Climbing Active Volcano Mt. Rinjani, Indonesia

Maybe it was a little crazy of us to set off to climb active volcano Mt Rinjani considering that just 65 miles (105km) away Mt Angung was on high alert of imminent eruption, but we heard the views from the top were spectacular so we had to do it!  We booked onto a 3 day, 2 night guided tour with Rinjani Samalas and this is our adventure:

Day 0: Warm-up Walk to the Waterfalls

We were picked up after breakfast from our hotel in Senggigi by the tour company to be taken to the village of Senaru which is closer to the trek starting point. Once we arrived we had a briefing of what the trek would involve and some general info and advice – Rinjani is the second highest peak in Indonesia standing a 3,726m tall, it last erupted in September 2016, the forecast is good for summit day, for Europeans it is not cold enough for gloves and when climbing to the summit in the dark stick to the very narrow path as if you go to the edge you will fall and die.  Sounded like good advice.

In the afternoon we met our guide and he took us for a warm-up walk to the nearby waterfalls of Tiu Kelep and the more impressive Sindang Gile. Despite “forgetting” our entrance money for the walking trail meaning we had to pay, the guide seemed like a decent but quiet guy with a massive smoking habit that he had picked up since he was 5.  The waterfalls were decent and the trek pretty easy so we went to bed early in high spirits.

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Getting our feet wet at one of the river crossings
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Waterfall Tiu Kelep
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Waterfall Sindang Gile
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Waterfall Sindang Gile

Day 1: Senaru Village- Sembalun Village (1,150m) – Sembalun Crater Rim(2,639m)

We woke at 5.30 for an early breakfast and to watch sunrise before meeting our group which consisted of us and three Germans (Julia, Benjamin and Kristina) and heading to the start point.  Today we were going to trek up to the Crater Rim which would provide us with the closest camping spot to the summit and great views over the crater lake.

 

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The porters carrying our food and tents
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Where the hell are we?!
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Mt Rinjani covered by cloud
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Entering the clouds

 

 

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Our gang (plus a Chinese girl we befriended)
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How do they carry all that weight?
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Mystical views
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Wild country

The start of the trek was pretty gentle as we walked up a slight incline through grasslands passing the odd cow and heading closer into the clouds that were surrounding the volcano.  It wasn’t until after lunch when the climb got difficult and steep.  This is when it also started to rain which didn’t help but we made it to the summit at about 15.30 and all seeked shelter under a piece of tarpaulin as we waited for our guide and porters to put up our tents (spoilt!).

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Dirty work
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Party under the tarpaulin
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Great bunch!
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Is it a bird?
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What a view

Once our camp was set up the rain stopped and we had a chance to explore and enjoy the view.  Unfortunately, the view is some what spoilt by the mass of rubbish that has been thrown aside by previous groups. But, if you are able to look past this you get a stunning view of the lake, the crater rim and out into the cloudscape.

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Our tents, nicely on the edge to nowhere

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The amount of litter is rubbish

That night the temperature dropped and we huddled together in the porters tent to eat our dinner and share warmth before heading into our own tents and sleeping bags for another early night.

Day 1 Stats:

  • Walking Distance: 8 miles
  • Steps: 19,634
  • Flights Climbed: 381 Floors

Day 2: Summit (3,726m) – Segara Anak Lake and Hot springs (2,008m) – Senaru Crater Rim(2,641m)

A 2.30am start so that we can watch sunrise from the summit. Shit. It’s dark and cold and we are tired. But after a light snack breakfast we begin trekking.  It’s a three and a half hour trek to the summit in the dark up the narrow path which we were warned about falling down.  The wind is below, it’s cold and visibility is zero.  What are we doing?!  After 2.5 hours we get to the “hard bit” which, as well as being steep, is made up of volcanic sand so with each step you slip down slightly and the going is tough.  The thought of watching the sunrise over views of Lombok, Bali and the Gili Islands keeps us going.

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Looking good after the 2.30 wake up call

We arrive at the summit and wait for the sun to rise.  As it begins to get light we realise something isn’t right.  Instead of beautiful views opening up in front of us we are met by a wall of cloud.  Bugger.  We waited around absolutely freezing our tits off in the hope that the clouds would suddenly clear and we would be presented by epic views.  But alas, it never happened.  We’ve never felt as cold – ice was forming on our faces, our facial hairs were standing on end and we had no feeling in our feet. It was when our guide found us and mumbled “Please can we go back down now” through chattering teeth we knew it was time to give up and get warm.

