Our Rinjani Trekking mini series:Extra: How to choose a reliable trekking Company
With no doubts, the prize for the most spectacular and diverse trek we did in Indonesia goes to Gunung Rinjani in Lombok Island. And that's a quite impressive record, considering that we have climbed several volcanoes in Indonesia and all of them have a distinctive feature making them unique. Just to name a few: Gunung Merapi, said to be the most active Volcano in the world; Gunung Bromo, the most famous and perfect for postcard pictures; Gunung Kelimutu and its three differently colored lakes. As you probably understood, Indonesia is a paradise for hiking lovers!
Our Gunung Rinjani trip, was a long awaited expedition that we had planned several weeks in advance, as we are not used to do. We didn't want to miss it, being the second tallest volcano in Indonesia, with 3726 meters (12,224 ft) and one of the most impressive to climb.
So we decided to savor this experience slowly instead of rushing and taking the fastest option available and we booked a 4 days 3 nights package with Adi Trekker at convenient conditions.
We usually travel independently, but since a guide was said to be mandatory to access the Rinjani National Park and engage in the long trek, we relied on the services of a company that we found to be reliable, offering us also porters, food and camping equipment.
Reaching Lombok Island and preparation for the trekking
We arrived in Lombok Island hitchhiking from Bali and getting a free ride on the back of a motorbike to enter the ferry for free, before sharing the price of a local minibus with other visitors to reach Senggigi at dark.
After our adventurous approach on a shoestring budget to Lombok Island, it was funny to find a private transfer organized by Adi Trekker, waiting for us in Senggigi. In just a few minutes we left our role of low cost backpackers to fit inside the one prepared for us of spoiled tourists.
We arrived at dark at the base camp of the company not far from Senaru Village, one of the access points to Mount Rinjani, and slept in a close by hotel.
The room was basic but clean and comfortable, and in the rush of the morning, while getting ready for our expedition, we even managed to eat the tastiest pancakes of our 1 year in Indonesia!
After breakfast we joined a pick up truck already full of other hikers and workers, and reached the starting point of the trek on the side of Sembalun village, where another crowd of trekkers, porters and guides were already waiting to unleash their legs.
We were introduced to our guide and the two porters we were assigned, and while we were getting the privilege of using a real toilet for the last time in the next 4 days, they took care of all the bureaucracy.
Off we go!
The beginning of the hike was quite easy with a mildly ascending terrain and an easily recognizable path passing through orchards and grassland, so that we didn't have to focus too much on the route. Our attention was grasped mostly by the people on our way, both visitors and workers.
There were so many hikers that we couldn't believe it, considering that a multi-day trek in Rinjani Volcano is not the cheapest activity in Indonesia. We were forming at times a continuous single line as the eye could see, and we were wondering the reason for a compulsory guide, since it was so easy to follow the path or the other trekkers.
Given that we were climbing right after the Ramadan festivities, that might have been the reason for so many hikers.
The porters: the “angels” of the Rinjani Trekking
But mostly we were intrigued by the porters and their outfits, most of them wearing just Flip Flops! Yes, that's not a mistake, just bare, simple flip flops that you would expect to see in Bali's beaches but not here. Not to mention that some of them were even trekking barefoot!
This was actually my first trekking where we had porters: since 2009 when I hiked for weeks around the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal without porters or a guide, I've always been questioning myself what would be the best moral decision. To hire the porters so that they could have a job, or not to, because it's a form of modern slavery?
Still no answer to my moral question. For this time we just made sure that we would carry by ourselves our own luggage, leaving them no extra weight than what was given them by our Hiking Company.
And of course they had no technological backpacks, all of the porters were using those typical Indonesian carriers made with 2 bamboo baskets, that you have to balance on one single shoulder. From time to time they were switching side while walking, in order to rest the aching part before switching again, and so on until they couldn't bear it anymore and needed to stop for some serious rest.
So just imagine climbing a steep slippery path, barefoot, with dozens of kilos on your shoulders and no help from you hands because they are busy balancing the weight... that's their daily life along the Rinjani Trekking! Honor to them.
