HCMC Dining Guide

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Climbing Rinjani: Part Two

I hadn't slept in a tent in ages, and the first night on the volcano was a reminder of just how miserable such an arrangement can be. The weather was calm when we went to bed, but by midnight a vicious wind was howling through the campsite. I had gotten into my sleeping bag with just a pair of pajama pants and a hoodie on, but I soon had almost all of my clothing on - it was cold even without the wind, and to make matters worse the zipper on the "door" to my tent was broken, allowing gusts to barrel in unobstructed. Several times I thought the tent was going to collapse, and since I couldn't close it I expected to wake up in the morning with a monkey cuddled up next to me. I barely slept, passing the hours tossing and turning in pitch-black darkness just waiting for the night to end.

The sky finally began to lighten, and as I emerged from my useless tent the piercing cold made sure I was wide awake. I walked back up to the crater rim and waited, shivering, for the sun to rise over the volcano and bathe us in its warming rays.

After breakfast we geared up and began the day's trek, which would take us down to the floor of the caldera and then up the other side to a campsite below the summit. It was shaping up to be another beautiful one, with a brilliant blue sky overhead and the powerful sun sharpening the incredible scenery into bright focus. The wind, however, was relentless, and our guide said if it didn't let up we wouldn't be able to go for the summit the following morning.

The descent into the caldera was steep and occasionally treacherous, with loose rocks and deep drops keeping us alert. The flora was reminiscent of the American west, not a tropical island near the equator; with pine trees clinging to the caldera wall and brown shrubs scraping our pants. Fortunately the work warmed things up, allowing us to shed some layers and soak up sunlight.

Within about 90 minutes we had reached the shores of the azure caldera lake and were presented with a rather alpine view, while the volcanic cone smoked on the right. I went for a dip in the clear, cold lake (which is actually much warmer than fresh water would normally be at such an altitude due to the heat of the volcano) and felt instantly refreshed, cleansed of the dust and grit that had accumulated on me over the previous day.

We walked along the lake to our lunch stop, and while the porters set up we hiked to the nearby hot springs, which are also heated by the volcano. The green water doesn't look clean at first, but boy does it feel good on sore muscles.

The incredible valley which the hot springs are located in.
After steaming for a bit we returned to the lake and had lunch on the shore, where you could contemplate the creation of this amazing place. Gunung Barujari emitted its steady plume of smoke, a constant reminder of the power that lies beneath it. The black land in front of it was created by lava flows from recent eruptions.

With lunch finished it was time to go up again, first along a lengthy, wind-blown ridge and then back into the clouds through a few stretches that required scrambling up rocks on all fours. We reached camp early, around 3:30 pm, meaning a nap was in order. Once the afternoon clouds cleared I walked up to the top of the ridge which the campsite was located on and took in the summit, which looked deceptively close. We would be waking up at 2 am in order to get to the top for sunrise, and it was going to be cold. I was nervous.
Another spectacular sunset behind the caldera rim, and it was time to get a bit of sleep before the summit climb. The wind had slacked off so we were definitely going for it.