We had booked a 4 night package trip from Yogyakarta to Mount Bromo, to Semeru, to Ijen and finishing in Bali.
We were all keen to see Bromo, a Volcano in the stereotypical pyramid shape. We were also all super keen to get to Ijen, another Volcano but one that spews out “Blue Fire”
Semeru wasn’t on any of our wish lists but upon googling it it seemed to be a nice place to visit.
We had all been caught up in each others excitement for the trip and foolishly didn’t shop around or get any itinerary printed out, for 3 seasoned travellers it was a rookie mistake, by the time we had all thought about it we had already handed over money and were playing on faith.
The first leg of the tour was a 9 hour train ride to Probolinggo, followed by a 4 hour drive to the Bromo national park.
The trains we had taken to date had been in “Executive class” we each had our own seat, amble leg room and cold cold cold AC. Luxury, this train however we were in standard class, this wasn’t as bad as I was expecting having been in the cheapest train seats in India, the lay out wasn’t too dissimilar to a standard FGW train.
We got to the national park and settled in for our 4 hours of sleep before getting up to go to Bromo for sunrise. We had been informed that we were getting up for a sunrise hike, followed by a 5 hour hike to a camping spot.
Yes turns out in our excitement we all booked a hiking tour. Now bearing in mind we aren’t the fittest bunch, we are still pretty adventurous folks so we decided to make the best and give it all a go.
We got up early and drove over to a view point near Bromo, we climbed uphill to the top of a plateau to watch the sunrise. This didn’t bode to well as Schmets and I had bad bellies and both Rob and I were struggling with Breathing. The relative cold mixed with the altitude and hiking was hitting me especially hard. If ever there was a worse time to be an Asthmatic smoker.
We eventually reached out viewpoint while it was still dark and grabbed some hot drinks before waiting for the sunrise. The sun started to come up revealing a white sheet all around us, turns out we had walked up into a cloud. In disappointment we started our descent, after we got about 50m lower we broke free of the cloud and were greeted with the last minutes of a glorious sunrise and wonderful views over of the mountain. While it only lasted minutes I’m really grateful to have been able to see it as the groups the day before and after saw diddly squat.
We drove down to the bottom of the mountain over the sea of black sand surrounding it. The area immediately surrounding Bromo is flat sand so it adds to its picturesque volcanic look. Sadly the cloud partially covered the Volcano but again I managed a few good snaps.
Upon our exploration of the base of the volcano we found an amazing sand canyon. Don’t let the photo below fool you, that is all sand, as I discovered when I tried to climb it!
We went back to the hotel for breakfast. Our itinerary being to then take a 2 hour drive to begin our 5 hour hike. Well that’s what would have happened if we followed the itinerary.
The early morning, our tiredness and trepidations about the next 24 hours were discussed over breakfast
We considered that following our 5 hour hike that day and possible rain filled camping experience, we would then be hiking for a total of 16 hours the next day to see Semeru.
Now bearing in mind none of us had Semeru of the must see list for Java we decided against going. This I think was the best decision to make considering we were all ill equipped to do any serious hiking. I had sent my boots home while in Yogyakarta and now only had a pair of sandals while the others only had trainers.
Id even had to rent a very stylish 90s style coat for that mornings hike to Bromo.
We arranged to stay another night at the hotel and head over to Ijen the following day. We planned to spend the rest of that day resting and recuperating. We were all exhausted both mentally and physically and sleep was on the menu. So post breakfast we slept. For a good 6 hours.
We all woke up refreshed, well Rob and I did. Schmetters was still feeling pretty rough so after lunch went back to bed.
Rob and I had planned to explore the local area, this plan changed however following 2 bottles of wine and 6 beers. We ended up getting quite drunk and watching comedy on you tube. Rob introduced me to Jim Jeffries, an Australian comic, while I shared with him the joys of Peter Kay and Greg Davies.
