Friday, 11 July 2014

Canoe Trip - Algonquin Provincial Park, Canada

This is my first time in The Boreal Forest of Canada. It's a big forest making up almost one third of the worlds forests. In the weeks before my fast approaching adventure I consumed with excitement and busy preparing for my trip. When I found out my company was sending me on training in Toronto I decided to stay on for a week or so and started to look for guided trips into this beautiful forest. I discovered Algonquin Provincial Park and started to search for companies that would do three or five day camping and canoeing trips.  As luck would have it trips were running the week before my arrival and in the weeks after my departure. Very frustrating. However after discovering a very detailed map of Algonquin Provincial Park and Algonquin Outfitters than can supply anything from canoes to food I started to plan my adventure.

The plan was a 10 day solo canoe adventure into Algonquin Provincial Park.  A total distance of around 75km. Paddling 60km through 13 lakes and hiking 12 portages totalling 15.5km where I will have to carry all my camping equipment, food, and of course my canoe.  Well that was the plan anyway. 

The route would take me though the following lakes from Opeongo - North Arm
  1. Happy Isle Lake
  2. Merchant Lake
  3. Big Trout Lake
  4. White Trout Lake
  5. McIntosh Lake 
  6. Ink Lake
  7. Tom Thomsom Lake
  8. Littledoe Lake 
  9. Burnt Island Lake
  10. Little Otterslide Lake
  11. Otter Slide Lake
  12. Mike's Lake
  13. Shiner Lake
Day 1
It's almost 7pm on Thursday 19th June and I have only just got myself sorted and I'm relaxing in my hammock watching the cheeky little red squirrels run about. 

My camp site for the next two nights is absolutely beautiful! It's on a little peninsular so Merchant Lake can be seen on three sides. It's only about 10 meters at its widest which allows the breeze to blow away most of the mosquitos. 

Jetlag and excitement got me up and out of the hotel at 3am and I arrived at Opeongo Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park at 7am. Paid for my permit and sorted out my equipment and was on the water taxi to take me to the back country by 8am. 30 mins in the speed boat took me to Happy Island Lake Portage. 

The portage was 2235m but as I'm solo canoeing I can't carry my 30kg rucksack, 20kg bear barrel of food, and the 25kg canoe +paddles. So I did it, just, in two trips equalling 6705m of PAIN! 
When I eventually made it to Happy Island Lake I was so eager to get onto the water I almost capsized... 

My destination was Merchant Lake which to get to I paddled 4270m across Happy Island Lake, then another double portage totalling 1020m. When I got to Merchant Lake I was a little concerned as the wind had picked up causing white caps and small waves. But I powered through with out any problems. I headed East past the site I'm now on to check one a little further away. It had been used a little too much so I headed back to where I am now. 

So I set up camp which took some time. I found a dead standing tree and chopped it down with my fantastic Gransfors Small Forest axe and got a fire going and had a cup of tea and some oats, I know but although it was 1pm it was still my breakfast. I got the tent up, the hammock up, and the bear barrel up into a tree. I then washed in the lake, it's a good job I'm the only person around as the frigid water did nothing for my manhood! Now I'm clean, dry, and ready for bed. But I think I'm going to have a little snooze and then see if I can catch a trout for dinner. 

Day 2
The night was frigid and I woke up at 5am with the first signs of a cold. Need to eat and rest today. But first I need to proper food so I'm off fishing. I had no luck last night and lost one of my lures. I was starting to think there are no fish or just admitting that I'm crap at fishing. Anyway I made myself some coffee and went out in the canoe all tackled up and ready to catch some trout at sunrise. 

After an hour I realised that it's probably me as I could see fish jumping but nothing was biting my line. I decided to troll on the way back to my breakfast of oats when something pulled on my line. "Shit I've got snagged again" was my immediate thought so I started to reel the line in only to find I had at last caught a fish!

A beautiful lake trout. I decided to attempt to hot smoke it on the fire so built the fire up and filleted the fish. 

It was actually very tasty. The head and leftovers have going into a fish curry soup with Canadian wild rice. I've just finished eating a bannock cake with cranberries and now chilling in a hammock.  

