How To Not Climb Mt. Rinjani

I had a dream last night that a friend and I attempted to climb a mountain. It was going to take two days. We didn’t have enough food, and we started late and low on energy. At one point, we were discouraged from going farther by three men feeding a bunch of baby coyotes on a tennis court. I woke with an eerily familiar feeling. I recognized it from the time I failed to climb to the top of the second highest point in Indonesia, Mt. Rinjani. It was all the same as it had been in the dream, everything but the baby coyotes.

Kio and I walked away from Rinjani under a clear blue sky. The rain had stopped pouring, but it left our shoes soaked and our plastic ponchos dotted with droplets. Birds sang and butterflies danced above our heads. The grass glittered in the uncovered sun. Suddenly it looked like a beautiful day for a hike. “It’s like Rinjani playing a game,” Kio said. Come back and try again. We took off our ponchos and looked back at the mountain, reconsidering. Thick, dark clouds still loomed over its massive body. It was too late. We sulked the two hours back to the park entrance. “Mountain win,” Kio said. Yes, she had.

I wish I could advise you, dear readers, on how to climb Mt. Rinjani, but having failed miserably to do it myself, I’m afraid my only expertise in this matter is how to do everything wrong.


We didn’t get much closer than this.

If you don’t want to climb Mt. Rinjani, you should try it out in the rainy season!

The plan for my last week in Indonesia had been simple. It didn’t involve climbing through any more mountains with my eccentric former travel partner. Quite the opposite. I was going to Gili T. to meet up with a couple of very normal English police officers I’d befriended and try scuba diving.

Meanwhile, Kio was sending me pictures he’d found from the top of Rinjani that made my stomach flutter.


Thanks to Andrew Purdam via flikr for taking this photo that I could not.


This is how Kio thinks of scuba diving. Photo by Pieces of the Past, Flikr

Whatever. I told him I wasn’t going. I had made plans already. Plus, it would be so dangerous, considering the torrential rains pouring from the sky every few hours. I pictured us both slipping on the muddy trail and tumbling down the side of the mountain to our deaths. It would be just the thing to happen on the last leg of our trip, both of our travel insurances having recently expired.

But. “Kamille. It is not very dangerous.” Those had been the magic words. Kio was right. I didn’t want to go scuba diving, really. I wanted to be at the top of that mountain. So I agreed.

We didn’t think seriously about the rain again until we were two hours into the hike, bracing against the newly formed river rushing down the middle of the trail.

If you don’t want to climb Mt. Rinjani, try it out when you’re sick, and harbor negative feelings toward your hiking buddy as you climb!

We met a couple in the guesthouse next door to ours the night before we were to climb the mountain. She was French and he was from Lombok. Kio asked if he could tell any of Rinjani’s “legends.” The Lombok native had climbed Rinjani twice. He said the most important thing was to make sure we didn’t go with any bad intentions or bad feelings. It sounded simple enough as we sat under the gazebo drinking tea, listening to the rain, me sneezing occasionally into saved soiled tissues.

But when we woke early the next morning, I found my cold at its peak and as we walked, I was exceptionally conscious of my negative feelings toward Kio for making me stuff our four mangoes and his can of condensed milk in my bag. I wanted to throw the mangoes at the back of his head and go back to sleep. I couldn’t imagine us achieving our day’s goal… and we did not.

If you don’t want to climb Mt. Rinjani, bring hammocks instead of a tent, don’t bring enough food, and be generally unprepared!

Instead of looking for a tent, Kio and I ran around Ubud looking for hammocks the day before our ferry to Lombok. When we found a shop that sold hammocks exclusively, I figured it was a sign that somehow hammocks were indeed the way to go, lest we buy a tent to use for just one night. Even though without the tent, I was anticipating a miserable, sleepless, freezing cold night…with some snakes maybe.

We bought stale white bread, chocolate bars (most of which we ate the night before the hike) mangoes, bananas and some condensed milk because we were both inept meal planners.When we failed our climb and made our second visit to the park entrance, we ate the rest of the food for lunch and found out that mangoes of failure are not as sweet as regular mangoes.

Not climbing this mountain successfully is one of the few regrets I had over the months I traveled in Asia. Mt. Rinjani is a massive and beautiful mountain, full of energy I could feel despite never getting close enough to touch it. I look forward to the day when I can get back to Lombok, do things the right way, and eat sweet sweet victory mangoes from the summit.


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