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Indonesia: Gunung Rinjani

Gunung Rinjani at 7am
Gunung Rinjani at 7am, from Senaru

Friday morning saw me catch two bemos to the little village of Senaru, which teeters on the northern slopes of Lombok's towering volcano Gunung Rinjani (gunung means 'mountain' in Indonesian). On the way I got talking to a young bloke called Saina who said he ran a new losmen in Senaru, and he could help me get all the equipment needed for the hike up the still-active volcano that dominates the centre of Lombok. I gently refused his offers of a guide or a porter – a guy I met in Ubud convinced me they were totally unnecessary – but I rented a tent and roll mat off him for 24,000rp, and bought four days' food and some water for 28,000rp, somewhat cheaper than the equivalent costs in Australia and New Zealand. Packed and ready to roll, I spent a night in his new and delightfully positioned losmen, relaxing as the sun went down and the local mosque broadcast its chants over the valleys (Lombok is mainly Muslim, while Bali is mainly Hindu). The next day I got up ridiculously early to conquer another volcano.

A hand-drawn map
My only map - here be dragons!

Senaru to the Summit

A busy mountain shelter
Pos III at lunchtime

From Senaru, which is to the north of the mountain, I headed south through rainforest, climbing from Senaru at 600m to the crater rim at 2600m; the ascent was tiring, but it was a simple case of putting one foot in front of the other. I passed three very basic mountain shelters, known as Pos I, II and III on my map, but soon enough I reached the rim, where the most incredible views opened up in front of me. For the first night I camped right there on the rim, overlooking the inside of the crater, with its beautiful lake and second, still-smoking cone (the latter being the result of a recent eruption in 1994). The whole place was stunning; suffice to say that I have never seen a sight quite like the crater of Rinjani, even in Tongariro, and it was worth the six-hour uphill struggle just to see that view.

Mark on the first rim of Gunung Rinjani
Resting on the first rim at 2300m, with the main 3726m peak in the background
Campsite on the first rim
My campsite on the first rim
The view into the crater
The descent into Rinjani's crater, with the main peak visible in the far distance
A sunset view from Rinjani's second rim at 3000m
The sunset from Rinjani's second rim at 3000m; you can just make out the tip of neighbouring Bali to the right of the sun
Mark on the summit of Gunung Rinjani
On the summit

Monkey Business

The main crater, Gunung Rinjani
Looking into the crater from the descent

Every park has its pests, whether they're rats, mosquitoes, dingoes or sandflies, but in Rinjani there are two especially annoying pests, namely monkeys and humans. The humans are only irritating for the rubbish they leave behind, but the monkeys are as annoying as Fraser Island's dingoes; they will open your tent (yes, they know how to operate zips), steal your food and throw the rest of your stuff around, if you don't keep guard. I never left my tent alone, and when I hit the summit one of the guides stayed behind to guard the camp, but occasionally you come across a territorial monkey who's got an attitude.

The hot springs
The hot springs, where I was attacked by a monkey with attitude
Looking back to the summit from the rim
A last view of the summit and crater lake before starting the descent
Clouds against the slopes of Gunung Rinjani
Breaking through clouds on the descent

1 A few weeks before I visited, a Dutchman died on Rinjani from exposure while camping on one of the rims. Rinjani is not a climb to take lightly, though with sensible precautions it's not unsafe.