Mount Rinjani Expedition Of Singapore Trekking Groups


by Hairul A. Ben

Twenty-strong was our number. Twenty adventurous souls decided to partake the expedition to climb the summit of Mt. Rinjani. Of the twenty, five were ladies.

This expedition was already in the planning after the ESA-Gunung Tahan Expedition was a success in April 2007. Like any objectives in life, for them to succeed, the planning stages were paramount. Haron, our team leader, was also the chief organiser of the expedition. He searched for the most reliable, efficient and affordable trekking operator. After much deliberation, Haron decided to engage the services of Mr. Edy Sumedy of Rinjani Trek. That was Haron’s first most important decision, and it was the right one as affirmed at the end of our expedition.

Zulkifli, with his technical know-how of trekking and equipment, gave his advice to our team members of the items they should have with them for the trip. Mr. Wu Jeng Chong, the Foreman in Repair Department, selflessly volunteered as our trainer. Most of the training was of trekking by nature, and were done on our local hiking trails in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Woodcutter’s Trail (Mandai) and Butterfly Trail (Chestnut). The training was essential to the success of the expedition. There were a few of us who couldn’t join the training because of different work-shifts. I was one of them. Thus we had to take it upon ourselves to do our own training in preparation for the expedition.
Weeks passed into months, and finally, the day of our departure came. The excitement in everyone of us was unsurmountable. The atmosphere as we assembled at the airport was euphoric and palpable. Though I was appointed as the journalist at the last moment, I was honoured to be given that task. Thus with ink and parchment, I shall attempt to immortalise our experiences, feelings, moments and glory of the Mt. Rinjani Expedition.

Day 1

The team assembled at Row 11, Changi Airport Terminal 2 at 1400hrs. Family members gathered along and greetings ensued among those present. We checked in our luggage, and were fortunate to have in our team the three ladies who are SATS employees; Normah, Sarah and Marlinda. They helped ensure all the ticketings and luggage check-in went smoothly.

Haron gave a final briefing before the departure, and led in the recital of a prayer for our expedition. It was done with such reverance and humility, in supplication to be Blessed with a safe journey and our goals be fulfilled. A group photo was taken before we bid farewell to those we left behind.

We had some time to do a bit of shopping in the transit hall, before making our way to Gate F30. Once the gate opened, we boarded Silkair MI128 for Lombok. Haron’s mother in-law, Mdm Asiah was with us for this trip. Of course she wouldn’t be hiking with us. She would be overseeing the events after our trekking. She would be staying at a relative’s. Our aircraft departed at 1605hrs. It was to be a 3 hour flight.

At 1805hrs, we caught the first glimpse of Mt. Rinjani on the starboard side of the plane. It was glorious, ringed with snowy white clouds and the summit ablazed with the diffused ray of the setting sun.
The pilot made the final approach and we touched down at Mataram at 1820hrs. The airport was a small one, yet modern in construction. We disembarked using a mobile passenger step and our plane was in plain view. Photo session! It was then I realised, we were drifting away from the luxuries and the way of life we were so accustomed to. With each step we took, our comfort zone diminished, and eventually, what we carried in our backpacks would become our most priced possessions.

The team made to the immigration, and collected our backpacks. We had no problem clearing the customs with our backpacks. However, we had some difficulties in clearing the charity luggage we had. The officials weren’t as accomodating as we had hoped they’d be, despite having a letter of our intention with regards to the luggage. Haron, along with Shaffuan and Hizam eventually managed to settle the situation. By 1945hrs, we cleared the customs. Our Opertator, Mr. Edy was already there, along with 3 others. We loaded up into two mini buses. Our backpacks were carefully loaded onto the roof of one of the buses.

I was in the smaller bus with Zul, Setmar, Linawati and Nurhana. Haron was sitting infront with a small man. It was then that he introduced himself as Pak Ismail, the expedition Guide. He has been a guide for the past 15years. I felt assured already knowing that, as I was sure the others would be too.

Our road drive began at 5m above sea level (a.s.l) and climbed up a winding and twisting road for 15 minutes to a height of 280m a.s.l.! It was an ordeal for some of the members, as I learnt later. And we went back down to 0m a.s.l. within the next 15 minutes. The rest of the almost two-hour drive was rather docile and smooth. Our tummies were grumbling, and as if he read our minds ( or maybe he heard our stomachs grumbling in unison), the driver pulled over and bought us some finger-food. They called it Gorengan Lombok. We had our first taste of the local food, which consisted of fried Lombok tofu stuffed with bean sprouts and fried soyabean cake. Yup, they’re all fried, thus the name gorengan. Our hunger ruled and we scoffed them down gratefully.

Our entourage arrived at the Senaru Resort @ 2205hrs, with an elevation of 365m a.s.l. We were given an official Welcome by Mr. Edi and a general briefing of the hike ahead of us. But the most welcome sight was when dinner was served! We had salad, rice, fried chicken, crackers and chicken soup. Dinner was absolutely filling.
After almost an hour of dining, we were shown to our rooms. They were chalets, accomodating two to a room. I was partnered with Norafandi, the expedition photographer, an old-time friend and a totally funny guy. The trip promised to be an entertaining one with him around.

At 0200hrs, I almost committed murder when a rooster started cock-a-doodling incessantly! It felt good to be close to nature, but I wished there was a button on that animal so I could shut him off! But it lasted for half an hour. The sandman visited everyone of us and we slept peacefully.

Day 2

It was rise and shine for Fandi and I at 0630hrs. The sun was already up and it was bright out! Once we’re packed, we headed up to the dining hut. Samson, Hasni and his brother Hizam were already there with Muhammad and Toh. The smell of coffee was overwhelming. We were served with the local pancake called lempeng. It had cut-up bananas in it. Delicious. Breakfast of coffee and lempeng in a rustic village, surrounded by nature. Lovely morning. The others had breakfast at different dining huts because not everyone was roomed in the same vicinity. Normah related an incident when she stepped into her room the night before. There above the toilet door was the MOTHER OF ALL GECKO! It was a huge gecko with red eyes, a native to Lombok called tekek. The tekek is a symbol of good luck in Lombok. Normah didn’t share that ideology, neither did her husband, Zul.
We all assembled at the Rinjani Trek Centre (RTC) where we registered our names. It was imperative we informed the officials of our departure date and the date we were to come back from our hike. There were some souvenirs such as t-shirts and badges, which were sold at the Centre only.

Pak Ismail, our Guide Leader was assisted by Pak Abu Bakar. Ismail were to take point, while Abu Bakar were to be the last man, right behind our own appointed last man, Hasni. We had with us 11 porters who carried our sleeping mats and provision for the duration of the trek. Mr. Edi bid us farewell and safe trip, and at 0815hrs, we moved out south through a steady climb. It was a common trail used by the locals who stayed there. A single track that was edged with wild flowers and shrubs on either sides, with tall tress canopying the track with their leaves. We were fortunate to catch glimpses of the rare Ebony leaf monkey, which is known locally as Lutung, as they deftly scaled from branch to branch, watching us from a safe distance. We crossed path with the locals, and they were polite in greeting us and making way for us. The sweet scent of flora intruded our senses as we made our way up, and up.

