Category Archives: Hiking

Ascending Everest Basecamp


“The mountain always wins. You never win. Occasionally it just decides to let you through.”

With all that has been going on in Nepal in the last month, it has been an emotional time for many, including me. I have worried and feared for friends that were in Kathmandu, I have seen other friends of mine lose loved ones. It has taken a huge toll on many. While for myself, for those who didn’t know, I was evacuated out of Dingbouche on the way to Everest Basecamp with pneumonia and acute pulmonary edema. I was incredibly lucky to be in a place where I could be evacuated or otherwise I could have died. After my stint in the hospital I met someone also evacuated and he said to me ‘the mountain always wins. You never win. Occasionally it just decides to let you through’. This has resonated with me for a while considering the incredible misfortune people have been suffering in Nepal during the earthquakes. It has given me time to reflect on my own trek while I was there before everything went sour for me. The following is the first 8 days of my trek to Everest Basecamp.

Pre-Trip

We didn’t start on the best of notes. The day before we were due to leave I came back to find my friend on the bathroom floor dying of a chest infection. I went to the pharmacy, bought her the best antibiotics I could get my hands on and then fed her paracetamol to lower her fever while I sat in the bathroom with her with hot water steaming out the bathroom while I rubbed tigerbalm on her back and tried to pound some of the crap out of her chest.

The following day, despite still being a total mess we got up and went to the airport as a group to get our flight to Lukla. But there was a thick fog over Kathmandu that day and our flight was delayed until the fog lifted. We sat in the airport for four hours before they said the fog had lifted enough for us to leave. We got onto the bus that took us out to the tarmac to wait for our plane only to be turned around and told that we had had our flight cancelled due to bad weather in Lukla. It was somewhat a blessing in disguise. We got to go home and rest for another day.

Day 1- Kathmandu to Lukla, Lukla to Phakding

Better luck than the day before and the skies were crystal clear and we managed to take our flight to Lukla. We were told that the best kinds of views are seen from the window on the left side of the plane so we rushed our way in to get prime seats. I had never seen anything more spectacular in my life than the view of the mountains as I excitedly flew next to the Himalayas on my way to Lukla.

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The scenic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla with amazing views of the Himilayas.

Before I knew it we were approaching the runway which is pretty much a strip that runs on an incline uphill from a sheer drop at the beginning of a cliff, to a cliff wall at the other end. I could see how it had gained the reputation as being one of the most dangerous airports in the world.

 

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The airport runway in Lukla. Cliff drop on one end, cliff face on the other.

After eating lunch, it was time to start on our way towards Phakding, our first destination for the evening. It was a relatively flat and easy walk and along the way I met the most adorable boy who was drawing with permanent markers. He drew a watch on my wrist with red permanent marker to match his watch that he was wearing and for the rest of the trip I wore that red watch until it eventually rubbed off. Every time I looked at it, it made me smile.

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My new friend drawing me a wrist watch in red permanent marker so I can always tell mountain time.

We arrived in Phakding and checked into our tea house. After dinner it was time for a rest. It had been a long day.

Day 2 – Phakding to Namche Bazaar

It was the first day of solid hiking and as my friend was still not feeling a hundred percent it was a slow day. The views as we progressed along the trail became more and more spectacular as the day progressed. For lunch we stopped in a village where there was a small boy who was believed to have been reincarnated from one of the elderly men in the village down the way. He apparently can tell you who his mother was and other family members from his previous life. Incredible story.

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The young boy was reincarnated from the older man on the left.

As we continued on, we arrived at the foot of the town of Namche Bazaar, the town that was later to be the epicentre of the second massive earthquake within the region. We were staying near the top and it was starting to get dark. It was a long slog up giant staircases but we eventually made it. The night was spent hanging by the fire and playing Monopoly (in which I behaved like a five year old competitive child and won everybody else’s money and properties).

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Giant bridge crossing in massive winds across a canyon.

Day 3 – Day hike to the Everest View Lodge

Acclimatization day number one. We started in the morning in decent enough weather on the climb up to the Everest View lodge. About half way up it started snowing and the weather turned and became freezing. Eventually we made it to the top and sat in the lodge drinking tea and soup, somewhat disappointed that our first ever view of Everest was not going to happen due to the haze covering all of the views. It did have a very eerie and cool feeling to it though.

