5/23/18: A Fail of A Hike Up Mt. Ijen

At midnight, my alarm went off. A few minutes later, Ismono knocked on my door to make sure I was awake.

I got dressed and was ready for my hike to Mt. Ijen by 12:20. I walked over to the lobby, where Ismono was sitting, and had some coffee with a donut.

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Coffee!
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Such a cool table
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Midnight snack (literally)

A van arrived to pick me up around 12:30. There was already a guy in it. We said hello, as we drove off to the next pick-up location.

We arrived at a homestay.

The boys— they were four of them— were still having their coffee, so we made ourselves a cup as well.

The boys were all French, and seemed to have known each other for a while. I had no idea what they were saying, but I could tell by their comfort and body language that they weren’t just spontaneous travel buddies.

We were all ready 10 minutes later and got back in the van.

I assumed we would all be sleepy, given the hour, but the French guys were super chatty the whole way. What on earth could they possibly been going on about at 1 in the morning??!?

We got to the base around 2 am and then had to wait in a little cafe until 3. We were handed gas masks for the sulfuric gas as we waited. One of the guides told us the group was 22 people with 2 guides. That did not seem like nearly enough guides… I guess they must have a shortage or something.

The first hour to the crater was just a lot of steep uphills— nothing majorly difficult, but enough to get your heart pumping and your body warm. I stuck with the four French boys, awkwardly following closely behind them as they went on in French.

There were number of “taxis,” aka seats on wheels, that you could sit in while locals carry you up to the top. There was one guy who actually used the service, which I thought was absurd. There was one guy in the back pushing, and then two guys in the front pulling the seat with a rope. I just cannot fathom the amount of laziness and shamelessness it requires to actually hire the taxi service.

Once we got to the crater, we were told to put the gas masks on and to wait for our local guide.

I really didn’t like wearing the mask. It made it so much harder to breathe, and I really didn’t know anything about gas masks so I didn’t even know if I was putting it on correctly or if there was anything I needed to do to make the experience better.

We waited about 10 minutes or so and suddenly one of the two guides appeared. He told us to follow him, and we descended into the crater to catch a glimpse of the “blue fire,” which is ignited sulphuric gas that emerges from the cracks in the crater.

On our way down, we passed many sulphur miners carrying really heavy loads of rocks. They were moving so insanely slowly, the pain written all across their faces. It was crazy to watch them.

The further we went down, the worse the gas got. It was really hard to breathe, and I had to keep reminding myself not to panic. I knew that if I got panicky, then my breath would become shorter and shorter and it would just make the situation way worse. Whenever we got huge gusts of the gas, we all turned around to face away from it and just stood there, closing our eyes, some of us coughing, until it passed. It was insane.

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Everyone’s flashlights

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We got down to the bottom but there was no blue fire. The guides tried to point some minuscule flames to us, but it was nothing compared to the images you see online. Just little lighter-sized, slightly blue flames.

We were all standing around, unsure of what to do or where to go (our guide was nowhere to be found), and there was no communication from the other guides around us.

I knew I wanted to get the hell out of there— the gas was really gross and I just felt the years getting shaved off my life the longer I stood there. Everyone else wanted to get the hell out of there as well, so we started walking back up to the top of the crater.

The way up was really rough. We were going uphill, which meant we needed more oxygen, but the masks made that pretty impossible. I had to stop every now and then to breathe super deeply and just fill my lungs with the oxygen it so desperately needed. I was really happy when we finally reached the top and could take off the masks and breathe normally again. I’ve never appreciated oxygen so much in my life.

We started climbing up to the top of the mountain to view the sunrise.

It was pretty foggy, but I was hoping it would clear up by the time the sunrise hit.

We got to the top, but it was still foggy. We couldn’t see anything around us.

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Almost to the top
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Can’t see anything
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Chillin

We all sat, ate some snacks (I brought tempeh crackers), and joked around about how great the view was.

I sat down next to two Germans, one named Chris and the other named Ben. They were both 19 and had met in Yogyakarta a few days earlier.

5:30, the time of the sunrise, came and went and we still couldn’t see anything.

We stayed up there until 6 or so before giving up and heading back down.

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Heading back down
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Chris (German guy)
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Miners

We ran into some other groups and one of their guides told us to wait until 6:15. Apparently, the fog happens every day. And then at 6:15, it starts to clear up and you can see the views around.

6:15 came and it was still super foggy.

We all started the climb down, laughing about how terrible the entire hike was. At least we got some exercise?

I chatted with Chris the rest of the way. He has been traveling about the same amount of time as me, so we talked about various countries we’ve visited and his plans afterward. His money is running out, so he’s going to Australia to work for a bit with his working holiday visa.

The sky actually did clear up for a moment, and we were able to see some of the surrounding mountains and valleys. But we still never saw the lake.

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We were back to the parking lot by 7. I said bye to Chris and Ben and got back in the van.

An hour later, our van pulled off to the side of the road. The driver told us that we were stopping to see some waterfalls.

We walked down some stairs, and there they were— 2 huge waterfalls, plus a bonus one to the side.