We had our first rest stop at 0850hrs. The Pintu Senaru (Senaru Gateway) was the 0km mark for our trek, at 745m a.s.l. There was a stall selling drinks and a fairly decent public toilet. Initially, we all thought that every stop would be like that. It wasn’t to be. Well, we bought drinks and some did their number ones. I know someone did her number two, cos she told me later in the expedition! Honestly, easing one’s bowel became a topic of discussion during the trek!
After ten minutes of rest, we proceeded. The actual trekking began. The foliage and track didn’t change much, and at 0950hrs, we arrived at POS I STOP. It was our second short rest before moving off at 1000hrs. The weather was cool. Linawati had some problems with her knee. It was strained, and it hurt her with each step she took. I took out my Lavender massage oil and gave the problem knee a massage. I know what she was enduring, for it happened to me last year at Gunung Tahan. At 1030hrs we hit 1000m a.s.l., and at 1030hrs, we arrived at the 2km mark. By the way, the altitude readings were given by Zul using his reliable Casio Pro-Trek wrist watch at my prompt.

An hour later, at 1050hrs, we reached at the POS EXTRA STOP with an elevation of 1165m a.s.l. Haron was another casualty, in which he had severe cramps on both his quadriceps. It was physically exhausting, but everyone was in good spirit. We ate bananas and some biscuits. Ironically, those biscuits we ate were simple hard tacks with pineapple cream fillings, the kind we wouldn’t take a second glance back home. They were absolutely delicious then, and we passed them around among us. Since we left Pintu Senaru hours ago, we had a canine companion tagged along. She was following behind us, and always stopped a distance from the last man. I fed her some biscuits and she even ate bananas! We were trying to give her names like Milo, Fifi, and I was tempted to call her Fandi, but one Fandi in this trip was more than enough. Eventually, I simply called her Dawg, and that was the end of the name debate.
Haron had one of the porters give him a massage to ease off the cramps. I told him he shouldn’t move off immediately, and to let the spasms subside lest he aggravated them. So Haron left later with Hizam and Hasni. Pak Ismail was to carry Haron’s backpack.

At 1110hrs we moved out. The climb got steeper, with clusters of roots criss-crossing the trail. It was taxing, and we eventually had to distribute the contents of Lina’s pack. At 1200hrs we hit the 3km mark at 1240m a.s.l. This was where we first encountered wisps of clouds brushing our faces. It was cooling, and spiritually uplifting and we were walking among clouds. We continued our climb diligently, keeping ranks and assisting each other at the more technical sections. Our lady hikers never lost their fortitude, which was an inspiration to me as I watched them. It started to drizzle, and out came the jackets and raincoats. By 1230hrs, we arrived at POS II STOP, where we prepared to have lunch at 1500m a.s.l. The drizzle didn’t abate, and it was foggy. Everyone offed their backpacks and did some stretchings to ease off the strain and kinks on their backs and shoulders. The porters started the fire going and boiled water to make us tea and coffee. During the whole time we were trekking, I was in awe at the prowess and agility of the porters. They were garbed in t-shirts and bermudas, with only slippers under their feet. They hauled the provisions and equipment stored in two rattan-weaved baskets tied on each end of a stout bamboo pole. And each of these encumbrance was substantially heavy. Yet, the porters carried them on their shoulders easily and dextrously.

Half and hour later at 1300hrs, Haron, Hizam and Hasni along with Pak Abu Bakar joined us. The cramps still bothered him. At 1345hrs, lunch consisting of instant noodles with rice, boiled egg and vegetables was served. We scoffed our lunch hungrily. I slipped some food to Dawg. After we ate, it started to pour quite heavily, and we had another 2.5 km to go before we hit POS III STOP.

The team moved out at 1445hrs. Haron decided he should walk at the back of the team before Hasni, because he needed to slow down his pace and he didn’t want the team to held back. His cramps were still bothering him. Dawg didn’t follow us anymore. The climb was the same as ealier, rooty terrain with steeper climbs at some places. We all made good time with our ranks held in check. We hit the 5km mark at 1600hrs, 1840m a.s.l. We took a ten minute rest before moving off the rest of the way.

1700hrs exactly, we arrived at POS III-MONDOKAN MALOKAK with an elevation of 2000m a.s.l. Some of the porters set up tents for us, which we chose at random, while the other porters started cooking dinner. 1830hrs was sunset, and I did my prayers surrounded by the calm of nature around me, accompanied by the voices of my fellow team mates and the smell of dinner. We had fried rice, Lombok style, and it was heavenly. By 2000hrs, we were done with dinner. We sat idly recounting the day’s events and enjoying the ambience. Pak Ismail related two incidences to us which happened recently.

There had been deaths where we were camped at. The first being that of a local man who went fishing at the crater lake, but was caught in extremely bad weather on the way back. He had provision for 3 days, but was stuck in the mountains for 6 days. His body was found by Pak Ismail at around 8 pm after the wife of the deceased reported him missing to the Park officials. Ismail carried the body down all the way to the village. Another incident was that of 7 Lombok students, who went up ill-equipped, and they perished due to over-exposure. It was believed the students were heading to Mt. Sangkareang. I shivered at the thought of not having an experience guide along for our expedition.

The stars were shining so brightly, and there were millions of them as we all lazed about looking at the zenith. It was cold, with a temperature of 13.8deg Celcius. But we were all comfortably warm in our sweaters and fleece jackets. The 5 ladies neeeded so badly to ease their bowels. There was a “toilet” nearby; a small metal booth, with a door and a hole on the ground inside it. I voluntered to check it out for them at their hintings. Apart from some rust, it seemed adequate to me. So I gave them the thumbs-up, and became a sentry for them at a respectable distance. I saw further down the path, several torchlights were scanning the area. My male team mates too needed to “go” it seemed. Most of us were wearing head-mounted lights, with a white beam or a red beam mode. It was so funny, cos each time anyone found a “spot to go”, their headlights turned red. So, it was an unspoken rule that red meant “STAY AWAY. I’M DOING MY BUSINESS.” It was so convenient to be a male in situations like this. The ladies however found it impossible to do anything but Number One. At the campsite, we heard songs by Air Supply in the air! It came from Rahim and Allen’s tent, and they were both blissful in it. It was as if Rahim was serenading Allen with the songs. Hmmm, and of course, that become a punt throughout the expedition by yours truly.
By 2100hrs, almost everyone was in their tents turning in for the night.

Day 3

My buddy Fandi and I got up at 0430hrs, among the few early risers. We repacked our belongings and did our morning worship, said prayers for a blessed journey ahead. The temperature was 10.3deg Celcius. The sun made a bashful appearance at 0600hrs, its rays piercing through the clouds and mist. Breakfast was already prepared, and we savoured the servings amidst the sounds of small mountain birds and the soft sighing of the mountain wind. The sandwich was humble, but enough to go around and washed down with coffee and tea. To our delight, there was a family of grey macaques hiding in the bushes, attracted by the smell of food. These monkeys are indigenous to this area. They have thicker fur compared to the ones we have in our own Nature Reserves in Singapore, probably because it gets very cold up in the mountains. Some of us tried to lure them out by giving the macaques their sandwiches and bananas. It worked. Wary at first, they thronged out of the bushes and ate heartily whatever was given to them. PHOTO moments!…Out came the cameras.

Once everyone was ready, we moved out at 0645hrs, along the Plawangan-Senaru trail. We were told by Ismail that the foliage will break after 15 minutes into the hike. True enough, at 0700hrs, we were walking along a grassy ridge, the sun shining, but not making the day uncomfortably hot. The long grass, bright emerald green, were swaying to the breeze, and away from the path, tall casuarina trees, or Cemara as they were called here, grew uninhibitedly. The sights of saplings were a testament that the soil and condition were ideal for that species of flora. I took a deep breath at the beauty unfolding before me. We could see what lay far below; civilisation and further on, the coastline of Lombok. The summit of Mt. Rinjani was in view ahead of us, and it seemed so far away still.

