Friday, April 29, 2016

Kawah Ijen's Famous Blue Flames, Indonesia

So I thought Mount Pinatubo was a rough path...

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As I was trying to fulfill my only 1 mountain to break bucket list. The ironlady (Fer) and I opted for a quick 3d2n getaway to explore 2 mountains. Kawah Ijen and Mount Bromo. Kawah Ijen is a volcano and crater lake in Java Indonesia. National Geographic popularized this location when they featured this place for its workers in sulfur mining. Aside from sulfur mining, this place is also famous for its burning sulfur, the blue flames. Check out amazing photos posted at the Daily Mail UK.  

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The original plan was Bromo alone, but then CM suggested this volcano. Upon seeing the photos, who wouldn't be amazed? We dig a couple of blogs and we enjoyed entries from travelmuse. Anyway, lets get this going. September 9 came and I was early at the airport. I had no idea the castaway didn't want to be waiting at the departure area so she came in just before we were boarding.

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This is our itinerary. Kawah Ijen came in first because it is farther from the Surabaya Airport compared to Mt Bromo. Going to Kawah Ijen:

Surabaya - Bondowoso
From the airport, go out and take your left. You will see a huge ATM Center and beside it are Darmi gray buses going to the bus terminal. Damage is 25000 IDR = 2.48 SGD

Terminal - Bondowoso
We took the economy and thought it was the ordinary bus without A/C. We were wrong, This bus will not leave until its full. Going to was not an issue, there was ample time for the travel. And we could risk getting there at night time. The bus operator advised we would reach Bondowoso around 530pm when we left the terminal a little after 11AM. The mini vans are available only until 3:30PM so Fer and I thought we only had ojek (motorcycle) to reach the homestay. We traveled for more than 6 hours like forever.
Damage - 50000 IDR = 4.95 SGD

Bondowoso - Sempol 
Sempol is the nearest base camp to Kawah Ijen.
The journey has not yet ended. 2 hours by car and definitely with a little difference if riding an ojek. We got acquainted with a group of French foreigners + a German and decided we could go together and hire a car going to Sempol. We met this guy Wahyu who is a dispatcher and hooked us up with his comrades. Price was 450000 IDR = 44.59 SGD per car, we were 8, so we had 2. The deal was, Bondowoso - Sempol Homestay, Sempol to Kawah Ijen Entrance and Vice versa. We couldn't get the bargain lower so it was good enough deal. The night is fast approaching and we had to reach the mountains before 9pm so we could still rest.

So we reached Catimor Homestay where we had a reservation. The guys were lucky to get an available room for the 6 of them. Be sure to bring enough warmers. It is freezing when we alight the car at Catimor. Cold is worse early in the morning. Good thing the water heater is working so I managed to take a shower before going to sleep.

Wake up call was 12:30AM.

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We left the homestay at 1:20AM which is 20mins late from the itinerary. But you know itineraries are always meant for diversion. Travel time from homestay to the Volcano entrance is 30 minutes. By 2am we started trekking. It was freezing. My shirt, base layer, jacket and another layer for the waterproof jacket wasn't enough. It was hard to breathe as we ascended. I got the ironlady a little worried since I wasn't talking but I was sure I answered her that I was okay. Thanks for carrying my bag on our way up. It was my 2nd volcano after Mount Pinatubo but this time, Jr is not with me. I admit I feel nauseated. I just realized whats causing my heavy breathing on our way back. The dust is ridiculously thick. 


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Ironlady Fer

The climb was 2 hours and another 45 minutes down to the crater. According to my Map my Walk App. I walked 19.57km for 5hrs and 21mins. 

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A mountain view on our way back to the base entrance.

Down the crater was quite a challenge too. The pathways are unfriendly and narrow. Sometimes we had to stop to give way to the workers bagging up those sulfur in a basket or two.  I realised we were getting closure as I smell the rotten eggs, its the sulfur. The majestic blue flames was firing up with the wind. The tourist were all round up holding their own camera's it was like of the red carpet premier, with the blazing flash lights on every click.


amateur video

I thought it was going to be an an easier trek back to the homestay. Boy, I was wrong! Since I was busy breathing in and out to survive the ascend, I didn't realize how steep the paths were in descend. It was becoming harder and harder by the minute we walk. Then the unfortunate happen, I fell down and broke my ankle. Still considered myself lucky for getting that break inward, if its outward, I might have ended up in a clinic after 2 painful hours. Wasn't able to get up in about a minute. I even fell for the second time. I am however thankful for the workers who happen to work in this dangerous road and at the same time tries to earn a little extra by guiding the tourists. Someone walked with me until the end, we were literally holding hands. 

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Blurry but paint-like.
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I was so thankful and gave an extra bucks to the man who walked me throughout the base camp. I couldn't ask what his name was because he doesn't speak English. He happened to tall me the names of the 2 mountains we saw and I can only re call the other one named, Arung (or so this I thought is the right spelling). I encourage you to ask for a guide to help the workers earn a little more extra for the day.

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Workers.
I can't imagine how hard it is to work in this environment, if it's hard on your way up what more on this steep trek downward. I hated the dusts powdered up on my shoes. I felt some of it has conquered my feet, already felt soaking only it was dry. By the time I was in the finish line, I couldn't even bend my left leg. I swear it was a very hard climb for me as a first timer and just as I realize I am better off in the waters.

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Finally reached base entrance camp.

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