Guest Post - A Travel Narrative By Santhana Amuthan.
It was quite a hectic trip of 3 nights and 4 days covering two mountains - Mt.Bromo and Ijen Crater in East Java, Indonesia and yet it stands out as one of my most favourite travel experience. Such an edgy trip could easily go haywire if your travel companion doesn’t share the same interest and enthusiasm as yours. Thanks to my perfect travel partner for the trip was absolutely exciting.
Mount Bromo is an active volcano and one of the most visited tourist attractions of East Java, and it is a 95km drive from the capital of East Java,Surabaya. Mt.Bromo is a part of the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and stands at a height of 2,392 meters. It is quite easily accessible as compared to the tallest Mt.Semeru, which reportedly takes about two days to trek and is mostly closed due its highly active nature. The top of Mt.Bromo has been blown off to give way to a massive crater with a diameter of 10kms, which constantly emanates white sulphurous smoke.
We stayed at the Cafe Lava hostel at Camero Lawang, from where our organised jeep tour to Mt.Bromo started quite early in the morning at 4am. We were surprised to find a long line of jeeps with tourists all heading to the sunrise spot. We reached Mount Penanjakan (which is also a part of the same National Park) after a slow jeep ride of about 20 minutes and a 10-minute walk to reach the peak, from where we were to witness the sunrise.
On reaching the top, we found at least 200 other tourists heavily clad and already struggling to find the best spot to capture the scenic view that is awaiting us. We were well in time to see the sun slowly rising and beaming above to open up a brilliant panoramic view of Mt.Bromo, Mt.Semaru and the Sea of Sand. It seemed to be a photographer’s paradise where some of them even settled down for hours together with a dslr and a tripod stand to capture the picturesque view. It was simply breathtaking.
After our descent from Mt.Penanjakan, we then proceeded through the Sea of Sand (which is a vast area of fine volcanic sand) in a bumpy jeep ride for quite a distance towards Mt.Bromo. From then on, one can either chose to walk it up to the crater or rent a horse instead. By this time, it was pretty hot and an up and down trek would take about 2 hours leaving us exhausted, so we chose the horse back ride through the rest of the Sea of Sand to Mount Bromo’s crater.
The horse dropped us off at the bottom of a narrow flight of stairs, which leads to the crater mouth. On ascending the stairs, we were at the brim of the crater getting a full view of the blenching sulphur fumes with its strong odour. A mask is a must. It was quite a daunting view as one could actually walk around the narrow crater mouth with almost nothing to hold on to. After getting enough of the crater view and choking on the rotten egg smell, we went back to our horse to take us back to our jeep. Our trip was already almost worth it.
The road journey from Mt.Bromo to Banyuwangi took about 4 hours. Our next stay was at Ijen Cliff resort, which is quite close to Banyuwangi. The Ijen volcano hosts the world’s largest acidic volcano called Kawah Ijen and undoubtedly should hold a place in every traveller’s must visit list. The huge acidic crater is a beautiful turquoise colour with huge deposits of sulpher, which are being quarried.
This world’s largest acidic lake is a site of heavy sulphur mining operation where sulphur is extracted and carried manually by miners from the crater floor. The sulphur within the crater gives out a sightly blue flame called the “Blue fire” which can be viewed only in the dark and so we opted to do the midnight trek to Kawah Ijen.
We started our trek at 2 am to Paltuding by jeep. Paltuding is the starting point of our trek to the ijen peak, which is a 3 km uphill trek. I cursed myself for not doing enough research and being under clad for an extremely cold temperature of 5 degrees at Paltuding, however it became more and more manageable once we started the strenuous uphill trek. Its quite an arduous walk through a narrow footpath in pitch darkness. Each of us had to carry a torchlight to guide us through the path. However there were quite a lot of tourist groups joining us and stopping with us at several rest points.
After about 2 hours we finally reached the top of Kawah Ijen where we walked along a beautiful mountain stretch to the acidic crater mouth. I must say that the very sight of Kawah Ijen made all our efforts of making this trip absolutely worth it. It was one of the most incredible places I have ever seen. Standing at a height of 2368m,at about 5 am in the morning what we see is a beautiful acidic lake surrounded by huge crater walls and on one side along the rocks was the stunning blue fire. Greedy to get a better view I decided to go down the forbidden rocky path along the crater, which leads close to the acid lake. With the help of my guide, Sony, I carefully and slowly descended the crater path down to the acid lake. The sulphur fumes are much stronger and harmful and a proper mask is a necessity.
We could go close enough to get a good enough view of the Blue fire and the magnificent acid lake. Down there, it is buzzing with mining activities with hundreds of sulphur miners manually extracting sulphur from the mines. Their job is risky and gruelling as they need to carry a heavy sulphur load all the way up to the crater wall (this path is actually forbidden for tourists as it could be dangerous) and down the Ijen cliff and they are reportedly underpaid for this laborious task. They do at least 3 such trips a day. They were kind and friendly and one of them even offered to help my friend down the rocky crater path and guided us as close to the acid lake as possible. The blue fire was strangely exciting to watch and it was slowly fading away as the sunlight started to set in.
Kawah Ijen was the highlight of my trip. Its beauty was so stunning that Mount. Bromo almost faded from my memory. We spent almost an hour stopping at every viewpoint and clicking as many pictures as possible. At one point I just stopped for a while to just sit and absorb the fearsome beauty of the bluish acid lake. We started to trek down only after the sulphur fumes were mounting up and fogging our view forcing us to move out. Anyday, I would do all of this again just to get a glimpse of Kawah Ijen.