844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Mt. Rinjani (Lombok, Indonesia)

For a revised version of this post, go here.

March 30th, 2009 - Well, after all much ado I finally made it to Mt. Rinjani (12224 ft, 3726 m). Another day, another Indonesian volcano. If you climb something in Indonesia it will probably be a volcano. Actually, if you look in any direction on any of the major islands you can probably spot one. I fell in to a burning ring of fire.…..

I have to admit that the Rinj was a real bitch. G-G-Grueling. Of course, I was a touch under the weather......again. Why must it be so? I want one week of standard health. Is that so much to ask? I don't think it is.

It began with a fever (and it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire), a fever I managed to quell slightly with about 800 mg of ibuprofen. I thought that would suffice . Nuh-uh. 

And I was plagued with a rather annoying bout of fatigue. That made the majority of the trip a real struggle. It felt exactly like hiking at higher altitudes, say above 10,000 feet where very step requires concentrated effort. It sucks. The problem is this was happening well below my usual threshold. In fact, I should not have felt it all on this mountain, except perhaps at the very top. But no. From the beginning I was ascending at a snail’s pace which, if I may be a bit immodest, is not the norm for me. If that was not enough much of the trail is covered with loose sand/pebbles making the ascent akin to walking up a sand dune. My ass hath been kicketh.

At the end of the second day I did regain some of my mojo but it was a bit late coming. Where was it when I was approaching the summit? Damn it all to hell in a hand basket with hot needles and flaming enemas! There is a possibility that all the pre-climb scuba diving may have played a part in the fatigue. I did a little bit of research and found that there just might be a correlation. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I left Gili Trawangan and drove from Sengiggi to Senaru where I met the guide and my sole hiking companion (a French woman from Normandy). A tough little cookie on a three month escape to Indonesia, Australia, and Thailand. We got along well (at least at first), a bonus as we had to share a tent and, at times, a bit of body warmth due to a lack of foresight by our guide.

Our captain failed to waterproof our supplies and left us with wet sleeping bags (Luckily, I had my own). His failure to anticipate inclement weather seemed a bit odd given his experience. However, it was his reaction that was a teensy bit frustrating. He just looked at me and said, “Sleeping bags wet. Maybe you not sleep. Hee-hee.” Fucker.

Honestly, he was a nice guy but not terribly motivated to climb. This was his (and the porter’s) first trek of the season so I guess they need time to get their legs back. They felt like climbing like I felt like boring another rectum in my ass. The guide lagged behind in the beginning but recovered a bit towards the end. This is the second time I’ve had a guide with an ambition shortage. (You may remember the Agung hike).

The porter was a real trooper. He made the climb using a bamboo pole with two supply-filled baskets on each end. And he did it all in flip-flops (or thongs to you European folk). Ohhhhh, the plight of the third world porter. He had only the clothes he was wearing which were not exactly suited for mountain trekking. I gave him a flimsy jacket to keep warm and he was ready to have my children. If I had thought the trek through thoroughly I would have hired an extra porter to take some of the burden off him. I carried all of my own stuff but when you consider food, tents, sleeping bags, and cookware there is still a significant amount of weight. This, of course, did not prevent him from taking the lead almost the entire way. Like I said, a real trooper.

It is a little unsettling to see guides and porters eating inferior food and less of it for that matter. And when you tell them to take from the tourist supply they refuse. Just par for the course for them but it does make me a bit uncomfortable. If I had to do this trip again this is what I would do. I would come to Senaru and locate my own guide and porters (at least one porter for every person in the trekking party). I would purchase enough food for everyone in the entire party and would work out the payment details myself. Pay them a little more, feed them decent food and they will be happy campers. And you could mandate that all trash be carried out as well. So for all of you planning on conquering Mt. Rinjani I just gave you the plan. I’ll see you up there. Bring the kids. And the in-laws. Mom you’re coming too. Start packing.

One unfortunate aspect of the journey was the prevalence of trash on the mountain, especially at the campsites. It was everywhere. After cooking everyone just chucks the remnants anywhere and everywhere. It is a bit depressing as well as confusing. Here you have a national park that is a magnet for tourist dollars yet it seems that not all that much effort is made to maintain a clean trail. I was told that people climb the mountain and clean up the garbage three times a month but that does not help those climbing in the interim. The governor of Lombok made the climb on the day the trails opened (March 26th). He apparently had quite an entourage and they left a rather significant mess. Rice, eggshells, noodles, tin cans, etc. WTF, right? And I know they are aware of the problem because there are signs that ask hikers to carry out their trash.

This trip even had drama. We spent an afternoon by the crater lake inside the larger caldera, where the smaller, younger volcano sits (It is aptly named Gunung Baru or 'New Mountain'). Not so far from the shore lies a hot spring adjacent to a pleasant waterfall. It is quite unremarkable, merely a 10’ by 3’ walled off enclosure that catches water via pipes set into the rock for the purpose. Although only three feet deep there is enough space for a relaxing soak. At the foot of the waterfall sits a fairly turbulent swirling pool that, unbeknownst to us, is not suitable for swimming. Well, my French hiking cohort decided it would be a good idea to follow up her hot water splash with a refreshing dip in the pool. I did consider it myself but decided it might be a bit sketchy so I refrained (Our guide failed to mention the danger).

When I saw her sitting in the water just on the edge of the pool I was a bit concerned but did not say anything because I thought if she stayed put she would be okay. She had other plans. She waded into deeper water where she was subsequently carried into the middle. Then Frenchy stated to swirl. I watched and hoped she might recover and swim back to shore. No such luck. When she went under the second time I decided to jump in after her. I probably should have taken a moment to come up with a better plan but such was not the case. Then Richie started to swirl. I managed to grab her arm but was sucked under the falls myself at first. Fortunately, after I my first go around I was elated to discover that I could stand on a rock in the middle of the pool and also able to grab Frenchy and steady us both. I was going to swim for the shore but she was a bit frightened at that prospect so I relented. Thankfully, there were also four French tourists looking on. They found some sticks and extended a helping hand. I was able to grab the stick and pull us to safety. Pheeeewwww! Never a dull moment.

The other tourists had been warned by their guide about swimming beneath the fall but we have received no such caution. This might explain why onlookers were dumbfounded by what they witnessed. And I have to admit even though we had not been explicitly told to stay away I thought jumping in was a fairly obvious bad call. But then again, who the hell am I, really?

[Author's Note: Team France and I subsequently engaged in a rather brief romantic dalliance that ended exactly as you might expect, very badly. So I suppose it is true that amorous bonds forged under stressful circumstances are doomed to failure. Huh. Thankfully, we only wasted a few short days discovering how much we couldn't stand each other. Not quite the Harelquin Romance ending, eh? Reality bites.]

And now it is off to the island of Sumbawa. This should be interesting. It is larger than Bali and Lombok combined and the bible is seriously lacking in useful information. The Lonely Planet seems to recommend that you merely skip through the whole of the island to get to Flores (the next island to the east). This is in fact what most people do, if they do not skip over to Flores by boat in the first place. Few tourists venture to Sumbawa, except surfer types. There is an ultra luxurious resort on a small island just off to the north but I don’t see that happening. Former tenants include Bill Gates and Princess Di. So this may be the start of the real adventure. Maybe I will merely blaze through on my way to Flores or perhaps I will find a reason to linger. We will see. There is another interesting volcano to climb there but it is difficult to reach and the climb is arduous. Not sure if I am up to it. Maybe. Maybe not. I'm tired. I need a nap. 

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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim