East java (Volcano hopping)

Indonesia has proven itself as the perfect destination to experience the roughness of nature; from big waves to volcanoes, earthquakes to storms; we’ve got to see and experience it all. We loved exploring these beautiful landscapes with in every direction a looming volcano (probably highly active) and amazing sunrises and sunsets. We not only came for rough outdoors though, we also wanted to enjoy FOOD! You can enjoy delicious meals everywhere for only 1-2 euros. We can highly recommend the many variations of Soto Ayam, Gado Gado, Nasi Kampur or Nasi Goreng (and it is nothing like the Chinese-Indonesian food in the Netherlands;) By the way, don’t forget to spice it up with some freshly made sambal!

Sometimes the indonesian language is actually comprehensible for us; it has adopted a lot of (old fashioned) Dutch words, which of course traces back to the Dutch colonial history. Some examples include kantor pos, knalpot(uitlaat), notaris and polisie. We have to admit that so far we didn’t know much about the combined history of our nations. The history lessons in highschool did address this topic, but merely from the Dutch perspective (that it was good for trade) and we both didn’t remember it included the horrors which happened on both sides. Luckily the musea in Yogyakarta try to ballance this bij showing a merely nationalistic view of Indonesian history.  

Our trip started in Jogjakarta and east Java; a place full of history, which is rapidly changing and subject to religious transformation. Over the years this city has become the home of more stringent muslims; not necessarily a bad thing, but it puts the freedom of other religious minorities under pressure. A lot of people here also mentioned the influence of Saudia Arabia’s money on the transformation, reflected by the ban on alcohol sale and empty bars as an example. This is not the place to sleep in, as the mosques will probably wake you up at 4 am, calling out for the morning prayers. Now the first week this was no concern for us, because each morning we had to get up early anyway, to best enjoy the temples and volcanoes we visited at sunrise. Here we also discovered Grab, it’s an ideal taxi service provided by locals, generated through an app you can easily use on your mobile phone. It is widely used (by locals) and saves you the hassle with regular taxi drivers. 

In Jogja we visited the palace of the Sultan and Fort Vredenburg. Both very quiet places in the middle of a rushed and busy city. Around Jogja we visited the Borobudur temple and Prambanan, two ultimate tourist destinations but still not to be missed. They are doable in one day; in the early hours you can visit the Borobudur temple (through a special entrance at the Manohora hotel where they start selling tickets at 4 am) and enjoy the sunrise with not too many other tourists. From 7 in the morning onwards the tour groups start arriving, but at that time you have already enjoyed the sunrise, soaked up the views, took too many pictures of the Budha head and walked around the temple until you started getting dizzy. So time to move on, first take the bus to hectic Jogja, grab lunch with an avocado juice, take a rest or a nap and step on the 1A citybus to Prambanan. Here you can enjoy this temple complex at the hours of sunset, when it starts getting calm and tranquil again.

From Jogjakarta we took the train to Surabaya, this is a very comfortable way to travel in Indonesia no matter if you book executive, business or economy class. Since we aimed to reach Bromo the same day we immediately took the bus to Probolinggo (don’t let them talk you into getting out of the bus before reaching the main bus station). Then we hopped onto in minivan, or actually we waited for over an hour to fill up, but all decided to go with 11 persons instead of 15, to Cemoro Lawang and pay the difference. We arrived just before sunset and had a chance to admire the scenery, bromo complete with a sea of clouds. It was off to bed early, as we had to get up at 2 in the morning to walk to the viewpoint for sunrise and bypass all the 4x4s. But not before we had some dinner at our favorite little warung, Pondok Tengger. Here they have quality, soto ajam, nasi goreng and amazing banana pancakes; suitable for breakfast, early lunch, lunch and dinner, hence our favorite! The sunrise itself was amazing, despite having to share it with hundreds of other tourists; you can find a nice and quieter spot along the way instead of staying at the official view points. The volcanoes were cooperative together with the clear weather, as they burst out ash clouds  from time to time! After a short breakfast, we continued downwards into the crater valley from the village. From Ralph & Marily’s blog we’ve understood that there was a way to get cheaper into the park, by following another path. So we downloaded a gpx map on Erik’s watch and took a nice detour for free 🙂 (see gpx here).

