The Volcano Song

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
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Trip End Oct 22, 2012


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Where I stayed
Bladok Losmen Yogyakarta
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Catimor Homestay Jember
Read my review - 1/5 stars
Yoschi'S Guest House Sukapura
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Ijen Crater (Kawah Ijen) Surabaya
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Mount Bromo (Gunung Bromo) Tengger Caldera
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We flew back to Indonesia from KL, to Surakarta (aka Solo) in Java, and made our way via train to Yogyakarta. Here we checked into a nice little Losman (guesthouse) called Bladok and planned the next leg of our journey in java. We had a little visitor in our room on our first night in the form of a bat who accidentally flew in through our window. Thankfully the net used to get leaves out of the swimming pool was propped next to the pool so we were able to rescue it and release it back to its friends who seemed to like circling past our room.

We took in a live gamelan performance (traditional Indonesian music) at the sultan's palace, and had a look around the museum there where various personal affects of the Sultan's were displayed.  Strangely enough his oven gloves, cheese grater and sieve were displayed amongst other kitchenware he had used whilst living in Holland, much to our amusement.

Another day we travelled an hour west of Yogja to Borobudur, an important Buddhist monument and temple surrounded by rice paddies, culminating in a large Stupa at the top.  We climbed up and around it, taking in all the decorative stone work / reliefs on the temple’s walls, as well as the stone Buddhas at the top encased in smaller stone Stupas which had decorative holes so you could see the Buddhas inside. There were some school trips out at Borobudur, and all the school kids wanted their picture taken with me, so who was I to deny my adoring fans?  We retreated back to the minivan as the heavens opened  (it being rainy season and all).

We looked into doing a 3 days 2 nights trip through Java to visit Gunung Bromo and the Ijen Plateau before heading onto Bali, which are both volcanoes respectively. We had to do a bit of psyching up before we took on this challenge as it involved at 12 hour mini bus ride, followed by two 3:30am starts in a row and a lot of uphill walking.

After our long and tedious mini bus journey we arrived at Yoschi’s guesthouse near Gunung Bromo. We were given a cute wooden cabin split on 2 levels, with amazing views of the mountains over yonder from our private balcony. The temperature up in the mountains is cool in comparison to the rest of Asia and there is no humidity, so it was like being back in England temperature wise, which was quite refreshing (plus it had been raining, so made a refreshing change).   

The following morning at an insanely early hour we donned our hoodies and set off in a 4WD up into the mountains. We drove to a view point opposite Bromo so we could see the sun rise behind the mountains on the horizon and view Bromo and the 2 other volcanoes which were lined up in sequence next to it..

After sunrise the 4WD dropped us at the base of Bromo where we climbed up (declining the offers of a lift on horseback) to look into the crater.  This was a bit much for Clare who seemed to develop a bout of vertigo.  Standing at the top looking into the hole that leads to the underbelly of the earth was awe inspiring if not  a little scary esp. as there was nothing to hold onto and only a shelf to precariously balance.

We retreated down Bromo and headed back to Yoschi’s to pack our bags for the next leg of our journey which took us 6 hours west to the Ijen Plateau.  Unfortunately the guesthouse here wasn’t really up to Yoschis standards to put it mildly, however it was only for 1 night, so it didn’t really matter. We got the earliest night we could and then got up again the following morning at 3:30am.  We drove for about an hour in the dark to the bottom of the Ijen Plateau and arrived just as the sun was coming up.  The temperature at Ijen was not as cold as around Bromo, which meant after about 10 minutes of walking uphill the hoodies etc came off.

As we climbed up Ijen we saw the most beautiful vistas stretching out as far as the coast over Java, and surrounding the path were lush green forests, overlooked by giant volcanoes in the distance.  We also saw a family of Gibbons in the trees by the side of the path, which was a pleasant surprise after not seeing any Gibbons at the Gibbon experience in Laos.  After we passed the penultimate corner, the lush greenness had been replaced by volcanic rock, like someone had put the moon on earth or something out of a scene in Jurassic park.

The Ijen plateau has a sulphur lake in its crater, where workers collect the sulphur, and so as we climbed up Ijen a steady stream of sulphur collectors would come down the hill, with solid sulphur in their baskets weighing anything between 60 – 80kg. These men start work at around 2 to 4am, and make 2 trips a day up and down the volcano.  We walked around to the edge of the crater, where we could see the turquoise sulphur lake glistening in the sun below, as well as giant plumes of yellow sulphur smoke.

It was another 30 minute walk down from the edge of the crater, so Clare and I made our way slowly down the meandering path, clambering over the rubble as we went.  Half way down Clare decided she was taking too long climbing down and decided not to go any further, so I carried on with one of the workers, who was showing us the safest way to descend. I reached the bottom and immediately covered my mouth with a scarf, as the thick smoke was quite acrid and so didn’t feel too good on the lungs.  I gingerly made it over to the sulphur lake and admired the view, took a few snaps of my immediate surroundings and made my way back up again as the smoke was becoming quite relentless.

I have great respect for these men who earn so little money (7 a day) for such a hazardous job just to make ends meet.  We tested the weight of the baskets and they were HEAVY,  nevermind carrying it up the steep path out of the crater, down a 3km steep windy path to the bottom and then doing it all over again everyday.  We were glad to relax in our mini van after the trek and headed back to Bali on the public ferry then grabbed a hot sweaty bus to Lovina to recover.

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