How to climb a volcano
Usually, when on holiday, I like to fully dedicate my time to a cherished eat – sleep – surf routine, which, in the past, has been proving a great way to enjoy my time off. This time, however, my dear friend Minna dared me to break the cycle and get active.
After a couple of days at the beach, she did some research on local stuff to do and eventually decided that we should climb the “Rinjani Volcano”, the tip of which we had been seeing peeking out of the clouds. With an elevation of 3726 m, Mount Rinjani is the second highest mountain in the archipelago. In all honestly, we had no idea what that really meant, but we sure liked the sound of it.
After a quick briefing from our guide, who introduced us to the route (over here you have to be careful, last month two Italiens had died) we started walking with a group of 8, most of them experienced hikers („… oh yeah, last year we did the Everest Basecamp“).
Trekking shoes, ugly sweat-absorbant T-Shirts, two-in-one pants with zippers as far as the eye could see… Minna and I were really proud of our “down-to-earth travel gear”, a policy that had worked well up to that point. With a small backpack and in good spirits, we started the first section of the trip.
We crossed huge exposed grasslands that looked a lot like the “Lord of the rings” scenery. As the sun burnt down heavily, and with temperature over 30°C, I started to get a little worried about my less-than-appropriate outfit. Walking in (ducktape- enhanced) Vans and denim shorts through hip-high grass in a tropical country…turned out to not have been the best idea. Eventually my breath started to quicken and for the first time in my life, I understood the concept of eyebrows (natural sweat-stoppers). I was so busy keeping up with my group, that I forgot about all the deadly animals of Indonesia. 40 minutes into our climb, I looked at the bright red face of my partner in crime and knew she felt as terrible as me. What did we sign up for? Heat, sand in my shoes, burning legs… and we’d only just left! I simply couldn’t imagine to walk another six hours like this.
But I did.
Once we got past the grassland, we no longer walked but literally climbed. Every step was a big stair and my legs were shaking from exhaustion. Our teammates, who were equipped with sci-fi technology, couldn’t stop wondering about the “altitude meters” we were making in such a short time. We didn’t know what that meant, we just knew it was the hardest thing we had ever done in our lives. My heart bpm was on a drum’n'bass mission and my head felt like I had tried to squeeze it into a helmet that didn’t fit.
After almost 8 hours of climbing, we reached the crater rim, well before our guides, who were a little slower due to their ramadan diet. Seeing other groups setting up their tents, making fire or just sitting in the evening sun playing cards, was one of the most idyllic things I’ve ever seen. With clothes soaked to the skin with sweat and dirt, I stood at the crater rim and felt dizzy and sick to my stomach. Exhaustion? Altitude sickness?
I wasn’t prepared for any of that so with short breath I looked around and spotted a good looking guy that sat up his tent on his own. He had a matress laying around and without muh hesitation I layed down on it, not waiting for an answer to my brief attempt of politness by asking “May i?”. He laughed at me and even gave me a blanket before I passed out.
At 2 AM, our guides woke us up to climb the remaining distance to the peak of Mount Rinjani. It was freezing cold when I got up, my whole body was aching from muscle pains. We sat around the bonfire, drank sugary tea and got ready for the final climb. Equipped with just questionable hooded jumpers and a little torch, Minna and I climbed up a slippery pebble path and got to the top just in time for the sunset.
It was surreal. Two days ago, we had layed on a tropical beach, eating coconuts and now we stood on top of this dramatic volcano with faces numb from the cold. Sore all over and too tired to talk- but infinitely happy that we had made it!
I hate to say it, but I admit, I would never do it again. Nonetheless, the experience was one of the most memorable ones I have made in my life so far. I guess what I’m saying is that you should do it, just donʻt say I didnʻt warn you.
This guest post was written by Sarah Weinknecht. Sarah lived in Marseille and Bangkok before moving to Berlin to attend the University of the Arts. Brought up by Hippie, Van-owning parents, she actually traveled before she could walk. After years of “traditional” backpacking, she fell in love with surfing on her favourite island Bali. Ever since, Sarah is oscillating between Berlin’s cultural scene and remote beaches in Indonesia. Find her on Tumblr.