Thursday, October 28, 2010

Up (again!) & Sliding All The Way Down (Mt Rinjani - Day 3)

9th June 2010

Nudge. Nudge.

Bugger.. time to wake up already? I forced open my heavy eyes and found his sleepy face gazing down at mine. Yes, we were both still sleepy but nonetheless very much looking forward to the rest of the day. Inching closer to him, I rested my head against his shoulder. Staying huddled for a few minutes, we hear her grunting close by. And by her, I mean the majestic lil' volcano on Anak Segara Lake. I felt truly thrilled to be here.

"We should get up. I can hear Jian Wen and Cindy packing already."

True. I got to my feet and quickly got my personal things packed. While he managed the rest, I got hold of my camera and dashed out of the tent to the lakeside. I sucked my breath in at what laid before me. Gorgeous.

Gazing Up
I heard voices calling out for me in the far distance. I glanced at my watch. Crap. What was supposed to be a 5 minute dash to the lakeside ended up being 20 minutes! Time appeared to have stood still with the awe before me. As I jogged my way back to the campsite, the smell of Lombok coffee got my stomach juices going. A quick gobble of banana jaffle, egg sandwich, pineapple and Lombok coffee, we were all ready to set off. There was a long journey ahead of us today. Long, long one.  

One of the porter packing our sleeping bags
The plan was to head up (again!) to Senaru Crater Rim (2641m) before making our final descend down to Senaru Village. I wasn't really looking forward to another climb but the amazing sights around us more than make up for my reluctance. I shudder at nature's beauty.
He took a sh*t while I took this shot :p

See the lil' white poof somewhere near the base of the mountain... smokin' hot all day long!

It was a long and ardous task as we mentally cojured strength to place our aching feet one step ahead of the other. I could hear my thighs and my gluts muscles screaming as each step up got more difficult than before.

One step at a time..

Sigh.. more to go..


Watch out! Falling rocks!

3 hours later, we were at the rim. We found our group of porters already resting, and ready to set forth again despite leaving the campsite a good 30 minutes after us. Throwing down our bags, we took a rest.

Senaru Crater Rim
Porters well rested

"We'll rest here for awhile. We lunch at Pos 2 on the way down, boleh?"

You're the boss, pak! As like all other Asian travellers, what do we do when we have idle time? More photos! :p

Someone certainly had some fun :p

Busy with self-portrait

There's always time to keep yourself well groomed!
While goofing around, Adi was having a good time catching up with his mates.

Yes, there's reception!
Happily rested
About 30 minutes later, we made our descend. Having bade farewell to the barren rocks, the path down offers a different view. Vastly open, it was nice change. And boy, do we love going down! We rocked the hills!

"By golly, team Malaysia may not be able to climb fast but they sure can run down!"
Hehehe... yeap, true Mr Swiss guy. For once, he had no time to wait up for us. Instead, he was practically running down to keep up with us. Go, team Malaysia!

Vast Open Land

Paving downwards

Well, the journey down would have been a lot more pleasant if the weather was kinder. As we progressed downwards, the tropical weather started to hit. Rain... oh the rain!! It poured and it stopped. Poured. Stopped. Poured. Stopped. You get the idea... grrr....

It didn't bode well with me. I was shivering cold with the insane weather that kept getting me wet again and again. Putting on and off the raincoat was getting my energy drained further. As though that's not bad enough, my raincoat actually tore the 2nd time round I was putting it on. I was at the verged of frustration.

"Here, use mine." 

"Then, what about you?"

"I don't need la. It's too hot for me in the raincoat anyway. I have my cap to shelter my head and that'll be enough." 

I gladly too his and can't help but feel much loved with his protectiveness. At times like this, I fully condone on *macho* man ;)

A little further on, and we finally arrived at our next pos for lunch! No surprising, it was pouring then too. Wet lunch it was...

Indomee goreng - best!
 But with our hunger, the weather did not dampened the appetite. And seriously, it tasted darn good! Complete with keropok and chicken wings too!

Not allowing our body to warm down completely, we continued our journey down shortly after finishing our last meal on the mountain.

The last part was very much like any other hike in the tropical region. We knew we were back to civilization when chickens and cows greeted us along the way.

Puck puck puck..

