Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen

I am not a hiking person, but am always fascinated by beautiful scenery and whatnot, so during this trip to Indonesia last Oct, I literally challenged my limits by going on 2 popular volcanoes! The Bromo-Ijen route is common among tourists and this is why we were able to get a tour package for both. Because we had an Indonesian among our group of 4 pax, he was the one who helped booked the tour package and was our interpreter throughout the trip. It was good that we knew what the locals were talking about and got to know deeper stories beyond what tourists would understand, wahaha super helpful! 

The Bromo-Ijen adventure took only about 2 days, but I suggest to go on weekdays if you don't want to be swamped with lots of tourists, and lots of photobombers in your photos. We went on Mon and Tue mornings for the Volcanoes.

My travelmate actually did up a YouTube video on our trip and I think the video is great! She also risked her life to film ourselves while hiking. So watch it below!

Mount Bromo

This is one of the most popular Volcanoes in Indonesia, and the easier hike out of the 2 volcanoes we went to, simply because there wasn't a need to hike at all! After our driver drove us up to a certain point, we changed into our "Winter" gear and another driver continued the route using a jeep. The jeep ride was 1h and definitely bumpy throughout; visibility was also poor so we felt a bit insecure but the driver knew what he was doing, so we got up safely! 

After arriving at the King Kong Hill, the temperature dropped significantly as we walked a short distance up to the viewpoint. For most tourists the journey stops here, and you wait for the sunrise. But for us, we got a local to bring us up to an apparent "secret spot" for viewing (at a small fee) and she assured us that we can don't pay her if we think the view is not phenomenal enough. It was a great view indeed haha. We were the first group to arrive at that point and soon after, many other tourists started coming up to this spot! There was a Caucasian from Germany who told us that he found this spot through watching YouTube videos (say whut?) By the way, the local who brought us up also charged us a fee for using her mat to sit on the ground. Ohwells. She also sells snacks and all so if you are feeling rich, pay for them all by all means.

If you want to save money:
  1. Do your research and climb up the secret spot yourself, although it will be really helpful for the local to grab your hand while doing the climb cos the slopes up are quite steep at certain points, and if there are people who are scared to climb slopes in your group, then....the local can hold her (someone in our group said that these slopes are worst than the hike at Kawah Ijen, but I think it's totally the opposite, and I think she's crazy... hope she's not reading this). Anyway just wear a good pair of sports shoes and bring your most adventurous self - it will be fine.
  2. Bring your own mat so that you can sit on the ground to wait for sunrise
  3. Bring your own snacks

After watching the sunrise, we went back down to King Kong Hill to meet up with our jeep driver, and he proceeded to drive us to the second part of the Mount Bromo adventure - visiting the crater. This is when we drove past a very misty part and visibility was so poor I hardly saw anything. When we arrived, we were at this area where there was so much dust and mist and whatnot, and A LOT of horses and locals. 

The moment we got down, the locals swarmed to us to get us to pay for their horses. If you want to save money, you can walk all the way to the crater, but the price of the horse ride wasn't that high anyway, and believe me when I say there are A LOT of horse poo (cos my horse pooped halfway through the journey and I lagged behind my peers for quite a bit) so you might want to skip the walking. And how often do you get to ride on horses in Singapore anyway? We normally pay such a high fee to just ride 1 round across the stable and that's it. This ride is different, it walks for 2km and on high and low grounds which was very different and fun! The horse ride is highly recommended! Try to keep your mouth shut throughout the journey though; sand kept going into my mouth! Alternatively, you can wear masks!

Anyway, you can pick any horse you like. From far, I already knew which horse I wanted - the cleanest and smart looking one hahaha. When we reached the foot of the crater, it was a short climb up the steep flight of stairs. There are some spots at the side of the stairs for I suppose, people like me to take a rest when the climbing gets tiring. You move to the side and let people behind pass, and then go back to the stairs when you are done resting. 

Once at the top, it was another thing altogether. The crater was magnificent, with all the boiling sounds of the lava and smoke. There was only a tiny wooden barrier which stopped after a certain point, so actually it was quite dangerous. (ok maybe, very dangerous) If someone elbowed you and you lost your balance, it's bye bye - either you drop into the lava, or you tumble down the other side of the crater which I think, both are killers (either you die without recovering the body or you die with arms and legs and head broken I guess). There are indeed past stories of people dropping into the crater at various volcanoes across the world, so please please please be very careful!

