August 29, 2014
The Importance of Being Together: My Rinjani Adventure

For mountain climbers, the joy of "being in this together" can be as profound as reaching the summit.

by Stu Astuti
Lifestyle // Travel and Leisure
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Up until this moment I still can’t believe that I have climbed the peak of Rinjani, the third highest mountain in Indonesia that stands 3,726 meter above sea level.
 
I’m what my friends call 3G or Gendut Gendut Gesit (Fat but Fit), but I managed the long and winding road toward the top, and I was touched and grateful when that moment came.
 
I went there last month with a group of 13 people – four women and 9 men – who call ourselves Selembar Kertas Nasi (One Rice Paper Wrap) or SKN. The peculiar name comes from the fact that the members always eat rice meal from the same paper wrap together when we go on an excursion.
 
We flew to Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, and went straight to the Rinjani area. The ticket for the area is Rp 5,000 (40 cents) for Indonesians, and Rp 150,000 for foreigners. The steep difference is to subsidize local hikers.
 
Despite some advice to hire porters, who are readily available at Rp 150,000 a day, we insisted not to, so I had to wrack my brains to pack as light as possibly. Ideally, we should not bring more than 20 percent of our body weight. Along the way, we met many foreign climbers who hired porters, and they gave us thumbs up for carrying our own stuff.
 




The climb began at Sembalun village on sloping hill, where we had a mesmerizing view of a savanna and mountains. We set a camp at Post 3 to spent the night there. The water source was puddles on the ground, but it was clean enough to drink. Having to look for clean water to drink and cook, I came to realization how priceless water is.
 
We were told that theft was rampant in Rinjani and that got us worried as the climbing equipment is certainly not cheap. Luckily, we met Ama, a wonderful porter who was willing to watch our tents while we climbed further. In return, we gave him some cigarette money.
 
 
Plawangan Sembalun
 
The next morning at 9 we started the climb, passing seven “Regret Hills”. They were endless hills, which make people regret their decisions to climb Rinjani (hence the name), but we managed to pass them and reached Plawangan Sembalun at 4 p.m.
 
Plawangan Sembalun is the basecamp for climbers before summiting. From here you can see the breathtaking Segara Anak, the crater lake within Mount Rinjani that is as blue as the ocean (the name means Child of the Sea).
 
This brilliant vista was ruined, however, by the sights of human’s droppings everywhere that made us tread the path very carefully to avoid stepping on them. The area was also filled with plastic, empty bottles, cans and food waste, a major problem affecting all over Rinjani. What a shame.
 
We climbed again at 2 in the morning, hoping to catch sunrise at the top. It was a long and arduous journey through steep tracks, on gravels and sands that flew up when we stepped our foot in.
 
I began to doubt myself because I failed to reach the top of Mount Semeru in East Java. I had trained really hard for this trip, but as my feet slowed and the cold weather numbed my hands and nose, desperation kicked in.
 
Luckily, I had great companies, without whom I would have probably given up hopes and gone back to the tent to sleep. My friends relentlessly cheered me up so I could go on. One of them, Ferry, was especially there with me the whole time, sharing laughter and tears, and all kinds of mixed emotion. The foreigners that we bumped into were also supportive, keeping our spirits high by saying that we nearly reached the peak.


The sun began to rise a few kilometers before the top, and one by one, all of us reached the peak at 6.30. Our friend Thomas wisely said, “Catching the sunrise at the top is not as important as being here together.” Indeed, we felt such a strong camaraderie that seeing our friends successfully summiting the mountain was a joy to behold. We hugged each other, cried our eyes out and laughed out loud when we reached our destination.
 

Segara Anak
 
After taking hundreds of photos, we descended to Segara Anak. But as we were four hours behind schedule, we only arrived at the lake at 10 p.m. Every body was exhausted and famished, but we didn’t have enough food on us.
 
I took up the task of being a chef, working with whatever food we had left to cook a meal. It was midnight when I was still busy cooking, and shouted to one of my friends, “You hungry? It will be ready in two hours!”
 
A porter apparently heard me and approached me.
 
“Why didn’t you say that you guys were running out of food? In the mountain we all are family.” He was climbing down the mountain the next day, so he gave me what he had: rice, onions and all sorts of vegetables.

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The next morning, we went to hot water pool at Segara Anak. It felt amazing as it washed away all the dirt and exhaustion. We went fishing and caught 13 fish to the envies of other people. We had a great, delicious meal afterward.
 

End of Journey
 
The journey toward Plawangan Senaru was steep at the edge of the lake and cliffs. The terrain changed into a sandy descent and then a tropical forest. It took us 11 hours to reach Senaru village.
 
We were beyond exhausted, but it was exhilarating as well. It was a great journey where I learned a lot. I learned that we shouldn’t worry too much – about thieves, or not being able to reach the top, or not getting a spot to camp. But, I have to admit, we should have really been more prepared and brought enough logistics to get by.
 
More importantly, though, I really learn to appreciate the saying, "Push yourself, because no one else is going to do it for you. "
 
I’m glad I did.
 

About Stu Astuti
Stu is a graphic designer and avid traveller who loves to climb mountain. Most of her paycheck has been spent for this adventure. She dreams to have a small house with a vast garden in a small city that has no traffic jam. She is currently looking for life companion who shares the same hobby and dream. Twitter: @stoeastuti