We woke up at around 630 am. After washing-up and packing, we proceeded to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Our guide and porters arrived very early and waited patiently for us outside the hotel gate. There were 10 porters altogether; a ratio of almost 2 porters to one hiker. The original hiking package included 8 porters only, but being the typical “kiasu” Singaporeans, we requested for two additional porters to act as reserve porters in case any porter falls out (just kidding) or to carry our daypacks so we can hike with our hands- free (kidding too).
Each of us was allocated 3 liters of drinking water (bottled mineral water) daily which would be distributed to us during meal times. Hence, for the starting of the trek, we only carried about 1 litre each knowing that it would be replenished again during lunch time. Other than water, we also carried our own valuables, passports, phones, cameras, some warm clothings, medication, trekking sticks and some snacks. Our day packs weighed about 3 – 4 kg each, a far cry compared to the 25kg load carried by each porter.
Most of the porters moved off ahead of us except for Abdul and two other porters (one of them was Abdul’s younger brother) who carried big backpacks instead of hauling weights on bamboo ends (the carrying styles of other porters). The advanced party would prepare lunches/dinners and set up campsites/tents while waiting for the “glampers” to arrive.
From our hotel, we could see the peak of Mount Rinjani. Initially, we thought that our guide was kidding when he showed us the peak because it looked short and near. Later in my “mountaineering” (not more than 5000 m) experience, i came to realise that destination peaks may look very near and approachable, but in reality the time and effort required are much more than what the mere appearances suggest.
First, we walked to the Rinjani Information Center (15 mins away) to register for the climb. In the middle of the registration office was a big Plasticine model of Mount Rinjani with the various climbing trails which Abdul used for his route briefing to us. Abdul also briefed us on the safety and rubbish management procedures. We started the hike proper at about 8am.
The first part of the trail was walking through open grassland used by the locals for cattle grazing. Along the way, we saw a big herd of cows moving down the trail towards us. We had to stand at the trail edge so as to let them pass through. There were many cow dung along the trail. Some were dried up and hardened while others were mushy fresh with flies hovering around. We actually spent more time looking down to avoid these landmines than looking up to enjoy the surrounding scenery.
We reached Pos I Pemantauan (~ 1,300m) around 10am. We took a break around a small shelter. Abdul’s brother took out a watermelon from his backpack and cut it into slices with his pocket jackknife. After two hours of continuous hiking under the hot sun, we really appreciated the amazing cooling and thirst quenching properties of watermelon.
We reached Pos II Tengengean (~ 1,500 m) around noon. The area around Pos II was already crowded with hikers and porters coming in from the opposite direction. All of them were either having or preparing lunch. Our lunch area was on some solidified lava platform further down Pos II. Lunch was soup noodles, plain rice, banana and pineapple.
We continued the hike at around 1pm. We reached the next checkpoint Pada Balong (~ 1,800m) around 2pm. After Pada Balong, it was steep uphill all the way to crater rim 2 – Plawangan 2. The 3.5 hrs trek from Pada Balong to crater rim was the toughest stretch (if we exclude the final trekking stretch to the summit) along the whole trail. There were so-called “seven hills” along this stretch; actually just one continuous uphill punctuated by 6 small flat grounds which served as resting points. It was like doing repetitive training; trekking strenuous uphill for 20 -30 mins, resting for 5-10 mins and then repeating similar cycle for 6 times before one reaches the crater rim. We reached crater rim 2 at around 530pm.
Crater rim 2 is a narrow ridge by the edge of the crater. There is no direct access from crater rim 2 to crater rim 1. Some sections of the rim are treacherous cliffs and are not trekkable. One has to trek down from rim 2 to the lake below and then trek up via another route to rim 1. There was no specific camping ground at the rim. By the time we climbed up to rim, it was already dotted with bright coloured yellow and orange tents from one end to the other. Luckily our advanced party reached earlier to reserve a good site (by the inner edge of the rim with direct view of the lake below) for our tents otherwise we might have to camp on the outer edge of the rim with less impressive scenery.
Our sleeping and kitchen tents were already fully set up when we reached our camp site. Dinner was Nasi Briyani with chicken and egg (the porters actually carried crates of eggs up the mountain). It was kind of romantic to have dinner by the edge of the rim while watching the sun set down the mountains behind the opposite rim.
It started to get really cold after sunset. Abdul set up a camp fire to warm us up. As the night fell, the mountains and lake sceneries were replaced by majestic views of twinkling little stars. We slept early at around 9pm as we had to wake up next day at 2am for the summit climb.