Much like the uneven craters of Mount Bromo, our 3 day tour of the volcanic east exposed an eruptive display of emotional ups and downs and my what a physical toll.
We were picked up from Yogyakarta before 8am and loaded into an 'executive class' van, obviously air conditioned...This crammed van was quickly filled with cases and 9 other fresh faced travellers (including the most techno, modern Monk I have ever met) and low and behold the A/C was a mere fan in the front seats permanently pointed downwards. The first 6 hours were perhaps the ultimate worst, sweat filling the van like a waterfall. I found myself motivating everyone with the phrase, 'the worst is over'. Boy was I wrong! The next 6 hours were more bearable, after the quick cello-tape DIY fix on the fans there was am element of 'less stickiness'. However, my sideways sloping seat gave my hips the undesirable dislocation ever more forthcoming. We were ferried into a 'transit station' and loaded onto yet another bus. By this point we had travelled for over 12 hours and were preparing to be driven up the mountains. As it turns out, nothing could of prepared us for
the next 2 hours. Winding narrow roads up the mountain in the darkness, with the van screeching for energy, (occasionally sliding backwards), veering ever close to the cliff edges left me clung onto my seat replaying every disastrous fate that could occur on this mountainous edge. However, my prayers to the unknown were answered and we arrived safely in a grime ridden guesthouse.
At 3.30am we loaded into a jeep to drive to the viewpoint of Mount Bromo for sunrise. The viewpoint was flooded with eager tourists, something I naively had not anticipated. Despite the fight with numerous camera flashes the view was spectacular. Mount Bromo was like no other view I've ever seen before. Yet again we were approached by Asian family's for our pictures. Why they were more entertained with the idea of capturing 2 bedraggled, exhausted white girls on the top of a mountain is beyond me (although, perhaps they wanted it for that exact humorous reason)! At 5.30am we were driven to the crater which we then had to take a 30 minute trek. We arrived to a sea of scarfed men rallying on horses surrounding our jeep which bared resemblance to a
scene from the Middle East. The climb was well worth it, although my eagerness, or perhaps impatience, to run up the last leg did not prepare me for the sudden vertigo I was about to undergo. Once up at the top of the crater, after the wooziness, I felt free and full of energy. This was definitely the best part.
Next we took another 7 hour journey to Ijen. Hayley and I foolishly volunteered to take the last 2 seats in the van to Ijen, which of course meant the front 2 seats. Don't be fooled by the idea of comfort. Hayley was half sat on the gear stick and half on the ever grateful driver. I on the other hand was hanging out the window and subsequently burnt the left side of me. This drive was by far the WORST. The next morning we began to trek at 1am. Naively we mistook 'trek' to mean a casual walk, at most an uphill walk. And as such, I was kitted out in a small pair of plimsoles...a move I would not recommend. We started at the front of the group, but the unfortunate shoelace break on Hayley's
part pushed us to the back. From there on out, trekking through the mountains we had drifted apart. Thus, I found myself alone, hot, fighting with the non-stick, non-grip 'ness' of my shoes, with nothing but a torch for company. My trekking experience told me to move on, but I became very aware I was too far behind the group to catch up, but too far in front of Hayley to meet her (in the hope I'd trekked the right way). Eventually our paths crossed and we were reassured 'only 100m' after hours trekking. Of course this was not correct. After a horrifying rickety, downhill rock climb we reached the famous blue flame, or perhaps the sulphuric fumes engrossed us first. I took the plunge to delve further up close to get 'the photo', but found myself having to sprint from the sulphuric wave of smoke that would unpredictably chase you. We climbed back up the crater to view sunrise, which made the stress, fear and strain completely worth it. The silence of a sunrise, or it's effect on its admirers, always generates a peacefulness I cannot gain elsewhere. And that was that. Absorbing the lake, the blue flames vanishing into the sun and breathing in the mountain air. We took the climb back down in which I found myself pigeon stepping like a poorly sparrow to avoid my hips dislodging! That was a pain like no other!! Ijen and Bromo done 😊
We took the coach and a ferry across to Bali. We found a cool seat inside the ferry but were subjected to a ground shaking Indonesian base and karaoke filling the cabin. On top of this, we were being pitched numerous crawling caterpillars, flying planes, hats doubling as scarfs and frequent bubble machines blown in our faces. Despite this somewhat 'Del Boy' picture, we slept the whole way!! Off the ferry, onto yet another non-air conditioned coach. That was a whole other level of sweat and discomfort, coupled with the paranoia of keeping an eye on our vulnerable bags, numerous security checks and suspicious Balinese behaviour...We were all chucked off the bus at a stop with no name in the middle of nowhere told this was the final stop (we were supposed to be dropped in Denpaser). In the scramble for our bags a flurry of desperately rough mini cab drivers hoarded the exhausted and hot westerners towards a van In the promise of a comfort and a fair price (non of which we gained). I think I got to the point where I wasn't sure if I was hysterically laughing or crying at the fact that they were trying to fit 7 of us into a van of 4. The driver insisted we could envisage a seat with our imagination and bobs your uncle, you have yourself a seat. After much haggling, raised voices, laughter and anger we arrived in Kuta at our beautiful hotel. Served with fresh juices and frozen flannels i don't think I've ever been happier in my life!
Volcanic mountains, tiring treks, vast views, dubious journeys, tears and tantrums and a whole lot of fun.
Bali we're coming for you!
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