Indonesia – Bali and Mt Rinjani

Bali. Hmmm, what can I say about Bali? I can't provide any pictures, because I didn't take any - it was a strange four days I spent there. In response to the emotional wringing that I underwent in Phnom Penh, the days of beach, diving, and excessive consumption of the local Arrack (potent spirit made from sugarcane) were entirely needed to settle my soul. I stayed in a small hostel in the port town of Padang Bai, run the a marginally insane young couple, where I met a few people who wanted to move on to the next island and climb a volcano. This kind of slightly ridiculous idea appealed to me, so I signed up and headed across to Lombok with them after a few days. The trek up Mt Rinjani - three days trekking, with two nights camping on the volcano - was one of the (if not the) highlights of my whole trip. The climb up on the first day was punishing as we maintained a strong pace for 8km through dense forest and up to the overnight basecamp on the caldera rim. Our guides/porters put the tents up for us, which seemed incredibly lazy - particularly as they'd also carried all of our water, food and cooking gear. A brief rainshower couldn't really damp our spirits, particularly with the stunning views that remained once the rain had moved on.
The were lots of monkeys on the mountain

The were lots of monkeys on the mountain

A cute pair in a tree

A cute pair in a tree

The temporary campsite at the end of Day One

The temporary campsite at the end of Day One

The sun starting to set

The sun starting to set

It was mesmerising, watching the sky change

It was mesmerising, watching the sky change

The second day on the mountain involved a three hour climb down to the crater lake, a spot of lunch, a dip in some hot springs, and then what should have been a relatively gentle three hour climb to the second basecamp. Unfortunately the weather severely disagreed with us, and torrential rain arrived only 30 minutes or so after we'd begun our ascent. No problem, I thought - I have a rain jacket. Not a waterproof rainjacket as it transpired - I was soaked to the bone within minutes. We decided that instead of trudging slowly through the rain, we'd go the quick way - scrambling up steep rocks, across scree, and through the increasingly river-like streams. The time passed like a blur, and I think we reached the second camp in record time - fortunately there was a tent to shelter in, and strip down to pants to avoid freezing (the second camp is at 2600m above sea level!). That evening, our guide warned us that it would be pretty dodgy to try the summit in wet clothes - at 3700m the summit would be very very cold at sunrise, so we took the sensible route and didn't get up at 3:30am to try to get to the top. Only one of our party had decent waterproofs, so he was the only person who could safely attempt the summit climb the next morning - the waterlogged pair only managed a further 100m or so to the summit ridge, but there was still a great sense of acheivement having got so far while being totally unprepared for a mountain climb. Even Uncle Travelling Matt made an appearance, to the utter bemusement of the guide - I have a suspicion he thought I was crazy...
Mt Rinjani and the crater lake

Mt Rinjani and the crater lake

Taking a break in a volcanic spring

Taking a break in a volcanic spring

Fishing in the lake

Fishing in the lake

Once we'd all regrouped at the summit camp (our intrepid summiteer made it close to the top, but lacked the gloves/poles/climbing shoes really needed to reach the peak) we began the descent. This rapidly became a bit of a game, as my friends decided to see how fast they could get down the mountain. The guide needed little encouragement to speed up the pace, and soon we were all engaged in a fairly dangerous downhill dance over roots, along gullies, over rocks, and around unhappy looking climbers coming the other way. Needless to say, it was enormous fun, and no-one fell (well, nobody broke any bones, at any rate), though the downside was that we had to wait for around an hour until our transport arrived to pick us up at the bottom. After the exertions of the last few days, the idea of heading to an peaceful tropical island sounded wonderful - we all grabbed a ride over to Gili Trawangan, off the north coast of Lombok for a few days of R&R.
Uncle Travelling Matt entertaining our guide.

Uncle Travelling Matt entertaining our guide.

The crater lake

The crater lake

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