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The town of Namche Bazaar.

On the way back down we got lost as there was so much snow we couldn’t see the path. At one point we went the wrong way and then had to back track. I fell over in a super muddy patch and got my pants incredibly dirty and yet still laughed the whole way. It was a great day and I was settling well into the routine.

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A wild yak on the mountain on its way down in the snow.

Day 4 – Namche Bazaar to Debouche

I woke up not feeling the best. I was starting to cough a little and my lungs were starting to hurt. We walked the first part on the flat and for the first time I laid my eyes on Everest. She popped her top out from behind a bunch of other mountains. As far away as she was, she was daunting and beautiful. We sent our porter ahead to buy some boiled eggs from a local place and we ate those as a snack before the hard work began… the massive uphill climb to Tengbouche.

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Stunning views from the trail after my first view of Everest.

I struggled. But I kept on going at my own pace with my earphones in and I actually made decent time. At the top I was fairly spent and we tried to go to the Tengbouche monastery but it was not open. I had a rest on the stairs out the front and then made my way down the hill another twenty minutes to Debouche where we sat around by the fire, drank lots of tea and went to bed early.

 

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The monastery at Tengbouche.

Day 5 – Debouche to Dingbouche

I woke up feeling great. The rest had done me good from the day before as had the cold and flu tablets I took to try and kick my symptoms overnight. The hike for the most part of the day was fairly flat along the edge of the mountain ridge towards the holy grail of mountains. Towards the end it was getting very windy and two of my group members started to feel unwell. One of them started vomiting. The altitude was kicking in

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One of the most incredible views I have ever seen in my life.

Eventually we arrived in camp at Dingbouche and got settled in. I bossed the others into drinking heaps of water and got the nurse from the volunteer medical centre to check them over. They both were diagnosed with moderate altitude sickness. I had a test myself and my oxygen levels were normal. My heart rate was getting pretty high though and was 124. I assumed this was somewhat normal for me as I have high resting heart rate anyway. I took a couple of photos on extended shutter of the mountains in the dark and went to bed.

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Stunning moonlight views from Dingbouche.

Day 6 – Dingbouche Day hike

Up early and time to do the acclimatization hike. I was feeling good until I started and as soon as I started uphill I started feeling the effects of the altitude. Breathing was harder. I felt so ridiculously fatigued I didn’t know if I was going to make the top of the hill at 4700m. I kept plugging away at it slowly, determined. I knew that if I couldn’t make this I couldn’t make basecamp and I was determined to do it. I watched everyone else sail up the hill past me and felt rubbish about it. I eventually got there. I sat for half an hour resting and looked out over the most spectacular views. Then I started my descent.

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Completely spent and enjoying the views from 4700m, the highest point I would reach during the hike.

Once I got back to the teahouse I sat with two minus twenty sleeping bags on trying to get warm drinking a 2 litre thermos of hot lemon. I tried to read my book and couldn’t concentrate. I still felt incredibly fatigued and was trying to stay awake for the afternoon and do what I needed to to ward off altitude sickness. Eventually I caved, ate dinner and went to bed.

Day 7 – Getting evacuated from Dingbouche to Kathmandu hospital

At one in the morning I awoke to severe coughing with the realization that I was coughing up handfuls of water. High altitude pulmonary odema had set in and I knew I was in a very serious situation. After a night of trying to be calm and conserve oxygen we sent for the helicopter and they evacuated me back to the hospital in Kathmandu. The dream of getting to Everest basecamp this trip had died. But I knew I would be back to finish what I started at some point later, because I hate not finishing what I started.

If you haven’t read already, check out my blog post “This Week I Almost Died” for a more detailed account of what happened when I got evacuated off of Everest Basecamp trek.

 

 

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Canada By Car: Leg 8 – Go West!

My trip East lasted a good three months, but my venture west lasted no longer than 9 days of speedy travelling. I got a relocate a car through a website http://www.hittheroad.ca and had to relocate it from Montreal to Vancouver.

