Adventurer Jonno Smith recently hiked Mount Rinjani (3,726m), an active volcano on Lombok Island in the Lesser Sunda archipelago. Back in the land of internet, showered and slightly refreshed, he recalls the ups and downs of a remarkable three-day trek.
I was picked up 5.30am and taken to Senaru, where I joined a lovely, cool and funny German couple, our equally hilarious guide Gda, and our two porters, Jumati and Kiawati. We were taken on the back of a ute to Sembalun, the place where we would set off.
The first day’s going was steep and the sun shone bright for most of the morning. Then the clouds rolled in to give us a misty walk up to the Rianjani crater rim, approx 2,800m. The wind was picking up the whole way and, as we reached the top after about nine hours of climbing, was gusting 30 knots.
After a large beer, which our enterprising porters had carried up for a exorbitant fee, we ate dinner and crawled into our tents for a 2am wakeup to tackle the highest summit. I hardly slept due to the wind battering the tent. I had visions of the wooden pegs being ripped up and me getting swept off the side of the volcano inside my sleeping bag.
2am arrived and we were off within an hour. We joined a bedraggled line of humanity, our torches lit as we clambered up the volcano which offered little in the way of footholds.
The ash was deep and slippery, and the wind blew through my jacket. I passed more than a few of my 150 or so fellow trekkers, who, with teeth chattering, were stumbling and sliding back down to base camp. A couple of ridges were only a few metres wide, with massive drops into the darkness on either side.
The sunrise from Rinjani was spectacular. The photo below is looking into the volcano and the smoking Gunung Barujari, an opening within the crater rim of Rinjani which last erupted only 22 days beforehand - an event significant enough to close Bali airport some 75kms away.
After descending, we packed our swag and climbed into the crater itself and headed toward the crater lake - another three hours of steep climbing. We found thermal sulphur springs, stripped off and washed the thick grime from our skin.
Another hike along the waters edge, followed by a climb halfway up the opposite side of the crater, took us to the campsite. With no wind and only a light chill, sleep came easy.
On the final morning we used our hands and feet to get up the steep face of the crater. At the top, looking back on the sheer size of Mt Rinjani and the crater, it was more than rewarding to see what we had tackled.
Another five hours down the other side of the volcano, the first over rocks and ash, the rest through rainforest with washed out tracks and thick roots, really put the strain on. Monkeys chattered over our heads and stray dogs come up to say hello, eager for a pat and something to eat.
By the time we reached the bottom I was done. For the first time I realised that, at 36 years old, my age is catching up with me. I must train if I want to do these crazy challenges without being utterly punished afterwards.
It is hard to fathom how our porters set off on the same trek twice a week, wearing flip-flops and carrying 35kg of equipment braced over their shoulders by a length of bamboo. Absolute machines.
Jonno Smith is currently embarking on a full lap of the world without the use of aeroplanes. He set off from Tasmania in August 2015 and can be followed on Instagram.