Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 11 September 2013 • Blog
Remember how we huffed n’ puffed when hiking a hill on Dieng Plateau? I swore I wasn’t ever going to hike a hill or a mountain again! And like many ‘nevers’, this promise was finally broken, in less than a year’s time. To my defense, I had no other choice. I was going to Baluran National Park with Mumun, Diyan, Yusuf from Explore Solo, Werdha and Rully from Hifatlobrain, when the gang insisted to stop by the famous Ijen Crater along the way. Right. A crater. That usually means one thing: hiking up to see the crater from above. Oh, kill me now!
However, I managed to take a little interest in this hiking trip to Ijen Crater. Mumun told me about the blue flame that can be seen in the crater. She showed my gorgeous pictures of it from on the Internet and I was like, “Whoa! Yes, I want to see that! Let’s hike Ijen!”
Only, there’s a catch. The blue flame can only been seen at dawn, if we are lucky. That means we had to hike in wee hours and there’s still a chance of not seeing the blue flame. Right. *long inhale…never to exhale*
Long story short, we finally arrived at Catimor guesthouse, in Blawan Village, Bondowoso, at 3 pm. Some of us took a walk to nearby waterfall, but most of us just lazed around the guesthouse, resting our butts after 13 hours sitting on a bus and minibus from Surabaya. The air was cool and we decided to swim in the pool, as if practicing to go against the cold later on the mountain. Did it work? Read on 😉
We were woken up at 2 a.m. by Yusuf and geared up for the hike. We had to pack up our bags and put them in the minibus we rented, and checked out of the guesthouse. And we did all that half asleep…
The minibus ride to the foot of the mountain took about an hour or so. Still with heavy eyelids, Mumun and I kinda forced ourselves to be ‘on’ in front of Hifat gang’s camera. We were making a video on the trip with us as the hosts. * Scott and Justin, move over!*
We started the hike at about 3 a.m., so we should be able to see a bit of the blue flame. We finally dragged our feet up to the top of the crater, which turned out to be a 3 km long hike. Hooray!! We’re going to see the blue flaaaame..!!
Do you guys know what blue flame is, by the way? It’s burning sulfur with very high melting point and can only be seen in pitch dark. In this case, usually it’s best seen at about 3 or 4 a.m., they said 4.30-ish is usually the latest.
The hiking guide said it was only going to take 1,5 hours to the top of the crater. Well, when a local says a certain duration or distance, you must at least add half of it to your expectation. We panted almost all of our way up to the crater. And by we, I meant me, Mumun, Rully, and Werdha. Of course, Rully was using Werdha’s nausea as a reason to stay behind with us. Diyan was actually able to hike faster with Yusuf, Halim and Ilham, but he chose to walk with me in case anything happens. Can I get an aaaawwww….? *Wait..he did, didn’t he? Or was I just an excuse, too? Hmm..*
Suddenly we realized that we were still quite far from the top when my watch actually showed 4.30. “Hey, maybe it’s different this time! You never know with nature. The blue flame might be still there when we arrive!” an optimistic voice said, I forgot who that was. “You’re right! Let’s not give up! Hop hop hop!”
And then about half an hour later, we arrived on top of the crater! Woohoo! The wind was blowing really cold. I was covered up in layers of clothes, but still, I was freezing! But what the hell, I mean, finally, we got the crater view down below! And where’s the blue flame? Where…?
“Oh too bad, you guys missed the blue flame..,” said Yusuf, welcoming us with such a disappointing – yet expected – greeting.
“Oh, no…! Did you guys see it, though?” Mumun asked.
“We did, but only a teeny weeny bit of it, and then the sun rose and that was it, the blue flame disappeared,” said Yusuf.
We missed the blue flame of Ijen Crater. Though it was really the one thing that got me excited about going up here and we failed to see it, I had fun with the gang. No one was pressuring nobody to walk up so fast to see the flame. Instead, we had laughs making fun of each other and of our selves while hiking, panting and taking rests along the way. We even almost took the wrong path and laughed it out. I mean, hiking is hard enough for us city brats. The least we wanted was to be too ambitious about it.
Plus, there was still another reward for the 2-hour hike: the teal (or was it tuscan? I can never tell the difference between these 2 colors) view of the Ijen crater. It was beautiful, looked so soft and tempting to be admired within a foot distance. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to get close to the crater lake. Not even a hike down toward the lake. Our guide told us that there had been accidents of tourists that willfully went down or simply slipped. Predictably, the tourists died.
However, you’ll see local miners walk up and down the Ijen crater lake. They’d carry empty weaved baskets down to the lake, filled them up with sulfur stones and hiked back up with the heavy load. These are one of the strongest people I’ve ever encountered! But is that legal, what they’re doing? Well, it surely has been going on for decades, and I bet the government are in the know. We talked with some of them. Mumun will tell you more about the miners of Ijen Crater in our coming post.
All in all, the view of Ijen Crater is undoubtedly gorgeous. I’m guessing most visitors would say that the view is worth all the hassle. But for me, nah. Sorry to disappoint you, but if it weren’t for the blue flame – which I failed to see – I wouldn’t want to do the hike over again. I’m not trying to be non-mainstream here, I’m just a weak hiker and I’m not ashamed to admit it. LOL. But still, never say never.
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