For my June days off, I decided to climb an active volcano. I know, right??
Indonesia is a part of what is called the Pacific Ring of Fire. It is a country of superlatives – not only is it the most populace Muslim nation on earth, it is also the country with the most active volcanoes. And I climbed one of them. Well, technically, I climbed a mountain beside 1 of them.
I struggled to find something to do with my June days off. At one point, I seriously considered just booking a hotel room in Jakarta for 4 days and doing nothing but sleeping, reading, catching up on the latest season of Game of Thrones and eating nasi goreng. Then 1 of my colleagues mentioned that she was planning to climb a volcano. It felt like it had been ages since I had been up a mountain and I immediately knew that was what I would do with my days off. I started checking to see which were the closest volcanoes to Jakarta.
There are 2 volcanoes on the island of Java (you should know by now that’s where Jakarta is located) that are quite popular with hikers. They are Gunung Bromo and Gunung Semeru. I wanted to climb those 2 during June but could not find a well-recommended guide so I nixed that idea. Then my colleague mentioned that she had found a reputable climbing guide for Gunung Rinjani in Lombok, an island just below Bali, which is just below Java. I got the email address and made the contact. They offer a 3 day/2 night guided trek and they had a group starting on the day I needed to begin that they could join me up with, which would lower the cost significantly for me.
I wasn’t nervous about this climb. Once I glommed on to the idea of doing the trek, I did a little research and found that Rinjani’s summit is lower than the highest point to which I went on day 4 of my Kilimanjaro trek. After we summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro, Elly had informed me that no matter where in the world I go, altitude sickness up to the height of Kili’s summit point wouldn’t be a problem for me. So I felt at ease about this hike. I knew it would be tough; after all, except for 2 visits to the hotel gym in Penang back in March, I haven’t done a lick of exercise since I left Tanzania at the end of January. But I knew it would be doable for me because altitude sickness, always the most important concern, would not be a problem. Yes, my muscles would surely be sore and yes, I would be uncomfortable at times, but that was all OK as long as altitude sickness was under control.
Before I left Jakarta, I bought myself a head torch and I tried to buy gaiters, trekking poles and a proper hiking backpack with a tonne of pockets and clips – I figured it was time to invest in mountain trekking gear since going to the mountain seems to be a thing with me now. But none of that stuff was to be found in the 1 week I had to search so I decided to rent the poles from my guide and to trust God to keep my boots free of rocks and my pants clean and dry in the face of no gaiters. As for the backpack, I resigned myself to taking along my regular one since I had no other options. I already had my hiking boots, thermal shirt and tights, fleece, light down jacket, rain jacket, wool cap, and gloves, which are the most important things. So I was all set.
I packed and re-packed my backpack, trying to ensure that I had everything I would need for the trek but nothing that wasn’t absolutely necessary. It isn’t that big so I had to use the space optimally. Also, unlike my Kilimanjaro journey, I was expected to carry my own stuff up Mt. Rinjani, so I wanted to ensure that I had no extra weight. I did everything I could to minimise the pressure that I knew would be on my back and shoulders from the unaccustomed burden.
I also thought about my feet. I was curious to see how they would hold up. What with my toenails from my mountain toes having fallen out less than 2 weeks before my trek was due to begin, I wondered how my toes would do being closed up in my hiking boots for 3 days. Not only did I wonder about my mountain toes, I also wondered how my feet would do since I hadn’t worn closed-up shoes since I had arrived in Indonesia 5 months before; my shoes have been either flip-flops or sandals. I did the only thing I could – I prayed on it all and cast my care.
Late in the afternoon on the last Saturday of June, I grabbed my backpack, shoved my feet into my boots, jumped into a cab (no, not Toto’s) and headed to the airport. My new adventure was about to begin.