I was wondering why everyone was suddenly animated, dropping their backpacks and taking out their cameras. It became clear as they reached the 7km mark, and a sign that said “DEMPLOT”. It became clear to me as to what this place was. It was a plant nursery and a natural irrigation system of Gunung Cemerang. Alongside the ridge we were tracking on, the Park Authority had planted 1000 Cemara saplings, in their efforts to preserve the trail and to improve the natural outlook of the area. I guess the sudden euphoria was everyone’s way of being glad at being out in the open.

0800hrs, at the 7.5km mark, became a monumental mark for us. Here, we were at 2190m a.s.l. We had surpassed the summit of Mt. Tahan of 2187m a.s.l, the expedition we made the year before. I announced this to the team, and the ladies especially took heart at this revelation.

An hour later we arrived at the Crater Rim 1, with an elevation of 2515m a.s.l. The sight of the caldera was spectacular. Thick clouds blocked the view below, but eventually dissipated as if on cue to display what they were hiding from our mortal eyes. The Segara Anak craterlake in the caldera surrounded the new volcano Gunung Baru, like a moat that surrounds a castle. A thought occurred to me. If Mt Rinjani was animated, I am sure it is proud to see its offspring growing so magnificently beneath it. Gunung Baru appeared to grow right in the middle of the caldera.
Having spent half an hour taking pictures and savouring the beauty before us, we began our descent to the water-line of the caldera. This wasn’t an easy feat. Going down is always difficult when you trek. Our walking sticks gave the extra edge in controlling our momentum. It was treacherous, lined with sharp, slippery rocks and roots. Again, we were all in admiration as to how easy the porters made it seem climbing down the trail with their loads. There were two ‘red sections’ along the way, which meant extra caution must be taken when negotiating them.

1010hrs, we hit the 8km mark, with an elevation of 2310m The going was slow, and I could see the trail was taking its toll. Lina had to do away with her backpack, and I carried it for her part of the way. Marlinda started having blisters on her toes, as did a few others. I was carefully making my way through the rocky trail, when I lost my footing and stumbled. Nothing broken, nothing hurt. Hasni decided it was his turn to carry Lina’s pack. Still we pushed on. It started to rain at 1115hrs, and it made the trail even more slippery. The descent was tedious, and it slowed the team down. Then, at 1200hrs precisely, Lina slipped while climbing down a series of rocky drop-off. I was right behind her, and I feared the worse. There was a loud thud upon her impact, and her left leg was in an awkward position. I scurried down and asked if she’s ok, if anything’s hurt. To our relief, she managed a smile and said she was alright. She wasn’t even bruised. However, her walking stick broke. Better that than her. I adjusted the length of my walking stick and gave it to her. We pressed on resolutely in the rain, reaching the 12km mark at 1215hrs.

At 1310hrs, the team reached the caldera water-line. Though it was a consolation, we still had a ways to go before we reached Danau Segara Anak Stop. We had to walk along the water-line tightly, for a slight misfooting would send one into the deep lake. At 1330hrs, we hit the 10km mark. Hizam was helpful in pointing out several markers to me. The Stop was in plain sight, and the only thing that was standing in our way was a small river flowing from the lake into the valley further into the mountain. We had to remove our shoes and tread along carefully with Toh and Muhammad marshalling us through.

1345hrs, we arrived at the Danau Segara Anak Stop. There was a shed with a raised platform near the water-line. But it was too small for everyone of us, and there was already a small group of Eurasian hikers before us. We were all wet and cold, and in dire need to change into drier clothings. Ismail and his entourage saw to our needs immediately. They raised a canvas canopy extending from the shed outwards. We were grateful at being out from the rain. But the smoke from the firewood hurt our eyes, a necessary evil, for the porters were preparing our lunch and hot beverages. The rain abated to a drizzle, and I took out my dry cloths, walked a bit further into the foliage and literally stripped myself off my wet clothings. For a moment, I felt so liberated in all my glory. Almost reluctantly I put on my dry cloths. It felt so good to be dry again. When I got back to the tentage, several of my team mates had already changed. Setmar, my Filipino friend and Samson, the oldest team member, went fishing at the lake instead! They must have hides of a rhino i guessed. We all huddled close to each other, chatting and laughing, feeling the closeness and warmth encompassing us. At 1630hrs, lunch was served, consisting of rice, noodles and fried chicken. Another meal fit for a king, so it seemed.

Haron had to decide if we should press on to the planned campsite and arrive there later this evening. After some discussions, Haron ultimately decided to set up camp here. Thus, by 1715hrs, the tents were erected. Ismail took several of us to the hot spring, which was a ten-minute walk. We had our slippers on, and for the first time, we appreciated how difficult it was to trek with them on instead of our boots. 13 of us made our way down to the hot spring, and when we got there, it was worth our efforts. The hot spring water came out from the face of the mountain, right next to a gorgeous waterfall. Ismail was the man who tapped the hot water and built the walls to contain the spring water. When we got in, it felt so deliciously healing! All our pain, sore muscles and cold seemed to ebb away immediately. We soaked ourselves for half an hour, and made our way back to our tents at 1830hrs.

Dinner was already in the making, and we were all comfortably waiting for our meal. We related the hot spring experience to those who didn’t come along, and decided to have another go at it the next morning. Dinner was served at 1930hrs, and we all ate heartily, bantering and talking freely amongst each other. Later, when almost everyone was in their tents, ready to turn in for the night, I could hear Haron’s voice, in giggly pain as he was ministered with a massage for his cramps. Poor man. But my sympathy for him changed into mirth the next day as you will understand why later.

There was a certain calming effect that the sound of the flowing river had on me. The perpetual guggling of the moving water as it rushed towards the waterfall was symbolic to our own expedition. We, as a team, were heading towards the reason for our existence at that very moment in our lives. With that in my mind, I easily drifted off into a restful slumber.

Day 4

I woke up at 0500hrs, freshened up and did my morning worship.I announced to those interested to visit the hot spring to be ready. Fandi decided to stay behind, as did several others. This time, 9 of us headed down to the hot spring at 0615hrs. The weather this morning was absolutely lovely. When we got to the spring, we wasted no time in letting the rejuvinating spring engulf our bodies. There were several macaques around this morning. They kept a safe distant. However, when Toh wanted to take a better picture atop a knoll near the spring, he was oblivious of a rather large macaque infront of him. Toh was taken aback when it barred its teeth and gave a harsh hissing sound. It was smart of Toh not to accept the challenge.

At 0730hrs, we climbed out of the spring and headed back to camp. Whilst we were away, breakfast was ready, and hungrily we ate the banana lempeng served before us. I had second helpings, as did a few of my team mates.
As I ate, I looked around our campsite. Right across the lake was Gunung Baru, a desolate looking place amidst the beauty around it. The eruptions of Mt. Rinjani in 1994, 1995 and 1996 formed the new cone, Gunung Baru. It stands at approximately 2300m a.s.l. and the Segara Anak craterlake is 300m deep. Our campsite was situated at the foot of an imposing mountain. Pak Ismail told me the mountain is called Mt. Sangkareang. At 3500m a.s.l., it is the second highest peak in Lombok, after Mt. Rinjani. A hundred years ago, Mt. Rinjani and Mt. Sangkareang were part of each other. When Mt. Rinjani violently erupted, Mt. Sangkareang became a seperate mountain. Many have tried climbing up the summit of Mt. Sangkareang, but few have succeeded. Due to an alarming number of fatalities, the Park Authority has removed Mt. Sangkareang from any official trekking programmes. Pak ABu Bakar further told us that there were 3 caves at Mt. Sangkareang, and there were some legends and folklore that they were protected by a myhtical lion. Some had ventured into the mountain to seek instructions in the arcane art of mystism.At

0915hrs, we headed north along the Plawangan-Sembalun trail. It was a steady climb with a spectacular view of the surroundings. I immediately proclaimed to myself that this was my favourite part of the trek so far. The Cemara trees were dominant, growing majestically along the face on the mountain. Brightly coloured flowers adorned the trail, their beauty further enhanced by the morning mountain dews that clinged on to them delicately like twinkling diamonds. Even more delicate were the hundreds of intricately woven spiderwebs on the tall grasses and rocks, so light that they sway with the slightest breeze yet so strong that dews cling onto them like bells. Shaffuan was about three hikers infront of me, when he turned and beckoned to Hizam, who was right behind me. Hizam whipped out a plastic ware and took out a Chuppa-Chup (lollipop) and told me to give it to him. I wanted one too! Sheepishly, I asked him if I could have one, and he generously gave one to me! Strawberry Cream! Yummy! As I removed the wrapper, I put the Lolli in my mouth, and it was the sweetest thing I’ve had for quite a while since. Only then did I proclaim to Hizam, this lolli had just made my favourite part of the trek sweeter, literally!