Day 3+
Unfortunately I left my iPhone charger in the car so by day three I had no iPhone to take pictures or write my journal. Very frustrating when I bought a solar panel to charge it!
So I'm writing this from the airplane back to Sydney and will do my best to describe the pictures to you.
Actually something so very small like forgetting a charger really brought my mood down. I think it must have been something to do with the cold I just caught. So the plan was for me to get up at first light and head up to Big Trout Lake which to get to was a 2 1/2 km paddle across Merchant Lake and then a 1840m portage to the river leading into Big Trout Lake. Did I say how much I hate portages? Really not enjoyable. I'll first carry my rucksack with all my camping gear, axe, saw, etc... and the fishing rod and paddles. Then I'll walk all the way back to get the canoe and food. This is the leg that really takes it out of you. It doesn't make it any easier when there are swarms of mosquitos trying, and more often than not succeeding, in taking their fill of your blood. I found out that if you don't tuck your trousers into your socks they actually fly up your trouser legs and have a party! Anyway, after a few hours of pain I eventually get to the mouth of the river leading to Big Trout Lake. This seemed to be the local hangout for any restless mosquitoes. I packed up as quickly as possible to get onto the river before I get drained of my remaining blood. 
All rivers must have once looked like this before man dredged and fashioned them to meet our needs. The pine forrest was thick until it made way for a swamp with grasses that then receded to allow for vast Lilly beds, I was lucky to see so many flowering Lillie's in one place. The river was defined as the area with the lease amount of foliage that serpentined through the swamp. It was a strangely eery yet calm place to silently paddle through.  Canadian geese and their spring flock of goslings could be seen but mostly heard all around. The beautiful songs the birds sang along the way was blissful to gently paddle to. A beaver dam was my only obstacle along the way but it didn't cause any issues. After a kilometre or so the river started to widen into Big Trout Lake. I found an awesome camping site soon into the lake that was again on a peninsular with a low cliff on one side going into deep water, which was perfect to fish off, and a shallow side that I would offload the canoe. There were pines sparsely populated on the peninsular that was perfect for my hammock and further in there was a very cosy fire pit tucked away within the trees and rocks. I did some fishing that night and found it very easy to catch Lake Whitefish on the shallow side which I fried up with rice. Very tasty! That night I could hear wolves in the distance calling to each other. It's remarkable how quiet it can get on the lakes, for instance you can hear a breeze many kilometres away before it reaches you. 

