Arriving in Lombok, we had been warned that the harbour was a tourist trap, so we argued for a long time before dropping the price of a 10km taxi journey below a London price! 1h later we realised that the 10 km were a bit longer than planned but to be honest if cars were fitted with engines instead of pedales, we might have a chance of moving at turtle speed instead of snail pace! (I haven't done much research, but I'm pretty sure turtles are quicker than snails even if they are still slow!)
To give an example, we started going up a hill and middway we had to give up, so the driver went backwards all the way down (in a way a learner would be ashamed of), took more speed, put first gear on and very VERY slowly we made it!!!
But he was a smiley guy who did not speak a word of English and we didn't really have a lot to do, so it was just a fun ride with a lot of time to admire the view!
After this taxi trip, we finally arrive to windy resort a little heaven in the middle of nowhere. We go snorkeling and R manages to spot a famous local fish which I have forgotten the name of but it's very big and it has a big bump on the head, I don't know how but I missed it :-( the name came back to me it's a parrot fish.
As it is a windy resort, we get the kite out and try to relax as much as we can in preparation for the next 3 days. So we enjoy a delicious pineapple in the pool, a massage and an early dinner.
The day after, we are getting picked up at 5.30am for a 2h drive up to the bottom of the Rijiani, this absolute enormous mountain that we are supposed to climb for the next 3 days. I'm going to be honest right from the beginning, when we booked the trip, there were 3 levels: 1 was to go to the cratere rim in 2 days, 2 was to go to the lake in 3 days and 3 was to go to the summit in 4 days, because we didn't have 4 days and because the summit is really difficult we decided to go for level 2. I was already worried of spending 3 days in a row walking and that did not get any better when we met our guide and he explained that today we will walk 9km going up 2000m, tomorrow will be down 700m and then back up and the last day down 2000m. 5400m vertically in 3 days, why did I agree to do that????
So first a pancake, then we reorganise the bags, the 2 big ones are staying at the shop, and we split what we need between our small bags and the porters. Oh yes! We have 2 porters carrying food drinks, tent sleeping bags and some of our stuff. They tie all of that on a bamboo stick that they balance on the shoulder and will do the same walk as us wearing flip flop and 35-40 kg on their shoulder!!! Madness! I'm not even mentionning that they overtook us both on the way up and on the way down...
Anyway first things first, we are given a lift to the registration station.
Everyone climbing the Rinjiani has to make a stop here. That done, we'll have to start walking, the van driver is not going any further:-( The guide said that the first 45mn were in the sun and then we'll be in the forest for a very long time, we apply sun block generously (after the burns we got on Lembongan, we are a bit more careful!) actually what he meant was there was light, no really the sun. So first 45 mn go ok, we are walking in the middle of coffee plantations. It's not too steep but I'm glad when he calls a break. Along the treck, there are regular "pos", it is a zone with a bungalow, hard floor, wood around so the porter can light a fire to cook...
Each time, there is a sign telling you the altitude and how far it is from the previous pos and how far to the next one, for me it is a really good way of having short terms objectives! We have walked 1.3 km and gone up 150m (I'm doing that from memory so you'll have to see if it adds up at the end!) a drink and a couple of biscuit and we are starting the 2nd part, 1km long, this is definitely the part of the 3 days I have found the easiest, I think I had warmed up and I wasn't tired yet. We are now in the tropical forest and most of the walking is done using tree roots as steps, unfortunately, steps are not equal! Some are huge, some narrows, sometimes you have to go around the trees, it is not a casual walk in the forest! Then we get to "pos 1" where we get more biscuits and meet a familly with a 2 years old kid, they have a special porter just for him!
We go again for 1.3 km this time, this goes fine again, we spot a few monkeys in the trees, the guide explains to us that the noise we hear are people hunting for pigs with dogs. And after another hour we are at "pos extra", I know 1h per km is not really a fantastic speed but I promise it's steep!
I decide to ask the guide which part is the thoughest part of the walk, hoping he is going to say "that was the one you have just done!" unfortuntely he says, "the part just before arriving at the cratere rim when we get off the forest", why did I ask? I'm depressed in advance...
Now last walk before lunch time (I think the guide is starting to understand that the only chance of getting me anywhere is food!), 1.1km this time but this one is veryyyy long, I think I'm hungry, so we make a couple of stops on the way. When we finally get to "pos 2", the porter is already cooking, the fog is there and we have to get an additional layer of clothes on.
For lunch a noodle soup with vegetables (that will be the same ones for 3 days but always cooked in a different way), rice (yes, rice AND noodle, just to tell you how many calories we are burning) and pineapple for dessert.
