As a warmup for the summit, I was invited on the trek to Panjor Mas which I was told was a quick jaunt around the lake to the base of the summit. I suppose my Indonesian language skills are not nearly as good as I thought because somehow I missed the part about this being an “extreme” hike.
I probably should have gotten a hint when only 31 people all much younger than me met for a prayer before the hike, and then we stopped again to pray an hour later. It was after that second prayer that things became quite hairy.
The first extreme section at least had handholds and footholds. I inched along footholds about an inch wide until reaching some half-submerged thin logs for the remaining part of the traverse. Tough, but manageable. I gave high fives all around, and figured that we had conquered the major challenge.
But of course I was premature because the next hour required technical climbing skills, strength or both. I had neither. I glued myself against the rock face, and tried to avoid looking down at the cliff and lake below. Wyasa was guiding me from in front with Gede in the rear. At two points, there were simply no handholds or footholds to be seen. I gasped, “Where do I put my foot next.” To which Wyasa answered: “Be like Spiderman Pak Dave.” To which I responded with the few Indonesian swear words I know, plus some familiar English ones…and then I wanted to cry.
So all those many hours of prayers paid off, and I slowly made like Spiderman across the abyss.
Our destination was Panjor Mas which is spring fed by a waterfall born on the summit of Rinjani. We took a bath in the spring waters, and gathered holy water for a ceremony. Beautiful and very powerful place with the partially cloud covered summit rising thousands of feet above us.
A word about garbage
Sadly, every step of the way from our base camp to Panjor Mas has been through tons of plastic garbage. It’s particularly difficult to deal with mess at camp when cooking and eating. There seems to be little or no awareness of this blight on the part of my Balinese friends who just seem to ignore it. However, when I picked up the garbage around our camp, my friends joined me. There was really not much we could do but burn it which was better than just throwing it on the ground. I asked some new friends in nearby tents what they thought, and they were also concerned but stumped at what to do about it. We got into a conversation about the ashram’s recycling programs. They started to get excited about doing something about it, and we resolved to get together to see what we could do to start a recycling program in Mataram. We’ll see.
In the meantime, we are living in harmony with the rubbish. Even the holy water from Panjor Mas came to us from a funnel made from a discarded plastic water bottle.
How the Balinese deal with Evil and Other Bad Stuff
There are just so many things I don’t understand at all about this culture, and one of them is dealing with evil and dangerous animals. On the first day I was walking behind one of the mangkus. I was wondering why he had a plastic bottle filled with rice hanging by his side. Right about then, he stopped abruptly and threw some rice onto the side of trail. Curious. And then I saw a small cobra slithering off the trail. The rice was a way to symbolically feed the snake so that he would avoid biting us. My initial “western” reaction was to whack the snake with a stick.
The next day I was walking with Putu and Wyasa when we saw some very aggressive monkeys harrassing trekkers just ahead. I started to pick up some rocks to chuck at these beasts. Instead, my friends told me to avoid conflict, and instead distracted the monkeys with some bits of apple.
Later on, Wyasa suggested that these actions of using diversion rather than direct conflict against evil or danger is deeply embedded into the Balinese culture. He reminded me that before every ceremony evil spirits are temporarily diverted by feeding them some rice, coconut and giving them a drink of arrak and maybe a cigarette. Balancing good and evil is important in almost every Balinese ceremony. As a westerner, I wanted to fight the evil. The Balinese figure this direct approach is pointless and likely to be counter-productive.
This was one of the most difficult hikes I had endured over rugged volcanic rocks. I wore tennis shoes, and wished I had brought my boots. My friends hiked in an array of different footwear.
Next: The Day for Climbing the Summit of Rinjani