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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hike up a sacred mountain

This blog is mostly for fellow Peace Corps Volunteers who are considering climbing Mt. Rinjani on Lombok. The only higher mountains in Indonesia are on Papua. You start close to sea level and climb to about 7,700 feet.

After the climb we spent the next 3 days on the beach at Gili Meno and we all really needed it. My daughter has run a marathon and her husband is in good shape too but it really kicked our butts! It was hard to walk up and down stairs for the next several days.

It’s a great hike mostly because ¾ of the climb is through a forest with lots of shade trees and monkeys, then when you get to the crater rim there are awesome views of the ocean and the lake in the middle and the slightly higher summit.

My daughter booked the tour in advance through a company listed on line and it was pretty much what is described in Lonely Planet.

We did the 2 day, 1 night hike because we wanted to sandwich in as many activities as we could and that 2 days was plenty. We met some other people who had planned the 3 day hike but were so exhausted after day 1 that they didn't do the summit climb on day 2.

We used Adventure Lombok Tours but all of them are pretty similar. You can call Ronnie at +62 370 6650238 or +62 8175773060. They need 1/2 the money down, sent to their bank account in Indonesia - you go to any BNI with cash in hand and they send it to their account. Then the night you arrive in Lombok Ronnie stops by and gets the rest. It was the busy time and we wanted the security of knowing we had it all booked in advance.

We did the economy hike (I think each tour company has several levels) and it was fine. You are supposed to bring your own snacks and no cokes are provided and I think there wasn't supposed to be a toilet tent, but another couple in our group of 5 paid for the next step up and they gave all of us cokes and cookies and we got to use the toilet tent too. Up on top of the mountain there is no privacy and they dug a small hole in the ground and put a tarp like tent around it and it was nice to have that for pooping in. The total cost for the 3 of us was 3.500.000 Rp approx. for 2 days and pick up and drop off before and after. The guide and porters carried all the tents & sleeping bags and fixed all the meals and give us water, coffee or tea.

Between 5am - 5:30 am they picked up people at Senggigi hotels, and took us to a place near the north of the island where we could stash any extra gear at a guy's house and we ate pancakes there. We were on the trail by 8am and hiked till about 4:00 pm. It's STRENUOUS! I was able to do it but I hike about 2 1/2 hours every day - my 62 year old body needed the hiking sticks the guide cut along the way.

That night they put up 2 tents for us & we got a light weight sleeping bag and mattress pad too. It was cold on top but long pants, 3 pairs of socks, 2 shirts and a polar fleece were fine for me.

The view from the top of the crater was awesome! I really enjoyed it! There are longer hikes to walk up to summit the mountain on the side or go down to the hot springs but I felt the basic hike was sufficient and didn't feel like I needed to abuse my body any more than that.

The next morning at 6am we hiked down using a different set of leg muscles and were at the bottom around 2pm. We spent the night at a nice hotel on Lombok (Holiday Resort Lombok) but in retrospect there would have been enough time to catch the last boat from Bangsal Harbor over to the Gili Islands.

We met several local people who talked about the special times when there really is a ceremony at the top but it felt sacred just to be standing on the edge of the world with that “Oh my gosh, I really did hike up this mountain” feeling.

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