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We made it to the top 🙂

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Enduring the freezing cold
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The view of the sunrise
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There were some breaks in the clouds but very limited

The walk back down was a little more fun (or dangerous depending on your viewpoint) as you could take large jumping steps and slide down the volcanic sand.  And then after we had dropped a couple of hundred metres we suddenly dropped below the cloud covering the peak and were treated to amazing views of the mountain and the islands around us.  It was stunning.  So we slowed our walk down, enjoyed the view and snapped away with our cameras.

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On top of the world
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Post summit nap and this time with a view

And all that was before breakfast!  We still had a full day of trekking in front of us so after another good feed and a quick nap we had a 3 hour walk down to the lake crater for lunch.  The lake was nice and peaceful so it was good to kick back for a bit and take in the surroundings.

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After lunch it was a short walk to the hot-springs.  We love a good hot-spring, especially natural ones, so were looking forward to a sweaty dip to relax our muscles and cleanse our skin.  A group of locals were sat on a big rock having walked up that morning as part of their hot spring ritual.  The locals say that the hot springs have magical powers to keep you fit – however, it seems more likely that the 4 hour mountain walk is the activity that is keeping them fit rather than the sitting in the hot springs.  Our guide pointed us to the area for tourists (not as hot as the point the locals get in) so put on our swimmers and headed in.  This is when we started to get a little disappointed.  Whilst the water was incredibly hot (Rob managed to get in and stay in the hot bit, everyone else went to the cooler section) it was a little dirty and smelly.  Even worse was the fact that someone had done a huge shit on the rock next to the pools.  Dirty bugger.  All this put us off the idea of sticking around so we made it quick and carried on with the trek.

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Louise making her way to the hot pools
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“Ooooooo that’s hot!”

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The last part of the day was a 3 hour walk around the lake and then back up to the other side of the crater.  Having regained height we had another spectacular view of the sun setting over the island and another very windy and cold night.

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Last night camp

Day 2 Stats:

  • Walking Distance: 12.5 miles
  • Steps: 32,052
  • Flights Climbed: 356 Floors

Day 3: Senaru Crater Rim(2.641m) – Senaru Village (601m)

Our final day trekking and due to aching legs we couldn’t wait to reach the end!  This was the easiest day of the trek as it was mainly fairly gentle downhill and under the cover of forest towards the end of the descent.  When we finally saw the finish post we cheered with joy and Rob shouted “Race you to the finish”.  This dashed Louise’s romantic hopes of crossing the line together and Rob was in the dog house for the next couple of hours.  After the euphoria of reaching the finish post we were then told that this wasn’t actually the end and we had to walk further down the road as the car couldn’t get up this far to pick us up. So we kept walking but still with a smile on our faces knowing that we would make it.

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Rob’s hiking boot footstep next to the bare foot of one of the porters (how do they do the whole trek in flip-flops or barefoot?)
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Our guide
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Woo hoo, made it back

What an amazing trek it was.  Whilst the summit was plagued with cloud cover we still got breath-taking views over the island and a hike that we will never forget.  Definitely a hike that we would recommend to anyone that is fit enough and/or mad enough to give it a go.  Afterwards achieving such a great feat we headed off to the Gili Islands to enjoy some R&R.

Look! You can check out the video highlights here.

Travellers Tips/Recommendations

Here are answers to some of the questions we originally had when trying to organise our Mt Rinjani Tour:

Is there any difference between tours?

Yes.  If you go cheap you will more than likely get cheap…but you may luck out.  The cheaper the tour usually means less food, no snacks, no chairs, colder sleeping bags, thinner camping maps and crap guide. We spoke to some groups who had gone cheap and they hated it as they were always hungry and the guide just left them.  However, some other people we spoke to that paid the cheap price too actually had great food and service. We were glad to pay the extra as we knew our guide, porters and food were going to be great.  It just depends if you want to take the gamble.

How should I chose which company to use?

Do your research.  Read reviews and blogs of people that have used them.  Ensure that you get a full itinerary, list of what is and isn’t included, what equipment will be provided and a copy of the menu.  You will then be able to make an informed decision.  Also, please chose one which state that they look after the environment and take their rubbish with them.  The place is a mess so anything you can do to minimise the disruption that you cause the better.

How do I book?

