Early Morning.. 9 october 2012
2:00 am, ….. @#$#..!!…. I overslept…!!? We were supposed to wake up at 1:00am, Almost jumped off the bed… Now hold on…, the time here is minus one hour, and remembered that I purposely didn’t adjust my watch because it would be easier to synchronize with my camera, notes etc… so I am still on time… 🙂
I was the same room with Najmi, he was already suited up prepared and ready to go, It was shivering cold and I just washed my face and brush my teeth, Thressa, Adi, Pak Martono, are already waiting outside near the van engines all warmed up, all of us hop in the van and the drive took about 1 hour from our home stay to Pos Paltuding, the point where we will start our hike to Kawah Ijen (Ijen Crater). Same as last night, the twisting winding roads, uphill, all dark around us, we can’t see more than the headlamps permits.
Start climb, in the dark on the loose dusty road. Each of us given a surgical mask to cover our face and protect our lungs. I didn’t notice at first, but after a while when we point the torch lights up, we can see the dust being kicked up in the air, how glad I had the mask on. We keep on walking, I thought the track was an easy walk, just 30-40 minutes, but everyone was surprised…. the track began to incline and gets steeper, some parts of it was quite steep and for a few times I slipped back due to the loose gravel and sands, I guess my shoes are not suited for that kind of terrain. Worried still on the condition of my knee, (kinabalu climb), I had to slow down my pace for a bit and learn from previous experience. Slower than the rest, I just went on. I wore a T-shirt, sweater and jacket, It was cold but not that cold as to make me shiver so I thought that 3 layers of clothing is just right. Everybody was not familiar of the track and didn’t know what to expect, the darkness just add to the suspense.
About 30 minutes before the crater, is Pondok Bunder where the miners weight and sell their mined sulphur. It was dark, there were a few miners there and we couldn’t see much, took a five-minute break and continued.
We came across some more miners carrying the heavy loads of sulfur, it is heartbreaking to see them work so hard in such harsh conditions and yet so early in the morning.
Then at some point of the walk we heard sounds of waterfalls, Pinky Boy was confused, as he knew there was no waterfall at a volcanic mountain such as these, then came the realisation that those are not the sounds of water but the sounds of winds howling through the terrain, rocks and curvatures.
I reached the rim of the crater, it was a narrow path taking us closer to the lake, and from there we descended to the lake inside the crater, those in front and the more experienced climbers as Fazal, Najmi, Azam and few others, went down fast, and left few of us behind, taking pictures and pacing carefully.
At some point later on, I could see the blue-fire that we were after. The said earlier group had reached in front of the blue-fire and was enjoying themselves taking self-portraits. I can see them way-way down below, Three of us still left behind at the crater rim. It would take another half an hour to get down.
I understand how rugged and rough the terrain is once we lost track of the route to be taken and was unable to descent, we had to find another way, lucky there was a miner that was on his way down also and we followed him. Witnessing the blue fire wasn’t in the original plan, but thanks to Pinky Boy who made an effort to arrange it with Adi, we were able to depart early and witness this.
I have read this and seen this phenomenon in National Geographic Tv a few years back and never dreamed that I would be able to set foot myself here, but then again… the feeling being here being able to witness live the wonder of nature myself is just indescribable, the scene is spectacular and amazing… once the sun rises and shines on the fire, the blue color of the fire vanishes and left only with the white smoke. We hang around for a few more minutes later on to view the acid lake behind. Taking pictures and posing for portrait and waiting for the sun rise so to give us a better view of the lake.
Smoke, pungent odour from the sulphur constantly filling the nostrils and made me wonder will it affect our lungs or health later on. The winds seem to be blowing away the smoke from us, but the guide said that the winds can change and make that gas discharge blow in our direction, which is said to be fatal. So it was important that we leave the crater soon before 9 am.
Looking back, I was really sorry to leave so soon.. wish I could have more time to get more pictures, Inside the crater, even though these are hazardous conditions, the people working and earning a hard living should be given the acknowledgement for their courage and surviving here.
Now with daylight we are able to see how grand the crater is, I felt so tiny and fragile when I realised how huge the whole stage was.
