WARNING this post contains a lot of whinging so if you don't like a moaner, don't read!
There is little to no joy in trekking up a volcano. It is an emotional roller coaster of mostly downs and the occasional I-can-see-the-campsite highs. When I say downs I of course mean ups. There is only up. It's up until your lungs stop working. It is long and hard and monotonous and boring.
I started fairly positive. It'll be fun I told myself, how bad can it really be? We left the hole-tel and headed to the start where we met our guide, a couple of new recruits (two French guys, one with a rat tail) and then started. I plodded behind the guide keeping his pace for about 45 uphill minutes...until we reached the actual start. I was already sweatier than I'd ever been just from the pre-trek. I upheld the front until the first rest stop, then had a mini break down and dropped back to plod at my own pace. By the time we stopped for lunch I was in a terrible mood. Trekking is long and hard and boring and we had barely started with nearly 1600m still ahead of us before the end of the day. Essentially the whole day was spent putting one foot in front of the other, always uphill, through a dense jungle which eventually cleared into a cloud. Eventually, after much self loathing, internal rage and sweat we made it to the crater rim - our home for the evening. It was a joy to finish but contrary to what I'd been told, to me, the view was not worth it. The pictures on Ben's camera were just as nice and it was mostly cloudy so I imagined the promised 'beautiful sunset' as it went dark. Although rather chilly, camp life was definitely the days highlight, our porters rustled up a treat (including one of the most wonderful cups of tea I've ever had) and we retreated to our tents fairly early. My plan to use the outdoor facilities as little as possible lasted until 930pm when I begrudgingly got out of my tent and used my head torch to find a good wee spot. (Which included my foot. I do not like the outdoors!)
The clouds had gone in the morning and it did look pretty, still not worth a day of dullness and pain, but pretty none the less. The plan was to go down to the crater lake and then up to the base of the summit. I could see the day's task in front of me and it looked like an everest challange. I'm not one to lose height once gained so I was seriously considering just heading back at this point - after all I'd achieved what the boys had. I foolishly carried on. When they said 'down' to the crater lake they weren't kidding. We actually had to climb down rock walls for large portions and it took about 2 hours. I lost it slightly with a German girl who was walking on my heels and spraying me with scree. Clearly she didn't know I wasn't in a mood to take lightly.
The lake was lovely, we took a slightly treacherous path around it and then stopped for lunch where it dawned on me that a) the rest of my day was up and b) that there was a storm brewing in my gut. Terrible news given my hate for 'going' outside. And so up we went. This was more of a four limbed climb than yesterday's foot route. Occasionally I'd ask our guide (Oulala) which way. He'd respond 'up' and point at the wall in front of me which, sadly, wasn't a labrynth style illusion wall - we had to climb up it. Those 3 hours lasted forever and (apologies for the upcoming TMI) I've never had to excise such sphincter control before. It's Sod's Law that my iron constitution let me down 1500 up a sodding volcano. When I finally reached the campsite I headed straight down the cliff/edge/whatever armed with a loo roll, found a bush to climb into and said goodbye to All The Evil. My first outdoor motion, and there was no choice in the matter. The rest of my group were very pleased for me. The clouds cleared just in time for sunset which was over where we stayed last night - miles away!
This supposedly started at 2am to reach the summit. I got outside my tent and almost instantly climbed back inside my very thin sleeping back. Nighttime mountain trekking is definitely not for me! The hardy summit goers returned bout half 7 for a quick breakfast and then down. And it really was down. The first couple of hours were very steep and very slippery. This was fine until I jarred my toe and I now fear it's nail will not last too much longer. The hour from then until lunch was utterly miserable. Down was almost as bad as up but had a lot more pain! Oulala then delivered the happy news that the last 2 and a half hours could be done by flip flop, so on they went, on went the music and down went the ibruprofen and the time flew by! I still think flip flops were a tad optimistic but the did the job and I was down in no time at all. Only problem is I now can't get them clean! By this point everyone was blistered and sore and a bit done with the day. We hopped into our transport (the back of a pick up truck) and made our way back to the port and back to Gili T. I've never been so pleased to be somewhere before.
So things I've learned, sometimes fear of missing out needn't be feared, I shouldn't be a sheep, I don't like trekking but also that you can meet really nice people in really not nice situations! The next time I go up a mountain I'll stick to a cable car.