Gunung Baru, Lombok, Indonesia
Anyone who has ever stepped foot on the sacred volcano of Gunung Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia will be able to attest to its absolute beauty. One of the best views one can take in while within the premises of the national park is that from the crater rim of the volcano’s turquoise crater lake, Segara Anak, and the “baby” volcano that sits atop of it, Gunung Baru. Gunung Baru, which translates to “New Mountain”, has in recent years, been renamed to Gunung Barujari, which means “Finger Mountain”. The volcano erupted as recently as May 2010.
While most people who visit the national park spend their time trekking to the summit of Gunung Rinjani, camping along the crater rim, or soaking in the natural hot springs near the Segara Anak, few dare, or even think, of climbing the still active Gunung Baru. When my friends and I visited the national park in late 2005, not only did we climb Gunung Baru, over and above the full summit trek from Senaru to Sembalun, we did all these in three days, when most people would take at least five to six days to do the same trek, without Gunung Baru. Were we crazy? Yes. And my aching body that followed would completely agree.
The climb up Gunung Baru was no easy task – with every step one took up slopes of the volcano, one would descend another three steps, pulled down by the loose volcanic soil that covered the slopes. The frustration of descending more than ascending was a lot to bear. Wearing only a thin cotton tee and running shorts, I took to my fours, and scrambled my way up the hill. Scratches all over my limbs ensued, but at that point, it completely did not matter. All I wanted was to make it to the top.
It didn’t help that just when we were barely starting, the November monsoon Indonesian rain fell upon us, making the volcanic soil looser than it already was. Rocks, the size of my head, started flying down, often accidentally kicked down by my companions who were further up the slope. Like a game of dodge ball, I moved from side to side to avoid the rocks. Suffice to say, I really feared for my life there and then. Freezing, drenched, and completely exhausted, I knelt on the gravel and paused for a few minutes, and just broke down.
I remember meeting some of my friends midway as they were making their way down. Thankfully, I did not know that they had actually given up halfway and were turning back. In fact, I thought that they had already made it to the top, and decided to make the descend earlier.
Back then, we were foolish and wore our Asics on our trek (and damaging them). But I watched with amazement as our local guide ascended at many times my own speed in just flip flops and knew that while the right footwear mattered, a strong physique, some level of skill, and sheer determination was more important.
And sheer determination it was, coupled with some pride I admit, made me push on.
Of my contigent of 16 people, only nine of us made it to the top. I was the last. The first of my group reached almost an hour before I did. I stayed for a mere five minutes before we were instructed to descend, lest we run out of time to reach our next camping destination on the crater rim. But the five minutes on the summit of this unassuming volcano was simply liberating and filled with an extreme sense of achievement that I have since never been able to replicate.
Every photograph we take contains a story, but we often do not spend enough time sharing that story with others. Hence, Foto Friday was born to give some recognition to these forgotten photographs and the memories they hold. Taken over many trips (2004-present) using my crappy cameras and whatever minimal photography skills I have, these photographs serve to give you a little insight into my travels. And if you haven’t realised by now, they’ll be out on Fridays.