Saturday, 28 June 2008

Mt Rinjani (3,726m)

We left Senaru for our three day trek up Mt Rinjani, Indonesia's
second highest peak. Our heavily overloaded Bemo – a small minibus
with bench seats in the back – had a catastrophic transmission failure
as it tried to go uphill, prompting us to wait for 30 minutes for
alternative transport. In the meantime, a crowd of school children
looked on in bewilderment. Eventually our journey resumed, halting
for a period at the local market for supplies, before we arrived at
the trekking centre in Sembalun.

Day one of the trek was a 7 hour walk through grassland and thin
forest, emerging on the crater rim for sunset. Although we had booked
our own guide and porters, we were joined by six other people – they
too were expecting a wildness experience. Many of the people in our
group had anticipated the walk would be more of a nature hike, rather
than a three day boot camp!

Day two was summit day and we awoke at 3am to wind on the crater rim.
Our guide, Same, advised us that it would be too dangerous to proceed
to the summit as the route was narrow and the winds would be stronger
higher up. This then prompted a one hour discussion amongst the
westerners, with claim and counter claim ensuing as to whether or not
the guides were just being 'lazy'. We decided to opt with the
experienced guide, rather than a cigarette smoking Frenchman in jeans.

The rest of the day two was spent feeling gutted that we had not made
the summit. The surrounding views were amazing – a spectacular 6km
crater lake complete with baby volcano. As our feelings of
disappointment subsided a French woman and German man appeared, having
made their own successful summit attempt. This, however, came at a
price. They had disobeyed our guide who had forbidden them from making
a summit bid and this put a cloud over the rest of our day. Their
successful bid only served to re-ignite our disappointment and
question our decision not to climb.

Day three was a descent down from the crater rim through beautiful
jungle. When you're in such a big group, most of the wildlife hears
you coming a mile away and disappears before you get to see it.
Despite that, we were lucky enough to see some black monkeys which are
rare to see. We also saw some weird and wonderful plants, worms and

Other memories of the trip include breakfasting with grey monkeys,
fireside chats with our guide Same and getting to know all the
porter's names (Giwek, Muna, Dian, Sutra, On and Les).

After finishing the trek, we retuned to the trek organiser's office
where we waited for transport to the Gili islands. As it was just
before noon on Friday – for Muslims the most important prayer time of
the week, everything stopped for one hour. Whilst we relaxed to the
sound of the Imam's sermon broadcasting through loud speakers, our
fellow travellers were complaining bitterly about the wait with a
staggering lack of understanding and respect to the Muslim religion.
(To put this in context, Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim
population and in Lombok, 95% of people are Muslim).

All in all, the trek was a fantastic experience and a pleasant
introduction to high(er) altitude mountaineering expeditions. As we
were very disappointed about not summiting Rinjani, we're thinking of
trying again, older and wiser!

Currently safe and well on the island of Gili Air, enjoying cocktails,
beach huts and the tropical paradise.

Monday, 23 June 2008

23 June 2008: Padangbai Round Up

It's our last night tonight in Padangbai. We'll be sorry to leave the
Kembar Inn and the village as we've made so many friends – Wayan and
Komang who've prepared breakfasts, Nyoman and his wife who've
organised our tours and the whole team (another Nyoman and Komang) for
making us feel so welcome here.

The people of the village are so friendly, even the hawkers such as
the old man with his 'magic' cigarette boxes, the man who sells the
wooden harpoon equivalent of an AK47 and the white hat sarong lady -
we've upset everyone else for not buying from them. We've had good
fun bartering for our next trip to Rinjani and liked Dekwi very much.
He was very forgiving when I lost one of his snorkels this morning.
After eight nights here, a lot of people recognise us and it's very
hard to do anything quickly – we stop for a 10 minute chat every 10

Today, we went to the post office to send Japan stuff home and my
Gran's birthday present. It took an hour, many spurious forms and the
cost almost bankrupted us. We're convinced that nothing will arrive –
the envelopes are so thin, the addresses will rub off and the post
office man confused Finlandia with Irlandia. Fingers crossed!!!!

