Published: November 23rd 2008October 26th 2008
After a good night's sleep and a few more bowls of noodles at Mr. Tasrip's we had pretty much recovered from both the physical exertion and the emotional tension of our climb up the volcano. We were ready to go in search of a bit of gastronomic variation.
Since Ranu Pani is little more than cluster of homes, there is no public transport. So we hopped on the back of two motorbikes and caught a lift along through the dense jungle to the nearest town. Through a series of clanging minibusses and smoky public buses, we eventually ended up back at Probolingo. Not where we'd expected to be. Apparently this wide detour was the only way to catch transport towards our intended destination, the mountainous Ijen Plateau.
I say towards
, because according to our guidebook and all local knowledge, there would also be no public transport going all the way. But that's fine with us, we're getting good at riding on the back of a motorbike. As we waited for the bus for the first leg of the journey, we were approached by a "travel agent" (one of the many people who sell tours) who told us he had
a bus going to Ijen and then on to the port for the ferry to Bali. His minibus was going to be doing pretty much exactly the route we were planning to do, even stopping for the night next door to the coffee plantation we were hoping to sleep at, but we quickly declined when he told us the cost of his tour.
As we waited for our bus, this poor guy became all the more desperate. His minibus would be passing through town in half an hour, and it was already travelling that way. Anything we paid him would be pure profit to him. As we sat there, still intent on tackling the road ourselves, the little beads of sweat on his forehead increased as fast as his price and the time until his minibus' arrival decreased. Eventually, with the bus arriving at the edge of town, he told gave us a price which would almost certainly beat the cost of making our own way there, and included the price of accommodation on our chosen coffee plantation.
We joined four other travellers, and were treated to a ride with air-con for a change. After a few hours
our driver pulled over at "White Beach" and dropped us at a roadside cafe charging 3x normal prices, as per usual. We elected to rather take a stroll down to the sand (which was brownish-black!) and found a guy serving the same dishes at plastic tables on the sand for regular prices. We enjoyed 2 more
bowls of noodles and followed them up with fresh mangoes.
As we arrived at the coffee plantations we were reminded of why it is so often more expensive to travel on your own. Instead of paying the sign-posted $5 entry fee, our Indonesian driver held 2 cigarettes out of the window, and the security gate was opened for us. Classic.
The coffee plantation was far from being the homestay we'd expected. It had grown into rather more of a hotel. But it was comfortable, and after dropping our bags we went in search of the hot springs said to be nearby. The walk took us across the plantation, which was rather like a small village, populated by the labourers living in small but quaint houses, each with its own garden in front. The gardens were well-kept and their variation seemed to be
a proud expression of individuality for each of the families. We even passed a noisy school full of children.
We came to a waterfall which seemed to be thundering ruthlessly in an eternal battle with the rock below it. At was strange that the spray thrown up was faintly warm, as most of this water had been come from the hot springs nearby. Deeper in the forest we came across a green pool, filled with warm water. It looked so enticing that I eagerly climbed in for a swim, but I soon figured out why special baths had been built when I sunk into thick mud hidden just below the shallow surface. After doing my best clean off the mud, we headed back to the artificial pools to soak.
On our way back to our room we were called in for a cup of coffee by one of the farm workers. We felt a bit conscious of our dripping wet clothes, but he insisted, and it was hard to resist a cup of Java coffee, made as fresh as it gets! Although the coffee itself was excellent, the Indonesians have a style of preparing it that still haven't
The local family who made us some of the coffee that they grow.
gotten used to. They simply mix a heap of coffee grinds with boiling water, and drink it black. As usual the language barrier rendered conversation useless, so we sipped our coffee and grinned back at the family with our teeth full of coffee grinds.
After a very strange dinner (we were told that it was a buffet meal, and arrived to find that each room of 1 or 2 people had been seated at a separate table with it's own selection of foods) we took an early night in preparation for yet another sunrise start (we tried to fight it this time, but everyone insists that you do everything at sunrise. Madness).
Our minibus trundled along the muddy paths towards the base of Kawah Ijen, the Ijen Crater. The mist that we walked through on our way up the crater rim was compounded by the haze of a 5th straight pre-sunrise start. As we neared the top, we had to wrap wet handkerchiefs around our faces to keep from choking on the acidic air. The Ijen crater is a working sulphur mine. Local people walk into the bowels of the crater to collect the hot sulphur that bubbles
out of the earth. This is one job I have a lot of respect for. The men make 2 trips a day into the choking depths, and then return with baskets of solidified sulphur on their shoulders. The sunshine-yellow sulphur looks like foam, but it feels like rock. Each load varies between 60 and 90kg. Not an easy hike up the lose scree through the blinding, choking clouds.
We waited at crater rim for the wind to change. When it did, it revealed an awesome turquoise lake with yellow sulphur banks. With the fresh breeze blowing we stayed at the top to rest and enjoy the spectacular colours. As the day really got going and the sun become hotter we began the slide down the slippery path. We had a ferry to catch. To Bali!
There are more photos below