Exploring more of the world allows me to explore more of myself.
In this way, July has been a journey of self-discovery for me.
Earlier in the month, three of my friends, along with K and I, embarked on a trip to Lombok in an attempt to do a summit climb up Gunung Rinjani. It was truly a #YOLO moment for most of us. I had seen pictures of the volcano, and its iconic crater rim, surfacing online and I was determined to experience her glory for myself.
I have never had prior mountain climbing experience, neither have I had much trekking experience. It was a huge first step for me but I had received so much encouragement from everyone, including those who have done the climb before, that I was more excited than afraid.
I continued my thrice weekly workout, and did not deviate much from my usual routine. My exercises focus mainly on my core and glutes and I had assumed that that would suffice for my climb up.
K and I shopped for proper hiking shoes two weeks prior to the trip as we have read online that running shoes do not hold up well against the steep, rocky terrains. However, since we were both amateur climbers and not ready to invest in a pricey pair, we took advantage of the Great Singapore Sale and snagged our Hi-tec shoes at half-price (~S$60-70 after discount).
To break the shoes in, we went for two long walks in the days to follow. They were stable and comfortable, I remembered thinking that, and there was nothing much to break in. No blisters, no weird aches. I was pretty proud of our new buy!
Before we knew it, we were on the plane to Lombok and on our way to conquering the volcano. I was filled with so much anticipation!
We had booked the 3D2N hike via the Sembalun route.
We were greeted with nice tall grass with occasional breeze during the first part of our walk on Day 1. The slope was gentle but the pace we walked at still made me pant. Still, we were high in spirits. The later parts of Day 1 came as a rude shock to most of us as we had not expected the routes to be so steep. In the end, we had to rest every 15 minutes and depleted most of our trail snack during this portion.
The view was insanely gorgeous when we finally reached the base camp. It was as if all fatigue left my body when I could still run and jump for joy upon seeing the scenery.
As night fell, the temperatures followed and soon, we were all shivering uncontrollably no matter how many layers we piled on. After dinner, we all scampered back into our tents to seek refuge from the cold. We made it a point to rest early because the summit climb would begin at 2 am the next day.
My tent happened to be right beside the porters, and they were talking throughout the night. To be fair, they were not loud or anything but because the place was so quiet at night, even whisperings seemed to echo throughout the tent. Because of this, I did not manage to get a good sleep. When the alarm went off, K and I we got up eagerly to continue our climb. This would be the day we reach the summit!
At 2 am, the mountain was in total darkness and silence. At 2 am, the sky was fully illuminated with galactic lights. My jaw dropped when I saw the milky way uninhibitedly on display across the inky sky. It was such a beautiful sight to behold! Within the short span of our quick breakfast of hot tea and biscuits, we caught two shooting stars. My heart still skips a beat every now and then when I recall this night sky.
The summit climb was tough. There were so many people who said it was tough mentally but not physically, but hell no, it was tough through and through, in all aspects. It was SO TOUGH.
The winds were exceptionally strong on the day of our summit climb. In fact, it was apparently of the strongest our guide has met. I swear there were so many occasions on which I felt like the wind was literally going to blow me off the cliff. I felt immensely grateful for the gore-tex jacket I had on (the NS one) because it shielded my arms and body so well against the cold. My face was another story entirely. I could barely feel like nose and mouth, like they were just merging into this lump of coldness.
To make matters worse, the last stretch of gravel path was so disheartening to climb because each time you take a step, you slid back by a bit. We could barely see the peak due to the undulating routes so we felt like the path was never-ending. Still, we kept climbing. I said climbing because at some point of time, I was on all fours. I figured since the wind was not helping and the road was so steep, I might as well do a semi-crawl lol. I did not pay much attention to where I was going and according to K, I was crawling my way to the edge of the cliff when he had to lunge forward to grab my ankles to stop me while screaming, “MOVE LEFT!”
Anyway, we obviously reached the top anyway and were overwhelmed with a dizzy sense of accomplishment. We were not going to leave without taking a million more photos.
What goes up must come down.
And such is the sad truth in life.
To me, going down is definitely harder than going up. Even though it was much faster, fear gripped me each time I slid a little farther than I intended to. I hate falling and the constant feeling of going to fall was crippling.
With the sun high up in the sky now, we could see far and clear the route that we had taken up to the summit. There were times when the path was narrow and a wrong step would spell disaster. On a more positive side, there were times when we were climbing alongside breathtaking sceneries but we were totally oblivious to its beauty. In the dark, it was nothing but the sun rays had lit the waters with such vibrance that you cannot help but stop to admire the various shades of blues.
While we all felt accomplished and felt that the day was done, little did we realize it was only the beginning. Next on our itinerary after the grueling morning was another 3 hours climb down to the lake and then another 3 hours climb up to the crater rim for our second night of accomodation.
Going down reluctantly was difficult. I just wanted to rest and observe the peace of the mountains but no, we had an schedule to keep up with and we were already behind time.
The saving grace at the lake was the hotsprings that we were allowed to jump into.
After 2 showerless days, the swim in the warm, inviting waters was extremely satisfying, especially when the temperatures started to fall again. The girls, being girls, took this time and opportunity to massage our scalp and loosen the dirt build up.
Our climb after continued into the night because we were too slow. In this way, our torch-lights have proven to be more useful than others’. Instead of being frightened, I found the night climb to be rather therapeutic. There were some parts where we had to literally climb rocks to pull ourselves up but I felt that the dark made it a little less intimidating.
At one of the resting points, we decided to look up into the sky.
For some reasons, there were more and brighter stars and the milky way was more distinct than ever. The stars were so large. I never knew one could describe stars as large but you really can!!! We caught more shooting stars before continuing our night hike up.
Upon calculating, we had hiked for 16 hours on Day 2 (to be honest, we were really slow). Expectedly, I had a sound sleep on the second night.
Feeling more recharged than ever on Day 3, having conquered the summit, the lake, and crater rim and now on our way back to the village, we picked up our pace. Most of Day 3 was cutting through rainforests. There were still steep slopes and confusing tree roots but with our new found confidence in hiking, we skipped through these with grace and ease. We even overtook two other teams who seemed to be very impressed with our agility! Five points to Team Singapore!
And there concluded our Rinjani journey, which I must said had been surreal at times. Did I just climbed that peak? Did I really survive without bathing?
I had left out so much details in my narration above. During our summit climb, two of our team members suffered from diarrhea but they completed the climb anyway. You should have seen the expressions of agony on their faces! One of them even made her mark on the summit by relieving herself lol. During our descent to the lake, another friend slipped on one of the rocks and sprained her ankle, leaving it swollen and bruised by the end of Rinjani.
In any case, it has definitely been a once in a lifetime experience! I would even do it again, after my toenails heal of course. They have been so badly battered that the nail on my left big toe is black and the one on my right is missing. Looks like I can save on my pedicures for the next nine months lol.
We spent the next two days on the Gili Air recuperating, with beer and cheap massages. A word of advice? Two days was barely sufficient. We were still aching by the time we touched down in Singapore and had to return to work the next day. I wish we had been greedy and stayed on for longer so we could explore the other Gili islands too!
We all agreed that we brought back much good vibes from the mountains. We gained new perspectives in life, and not only learnt more about each other, but also about ourselves. On a cheesier note, it warms my heart to realize how much K concerned himself with him. He had taken such good care of me throughout the trip, even when he was struggling himself.
During one of our night climbs, the batteries in my torch-light went flat Being directly behind me, K used his head light to shine in my direction. Each time there was a bend, he would get past it quickly so that he could turn to light up my path. Even if he did not get past the bend, he would turn to face my direction anyway so that I could see, putting my safety before his. In fact, there were a few times he slipped and nearly fell off the cliff! I kept telling him to shine his own path before shining mine but he refused to listen. (‘:
I am simply so in awe with the amount of care and concern K had displayed for me throughout the trip. I mean, I knew he was a good man but I never knew he was capable of taking care of me to this extent, right down to the little details! Like when I needed to go to the toilet, he would even volunteer to get out of the tent into the blistering cold with me, even though he had absolutely no business to do. He could have jolly well slept on and leave me to suffer alone but he did not! (‘:
Things end, but memories last forever.
There was so much fond memories made on this trip that makes me feel blessed about my life. Witnessing the beauty of nature deeply humbled me and pushing myself beyond my boundaries greatly enriched me in ways I never thought possible.
With that, I strongly recommend Rinjani to everyone. You will not regret it, I promise!