Unfortunately I was starting to get sick with a very chesty cough and the first signs of a fever. The last thing I wanted while alone in the middle of nowhere. I took out my map, Jeff's Map which is absolutely fantastic, and had a look at my planned route. 75km. I started to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. What was concerning me the most was the number or portages. I would have to tackle 9 portages to get back to Opeongo where my water taxi would be picking me up on Saturday. That would be a total of 11335m that I would need to walk three time remember, once with my pack, once back, and then once with the canoe and food. So this is where I probably made a mistake, rather than spending two nights at this wonderful campsite and recover a little I decided to press on...
The next morning was clear and cool with the lake so still it looked like a mirror even though the canoe sliced through without a sound. There were beautiful patterns in the lake made up of pine pollen, the formed ribbons which created beautiful and enchanting swirls throughout the lake that were emphasised in the still lake. The day warmed up very quickly, it actually got so hot I burnt my hands and face, it felt as if it was in the high 30's. It was a real strain on me and I struggled all day. It was a 9km paddle to my campsite on White Trout Lake that unfortunately didn't have much shade all I could manage to do was set up my hammock and have some oats before going to sleep at about 4pm. I didn't wake up until around midday feeling utterly spent. Knowing full well I wasn't going to be able to continue the planned route I started to look at the map for other options. After about an hour of pondering over the map and drinking some rather splendid tea I came to the conclusion that the only sensible option was to head back the way I had come and spend a few more days at the campsite on Big Trout Lake. As soon as the decision had been made my moral improved dramatically. I loaded up the canoe and headed back to Big Trout Lake. The weather had changed again and was getting quite windy with the threat of a storm in the air. It was a hard paddle into the head wind. I decided to stop at an island along the way that looked to be a nice spot to camp only to find it had been taken. I was taken aback to find out I wasn't the only other person on the lake. I headed on to the the previous site battling into the increasing ferocity of the wind. Every paddle forward the wind would send me back again so my strokes would have to be harder still. In the distance hugging the cliffs near my campsite was a couple looking for one. I tried to quicken my pace but it was no luck they were already there by the time I crossed the lake. But they weren't sure if this was the spot for them. The ground was not very even for a tent at first glance, actually on the cliff top was a beautiful spot for a tent over looking the lake below. My patience paid off and they decided to move on, I waisted no time to claim the site and set up camp. The wind was so strong I decided for the first time since arriving to put up a tarp over my hammock. It had been nice looking at the stars piercing the night sky and the morning sun burn the sky red. But it was a wise choice. Once camp was set I went fishing again and this time persisted in casting my lure out on the cliff side. I read somewhere that trout like the deep cool waters by rock ledges. After about an hour of casting a trout struck my line and the real screamed away. This was not like the timid lake trout I caught on Merchant Lake. I started to reel her in and she was determined not to be caught and was jumping out of the water and giving a really good fight. I kept the pressure on and brought in a beautiful Brook Trout with gorgeous pink spots on its belly. She was a tasty catch that's for sure! Filleted and pan fried with olive oil, garlic, and seasoning, served with rice. Finishing off with fish broth made from the leftover fish parts was perfect for my cold and made for a really good day. 
The next morning was cold a grey and started to rain with the first light. It started with a mist like drizzle and gradually got worse until it was like a tropical downpour. It rained for the next 24 hrs. I spend all day getting enough wood so the fire would be big enough to keep the rain from putting it out. In between I was trying to get dry and warm and keep the tarp covering as much of me, my cloths drying, and the fire that I could. Did a good job if you ask me. I braved the rain and caught 8 Lake Whitefish (4 of which were too small that I released) that I had for dinner with some left over for lunch the next day. 
I was going to head back to Merchant Lake the next morning to spend a night, then one in Happy Island, and the last on on Opeongo. But that morning as I was paddling back I had the overwhelming sense of urgency to get back to my wife. After the horrible portage into Merchant lake I decided then to paddle on through to Happy Island Lake. One lake closer to my wife. Once there I had lunch after some time trying to get a fire lit due to all the rain the day before. I then went to the camp site I wanted to stay at only to find it taken by the only other person on the lake. So went to the one closest to the portage to Opeongo but it was full of Mosquitos and all overgrown. I then wondered if it would be possible to do the last portage and get to Opeongo?  I was completely exhausted and it was getting late in the day but why not? I was driven to keep going to get home. The portage was hell. It was hard. But it was possible. I spent my last night on Opeongo lake and had lake trout for dinner which I caught along the way. The next morning I was up at dawn to get to the portage entrance on Opeongo to Happy Island in the hope that a boat would come past. 

As I'm in the backcountry it's not like there's a regular service. I got there at about 8am and saw my first moose grazing in the swamp next to the portage. After several hours I was starting to wonder if I would have to make the 15+km paddle to the access point when in the distance a speedboat with some sightseers came over, I frantically waved them down and in no time had loaded up all my stuff including canoe and was on my way back!  It was a beautiful day and a fantastic ride back to the access point past all of the enchanting islands on Opeongo Lake. 
Once arrived I showered and changed into clean clothes, what a nice feeling! I packed all my stuff and jumped into my hire car and headed straight to the airport. After a 4 hr drive I arrived at the ticked office to try and get an earlier flight. I was given threats of it going to cost me an extra $1500, then $850, then it ended up being a free transfer, result! An hour later I was on the a flight to Vancouver and then onto Sydney. The power of love!
I thoroughly enjoyed my 8 days in Algonquin Provincial Park. If I did it again I would however try and convince someone to come with me to share the pain on the portages!    

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Blue Mountains - Equipment List

Always wanting to be in the solitude of nature I am repetitively drawn to the charm and mystique of the blue mountains.  The Blue Mountains, about the same size of Luxembourg, sits less than two hours outside of Sydney but feels a million miles away.  Gumtrees are dominating the landscape of gullies and freshwater creeks.