Hiking through the Savannah
The first part of the trek is going through a Savannah like environment, with the mountains visible at the horizon but partially hidden by the clouds, showing their bumpy feet below this thick curtain, with little vegetation and a sandish ground.
After about 1 hour and a half we reached POS 1 Pemantuan at 1.425 meters, the first organized stop.
There were just a couple of shelters, totally underestimated comparing their capacity with the multitude of people left unprotected. Other than that just and an out-of-order toilet that nobody would ever wish to use.
After a short stop we started again our way up, and more and more people were crossing our way from the opposite direction carrying fishing lenses, some of them so young to look below 10 years old, and of course alone and without a guide.
We would later realized that many locals from the surrounding villages go to Segara Anak Lake fishing on its rich waters.
Camping meals along the route of the Rinjani Trekking
About half an hour later we reached already POS 2 Tengengean at 1510 m where most of the groups were already preparing their lunches.
Tourists were gaily relaxing while porters and guides were working hard to create something tasty out of the few ingredients they did carry.
Be sure to communicate in advance your dietary requirements to your company and ask not to use “Motto”, internationally known as MSG, a neurotoxin widely used in Indonesia to add taste to the food and ask not to exceed with chemical tastes so common in the industrial noodles abused by most of the companies along the route.
While going a little bit further in research of our lunch spot, we were impressed of the unbelievable view: a never-ending line of trekkers aligned along the bridge that seemed like waiting for their meal at a wedding reception, but without a proper dress!
There were trekkers everywhere, and every single hideout was taken by the porters with an improvised camping kitchen, trying to screen the fire from the wind.
The porters were quite organized, carrying not only food and utensils but also tarps to put their guests at ease while sitting in a clean surface. But being the sun so strong and no permanent shelters available around, we were wondering how it came that nobody thought about building a temporary shelter to protect them from the sun! At least we were privileged to have also camping chairs in case we wanted, but we found laying on the ground to be more welcoming to rest our muscles already proven by the first hours of trek under the heat.
Good news is that there were several saplings planted around our lunch spot with a “technological” dripping irrigation system made with a broken plastic bottle, so that in the future there might be a chance to find a nice shade.
Garbage management in Rinjani Volcano
Everywhere along the route, but mainly in the camping areas and in the official POS, you'll see a big problem with garbage: many people, mostly local hikers but not only, just throw things around or in the “best case” burn the garbage in open fires, so that while you are eating your meal you are also breathing the toxins of the smoke.
I had to argue with a guide of another company, that should be of example to its guests, because I saw him throwing in the nature first an aluminum can and just 2 minutes later a used napkin. But it was also nice to see along the way some more sensible local hikers collecting all their used plastic bottles to take them back down.
So make sure to speak with your company about Garbage Management: the best solution is for your porters to collect all the waste that you are producing and bring it back to the base camp! Our helpers were luckily quite accustomed with this procedure.
Reaching POS 3 and beyond
After lunch we went back to the route and we started getting closer and closer to the feet of Rinjani with an ever changing landscape.
What really amazed us of Rinjani trekking was the big diversity of its ecosystems, passing from Savannah, to Rainforest, to desertic land, with rivers of consolidated lava totally covered in flowers.
About half an hour of walk later we passed another small shelter, POS 3 Pada Balong, at 1770 m with just a few people taking advantage of its shade while most of the trekkers were going forward towards their goal.
Another small shelter was actually located just 10 minutes later, with more “customers” stopping for a rest. It was really interesting to see local hikers being so strict with their prayers, and in a hidden hideout some devote Muslims genuflecting and praying directed towards the city of Mecca.
We were still at the beginning of our expedition but we already had the change to experience with our own eyes so many peculiarities and interesting facts!
Looking in front of us the path was about to get steeper, and we were gathering our energies before facing the road to reach the ridge of the crater of Gunung Rinjani.
Disclaimer: While our trek in Mount Rinjani was donated by Adi Trekker, everything we wrote in this report was our first hand experience and our sincere opinion about it.