Why Rinjani Was Not My Friend

When I escaped Mt. Rinjani and let my family and anam cara know that I had safely returned from the wilderness, the first thing they wanted to know was, “How was it?”  For the first 24 hours that I answered this question, I used words like horrible, awful, terrible, miserable, and hateful.  I’m not going to try to pretty it up: other than the 3 very nice people who I met on this trek, I hated every minute of it.  But why?

The people who truly know me know that I love mountains.  I love being up mountains.  I love looking at mountains.  I love knowing that I’m about to go up a mountain.  I feel like God is hugging me in a special way when I’m up there.  I felt none of that for Mt. Rinjani.  Some of it was my fault and some of it was not.

Firstly, I didn’t prepare.  When I was getting ready for my Kili trek, I was at the gym at least 3 times per week working on building my lung capacity, and on my endurance and leg strength.  Three or 4 times per week, I was hiking the hills around my anam cara’s house for 1 or 2 hours at a time doing the same, as well as getting my legs used to what steep slopes I could find.  Some days I would park at her house, hike through her hills to the gym, work out, then hike back through her hills to her house.  I bought and read a book written by a man who had hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro and failed the first time, then learned from his mistakes then successfully hiked it a second time.  I also learned from his mistakes and did what I could to ensure that I didn’t make them.  I took that trek seriously.  Mt. Rinjani, not so much.

I didn’t even go for a stroll around the neighbourhood to get myself in any type of shape.  I just trusted for some stupid reason that I would start walking and everything would be OK.  Granted, I knew it would be hard but I thought I was tough enough to take it.  More fool I.

Secondly, I didn’t expect the going to be so tough on day 1.  I assumed that this was a 3-day marathon but it turned out to be a 3-day sprint.  I expected that we would be eased into the trek but things got real very fast.  Slopes were steeper and more difficult to navigate earlier than I expected in the trek agenda.  I didn’t expect rainbows and unicorns but neither did I expect such a grueling first day.  This rough day 1 gave way to an even rougher day 2.

Which brings me to my third point: I didn’t begin the trek well-rested.  Although I had gotten a total of 7 or 8 hours of sleep between leaving the centre in Jakarta on Saturday evening and starting the trek on Sunday morning, it was interrupted sleep.  And although I felt fine at the start of the walk, my body was clearly suffering from my decision to get the last flight out of Jakarta to Lombok.

Fourth, I was arrogant.  Although I had done some research into what the Rinjani trek entailed, I didn’t take some of the reviews that I read seriously.  Because I thought I was Kilimanjaro tough, I decided that some of what I was reading was likely hysterical ranting.  To be fair, most of those people who gave Mt. Rinjani negative reviews didn’t give solid reasons for why they ended up in tears on their Rinjani treks, making it easier for me to discount them.  But, still.  I ignored them because I was arrogant.

I accept all of that blame.  But the Mt. Rinjani people need to accept their share as well.  Nowhere in any of the descriptions that I read, including from my trek organiser, was it mentioned that major parts of this trek are actually dangerous; my trek-mates reported the same.  Nobody mentioned rock-climbing, shuffling along narrow ledges hundreds of meters above the ground, or having to go up another mountain in order to get down off the first one.  In my opinion, the Mt. Rinjani people do a poor job of letting people know the risks involved and the fitness level required for taking on this challenge.

In the final analysis, my biggest disappointment with Mt. Rinjani was that this didn’t turn out to be a spiritual experience for me, which is what I wanted and expected.  I still don’t know why, because this is the first mountain I’ve been up where I haven’t felt something positive.  I feel like I’m missing something here, something I should understand about why this experience wasn’t spiritual for me.  But I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Maybe, like my lack of physical preparation, I also didn’t prepare spiritually the way I should have.  I thought I did but maybe I didn’t.  Maybe I was expecting more dramatic interventions from the Holy Spirit, like I experienced before, forgetting that He doesn’t always work the way I expect Him to.

Maybe every minute that I spent on Mount Rinjani hating myself, He was busy pushing me forward, saving me from my stupidity.  Hmm, maybe I did have a spiritual experience, after all.

You came to my rescue, Lord, and saved my life. Lamentations 3:58 (GNT)


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