I like to travel solo whenever possible, freeing me from the restrictions you get in groups and allowing me to go and do what I want.  Not that I don’t like company but there’s much more excitement in exploring by yourself.  Negotiating a cliff face for example may be easier when you are in a group, as your confidence is increased, but the satisfaction of overcoming an obstacle without any support or assistance is much more rewarding.  I also like to just take some time out every now and then and notice in the small things in life, there is so much wonder to be had with the small thing of this world that are normally ignored. 

As always when travelling in the bush, even on popular trails, make sure you write down your planed route including your estimated return time and give it to someone you can trust.  This comes ever more imperative when you're intending to go off the beaten track or in very remote areas.

Some basic survival items are also essential if you intend to journey into less frequented areas of the Blue Mountains.  This should be split into two groups, what’s on you, and what you’re carrying.  Everything you’re carrying should allow you to continue on your route including food, cooking equipment, sleeping equipment, etc...  What’s on you should be your survival items. 

Survival Items
There are many survival kits listed on the Internet but I find the majority simply bullshit.  You should have four main areas of concern; Water, Fire, Signalling, and Navigation.     
Water, without it you’re as good as dead, so if straying from a source of water make sure that you have a good solid water bottle minimum capacity of 1lt.
Fire can be used for a number of purposes including morale building, cooking, purifying water, signalling, and warmth.  To cover all of these bases I take the most important item in wilderness travel and bushcraft, a quality fixed bladed knife and flint.  To further increase my chances of lighting a fire in any weather I take some tinder, I use a film case filled with Vaseline soaked cotton wool.  This can get wet and still take a spark, will burn long and clean helping to get tinder started.  After all when you most need to start a fire you will undoubtedly have the worst conditions.  Remember to make note of the fire restrictions at the time of entry, a careless fire can kill.     
Signalling in the hot and dry conditions of the Blue Mountains is best achieved with a reflective mirror, when safe to do so a smoke signal can be used.  I always take a mirror and a whistle in my pocket. 
Navigation, to get to the areas I want to explore you can't do it without a compass and a topographic map of 1:25000.  But there is not much use in taking a map and compass without being able to use them.  Practise and learn, but not on your own in the bush!

Pack Items
Due to the abundance of trees and rocky ground I prefer to use a hammock with a simple Aussie hoochie tarp.  This is a lightweight and comfortable alternative to a tent.   It can take some time to find a suitable spot with trees the correct distance apart with no saplings or other obstructions in the way.  For this reason many walkers prefer to use a lightweight tent.  
A sleeping bag is essential in the mountains, it can reach high into the 30's during the day and get very cold at night for this reason I also pack a thermal t-shirt and fleece. It is also important to keep off the ground, whether in a tent or hammock, therefore sleeping on top of some form of insulation is recommended.  I use a Thermarest lightweight mattress.  
Other items include, a torch, billy can, collapsible 4lt water container, 20m para cord, 10m rope, and a folding hand saw.

When on the trail I always abide by the leave no trace policy, meaning just that, leave nothing but foot prints.  When packing up make sure that your fire is extinguished, douse with plenty of water.  You can only be sure a fire is completely dead when you can pickup the remainder of the ash and charcoal with your bare hands.  This is when the leave no trace policy comes in, scatter the cold / wet remainder of the fire into the bush, then brush over where the fire was.  If more people did this then there wouldn't be so many restrictions with open fires in NP's.  It infuriates me when I see the remains of a fire with burnt out tin cans and foil!
This also goes to the rubbish you take into the bush with you, make sure you take it back out and don't try and burn it. 

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Gunung Rinjani - Indonesia

Today my Mt Rinjani adventure begins.

Leaving my love and Gili Air behind I head for the hassle of Bangsal. I arrive early and no driver to be seen. After being asked if I want transport, motorbike, horse, or taxi until I get annoyed my driver arrives, but without a car. So we load up on a motorbike to the main road to wait for his cousin to arrive with the car. Loading up included my very large bag that went between Harvy's (the driver) legs and me on the back holding onto my bag and hat. Certainly gets the pulse going when Harvy is chatting on his mobile and weaving in between the horses and carts against the oncoming traffic.