Now, Haron was in agony the day before, which worried everyone. However, since we moved out this morning, he was zestful! I could say he seemed rather frisky, flamboyant and absolutely boisterous! He kept asking if “everyone’s alright”, and if they’re “having a good time” and “what’s up dudes!” and he was just full of life! What was totally confounding was, he was speaking (shouting) with an Australian accent! What gives?! Ok, so the massage he had yesterday at the campsite worked. But what’s with speaking like an Aussie? Here, he’s a Malay Singaporean, hiking up a mountain in Lombok Indonesia, surrounded by all ALL_ASIAN cast, and he was speaking Blooming Aussie! I just had to come to a conclusion that he was making up for the zest he had lost yesterday.

At 0945hrs, it started to get misty and cold. We were at 2080m a.s.l., and the climb became more technical. We had to scale up some rocky faces, and the cold really got to us. At 1010hrs, we hit the 11km mark and took a short break. At this altitude and temperature, it wasn’t wise to stop too long, for our bodies cooled down much faster and we had to start from scratch when we started moving out again. We pressed on, and at 1130hrs, to our chargrin, it started to rain. But I was glad no one suffered from muscle cramps anymore.

After a lot of scaling, crossing two bamboo bridges over ravines and braving the rain, we arrived at the Crater Rim 2 at 1310hrs. We took a breather, and pressed on towards Crater Rim 2 Stop. That was to be our final campsite, the one we were supposed to be at yesterday. At 1340hrs, we arrived happily at the campsite, with an elevation of 2570m a.s.l. A ‘Dining’ Tent was already erected and the porters had already began cooking our lunch. Our tents were also being erected as we settled down. It was still drizzling. I looked around, and for the first time, I realised the soil was loose and black. They were porous, giving evidence that we were standing on volcanic soil. There was a lower level from where the main tentage was, and after that was a sheer drop. My tent, along wih 3 others were erected there, while the rest were on the upper level. There was an interesting layered rock formation just behind my tent, a result of the eruption and years of exfoliation and weather erosion.

The day was absolutely foggy, with a visibility of about 10m. Amidst the hustle and bustle of setting up tents and changing into dry cloths, many were looking for a spot to tend to their bowels. The porters actually went from tent to tent, asking if we’d like coffee or tea! I knew we were leaving our luxuries behind, but i dare say, being attended to personally was luxury itself. Man carries his civilization with him, and the hospitality of these Sasaks (Lombok locals as they are called) truly earned my profound respect. At 1530hrs, lunch was served. No chicken this time because it was too high for the chickens to hike up ( a joke on Sarah’s account), just eggs and vegetables, rice and pineapple. As we ate, Haron briefly described the plan for the hike up to the summit. Given the speed we’ve been going, we had to start off an hour earlier than planned. We were to begin our ascent at 0200hrs. We were all high-spririted. A few of our Muslim team members did our evening worship, while the rest lounged about indolently. Our two elderly hikers, Samson and Allen felt youthful, they had about them a boyish grin everywhere they went. Fandi and I laid a small canvas on the slate edge behind out tent, and chatted, waiting for the sunset. The area was still thick with fog and clouds. Zul, his wife Normah joined us, while Sarah and Marlinda sat in their tents, joining in bits of our conversation. Haron, being a responsible leader that he was, went around asking for everyone’s wellness, especially so towards Nurhana, his sister-in-law and Firdaus, his nephew. Firdaus was the youngest member, at 22 years old. He was rather reclusive and kept much to himself. Well, between Fandi and I, we bantered with him and joked, til he eventually peeked out of his shell.

As we chatted, we all burst into an ecclectic dance (well, not everyone actually, just me) when the fog eddied and swirled and cleared. Right before us was a splendour that was so magnificent it took our breaths away. Mt. Sangkareang was in full view, and the setting sun silhouetted it, casting a baleful yet mesmerising view. The outline of trees that lined the ridge of that mountain looked like a string of hikers climbing up. Photo moment! Fandi said, “this is the moment I’ve been waiting for.” as he snapped away with his camera. His experience in photography was honed through a diversity of photo sessions he has had. And it seemed he really knew that moment would come when he pestered me to sit with him to keep him company. Fadil, I was certain, was feeling melancholic. He must’ve wished his wife could have been there with him to see the panorama, because she was at the Gunung Tahan Expedition but couldn’t join in this one.

At 1900hrs, dinner was served, and we ate contentedly. Haron again briefed us of our climb. We were all aware that we would be trekking in the dark, but then, we only need to look ahead where we’re climbing. We were to keep our ranks tight, and aid each other. We were told to have an early night, so by 2030hrs, everyone was in their own tents. At 2230hrs, I was awakened by the pitter-patter of rain, and it grew quite heavy. I was praying that the rain would stop before our climb, and I was reassuring myself there must be a good thing behind the rain. At 2330hrs, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had begun.

Day 5

0100hrs: Everyone was up and about, did their own stretchings and checked their headlights. I carried two lights, one strapped to my forehead, the other was hand-held. The temperature was about 12deg.C. The rain was a positive thing, because there was not a cloud in the sky, and we could see the millions of twinkling stars above us. A light breeze tantalised everyone. After some hot beverages and snacks, we were about ready to move out. Not everyone carried their backpacks, because we would be coming back down later. I carried mine to store my drinking water, some snacks for Fandi and myself. Zul,Shaffuan and Hizam also carried their backpacks and stored provision for the rest.

At 0215hrs, the team moved out from our altitude of 2600m a.s.l. This was what we had trained for. This was what we had dreamt of doing for the past months. Like the water from the river, we were all heading for that one destination, the summit of Mt. Rinjani. It was a gradual climb, the soil felt soft under our feet. I was right behind Normah, and Zul was infront of her. Fandi had to move further infront, as he was the photographer. Hizam and Hasni were behind me, with Abu Bakar being the last man.

At 0315hrs, we hit the 2830m a.s.l. mark. We walked along an inclining ridge, which was relatively easier than when we started off. We knew the ground gave way to a steep drop on either sides, but we dared not guess how deep. The wind started to blow in from the north, across our path. The easy trek only lasted for about 1km, for at 0345hrs, the climb got noticeably harder. We were only at 2890m a.s.l. However, the silhoutte of the summit came into full view, and it seemed very close. It was 0415hrs at an altitude of 3020m a.s.l. With such close proximity and only 700m or so of elevation to climb, we should be able to be at the summit within the hour! But that was not to be, for at the hour mark, we were still trudging along another long ridge, 3300m a.s.l. The volcanic soil seemed to seep every ounce of strength from us. With every step we took, quite often we slipped back two steps or more. Our breathings became labourous, and the wind relentlessly blew across our faces. Perhaps that was the reason why we were breathing so hard.

