Racked with nerves in the lead up to this challenge I actually began to dread it and felt my enthusiasm slowly withering away. Knowing I get vertigo even when standing on a staircase, I still wanted to climb a volcano that stands at 3,726 meters / 12,408 feet high. Mount Rinjani is Indonesia's second highest volcano last erupting in 2010. What the ****! I found 3 other crazy fools Charlie, Maz & Adam to join me on this adventure and what an adventure it turned out to be!
I was asked (a lot) why I was doing this and the simple answer without sounding too cliche is because you only live once. I wanted to challenge myself, see how far I could be pushed physically and mentally. I decided to combine this trip with raising awareness for Mental Health, a matter I feel is extremely important and often gets over looked. I want to help break down the stigma that surounds this type of illness and use this opportunity to help others. I chose the chairty SANE to donate my sponsorship to, in hope it would help contribute towards research into the causes and treaments of illness such as depression, schizophrenia and suicide.
We arrived on the beautiful island of Lombok the day before we were due to start the 4 day trek. Sapri, the owner of the trekking company Galangijo Expeditions was on hand to drive us 3 hours from the airport to Senru village, near the starting point of Rinjani. We were briefed the night before by Sapri on what to expect when climbing this mountain and were told this was no easy climb. The mountain was broken down into 7 hills with each one getting steeper until you reach the top of the crater rim at 2,700 meters high. The description of the summit climb did not sound pleasant. A 3am climbing start after a full day of trekking up 7 rather large hills, believe me when I say these were no "hills", not the kind of hills we are use to. When I heard the words "the summit is dangerous" and "there is a 1000 meter drop on the one side" from Sapri I thought holy shit what have I got myself into!
After the summit climb you descend down to the crater lake Segara Anak Lake where Gunung Baru (the new volcano) lies. The 2nd night is spent at the lake and then another steep climb back up the crater walls and descend back down the other side of the mountain where the 3rd nights camp is be. Sounds easy eh!
We started the trek just shorlty after 9am where the temperature was already rising into the mid 20's with high humidity and a blistering sun above us. Flagging with jetlag we set off with our guide Hazif and our 5 porters who carried all the camping and cooking equipment plus all the food. These men were like superhuman beings we couldn't quite believe the load they were carrying on their shoulders, with only a pair of flip flops on their feet!
We walked for about 3 hrs before we stopped for lunch. This first 3 hrs was flat but openly exposed to the sun with no trees to provide shade. We actually found the first 3 hours the hardest, even before we started climbing any hills. It's laughable as we thought we should probably turn back now as we aren't cut out for this, I could see the look of disapointment on our guides face. He knew he had is work cut out for him with these 4 losers, it was going to be a long 4 days! Our Western bodies are not made for this climate, the heat was so intense it was exhusting and slowed us down but the thought of lunch kept us going.
We made it! Lunch time awesome! We really didn't know what to expect when it came to the food. I can honestly say we were
Seriously this tasted beautiful! Noodles & vegetables, chicken leg, tofu, prawn craker and an egg. Full of protein and full of flavour, it was as good as you would get in a restuarunt. Pineapple was served for dessert with tea and coffee. We were amazed to see the effort that went into lunch and the fact the porters even brought 3 different types of sauces and napkins. I was only expecting a pot noodle and maybe a broken biscuit.
We rested here for about an hour before we set off up the mount again. I took this time to go meet some of the porters and see how they cook in their mobile mount kitchens. It was facinating to watch how they worked in this envirnoment with so little equipment and how they pull together as a team.
I took a closer look at the load the porters were carrying, two large sized wicker baskets balanced on either end of a wooden pole that was carried over their shoulders. Some carried the food and cooking equipment, while some carried the camping equipment. It was quite amazing to see these men carry all of this and make it look as light as a feather while climbing up a mount. And did I forget to mention they only had flip flops on their feet, they made us look idiots in our hiking boots!
After an hour we started to make our way back up the next section of the mount. It was about 1pm and the sun was blistering. We were about to begin our 4.5 hour hike over the 7 hills up to Rinjanis crater rim. This is when the real trekking begins and no more flat fields. Now we understood why the portion sizes were so huge for lunch as there wasn't going to be another stop along the way and we would need all the engery we could get.
