Conquering Mountains and Personal Limits

image post

I recently completed the most physically challenging trek ever- 3 days, 2 nights on Mt Rinjani on Lombok island, Indonesia.  The adventure really began at breakfast before the hike when the Aussie sitting across from me slapped away a poisonous scorpion that was climbing up his leg. (I levitated from my seat for the rest of the meal and constantly checked my legs for any weird insects… The Aussie adopted the name of Scorpion King for the rest of the trip). And so our trek began in the humid Lombok jungle, climbing over huge tree roots, hearing wild monkeys scream from the treetops and the odd dog joining alongside for the hike. After approximately two hours of steep jungle trekking, my shirt was soaked, thighs burning and I was seriously questioning if I would survive another 3 days of this. I automatically started planning escape routes- could I switch to the 2 day/1 night group and finish this tomorrow? What if a porter accompanied me down the rest of the way so I don’t disturb the group schedule?  I mentioned some of this to my fellow German, Austrian and Aussie trekkers and they convinced me to take 100m at a time and see how I felt at the end of the day.

I felt sweaty, exhausted and disgusting at the end of the day but the upside was that we arrived at the crater rim just in time for sunset. What a sunset it was. Endurance isn’t about it being easy…it’s about it being worth it.   The sunset over the volcanic lake, casting shadows over the rest of the mountain convinced me to suck it up and continue. We enjoyed a yummy gado gado meal under a full blanket of stars in the open dark sky before retreating into our tents for a semi-comfortable night’s sleep on the crater rim.


Day 2 started with banana pancakes, hot tea to warm up and rationing enough water to brush my teeth then hiking pretty much straight down into the lake. When I say straight down, I mean it. There were times when we had to hang onto the crooked rusted railings to climb down rocks in order not to fall off the side of the mountain. I only let go of the railings when the teenage porters who were each carrying approx. 13 kgs on their backs had to get by, many of them in flip flops or barefoot!

Day2-Down the mountain

Day2-Down the mountain

The sun induced a glistening lake and once we made it down to our lunch stop, we also discovered that we could wash off in the nearby hot springs.  The terrain changed to a misty one as we hiked halfway up the bigger side of the mountain in the afternoon to set up camp.  The cold air and light rain persuaded us to have dinner wrapped in our sleeping bags under the protection of our tents. The rain seem relentless as it came and went all night in between howling winds and monkey screams (sounds like a horror movie but my ear plugs garnered me a comfortable sleep). At 2am, I had a decision to make- a) get up and hike 3 hrs in the dark ( and in potential rain) to the summit for sunrise then hike 6 hrs downhill to our end station or b) stay put until after sunrise and then hike 6 hrs to our end station.  I know many of you expected me to choose a) but I actually chose option b). It was the rain that really prevented me from hiking to the summit as I knew it was a brutal hike and getting sick in the first month of my long term travel was out of the question. I have no regrets. For those in my group that chose to hike to the summit, they confirmed that it was in fact a treacherous hike (one girl who did the 3 hours hike in half the time burst into tears of pain/exhaustion when she returned).

We all have to know our limits and sometimes we only know them when we test ourselves or push ourselves to the max. I was surprised how good it felt to push myself to the limit to complete the 3 day hike yet happy to understand that I knew my limit on day 3 morning.

(Sidebar: when was the last time you pushed yourself to your limits? When did you last make a decision based on these thresholds?)

Other key learnings from the hike:

-  Mother nature doesn’t provide toilet paper so you better bring your own ( thank goodness I had  a roll from my last guesthouse)

-  I developed/marketed/sold hand sanitizer for the last 2 years but I have never bonded so much with the stuff until now

- You can never really drink enough water

-  Blisters hurt a heck of a lot more when rocks and dirt dislodge the protective Band-Aid

-  After a 3 day hike, a hot water shower is absolute heaven. It takes approximately 40 min to scrub dirt off you (and dirt never comes off a yellow tank top).

-   The human spirit can’t be broken. You can dig deep within yourself to find the additional fuel for any journey

If you’re ever in Lombok, give my regards to the mighty Rinjani!


Day1 Tents on Crater Rim

Day1 Tents on Crater Rim


If you enjoyed that one, check out these posts

Tagged : , , ,

6 Responses to “Conquering Mountains and Personal Limits”

  1. Dear Tan,

    When I read that you were ‘constantly checking your legs for weird insects’, it fondly reminded me of our time with baby spiders in the Amazon jungle. How small they were marching between the zipper lining of my luggage.

    Also, your experience of limits reminded me of the time where I, for the first time took option b as well. It was during the 3 peaks challenge in the UK. I was proud that I did the first climb in good time. And yet, half way through the most treacherous second mountain at about midnight, I knew turning back was best for me. I was initially disappointed as I felt I had never let a challenge get the best of me… but realised for whatever reason, the risk was not worth it. Was it that I was less naive and had more to lose or that I was just more aware of the consequences? In either case, I felt very comfortable in my decision. In a way, I felt more in control being aware (eyes open) and taking accountability for knowing my limits. It was a strange sense of empowerment.

    Thank you for sharing your stories throughout this epic journey — whether intentional or not, they really do inspire us to see ourselves between each and every line.

    Much love from London!

  2. The Global Sponge The Global Sponge Says:
    November 13, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Hey Priscilla, couldn’t agree with you more that being aware and making a decision based on your own knowledge ( instead of doing what ‘should’ be done) is empowering. Turns out the only person you need to justify it to is YOU.
    See you on the next mountain!

  3. Tania – I’m SO PROUD OF YOU for tackling this adventure, even when it was challenging. Your line, “Endurance isn’t about it being easy…it’s about it being worth it” makes perfect sense. In some ways, I see this three-day trek as a metaphor for your whole journey; pushing yourself to try new things, exploring just to see what you discover, and meeting amazing new people along the way.

    Lots of love,
    Stacey, your mountain-momma friend!

  4. Love the Key Learning Tips. Yes, in daily life I’m not the biggest fan of sanitizer gel, but in situations where running water and soap are not always available it is a lifesaver. Way to go completing the climb and can’t wait to see what’s next.

  5. Tania,

    I completely agree that everyone has their own limits it’s up to you to listen and follow them whole-heartedly, without hesitation. I heard this quote by Martha Graham the other day and thought of your story…
    “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.”

    Your incredible experience is just another result of you being open and aware of your own urges that motivate you!

    Can’t get enough of your stories… keep them coming :)

  6. You put this into good words and you’re not the only one who reached some limits… (o:

    Thanks for sharing this adventure and all the best for your plans – step by step. ;o)

Leave a Reply