At 0530hrs, the steep climb began. It was really steep! And the loose soil made it worse. Hasni noticed Normah lagging away from Zul, and he proposed I took Zul’s place while Zul took mine. Normah’s headlight went dead, so I gave her mine and I used my hand-held for myself. I managed to pull Normah up on several occassions. However, soon enough the group started to break away from each other. I found myself right behind Setmar. I followed his pace. For every ten steps we took, we rested a bit. It was a good momentum, regular and familiar. I took glances behind me, and I saw Normah and Zul were still climbing. I vowed to come back to them when I reached the summit. 0615hrs, the sun was up in the horizon. Eventually, Setmar and I caught up with Haron and Nurhana. He was her pillar of strength as I watched them from behind. Each time she faltered, Haron was there to pull her up, and though i couldn’t hear what he told her because the wind was drumming through my hood, I knew they were words of encouragement. Then, Setmar paused for a break, and I knelt down on the soft soil to grab something to eat from my pack. I placed my right hand for support on some rock formation on my right, which seemed solid. To my surprise, the rocks crumbled away and I was caught off-balanced by my own weight. I would’ve definitely rolled off the trail if Setmar hadn’t turned his head and saw my peril. He shouted “Oei!” and pulled me up using my backpack! When I got on my feet, I thanked him, but the full implication of my situation became clear when I saw it was a sheer drop far below. Setmar and I moved on and passed Haron and Hana. Maybe it was the repercussion of my incident, I began to slow down and Setmar broke away from me.

I was on my own. As I trudged on, each step became a colossal effort. I had, for the first time in my life, a panic attack. I froze on my track and all doubts filled my mind. “What if I can’t make it up? Who’ll bring me down? I have nothing left”. They lasted for perhaps 10 seconds, but enough to be the pivotal point of my determination. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and pushed on, saying prayers under my breath. “God Grant me safe passage. Grant my friends safe passage.” I recited those words with each breath I took over and over, looking down as if completely humbled. Thrice I had hallucinations, from the corner of my eyes, was a tree which promised shade from the wind and the now burning sun, and a place for me to rest. But each time I looked, it wasn’t there. Then I heard my name being called from above. No joke! I squinted up, but it was so steep I couldn’t make out who it was. I saw Setmar further up front and I was catching up to another packless team mate. I pressed on, and again my name was called. When I finally caught up with him, it was Fandi! I had thought he was at the summit by now. First thing he said was, “Hairul. I’m hungry.” I realised his food and water were with me! He went on without nourishment all this while! We found a relatively firm spot and I took out our provision. We had Snickers and drank from our bottles. It felt good, he felt good.

I gave him a pat on the back, and asked if he’ll be ok. He gave me the thumbs-up, and I found myself energetic again. With a firm resolution, I set out for the summit again. Not long after that, I caught up with Setmar, Lina and Shaffuan, as they were resting against some more rocky fissures. At least it was out of the wind. I didn’t want to break the momentum I had, though I paused a while and smiled at them. Shaffuan was appointed as Lina’s aid. Lina had a look as if she was totally beatened. Her words to me were “This is madness. Hairul this is madness.” I told her we’re almost there. She’s gone so far. With an encouraging smile, I nodded to Shaffuan and Setmar and continued my climb.

It really got steeper. And the sun was beating on us mercilessly. I heard Toh’s voice encouraging me, and I saw him like a sniper with his camera aiming at those below him. He was on a parapet-like fissure, and it seems he was already at the summit, but went back down a ways to take photos of our ordeal. He was a sight for sore eyes and sore muscles! I knew I was getting closer and a renewed vigor propelled me forward much faster. As I turned around a natural bend against a boulder, there it was. Ismail was waiting at the edge of the Summit. Samson was already there, so was Allen. I moved reverently passed them and genuflected beside where Ismail was standing. I kissed the ground and thank God. When I got up, Ismail caught me in a congratulatory embrace. I was 3726m a.s.l., the summit of Mt. Rinjani. It was 0715hrs, almost exactly 5 hours of toil. I walked towards Samson and Allen and congragulated them. Setmar, Lina and Shaffuan were next. Their smiles were more radiant than the sun. Firdaus looked nonchalant as ever, which made me smile. Being youthful had its advantages. Fandi, with his faithful camera slung across him came in along with Fadil.Then came Haron and Nurhana. Followed closely by Rahim who was Sarah’s aid. Hizam was already amongst the victorious group at the summit. Hugs everywhere, and I went back down to aid my other team mates.

As I was climbing back down, I saw Abu Bakar pulling Normah’s arms and running up with her. She followed him unconditionally.When I got to them, I offered my hand, but Zul declined. He said, “It’s ok Bro. I want to do this with my wife.” I patted his shoulder, and as he passed by me, my eyes welled up and tears fell freely down my face.
Finally, the most dramatic climbers were Marlinda and her aid, Muhammad. Hasni stayed true to his task, and some witnessed Hasni pulling Marlinda up and scrambled with his hands clawing at the ground to propel them forward. Such was the human drama that unfolded during the climb up to the summit. By 0745hrs, everyone of our twenty-strong hikers made it up the summit of Mt. Rinjani.

Photo moments! The view was breath-taking. The crater lake looked so far below us, and Gunung Baru looked miniscule. We have been warned by Ismail and Abu Bakar to minimise our jubilance, for in 2005, a Canadian hiker fell to his death when he was busy taking pictures at the summit without being mindful of where he was stepping. We were supposed to remove our jackets to have our group photo taken wearing our Expedition Shirts, but no one was going to oblige because it was cold. So, we had our photo taken with the banner only.

We began our hike down at 0845hrs. It was much easier. All one had to do was dig one’s heels into the soft soil and slide down. The soil itself will slow you down. It was a lot of fun. However, when we got lower, it became tedious as the soil wasn’t deep enough. We had to tread on carefully, and we realised how difficult the climb was now that we could see it in broad daylight. The sun was really burning, and having three layers of clothing was no fun. So we all removed our jackets and hiked back down. I was behind Normah, and Hasni was behind me. I was chatting away, taking in the view, when i slipped and again and was saved yet by another team mate. Hasni instinctively pulled at my backpack, preventing me from sliding over the ridge.

As we climbed lower, Marlinda called out to me. Setmar was having a bad migraine. I told him to remove his jacket. He complied, and told me Rahim had given him some painkillers. Setmar had not had anything solid to eat all the while, and the painkiller made it worse. True enough as Setmar pushed on, he began feeling nauseaous. I told him to sit, and gave him a packet of energy bar. He took a bite, and with his Filipino accent, he looked up at me and said, “Eee…Not nice ah.” Trying to control my mirth, like a whiplash my voice retorted, “EAT!” He continued to chew and swallow, and I gave him some water to drink. After the first gulp, he threw up. That was that I wanted to see. He threw up really good. When he was done, he said he felt so much better. Still, I told him to finish the rest of the bar.
We caught up with Firdaus, and I was watching him. He happily walked without a care in the world. The ground gave way more often forcing us to slide on out butts. I sprained my ankle twice, but wasn’t badly injured.
At 1145hrs, we all arrived at our campsite, happy and relieved. Lunch was ready. Our relief lasted a brief moment, for we had to move out by 1300hrs. It was to be a 5-hour hike back down to the village in Sembalun. All the while, we have realised the need to add about 2 hours to the estimated hike-time. Thus, what was a 5-hour hike was going to be a 7-hour hike. We would be hiking into the night.Once lunc

h was consumed, we all packed our belongings. We had never left any rubbish behind, and we looked around to make sure every rubbish was collected.