To reach our last destination on East Java we took 3 very local busses to get from Probolinggo to Banyuwangi. Unfortunately we were too late to book the more comfortable train tickets, so we were at the mercy of the very inefficient bus system between these two cities. On our way, cramped up with our backpacks, we got to enjoy the views on the many forest fires, tobacco plantations and we were guided by the pro-smoking campaigns with slogans like  ‘Never Quit’ and ‘Let’s do it’. Apparently these campaigns work, since we were surrounded by smoking fellow passengers inside the busses. Luckily we could pass our time (7 hours) more quickly by having conversations with our fellow passengers, like a man from Probolinggo who spontaneously burst out singing  VOF de kunst’s dutch hit from the 80’s, called ‘Suzanne’. He told us it was very popular on the radio in Indonesia and he literally could sing all the lyrics. Unfortunately for us he didn’t stop singing anymore so we will remember the lyrics for the rest of our lives. But still, good entertainment! (and prepared us for KTV in Taiwan)

” back to the 80s”

Once we arrived in Banyuwangi we got our first Grab ‘incident’. We happily enjoyed the services of Grab in every city so far, but the closer we came to Bali, the more resistance we experienced from local taxi drivers (which makes sense to a certain extent). However, this time, when our Grab driver arrived we even got into a hassle with some local taxi drivers who pulled us out of the car and threatened to scratch the car if the Grab driver would pick us up there. Well, no worries! As our grab driver was fluent in English (contrary to the local drivers), we then just agreed that he would pick us up at another point, 500 m further down the road, out of sight of these aggressive men.

We found a very nice place to eat (Warung Loji) and afterwards we were joined in our hotel garden by lots of nectar eating bats, which are quite big! Although we finally got to sleep until 6 this morning (what a joy!) we were tired from all the travelling and went to bed early, which was also highly necessary because the next ‘morning’ we already had to wake up at midnight! Half asleep we joined a tour to Mount Ijen, we were picked up at 12.15 am at our hotel and together with 6 others we were driven to the trailhead.  We all got a gasmask (which saved our longs later on) and started together around 1.30 towards the crater to see the blue flames/sulfur lava. Soon we lost sight of our guide and other group members as they were to slow, while we struggled our way up among hundreds of people. Everyone seemed to be having a hard time, so hard in fact that some people let themselves be carried up by carriers promoting themselves as taxis. It was a pitiful sight. Finally we got ourselves up to the crater, where we had to walk down again…into the crater. Now the gasmasks were really needed; the toxic sulfur gasses were blown directly in our faces the closer we got to the amazing blue lava and flames. It was a magical sight but we couldn’t linger around for too long. To see the sunrise atop of the crater we had to walk up again. A real struggle with most of the people still walking downwards… luckily we made it just in time, and what an amazing sunrise it was! The acid blue lake surrounded by dead trees slowly became visible, the sulfur damps hanging above it made it look surreal. While taking in all the views, our tour guide found us back again and he didn’t gave us more time to enjoy the views, since we urgently had to go down…the trip was over.

Though it might take some extra effort, we would suggest to try this tour independently and arrive way before the other tour groups (thus start hiking up around midnight). Gasmaskers are definitely needed, but can be rented at the beginning of the trail.

On our way down we almost suffocated in the dense sulfur damps, even though we wore our gasmaks (which didn’t fit properly). Unimaginable that most sulfur miners don’t even wear these, they just walk around with a scarf before nose and mouth and tolerate these toxic damps on a daily basis while enjoying their pro-cigarets. Fortunately we could catch a few hours of sleep before heading to Bali, our next destination!

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1 Response

  1. Marily says:

    Heel herkenbaar en superleuk om te lezen!! 🙂