Car arrived after some time and we headed off towards the mountain village of Senaru. There were some interesting sights along the way. A young man was in the lotus position meditating on top of a moving lorry while the heavens were opening. It has not stopped raining around Mount Rinjani for almost 10 days and the sunshine of the Gili Islands seems far away. Some young children were making the most of the rain by waiting, naked for a car to go past and soak them from the flooded roads. Their faces were that of total excitement and dread.

I arrived at my home stay in Senaru but was not what I was expecting nor is it the place I was told. Apparently the original place was fully booked. The rain has been relentless with thunder that vibrates your very soul. I was informed that 7 groups came down from the mountain today short of the summit as the weather was too severe. It’s been made clear to me that if I feel it is too dangerous then I should tell the guide to turn back as it’s only me climbing tomorrow. I’m happy I’m not going with a group I want to experience the mountain on my own and challenge myself without worrying if the rest of the group is ok. Hope there will be a break in the weather tomorrow morning.

Thunder and lightning came crashing down all night. It’s 6 am and the rain still driving hard, the noise is defining as it thrashes the roof. Driver arrives and he takes me to the starting point at the East side of Rinjani, a village called Sembalun Lawang. The drive was wonderful with the exception of the rain. We were driving through the lush fertile lower foothills of Ringani which yielded crops such as Banana, Mango, Coffee, Tobacco, Cotton, and a plentiful supply of Cashew. All the locals that the driver stopped to talk to thought I was crazy to climb Ringani in the current conditions. It had been raining for 10 nights and 10 days. I later learnt that only 2 days ago part of the mountain came down in a massive landslide caused by the relentless rain.
We arrived at the Rinjani Information Centre in Sembalun Lawang to check-in, compulsory before starting out, only to find that it was closed for the next 2 months yes due to the weather. This just meant some delays while the log book was found. Here I met my guide a young local that did not speak much English called Boxym or Ym (Im) as he was fondly called. Ym was also part of the mountain rescue, more on this later. We also met the two porters nearby who spoke no English wore only shorts, sarong, and flip-flops, and I hasten to add carried stupidly heavy loads. Still raining the five of us headed up the track, we picked up a chicken along the way.

Remarkably the rain stopped just as we had left the village behind us and was walking through the farmland. Praise the lord! We were still walking through thick cloud and I could only see about 50 meters or so that meant no view of the mountain. I was leading our party along the well trodden track, so much so that in some places it was like walking in a trench. It was a quiet walk out of the farmland and into the forest saves for our new friend that was not too pleased that she had just been stuffed into a sack and slung over the shoulder of Ym. Apparently the porters were not too keen to carry any more weight, this being said they were happy packing the tomato ketchup. The forest was lively with birds and black monkeys but ended quickly into the grassland which was the rolling foothills of Rinjani. Being grasslands with long wet grass from all the rain I was happy that I packed my gaiters, I would have been even happier if I put them on before my feet were sodden. The walk through the foothills was fast and fresh, I had been training for the last few weeks for this climb and I was feeling the benefit. In fact I left the porters well behind by the time I reached the crater rim some 8hr later.

We stopped for our first break at Pos 1 Pemantauan (1,300m) after a couple of hours, where the first whispers of mutiny were heard. Apparently the guide and porters were not too happy going in such conditions and were gently letting me know that we were all going to be coming back down in the morning and one porter simply said that he would not stay any longer, and he didn't. Ym said that we would try the summit but would defiantly not be able to get down the crater rim to the lake and hot springs as it was far too dangerous when wet, he had a worried look in his eye so I did not press him anymore. The next stop followed quicker than I expected at the start of 'disappointment hill'. We had a very hearty lunch of noodle soup with potatoes and rice, lots of carbs, and fresh vegetables. The hill was named as such because, as Ym put it, "it’s disappointing to come down and disappointing to keep going". It’s a relentlessly steep climb that I thought was never going to end, this was not helped by the cloud obscuring my view of the Summit. It took the best part of 4hrs to get to the top. The weather was still holding out and occasionally the clouds would break and allow me to see some of my enchanting surroundings. Before reaching the top we walked through a sparse forest of slow growing pine-like Casuarinas.

