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A Less Strenuous Option: Rinjani National Park Lombok

Published 06 January 2011   

On a recent luxury villa junket in Lombok Thomas Jones went out seeking the finer points of jungle life in Rinjani National Park. Being a somewhat lazy sort, climbing to the peak was not an option, but the less arduous trek to a waterfall with the promise of a swim in a cool deep mountain stream was temptation enough to get him and his partner in crime on their bike and up a mountain.

The Rinjani National park is 41,330 hectares of primeval rainforest that covers a large part of Northern Lombok. Mt Rinjani is Indonesiaa’s second highest peak and rises to a height of 3726m, dominating the lives of the locals with volcanic superstition and providing year round rainfall for their crops. The slopes of the mountain are so heavily forested that you can almost imagine pterodactyls swooping down her valleys and harassing the locals; stealing their cows and children.

Thankfully, that doesn’t happen, but many hikers go there to do the three-day climb to the peak but it offers so many other simpler trekking and sightseeing options as well. We are aficionados of the latter category preferring to be back in good time for a hot shower, a comfortable bed and tea and biscuits on the lawn. The gateway to the park is the village of Senaru and it is here that one of those easier trekking options can be found; two waterfalls within 40 minutes of the hotel. The first, Sindang Gila, we could see from the room and definitely hear within minutes of starting the 15 minute walk down the hill from the road (10,000rps each to enter the falls zone). This two-tiered 40m fall and natural spring is deliciously cold and perfect for a heavy shoulder massage and is an easy walk. It’s a beautiful place for contemplation but best avoided at the weekends when the hordes descend.

The true monster prize is a further 30 minutes up the valley through untouched tropical rainforest. Walking along a jungle path that follows an old irrigation canal, you pass weirs and aqueducts and dams, cross rivers and clamber over large buttress-rooted trees and creepers that grow along the track. At one point the river enters a 200 metre long tunnel, which is an adventure in itself for those who are bold enough to enter into its six-foot high darkness, knee deep in fast flowing water.

This second fall is called Tiu Kelep and sits in the head of the river valley. It shoots its water out like a projectile of pure white energy crashing almost 30 metres straight down into to a swirling deep pool below. We were able to inch our way around the back of the falls on a wide stone ledge in a ‘Last of the Mohicans’ moment and stand behind the curtain of water primally screaming into the wash.

Local legend has it that the water has youth-enhancing properties and if you swim around it you will come out one year younger. It had rained cats and dogs the night before so the amount of water coming down was massive. The swirling waters looked more like a crazy large-scale washing machine than a refreshing place to tempt fate. So, it is 40-something we remain.
Fortunately, about 50m further downstream we found a cool deep clear pool in which to swim and bask on the warm boulders surrounded by the swirling sounds and sights of nature: running water, flowers, stag horn ferns, giant colourful butterflies, iridescent dragonflies, blue kingfishers, monitor lizards, monkeys and the sweet song of all the unseen birds that inhabit these parts.

With the day nearly over and a two-hour motorcycle ride back to our luxury villa on the coast we had to hit the road. Six star villas are wonderful places to stay, no doubt about it, but no matter how much one has to spend on design and landscape, or how much creative energy one possesses, man can only ever hope to mimic nature’s splendour with his creations.

This day, and the night before (see above) were reminders of this, a humbling reminder, and a beautiful reality check on life’s simplicity.

Where to stay:
The Pondok Senaru Cottage in Senaru has a US$25 room, which had been curiously dubbed the honeymoon suite. To be honest, it is a great room designed in red with a large bed, big mosquito net, a colour TV and the staff really went the extra mile to get us a DVD player, for which they were generously rewarded. The chili chicken left something to be desired but the rice and vegetables were just right and the beer was more than cold enough. It is a perfect place to enjoy all of nature’s entertainment: the views of the mountain, the beautiful sunset, and the Sindang Gila falls dropping into the river valley below. At night the stars are incredible and rising at five to watch the sun rise up out of the sea and hit the mountain will change the way you see the days and weeks ahead. Tel: +62 370 622 868