Heading into the clouds.
Stop.... break time! 10 minutes only though.
Adam having a biscuit break
Hasif our guide having a crafty smoke while we were all dying from exhaustion.
One superhuman porter!
Some hours later.... the summit is in sight!
Finally reached the first part of the crater rim
First views from the crater rim, absolutely breath taking!
Looking back at where we started almost 10 hours ago.
Our home for the night, huge drops on either side of our little camp space. At an alitutde of 2,700 meters here.
The start of a beauitful evening.
As the sun was going down the temperature followed, we quickly put layers of warm clothing on as the temperature can fall as low as 3/2 degrees. To us English that sounded like home. The wind started to pick up and we did feel the cold but thankfully we did our homework and came prepared with thermal clothing.
Our amazing guide and porters cooked us another top nosh meal and then we headed to bed at 9pm. Tired and exhusted from the days hike falling asleep was no problem. The next question is.... did we attempt the 3am summit climb?
Rinjani at night has the most spectacluar scenery I have ever experienced. As there was no light pollution around you could see what I think was the milkyway like a cloud of stars cluttered together. I don't think I have seen views this mind blowing before, not even on my previous travels. ,This place felt special, I took a moment to think about my family and friends, how important and precious people in your life are and how we shouldn't take anything for granted. I had my own personal reasons for being there and I said my goodbyes to one of the most special people in my life, while above the clouds and under the stars. A place and moment I will remember for the rest of my time.
Morning campers! Ok, so I kinda slept through the actual sunrise but this is still a sun rising if that counts eh? Didn't sleep too bad apart from the high winds sounding like it was battering our tent. My body on the other hand felt as heavy as lead, my muscles ached all over, god did they ache!
Unfortunately the guys didn't make it to the summit but I take my hat off to them for getting up at 2am and making the journey half way up. Me on the other hand nah, my fears got the better of me and I knew I wasn't cut out for that sort of climb. You need to be honest with yourself about your limitations and I've made peace with that. ,Believe me when I say it looked steep, I think I would have freaked and not been able to come back down. My wind battered tent was my safe place so I stayed right inside there. Vertigo you are a bitch!
After brekfast we headed down into the crater to Lake Segara Anak. As soon we started to walk towards the edge I started to have a major panic. Hello vertigo! We needed to climb down the inside crater wall which was so steep it looked completely vertical. It was actually on a 45 degree angle and every step was onto slippery rocks with nothing to hold onto (apart from your trekking pole) or stopping you from falling into the oblivion. I started panicking and said to the others I couldn't do this but I knew I had no choice if I wanted to get back. Having the extra pressure of the sponsorships for the fundraising made me think I can't chicken out now and let people down. Hasif was really good and held my hand the whole way down. My legs were shaking from the fear and I felt I had no control over my balance, convinced I was going to fall at any second. For anyone who doesn't get vertigo it is more the fear of falling rather than the fear of heights. Vertigo is the disoriention that brings on a dizziness from a false sensation that you think is happening around you. For me it can also brings on a seasickness sensation. In my crazy little head, I feel as though there is an invisable person wanting to push you off and that gravity is waitng to do its job! Don't worry the men in white coats are waiting for me the other end.
4 hours later after Maz took a tumble landing on her knee and my anxiety calmed down, we reached Lake Segara Anak inside the crater at an altitude of 2000 meters. The views all the way down the crater were spectacular. The lake itself was so tranquil the water looked like the sea, a beautiful turquiose colour.
Meet Gunung Baru (new mountain), this is where the active volcano lives, not a bad neigbourghood eh!
As if there are fish in a lake at 2000 meteres high, how did they get in there!
After lunch at the lake with the most stunning view ever, it was bath time in the hot springs! We were absolutely flithy from a day and a halfs worth of sweat, dirt and sun lotion. Nice!
Oh the joys!
