Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Indonesia - Java - Bromo and Ijen - volcano treks - May 2009

I joined a tour to visit Bromo and Ijen volcanoes. just grabbed a hotel brochure and rang a number. Only two of us going - myself and a French Canadian lady, Helene.

We were picked up on time by a guide and a driver. These guys were nice, friendly and very helpful.

We drove along the west coast of Bali, stopping whereever we wanted to have a look and take photos. We even stopped at a temple for a blessing for a voyage to Java.

At Gilmanuk, Bali we boarded the ferrry to bali. The port was well organised and very tidy. The trip was good as we sat on the top deck and enjoyed the approaching view of java and the diminishing view of Bali.

At Java, we landed at Ketapang harbour, then we drove a short while and stopped for lunch.

The journey to the Arabica hotel started as coastal towns then we drove steadily upwards through smaller towns and villages. Eventually, we were driving through dense rainforest and a deteriorating road. we were happy but the driver was finding it harder and harder to neogotiate the rutted road. The road finally levelled out and we meandered along between coffee plantations.

The Arabica Hotel was nice. Nothing fancy but clean and the food was good.

It was late afternoon so we walked dowwn the road and through the local village. The people were very friendly and proud of their village. They explained that most people in the villaged worked either in the coffee plant or in the fields. The village wealth was evident in well organised lanes and houses with small gardens.

Wandering back up the hill, we walked among the houses just a short distance from the hotel. One family invited us into home where we were introduced to the kids and grandparents. The view over the valley from the back of the house was very pretty.

The next morning, we were up early and drove a short distance to the start of the Ijen walk. The trail was basically a rutted road leading through the trees. Every now and then there were magical views over the Javanese landscape. Along the way, we noticed an ever increasing amount of baskets full with sulphur resting by the side of the trail.

We arrived at a mist-filled clearing with a small shelter. Around the shelter were a number of workers who were carrying the baskets of sulphur down the hill.

We continued on with the mist descending upon us at intervals obscuring our vision until it lifted. We reached a sign and the edge of the crater rim. We walked along the rim but the crater was filled with low cloud and mist. We picked a nice spot and sat and watched the workers appear from the depth of the crater with baskets laden with sulpur or going the opposite way with empty baskets.

The mist began to lift after about 1/2 hour revealing a massive milky blue lake in the base of the steep crater with plumes of sulphuric smoke bellowing from one spot near the edge of the lake. We climbed slowly down the steep path while the localss ran past us.

At the bottom there was a small, flat clearing next to the plumes of sulphuric clouds that issued from the bowels of the crater. It was amazing watching these guys walk into the mist of poisonous gas and come out coughing and spluttering laden with baskets of sulphur.

We continued to the lake edge. I was tempted to try the water. On the edge it warm but after one step it was hot. hot, hot. Putting my shoes back on I realised I had just had an instant exfoliation. Problems started now as the sulpur cloud began to descend on the lake edge as a total whiteout. For a while, there was no oxygen and I had to hit the ground low to breathe. Luckily, it lasted a short time but for days i was coughing and sputtering like the locals.

We made our way back up the steep rocky track to the rim of the crater. We talked at length to one of the workers. He told us of tourists falling to their deaths and that the workers did this job every alternate day (to recover) for 100 0000 rupiahs. This is considered to be excellent money but very unhealthy.
We walked back down the mountain and drove back to the hotel and then a very long drive to Bromo and the Cemara Hotel. The countryside along the way was very changeable and pretty. Our driver use to drive trucks along these roads and told us many stories of his trips via our guide.

Bromo was an incredible sight to arrive at late afternoon. We were on a crater edge looking over the sea of sand with Bromo as a distinctive sight bellowing smoke. Other volcanoes contributed to the background of this awesome vista.

The next morning, we were up in the dark and on our ponies. We rode to the base of Bromo over the sea of sand and climbed the steps to the crater rim. The rim was guarded for a short distance by a low castle-like wall and path. We walked to the far end of the wall and sat watching the sun gradually rise over the volcanic foreground. Unfortunately, clouds of sulphur would descend upon us making it difficult to breathe.

The top of the rim was also quite a social scene with a small number of tourist from all over the world and other parts of Java. We had a few conversations and learnt a bit more on life in Java.We descended the stairs and rode our ponies back to the hotel.

The journey back to Bali was about 12 hours with eating and stops. Along the way, we met a few locals and had some interesting conversations.

I was tired when we got back and my cloths and myself stunk of sulphur.

Overall, it was excellent – the Javanese, views, craters and countryside made it a worthwhile trip.


Price was approximately $US295. The trip length was three days and three nights.

Take a damp scarf – use as a sulphur gas mask

Take warm clothes – cold at hotels at night and on craters


  1. This trip reminds something to me?!! Nice photos!

    The French Canadian lady, Helene

  2. notice that i didn't put in the photos with my shirt off.




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