Gunong Rinjani National Park is slightly more than half the size of Singapore’s 716 square kilometres.
The park is amazing and beautiful with a variety of vegetation and interesting geographical features from caldera-lake and hot springs, to active volcanoes and a recently formed new mountain; from grasslands to alpine and equatorial forest. The air is fresh and the views awe-inspiring. The sunrise and sunsets are stunning. It is a national treasure to be preserved and enjoyed for generations to come. It is God’s gift to Indonesia to be treasured and managed well so that all can enjoy and give praise to the Creator.
Yet during this trek I was appalled that this rare natural beautiful park is marred by litter. Litter of all kinds. There were paper, plastics, and even human excrement. Sweet wrappers, plastic water bottles, paper, empty food containers, plastic bags and paper can be seen every 500 metres along the route. The litter was concentrated where the camps were set up but much lesser along the trekking paths. They were an eyesore. It marred what God has made and given for people to enjoy. It assaulted my senses; it stirred up anger and disgust. And this is not my country. I am sure there are many Indonesians who are angry with this too.
One of my friends said, Mt Ophir used to be as dirty. But now the mountain is clean. The park officials have taken action. One of them is to insist that people who climb pay a money deposit and can claim it back only if they show proof they have brought back litter they were responsible for. How true this is I do not know, as I have not been there in the past nor more recently after the changes. But this was what I heard. If Malaysia boleh, then Indonesia boleh.
I also understand that local guides and porters make regular trips to pick up litter but I suspect this is not true. I heard that Singaporeans organize two trips each year where scores of young adults climb Rinjani to pick up litter along the way to bring back. How true this is I do not know but that was what the guide told me when I asked whether efforts have been made to clean the park.
It’s obvious more can be done. I wish for Rinjani what I saw at Kinabalu – a relatively clean park for all to enjoy. I wish for Rinjani what I saw in Nepal. It can be kept relatively litter free. It is not impossible.
So please when you do your treks keep all litter with you till you return back to the villages for proper disposal. The plastic wrapper of your energy bar, chocolate or sweets can be kept in your pocket. The water bottle can be kept in your backpack. Be responsible for your own trash. This will help keep other people’s land clean and litter free and later generations can enjoy it too.
At the end of our trek, we compared the level of difficulty of the Rinjani trek with the many Kinabalu treks we have done. Most of the trekkers have done Kinabalu a few times. It was unanimously agreed by all who have done both, that the Rinjani trek was tougher. I had talked about this with trekkers – people I do not know – I had met in Bukit Timah and most of them tell me Rinjani was tougher. When these fellow hikers in Bukit Timah mentioned the comparative difficulty I found it hard to believe because Mt Kinabalu is higher than Mt Rinjani. However, now that I have done Rinjani and am in a better position to compare, I have to agree with all the other people’s opinions.
Perhaps one factor that weakens my opinion is that I climbed Kinabalu about 5 years ago. Memory of the hardship and challenge has faded. However, my friends have climbed Kinabalu recently and their opinions are that Rinjani is tougher.
My friends and I are easy trekkers. We are kiasu, kiasi, and kia bo. These friends have done several treks in Nepal like Poon Hill, Annapura Base Camp, Thorong la Pass and other Everest treks. They have done Mt Fuji in Japan, Mt Agung in Bali, and a tough Trans Gopeng Cameron trek. When compared all other treks with Rinjani – everyone said this was tougher.
The comparison between Rinjani and Kinabalu will look like this in a table of comparison:
In my treks, I often feel the majesty, intelligence and beautiful designs of God’s creation. It could be the sunrise or the sunset. Sometimes it’s the feeling of being above the clouds. Sometimes it’s the waterfall or the vast grasslands or cultivated fields. Or the play of light on leaves and slopes and water. Other times it’s the minute: the patterns on leaves, the saturated colours of flowers, the amazing insects. Here are some pics from this trip that makes me want to sing with the Psalmist:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Somebody said, “When you want to travel with others, start by looking for congenial companions, not for desirable destinations.” In my case it was relatively simple. I have been traveling with this group of mature, congenial friends of different backgrounds for years. Two common threads holds us together. One is a shared interest in trekking. The second is the pleasant memories of past trekking trips dating as far back as a decade. I like this bunch. They are wonderful people and I feel relaxed with them, even though a few new “trekkies” joined in recent years.
These folks typically plan for 4-5 trekking trips a year. This year they have plans to go to the Everest Base Camp and to climb the Pinnacles near the Mulu Caves. I usually join them for at least one trip a year. This Rinjani trek was the big one for me this year. I have missed out on quite a few interesting ones in recent years because the planned dates clashed with church priorities. Hopefully next year I can make it for at least one of the big trips.