I didn’t sleep well during our second night camping. You know I can sleep anywhere but that night, I tossed and turned and kept waking up. Part of the problem, I think, was the fact that our tent was set on a slight slope so my sleeping bag and I kept sliding in the direction of the slope and I had to keep adjusting myself. Eventually, I used my backpack as an anchor for my knees, which I propped against it to keep from sliding around so much.
The other part of the reason for my disturbed sleep was the high wind, thunder, lightning and rain that started in the wee hours of the morning. I became concerned about what the trail going down would be like, since our guide had already told us that it would be slippery and steep for the first couple of hours. Still, I said a prayer that God would keep the trail safe for us and I tried to go back to sleep.
At around 6:30 am, we awoke to wind, with 1 side of the mountain we were on showing a beautiful sunrise and the other side, the direction in which we would be heading, showing dark, angry-looking clouds. We were served breakfast in our tents while a light rain started up again, and at around 7:30 am our guide decided that there was no point in trying to wait out the rain. We got our gear and set off.
By this point, I had not showered for almost 3 days. I was literally going to the bathroom in the bush (at least Mt. Kilimanjaro had enclosed pit latrines, a.k.a. African bush toilet). And my legs were feeling the strain.
The morning passed in a haze of discomfort. My legs, still weak from the day before, continually wanted to buckle under me. I had to lean more and more on my trusty trekking poles, which had been of no use to me just the previous afternoon. At 1 point, I felt like an old lady with her 2 walking sticks. A little later, my legs got even weaker and I had to basically start throwing them forward to keep myself moving.
On the plus side, my toes held up well. Coming down Mt. Kilimanjaro, Elly had taught me to tie my boots as tight as I could in order to prevent my feet from sliding forward and damaging my toes. I’m happy to report that I learned that lesson well and my mountain toes are still on the mend, with no further damage caused by Mt. Rinjani.
On the other hand, my biceps were already aching a bit from the rock climbing I had done all of the previous afternoon, and I knew that I would really feel it the next day, since I was using them even more on day 3, to take as much pressure as possible off my legs.
The rain stopped about an hour into our walk, by which time we were all sweating despite the cool air. My glasses kept fogging up because of the difference between my body heat and the cool mountain air and I kept praying for little breezes that would come up and clear the mist off them so I could see more clearly where to put my feet. Every time we stopped to rest, I wiped them off with a piece of tissue from my pocket. Still, the rain turned out to be a good thing because it made the first part of that day’s trail less treacherous and difficult than it would have been without the rain.
Our guide had advised us that the first couple of hours going down that day would be steep then we would alternate between “flat” and steep. This is exactly what happened. Like the previous morning, I spent a good portion of this one going down the mountain in a stooped position. This time, it was mostly because I found it easier on my legs to squat to almost sitting then shimmy down some of those bigger jumps, than actually trying to jump.
We stopped for about an hour for lunch, during which we had a nice chat, as usual (Game of Thrones was on the agenda – when is that ever not a good chat?). Then we set off for the last leg of our trek. We finally got to the exit gate at about 2:15 pm. We paused to take a few pictures before continuing down the path to where our ride back to Senaru village awaited us.
We still had about 30 minutes of “flat” (it wasn’t) walking to go. Every step was torture for my legs, which I was still throwing forward in order to keep moving. My knees tried to buckle every few steps and, more and more, I was losing control over them. Finally, we got to the car and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was 2:45 pm and we had been walking for just over 7 hours.
For the 3 days of the trek, we had covered about 22.5 km, according to our guide. I didn’t feel elation at being done. I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t feel a sense of awe at what I had seen over the past few days. I felt nothing by happy that Mt. Rinjani was now at my back. I got into the car without a backward glance.
But even as we drove away and I reflected on the awful experience of the past 3 days, even though I hated every moment of that trek up an down Mt. Rinjani, I knew in my heart that eventually the mountains will call me again.
And, like John Muir, when they do…I must go.