Between Laugh and Tears: Ijen Crater

This is a story that I have drafted since last year, but have been able to finish it.

***

I haven’t slept yet. Now, 3 PM and my flight for Jakarta has been canceled since the pilot was sick (this is the most ridiculous reason ever). In the end I was transferred to the new hotel, and I spare time before sleeping by writing this post. After a long time, I finally had a chance to travel (yeay!)

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It was on 23rd November 2015, I flew to Banyuwangi, East Java. Actually I was surprised that Banyuwangi has airport (I just found out, never heard before). Of course, this is much smaller compared to any other big city airport in Indonesia. It only has 2 ticket counters (Garuda and Lion Air) with 4 flights everyday. To reach Banyuwangi, I had to change flight at Surabaya (means that the plane also changed). That was my very first time riding light aircraft, and also my first time landing on small airport that barely has ticket counter in it. Feel awesome!

Banyuwangi is a small city, every street looks same to me. The road were narrow, might only be 1/3 Jakarta’s road wide. There are only 3 Department Stores (Ramayana, Roxy and Hardy’s), while I used to live in a city that has thousand Malls, oh irony. Every time I want to eat dinner in a proper place, we have to travel long journey (well it took only 15-20 minutes, when it could be more or less 1 hour in Jakarta) but it feels so long because the road was so crowd less. I had to admit Banyuwangi’s food (especially seafood, tastes super!). I tried Banyuwangi’s signature food, named Nasi Tempong but the sambal tastes super spicy, and I couldn’t take it.

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People gathered at fireplaces, waiting for the gate to be opened

On 25th November 2015, 12.00 a.m I decided to go to Ijen Crater, by jeep (rental it from the hotel 700k include driver and guide). The road to Ijen Crater was a bit thrilling, with minimum light, and narrow road. I recommend you to go there with local guide. It took 1.5 hours to reach Palitudung (parking area of Ijen Crater). We expected to go up at 1:00 am, yet the gate was opened at 2:30 am. Everyone fell asleep and I was not been able to sleep, I don’t know if it was because the excitement or the anxious.

After the gate open, we queue in a line and being checked by the guard. It hasn’t been awhile since Ijen Crater re-opened, a couple weeks ago it has been closed because of sudden eruption. For your information, Ijen Crater is famous for its sulfur. And yes, it is still active, but no need to worries, as long as you stay away from the smoke. You will be just fine! the guide will give you mask to avoid inhaling too much sulfur smoke. No need to be afraid.

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Mask and sulfur

Ijen Crater is located 9,183 ft above sea level. It needs approximately 2-3 hours to hike up to reach the rim of crater, followed by another 45 minutes – 1hour hike down to the bank of crater. The elevation was actually fine, but I guess the main problem was because I hadn’t do exercise regularly, all of my muscles being shocked by sudden hiking activity. And, I felt like nearly die. However, I survived the torture! Yet, it has not over yet. The down road to reach the crater was extremely harder than to climb up. We need to walk in sort-of coral/rock that could be very slippery. If you want to go here, make sure you’re wearing proper shoes (not a canvas shoes like me).

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Sulfur miner


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This sulfur smoke could be dangerous sometimes

Along the way, I met several sulfur miners and was amazed by their strength. They have to carry up to 5kg sulfur, back and forth to get paid for USD 50 -70/each day. This journey was so emotional, I was nearly cried but tried to hold on (and still have to extra carefully walk down road to see the blue fire). Talking about blue fire, I think I forgot to mention it at the beginning of the story. Ijen Volcano is also famous for its blue fire. My guide said there are only two blue fire mountains that are still active in the world. One is here in Ijen, and another one is in Iceland (what a long journey to go). Blue fire itself is a phenomenon that ignited sulfuric gas, which would emerge from cracks with temperatures up to 600 degrees Celsius. If you want to see this blue fire phenomenon, that only two in the world, YOU HAVE TO REACH THE PEAK BEFORE SUNRISE (5 am). This was also why, I had to suffer myself hiking up at 3 a.m.

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Rim of the crater (we still need to go 45 minutes down road to reach the crater)

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Surrounded by mountains

But, the view is amazing! I guarantee, you’ll be thankful for had a chance to be here. The turquoise lake was tremendously beautiful, again I nearly cried here. What a weepy kid. It was so calm, and beautiful, and soon after sunrise, you could see everything clearly. Mountains that surrounded by the lake will exceptionally capture your heart. Hiking up here was definitely worth the effort, the sweats, and tears. Make sure it’s gonna be on your list whenever you’ll go to Banyuwangi!

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