Published: May 6th 2012May 6th 2012
JAVA: Ijen...Danger, Poisonous Gas.
My image of Ijen is a turquoise crater lake with sulphur workers extracting that noxious yellow element...as Ali captured in his blog Ijen - the search for the world's worst job
But in true travelling, everyone's experience is different, notwithstanding we may visit the same locales, or even the same paths & lookouts.
And when we visited Ijen...that is how it was for us.
Joe had warned us Ijen had just become active days before we hit Yogyakarta...villages were being evacuated...he did not know if we would be able to access the crater.
So instead of cancelling that portion of our trip...we booked extra time there..!!!
In planning our trip and choosing accommodation, I had been seduced by pictures of Ijen Resort & Villas at Banywangi...accessed by the roughest road imaginable...so said all the reviews...so I was determined to score it for some luxury towards the end our trip...and to access Ijen Crater.
After a 13 hour trip from Bromo to Ijen...detoured from the urban sprawl of Banywangi...went through scenic villages...but I've got to say, the access road to the Resort was particularly disappointing...yeh bounced around in the vehicle in the dark on it...sure...but as rough as the
reviews painted?...not even close!
And the Ijen Resort & Villas...brilliant...four nights of bliss guaranteed...best accommodation in Java.
Views of Bali from up here...sorry to say it but we were told time and again Aussies only go to Bali...not Java...sucked in...they don't know what they are missing...give me Java hinterland anytime.
Tour companies seem to push Ijen View Hotel & Resort at Bondowoso as the place to stay...similar name...but when it's only Internet pictures are of the hotel sign or its Reception desk...I check out why.
Probably a nice hotel...but be warned...Ijen Resort Hotel is in the business district of a city...not my idea of the best place to stay to access the natural beauty of East Java.
I felt potentially weird bringing my camera to breakfast...but the view over the swimming pools of lush rice paddies ringed with volcanoes as our vista in the morning light...made the Javanese coffee extra tasty.
Unfortunately my photos do not do the Resort justice...you know the feeling...impossible to capture expansive beauty in a single frame...yet it is fun trying!
The weirdest thing was mozzies were not a problem...in fact not anywhere we travelled in Java...I was often
asking why...always got the same answer...that as rice paddies are frequently drained from one to another...the water is moving, not still. Did not explain why I wasn't eaten alive...plenty of puddles around. Even so, we took our malaria tabs and I applied cursory sprays of deet...mozzies beware.
Hady, our driver from Bromo to Ijen lived locally and made himself available if we needed him...so we availed his service for a look around the district and a day for Ijen Crater.
We had heard Ijen Crater was closed...the crater lake had risen to near the rim...it was readying to blow...surrounding villages had been evacuated...there was an exclusion zone...soldiers enforcing...sounds good...let's go!
Past coffee plantations advertising civet poo coffee tours...we aware of what was on offer...me seeking "exquisite"...not "shit" coffee..!!!..sorry Mell.
We entered the only National Park in Java that does not allow human habitation...or so we were told...so we drove through pristine jungle...hoping a leopard or tiger was silly enough to cross our path.
On a road not researched by me...but even if I had I reckon reviews would not have done it justice. We travelled for about an hour on one of the roughest roads
I have been on...not craters or crevasses to negotiate...just rough loose rock road that was bouncy and unforgiving...some parts only negotiable by 4WD.
The worst road I've been on...worst not scariest...was probably near the Tomb of Empress Wu, out of Xian in China...no...not the usual road...the "shortcut" we once took...flat but pocked with bomb like craters...not occasional...so many we weaved for miles at about 10 kmph...often catching edges...tough on the car...not really a shortcut after all!
At the top of Ijen Plateau the road was tarmaced and while narrow was fine.
We entered a neat village...abandoned except for the Tourist office...cabins for tourists vacant...a big banner extoling Ijen Crater...the gate to the 4WD track...obstructed by a white steel gate with a big sign "DANGER...CLOSED...POISONOUS GAS"...catching my eye.
No guards...no soldiers...get out...go to the gate...four of us...pass the gate...movement from the Tourist Office...uniforms emerging...careful from here.
Bummer...we can't get closer than here...ehh...can't be helped...poisonous gas is not good for the health anyway..!!!
We were driven from the cone of Krakatau by noxious fumes...wise not to have pushed it at the beginning of our trip...wise not to push it now.
We were disappointed we could
NO ENTRY...IJEN CRATER IS CLOSED
And the guards that emerge when you pass this sign...make the point unambiguous.
not get closer...like going to a party and no one turns up...c'est la vie!
No sulphur workers around...enforced leave...a hut surrounded by yellow grains on the black soil...poles with baskets each end discarded in piles...no photos like Ali's for this humble blogger.
Ah...the hut is a warung...the canteen or eatery for the sulphur workers..."WARUNG" on the window.
Maybe I can't claim pictures of "the World's Most Dangerous Job"...
where sulphur is extracted after treatment by piped steam up at the crater...the workers breathing noxious fumes...worth it to feed their families.
But how about "the World's Most Dangerous Restaurant"...
virtually surrounded by a thick carpet of grains & pellets of sulphur...probably gets in the food...here they probably eat it..!!!
And a poster with pictures of the nine most wanted men in Java...terrorists in hiding...one crossed off...he's been caught...a larger billboard with their pictures in Probolingo on the way here.
So what did we do in Ijen?
Enjoyed the Resort...bliss walking the grounds...gardening & maintenance constantly attended to...they even clipped the lawn outside our villa daily...had an Ijen massage...ate great food...at the resort and down the road...short walk past rice paddies full of water...to a local traditional
restaurant...masses of local dishes...workers outside collecting harvested rice so it did not rot in the rain...generally having a good time.
Fandi our guide...studying his Masters Degree in Oceanography...discussing issues poignant to us from our travels through Java...Hady our driver...manager of a Travel Agency...widely travelled when working for a cruise line...seconded to be our driver from Bromo through piking of others...both great company.
That music coming across the valley...a wedding that will last for days...recognising some of the Chinese songs...wow!
Saw Manchester City lose in extra time to Sunderland in the Premier League on TV late one night...couldn't believe it...me thinking he was definitely off-side...no mention by the commentators...still think it was off-side.
Man City now level with Man United...the things that happen when we go on holidays!
But life goes on in Java...beautiful people...beautiful landscapes...people living in harmony with volcanoes...not their enemy...dangerous friends...the givers of fertility and life.
Relax & Enjoy,
There are more photos below