I recently spent a few weeks in Indonesia and decided to trek to the Mount Rinjani Crater. I wouldn’t call myself an expert hiker…more of a barely functioning hiker. Why do I sign up for these kinds of things when I can barely run two miles? Maybe I just can’t resist great views and getting some exercise while travelling is never a bad idea, right? If you’ve followed my blog you’ll know that I did two major hikes last year, Trolltunga and the Inca Trail. I still am not sure how I managed to survive those hikes. I think I just like to
torture challenge myself!
Mount Rinjani is an active volcano on the Indonesian island of Lombok, aka Bali’s neighbor to the east. It is the 2nd highest volcano in Indonesia. There are two trekking routes, one from village of Senaru and the other from Sembalun. If you are planning to see the summit with only 2D1N, then Sembalun is the only option, as it starts from a higher elevation and is a shorter trek. From Senaru you can opt for the 3D/2N trip in which you see the crater rim and the summit (sort of the “classic” Rinjani trek) or just the 2D/1N where you go to the crater rim.
This blog has more detailed info on both treks with pros and cons. Sembalun vs Senaru Trails
My travel partner and I had set aside a couple of days to do this. Originally we had thought to do the 3D2N trek but we didn’t allow enough time for this. Plus when I heard that the last few hours of the summit climb were in the dark at 3 AM through volcanic ash and that for every two step forward, you slid one step back, I said, “Next option please?” We decided on the 2D1N Senaru Crater trek.
Despite thinking about doing this for months, the actual plans where literally made at the last possible second, thanks to the good-natured and extremely helpful Jou of Jou Trekking.
Let’s back up to a few days earlier, when I left my trekking shoes in the car of our Nusa Penida day tour. I eventually got my shoes back but not until after the trek. There are literally no athletic shoes of any type to be found on the tiny island of Gili Trawangan, where I was in the time between losing the shoes and the trek. I was crestfallen that I was letting my friend (who is an expert hiker/mountain man) down by losing my shoes and us not being able to hike.
Furthermore, I had a lack of warm clothes due to my previous three months of travelling in Southeast Asia. My friend kindly lent me a base layer and warm socks. I managed to find a sweatshirt somewhere in Bali earlier. That’s all I had. Oh and did I mention that due to poor planning and time constraints, we had to start the trek on the same day we arrived from Gili T. Most treks want you to arrive the day before, get settled and briefed and then start early in the morning. I have to make things more challenging, of course.
Between the time factor and my lack of shoes and other appropriate gear, I was already starting to think of alternative plans for the days allotted to hiking. I had sent an email to a few trekking organizations and Jou wrote back immediately and was quick with responses to all of my crazy questions.
Yes he could lend me shoes. He even had small women’s sizes. Yes he had a warm jacket for me. Yes, we could start hiking the day we arrived. He basically was able to make everything possible for us. To put this in perspective folks, this was around 5:00pm in the evening the day before we would start trekking.
Excited that we now had plans, we found out that the earliest ferry from Gili T to Lombok was at 8:00 AM. We boarded that ferry (which was the
overcrowded public ferry btw) and arrived to Bangsal Harbour in Lombok. I could write another post on that crazy clusterf#$% of a harbour but not today. Luckily Jou anticipated the normal harbour bullshit struggles and had a driver waiting for us with a sign with our names. Apparently the competition is fierce and people will flat out lie to get you in their taxis or on their tours. Jou had even sent a picture the previous night of the exact sign so that we wouldn’t get hoodwinked.
We were driven to Jou’s office in the village of Senaru in record time. We met Jou and our fun guide, Jarto, inhaled some yummy banana pancakes, and I picked out shoes and a warm jacket (he actually had choices for me that fit!) out of supplies that other trekkers had left or donated. After we were geared up and fed, we finally started the trek at 11:00 am, which is hours later than most hikers, but we were determined to be faster due to our smaller group size and having 50% of us be very fast hikers (I was obviously the limiting factor here). We needed to get to the crater before sunset to enjoy the view and to avoid hiking up slippery rocks in the dark.
Reaching the Mount Rinjani Crater from Senaru village is straight uphill. For 2000 meters. It is mostly shaded rainforest, which is nice. There are macaque monkeys in the forest to keep you company. Watch out because they are fearless, have big teeth and are thieves!
We stopped for short breaks here and there, we ate lots of Oreos as well as the Indonesian version of Oreos, and we had a delicious fresh lunch cooked by our porters.
The last hour or so of hiking is steep rocks and is the hardest part. I can’t say I enjoyed feeling like I was going to fall and have a serious rock related injury every second, but when I managed to look back, the views were gorgeous.
We reached the crater rim around 5:30 pm. The sun set around 6:15. My first view of that crater rim took my breath away. Ok, I was already barely breathing.
It’s not every day I see a volcano inside of a crater lake of another volcano!
We watched the sunset, then immediately changed out of wet sweaty clothes into clean warm clothes. It was extremely cold and windy. I could barely drink my celebratory Bintang. My hair was literally soaked from sweat and now I had wet cold hair. This picture looks like I just took a shower!