Whilst 99.9999% of our stay has been really lovely, we were both very
saddened to see the state of one poor dog, barely alive and lying in
the main road – seriously malnourished and with terrible wounds. Most
people care for their animals very well but this was a disturbing
exception. No-one seemed to do anything about it either, and when we
asked if there was anyone we could contact, we got looks of
incomprehension. A massive cultural divide and feelings of guilt that
we were unable to help the poor dog.

Tomorrow, we leave for Rinjani on Lombok, Indonesia's second highest
peak. It's a four day trip (three days walking) with guide – and
porter this time too. Full board and accommodation provided. Stay
tuned for more details.

Expect no contact until Saturday at the earliest. That's when we'll
arrive on Gili Air island, which is rumoured to have 'walking speed'
internet. With dial up here in Padangbai we're finding it hard to do
much more than update the blog intermittently. Thanks to everyone
for your emails though. They are greatly appreciated, and we hope the
blog is enough to keep you going in the meantime.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

The Ascent of Mount Agung (3,142m) and East Bali Tour

Mount Agung is an active volcano which last erupted during 1963,
spewing lava over a large area of eastern Bali. There are two popular
routes up the mountain. We took the shorter from Pura Pasa Agung.

We left the car park at 2.00am on Friday morning (20th June), starting
at an altitude of around 1,500m. Our guide, Made, made an offering at
the temple to ensure our safe passage, and then we began the long
climb to the crater rim at 2,900m. The route was first in thick
forest and then over steep (45 degree) lava slopes. The walk felt
magical in the full moon.

After 2 hours and 45 minutes (a time which Made regarded as 'strong'),
we reached the crater. Unfortunately, we had to wait over an hour
before sunrise in temperatures of around 7 degrees. Not too cold by
Scottish standards but cold enough once you've acclimatised to beach
life at 28-32 degrees. We began to ransack our bags for warm
clothing, shared food and Made started a fire - although we only
had enough combustibles for 30 minutes.

The horizon began to glow a deep crimson as the sun rose. An hour
later, the crater lake was fully lit. Its deep sulphur cliffs and
loose rock only metres from where we stood.

An hour after sunrise, we descended back to the car park, returning at
9.00am. Made's sandals had almost disintegrated by this time. He'd
enjoyed wearing my old Karrimor jacket, and I was tempted to give it
him. But I needed it again and such equipment can't be found in Bali.
Instead I gave him a pair of my walking socks which were gratefully

The rest of Friday was spent sleeping very heavily. Indeed, for the
second time on this trip, knocking and banging on the door didn't wake
me up. Jen had to get the spare key to open the door!

21 June 2008: Tour of Eastern Bali

Today we toured the sights of eastern Bali, guided by the friendly
owner of Kembar Inn, Nyoman. First stop was a very smart new hotel,
Mahagiri, with a fantastic view of Mt Agung that we had climbed the
previous day. We had our first taste of jack fruit which was
delicious and tasted like a mixture of pineapple, mango and banana.

We then visited Bali's most important temple, Pura Besakih - the
'mother temple'. It's in fact a complex of 18 separate temples,
perched on the side of Mt Agung at an altitude of 1,000m.

From there we continued on to a caldera that contains the volcanic crater of Mt
Batur and the beautiful Lake Batur.

We then went to the Elephant Park – named after the Elephant River
that runs through it. There were no elephants at all, although we
spent half our time looking for them. A very old man took us on an
impromptu tour of a giant Buddha, which was badly damaged in the 1917
earthquake. He even offered to carry Jen on his back through the

In the afternoon, we headed over to Ubud to the Sacred Monkey Forest
Sanctuary which has three holy temples surrounded by a mini jungle.
The forest looked like it had come from the set of "Indiana Jones and
the Temple of Doom". It is inhabited by Balinese macaque monkeys who
are very keen to steal bananas and any other food that unsuspecting
tourists may carry in their pockets. Rasmus was unlucky enough to get
a little bit too close for comfort to one of the cheeky primates - it
climbed up his back to reach goodies in this rucksack.

The day was brought to a very interesting end by visiting Pura Goa
Lawah, a temple dedicated to bats. It has an enormous bat cave in the
cliff face behind the altar, and at dusk, we watched thousands and
thousands of bats flying out of the cave. We've never seen anything
like it, and the sky above our heads was full of the creatures! We'd
heard that it's possible to see pythons around the cave entrance,
trying to catch bats as they fly past. We didn't get lucky enough to
see any.