We all took some pictures and were back in the van 10 minutes later. I think we all just wanted to get back to our hostel to shower and eat.

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The waterfall has its own IG page!

I checked out their IG… it’s actually pretty decent.

I was dropped off at my homestay at 8:30. I showered and then went out into the courtyard for breakfast.

The wife made me gado-gado, and it was amazing. I couldn’t eat the special sauce because it was peanut-based, which I felt bad about, but what can ya do. I just used soy sauce and chili sauce instead.

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I went back to my room and napped until 1 pm.

I was hungry, so I walked around to find a warung for lunch.

I spotted a place called Warung Keluarga that looked decent. They didn’t have too many veggie options, though. Just some tofu, tempeh, and green beans.

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I got the tempeh and green beans with rice. When I walked up to pay, I noticed they had two new veggie dishes available. Tofu with sprouts and morning glory. Dammit! If only I had showed up 20 minutes later. The entire meal cost me 5,000 ($0.40). My cheapest one yet!

I went back to the homestay and researched things to do in Banyuwangi. One article recommended this forest called Jawatan Perhutani, and it looked really cool. I told Ismono that I planned on going there, and he said he would take me.

We rode about an hour to the forest, paid 5000 IDR to enter, and walked around for a bit. He insisted on taking a bunch of photos of me— in the trees, the rice fields, and with the horse-drawn carriages (which I hate, but I didn’t want to make a big fuss so I just went with it).

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Lol me in the tree

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So cool!

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Knocked down :(
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HUGE roots!
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Ismono is obsessed with wood

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I told him that I wanted to get some fruit for my train ride tomorrow, and asked if we could stop by somewhere on the way home.

I just wanted some bananas and maybe a papaya. Little did I know that I would arrive home with 5 pounds of fruit.

We first stopped at a small fruit stand. I got a melon for 15,000 IDR ($1). They were also selling coconuts, so Ismono asked me if I wanted one. It was funny because I was just thinking how it had been a while since my last one.

I sat down with my coconut, filled to the brim with water, and sipped away happily. It only cost 8,000 IDR ($0.60), which is the cheapest coconut I’ve had in all my travels!

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View from where we sat!
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SO MUCH WATER.
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Ismono and I (He was observing Ramadan so he could never eat/drink with me)

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The next stop was a road-side market to buy snake fruit (salak in Indonesian) and Indonesian grapes. I paid 20,000 ($1.40) for half a kilo of each.

Next up was another road-side stand. The guy was selling lansat, a fruit I had never heard of or seen before. He let me try one— it reminded me of lychee. It’s rubbery and sweet. I liked it, so I bought a bag for 10,000 ($0.70).

I thought that was enough fruit for 1, but oh no. I was wrong.

We drove closer to the homestay and stopped by a big fruit/vegetable market. There was an entire area dedicated to bananas. Ismono took his time looking through the entire selection and settled on a big, super ripe cluster. They looked good, but it was a lot of bananas so I asked if he could maybe halve it for me. Ismono said that wouldn’t be possible, so I ended up with a 2-pound bag of bananas. It cost 12,000 ($0.80), which is pretty amazing.

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A vegan’s dream

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Wowza

When all was said and done, I spent 57,000 IDR (about $4) on fruit. I guess I don’t have to worry about being hungry on the train tomorrow. I might even have to become a fruitarian for the next few days. Freelee, I’m coming for ya!

When we got back, it was 5:30 and I was hungry again.

I blogged until we left for dinner, around 7.

Ismono took me to Mie Valentine again— he’s certainly a nice friend for always taking his customer’s to his friend’s business.

After that he took me to a local coffee shop that I think he has some sort of partnership with.

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Wooden tables everywhere

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We were greeted by a young guy who spoke really good English— when Ismono told him what he wanted, he said, “You got it.” Which I feel like really shows your comfort with English.

We sat down at a long, wood-carved table. Next to our table was a young couple, and across from us was a young guy watching something on his phone. I could tell this was a hip hang out for locals.

As we waited for our coffee, Ismono showed me how they grind the coffee and process it. I could tell he really loves coffee.

We got our drinks— mine with ginger, his with ginger and milk. Now, I know ginger and coffee sounds like an add combo, but it works. It’s like ginger tea! But with coffee.

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Look at all that ginger!

We sipped on our coffees as Ismono smoked and talked with the others.

A guy came in and sat down with us. He also spoke very good English. He and Ismono talked in Indonesian most of the time, and I just sat there looking around and taking it all in. It seems this is the after-hours place of choice for young and older people alike. Pretty cool to be a part of it!!

We left an hour later, and Ismono took me to a place called Boom Beach. It used to be a functioning harbor, but it’s currently being worked on. It was a bit strange that he chose to take me at this hour— it was too dark to see anything.

We drove by a bunch of young couples chilling on their motorbikes. I guess this is where they go to get some privacy.

I was really tired when we got back. I packed, set my alarm for 4 am, and went to bed. I had another very early morning to catch my train to Malang.

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