Hello cow!
 And finally, we were all back on sea level, feeling very victorious and happy indeed.
Team Malaysia
Having slept most of the journey back to Senggigi, I was slightly energized by the time we checked into the hotel. Enough strength to shower that is! Oh, there was nothing like the feeling of free flowing fresh clean water on the tired and aching body! I found myself showering twice... psychologically, it helped that I was cleaner after 3 days of no shower.

Drifting off to bed that night, again I count myself blessed to have the opportunity and strength to experience this magnificent journey. And this chance wouldn't have existed without the big boy next to me. His care and support throughout has seen me through this safe and sound, and made this hike another unforgettable one. For sure, this would be one of those experiences that will stay etched in our memories for a very long time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scrambling to the Peak & down to the Lake + Hot Springs! (Mt Rinjani - Day 2)

8th June 2010

Brr... I heard the wind howling in the distance and a persistent nudging coaxing me out from the cocoon I have made myself into.

"Time to wake up already?" I stuck my head out from my sleeping bag and shrank a little at the sudden cool air on my face.

"Yup! Put on your jacket and we'll join the rest for hot drinks and biscuits before we head up!"

I glanced at my watch. Only 2.00am. Nice. This should leave us ample of time to reach the peak before sunrise! A shot of piping hot Lombok coffee and a couple of biscuits, we were off on our path up to the much-anticipated peak.

For the first time, I had a hiking stick with me. I've been advised to have one along. If it was to be useful at any point of the trip, it would be at this very part of the journey. Never underestimate the soil that you will potentitally face. And boy! Was I glad that I had the stick with me! The initial hour was a slow struggle with steep inclination but solid ground to tread on. Come the next hour, things began to turn into REAL challenges. The loose volcanic soil was growing more dense, the icy wind pierced more sharply with the open vast space and the air was getting thinner making it harder to breathe.

We made many stops. Each of us panting and puffing after merely 20 steps or so. Midway through...

"Pak! Is it okay if I wait for you all here?"

I heard Jian Wen asking. He wasn't feeling all too well. After being warned not to go anywhere but to wait at a slightly more shaded spot, the remaining 4 of us continued our struggle to the top. Cindy decided to stay back to accompany her fiance.

Norman and I were falling behind. I could sense that the Swiss guy was making too many courteous stops for us to be completely enjoying this particular hike. As the sky got a little brighter, Adi gave him the green light to shoot off himself. Our group has zeroed down to the 3 of us.

It was NOT easy. For every 2 steps forward, it was a 1 step slide back. Crawling. Scrambling. I did whatever I could to make effective distance but it was really difficult. I was drained out. My breath was laborious. Frustrating. And without realising it, I found tears started forming in my eyes... and I can't possibly imagine why!

I saw Adi resting in the distance, and joined him when I eventually got there.
"Adi. I think we shall take our own time there. No point rushing as we aren't going to make it up there before sunrise. See!! The sky is already brightening!"
"Yaa... tak apa! Go slow... take your own pace... asalkan selamat."

Taking a rest with Adi
whilst waiting for Norman to catch up
When Norman finally caught up with us, he wasted no time to rest. He placed his now-felt-like-10kg-backpack on the soil and wasted no time to take his camera out! There's always reserved energy in him when it comes to landscape photography.

Tha narrow path

Incredibly steep!

Trudging ahead

Sunrise was fast peaking
 After what felt like eternity, the loose gravel started to give way to even rocky surfaces. We were finally fast approaching the top. I turned to Adi who was close behind me all the time through this last leg of treacherous path.

"Pak, you can go up first. I'll wait here for Norman. Don't worry, I am okay."

I wanted to scale the very last few steps with this special one. He lagged behind for the many stops he took to snap pictures. We have come so far together, and without his support throughout, this would have been a near impossible nightmare. I smiled as he caught up once again.
"We are almost there, dear. Finally!"

His aloof grin was unmistakably visible. We both got up there together... with the sun shining its full glory.

Appreciating the bird's eye view before our very eyes

Our team that made it
"Yay! Team Malaysia, you've made it!" Our Swiss friend hollered. He was prancing around with arms folded, clearly trying to keep himself warm.

"How long have you been up here?"

"Hehe.. about an hour now. You missed sun rise!"

