The most beautiful national park in Indonesia, Rinjani, has one flaw: cleanliness. By the end of the hiking season in December, every camp is littered with trash, especially tissues of many kind: wet, dry, half wet, clean, or half-covered with shit. Plawangan Sembalun, the main camp before the summit has the worst trash infestation. The national park officials never succeeded (or just lazy) to solve the trash problem. There is no adequate trash hauling system and the toilets are even worse. That’s why I always hesitate whenever someone invite me to go back to Rinjani since my first visit in 2013. I told myself “no way”, except someone paid me to. And then two years later….
A surprise call
Outlive shop, a premium outdoor store hosted a photography competition in April last year, the main prize is a trip to Rinjani for two persons. My photo at Rantemario peak won the competition and I shared the first prize with another winner.
It wasn’t until mid-October that they phoned then told me to fly to Lombok in three days. I kind of surprised, but as a well-prepared hiker, soon I customized my preloaded gear checklist in google docs, packed it in less than a day. The guys from Outlive covered my plane ticket and accomodation, they also provided camp equipments at Rinjani. I felt like a boss.
Day 1: A very hot day on the trail
It’s a beautiful day to start trekking. The sky is very clear, painted in a bright blue color, but the wind is almost nonexistent, making the day is becoming hotter as the sun is rising up. Fauzan –the other winner—and I start filling our water bladders in a small kiosk near the trail. Two guides from IMOSA will accompany us, along with two porters/cooks. Without carrying any tent, cooking equipments, sleeping bag, and logistics –those are carried by porter–, my pack only weighs less than 5 kg, that should fasten my steps on the trail.
I glance at my watch, it’s 8 AM. A pickup truck drops us at the shortcut trail at Sembalun village. It’d save us 1 hour rather than using the main trail through the national park’s official gate, which is currently unaccessible to pick-up trucks. The porters are walking so fast on their flip-flop sandals despite carrying 30 kg of baggage that we’re separated by a 30-40 minutes gap. One hour later, I finally arrive at the crossroad where the main trail and the shortcut are merged.
October is the peak of the dry season, the savanna of Rinjani loses its green calm color, replaced by dry yellow grass, some of them are black, burnt and crushed. The heat is so extreme that I can see live fire and smoke coming from the grass in a few spots. The temperature is 420C/107.60F. Eight degrees more and I’d have a half-boiled egg.
9:27 AM I arrive at the first shelter, rest for awhile, then continue walking. 45 minutes later, the shelter II appears. The place is well known among hikers as “The Lunch Shelter”. I rest under the bridge while the porters are cooking lunch: Noodle with vegetable soup and some fruits for dessert. I take my time, resting my back under the shade . There’s still plenty of time so I take a quick nap.
Shelter II-Plawangan Sembalun
Wake up at midday, I know it’s time to move on and I hope that some big cloud cover the goddamn sun. I watch my surrounding, it’s all yellow. So bright, so hot.
I walk again with others to Plawangan Sembalun, we must arrive at the camp before sunset for a very obvious reason: to not miss the sunset. It takes only takes 30 minutes to shelter III, after that it’s all the way up.
The hills after shelter III are famously known as “The seven hills of regret”, describing the feels of exhaustingly walking up and down, then suddenly regrets the decision to hike these bloody hills.
Thick dust flying all over the trail coming from the people’s steps in front of me, I cough a lot during the hike, so I keep my distance not too close to them. At 3 PM, the mist starts covering the hills and the cool breeze making the walk a little bit comfortable. Light rain begin to fall and suddenly the atmosphere turns from extremely hot into cold and humid. I’ve hiked this trail two years ago so I know that when I reach the last of the seven, I fasten my pace.
3:40 PM, at the top of Plawangan sembalun, I finally see again the gorgeus Segara Anak Lake from the distance. In 2013, it took me 8.5 hours to reach this place. Now it’s way much faster, even if I took the main trail earlier, not the shortcut.
I spend the afternoon sitting near the tent, drinking hot tea, while photographing my surrounding. It’s still beautiful as always with one big exception: the trash. Even on the side trail at Plawangan I can find many human waste laying around like a minefield. Those assholes didn’t even try to bury it.
There’s not much to do after dark because the wind begins to strike, wailing like a banshee, hitting the tent without any care in the world, pushing and bending our shelters to their limit and almost flying our toilet tent. I try to sleep without success because I’ve had too much caffein intake from 15 glasses of tea today. I spend the night in my sleeping bag without sleeping, wide awake, waiting…
Continue to: Rinjani Revisited (2): Hit and Run