We were up at 2am on the morning of the next day, and after some tea and biscuits, a group of us set off for the top, to catch the sunrise at 6am. This climb of over 700m was as close to hell as you can get; the first stage up to the main ridge was hard, the second stage along the top of the ridge was reasonable, but the last 100m or so was terrible. Imagine trying to walk up a big mound of coal, or a pile of sand, and you might get close to imagining the summit of Rinjani; it's one step up and three steps backwards, clawing with your hands to maintain a grip in the freezing winds as dust fills your eyes and stones fill your shoes. This kind of volcanic rubble is called scoria, and it's an absolute killer.
It took a good three hours of torturous ascent before I reached the top, arriving at the top alone and just in time to see the sunrise. Eventually everyone else arrived, bar the casualties who had turned back, and the world spread out below us. 12,000 feet is a hell of a long way above sea level, I can tell you, and the kretek cigarette that the porter gave me as the lake lit up in the sunlight was the icing on the cake...
Bouncing down the scoria was like walking in ten-league boots; it felt just like coming down Taranaki as I covered in one hour what it had taken three hours to climb. There were more hot noodles and tea for breakfast, and then it was time to retrace my steps back to the lake and hot springs for some thermal therapy, just a four-hour walk down from the crater rim. That night I camped by the lake, with the clouds pouring into the crater in their nightly ritual, settling on the water and making it look like a seething and bubbling cauldron. I got talking to Morton and Linda, a Danish couple whom I'd met on the second rim, and who were finding the walk a real struggle (despite their having a porter), but soon enough the early morning start up the summit caught up with us, and it was early to bed, and early to rise.
Every park has its pests, whether they're rats, mosquitoes, dingoes or sandflies, but in Rinjani there are two especially annoying pests, namely monkeys and humans. The humans are only irritating for the rubbish they leave behind, but the monkeys are as annoying as Fraser Island's dingoes; they will open your tent (yes, they know how to operate zips), steal your food and throw the rest of your stuff around, if you don't keep guard. I never left my tent alone, and when I hit the summit one of the guides stayed behind to guard the camp, but occasionally you come across a territorial monkey who's got an attitude.
On my second visit to the hot springs, when I happened to be alone, a monkey appeared, slowly loping its way over towards my pack, which I'd left in the shade of a rocky outcrop. I got up and shouted at it, but unlike the soppy specimens I'd come across on the way up, this guy wasn't going to take any shit from a pesky human, and he bared his teeth, let fly a vicious screeching, and started running straight at me, looking for a fight.
There's not much that's scarier than a monkey running at you, full pelt, fangs glinting in the midday sun. Because their faces are so expressive, you can see the evil in their eyes well before they get to you, and those teeth are simply savage. Luckily I stepped back into the hot pool, discovering in the process that monkeys don't like hot water, and satisfied myself with a few feeble expletives rom the safety of the pool, more like a coward who knows he's unreachable than an all-conquering explorer. Eventually the monkey gave up trying to scare me into submission – well, he'd already succeeded, to be fair – took a few contemptuous sniffs at my backpack, and wandered back up the hill, casting the odd look back at the springs and hissing at me, making sure I knew who had won...