The water looks gross shade of green but felt amazing, when your body aches as much as ours did this felt like being in a spa. I though the water would be warm but it was acutally hot! Hence the name hot springs... stupid. Naturally heated from the volcanic activity of Gunung Baru. We spent most of the afternoon paddling around nature's water park, minus the wave machine and a big slide! All we needed was a cocktail and some lylows to bob about on.
Back at camp just as the sun was starting the go down, the porters were fixing up another amazing dish. The temperture started to change slowly getting chilly and then turned cold but less wind compared to the top of the crater rim like the previous night.
Good morning Gunung Baru!
Group selfie before we start another full day of climbing, this time climbing back up the crater wall and over the top of the rim. We were worried about Maz's injured knee from the previous day, she was pretty much hobbling at this point. We said if need be we would carry her over the crater wall.
And heres our climbing wall....pah piece of cake!
Arh just what we needed a bush fire blocking our path. We decided to wait for it to burn out when it reached the rocks until hot rocks started falling down on us from above. The look of dread came over Hasif's face and he told us to move fast up that path. We climbed up the path as fast as we could with the fire burning about a meter away from us. It was scary to say the least. Felt like a scence from Indiana Jones!
A "shitting my pants smile" while clinging onto the grass wall.... ummm because that will save me!
My view from the grass wall with a path only afew feet wide. The paths were like this most of the way up. Thank god for Charlie, she pretty much held my hand the whole way up which really helped me stay calm. If I was going to fall she was coming with me! Maz was struggling at this point trying to climb as her knee was quite painful I felt awful for her. Hasif looked after Maz while Charlie look after me while Adam lead the way. The porters were probably already half way there.
We made it! You don't know how happy we were to have made it back up the crater wall and to be rewarded with this mind blowing view. It was all worth it! Every step, ache, pain and tear was totally worth seing this exhilarating view. I think my heart almost skipped a beat it was so beautiful. Nature did well!
After lunch with an amazeballs view, we headed down the other side of the mountain. Our view of the Gilli Islands and Bali was submurged by clouds that we were about to head into. Another 3 hr hike down the mountain and into the jungle for our nights final camp.
Our amazing team!
Hasif and his caveman skills. We all sat round the campfire getting to know more about our porters and their families. It was facinating to learn about their culture and how their ways differed to ours. They have far less than we do yet seem far happier.
Hasif had amazing spirit, not the best taste in music as he was always singing Burno Mars but always smiling and had so much energy. His english was good and he had a brilliant sense of humor. He was 27 and had been a guide for 4 years, he hated at first said his body found it hard but did it as his mother needed the money. He is hoping to go to Univeristy in Mataran (capital of Lombok) next year to be come an engineer. His family owns a food shop in Seranu, we asked him if we could meet his family after the trek as we felt we really got to know him after the 4 days.
The next morning we trekked the final 3.5 hrs through the jungle, along the way we met two locals from one of the near by villages who were hunting for goats. Look at their cool clothes and machete! As friendly as they looked you didn't want to mess with them or annoy them by making a load of noise to scare off their prey.
We made it! The finish line, we couldn't believe we had completed the trek. As much as we jumped for joy with the thought of the Gilli Islands and a shower only being a boat ride away, I felt sad in a way that it was all over. I felt proud to feel what we had just achieved 4 days up Indonesia's second highest volcano. Nothing could have prepared us for what to expect on this trek, by no means was it easy. By the end our bodies felt broken, muscles have never felt so sore and tight. But at the same time our bodies were full of adrenaline, this is what life should be about - experiences!
Hands down this was the hardest challenge of my life, not only physically but mentally and more so emotionally. My Dad passed away two days before I left for this trip. I'm unable to put into words how hard it was to find the mental strength to get on that plane and do this. I almost turned back at the airport. This became the real challenge not the actual climb. It was an emotional roller coaster to say the least. I felt he was with me the whole time and was looking after me when felt panicked. I couldn't think of a more wonderful and peaceful place to say my goodbyes while being above the clouds and under the stars. Surrealist moment ever. He will always be in my heart.
In the end I raised a total of £1,171.25 for the mental health charity SANE. Thank you to those who took the time and effort in supporting me and helping me raise a such a huge total making me feel extremely proud. I truly hope this will help someone in some way.