I first picked up the car, drove it back to Toronto to collect my piles of junk that I needed to transport across the country. From Toronto I advertised for a ride share and picked up a guy, Andrew to drive up north to Sault Ste. Marie. It was a long drive, but we got there eventually and Andrew was kind enough to offer me a bed at his house given that I was planning on camping outside and it was raining. We went out for dinner and he showed me around ‘the Soo’ before getting a good nights rest and hitting the road again.

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The Wawa Goose

The second day on the road was sheer craziness. I stopped through Pancake Bay, hiked through the Lake Superior Provincial Park and viewed the petroglyphs left by the natives. Of course heading through up into the far reaches of Ontario, it wouldn’t be complete without a stop to visit the Wawa Goose and the hometown of Winnie the Pooh in White River.

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Winnie the Pooh in his hometown of White River

I managed to push on and get to Thunder Bay for the evening staying in a small hostel. Along the way I stopped off and paid my respects to Terry Fox at his highway marker where he ended his massive run across Canada to help raise money for cancer, the same disease that eventually took his life after it took his leg. I also went to the giant Terry Fox statue that overlooks the highway overpass and was quite moved by how inspirational he was as a person.

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The Terry Fox Memorial. Incredibly moving story.

Day three and we are on to Winnipeg. Getting out of Ontario literally takes forever and I never thought I would get there but eventually we see the sign ‘Welcome to Manitoba’. It rained for majority of the way and was still raining when I got to Winnipeg. I walked around the town center for a little while before calling it a night.

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The stunning views driving across the Canadian Praries

The next leg was from Winnipeg through to Regina where I was fortunate enough to catch up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in five years that I met while travelling New Zealand. I went out with them and a few of their friends for dinner in downtown Regina and it was a heap of fun.

On next to Calgary. But not before stopping along the way at the famous town of Moose Jaw to do a couple of the underground tours through the tunnels where Al Capone used to smuggle his alcohol during the prohibition. The tunnels are also where the Chinese used to live after the construction of the Canadian Railway lines from east to west as the locals did not treat the Chinese very fairly and most of them couldn’t afford their passage home after the head tax that the government imposed and the poor wages. It was a super interesting historical site and one of my favourite across Canada.

Eventually I arrived in Calgary which was to become my home at a later date so I spent some time getting to know her as a city for a day or so before heading on to the amazing town of Banff, nestled in the Banff National Park. After doing the Sulfur Mountain hike, I had dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and then crashed out.

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Incredible views from the top of Sulfur Mountain

The drive through the stunning Rocky Mountains was incredible and hands down the most amazing drive I have ever done. As I continued on, I stopped at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake to check out these most stunning picturesque lakes that form the postcards that you see most of Banff.

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Lake Louise

I continued to drive through the Yoho and Glacier National Park and then on to the Okanagan region to Kelowna where I stopped off for the evening. The region was beautiful and I got to go for a walk and check out the stunning views over the city before getting my last good sleep in before heading to Vancouver.

On the drive the next day to Vancouver, I decided to make a call and try and book into my accommodation. Unfortunately for me I had come to the realization that with a Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z concert all on in one night that accommodation in Vancouver was fairly booked out. After a meltdown and lots of phonecalls, I finally got lucky with a cancellation and found a place to crash for the evening. I dropped off my bags, delivered the car to the woman who I drove it for and set off on my way back to the hostel. I have gone from the eastern most point of Canada to here so far. It was time to make it as far west as I could. It was time to go to Vancouver Island.

For Vancouver Island adventures, check out my next blog!

Canada By Car: Leg 5 Newfoundland East Coast

Our first pit stop out of Eastport was through to Cape St. Mary’s where we went to the bird sanctuary and marveled at the myriads of gannets hanging about on the cliff face. Then it was on to the major town of St. John’s. Went to go and visit Mistaken point along the way but didn’t realize that we were too late for the fossil tours though I did find a fossil on the ground that I cheekily took home with me.

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Gannets on the cliff face at Cape St. Mary’s

We spent the night down on the main street of St. John’s, George St. We danced through the Newfoundland pubs to traditional Newfie and Irish music before having a feast of street meat on the way home. During this evening we became aware of this thing that locals enforce upon tourists called getting ‘screeched in’. It involves singing some random Newfie song that nobody understands, kissing a cod and doing a shot of screech. We beared witness to quite a few people getting screeched in, however I was not up for the screech that day so I passed.

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George St, St. John’s

The next day was spent wandering around Signal Hill and playing pool in the Duke of Duckworth’s pub, recommended to us by a local for some special reason that we didn’t manage to figure out. And post this it was time to hit the road again.

Up to Conception Bay and then around to Trinity Bay, we stopped along at the most famous town of Newfoundland, the aptly named Dildo. I couldn’t stop giggling as I took photos of all things Dildo. I even wen and had my photo with the famous Captain Dildo with my hand inappropriately near his bits for shits and giggles. Went and drove through Cape Spear and then on to Charleton for the evening to camp.

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Hanging with Captain Dildo

Woke up the following morning surrounded by a moat as it had rained so heavily overnight that we were swimming in the tent. So after quickly packing up, we drove up to Cape Bonavista where John Cabot famously (and apparently) landed in  1497. There were stunning Inukshuk built across the entire landscape, a native Inuit symbol to point the way, and they were just beautiful. But given the weather being so horrid, we drove our way back to the farm for the evening.

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Inukshuk all over the hill at Cape Bonavista

I spent the next couple of days in the kitchen cutting zucchinis, cooking breakfasts and all meals for people. There were now 8 people staying on the farm and manning the kitchen had become somewhat of a full time job, but one that I really enjoyed. In the midst of this we took a well deserved day off to go and see the Terra Nova National Park and hiked along the Coastal Trail and the Blue Hill before it again started to rain.

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Views through the Terra Nova National Park

One of the days decreed a no work day we headed up out onto the point and between us collected about 6 pounds of chanterelle mushrooms that were worth quite a bit in the shops if you are to buy them but are in massive abundance in this area and nobody seems to pay too much attention. The mushrooms were spread out on the table as we brushed all of the dirt off them and cleaned them and then after we cooked them all in a pan with butter and ate the lot of them between us! Utterly delicious!

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Our 6 pound chanterelle mushroom haul

This was my last night I spent at the farm before heading off. We played ‘fetch the stone in the ocean’ with the confused dogs and collected some blueberries for the road before heading off onto the road and beyond in again, a giant thundercloud of heavy rain.

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Zeus trying to come with us

Check out the last of the Newfoundland adventures in the next installment! 

Canada By Car: Leg 2 – Through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

After three weeks in Quebec we moved on into New Brunswick. After passing through the point in Caraquet we went to the Arcadian Historical Village for a visit. They had a set from the 1600’s with actors playing characters from the era. It was really cool to see how the place operated when it was in its original day.

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Traditional bread making at the Arcadian Historical Village, Caraquet

On the way south from here we arrived in Miramichi to torrential downpours and decided that there was no point trying to pitch a tent in this kind of weather so we went to see a movie in the cinema, parked the car in McDonalds and slept in the car close to wifi access.

After another day of driving in huge torrential downpours through Moncton, we decided to continue on to Picton, Nova Scotia. We were kindly graced with a free campsite by a kind man who took pity on us pitching a tent in the ridiculous weather with all of the puddles about, so we crashed out for the night and continued driving until we got to Cape Breton Island.

Dunvegan was where we landed when the storm finally cleared. We set up camp in a stunning spot right on the beach that reminded me of home. I picked some wild raspberries from the bushes and we set up and ate dinner by the beach.

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Beautiful sunset over the beach at Dunvegan

We continued driving north and made it to the the Cape Breton Highlands National Park where we did the Skyline hike out to the point. I ate wild raspberries and blueberries along the boardwalk all the way out to the point. From here there was more blueberries and raspberries eaten along the Neils Bay coastline hike along the beach. I got pretty bad sunstroke and spent most of the afternoon sleeping in the car on the way to Sydney, Nova Scotia.

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View along the trail at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park

North Sydney sucked as a town. There wasn’t much to do there. But in the glorious graces it turned out to be lobster season so we drove down to the lobster shop and ordered a lobster for them to cook for us. I sat on the pier and cracked the lobster claws with a multitool…. my first ever lobster. I have eaten Tasmanian rock lobster or as we call it ‘crayfish’ at home but they look nothing like these lobsters and as such I was excited.

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Playing with my food! My first ever lobster!!

After the lobster dinner by the water, we snuck in to watch Ted and The Watch at the movies with plenty of time to kill before catching the ferry to Newfoundland. After the movies we drove back to the ferry dock and found a stray dog running all over the road. He appeared to be lost and we were worried he was going to get hit by a car so we sat and stayed with him and called the RSPCA to come and get him to find out where he lived. After a couple of hours sitting with the pup, we said goodbye, and we went to catch the ferry to Newfoundland, the province I was most excited about seeing….

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Lost puppy 🙂

For the next installment of Canada by Car stay tuned…..

The Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park

Undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places I have ever visited is the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in Indonesia. I arrived on the shuttle bus late after driving through the dark hills around the bends up towards the township of Cemero Lawang. I checked into the Cemara Indah Hotel and got an early night as the trekking was to start at 3am the following morning.

As I woke up, dressed and headed out into the ‘chilly by Indonesian standards’ weather, I was greeted by some locals outside selling hats and transport. They were trying to convince me that five kilometers was too far to walk up the hill to see the sunrise and as such I needed to take a jeep. They were also trying to convince me that despite my layering in gear I am taking to Nepal for my basecamp hiking, that I was going to be waaaaayyy too cold and needed to buy another jacket, a scarf and a hat from them. I laughed, told them no and that I would be fine and started my way along the road in the dark alone towards the top of Mount Pananjakan with my head torch.

About half way up the hill I met two guys, Roland, a 60 year old from Italy and Ciaran, from England. While we bonded over cup noodle breakfast and their horrendous coffee, we decided that we would all go walking together for the sunrise.

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The beginnings of sunrise over Bromo. Excited, but still can’t see her yet!

And so up the hill we went. We arrived at the View Point 1 eventually after taking a bush trail up from the road and sat to watch the amazing sun rise over what was to be my first glimpse of the mountains since I had arrived. They weren’t to disappoint. The view was crystal clear and as far as the eye could see across the valley. Batok stood out right in the centre as the near perfect conical shape with ripples down its sides. Bromo to the left chugged with its smoke up into the atmosphere. The stunning Semeru sat in the far background casting an eye over all of the rest of the mountains with its tall chuffing summit. We took pictures for a long while before heading up to the summit of Pananjakan after all of the jeeps with the tourist brigade had left to go down into the valley. It meant that we had the entire summit to ourselves and it was blissful as you could see the entire way around the area as Pananjakan is the tallest mountain in that vicinity besides Semeru.

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And there she was….. Batok in front, Bromo off to the left side and Semeru in the distance peeking over the back

We made the rookie error of underestimating how far we would have to walk before entering down into the valley. The hill just kept on going and going and going and eventually a jeep stopped and offered us a free lift down to the base of Mt Bromo on the valley floor. We jumped in and drove a couple of kilometers the rest of the way down before walking out of the valley to go and get breakfast. The day was still young, it was only 9am and there was still plenty more adventuring to be had.

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From the valley floor, Batok going up to the right, and Mount Bromo straight ahead with its blown out crater

I don’t think I had eaten that much in ages as I chewed down two bowls of rice, a bowl of noodles, a stack of fruit and two cups of tea. Then it was back out again into the crater.

The first mission was to get up to the crater rim of Mount Bromo. Along the way we met some locals who wanted to take pictures with us so after that we walked with them up to the top. Bromo was spewing a whole bunch of smoke out and it was a beautiful reminder of our insignificance on this Earth. It is so much more powerful than you or I and has the ability to destroy rapidly what we have spent generations achieving. I never fail to be in awe.

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Giant hole to middle earth… just wow!

After we trotted down the side of Bromo there was debate about whether we should try and climb Batok also. It is the steepest and hardest climb of the three mountains but we decided to go part of the way and see how it was. Of course part of the way turns into massive rock climbing and “well we have come this far so screw it we are going to the top!”