The view at the top of the Sembalun Crater rim (2,639m) was, if not already stolen by the climb, enough to take your breath away. Even though the clouds were still teasing me and only gave me a glimpse. The porters arrived about 15 minutes later apparently they stopped to chop some wood and have a snooze. So much for me thinking I was walking fast. We setup camp on the crater rim and dinner was prepared. That reduced the party to 4 the chick had to go, far too much moaning. She was quite tough though, but tasted better the next day.

The sun had long since disappeared by the time dinner had been served. It was windy and very cold I had quickly changed into all my mountain gear and was still a little chilly. Ym and the porters were however, huddled around the cooking fire and all shivering, still clad in shorts, sandals and sarong. This made me a little worried, apparently death on Rinjani is very common and nearly always due to exposure. To make things worse the 'boss' had forgotten to pack the sleeping bags, save mine, so the three of them had to huddle together through the night. He had also forgotten to pack the emergency satellite phone that would be used to call for help if needed. To my amusement it also turned out that we were the only ones on the mountain, this did turn out to be a blessing in the end. It got down to about 2c but with the wind chill factor it felt more like -8c. Ym woke me at 2am to see what I thought of attempting the summit. I did not get any sleep due to the cold and wind, but was keen to get to the summit and reach my goal. As I got out of the tent the true conditions were apparent, it was blowing a gale and the tent that my companions were in had collapsed and was offering no protection so they stayed huddled by the embers of the fire. Ym was wearing his donated walking shoes but had no socks, after the walk the previous day his shoes were sodden. He
was saying that the wind was far too strong and it would be too cold on the summit (3,726m). There was real concern in his eyes and I truly believed that he feared for his life. He seemed to be in the early stages of hypothermia and could not stop his violent shivers as he was telling me that the wind was too strong to attempt the summit. It gets as low as 0c on the summit excluding the wind factor. I swallowed my pride and eased his concerns by telling him that it’s ok and that we didn’t have to go to the summit. After all climbing should be about 'self sacrifice' and 'the good of the team', well so said the Adventures’ Handbook that I had been reading. It also made me inwardly angry as if the 'team' was better equipped we could have at least made an attempted.

He was much relieved and shivered with a mug of tea in his hand. We went back to bed and were up again for sun rise. The weather had turned for our favour with the winds easing and the clouds starting to clear.

When I said that the view of the Crater Lake was breathtaking I did not give it justices. It was ore inspiring, it made me marvel at Gods creations and weep.

After several cups of kopi and two banana pancakes it was all agreed that the weather was good enough to climb down into the crater and see, close to hand, what had captured my emotion. We started the decent after saying our farewells to porter number 2, true to his word the change of weather had not changed his mind and he was off back down to Sembalun Lawang.

As soon as we started the 700 meter or so decent I realised what all the fuss was about. We climbed down for 3 hours nonstop and my legs were screaming in revolt and burning like fire. The decent was averaging at a 45 degree angle and every step was onto slippery rocks with nothing to hold onto or stopping you from falling into the oblivion. If it was a track at all it was a mountain goat track. It took a huge amount of effort in concentrating 100% into every step because one false move would mean certain death, with your legs like jelly and not responding correctly this is no easy task. In fact Ym later told me that only 2 months ago a 22 year old Aussie girl travelling with her boyfriend became dizzy and slipped. Ym was one of the 4 who recovered her body, a painfully slow 2/3 day process.

I made it to the bottom. The views all the way down were spectacular, I made sure I would only look when I stopped, but to see the lake and volcano steaming next to it was overwhelming. I stripped off, the reason why I was happy no other soul was on the mountain save my team of now three who were busy fishing, and plunged into the aqua marine, frigid waters of the lake and laughed out loud with youthful joy.

The fishing that Ym was partaking in was not that most anglers would agree upon but the team did little that environmentalists would agree with. Ym was making the most of the recent, two months ago, volcanic activity that had made the carp very docile. The amount of fish in the lake was such that you could imagine any 6km lake, 2000m high, and hardly ever fished would be like, teaming. So Ym was fishing with his Parang. In the matter of minutes he had 4 large carp strung together with some grass and was heading back to the shelter to cook on the fire, made with part of the shelter that the porter smashed up. When I finished my swim that was blissfully relieving my aching legs, the porter took me to the hot springs while Ym was preparing lunch. From the frigid lake into the steaming springs felt like I was in Gods spa. A dozen or so unlucky carp has swam into the jet stream of one of the hot springs and poached. Gray monkeys seemed to rule the springs and were seen all around.

