Day 24-26 - May 10-12
We should have looked more closely at the itinerary.
Had we done so we would have noticed the 2nd day on the Mount Rinjani summit trek involved 15 hours of climbing starting at 2am - ascending 2km of altitude, and descending another vertical 2km. Carrying a 30lb pack through most of this would prove a much more difficult task than on the
flat beaches of Bali.
In fact, sharing a similar volcanic history is about where the comparison ends between Bali and its lesser-known Indonesian sister-island Lombok. The 5 million locals live at a near subsistence level, drought is common and devastating, there is virtually no commercial development or tourism, and curiously there is very little ethnic diversity in the near exclusively Muslim population. Also of note is a deep and universal affection towards the Dutch, whose merchant navy was leveraged in the past to free the residents from the oppressive rule of the powerful Balinese. With that bit of history the story behind the distinctly contrasting islands became clear.
While the modern Balinese impress travellers with their calm and serentiy, Lombokians impress with their sheer force of will. The 3-day trek that started out with a moderate 5 hour hike to base-camp (if at >30C temperatures), was made a much more challenging task the following day with a summit push and traversing a volcanic rim (around an active volcano!). Climbing with moderately-sized packs is one thing, but our mountain guide carried water and snacks for 3 days - his pack was 70lb - and his two porters carried the camping equipment, the cooking equipment, and all the fresh food - their loads were 110lb... which they carried on thick bamboo poles across their backs... while wearing cheap flip-flops... speeding sure-footed up grades approaching 40 degrees... and out-pacing all of the travelling climbers.
We finished the trek a day less than most western-travellers, and took pride in the words of our guide that Canadians rank only with the Germans and the Swiss in having the determination to tackle the 25km trek without rest. High praise in my books, but walking anywhere was a challenge for the next few days.