Of course I didn’t have gloves or a hat (hint…I recommend both!) so I lost feeling in my hands for about an hour. No biggie. I was afraid I wouldn’t sleep well so I took a sleeping pill. I roll with plenty of pharmaceuticals. It’s ok, I’m a nurse. I know what I’m doing, most of the time.
I didn’t need to worry. The sleeping bag was actually warm and the multiple layers I threw on did the trick. I woke up sweating. We rose around 5:30 am to watch the sunrise on the crater rim.
My only regret is that our tent was not on the crater rim. There was a huge group that arrived before us and took all the space. We had a ten minute trek over those damn rocks to get to the rim. My lazy sore self did not want to do any more hiking than I had to, dammit!
We had breakfast (take a guess…banana pancakes, the staple breakfast for tourists in SE Asia) then packed up for the descent.
This was definitely less challenging on the lungs compared to ascending but murder on the joints. Not to mention, much of the way is slippery and rocky. I almost wiped out many times! Ok maybe I fully wiped out once or twice.
Can we talk about these amazing porters? They carried over 50 kg each, with a crude bamboo pole balancing two heavy loads, and somehow wore sandals and basically skipped down these rocks.
After lunch it began to rain…hard. We trudged through the rain for about an hour before it stopped and arrived at the base around 2:00pm. After a brief rest and change of clothing, we decided to go and see the two waterfalls that are nearby. This was also part of the trek package. Usually visitors do this the day before the trek.
There are two waterfalls here, Sindang Gile and Tiu Kelep. The first is much easier to get to as it is close to the road. The second involves a 30 minute hike, sometimes climbing over rocks and walking through icy cold rivers. More potential injuries for me, I thought! However, the effort is worth it as it is definitely a stunning waterfall.
Be careful with your gear. The spray from the waterfall extends further than you realize and things become soaked quickly. I only used my GoPro since it is waterproof but I was wishing it had windshield wipers!
That night we stayed at a guesthouse across the street from Jou’s office. This and the dinner here were included in the trek price. Jou was very helpful in finding us a ferry back to Bali for the next day. I recommend you arrange this ahead of time and not at the last second like we did (are you sensing a theme here?). We weren’t able to get the quickest and most ideal ferry but we made it none the less. Jou arranged transportation to get us to the harbor and once again the driver was excellent and made good time.
Looking for more adventure in Indonesia? Want to see what’s like to visit Orangutans while living on a boat in the rainforest in Borneo? Read How to See Wild Orangutans
You can shop here for convenience. I get most of my gear from Amazon. I do use affiliate links and may receive a small commission if you buy things. Any income I make goes right back into this blog to help me to keep bringing you good content. These are all things I use and love or else it wouldn’t make the list!
I like the Osprey Tempest Women’s 20 L. This backpack is designed for women’s shape. It has tons of pockets and handy places to stuff things and can fit a water bladder. I especially like the little pockets on the waist strap that can hold chapstick or a phone. I used it everyday for my 3 months in Asia.
This 2L Camelbak water reservoir worked well for me.
These are my favorite trekking shoes. The Merrell All Out Blaze Aerosport Hiking/Water Shoe. They are light, sturdy, comfortable, can go in water and dry quickly and can even be worn without socks for short times.
Hot Chilly’s brand has been my go to for skiing and hiking in cold conditions. All good baselayers are an investment. If you want to look into other brands I also like Patagonia and Sub Cold, but the prices may be a tad higher than Hot Chilly’s.
This jacket is the lightest I’ve ever seen. It is easily stuffed into a teeny pouch. Comes in many great colors! It’s great for any trip, not just hiking.
Warm Jacket (for nighttime and if you do summit)
I love this jacket. The Northface Thermoball. It comes in many great colors, is super warm AND light. It packs so easily as if it’s all air. Best part is that it’s down alternative. Cruelty-free plus if it get’s wet, it maintains insulation, unlike down. On this trip, I didn’t have it but it would have been great. I have taken it on any other trip where I will be doing outdoorsy things in a cool climate.
I use the GoPro Hero 5. This set of accessories is great. There is a selfie stick for GoPro and with an attachment of cel phone. There is a removable base that makes it a tripod. It even comes with cleaning solution and a cloth.
Keep wet stuff from getting the rest of your stuff wet and the dry bag keep you phone or camera and other electronics nice and dry!
This sunscreen is high quality with good environmentally friendly ingredients. Is a tiny lightweight stick and lasts a long time! I take it everywhere.
Change of Socks
If you are worried about your level of fitness, I would say that it is 50% mental. Train by walking up steps and hills as much as possible. Do exercises to strengthen your legs and glutes such as squats. Power walking or running to build stamina. I am not lying when I said I can barely run 2 miles, but I managed to do this. My legs burned for days, not going to lie. I stopped quite a bit to catch my breath. I kept going. Mind over matter is what they say, eh?
I’m happy I was able to do this hike. It truly made my entire Indonesian adventure more epic.
Do you think you would climb the Mount Rinjani crater? Have you hiked it already or other mountains? Tell me what you think!