It was getting warm and the sun bright and shining.. but still the temperature relatively cool.. no need to remove the jacket… In fact, all the way down, we need not remove our jackets and I am still wearing 2 layers underneath.
Going down hill not so much of an effort, but still, I get more strain and pain on my knees as climbing up…. with each of us walking and kicking dry dust in the air, we are relieved if the winds would blow them clear away… Most of the times, they would blow into our eyes and hurt a bit, but not so much of a bother anyway. I feel the dryness and probably some of the sulfur sticking on my skin.
Back at Pondok Bunder, now we can see clearly the surroundings there, more miners were available, few of them were resting and smoking after the trip back from the crater I guess. They are friendly and curious as we were of them. Their expression and faces, shows their exhaustion from the hard labor.
The atmosphere that morning with the morning sunshine and the dusty surroundings, somewhat beautiful but yet harsh.
Then one passed me by with his load… quietly, slowly, he grunts his load and hooks it at the weighing scale…
Imagine how they carried those 80 kg, on a bamboo stick pressured at one small point on their shoulders, up the crater to the rim and down the track to Pondok Bunder, I took about 30 minutes, bearing less than 1 kg of my camera equipment.
The walk down, much fun and laughter, we enjoyed the scene all the way down with the morning sun and dry air. As I said, the dry air, made it cooler as our perspiration dried faster, but I can feel my skin and clothes covered in dust and smelled sulfurous. We met with lots of climbers going their way up, too bad that they won’t be able to see the blue fire and probably due to the smoke buildup, won’t get much view of Kawah Ijen.
When I reached Pos Paltuding, most of the guys were resting under the tree drinking coffee and having some goreng pisang (fried banana). Pinky Boy, wanted to eat it with some chili sauce, asked for some from the canteen lady, she was perplexed, reconfirmed of his request as if we were asking for something strange and came back 5 minutes later with a plate of mashed chilli in a wooden plate, classic.!
I tasted the chili and it was really HOT.! not the normal spicy hot chili that we get but I guess the chili here is different from the normal ones that we can get at the market and used in most of the eateries. Nobody ate it later on and we left the mountain side “cafe” after paying for our coffee and bear in mind there is a camera fee of 30000 IDR for those who brings the large SLR camera. A small fee compared, but still, I hope the money goes to the hardworking people of Kawah Ijen.
Arrived at Chatimor homestay an hour later, had a breakfast of coffee and white bread, spread with margarine sprinkled with chocolate rice, 😛 . Najmi said it looked liked cockroach eggs. I looked closer and confirmed that it was safe to eat. That morning we then saw the place we were staying at, which was actually the processing farm of coffee. There was a gathering of the coffee committee, of some sort, lots of women in front of our room, just arrived and singing Indonesia national anthem. I didn’t bother much about it but was tickled that I got to hear the national anthem here.
Back on the road
After breakfast, nice shower, we were on the road again by 10 am.. stopped for lunch at 1:40pm Orientel Purnama restaurant, In Pasir Putih beach. I had chicken mushroom and rice with some Tea at 50000 IDR.
3:30PM, I read KM 130 Taiton Probolingo , and we were still moving. Lots of scene outside and mostly of green rice fields along the way with houses separated apart not to far from each other.
We finally arrived at the town of Probolingo around 7:00PM. The night hawkers there sells a variety of food and there is a lot of activity there, even though it’s just by the roadside, children rides, small shop selling medicine, toys, souvenirs and even pet fish..
After some sightseeing we had dinner, I tried the tauhu (bean curd).
top left to right: Grilled cockles, soto, Tauhu, Es Campor.
We left the town and soon later, after about an hour, Thressa was driving the van through winding and climbing roads. the darkness, does not permit us to see much outside but we feel the air getting cooler, just like last night , showing that we are climbing to higher grounds and going further into the countrysides, only difference is, better roads. 🙂 . Finally arrived at Yoschi Hotel. 10:00PM, checked in “unmount”, and wash up, ready for tomorrow, Time to start moving tomorrow as per schedule to catch the sunrise… 4:00AM.. so that gives me 6 hours to recharge, rest prepare for tomorrow climb, They said the track is easier than Kawah Ijen so there’s no need to worry.. Phew.. 🙂 .
Time to rest as much as possible.