Cycling a land of Volcanos

Indonesia is a country made from volcanos. It’s a bit like New Zealand, but you have the tropical weather on top of it which makes it way harder. I’ve been cycling from Ende on Flores island to Jakarta on Java island. Each island has its very unique culture and climate.

On big islands, like Flores, you have a very humid climate due to the jungle that keeps the humidty. On small islands like Lombok, it’s dryer and a bit fresher thanks to the sea breeze that can easily travel through the entire island. This makes the landscape and climate very different from an island to another and I have to say, Flores was by far the most challenging one. As it is a big island, The road is going through the middle of the island, the air is very warm and humid and the road can climb up to 15%. I was sweating so much that I often drunk more than 6 liters of water per day. Everyday.

While I was able to cycle an average of 120km/day in Australia, here I’m limited to 60km/day maximum and it takes me all day.

When I arrived on Lombok island, I decided to go and hike up Mt Rinjani. It’s a famous volcano that you can usually climb in 3 days. The summit is high up to 3726meters. I like to mix activities between cycling and hiking and surfing and sailing. It makes the travel way more enjoyable.

Sembalun village
Tiu Kelep waterfall located at the base of the hike

Time limit

I’ve been granted a 60 days visa in Indonesia. You usually can only have 30 days if you get it at your arrival but if you apply at the embassy or online before you enter the country then you can ask for 60 days.

60 days is still short because this country is huge! luckily, the connection between the islands is working well, 24/7 which makes it easy to hop from an island to another. I arrived on Lombok island in the morning at 7am which gave me all day to cycle. In opposition to Flores, this island is mainly flat, except for Mt Rinjani, and small. It’s possible to cycle all around it in 3 to 4 days.

Lombok Island

Cycling still takes a lot of time and I have to be in Jakarta in a month from when I was on Lombok. I will have to go to Bali then Java. Java only is more than 1200km of cycling from the east to the west via Jogjakarta. So for this hike I allow myself just one night / two days instead of the 3 days hike to reach the summit. I won’t go all the way up to the summit but stay on the rim of the crater.

Two reasons for this : My time is too short to make it all the way to the summit. The summit and crater are still officially closed due to a recent erruption which usually don’t really stop me but this time, it’s way too short to be able to make it.

Recent eruption

We are on the 16th of October and the last eruption happened on the 29th of September. I contacted the National park office to know about the situation and they said that the crater rim is ok but everywhere else it is still closed until further notice.

In any way, it looks like the local guides don’t really care about it and still bring tourists up there all the way across. Let’s speak about guides because here it’s crazy!

Guide or no guide ?

So when you arrive either at Senaru which is the official end of the hike or Sembalun, the official start, it is crowded with guides. Everyone will jump on you trying to hook you up to a guide company. It is what happened to me. I told them that I don’t need a guide. They said it is very dangerous without a guide and I can get lost. Well, I’m not sure about this with the load of tourists hiking up here every day, the way must be easily recognizable.

I ended up in a guide’s office and the only solution to get rid out of them was to say that I am a guide because they would haven’t let me go without paying for a guide. This shifted their behavior totally. They started to not see me as a client anymore but one of their peer. They finally finished the conversation by giving me all the details about the hike and finish by “any way you can’t get lost there is just one track and a lot of signs along the way. Enjoy!”

If you don’t feel comfortable or are not use to hike then it might be good to take a guide and maybe porters as well.

But if you go alone there is absolutely no fees to pay to go in the National Park. Some agencies will try to get some money from you this way.

The hike up

I decided to start from Senaru because the view point of the crater is better from this side of the rim. There is a 6 hours hike to reach the rim from Senaru village. I started to hike early, 7AM. It’s maybe because I haven’t hiked for ages and i’m excited to see the view from ridge that I’m hiking very fast. The end is a bit challenging but very doable. There is load of tourists on the road that I’m overtaking. Going with a guide means you stop a lot of times for eating etc… Well after 4hours I’m on top and it’s cloudy.

I’m now thinking that I could even try to keep going to go on top or Mt Rinjani, not just on the rim. So I started to hike towards and met 3 other hikers from Jakarta. We hiked down to the crater lake together for a while then I came back on my way to set up the camp on top of the rim before the sunset.

The view was mindblowing !

Waste management

In Indonesia, there is not waste management and it is very sad to see so many plastics and all sorts of trash on top of the rim. It is everywhere, there is piles of it. Pretty disgusting. It’s a shame to see that on such a beautiful place.

Luckily as I walk out of the crowded camping spot, I found my way out of the garbages areas. I walk opposite of where the official track is going, had an encounter with a wild dog and her puppies. They all barked at me but were too scared to come closer so I haven’t been concerned about them.

After I passed the dogs, it was wastes free! Finally.

The camp

I found a flat spot to spend the night and the view from the tent was awesome. Everyone says it’s cold at night and it was but still, it is an Indonesian cold, which means you maybe don’t need to carry a sleeping bag if you got a merino base layer a mid layer and a jacket.

If you plan to go there and want to sleep at the same spot, when you arrive to the rim where the official campsite is based, then go hike on the left side for 1 kilometer. You should find a sweet spot with an amazing view on the volcano.

The way down

The way down was really hard. It is steep and all the gravels makes it very slippery. After a few hundred meters I saw a man walking very slow. I asked him if he was ok and he explained me that he broke his ankle. I think he was a porter. So he is going down, without any water or anything. I gave him all my water and kept hiking down. At the end I was so thirsty and my muscles were very sore. It took me 2 days before to walk again without pain on each steps.