While driving across Lombok to Senaru, our starting point for our three-day Mt. Rinjani trek, I caught a glimpse of a sign displaying the Indonesian island’s official motto.
“Tatas, Tuhu, Trasna” – “wise, tenacious and noble of soul.”
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but this motto would prove to be quite apropos on this adventure.
I don’t do near the amount of outdoor activity these days, living in Bangkok’s concrete jungle. But for the Songkran holiday, my roommate Emily and I decided to take on Mount Rinjani – all 3,726 meters of it. As Indonesia’s second highest volcano, we were a little apprehensive to take this on when our fitness regime at the time consisted of some treadmill time, weights and some yoga. But we booked it, found some hiking boots, flew to Lombok, and made our way to the mountain.
We started early after a big breakfast at the hotel. Me, Emily, our guide Zar and our two porters made up one of the first trekking parties on the mountain for the 2016 season, meaning relatively empty trails.
The porters are absolutely amazing. They do the entire trek in half the time we do, and in flip-flops, carrying our gear and food.
I was nervous about the food, but there was no need. I felt like we had a constant flow of coffee or tea, and we felt bad because it was rare that we could finish our (multi-course) meals. So much food! Served to us on our personal Frozen mat, to boot.
Porters discussing the monkey that stole our pasta sauce.
Caught him napping. He had such a dry sense of humor – my favorite.
Appetizer of banana fritters to end our first day.
A peek at the peak before sundown.
Sleep came easy and early, but it didn’t last long. Our minds and bodies were exhausted, but I found that despite my intense tiredness, the cold and hard rocky ground led to a night of tossing and turning. To make it to the summit for sunrise, we had to wake at 2am and get on the trail immediately – after a quick banana pancake of course.
I made a mistake in borrowing hiking boots – I had enormous, incredibly painful blisters that ripped open within the first few hours on our first day of trekking. I tried to view the freezing temperatures on the summit hike as a blessing in disguise…at least my feet went numb about 20 minutes in, so I forgot about the blisters quickly. I’ll be honest though – pretty much everything else hurt.
The terrain leading up to the summit was nearly impossible to climb. For every two steps forward, I slid back four. Picture me climbing in the dark, cursing loudly and often to express my frustration to the faceless hikers around me. This was much more than just a physical challenge. It really felt like we were never going to reach the summit. But, spoiler alert: we diiiid. Just as the sky started to lighten, I reached the top. Looking out over the crater lake and the sun rising over the tops of the clouds, it was easy to forget about the torture we had just put ourselves through. There had been many moments I had questioned this decision we made to hike this behemoth instead of just laying in the sand in Bali, but this moment at the top solidified it. I was feeling pretty dang tenacious…
We took some photos, I had a weird Indonesian cigar with our guide (because, why not?) and we began our descent.
When we reached our camp, both Emily and I immediately curled up on our trusty Frozen mat and promptly fell asleep. It was a brief respite – Zar soon woke us to continue our trek down to the crater lake. The air was thick with mist; water droplets rained down from where they had settled in my hair every time I took a careful step across each slippery boulder.
We were allowed a break for lunch and a quick visit to a nearby hot spring. This was probably one of our longer midday breaks, but it wasn’t nearly long enough. This was our second day, I was starting to really hurt. Despite my attempts at bandaging my blisters, they were causing major pain with each step. My legs were starting to feel like jello. This was probably my least favorite day of the trek: I was tired of moving and it was starting to feel like my body was fighting those movements. The scenery was beyond beautiful but all I wanted was to stumble upon the elusive second campsite.
A little secret: part of what helped me get through the tough parts of the trek was imagining myself in either Game of Thrones or Last of the Mohicans or some other even nerdier fantasy situation…
The crater lake is known as Segara Anak or Anak Laut (Child of the Sea).
I’m sorry, I had to document!
Not a bad place to camp, eh?
When I asked Zar how many times he has made the trek, he said, “oh, not that much.” I finally got it out of him that he has been doing this since 2000, and he used to do it multiple times a week. OH OK.
I reflected on “Tatas, Tuhu, Trasna” as we made our way down the mountain. Tenacious…check. We were resolute and unyielding in our intent to conquer Rinjani. Wise…maybe. I certainly won’t be borrowing hiking boots ever again. Noble of soul…
I think our souls are nourished with every exploit we find ourselves taking on. These experiences I choose – experiences that are not always easy or clean or normal – I choose them because I trust in their ability to form and transform who I am. After these few years in Asia, I’d like to think part of me includes a pretty decent soul.