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Mount Batok with the Hindu temple in front.

I am incredibly glad that we did as the views from here were just spectacular. The summit was a giant plateau that you could walk around and it gave you 360 degree views of the entire valley floor if you walked around the top. We stayed here until the sun was about set before scampering down to the bottom and then back along the valley floor to the hotel at about 4:30pm.

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The other side of the valley as seen from the top of Mount Batok

Our day was nearly 14 hours long, 3 mountain summits and about 20 kilometers of walking later. But as stuffed as I was from all of the hiking, I was also super excited and relaxed. It was one of the most incredible days of hiking that I have ever done. It is hard to not be impressed by the stunning views that this area has to offer.

The Marvelous Men Of Kawah Ijen

As an avid lover of all things volcano, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go and visit Kawah Ijen in the far eastern part of Java, Indonesia. The volcano is most famous for its massive sulfur deposits that the locals harvest for use in cosmetics and other things.

So the wake-up call came at 1am and we were scurried into the back of a car and driven for about an hour to the base of Kawah Ijen. The fact that we even made it to the base is a miracle given our drivers’ penchant for overtaking people on windy roads at high speed into oncoming traffic. I am pretty sure he almost rolled the vehicle about five times. Anyway, survived…. and arrived!

We started the 3km hike to the crater rim of Kawah Ijen and had a local guy following us. Despite telling him we didn’t want a guide, he took it upon himself to walk with us for the entire way up the winding switchbacks of the hill. He would tell us things in broken English or Bahasa Indonesian on his way and point things out to us. When we started getting into high sulfur concentration areas he helped me wet down my t-shirt and tie it around my mouth so I could breathe easier. At this point I had taken a liking to him and I didn’t care if he had just dubbed himself our guide. He was cool and very helpful. I was happy to pay him anyway.

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An attractive look. Wet t-shirt around the mouth to stop the inhalation of sulfur dioxide.

So when we got to the crater rim, then began the perilous descent into the crater rim down to where they harvest the sulfur and to the lake. It was steep and hairy trip down in the dark stopped at times by massive coughing fits from the excess inhalation of sulfur dioxide in the air literally choking your lungs. When we arrived just below the clouds I saw a glimpse of the magical blue flame that they talk about seeing in the crater. And as we continued downwards we arrived on the flat to where there were a whole bunch of men working to collect the sulfur to cart back up the hill.

The crater in the dark was like a crazy world. In among the smoke there were bright patches of yellow dripping down from the hills out of these rusted out metal barrels. The men were taking giant metal crowbars to the solidified sulfur deposits to break them down into smaller pieces that would fit into their baskets so they could carry them.

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Breaking down the solid sulfur into transportable chunks.

When asking them how much was in each of the baskets they told us that they were carrying anywhere between 60 and 80 kilograms back up the hill and then another 3 kilometers down the other side to the weighing station. They get paid 900 Indonesian Rupiah per kilo for this. So on average he said he made about $15 Australian dollars or 10 Euro in a day by the time they do 2 trips up and down the mountain.

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What a 8 AUD or 5 Euro payload looks like.

My brain nearly exploded at this information. This was grueling work. Work that I would probably be incapable of. In fact, I deadlifted one of the baskets like I used to at crossfit training and while I can still pick it up, I could not do much more with it. The men were showing us their scars on their shoulders from where the bamboo baskets were cutting into their skin over the years and laughing about it. I think if I had this job I would want to cry. And yet here they are, the marvelous men of Kawah Ijen laughing about what they do for work and posing to take pictures with us flexing their muscles, sometimes with others photo-bombing in the background just to be even more funny.

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My favourite miner… he took his shirt off to do some funny poses for us

As the sun started to come up properly I started to take stock of the barren wasteland that surrounded me. There was a lake quite close to the sulfur deposits and according to the internet the pH of this lake is 0.5. Mind blown…. for any chemist out there you will know that this means that it is pretty much a lake of a bit less than 1M sulfuric acid (I am a self confessed chemistry nerd). It is the most acidic lake in the world and has this incredibly light blue haze to it that gives it a nice aura around the yellow and grey colours from the sulfur and the rest of the mountain.

