From Jogja we booked our onward trip via a local travel agency after bartering them down of course! Our next few nights would be spent within the rural areas of Indonesia as we would be visiting Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park along with the Ijen Plateu which meant early mornings to scale enormous volcanoes and then finally onto Bali.
Our first day consisted of a (what felt like) never-ending bus journey through Java, we got picked up in Jogja at 8.30am and we arrived at 8pm to our accommodation in Cemero Lawang the village right next to Mount Bromo, tired did not even cover it! As well as this, the lovely double room we had been looking forward to arriving in was not what we actually got; instead in our tired state we settled for a room with 5 single beds that had all the makings of a bad horror movie. I had read beforehand that it was common to get lumped with a bad room on these kinds of tours. What they didn’t tell us before though was that because we didn’t pay the extra to ride in the Jeep to Mount Bromo we actually got the raw end and had to stay in crappy room’s right at the entrance to it as we had decided to let our own two feet carry us through the National Park.
Anyhow we awoke at the unholy hour of 3am ready to traverse a “sea of sand” for an hour and a half which surprisingly was even harder than it sounds! We were assured that all we had to do was follow the road down and then follow the white stones. We thought that the darkness would be our biggest hurdle and we thought to overcome that with a handy flashlight! However once we reached the “sea” we found that we had bigger problems; it was incredibly foggy! We soon lost track of the so called white stones we had to follow so we had to try and walk in the general direction of the volcano. Easier said than done when you can’t agree on the direction! On top of this we had an Indonesian guy following us on a motorcycle thinking it was his lucky day because he knew we were lost and he just so happened to know the way. Of course he would be happy to show us……for a fee!
However after plenty of meandering around we managed to get back on track and locate the infamous white stones! Not long after we began slowly ascending and we were looking out over the mist that had confused us so! We agreed as it was happening that it was pretty funny, how many people can say they’ve been lost walking on a volcano!
The view of the volcano and the surroundings was 100% worth the walk, the murderous accommodation and the hellish journey here! I was surprised when we got there just how much the air thinned out and how difficult it was to actually breathe with the volcanic ash in the air! As Mount Bromo is an active volcano it was obviously churning out smoke and ash as we were stood there which made for a very impressive sight!
After we had finished at Bromo at around 8am we hopped back in a minivan again for another long journey further east and south of Java to the Ijen Crater. We had another 3am start to get to the Crater, however this time we were not the only hikers
from the group as it is the only way to reach the summit. The hike up was pretty tough going as some of the ascent to the top was really steep, we we forced to stop more than a few times just to catch our breath. Tourists weren’t the only ones making their way up to the crater however. Many local men were lugging a cumbersome wicker basket up the climb, although that’s nothing compared to what they have to bring back down! Once they reach the summit they each gather sulphur into the basket weighing around 60-80kg which they then bring down the treacherous slope! We walked up chatting to a couple of the locals along the way and they kept us informed of how much we had left to walk!
The Ijen Crater was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before with the strange illuminous blue lake in contrast to the bright yellow sulphur smoking away beside it. It was very pretty in its own unique way! Before we said goodbye to the friendly local, just when we had thought that it was very nice of him to walk up with us without anything in return, he offered us a guided tour down into the sulphur field where they mine it and collect it. It was clear that generally tourists are not meant to go down that far as the toxins the sulphur emits are hazardous to us! To be honest the whole exchange just retained our view that no-one does anything for nothing! “Don’t get awt for nowt” as we’d say in Yorkshire!