We moved out to a steady descent at 1315hrs. We were all still very hyped-up after our success. Haron, Marlinda, Nurhana and Lina got the porters to carry their backpacks for the hike back down. It was a rooty descent, and we made good time. However, as the hour wore on, Ismail, Samson and Allen were far ahead. We took short breaks, trying to make good time. By 1615hrs, we were at 2000m a.s.l. and rested along the edge of a spring, though the water running through it was a trickle. We had biscuits and pineapple. At 1630hrs, we got up and continued our hike. The trail took us through several rolling hills. We walked along a slippery trail, and I think I slipped the most. I sounded like a clumsy ox as I fell. We reached the Sembalun camp III at 1930hrs, where we took a short break. I noticed, and rather whimsically made a remark, “Not appreciating the sky and the stars anymore now, are we?” There were some feeble laughter, especially from the ladies. We pressed on, totally clueless to where and how far we were going. We kept crossing bridges that led us into yet another hill. Tempers were short, and frustrations ran high. Amidst the anger, I can’t help but notice Marlinda echoing Shaffuan’s or was it Fadil’s informative instructions like “Look out, hole on the left” or “Becareful, slippery.”. Eventually, I could only hear Marlinda’s voice giving out warnings, so detailed like “Rock”, and to my amusement as I passed the place where the warning was ensued, it was just a small stone. She eventually stopped giving out warnings when she realised she was the only one doing it. Thank you anyway, Marlinda.

We were rather delighted when we entered a forested area. We had the impression that we were close to civilization and that once we break from the forest, we’re there. To our consternation, the forest opened up to yet another hill! I was losing it, and so were a few of us. Toh was my accomplice in venging out at the ridiculosity of the situation. We kept repeating “Gunung Tahan revisited” and “this should not be happening again.” But deep at the back of my mind, I knew this situation couldn’t be avoided because we had camped at the lake when we should’ve camped at the last campsite. We could have camped another night when we climbed back down from the summit if we had done so. Thus, eventhough I was frustrated, I knew each step took us closer to our destination. One thing I realised, non of the ladies were complaining, nor were they showing signs of giving up. Their fortitude held strongly, and I knew how tired they were. I was impressed and motivated.

Almost at 2200hrs, we turned into a civilised path, with signs of regular use. True enough, it was a path used by farmers who tended to their vegetable patches. And after crossing an irrigation channel, we found ourselves passing by houses, with dogs barking at us. We felt the urgency knowing we were close to the end. And at precisely 2200hrs, we came to the road in the village, where the mountain vehicles were already waiting for us. There was a bit of chaos over there as some of us wanted to open the bags that were left behind before the trip and check them immediately. Haron reassured the team everything was in order and told us to board the vehicle as the boat was already waiting for us @ Bangsar Harbour.Ismail and Abu Bakar remained vig

ilant to our needs as they gave instructions for our backpacks to be loaded up. His porters tended to his orders. When everything was in order, we thanked the porters, Pak Ismail and Pak Abu Bakar. Some of us gave away some of our belongings. I gave Abu Bakar my sleeping bag and my headlight.We

all loaded up into the two vehicles, which were to take us to another meeting point where we were to transfer to two urban vehicles, because the mountain vehicles were not permitted on the lowlands. Once we were in the urban vehicles, we headed towards Bangsar harbour. Everyone almost immediately fell asleep. I had to push one arm against the front panel of the bus because the road was steep and twisting. It felt so good to sleep. And at 0100hrs, we arrived at the harbour. A chartered boat was already waiting for us, and so was Mr. Edi. We boarded the boat along with our belongings, and headed out to and island resort called Gili Trawangan.

At 0200 hrs, we arrived at Gili Trawangan, and we were glad to see there was some night life there, as the music played in one of the bars that was still opened. There were several caucasians (drunk mostly), who gawked at out team as we marched towards our accomodation. We were given our rooms, and gladly we went in and I was sure, everyone took a shower. Though I know Fandi didn’t cos, after I had my shower, I went out looking for food. I bought 4 packets of rice and beans and chicken, 3 cans of coke and a can of iced-tea. Toh and Samson also bought one each. I knocked on Zul’s door, and gave him two packets of rice and coke, bid them goodnight and went into my room. Fandi was dead asleep, but he woke up at the smell of the rice, and the can of coke was his undoing.We

went to bed right after we ate.

Day 6

It felt so good sleeping on a soft mattress, and I was awakened by the sounds of voices outside by room. It was 0930hrs. I got up, showered and got dressed. Fandi followed suit. He was sceptical as to whether breakfast was still available. We headed out to the lounge across our resort. It was called the Trala la Lounge. Original. Continental breakfast consisting of toast, eggs and fruit platter was complimentary. Anything else we had to pay ourselves. We had a scrumptious breakfast, and the others joined in. Some of us wanted to take a horse-carriage ride around the island, and we assembled at 1130hrs for the one-hour tour. It cost 50,000rp for a carriage of 3 passengers. The horse-carriage was affectionately called Cidomo. Though they looked like ponies, they were a smaller breed of work-horses. I shared mine with Zul and Normah, because Fandi wanted to sort out the photos he took, so he claimed.

It was a lovely ride, as we saw the coastline, the houses and resorts and such laid-back lives of the islanders. We talked about the past few days, and how remarkable it had been. The silhoutte of Mt. Rinjani loomed acros the sea from where we were.

At the end of the ride, we shopped around a bit. Haron was making head-counts as to how many of us wanted to go on an island hopping cum snorkelling trip, which cost 140,000 rp (US$15) from 1300hrs to 1700hrs. I went back into my room, and there was Fandi, asleep. So much for the sorting outs. I asked if he wanted to join us, and eventually, everyone of us wanted to come along. Only Hizam and Hasni had to decline, because they were doing scuba dives that day. Those two brothers have impressed me since the Gunung Tahan Expedition. They were always ready to give a helping hand, and were never too proccupied to give their opinions when the situation deemed of it. And they kept their propriety in check by apologising to the team that they couldn’t join us for their dive times coincided with our trip.

Lina had her own snorkelling get-ups. The rest of us used the ones provided by the operator. At 1330hrs our boatman and his assistant led the boat out to sea. Our boat had a clear acrylic bottom, so we could view the life under the sea. The water was crystal clear, and the diversity of sea creatures were astounding. We even saw turtles eating off the corals. Our first stop was off Gili Trawangan itself. I plunged in and loved the feel of the sea water. Zul and Muhammad followed suit, then Toh and several others. Fandi, Rahim, Samson, Allen, Setmar, Shaffuan and Hana stayed onboard. There were a few first timers to snorkelling, so Lina and I gave pointers. Once they got into it, they loved it.

We climbed back on board and headed towards Gili Meno. Gili Meno housed the locals mostly, since Gili Trawangan catered for the tourists. Here, there were more vibrant corals and fish. Haron displayed his agility at acrobatics when he dove off the boat with a 360 vertical roll. Not bad. Zul attempted the same trick, but didn’t even come close. Can’t fault him for trying though. Setmar, being a first timer, jumped in as well, but only stayed for 5minutes. He got back onboard when he gulped a considerable amount of sea water.

The boatman then took us towards Gili Air. We managed to persuade Hanah to jump in, which she did gladly. She was already in her snorkelling attire, but simply was too reserved to jump in at first. We didn’t snorkel there long because the current was too strong. He then took us ashore at Gili Air, where there was a hut that sold fresh seafood. Everyone except Marlinda, Muhammad, Lina and myself, went up. They ordered grilled sea bass, grilled grouper and grilled cuttlefish. Lina, Muhammad and myself continued snorkelling, and it was fantastic. I took pictures with my disposable waterproof camera, and was delighted when I came across a blue-banded water krait.

