By Senior Trekking Guide Awenk Munawir
New trekking season has started at begin of April 2018 and trekkers (both experienced and amateur) have begun preparations to quench their thirst for adventures and packed their backpack. One of the spots popular among trek-lovers is Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second tallest volcano in Lombok, Nusa Tenggara Barat. This time, I want to share info and tips on trekking the Mount Rinjani, broken down into several parts.
PS: I will discuss about ascending through Sembalun Lawang and descending through Senaru Village.
How to Reach Mount Rinjani
The Lombok Island can be accessed via air, land, and sea modes of transportation. By plane, you will arrive at Lombok International Airport in Praya. By land and sea, you will arrive at Lembar Harbor in West Lombok.
From either the airport or the harbor, you have to get to Sembalun Lawang Village, which is the starting point of the trekking trail. You need to take a public transportation found at the Mandalika Terminal in the form of an Engkel (Elf) to Aikmel. This takes about 2 to 3 hours on a cost of 20,000 IDR. In Aikmel, you need to take a pickup to get to Sembalun Lawang. This takes about 1.5 hours on a cost of 15,000 IDR.
Upon your arrival at Sembalun Lawang, ask to be dropped by RIC (Rinjani Information Center), where registration post for trekkers is located. The registration fee would 5,000 IDR/day for Indonesians and 250,000 IDR for foreigners.
Note: You can take a simpler method. Rent a car straight up to Sembalun Lawang for 500,000-700,000 IDR/car. It can accommodate up to 5 persons inside.
How to Begin the Trek
Once you’re done with registration process, you can begin trekking. Typically, trekking does not start from RIC; starting point would be at the Bawak Nao trail (about 15 minutes away from the RIC by vehicle). This trail requires 1-2 hours shorter than if you start from the gateway at the RIC.
The Sembalun trail is characterized by open savannah and clearly defined strips. You should not worry about getting lost, as such. The first post is located at an elevation of 1,500 m above sea surface after trekking for 1.5 to 2 hours from the starting point. Trekkers typically take a rest here for a brief moment before moving on to the second post.
The second post is at an elevation of 1,800 m above sea surface and is 40 minutes away from the first. It is situated in a savannah with a flat and expansive terrain and a source of water. For this reason, trekkers typically set a campsite at this point. Those who still have reserved energy can move on to the third post and settle there, which is 1 to 1.5 hours away from the second post.
The third post is at an elevation of 1,900 m above sea surface, above the remains of a river that no longer functions. It is not as quite expansive as the second post and water source is located far away and difficult to reach. Still, trekkers opt for settling in this area as the time it takes to get to Plawangan Sembalun would be much shorter via the Bukit Penyiksaan (the Torture Hill).
The hill is appropriately named. Endless terrain of hills will force you to take the beating. There was Bukit Penyesalan (the Hill of Regret) located across Bukit Penyiksaan but it is now defunct thanks to the even farther distance.
Trekking on Bukit Penyiksaan normally begins at 8 or 9 AM. You will get to Plawangan Sembalun, a campsite directly before the summit, at 1 or 2 PM. I suggest you carry tons of water supplies with you as you would not stumble upon any sorts of water source through the course of the trek.
Upon your arrival at the Plawang Sembalun campsite, set a tent away from monkeys—and just so you know, there is an army of them there. Also, the location needs to be protected from strong winds and close to water source, which is available in reasonably big debit and located on the slope of Plawangan.
Note: If you wish to get to Plawangan Sembalun within the day, you better start trekking at 5 AM. There are numerous affordable homestays in Sembalun Lawang.
How to Trek all the Way up to the Summit
Your trek to the mountain peak begins in the wee hour of the night, at around 1 or 2 AM, starting from Plawangan Sembalun. Get everything ready, from snacks (cookies, energy bars, chocolate bars, candies) to drinking water (preferably warm water in a thermos). It will take anywhere between 4 and 6 hours to get to the summit and the trail consists of sandy surface—which obviously spells slippery for anyone to walk on. Beware of this trail; there are wide open chasms on each side of the trail. Better move at a slow pace and safe than move hastily and doomed.
Once you get to the summit, try as much as possible not to be there for too long. The fog gets thicker by the day. Also, you need to continue your trip on to the Segara Anak Lake.
Note: When you hike up to the summit, you should take all of your valuables (cell phone, camera, wallets, etc.) with you—especially if the entire team follows. It would be even wiser to secure the tent with a small padlock. There are cases of thievery going around the spot.
How to Get to the Lake of Segara Anak
There actually two options available for you to take once you manage to get to the summit (an activity conveniently dubbed “summit attack): Go back home via the Sembalun trail or move on to the Segara Anak Lake. I suggest you take the second option, provided that you can still go on.
The trek towards the Lake of Segara Anak takes a considerable time to go through and it is quite dangerous as well. As such, it would be wise if you get down from the summit before 3 PM. It takes 2 to 3 hours to get to the lake through the edge of a steep rocky chasm. To go through this trail at night would not be advised.
The campsite at the Segara Anak Lake is pretty expansive and it is obviously trekkers’ favorite as it offers you scenic panorama. You should allocate 2 or 3 days here, provided that your supplies and time are accommodative of it.
