we jump here and there to take photos.. before we realised we’ve yet to reach our camp site.. Saras said we will need to walk across that little hill to our campsite at Plawangan Sembalun. Hmm.. we walk round the little hill, saw couple of orange tents, got excited started to pose for photo with the tents and realised it was not our camp site.. haiz.. another 20mins or so we finally reached! 5 bright orange tents waiting for us…

as if I am on top of the world.. hoo hoo

So relieved, we picked our tents, rushed in to start our powder bathing..  The tent was a comfortable tent for 2, we were rather impressed by the mattress they provided.  It was not those thin foam mattress, but was those soft sleeping mattresses we used at home.  Thus, sleeping in the tent with the sleeping bag (to keep you warm) was actually not that bad after all.  While we were busy powder bathing in the tent, Tony was outside urging us to come out.. “You guys don’t know what you are missing! the sunset was magnificent!!” *Toot—* nobody came out.. and soon night falls….

@ Sembalun crater rim

Dinner for the night was rice with curry chicken.  The curry was good, thou not spicy, chicken meat was bit tough for bite.. The guide informed us to wake up at 130am the next day and we will start our summit attempt at 2am.  After the hard and tiring trek today, some of us actually felt the strain and started to dread about the summit attempt the next day.. Heard some “shall see how tomorrow”…. ok.. don’t think so much now.. get some rest…

It was not easy to sleep at high altitude.  It took me awhile before I finally fall asleep and after I heard Tony happily telling someone “Wow, I saw 3 shooting stars…”  Zzzzzz.. good night.

~ to be continued ~