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My breaths became faster and heavier, until I started hyperventilating. I couldn’t breathe and was gasping for air. I had to stop for a moment. Joran made a gesture to the rest of the group to walk on: “We will catch up.”

I don’t know what I was thinking climbing this stupid freakin’ mountain. I was never going to be able to make it.

My gasps for breath turned into tears. “They only needed 2 hours to break me,” I sobbed to Joran, which caused us both to start laughing.

That was a reference to something I causally said to him a few days before: “You know those TV shows where they send troubled youth up into the mountains and make them walk and camp for days until they break and transform their lives? Normally that’s a punishment for bad behaviour, but in our case we will climb mount Rinjani voluntarily, even pay money for it. They are gonna break us Joran. We are going down.”

It’s funny how much more you can endure when you think you absolutely can’t go further anymore. If there’s one thing I learned from doing a three-day trek in Lombok, Indonesia, it’s that. Climbing mount Rinjani was the physically most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life, including running half a marathon. Now, a few weeks later, the sense in my right leg still hasn’t fully returned. My nerves are slightly damaged and are recovering from walking up to 10 hours a day, sometimes climbing 1000 meters in altitude in only 3 hours time.

“Do you think you can still make it to the next stop?” “Yes.” “Then you walk until the next stop and rest there. When you’re there, you ask yourself the same question: could I at least make it another 2 of 3 hours?”

Joran has some real proper ideas every now and then.

In fact, that idea in combination with his loving support is probably the only reason I made it, not only to the first stop, but the full three days.

This is the part where I start going all metaphorical on you about mountains and hardships. I’m sorry, it has to be done.

Don’t look at the big, daunting task miles ahead of you that makes you freeze like a deer facing the approaching headlights of a car. Instead, look only a tiny step ahead of you, to the one goal you think you might be able to tackle. Only after tackling that first step, you need to start worrying about the next.

Baby steps, baby steps.

It was my mantra during the hike all the way to the top, and all the way back.

It was difficult. It was rough. I cried. I was dirty. My legs were shaking and I pretty much slept on a bunch of rocks. In the nights where I didn’t get up at 2AM to start walking at 2.30AM that is. But when you make it to that top, it’s surreal.

It’s the most beautiful view in the world, and you own it. You made it through. You battled through the hardships and didn’t give up. The sea of clouds that light up in the first rays of morning sun are what you get, what you deserve, as a result of your hard work.

But remember, you only get to the top of the world by taking baby steps.


  • Reply

    Max Segrest

    June 12, 2015 at 22:05

    I noticed your post on baby steps and it really is true! Very, very few people in the history of the world have ever risen to the top of anything in a sudden rise of fame and power, and few have really changed the world all of a sudden. Hard work and determination are what it really takes to rise to the top. If you can’t work hard, you are truly destined for failure. Congrats on your mountain climbing expedition, I really wish I could do something like that!

  • Reply


    June 13, 2015 at 09:43

    Wow, that is amazing! Definitely worth the view. Can I just ask you how fit you were when you did the climbing? I mean, that is something I would love to do as well, but was just wondering what level of fitness it takes. Did you climb up with your backpacks?

    • Reply


      June 15, 2015 at 12:24

      Well, I haven’t been running like usual during my travels, but I have been walking a whole lot more than normal (I lost a couple of kg during my travel). I think I am/was in general good heath, but not particularly trained for such a climb. I do think that if you don’t have any real health issues (heart condition, knee problems, whatever) you should be able to do it. There were smokers in our group and people who never sport. In the end the real challenge is a mental one, your body will endure it.

    • Reply


      June 17, 2015 at 12:30

      Oh and I forgot to mention that we did have porters who carried the most heavy stuff, like the tents and food. That made a big difference. i left my big backpack behind and only carries a small one with some clothes and water.

  • Reply


    December 2, 2015 at 13:49

    Well-written Mariëlle. A nice short account of the actual experience, offering a little lesson for life as a bonus.

    All the best,


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