Climbing Lombok’s tallest peak
Bathed in the silver light of a cloudless full moon and framed by an infinite backdrop of diamond starlight, Lombok’s Mount Rinjani is even more magical at night than it is during the day. (Words by Tommy Schultz)
I should be in the tent and getting a few hours’ sleep before we wake up at 4am to climb Rinjani’s peak, but it’s not very often that I get a view like this. That’s why I’m shivering outside in the chilly mountain air with my camera, trying to capture what it’s like to be more than 3,000m up on one of the tallest volcanoes in Asia.
As I frame the shot, I’m staring straight up into an endless expanse of deepest indigo, so clear that I can see the faint pinpricks of passing satellites. The Milky Way glows beautifully above Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea), a massive crater lake formed in the fires of a volcanic eruption many years ago.
I set the camera’s exposure to 30 seconds and click the shutter. While the image is coming slowly into focus I think what it must have been like centuries ago to see stars like this every night. It’s a humbling experience that so many in today’s busy world almost never experience.
It’s easy to see why the mountain is believed to be a seat of the gods, on par with Bali’s most-sacred Gunung Agung. And even if you’re not a follower of the Balinese or Sasak religions, the zeitgeist of the area is powerful and inspiring.
Some of the inspiration probably comes from how difficult it is to get here.
Our day began at 5:30am with a pickup in Kuta, Lombok. From there we took the winding road deeper and deeper into the countryside. The van’s engine whined in protest as the terrain became ever steeper, and within only a few kilometres we could feel the humid tropical heaviness of the outside air giving way to the crisp dryness of the high country.
After about an hour and a half, we reached the Sasak village of Sembalun, where we’ve arranged to meet our guide, Ba’im, to begin our trek. We sit in a small courtyard sipping stout coffee, black as a seam of bituminous coal, while Ba’im gives us the overview of what we’re about to do.
Since my friend Matt has only a few days left on this first trip to Indonesia, we’ve opted to do the trek as an overnight to get him back to Bali in time for his flight back to the United States. In total we’re looking at a vertical climb and descent of over 4,000m via 20km of trail – all in about 24 hours…
Originally published in the September 2013 edition of Garuda Indonesia’s inflight magazine Colours.
Hit the below link for the original, unabridged feature.