An hour long?! Gosh.. we were that slow?:) Oh well, we made it in the end anyway. Although I felt somewhat bad that we had to make him wait for so long, we didn't feel bad enough to take some more time taking photos of the gorgeous natural wonders before us.

Anak Segara Lake below

As much as we would have liked to stay there longer, the chill was getting to me and we still have Jian Wen & Cindy waiting below. The climb down was a different experience altogether. Thankfully faster, it required skill and balance to 'ski' down steadily. It felt like skiing, literally.

Exhausted but.. oh, what a view below!

Met up with Jian Wen & Cindy
Apart from Norman's broken hiking stick on the way down, we all got back to the campsite safely. But I was pretty much drained. The sudden onset of tiredness made my subsequent movements real sluggish. Take off shoes.. take off socks.. take off thermals.. put on dry clothes... pack up sleeping bag..

"Hey, why don't you come have something to eat first? Breakfast is ready."

"It's okay. You go ahead with the rest. I don't feel hungry. Will pack up first."

Not hungry?! Yeah, surprisingly I wasn't. Exhaustion was more than I could handle at that moment.

"I've never seen Reen this tired before." I heard Norm's voice as I approached our picnic mat. He waved me over and pulled up a chair. I sat staring at the plate of food he handed to me.

"Better try eat something, kay? We've still a long journey ahead of us."

Sigh. It was true. Now that the peak has been conquered, the motivation to push forth has subconsiously started to plunge.

Waiting to be fueled

Egg sandwich + Banana Pancake + Pineapple + Lombok Coffee!

What's left from the 'kitchen'

The train of monkeys ready to pounce on any leftovers

Upon finishing his meal, he took my left leg and gently placed it on his lap. As he started to massage those aching legs, the instant relief felt was immense. Dear, you couldn't possibly imagine how grateful I was then :-*

Before any of us could restore our energy, we had to pack up and make our way down to Anak Segara Lake 2000m above sea level. The plan was to trek down, have lunch, dip into hot springs, and trek up again to Plawangan 1- Senaru Crater Rim (2641m) to spend the night. But at the rate we were going, trekking up again was pretty far-fetched. Not only time was against us, we doubt our zapping energy would see us through.

The trek down to the lake was by far the craziest path I have ever imagined. Blardee steep with humongous "steps"! - Did nature think that giants trek its path?? Intermitent rain shower just added another obstacle to the less-than-pleasing experience - slippery! It took a lot of teamwork and a few near-falls before miraculously we arrived at Anak Segara Lake, thankfully without any major injuries.

But, it was p-o-u-r-i-n-g cats and dogs. The heavy downpour really dampened my spirit. Cold, wet, tired and hungry. Food was not ready yet as the rain was a hindrance to getting any cooking done.

"I guess we can hit the hot springs first! We will never make it up to the other campsite today. We might as well take our own time and rest here instead."

We all agreed unanimously. I was initially reluctant to head down to the hot springs (a good 1km through bushes and slopey terrains), but he vouched that it was going to be one helluva experience that I must not miss. Let your muslces heal with the sulfur-ed hot water at the highest hot springs in the world! I'm glad I listend to him.

Sharing a bath in the 'hot tub'
It was the only 'bath' we ever got. By the time we got back the campsite, it started to pour again. But food was ready - our porters managed to erect a temporary shade made from canvas (with holes!) and poles. Famished - we gobbled up our meals within seconds and spent the rest of the time in silence, each drowning in their own thoughts whilst watching the heavy rainfall. It truly was a day out of the ordinary.

When the rain subsided, we got up to set up our tents and got ourselves comfortable into dry warm clothes for the evening.

Our neighbours

Let to Dry
Tonight, we will spend the night next to a temperamental volcano at the opposite side of the lake. We gazed in awe when she rumbled and puffed. Such magnificent beauty she possed that I was truly humbled by her presence.

We had a jolly good time that evening. Jian Wen's brilliant idea to bring wine up the mountains was a real treat! Sitting around the campfire with wine in hand made this a luxury camping experience.
 As we exchanged stories, our chatters and laughters resonate in the quiet night. The last thought that came to mind before succumbing to slumberland that night was that I do belong to a very small group of lucky people to be nestled in such a special place.

What made it even special was that I was sharing the special moment with the snoring guy next to me.