There are three main ways to book onto a Mt Rinjani trekking tour:

  • From a stranger: On Lombok (the island next to Bali where Mt Rinjani is) there are plenty of locals who will sell you a tour.  This tends to be the cheapest way to do it.  All you have to do is head to a popular tourist place and these guys will find you.  At Sengiggi beach we were approached by someone who seemed to be the Don of Senggigi – a proper wide-boy.  He offered us a really cheap deal, but all the info he gave us sounded dodgy.  He showed us photos from his phone of the tour he did yesterday but the weather was strangely different to what the weather was actually like the day before and he wasn’t in any of the photos.  Something told us not to trust this guy.
  • From a tourist shop: Tourist shops offer plenty of tour packages with the Mt Rinjani trek being their main product. The tourist shops are a little more expensive than the strangers on the street but the fact that they have a shop gives them a bit more credibility.  The closer the shop is to Mt Rinjani (e.g. the ones on Bali are likely to charge you more than the ones on Lombok) the cheaper it is likely to be.  We went to one which had good reviews but when we got talking to the guy it became clear that he was as high as a kite. We didn’t feel like trusting this guy with our lives.
  • From the internet: This is the most expensive way to book the tour.  We spent a while searching the internet, reading reviews and hunting for the best deal.  In the end we found a company that offered a good price and had awesome reviews.

Are there different routes/options?

There are a number of different routes/options.  The trek we did can be done the other way around (supposedly harder as the hardest day is on the last day so you will do this when you are more exhausted), in longer time (for those less fit or want time to chill by the lake a day) or a shorter option of 2D/1N where after you climb to the summit on the second day you walk back to the start point.  You can so these as either private tours or group tours.  Speak to the company you want to use if you are unsure what to do.

How do I pay?

You should be able to pay in cash or bank transfer.  Be warned, we had a few issues.  Firstly we tried to do a bank transfer but when we returned to the office at the end of the trek they said they hadn’t received the money (they hadn’t, our fault) so we had to get cash out.  Unfortunately the ATMs in the village stopped working due to a power cut (apparently this often happens) and had to be driven around trying to find one which worked.  So, our advice is to get cash out in a main town and then pay in cash on the day.

What about tipping?

Tips for guides and porters aren’t included.  These guys do a great job.  The porters do the whole route in either flip-flops or bare feet.  These guys are hard and have a serious smoking habit to fund.  The recommended tip is 100,000IDR ($7.50/£5.30) for the guide and 50,000IDR ($3.75/£2.65) for each porter.  Everyone should pay this amount.  If the guide or porters have been particularly good then pay them more.  However, if you’ve had a bad experience make sure you think about whether it was the guides fault or the porters – don’t punish both if it was the guide that let you down.

Is it difficult and how fit do I need to be?

It is hard.  On the day we went to the summit lots of people gave up part of the way up. You don’t need to be exceptionally fit though, it is more a mental game.  So if you are strong willed you will likely achieve it.  However, keep in mind that it’s not only the climb that is against you – the weather is freezing and the altitude makes the air thin and it’s therefore harder to get the oxygen you need. So if you are used to long walks/hikes, don’t mind an early start and are strong willed you should be able to do it.  Also keep in mind that the following days after you complete the trek your legs are likely to ache and you’ll be walking around like Pinocchio before he was made a human boy.  Ensure you are going somewhere to chill and relax for a while (we definitely recommend heading to the Gili Island’s or Senggigi).

Who do you recommend?

We went with Rinjani Samalas and didn’t regret it.  The whole experience was good, they fed us really well, we had good tents and warm sleeping bags. They picked us up from Senggigi and took us to the ferry port to get to the Gili Islands (they even paid for our ferry ticket!). They were a good trusting bunch and do seem to care about delivering a good customer experience. We paid 2,750,000IDR ($200/£146) each in Oct 2017.

What was the food like?

We had great food.  The helpings were good and there were always seconds/third helpings if you wanted.

Was there really a poo by the hot springs?

Yes. It was disgusting. Don’t get too excited about the hot springs.


11 thoughts on “Climbing Active Volcano Mt. Rinjani, Indonesia

  1. 1. Excellent post with amazing photos as usual.
    2. Screw that 2:30am wake-up call . Ugh…
    3. At least of that nearby volcano erupted, you would be up in a high enough elevation where the lava wouldn’t get ya! 😉
    4. Super informative! You guys always produce some quality stuff👍

    Liked by 1 person

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