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The acid lake with the sulfur deposits on the shoreline

The sulfur became more yellow as the sun came up and the extent of how far you could see it expanded across the landscape. It was like being on the moon and yet not. I sat for quite a while taking it in and watching the men carry their bamboo baskets up the hill before it was time to start climbing back up ourselves.

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Time to start climbing.

We climbed at rapid pace compared to the workers with their baskets. Even as we passed them, they continued to laugh and ask for photos with us and smile. They are incredible people that I have such amazing respect for. Before I knew it I was back to the top and on my way back down the hill among all of the greenery and foggy haze that I couldn’t see at 2am when I was on my way up the hill. It was like visiting the sulfurous and barren wasteland of Kawah Ijen was a dream. And yet here I was with the marvelous men and their baskets full of sulfur as a reminder sitting at the base of the mountain and with a bucket load of photos to always remember them by.

The Perilous Summit of Mount Rinjani – Part 2

I barely slept. I rolled around exhausted and as much as my body was exhausted, it would not allow me to sleep. Before I knew it, I was waking up at 1:30am waiting for the moment to get out of bed and to go and summit this mountain top that everybody keeps on telling me is so difficult that it is ridiculous. Way harder than the previous days…. 

I started ‘breakfast’ with a hot tea and a couple of sugar cookies and packed a hydralyte for the way. At 2:30am I started out with Chris up the hill. The others were way faster than us and so they were set to start out later and meet us. The first part of the trek was on a massive incline crawling over rocks and sandy scree to try and get to the crater rim. After about an hour, it was over and we were making our way along the crater rim at a more moderate incline. It was windy, it was dark and even though I couldn’t see much, I could see that the trail either side of me lead to a massive fall either down the outside of the volcano or into the crater. I tried not to think about it and kept on going. As I kept going all I could think to myself was the song ‘ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah’ as I could see all of these tiny headlamp glows following one another up a hill like small ants.

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The view on the way up as the sun starts appearing and it gets light enough to see

We sat and ate some more sugar cookies before what was to be the final hour and a bit. The most difficult part. Straight up to the summit over black sand. It was three steps at a time, then two breaths, three steps, then two breaths. At one point the adrenaline kicked in through all of the hard work and my frustrations and I realized that I was going to make it. I started getting excited. I could see Chris up ahead and he was rounding the corner to where the last stretch of the summit was. Almost there…

And then I saw it… Three French guys and an Aussie in shorts and a singlet at the top of the mountain in a man huddle to try and stay warm and I knew I was there! The view was incredible. Chris and I stood at the top and had a few pictures with the sign at the top over the view of the lake and at that moment I was so elated that something I had wanted to give up after one hour of walking on day one I managed to achieve through sheer will power and mind control. It was one of my greatest achievements.

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Yay! I made it to the top!

The sun didn’t rise properly as there were too many clouds in the distance obscuring the sun. But I could see Gunung Anung on Bali, the Gili Islands, all the way across the northern coast of Lombok and Sumbawa where I was taking a boat trip in two days from that moment. The time up there was fleeting and never enough, but we gradually started to make our way down, taking pictures of all of the things that we didn’t see in the dark on the way up. After a couple of hours we were back at camp, eating breakfast and packing up to start the trek back down to Sembulan.

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Views of the valley on the way down

It was a steep descent. My knees, ankles and feet were killing me. But I kept on plodding along. After ten hours of walking that day, I managed to get out the end of the rice and farming fields to the road where the truck was waiting to take us back to Senaru.

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The rice fields in Sembulan towards the end of the hike

We sat in the back of the truck and waved to the kids through all of the villages screaming ‘Hello!’ at us along the way and eventually got to Senaru, picked up our luggage and headed to Senggigi where we were staying the night. The whole adventure at this point never felt like it actually happened. It felt like a dream…. except I had two giant swollen feet from the rapid change in altitude and a duck waddle when I walked for the next two days to remind me.

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Now dems are some serious cankles 🙂

This is something I laughed about despite my discomfort. Because I took on Rinjani. And despite my own self doubt, I won!