Tag Archive for Indonesia

The Legend of Lombok

Operations Manager Phili Newell headed to Indonesia earlier this month to tackle Mount Rinjani, on our Lombok Lava Trek. Here is her account of the 10-day adventure.

As I touch down in Lombok Praya International airport; I am unsure what to expect of this challenge but as I breeze through immigration and see the smiling face of our local leader Brice, all feelings of apprehension are alleviated; and even more so as within the hour I find myself beachside for a delicious local fish dish in the small town of Sengiggi.

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I am pioneering and on recce trip of one of our newest challenges, the summit of Mount Rinjani.  We journey along the coastline and at some point I wake up from my jet lagged slumber to find we’ve turned inland and towards the mountain. Finally we reach our destination and I see for the first time the top of the “hill” peeking out through the clouds. Dusk falls, clouds part and the sun sets bathing the formidable Mount Rinjani in a mystical light and I realise that my initial assessment of this “hill climb” could be wrong. Rinjani stands at an impressive height of 3,726m the tallest volcano on Lombok and as I will find out one of the toughest to summit.

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Next on the agenda is to meet with our local Sasak guides and porters, the team that will be our support for the whole trek. They are friendly from the offset, their knowledge, passion and physical abilities on and about the mountain are second to none; and the chef makes a bloody good chicken curry. After briefs from Brice and the local guide to the rest of the support team and learning about the legend of Princess Anjani (Putri Anjani), after which the mountain is named; I am glad to roll into my bed.

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A day of exploration and planning lies ahead. Brice and I meet with Sar and he shows us the sights of Sembulan, a traditional village surrounded with fertile agricultural lands that sit in the foot hills of the now green lava fields. We visit the volcanologist’s centre to reassure ourselves this thing isn’t going to blow any time soon – it’s not by the way, only the small one inside might, it’s in the risk assessment.

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The group have arrived and it’s only taken us a few hours and decent meal to know that we are going to be a tight team and this challenge is going to epic.

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Briefs done, kit checked, bags packed, sun screen applied, water dispensed and that’s us ready to hit the “hill”. An early start is in order to beat the midday sun on the savannah in the foot hills of the Mount Rinjani. The undulating terrain is pleasant and the views spectacular, but the heat and humidity is stifling. I can see the glistening brilliant blue of the Bali Sea, the Lombok and the Alas Straits and across the way the silhouette of Gunung Agung in Bali. It’s these views that keep my mind off the task at hand, I also stop to take a lot of photos/catch my breath.

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Luckily after lunch and for the steepest climb of the day (actually it’s been up hill all the way) the clouds have rolled in providing us with some much needed coolness. Finally the rim is in sight and we arrive into camp as the sun sets over the crater lake.  A slap up meal and early to bed for all of us, we’ll need all our strength for the summit.

We’ve all read the trip advisor reviews and reckoned that the people who wrote the review must have been a bit wet – I mean really how hard can this summit be?!

01:30am, it sounds like a gale is blowing outside and I’m pretty cosy in my sleeping bag, I don’t really want to move but I tentatively poke my head out of the tent door to be greeted by Eric (one of our chefs) holding out a cup of coffee and the best jam sandwich I’ve tasted in a while. I imagine the rest of the team are going through a similar thought process as I’ve just been through, but when we set off morale is high.  It’s time to tackle this summit. The first section isn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be, it is dark and cold but I seem to have covered some ground. 2 hours into the climb, I’m thanking our amazing porter team for the light breakfast they provided before we started.

3 hours later, 1 step forwards, 3 slides back. I’m talking to myself, cursing ever so slightly under my breath. Walking up this ash and loose rock is beginning to feel like a reoccurring nightmare, and I have no idea if I’ve made any progress. I’ve lost all sense of time, but it is still dark and it is still cold. This is a mental game to reach the top and sure enough before you know it, I’m there, gratefully high fiving some of the more speedy of our team. We’ve made it for sunrise and as we marvel at the scenery all around, tea and biscuits appear. I love these guides!

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The way down from the summit is easier for the most part and once again we are greeted by our support team for a second and bigger breakfast. Around about 10:00am it’s onwards and downwards to our camp by the lake, Segara Anak. Although its downhill, it’s pretty steep and our legs are feeling the burn so we are all looking forward to a much needed soak in the hot springs.

