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Gunung Rinjani
Heavenly vulcano ascend

While I climbed the steep slope in the early morning fog, I rubbed over my bleeding nose. When I was climbing, I looked to the ground, but I didn't notice that Salim, my guide, had already stopped. He walked in front of me and carried the food on a bamboo stick. The side of bamboo can be really sharp; circumcisions on Lombok are still often performed with a bamboo knife; now I know why.

It was starting to get dark and the guide was looking for a place to spend the night. He and our two carriers made a fire and created something of a tent with pieces of plastic, that had to protect us against unexpected rain. Salim and the helpers soon created an entire meal of rice and dried fish, covered in a bad looking sauce. I was almost starved, so I ate it all. Soon my mouth was on fire, tears over my cheeks and my nose was running. I was used to spices hot Mexican food, but this was someting completely different. The food burned in my mouth, but I got nice and warm inside.

Soul-Searching question

Just when it started to get dark, the clouds and fog lightened somewhat, revealing a part of the panoramic highlands. The curtain closed again and it started to rain. We got close to eachother under the plastic, close to the fire and we spend the night in cold and wet conditions. It's such a moment in which you think: Why am I doing this?

The next morning my doubts were gone together with the night. Just before sunrise the sky had a very nice view. At one side, there was the steep Gunung Rinjani. About 900 meters below us was the big, quiet crater lake Segara Anak. In the east the sun rose over Sumbawa; the yellow ball was placed almost right above Gunung Tambora. This beautifull morning justified a heavy trip of three days with rains which do cool you down dramatically.
We started to ascend the steep sloped. After half an hour the fog and clouds were back. Against the time we had reached the top, visibility was not much more than a meter. The panoramic view which we had this morning, was the climax of the trip. We returned to the camp of the night, put down our luggage and ran downstairs. There we found a vulcanic hole which heated several hot sources. The almost boiling water helped us get rid of our pains and warmed us again.

Trip to the Rinjani

The 3726 meter high summit of Gunung Rinjanu is the highest point of Indonesia outside Papua. The name 'Rinjani' has maybe originated from the Jawanese name for 'God' or 'allmighty'. A Sasak legend tells about a princess with the name Arjani living on the mountain, the daughter of the highest God. It's probable that the Sasak in old ages believed that the main spirits lived on the Rinjani, a believe that was maintained among the Balinese as well.

Rinjani is not only the highest point of the region, but also the climax of a visit to Lombok. The view from the caldera is maybe even the climax of a trip to Indonesia.

The climb is not easy, but not very heavy as well. Even a fity-year-old chainsmoker didn't have too much problems with it. Who doesn't have a very good condition has to take one or two entire days more for the trip. The entire trip, including the descend to Danau Segara Anak usually takes three days and two nights.

Whoever speaks a little bit of Indonesian, can arrange this trip on it's own, but it's more easy to go to a travel agency or free-lance guide which can help you out. The travel companies are defenately more expensive than guides and their guides are probably less efficient than the free-lancers.

The most easy road to the summit is via the path which runs towards the south from Bayan. There are several permanent shelters with water and shadow-rich forests with monkeys. The path from Sembalun Lawang, east of the Runjani, is longer, has more shelters, drunking water and almost no shadow. The only bad thing is that there is little public transport from Bayan. The buses and bemo are much more frequent on route to the rich, garlick producing village Sembalung Lawang, from where they continue their trip to Labuhan Lombok and the small harbour for the ferry to Sumbawa.

Who thinks that the Bayan route is not too attractive can also walk to Sembalung Lawang from the Rinjani, instead of returning to Bayan. It's no problem to make this alternative route as long as you have your camping gear with you and you pay the guide for the trip home to Bayan.

To Bayan

It's not hard to find a bemo to Anyar in Sweta, especially on Sundays, when they have the market. In Anyar you can wait for a truck which heads for the direction of the basecamp south of Bayan, or you can rent a car yourself - when something is available. Walking is also an option.

Follow the main road from Anyar in the direction of Bayar. After about three kilometers, when the road turns to the east, the rough and dustry trail leads to the base camp due south. This road has been paved several times, but it is washed away over and over again. After about four kilometers you will reach Batu koq, and a little ahead several losmen. Here you can prepare for the ascend: rent your gear, but food and hire guides and carriers.
A few kilometers past Batu Koq lies Senaru, a village consisting of huts with roofs of dried alang-alang material. The village is located on an altitude of 600 meters and it's the last village along the path. A good car with good driver can reach Senaru in the dry season (May until October). Outside the season it's almost impossible to reach Gunung Rinjani.

When all preparations before departure are taken, there may be some time left for a visit to the impressive Sendang Gila fall, about one hour on foot. On the way to the fall the road goes downhill. The top size of the fall can be seen in the neighborhood Batu Koq.

Early start

The first day is the most heavy; you have to get up as early as possible to start the trip. Depending on the condition of the climber it takes about four to nine hours to reach the camp site; it's a few hours walking from the edge of the crater.

Demand that you can walk your own pace. Don't let the guides go in front of you, not before the afternoon. It's more usefull to keep one with you and to let the other build a campsite for the night already. Who can afford to rent a lot of people, which helps you have a nice journey. The acsend takes you through quiet forests; a trip for those who really like quietness.

