One step forward, two steps back.
After 6 hours of uncomfortable sleep, i woke up at 1.30am to prepare for the hike to the summit of Mt Rinjani. I say uncomfortable because i was either too warm or too cold. A small encumbrance but annoying nonetheless. Further to this, a friend in my group snored so loud that the whole crater rim might have heard him. The man sleeping next to me also joined in with the acoustics. Great.
I forced down a cold sandwich and hot tea, put on several layers of clothing and my head lamp, and we all head into the summit trail. A long trail of headlamps could be seen ahead of us, as if to light the way. I recall feeling nervous for the task ahead of me. Fatigue as well as i was barely recovered from the trek barely 9 hours before.
The hike is meant to take about 3-4 hours. The first part is a winding narrow path through large fallen rocks and shrubbery. Already, we could tell that the ground was very loose, and our feet sank into the rocks with every step we took. I set myself goals, 20 steps at a time, on and on and on. And on. Why does the summit seem so far away?
A bout 2 hours into the trek (exceeding the desired timeline by an hour already) we reached a flattish mountain ridge. It was still dark but there was sunlight stirring ahead. Jocko, our guide, could sense my fatigue and urged me on, saying i was half way there. My husband trailed along with me, step by step. The man of night time acoustics continued to push as well into the cold wind. Thoughts of giving up started to stir in my head. For me, they always do with these endurance type activities.
Then we came to it. HELLS PATH. The first 100 steps in and i was convinced of its name. It was steep and the rocks were really loose. One step forward, two steps back. Ok, i exaggerate. Two steps forward, half a step back. Step by step we trudged up, forgetting at times of each other, focused on getting up the damn slope. Along Hells Path, the summit comes into view, but it looks ever so far away. I looked back often to see my husband moving slower and slower. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask him if he wanted to turn back with me. The sun started to rise. Now we are 2 hours behind schedule! Trekkers were whizzing past me. Why are these people so fit?
Halfway up the slope, we were greeted with a most spectacular sunrise. I was thankful for the warmth as i couldn’t feel my fingers or my nose. 1.5 hours to go says Jocko. He holds my hand and starts to drag me up. More brownie points for Green Rinjani. I struggle to keep up feeling like my lungs were going to explode, i pull away from my disgruntled husband up the slope. My friend the snorer was now making a good determined pace. As he put it, his inner mountain lion kicked in.
It was 8am as we reached close to the summit. While struggling up, so many people were already heading back down. The closer to the summit we realised we might be the last 20 people of the day to summit. Good – summit all to ourselves. Bad – messing up the schedule, sun was getting HOT. At 8.30am, i made my final scramble to the top, finding one of my fitter friends had made it first. The relief and euphoria of reaching the summit of anything is a most wonderful feeling. My husband followed after and he was barely interested in hugging me or sharing congratulations. Turns out, he was really hungry.
Jocko ever the life saver busted out an apple, Tim Tams, and the holy Biskut Beng Beng while we enjoyed the bounty at the top. From the peak of Mt Rinjani, the whole crater lake can be seen. As the clouds had cleared, we could even see Mt Agung in Bali and also all three of the Gili Islands off Lombok. I’m a proud Malaysian but this beat the Mt Kinabalu view. Sorry. Its a winner.
Food eaten, pictures taken it was time to go back down. The crowds had trickled out and there were less than 20 people milling around the summit and Hells Path. Thankfully, descending is significantly easier as you can almost “ski” down the slope. One step forward, two steps slide. Great panoramic views going down and all our spirits were high. At the same time, we were also getting the sunburn of our lives. We all misjudged the trek and thought we would be back in time for breakfast so sunblock was barely considered. At least i had a hat.
We reached our camp at almost 11am. The average trekker reached at 7.30-8am. Jocko is a patient man. I couldn’t feel my feet.