Travel and Fitness blog

Climbing volcano at night

I traveled to the small island of Lombok in Indonesia to climb the country's second highest active volcano

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Climbing a volcano at night - Part 1

Next to the paradise island of Bali in Indonesia's archipelago lies a smaller island called Lombok. It's a tiny island and apart from white sand beaches and marvelous sunsets it has a massive volcano located on the Eastern Side, called mount Rinjani. Not something you would expect around the corner when you exit the beach.

Peaking at 3726 meters above sea level it's the second highest volcano in Indonesia, not to mention that it's an active volcano as well with the last eruption taking place only in 2010. Nice place for an adventure, isn't it?

Day -1: Singapore

My trip actually began in Singapore, as I had to do some shopping. I left all my warm clothes at home before coming to Asia and didn't want to freeze at the summit. I was not planning this trip in advance and, therefore had to do it last minute.

I stacked up in Decathlon store that has good quality well-priced items, which is perfect if you're on a budget. Finished within a day I was soon back in the air on my way to the adventure.

I flew from Singapore to Lombok with a short layover in Bali. Little that I know that the word "short" will have a totally new meaning soon.

The flight from Bali to Lombok was super short and took no more than 20 minutes (including takeoff and landing) and it was by far the shortest flight I've ever taken. I barely managed to get a couple of bites of the sandwich provided and watch first 6 minutes of the movie, when flight attendants already started collecting the trash and prepare for landing.

Ironically, the preparation for the flight and boarding took more time than the flight itself... Actually, no, boarding alone took longer than the whole flight.

Day 0: Arrival and night at volcano's foothills

As this was my first ascent of such king, I've booked an all-inclusive 3 day/2 night tour to the summit, to have experience for the future of how these types of trips are organized.

My tour consisted of airport transportation, accommodation on the day of the arrival, water, food, tents on the way to the top and guide and porter services. There are a bunch of companies organizing those, but I've picked one with most reviews - Rudy Trekker.

From the minute I've loaded my backpack in a van until the moment I've reached the village from where the climb starts (around 3 hour drive) me and my driver both tried to make small talk with varying results.

My takeaways from this interaction were quite poor:

 1. Lombok is the greatest island in the world
 2. My driver never been outside Lombok
 3. My driver has been at the top of the volcano almost 50 times (this, I believe, is quite exaggerated).

We've reached the village at around 2am in the morning and after the short briefing about the plan of attack I went straight to bed in the hotel nearby. Locals call it a hotel, but to me it was rather a tiny wooden room with a bed and a bathroom with no hot water - good start.

Day 1: hike and climb (10km)

When I woke up, it turned out that the house I've stayed in was indeed small, but located in a beautiful place overlooking the valley and mountains around. I was already able to see the summit and the long way that we had to cover in just 1 day. In 24 hours we should be at the top of 3726 mountain in front of me - not bad.

According to the plan, we would drive to the Sembalun village located at 980 meters above sea level at the back of the pickup truck and start the journey from there.

adventure preparation

You remember my driver who told me he was at the top of the mountain approximately 50 times and I didn't believe him? Well, I got an even more experienced guide leading me - a 17-year-old young guy who has been at the top once before. He proved his experience and physical condition by stopping every hour or so for a cigarette break.

By the way, that's him on the very first picture. He was so short that sometimes it was possible to see only the backpack walking on two legs.

What started as a somewhat walk in the park (only first couple of hours) quickly turned into a steep 3-hour climb. By steep I mean around 40-60 degree incline full of rocks, roots, mud and other substance - the whole package.

Views that we passed on our way were much worth it - untouched nature, fields, mountains and ocean around you.

As there were several groups climbing that day, there were many porters who formed a group and went up together, very often faster than the group with the guide. They went ahead, stopped at rest stations, prepared meals and then continued further on.

And by meals I mean hot meals, not just some quick made noodles. Rice, meat, vegetables, fruits, hot tea and sometimes dessert. Real stuff.

I forgot to mention that they walked in their flip flops and some even with bare feet. I can't imagine doing that with 50kg worth of stuff on my back.

The 3-hour climb was indeed a long and challenging one, but already by 6 pm the same day we already climbed to Sembalum crater rim at 2662 meters and camped there for an overnight stay.

We arrived at the same time with porters, but already within 30 minutes our tents were up, dinner was hot and everything was prepared. First class service, for sure!

Our camp was located on a ridge with mountains going down on both sides. On one side of the ridge there was a view to the ocean and the village we came from, but on the other side there was a view on the whole volcano crater and the most amazing sunset I've ever seen. Literally.


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