Of course, I love hiking, so when I heard you could hike Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest volcano, I was ready to book my trip ASAP. Mt Rinjani lies on the island of Lombok, next to the more famous Bali. After spending a few days on the beaches of south Lombok, Tom and I were ready to get active and tackle the hike.
There are a number of different type of treks up Mt Rinjani- 2 day/1 night, 3 day/2night or 4 day/3 night. You can also choose to start in either Sembalun or Senaru. The most popular trek is the 3 day/2night trek from Sembalun, which is what we chose to do. There are also a variety of different operators that run the trip. After finding some rave reviews on Jou Trekking we decided to contact Jou and received an almost immediate response. We had all questions answered, everything arranged and a generous agreement to sponsor the trip. But of course, all my experiences and opinions will be 100% authentic!
The trek really starts before the official trek, Jou Trekking’s team picked us up from Kuta Lombok and drove us the 3+ hour drive to Senaru where our accommodation at Shambhala Rinjani was included. It was perfect basic accommodation with hot showers, a very friendly staff and great food. Soon after arriving, Jou arranged a guide to take us to two nearby waterfalls.
Day 1: Sembulan to Crater Rim (9 km & 1538 m elevation gain)
There was supposed to be one other person in our group but they cancelled last minute so it turned out it was just Tom and I. With us we had our guide and two porters.
We drove from Senaru to Sembulan and after checking in we were off on the trails. It started off with a pretty mild uphill, though the terrain was fully exposed and it was hot. Along the way, there are designated rest stops but you can also stop and take a mini break or breather at any point along the trail. We found ourselves moving fairly quickly and passing a lot of the other groups. It would have been nice to have others in our group to meet fellow travellers but it was also nice to move at our own pace.
Before long, we found ourselves at the second rest break where we stopped for lunch. I wasn’t too sure what to expect for food on the trail. I knew we had been spoiled when we did Machu Picchu so it was unlikely anything would live up. But I was pleasantly surprised. Our first lunch was a huge plate of Nasi Goreng (fried rice) with chicken, tofu, tempe and egg. There was way more food than I could possibly eat. Plus a huge selection of fruit for dessert and soft drinks. Our tummies were very full by the time we left our lunch break.
The next section started to get a bit steeper and just as we took our rest break at Position 3 the rain started coming down hard. We were so grateful at this point that our guide stopped and got us rain ponchos before the trek started. We were warned the last part of the day was the toughest. There are 7 hills that lead you up to the volcano crater rim. I was fooled into thinking 7 hills meant 7 up and down, but no it’s just 7 different types of steep uphill! By hill 5, I was done. I was frustrated and getting grumpy but Tom coaxed me to finish. And luckily, by the time we finished the rain had stopped and we were rewarded with beautiful views ;).
We noticed during the final stretch of the day our guide was picking up sticks. Turns out he was doing this to start a fire to dry out our shoes. He honestly went so above and beyond. He set up a clothesline to dry out our socks, he held our shoes over the fire and completely dried them out. I could have kissed him the next morning when I put on my dry shoes. No other group had this kind of service and we heard many people complaining the next morning of cold feet!
We were treated to some hot tea and banana fritters as an appetizer and then had a yummy chicken curry for dinner. We headed to bed early knowing we had a 2 am wake up call to attempt the summit.
Day 2: The Summit (3km & 1088m elevation gain) & The Other Crater Rim (6.6km & 640 m elevation gain)
Day two is the hard day, it begins by waking up at 2 a.m. to summit Mount Rinjani. Many people don’t even attempt the summit after struggling through day one and many people give up without reaching the summit. I was worried knowing these stats but was determined to give it my best shot to reach the top.
Our porters gave us some hot coffee and a cheese sandwich to start our day. It didn’t start easy, right away we found there was sand under our feet. It was so hard to get any footing and you constantly slide backward – not to mention you are in complete darkness the whole time, except for your head lamps. The second part of the summit was not too bad. It’s a long stretch of a constant slow grade uphill.
Then it was time for the final stretch, we knew this was the really tough part. We pulled out from behind the rock we were resting and were whipped in the face with the wind. It was brutally cold and the ascent was brutally hard with more sand and a very steep incline. I followed as closely as I could in our guides footsteps, constantly sliding backward. Not knowing where the cliff edge began was incredibly eery. I luckily had a trekking pole which helped me stay upright. I looked back and Tom was basically on all fours climbing up the mountain.
We reached the summit at 5:30 a.m., about 3 hours after we began. As we finally made it to the top, the horizon was starting to turn red It was then I realized, we were the first ones up there. The first summit of the day. We high fived and then crouched on the ground under our rain ponchos to stay warm as we watched the sun rise out of the clouds. Behind us, our guide made us some hot tea and gave us cookies. When other groups arrived, it was clear we were the only one getting this special treatment!
The summit was magical and absolutely worth the hard work we put in.
I feared the downhill because I tend to trip and fall a lot. But it was actually kind of fun, you more or less try and control the fall and “ski” down the sand. When we got back to camp, our porters had prepared us a second breakfast – an egg tempe burger with fries and they handed us a congratulatory beer. It may have been 7:30 a.m. but it felt earned!
Even though we had already hiked for 5 hours that morning, we still had a lot ahead of us. We began our descent down the crater rim to the lake.
Down at the lake we took a break for swimming in the lake and then were taken to the volcanic hot springs before lunch. Nothing has ever felt so good on my sore legs.
Then it was time for the final part of the day, which I was dreading. We lost a lot of elevation from the crater rim to the lake and now we had to climb back up the other side. It was a tough go but I was in a good mood, I think I was still riding the high of the summit and I didn’t mind the climb too much.
We camped on the crater rim with spectacular views and got to watch the sunset over Rinjani where we had watched the sunrise earlier, it was the perfect end to the perfect day.
Day 3: Crater Rim to Senaru (7.9km & 2040m elevation loss)
We woke up at a much more reasonable hour of 6 am to finish the final descent. It was all downhill and we trail ran a good portion of it, it was fun and exhausting. We finished with lunch and then walked back to where we began at the homestay. But not before I rolled my ankle and did a full-on face plant not two minutes from the finish. I give my group mad props for not laughing at me, I can’t say the same for Tom!
Overall my experience trekking Mount Rinjani with Jou Trekking was absolutely amazing. I’ll be doing a part two post with details on what to pack, how to book, etc. But I can wholeheartedly recommend Jou Trekking. Their service was above and beyond, our tents and equipment were in great condition, the food was delicious and Jou himself is a pleasure to work with. Choosing a company can be tricky but it’s so important you pick a company that respects the environment and their staff. Jou Trekking ensures that they bring back all garbage from the mountain and we saw our guide picking up additional garbage along the way. The porters are not overloaded like some groups and had their own food to eat. Be responsible and pick a company that you feel comfortable with.