I went up when i got hungry, and prompted the rest on the boat to come along, but they declined. I took bites of cuttlefish from Fandi and Zul, Shaffuan fed me some grilled fish. They were delicious! I placed an order of grilled cuttlefish myself. There were locals selling hand-made bracelets and necklaces, and we patronised them.
At 1730hrs, we boarded the boat. I asked Lina why she didn’t come ashore, she said she was enjoying the gentle rocking of the boat and the sound of the sea. Once we got ashore at Gili Trawangan, Lina, Sarah, Firdaus, Hana, Marlinda couldn’t resist eating Mee Bakso at a mobile stall. They looked so happy savouring the succulent dish by the sea. Fandi, Normah, Zul and myself decided to kick back and relax under a patio facing the sea at a restaurant called Pesona. It had large soft cushions and it was very cosy. Zul and Fandi ordered sheesha, and we had avocado juice. We sat idly, joking and enjoying the sea breeze, and as luck had it, they sold cigars there. Zul and Fandi ordered one each, and though I don’t smoke, I loved the aroma. We didn’t realise how time flew. It was almost 2100hrs, and we were to assemble in front of the resort for our seafood dinner.

When we’ve assembled, we made our way, a short walk to the seafood restaurant. The restaurant was al fresco, with a lovely ambience and the waiters were absolutely attentive to your needs. With soothing music in the air, we began with drinks and appetizers. Once we were settled down, we were invited to the buffet spread, and there, we hand-chose a variey of fresh fish, prawns and crabs. The buffet spread was appetizing. We chatted among ourselves while waiting for our orders to be served. I learnt that several of them went for massages in the nearby village after the snorkelling trip earlier. Lots of soda and fuit juice to whet our appetite too. When our orders were served, we savoured the dishes and relished the succulent seafood.

By 2300hrs, we were done with dinner, Haron paid the bill from the Team’s fund, which cost Rp2.9 million. That was fairly decent considering the amount of food we had. We then adjourned to our respective rooms for the night.

Day 7

Most of us were up and were having breakfast by 0900hrs. Although some of us were nursing blistered toes and feet, had sunburn too, we felt healed and revived. Something rather comical happened to Rahim and Allen. They both woke up with noticeably swollen lower lips! Needless to say, the curiosity and concern of some team mates were overwhelmed by the mirth and laughter of others. Rahim already had a dark complexion, and with that bloated lower lip, he looked like one of the African tribe cartoon character who had a bone on his head. Allen was trying to come up with several convincing reasons to the ailment, but to no avail. I had never seen Shaffuan laugh so hard.
We were to be ready to check out by 1200hrs. Some of us went shopping, while the rest sat at Trala la lounge and had drinks and even an early lunch. At 1200hrs, we checked out from the Dive Indonesia resort and boarded the boat that took us to Bangsar harbour.

At 1245hrs, we came ashore onto Bangsar harbour. The local boys were having the time of their lives as they jumped off moored boats in their birthday suits, totally oblivious of being scrutinised by outsiders like us. It struck me how different their lives were compared to our children back home.
We had to walk some distance out from the harbour to our waiting bus. We were greeted warmly by Mr. Heri, our tour guide, engaged by our host, Mr. Ali. Mr. Heri narrated the history of Lombok, the districts we passed by, and his experiences as a trekking guide before he became a tour guide. Mr Heri also sang an evergreen Broery song, Widuri, during the bus journey with our guys singing the chorus.

At 1330hrs, we stopped at a Pearl Souvenir Shop, belonging to Mr. Ali, where a few of our friends made purchases. By 1430hrs, we were off again, this time we were heading towards another souvenir shop called Oleh-oleh Lombok which means souvenirs from Lombok. There, they sold perishable goods such as pure honey, seaweed jelly, wild mare’s milk and beef jerkies. I bought a bottle of white honey, and a packet of seaweed jelly.

At 1530hrs, we stopped by the only Mall in Lombok, called Mataram Mall. We didn’t go into the mall though, for we were more interested in the small stalls that were selling local dishes. We all had our lunch there, and were filled when we boarded the bus to head on to a pottery barn at a place called Banyumulek. It was an impressive place where vases and potteries of different sizes and shapes and clay novelties were sold at very attractive prices. However, Zul, Fandi and myself were more interested in the steamed corn that was sold outside.

Finally, Mr. Heri took us to the home of our host, Mr. Ali near a place called Sukarara. Mr. Ali is a family acquaintance of Haron and he is an enterpreneur. When our bus pulled into his courtyard, a barbecue was already in progress. The host and his family had gone out of their way to organise a barbecue for the team. Another example of Lombok hospitality. We off loaded our backpacks and were shown to the upper level of the house where we were to spend the night. We all took turns to shower and then headed down to the courtyard to join in the festivity. Haron’s mother in-law was there before we arrived.

We had grilled tapioca, corn, bbq fish and rice, bbq mutton and chicken. We ate heartily, and the moment came for the certificate presentation and the experience-sharing. The names on the certificates were written by Linawati. She has such a nice handwritting. 🙂 One by one, Haron called out and presented the certificates. At each presentation, the patron was to give his/her point of views and experiences with respect to the expedition. Samson was the first to receive the certificate, and he was happy that he followed the expedition. It was “the best birthday present for himself.” Allen shared his opinion as to a better training regime in the future. Sarah, like Samson, was also glad she came along. The last time she did a hiking trip was twenty years ago. And though she wasn’t sure if this was her last, if it was, she was contented. Firdaus received his, and claimed he had enjoyed the expedition immensely, eventhough a certain playful member teased him constantly throughout the trek. Fadil had a tremendous amount of self-satisfaction that he managed to complete the expedition despite a knee injury which he suffered during the descend to the waterline.

Normah was smiling, though her eyes brimmed as she thanked everyone. She admitted that she was literally sobbing as she was climbing up to the summit. Zul was happy that he got to do the trek with his wife, and that it was like another honeymoon for him. Well Zul, just be glad you got her as your wife. Marlinda too was thankful to everyone in the team, and she was amazed she got through it. We learnt that Abu Bakar had told Hasni and Muhammad to leave her with him, and he would bring her down because she was lethargic and short of breath. The two men however would not oblige, and with a fierce determination, they fused their will to keep Marlinda going. I am sure Abu Bakar was impressed by our team at that moment. Nurhana was especially grateful to Haron for his patience and support towards her. Linawati was very level when she said she was absolutely amazed at how cohesive the team was, and that everbody was always ready to give a helping hand, especially to the ladies, who had to cope with certain difficulties adherent to the fairer sex.

Muhammad was very emotional as he related the climb to the summit with Marlinda. Rahim was elated at the team’s success, and he announced that he had to step back from any future expeditions as he was focusing on his studies. Toh claimed he had a good time, though the final leg of the trek was something he could do without. However, he said that at least, he understood now how we felt as we hiked down Gunung Tahan in the dark. Shaffuan thanked God and everyone for their hardwork and contribution. Setmar claimed that this was a tough expedition, because he didn’t hike in the dark at Gunung Tahan last year. He also thanked me, and somehow, I got a Ph.D from him. Hizam congragulated Haron for the well planned trip, and that the organisation was immaculate. Hasni was straightforward with his comments. He said it could have been better, but at least, in the end everyone made it up and down. He shared his experience as the last man, that he observed everyone’s characters throughout the trek. It was a vantage point he had being behind.