You can do a lot of things here besides taking a rest. You can soak in natural hot water spring, go on a fish trip, and even visit the Susu and Taman Caves, which are 30 minutes away from the campsite, along the line of the Torean Trail.
Water source is available around the Lake, about 200 meters toward the hot water spring.
Note: Be careful when you soak in the hot water source that shapes like a pond with a waterfall near it. There have been three death cases there. I suggest you soak in the first pond located higher above with a water level of an adult’s thighs.
How to Go Back Home via Senaru Trail
Your journey back home should begin in the morning, at 9 AM tops, as this trip will be a pretty tough one. The trip starts with you walking on the brim of the lake and then taking upward turn toward Batu Ceper, the checkpoint before going on to the Plawangan Senaru.
You need to be extra careful and aware of the surroundings throughout the trail leading to Plawangan Senaru from Batu Ceper. The trail consists of the edges of steep cliffs with a width of no more than 2 meters. There are indeed safety railings set along the trail but you need to be careful nonetheless seeing that those railings are fragile at best.
It takes about 3 hours from the campsite at the lake to the Plawangan Senaru. Once you get to the Plawangan Senaru, do not ever take a turn to the left or you will be wandering off toward the Santong Trail. Take the one trail leading to the rocky hills after which you encounter a pine forest below. You should be able to observe the Ekstra post from there.
Open sandy and rocky space will dominate the area between the extra post and the third post. The terrain is pretty sloped and steep so you need to be careful when stepping lest you get slipped. Approaching the third post, the area will be dominated by the woods. The third post itself is typically used by trekkers as a spot for lunch breaks. The area is expansive and there is water source around. It takes an hour to get to the third post from the extra post.
Note: If benighted, you should stay at the third post. The Senaru Trail is not ideal for night trekking as there are tree roots popping above the ground.
The distance between the third and second post is the largest. Typically, it would take you 2 hours (half walking, half running) to get to the second post. The apparent sign that you have approached the second post is the presence of abundant pandan plants along the trail. The second post is rarely used as a spot for camping as water source is located far from it. Plus, you would not by any chance want to experience the creepy stories told by those who stayed there in the past, would you?
Another extra post marks the trail between the second and the first post. It takes 45 minutes to get to the extra post from the second and so does from the extra to the first post. Once you manage to get to the first post, the next spot would be the Senaru forest gateway. The trail toward the gateway is sloped, taking 40 minutes to reach.
There is a small stall nearby the gateway. If benighted, you can stay at the stall. The patron would allow you to occupy a bale-bale/berugak (a traditional type of wooden platform of sort) there for free. It would be better if you order some snacks or beverages too there as a token of gratitude.
If you think you can make it, you can continue on your trip toward the Senaru Village, just a 30-minutes walking distance from the gateway. There is a variety of homestays in Senaru at a cost you can feel comfortable with. You can also opt for staying with stalls around the place and sleep or sleeping on the berugak at the RTC (Rinjani Trekking Center), which is the registration post for the Senaru trail.
How to Get to Mataram from Senaru
It is a bit tricky to get to Mataram/the airport/Gili/Senggigi from Senaru if you choose to go with public transportation modes. There are no pickups or rent cars that go all the way up to Senaru unless you have placed an order in prior. Instead, you would rely on motorcycle taxis to get to either Ancak or Anyar, the two villages in Bayan area at a cost of 25,000 IDR and a distance of 10 km. From Ancak or Anyar, you can find a pickup that will take you to Mataram at a cost of 30,000 IDR for a 2 or 3 hours of trip.
You can also find a tourist info center or a homestay to book a car at a cost of 500,000-700,000 IDR for up to 5 persons.
- Make sure you have the proper physical fitness. Jog and sprint regularly to strengthen the muscles on your legs and improve stamina. The difficulty level of Mount Rinjani’s trail falls under the category of intermediate-hard.
- Prepare as many supplies as you can—of course you cannot resort to instant noodle all the time. Your supplies need to be rich in protein and high in caloric counts. It is advised you bring chocolate or energy bars. To prepare yourself for the unexpected, calculate your supplies with an additional load for one extra day.
- Your gear must be of top quality. Strong winds and cold conditions are two of your biggest enemies on Rinjani. Once, I saw the frame of a trekker’s tent snapped due to the winds blowing strongly while at other time a tent was nearly flown away due to improper fixing.
- Pack effectively and efficiently. It would be a great idea if you check with weather forecast websites as trekking under the heavy rain is not fun by a longshot. Go find tutorials for packing the right way on the net.
- Please keep in mind that you have to maintain reasonable level of noise in the campsite, especially if you are trekking in a large group. The area isn’t yours; there are others who happen to go there to look for the kind of serenity the big cities cannot provide.
- Don’t ever talk dirty, carry any talismans of sort, or do nasty things while you’re at Rinjani.
- The service of trekking organizer will be of great help for those unwilling to get inconvenienced. There are packages for the duration you are comfortable with, at a cost that varies from one another.
- Keep this at heart: Travel safe, go back home safe, the Summit isn’t everything.
- Maintain cleanliness at all time. You need to trek the environmentally-conscious way. Bring your trash down with you. Being able to hike up a mountain but incapable of taking care of your own mess is absurdity at its best. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time.
- Lastly, happy trekking!