If I could build a house any place on earth and live for eternity it would be here.

After fish for lunch, as well as the normal noodles and rice, we headed up the other side of the crater. Ym warned me that it would be hard but after the decent we had just made surely it couldn't get any harder. I remember climbing a 20 meter cliff section on a 200 meter peak in the Blue Mountains and thinking I had achieved something. This was like that 20 meter section but went on for 700 meters. It took 4 gruelling hours to get to the top and then we were only 3 hours away from camp. Again views were unbelievable but I wished I was having a week on the mountain rather than a few days to let my legs recover a little. When at the top my legs were not functioning correctly and I had sprained my ankle which I strapped with tape, very smart. We started to descend again to our camp at the start of the forest that we could see in the distance. This did nothing for my moral. The terrain was of loose volcanic sandy stone that was very slippery with the occasional clump of grass, rock, and chasms. Putting one foot in front of the other going downhill should not be hard at all, but like I said my legs were not functioning.

My subconscious started to try and protected my battered and cramped legs by every now and then, more often than I liked, locking my knee or hip this would result in me going ass over tit much to the concern of Ym. Hence this was when he was telling me of all the deaths on Rinjani. Apparently most of the deaths are from Indonesians and Malaysians that go for the shorter 2 day trek to the lake and die of exposure due to inadequate clothing. Last time a party of 7 all died save the guide and porter. I suppose it has to be like that, something that is this beautiful has to be respected else it kills you.

The forest eventually appeared and I collapse when we got to camp, actually I collapsed a couple of times on the approach but I got there in the end. There were a German couple and an Aussie couple at the ‘Pos’ we were to camp on that were on their way to the lake, the German guy was carrying a full 70 -80 litre pack. I wished him luck but I think he will be paying the porter or throwing it away before he gets out alive.
We setup camp. I tended to my ankle by taking off the strapping tape. I now have a greater appreciation to the pain tolerance of women. Put it this way, my lower leg is very smooth now. My legs started to cramp up even though I had been stretching and was getting concerned as the next day was the longest trek of all through the rain forest, 7hrs. Ym said we would have a big fire as there is lots of wood in the forest. Let me remind you Rinjani is in a National Park and is protected therefore collection of wood is forbidden. I was wondering why the porter was lugging a big axe. So Ym chops down a tree, no shit a whole tree, and we have one hell of a big fire.

Ym and the porter were up well before sunrise. It started to rain around 2am and they wanted to protect our monster of a fire. I stayed in bed, not that I wanted to lie-in but my legs would not work. I was having breakfast at 6am and much to the annoyance of the team was still sorting out my shit by 6.30. I knew today would be hard, every other day was so why should today be any different, it wasn't technically difficult like the previous day but it took a lot of endurance. My ankle was still giving me a little pain and with my legs all cramped up I was going to struggle. We headed off into the forest. Not before too long I was starting to wonder how I was going to get off this mountain. The terrain was, as you expect in the rainforest, muddy and steep with lots of lianas and exposed roots trying to trip you. Ym cut down a sapling and trimmed it off into a staff to help with my foot. Without this I don't think I would have made it. It was such a lush rainforest full of gray monkeys and beautiful butterflies that seemed to follow me along the trail. But all my effort and concentration was on getting out. It’s was very frustrating as this is type of forest I love the most and wanted to explore and take note of the different plants and creatures that were heard everywhere but not seen. I kept plodding along and only stopped if I fell and at the ‘Pos’ along the way, there were three in the rainforest, after what seemed an eternity we reached the entrance to Rinjani National Park on the Senaru side. We stopped here for lunch as it was another hour walk through the farms yielding Coffee, Cotton, and Banana. I was feeling utterly drained both mentally and physically. Sitting down on a bamboo platform a young and health little ginger cat jumped onto my lap and purred away as I caressed it, each time I stopped she cried until I resumed the stroking, it was as if she knew all I was capable of and needed was a little love.

Much to the annoyance of the little cat we left and headed through the coffee trees and there my Rinjani adventure ended.