Next came my buddy, Norafandi! Seeing him accept the certificate had already cause some laughter. He thanked his mother and his father, and everyone involved, grateful that everyone made it to the summit. With a dramatic thank-you wave of his hand to the team, he sat down and shut up. Haron proclaimed me the joker of the team, which I proudly carry with a smirk on my face. I too thanked God for His Blessings, and I expressed my heartflet appreciation to Setmar and Hasni, who without their quick reflexes, I wouldn’t have been here tonight. I paid my tributes to the ladies for their unwavering fortitude throughout the expedition, especially at the last stretch. I admitted I was feeling sulky, as were many other male team mates. Lastly, I apologised to those whom I poked fun and teased, especially Allen and Rahim. They were all “nahh…it’s ok….”, until I interjected, saying, “but I am still going to keep poking fun at you guys!” Boy oh boy! The look on Allen’s face was worth maxing out your Visa Credit card!

Finally, Samson presented the last certificate to our team leader, Haron. He thanked all of us for making the expedition a success. He also apologised for the cramps he had on the first day, though why he had an Aussie accent the next day eluded all of us. Haron then explained, “During the night camp by the lake, I was given treatment. They applied some prayer words on my legs that made me become ironman.” Still, Mr. Haron, that did not explain why the Aussie accent. Hahaha.

He shed a whole new light when he related the difficult climb he had with Nurhana. He felt responsible for her safety (sorry Firdaus, you’re secondary to him. punt punt!). It seemed at first that he was her pillar, but it appeared that many a times, Nurhana had helped Haron back on his feet when he stumbled.
We all lounged and chatted a bit more, before retiring upstairs for the night. The ladies got the comfy rooms, and the guys slept on the carpet and sleeping mats. Marlinda and Sarah shared a room, which they vacated immediately when they sighted a large tekek near their bed.

Day 8

I woke up to the call of the morning prayer from a nearby mosque. I showered and took my ablution, did my morning worship. Several others followed suit. We took turns using the toilets and bathrooms. By 0800hrs, we all had breakfast, consisting of fried rice, eggs and Lombok coffee. We had come to the last day of our trip. We had a group photo with the host and his family. We then each thanked the host for his hospitality. We boarded the bus and headed off to a town called Kediri.

At 0900hrs, we visited the Yayasan Pendidikan Pondok Pesantren M.A. Yusuf Abdusattar. It was a religious school and institution for Islamic studies. It had been established 13 years ago. The school’s headmaster, Haji Azmi, greeted us warmly. His face was serene and sincere. He led us through the school compound, where curious boys and girls were looking at us, giggling and waving at us. We arrived at the verandah of his home, and sat down on the floor. Haji Azmi explained that the Institution was a private school, and they handled their admisnitrative works themselves. The curriculum, however was in compliance with the Government Education System. Therefore, the school not only focused on Islamic Studies, but also circular subjects too, so as to develop students who are wholistic, that they can still find jobs in the outside world when they have graduated. There are over 1000 students at present, from Bali, Sumbawa and other nearby islands, and local students too. Most of them came from poor families, and public donations were appreciated immensely.

The recital and memorizing of the Quran is done at an early age of 6 years old. The holy verses were made into songs to aid in committing to memory. As I chatted with Haji Azmi, we were served with bowls of Mee Bakso, banana fritters, Lombok coffee and corn.

We were taken on a short tour of the school. There was much to be done in improving the appearance of the buildings, but the students seemed happy and satisfied. After the tour, we bade farewell to the students and Haji Azmi.At 1145hrs, we arrived at a village in Central Lo

mbok, called Dusun Enjak in the province of Labulia. Our hostess was Ema, who once worked for Haron and his family as their housemaid. Mdm Asiah had been staying with Ema while we were on our expedition. As we approached her home, we were greeted by throngs of villagers, both young and old.
Allen and Samson were given the honour to present alms to some old ladies and widows. These alms were collected from the team members before the expedition began. The patrons were mostly wiry, and age reflected clearly throught the wrinkles on their faces. But not one of them was without a smile.Pak S

amsudin, Ema’s brother, invited us into his house after the alms were handed out. Again we were given the Lombok hospitality. Lunch was being served even as we were making ourselves comfortable. We had fresh fried freshwater fish, curry chicken, tapioca leaves cooked in coconut milk and sambal belacan. We ate to our hearts content. Sarah really got into it, as did Lina. They were literally mauling the fried fish.

Once we were done with lunch, out came rambutans and home-made cakes. They were absolutely delicious! The second part of our charity drive began with Sarah and Lina handing out clothings and money to children, men and women who were destitute, and finally, the children from the village orphanage too received their share of our donation. We handed out lollipops to the children, but I saw a few of my team mates with a white lolli stick sticking out of their mouths. Well, there were enough to go around, and I popped one into my mouth.

Finally, we had to say goodbye to the villagers, and we boarded our bus. Mr Heri commented on our generosity and he was touched by our kind gesture. The bus took us to the southern end of Lombok towards the resort town of Kuta. In Sasak, Kuta means “wait for me there”, which had a legend of a Sasak Princess who couldn’t decide which of the many suitors she were to choose. We stopped at Sengigi Beach, where we took photos atop a hill.

After the brief drive-by, we headed for the airport. We thought our flight was to depart at 1845hrs, but we later found out it would depart at 1925hrs. We were at the airport really early. Better early than late, I guess. We checked our baggage in and just hung around in the transit lobby. I gave Setmar another back massage, because his shoulders were hurting. Finally, at 1900hrs, we boarded flight MI127. Our aircraft got the clearance from the control tower and we were airborn by 1950hrs.

We landed at Changi Airport at 2200hrs. We cleared the immigration, and proceeded to collect our baggage. Families and friends were already waiting outside, waving at us through the clear screen. Happy faces, children scampering to their parents who had been away too long for their liking. We all said our goodbyes, and went our saperate ways. But I guess Zul and Normah headed back to the same house. :p

The expedition was a success, that much was evident. We all thought at first that the Gunung Tahan climb was tough. But in my opinion, Mt. Rinjani was just as tough. So how do we quantify the difficulty level between these two expeditions we’ve had? My opinion is, we can’t quantify them. Each mountain had its own difficulties, its own terrain and brewed its own weather. They are different in many ways. But what made them the same were the challenges they offered to those who are willing to venture forth. Do you really think the mountains cared whether or not we scale their grounds all the way to the summit? They have been there before we came into this world, and will probably be there when we are no longer here. Have you noticed how we bowed our heads down as we climbed up, and even when we climbed down, where were our eyes fixated on? That itself is a symbol of our humility towards Mother Nature. I dare say we have achieved all the goals set in this expedition. Say not “I’ve conquered Mt. Rinjani!”, instead say ” I have conquered myself.”

For though we have all gone back to our daily lives, providing for ourselves and our loved ones, Team ESA-Mt. Rinjani has shared a kinship that was built and strenghtened throughout the eight days. Money can be lost and found, but experience shall live forever. I hope my journal has brought back fond memories in the hearts and minds of my fellow team mates. To those who have read this and were not part of the expedition, I hope I have managed to illustrate the human drama, the joy and anguish, and the respect life deems from each one of us, with vivid clarity. My sincerest apologies if I happened to miss out on anything. My many thanks to Haron for splendidly organising this expedition, which made the difference from the Gunung Tahan climb. On behalf of the Team, I would like to express my gratitude to Mdm Asiah for her efforts in organising the charity preparations and the bbq at Mr. Ali. Also, she was responsible for liasing with Mr. Edi, ensuring everything would go smoothly for the Team. I thank the families of each member for their support and prayers for us. And a personal thanks to Zul, for without him, I know I wouldn’t have been able to be a part of this awesome team.

Finally, my last words to all, climb a mountain, at least once in your life.

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