📍 Ijen, 21st of August 2018. Alongside Bromo, Ijen was one of the places we definitively wanted to visit while in Java. We had heard about the mystical Ijen blue fire and couldn't resist going there, even if it meant spending more money and getting an organized tour. We had booked a 3 days - 2 nights (3D2N) package through BROMOIJEN TOUR. Please see our previous posts about how the tour started and the amazing sunrise over Mt Bromo we experienced the previous day.
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The day before
The night before the went to climb Ijen we were staying at Ijen View Hotel & Resort. The place is amazing and left us feeling bummed that we had to leave at midnight for our next adventures.
We chilled at the pool, had some beers and wanted to work on the blog. Next to us was a couple seemingly doing the same. They approached us almost desperately asking for a GoPro cable, as they were not able to find one in any shop. Luckily for them, David even had a spare one, which he gladly gave them (working on good karma ). This started a fun conversation and we ended up chatting for hours. This was great, but lead to almost no sleep before we had to go to Ijen. Was worth it 🙂
The hike up
We got up 11:30 PM (yes, PM) and left the hotel at midnight (not your typical tour starting time, but hey – seeing mysterious “blue fires” at the volcano sounds pretty cool). On the way to Ijen we managed to sleep a bit in the car – score! Upon arrival at 2 AM, accompanied by our simply awesome guide, we started the hike to the volcano. The first 20 minutes were rather easy, so we were chatting and laughing enjoying the stroll. Then the road turned very steep, so the chatting reduced to almost none. Keeping a good pace and having occasional breaks, two hours later we reached the peak. Luckily, our intuitive guide knew when to make a stop, so we didn’t have to admit to the fact that we were out of breath. Interestingly, just 15 seconds of break were enough to continue the hike.
The gas masks
At some point we had to put on proper gas masks because of sulfur gas coming from the volcano crater. It was not so much the smell, but rather the difficulty to breath. To be honest, with mask on, although we got cleaner air to inhale, breathing became even more difficult. Not even mentioning that it was rather creepy walking among so many people wearing gas masks – reminded me of an episode of Dr. Who. Those things aside, there is anyway something very exciting and mentally challenging about hiking at night – you don’t see where you’re at nor how long you have still left to go, so you just have to keep going – can be daunting at times.
As we reached the top we thought the most difficult part was over, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. In front of us was a whole lot of darkness and a poorly-lit path to the bottom of the crater. Calling it a path is a big overstatement. The way down basically meant climbing down the slippery rocks, following the guide and other visitors for about a kilometer. There are no stairs, no barriers and a limited number of horizontal surfaces. Our hearts sank.
We were not going not to finish the hike. We took a deep breath (as deep as the gas mask permitted) and started the descend. It was quite and adventure! You can’t imagine how happy we were when after an hour we finally reached the blue sulfur “fire” from the volcano! (still can’t believe some people went there with flip-flops – seems like a suicidal mission, although the guide told us there haven’t been any major accidents. Maybe he was trying to keep us calm ;))
Ijen volcano is an active sulfur mining area. As we were going down, a couple of miners were taking the same path up, carrying up to 120 kg of sulfur on their shoulders (what?!). Our guide told us a miner works about 12 hours per shift and manages 3-4 rounds up and down a day. If we hadn’t seen it for ourselves, we would have not believed it – incredible!
The blue fire
Unfortunately, we couldn’t see much of the blue fire, nor could we take any proper pictures of what we did see because it was so dark. It was a bit disappointing. Our guide, who does these trips daily, shared with us a video he shot the day before – so that we (and you) get an idea:
We hang around the crater for a while, saw the mining operation and took a look at what seemed to be a lake (only hours later we realized how big and beautiful it was, once the sun came up). Since the “blue fire” mission wasn’t a great success, we wanted to try to catch the sunrise (yeah, we are sunrise junkies) at the top of the mountain, so we had to rush to go up. It goes without saying, that climbing up was much easier and faster than the way down.
Catching the sunrise
As it was already getting lighter, we had to hurry up to be at a good spot. We got there literally just a minute before the golden disk started appearing behind the mountain. It was gorgeous. Now we could see the turquoise color of the crater lake, the yellow crater slopes, the foggy gas coming from the bottom and the beautiful landscape surrounding the volcano. Ah, this is going to be another beautiful day.
The final hike
The hike down to the parking lot was very pleasant and picturesque, although not without challenges. The road was (still) steep and slippery with the morning mist. Our amazing hiking shoes absolutely paid off! At around 8 we were back at the car park to enjoy a warm cup of coffee with a feeling of accomplishment. It was only 8 AM, the day was only beginning, but we already had an amazing adventure behind us.
Transfer to Bali
After a short drive, Pri left us at the harbor where we quickly got a bus directly to Denpasar (the capital of Bali). The bus wasn’t the cheapest, but at least we were guaranteed a seat and didn’t have to worry about transfers nor ferry rides. The beginning was very smooth, and within 30 mins of getting out of the car, we were already on the ferry headed towards Bali.