Good news of lunch time, we have walked more than half of our 9km (4.7km) but we have only gone up 600m. So, if I look at what is left (and I shouldn't), 4.3 km and 1400m vertically! Oh... And to start the afternoon, a very long walk until the next pos, 2.5km. Let's be honest, I was so exhausted that I created my own "pos" on the way. By the end of this one we are out of the forest and the fog is gone, we spot a familly of black monkey, very rare because very shy. Less than 2km to go now but I remember what the guide said, the hardest part is after the forest, 1.3 km of hell! It is so steep that my ankle can bearly flex to this point. I try to create small S in the linear path, the guide laughs at me when I ask why they went for a vertical line instead of nice S, he says that would be too long... Timewise, i'm really not sure! The ground is sandy, so there is some sliding backwards as well. Between the effort and the altitude and the pain in my feet and legs I probably stop every minute. Out of the 3 days this was definitely the hardest time. Finally we see the next pos, let's be honest, I'm dead by this point, there is more than 1km left to get to the top and I refuse to think about how I'm going to manage... So this break is longer. The last part is less sandy and more rocky and the views of the valley occupy me a bit so slowly we get to the top! 6h30, this is our time, we are congratulated by the guide who says the normal time is 7h, I think he is lying because I was in no way quick, but to be honest even R admitted it was one of the hardest walk he had done!
So now we can turn our eyes away from the valley and discover the amazing Rinjiani, named after a queen tribe, the new montain as they call it in the middle of the old cratere rim and at the bottom the lake. The rinjiani itself is now inactive, the last eruption came out if the new montain which is still smoking by the way. Our tent is ready, and dinner will be served just after sunset. Sunset is incredible, we can see Bali's volcanoes as well and the colors are fantastic.
After dinner we have lots of time to watch the stars, we are so lucky, there is no moon so the contrast is even better, we can observe the milky way and millions of other stars, I have never seen such a sky before.
After a horrible night of sleep (cold and hard floor are not good sleeping conditions), we get up around 6.30 for a breakfast of pancakes and cheese sandwiches). This morning, first we are going down to the lake and then the hotspring for a good wash! Knowing that I have slept fully dressed because of the cold, it will be more than welcome to get in a warm bath and then change into a fresh set of clothes! First let's go down the mountain, the beginning is incredibly steep but in a different way than yesterday, it is like climbing, hands, feet, bottom, every part of the body is used to stay up! It is quite fun! I even get a stick which I'm going to grow even more fond of in the next days.
Soon we reach the pos where we meet people going up and looking exhausted. Short break and we continue our descent. This part is not even fun to do downhill it's hard to explain why but I can already tell I'm going to suffer on the way back up. This is the horrible thing about today, because we will sleep at the same place tonight, any meter we descent, we'll have to climb it back up!!!
Then we get to the lake, it is not as cold as expected and we enjoy a leg bath, but the guide is keen on getting to the hot springs straight away. It is another 20 minutes walk around the lake and down again; soon we see the fuming pools, we can't get to the first few ones as they are too hot so we target number 4. We are the first ones to arrive so it's great to get changed, we plunge in water around 38 C I would guess, boiling! We can't stay too long or we turn bright red and start sweating. So we go for short visits in the water, enjoying the water falls and making sure we scrub ourselves well!!! Very soon the place becomes popular with a group of Brits, Americans and even French which according to our guide are the keenest hikers.
We have lunch overthere and it is time to go back up, legs are heavy, first stop the lake, only 20 mn, ok, done.
Then it's time to do the part I didn't like on the way down, as expected, I hate it on the way up! I'm so slow that the guide offers to take my bag (on top of everything else he is already carrying), I feel slightly guilty but I accept! With the help of my stick, I finally make it to the pos where we saw the exhausted people! Time for a good break. I know there rest will be more fun, it is vertical by moment and that's when you feel like you need your climbing gears but in between there are pleasant flat-ish walk. It's funny to see how easy is walking after hours of steps!
The end is really fun, the best part is probably watching the porters climbing with their flipflop, balancing the 40kg on the bamboo and still managing.
Tonight we are at the cratere rim earlier than yesterday, unfortunately the sun set is not that good, there are too many clouds. But on the positive side, after another cold and sleepless night, the sunrise is beautiful we can even see the 3 Gilis! The other good new being that today we are going down!!! Start at 6.45am in order to be down before 1 pm as our afternoon schedule is packed with transportation (taxi, boat, taxi and taxi). Anyway so let's go down. The pos seem to be so much closer than on the way up. We make good progress at the beginning, the problem is just that any stop we make creates a very painful period straight after when our aching muscle need to warm up again. Around half way, I decide that all of that would be so much better if I was to sprain my ankle so here we go, done! So between the aching, the ankle and the 2 massive blisters which I can tell are forming below my toes I'm nearly silent on the way down. After a half hour break for lunch, we finish the 5h at 12.45 and have changed into a less smelly set of clothes to jump in the taxi by 1pm after having heavily thanked (and tipped) our guide and our porter.
As a summary, the views were fantastic, I'm sure they would have been even better from the top but let's be honest I'm already amazed I have managed to walk for 3 days so may be next time...