Spot me in the middle of the photo? It looks as if the guy on the left is taking my photo lol

Me (in the middle of photo) walking back

Anyway, I wanted to walk to the other end without the barrier so that I can take a very epic OOTD shot but erm, I stopped after there wasn't any support from the wooden barrier cos it was TOO STEEP, like wtf how did the people get there I don't even know.

After taking enough pictures, we got down the stairs and back to our horses, and then rode back to the jeep area. This is when one of the horses pee-ed and it was the first time I saw horse peeing. It was... a lot of pee. hahaha.

Part 3 of the Bromo adventure was our photo-taking session. You can request the jeep driver to drive somewhere with less people and do a mini photoshoot with the jeep and everyone else. We spent quite a long time here and I regretted not wearing nicer clothes for this. Ohwells. Functionality and safety more than fashion this time round. By the way, the weather was cooling and very comfortable by the time sun's up at 9 to 10am here.

Kawah Ijen

The hike up Kawah Ijen took place the next day (night actually, cos we started at 12am). The driver drove us up until a certain point and 2 of us had to put on headlights to prepare for the climb. YES it was DARK except for the many headlights and torches that the rest of the hikers were having.

Similarly, the temperature is cold here, but halfway through hiking you would be sweating, so be prepared to take off and on your down jackets from time to time.

I was just so busy climbing up the steep 45 degree slope that I didn't even take any photos on the way. It was a 2h+ climb that seemed never-ending and at some point in time I really wanted to give up and just call the 2-way taxis that passed by us from time to time. The taxi is just one of the local's way to earn money. It didn't seem safe though, due to the fact that your life hangs upon the strength of the worker. If they give way, then you will just roll down the slope.

Anyway, it is highly recommended that you train yourself before doing the climb, else you will be like me, panting heavily and feeling breathless (literally, and not because of the magnificent view) throughout the climb. Why was I so adamant to keep up to speed? Because we were rushing to see the blue flame at 4am! Any later when the sun's up, you wouldn't be able to see it already.

Tips before the hike up Kawah Ijen:
  1. Train your stamina by climbing up stairs (I can't stress this enough)
  2. Let your guide know that you need more time to do the climb, so that they will plan to move off earlier and you will have more time to hike and thus be in time to see the blue flame
  3. Bring some energy bars to replenish energy for the hike
  4. Don't drink too much water as there is no toilet up there, but sip some from time to time
  5. Bring knee guards if you want to protect your knee
  6. Bring masks; it is better to use those that pop out (I googled one example below) and give you space to breathe, because hiking uphill makes breathing difficult. 

We put on our own masks before using the provided gas masks because we were clean freaks who didn't want to touch the gas masks. If you are fine with touching the gas masks with just cleaning it with wet wipes, then skip this.

After reaching the peak, the guide provided us with a gas mask each due to the smelly and seemingly toxic sulphur gas. There is another 1h climbing down rock after rock to the crater lake where you see the blue flame. The lake here also happens to be the largest acidic lake in the world! I was trying to take a photo when the sulphuric gas engulfed me and I teared so much after that it was unbearable.

I am glad none of us got hurt or anything during this 1h hike down as I have seen horror stories of other people slipping and hitting themselves against the rocks. Anyway, as what I have said before - just wear a good pair of sports shoes and bring your most adventurous self!

This is also the place where you see a lot of miners hard at work, collecting sulphur deposits to sell. From our YouTube video, you will know that the weight of the sulphur is extremely heavy; I tried to carry it but couldn't.

So after all the photo-taking, we climbed back up the rocks and by that time, sun was up and the whole place looked magical. We asked the guide if there were any fatal accidents here before. And he said a man tumbled down the exact same spot we were taking photos at, and died. Actually there were numerous cases where tourists tumbled down the rocks and died. So, just be very careful and you would be fine...

Just in case you are wondering, the hiking route looked like this. I managed to take photos of it while we were going down the volcano and trust me when I said my knee hurt so much while going down.

We bought these souvenirs made from sulphur and forgot to put them in our checkin luggage; they were confiscated at the customs. So word of caution, do remember not to hand carry them if you bought them! Now that I think of it, it wasn't really practical to buy them since this thing smells like rotten egg. But knowing that this little act of buying the souvenirs from the locals might make their difficult life a little easier, justifies it already. Also, when you look at the souvenir and remember how you have been through life and death at Kawah Ijen, it feels amazing too!

And this sums up the Bromo-Ijen route. Hope this has been enlightening for some of you and encourage you to visit the volcanoes even though you are not the most sporty person (like me). It is definitely worth the sweat and tears (literally) and just remember, bring a good pair of sports shoes and your most adventurous self!

I will do up a part 2 on the food we had in Indonesia soon, stay tuned!