That evening we sit around the campfire and reflect on the day’s achievement, yep made it to the summit of a volcano, trekked for another 9 hours, bathed in a natural hot spring, eaten delicious meals; seen several shooting stars and the milky way – does life get better than this?

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The next couple of days see us venturing into nature’s “spa resorts”. The natural hot springs have carved out caves which become steam rooms; caves that have magical healing powers that can make your wish come true but only if your return to honour it otherwise be damned forever.  It is our last night under the stars so we have a full team dinner with our guides and porters and do some short speeches to say thank you – as let’s be honest here – none of us were getting through this challenge without them to help us along the way.

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The final day of the trek, the route we take is little known to many groups, so it feels as if we are truly alone in the wilderness and this route is only for us.  The views are stunning, waterfalls, river crossings and ladders largely sum up this section of the trek. Some vertigo inducing heights, but always with a solid team to support you and at your side, there is nothing that we can’t achieve together.

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This has been an amazing trip not only for the vistas and the challenge, but for all the people I met along the way, the inspiring stories from our guides and porters. We all had our own reasons for taking part in this challenge but we all did it together.

Have you been inspired to summit one of Indonesia’s highest peaks? Visit our website and sign up today!

Supporting SOS in Ape-ril!

Unfortunately I can’t claim praise for the ingenious pun found in today’s blog title; it seems that the Sumatran Orangutan Society have already staked their claim on it as they promoted last month’s ‘Ape-ril’ campaign, which encouraged supporters across the world to grow a beard in solidarity with our orange relatives. We actually share a huge 96.4% of our DNA with orangutans, but we are pushing them to the edge of extinction due to the boom in palm oil plantations and other agricultural expansion across Borneo and Sumatra, the only homes left now to these iconic animals that were once widespread throughout the forests of Asia. Through their Ape-ril campaign, SOS is raising awareness (and money!) to make a lasting impact on the survival of the orangutans and the conservation of their rainforest home.

I’m pleased to say that Charity Challenge has also been able to support SOS throughout April, with 3 groups going out to Indonesia to take part on our Sumatran Jungle Expedition. Because of the huge presence of the Sumatran Orangutan Society directly in the area that we trek in, we make a donation of £50 for each person on this challenge, and we’ve just had the amazing news that we were able to make a humungous donation of £1400 for our 3 April groups! SOS rely principally on donations to carry out their work, so this money will go towards the campaigns, projects and other incredible work that they are already carrying out.

Our Sumatran Jungle expedition is not just a physical challenge, but also a learning experience as the group treks through the Gunung Leuser National Park, home to hundreds of our orange friends, and learns about their plight and the conservation efforts taking place in Sumatra to try and protect these endangered animals. The Sumatran Jungle Society plays a massive part in supporting the reforestation of the national park, promoting conservation among villages and communities who depend on the Gunung Leuser National Park for their livelihoods, and helping these communities to live sustainably and without animal-human conflict. If it wasn’t for the continued effort of SOS, we would not be able to run this challenge with a clear conscience, but because of them we are able to send groups out in the knowledge that they will be contributing to the protection of the Sumatran wildlife.

I think our participants can express their thoughts better than we ever could:

“To actually see the palm oil industry moving in and hearing the chainsaws while walking in the jungle was a strong reminder that we need to stop this deforestation and destruction of the orangutans’ natural habitat. If you think life is hard when you struggle with climbs and descents – think about the orangutans that get killed every day”.

“To have the opportunity to experience an adventure like this whilst doing good, with an amazing group of people was an honour. It was tough but when we all got back to the Eco Lodge and thought about what we had done and what we had achieved, from the fundraising to the trek itself, it left you feeling incredibly proud.”

To learn more about the Sumatran Orangutan Society and their conservation efforts, go to http://orangutans-sos.org/. Or alternatively, why not take the opportunity to visit Sumatra and see for yourself! For each person on our trip we donate £50 to SOS, so you can go in the knowledge that you are not only supporting the charity of your choice, but you are also helping to give back to the people, wildlife and environments you will be seeing during your time in Indonesia.

You can also find out more about our Sumatra Jungle Challenge by clicking here. If you have any questions on this challenge, please contact Jo, our Ops Manager on jo@charitychallenge.com. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.