Climbing Gunung Rinjani is an exhilarating experience. For much of the finale it’s two steps up, one sliding back, on what feels like a deathly precipitous slope which repeatedly punishes your body. However, besides the expansive views you’ll likely experience, it feels even the blood pumping hurriedly around your body is celebrating. It’s such a spirited walk.
Our final ascent began in pitch darkness, around 2:30am. The group took off holding candles, with the lot of us spacing out over about half a kilometre, sticking to our little groups. I was happy to walk slowly at the back – that was until the sun started to rise.
Armed with my tripod, a few lenses, and my camera, I picked up the pace, leaving my slightly peeved partner with the guide (well, I was an aspiring photographer). Soon the inclination took a sharp turn, and the sides appeared to slip away, leaving a narrow, sheer path. The ground similarly changed, with the volcanic rocks providing for some disturbingly bad traction.
Sliding one step back for every two forward was hard going. I’m a good walker, and have done many walks (being a high-energy person), but this was possibly the hardest one I’ve done. Heading up, we saw a few youngsters returning after their failed ascension. Gunung Rinjani is not for the faint of heart.
At 3,726 metres, it’s the second highest volcano in Indonesia, the land of volcanoes. It’s also an active volcano. While not a particularly high cone, it’s steep for an equipment-free climb, and a decent level of fitness is required to reach the top. At the summit, the caldera measures 6 x 8.5 kilometres across, and the views are staggeringly splendid.
Here abrupt slopes plunge violently into the volcano, while the oblique light hitting the caldera casts patterned shadows across the inner rim. To the east lies Komodo Island, surrounded by the Bali Sea, while Bali’s tallest volcano, Gunung Agung, looms impressively in the west. The walk is an unforgettable experience that’s worth every nauseating spasm your muscles will likely endure.
Do it before you get too old.