From Senaru the route is signed by road signs, the first with a '1' on it and the last, at the edge of the border, with '200'. A number of signs is missing, but there are enough left to get the good ruite. From Senaru it's twelve kilometers to the crater lake. With a little luck you can even find some water near sign 114 and 185. But you should not count on it, bring enough water, at least three liters a person.

The carriers / guides set up a camp and create a meal. When packing, think of something nice for during the trip, and that a bottle of liquor will help against cold. A light matrass can be the difference of a good nights rest and a night with no sleep at all.

It's cold on the mountain; a sweater and a jacket are defenately needed, especially at night and early in the morning. The huts of 'Pos I' and 'Pos II' are identical: a sheltered platform with one wall, in which six to eight people can sleep. The structures are also used as burning wood, and are therefor in a bad condition. There is a lot of trash around is usually.

The clearness of the view depends on the amount of atmospheric fog. Under good conditions it's possible to see the eastern part of Sumbawa, and maybe even Gunung Agung on Bali. On the point where the path reaches the edge of the crater, you are still 1100 meters under the summit of the Rinjani. To reach that, you will need good shoes, lots of energie and water. Most visitors don't even try. Who is planning on doing it needs to take an extra day for it. The thin air and loose rocks often will cause missteps. On about 3000 meters there is another primitive shelter.

New crater under the lake

From the edge of the crater it's a few more steep, slippery hours to the kidney-shaped craterlate Segara Anak, on 2030 meter, which is located in a caldera of roughly 6 by 8 kilometers. The lake itself measures three kilomters on the widest poins, and is said to be over 250 meters deep. The rock formations along the path are covered with grafitti. The background of the lake is formed by a steep, 500 meter high wall of rocks; more on the foreground are pinetrees.

Place for the spirits

The place is one of miraculous beauty. No wonder that the Wetu Telu as well as the Balinese see a home of the spirits in it. The Balinese gather here for an annual ritual which is also held in the Narmadatemple east of Cakranegara; small golden objects are thrown in the lake. The big artificial lake of Narmada was created with Danau Segara Akan as example.

The Wetu Telu supportes come to the mountain to pray on evenings with full moon; they bring objects with mystical powers, like a knife wrapped in a white fabric, which get more powerfull during the visit to the mountain. Not too long ago, fish were put in the lake, so the pilgrims can also spend their time in a more earthly way.

Danau Segara Anak, lit. 'Child from the Sea' turns green in strong sunlight. However it's often obscured by clouds which are caught in the crater in the afternoon. Gunung Rinjani has not erupted since 1901, but in 1942, a mini-vulcano was created from a crater under the lake. This small island, 145 meters above the surface of the lake, is named Gunung Baru 'new mountain'. Every once in a while Gunung Baru creates a cloud of smokel it last erupted in 1994.

Hot sources

Before the eruption in 1994, a number of spectacular falls came down from the Kokok Putih (Kali Putih as well). People think that the sources have a healing effect; it's not hard to believe, because once you are familiar with the very hot water it feels very nice. Some of the sources spring in the Gua Susu, the 'milk cave', named because of it's sulphuric, milky yellow sediments.
The local population has little knowlegde of the word ecology: the soil near the hot sources is covered with litter. The ramshackle shelters of tin plates and cooking holes don't improve the environment as well. From the camping site near the hot sources you have to take eight to ten hours for the way back to Senaru.

Ascend from Sembalun Lawang

The climb of the Rinjani from the east starts in Sembalun Lawang. This village and it's twin village Sembalun Bumbung are the most important places for the production of inions and garlick. The villages mark the northern and southern side of a big, fertile valley northeast of Rinjani. From Labuhan Lombok there is a regular public transport service to Sembalun Bumbung, and from there it's less than three kilometers walking to Sembalun Lawang, of which they start walking to the caldera.

But maybe it's more nice to walk from the village od Pesugulan, which can be reached by leaving the main road near Aikmel, northeast of Masbagil. Before Pesugulan, the ricefields form the perfect foreground for the high Rinjani. The 16 km long, four to five hours lasting trip from Pesugulan to Sembalun Bumbung runs through very nice mountainous landscapes. The trip first runs through hilly meadows, after that follows a good sight on the Rinjani. In Sembulan Lawang the owner of wisma Cemarasi can help to prepare for the climb. You can't rent anything there, you have to take them yourself.

From Sembalun Lawang, the descend is not heavy, though it's hot. You will reach the crater rim near Plawangan II (Plawangan I is where the path from Senaru reaches the edge of the crater. Plawangan means 'door'). The view from this side of the crater is better, and this path is less used by hikers; only a few compared to the other path.

The ascend is also better from this site for those who want to go to the summit, since the camp for the first night is located on 2900 meters, only about 700 meters from the summit. The climb can be bad anyway, because clouds can bring down visibility to about zero, what happened to me when I visited Rinjani for the first time in 1978. Back then there was no road to the Bayan area and Sembalun Lawang was the only starting point for the trip.

Last revised on December 14, 2009
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