After another long journey in a mini van, we arrived at our accommodation for that night, which was a cute family run, compound type lodge with...a hot tub! This was more than welcome after being stuck in the van all day and we wasted no time in getting in. We had met a couple of really nice Dutch guys (Jos & Wout) on the bus and enjoyed a few beers with them in the tub whilst swapping the usual traveller stories before having quick shower and bite to eat, so that we could get an early night in preparation for our (now regular) 3.30am wake up call.
Ijen volcano is a stratovolcano which has a 1km wide turquoise coloured acid crater lake which lies at 2,148m above sea level. The volcano itself produces huge amounts of sulphur, there is a small opening at the bottom which is mined by around 250 workers whose only protection against the toxic fumes are scarfs or jumpers tied around their faces. The sulphur comes out of small pipes in a deep red liquid turning hard and bright yellow as it cools. Miners carry loads of the hardened yellow sulphur, which weigh between 60kg -
80kg, up 300m up to the top of the crater rim (which has a 60 degree angle) and then 3km down the mountain. Most miners manage to make this back breaking journey twice a day earning a very low pay of around $4 per journey for this very hard, onerous work. In total around 14 tonnes are extracted daily which is just 20% of the daily deposit.
After breakfast the guesthouse asked us to pay a 50,000 IDR entrance fee to the park and a 35,000 IDR camera fee. We politely declined this and told the guesthouse we would prefer to pay directly at the official entry point (which they weren't too happy about but what could they do). Low and behold we arrived at the entry point at the PHKA Post and were told the fee was only 10,000 IDR but as we were so early we didn't have too pay. The walk from this point was a very steep 3km walk, in the dark up to the observation post. After 20 minutes or so we were joined by a couple of miners who were on their way to work for the day so we all walked together
as the sun started to rise. It was fine at first, however the miners started asking us for 100,000 IDR per person to walk us down the rim to the bottom of the lake, which once again we refused as we wanted to see if it was possible to make the trek down the mountain without a guide. When we reached the top of the rim after a good hour of climbing, we stopped to catch our breathe and got to admire yet another breath-taking view which will stay with both of us a long time. Due to the altitude and the early morning start, Vic's had found the trek especially tough but it wasn't until we got back to the starting point that we found out only around half of the people attempting the climb actually make it, so I was really proud of her as it was a killer.
We observed the miners for a while, and a few tour groups who were starting to take the further 30 minute decent to the bottom of the lake and decided it was something we were comfortable tackling ourselves without a guide, as in all honestly there wasn't much
they could do if anything did go wrong. From the crater, there was a steep gravelly path which leads down to the sulphur deposits and acid lake. It was very slippery, with rocks often breaking and given way and occasionally the wind would change direction and blow the sulphur fumes in our direction, which smelt a mixture of rotten eggs and stale farts, so we were pleased when we had made it to the bottom. Whilst taking a rest and admiring the lake, Vic's befriended probably the oldest sulphur miner in the World (he must have been at least 75) and gave him all of our biscuits, he was very grateful as he looked absolutely knackered. The Dutch guys and I took it in turns trying to pic up his heavy load but will all failed miserably. The lake was the most vivid blue we had ever seen and bubbling away like a hot jacuzzi.
The climb back up was really tough and even when we reached the rim, we knew we had a further steep 3km to walk back down to the starting point to meet the minivan. When we got there, we were all staving so hunted
out a little local warung and had the cheapest nasi goreng (fried rice) of the trip so far at just 7,000 INR (less than 50p). The other tourists weren't too impressed as they hadn't managed to walk all the way, so had turned back and had already been sitting waiting for 2 hours but we really needed to eat.
With our bags already in the van we set off in the direction of the ferry port at Ketapang where we would board a new bus which would take us across by the water on ferry in the direction of Bali . . . . S&V's Travel Info & Tips: General Info: Approx 15,000 INR/RP (Indonesian Rupiah) to £1. Transportation: It took around 7 hours in a mini-van from Probolinggo to Sempol, the town where we stayed before heading on to Ijen a further hour away. Then from Ijen it was around 2 hours onward to Ketapang for the ferry to Bali. Food: As we said we had a good Nasi Goreng after descending from Ijen - definitely take some snacks with you as we were hungry a bit later but luckily had some crisps
etc. Accomodation: We stayed at Kartimor Homestay which was included in the trip. The room was comfortable with a hot water shower and the outdoor hot tub was a bonus. Again, we would recommend to all travellers. Standard priced rooms were 150,000-180,000 INR with breakfast. Other observations: x) We booked a 3d/2n package with Simple Travel back in Yogyakarta (Bladok Losmen uses them but we went to the office ourselves which was just on Gang 2, off the main Sosrow street). The trip included all transport from Yogya - Bromo - Probolinggo - Sempol - Ijen - Bali, 2 nights accommodation and 2 breakfasts, and cost us 600,000 INR each, approx £40, well worth it we think. This is definitely recommended by us as to do it ourselves would have cost almost as much (the Dutch guys did it themselves the same route and not only paid a very similar price in total, but it took them 2 extra days due to separate connections and was a bit of a pain). However you do it, Bromo and Ijen are must see's!
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