Poor Schmetters got a nice surprise when, after her sleep, she came downstairs to discover two rowdy drunks discussing which sport was better, AFL or football (soccer for you heathens out there) We had even roped in a Dutch father son combo to officiate out drunken debates. As fun as this valentines man date was, both Rob and I regretted it the following morning while we were going around the winey mountainous roads towards Ijen. Seeing Rob using his fractured Indonesian to explain to the driver he needed to throw up was most amusing.
We got the hotel and were told we needed to leave at 1am to begin our hike to the blue fire.
So we got a grand total of 4 hours sleep that night. Had we done the trek up Semeru I really don’t think we would have managed this wake up. The tour plan seemed to try to fit in as much as possible while leaving no time for sleep.
We were handed our gasmasks and began our 2 ½ hour walk up to Ijen crater in the pitch black of night. Now a 2 ½ hour walk sounded easy enough. We hadn’t factored in that for most of the 4k walk, the path was at a 45 degree angle. It was very hard going!
As the path began to flatten out the air began filling with a toxic sulphurous gas. This was why we had bought the gasmasks and on they went. They aren’t the comfiest things to wear and make breathing while hiking really quite difficult. I really cant describe the smell of the gas. It was awful and it permeated my clothes and skin for days after.
We got to the top of the crater and began our descent down into it. The path which up until now had been really good. It became very rough as we headed down into the depths of the volcano.
We had to dodge Indonesian miners as the climbed up the path carrying up to 90kgs of sulphurous rocks on their shoulders. Absolutely back breaking work which only yielded 1000 rupiah ( 6p) per KG.
The deeper we got into the crater the more intense the fumes got until we could see their source. A hole in the grounds spewing out clouds of gas. Above the gas was the goal of our quest. The blue fire.
Seen by night the flames coming out of the volcano are bright blue, it was absolutely breath taking and made the entire calf killing hike worth it. We stayed watching the flames dance majestically before beginning the climb out of the crater.
As we climbed up the sun began to slowly rise revealing a beautiful blue green volcanic lake filling the rest of the crater.
The sunrise also reviled the stunning surroundings we had missed in the dark. This made the hike back down pretty special. Mountains in the distance one side, the sea on the other. So many shades and colours of green. Going downhill also turned out to be much easier than its reverse.
We got back in the car and headed for the harbour for the boat to Bali. The easiest bit of the trip, or so we thought.
After a 2 hour wait by the side of the road for a Coach to take us to the harbour and then on to our hostel in Bali we were told we needed to pay to board it. When we explained we had paid everything in advance the “guide” laughed and said we hadn’t paid for this part etc it wasn’t included etc. Now after a 12:30 wake up, 5 hour round hike and now 2 hour pointless wait I admit my patience was shot.
Having someone flagrantly trying to rip us off for more money pushed my patience over the edge. When we refused to pay more and told the bloke exactly what we was trying to do he became quite aggressive. I mistakenly reacted to that aggression with my own and I think I was about 30 seconds away from either getting arrested or murdered. Sense prevailed and I walked away.
We made our own way to the ferry and then our hostel in Bali.
The tour we took was not a success. While the activates we did were great, they were badly organised and there was a lot of dead time waiting around for a driver to turn up, or a car to start etc. Our drivers were unhelpful and no one seemed to now what was going on. The events at the harbour was a culmination of all these events. The proverbial straw that broke the camels back.
My last trip to Bali was amazing and I had an amazing time. I wrote about it here
Similar to the last trip the first thing we decided to do was go to Waterbom park. Voted the 2nd best water park in the world. Its filled with slides and happiness. I just love it there. This time I took my go pro so was able to record the wonderfulness of the place. I think my photos and videos can sum up our enjoyment better than words ever could.
We all had a great day, going down fast slide, group slides, racing slides, solo slides. Schmetters and I even got our feet eaten by fish, similarly to my previous trip.
I had a great day, one that was topped of by a beautiful sunset.
After 2 weeks travelling together we have decided to keep going and head off to Gili Trawangan tomorrow, the island where I learnt to dive 4 years ago. I can’t wait!