Friday, August 19, 2016

A Trip To Mt. Ijen's Blue Fire And Baluran National Park

After the business trip in Surabaya concluded, I went on a trip to Mt. Ijen and Baluran National Park with a group of colleagues. We took Mutiara Timur Siang, a morning train, that depart from Surabaya at 9 a.m. to Banyuwangi.

Map of train network across Java island

We were traveling as a group of 11 people, consisting of 3 men (Marto, Bar-bar and Arfan), 5 women (Me, Pristy, Friz, Deb, and Dwi)  and a family of three (Pak Mahar, wife and daughter).

A small minivan picked us up at the station and we went straight to our hotels to have a short break before dinner. I wrote hotels, because the boys stayed in Berlian Abadi Hotel (the same hotel with Pak Mahar & family), while the girls stay in Mahkota Plengkung Hotel, which is in front of Berlian Abadi Hotel.

We booked the hotel via pegipegi.com, and there was a promo from Bank Mega credit card. The only person I know as a Bank Mega CC holder is DAP, so I ask if he could lend us the card, or else (hahaha, I'm exercising my Bibi power here). Being a gentleman, he lent us the card, and being gentlewomen, we gave him the money.

We had dinner at a local restaurant named Manizku (ha!). After dinner, we went to Boom Beach to see a kite festival, which happened to take place that day, but unfortunately there was no wind that night, so the festival was postponed.

We got back to the hotels and had another short break before we started the hike to Mt. Ijen. If you're wondering why we picked this particular little mountain (Google says it's 2,799 meters above the sea level, but local websites say it's around 2,443 meters above the sea level), we did it just to see the world-famous blue fire.

Ijen's blue fire has been documented by National Geographic photographer Olivier Grunewald.

This is a pre-hike photo

There is a small canteen at 2,214 meters above the sea level. 

The hike to the blue fire usually started at 1 a.m., the blue fire is usually showing up between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. and then vanishing at 5 a.m. as the sun drops its morning ray along the ridges of the crater. 

If you choose to start the trek after midnight like I did, bring a flashlight or any kind of lighting device, for the trek to the crater is nature-constructed and you may bump into big rocks or fallen trees. It was really dark, and without the flashlight the only light would be the whole star constellation above our heads.

I am a slow hiker, and soon I was left behind. I guess I have written it somewhere in this blog, and yet I would write it over and over again: know your limit and hike in your pace. Bar-bar kindly adjusted his pace to mine and helped me along the way. Hiking really shows who's the real caring person in the group.

We reached the ridge of crater at around 3.15 a.m. We could see the blue flame down below and started to descent. The trek down below is not for the faint-hearted, for sure. Sometimes we had to wait for our turn to pass because the sulfur miners were making their way up/down. The miners are carrying heavy loads, and it's an act of kindness to let them pass first. I've posted before about the sulfur miners (here and here)

After what seemed like hours (but in fact it was probably around 45 minutes), I finally touched down the bottom of crater and got a better look at the blue fire. The blue fire and the rugged rocky surrounding gave a feeling of out-of-this-world experience. Unfortunately, none of us had good photographic skills, so the pictures were blurry. We sat there in awe, admiring the blue fire flickering above and thanking the Almighty Lord for giving us the strength to reach the spot.

Photo by PB

Soon, the wind was blowing around, and the sulfuric gas cloud enveloped us. We quickly left the spot and climbed up again. The gas is not good on the eyes and lungs, so prepare yourself with proper gear (face mask, for example). I was not really well-prepared, though, I only bring a red wool scarf to cover my nose and mouth, and I even wore mountain sandals to do the hike.

The sun rose not long after we reached the ridge, and it was a eye-opening moment when we realized the trail we passed just a few hours before.

Mt. Ijen Crater Lake

The ridge

A group photo with a majestic view

The view from above

On our way back to the entrance gate

From Mt. Ijen, we went back to hotel, had breakfast, had another quick nap and headed to Baluran National Park, which is often called as the little Africa in East Java. We saw deer and stag, peacock and peahen, long-tailed macaque, and buffaloes.

At Savana Bekol

Skulls

 

And that's a wrap. Have a lovely weekend, my lovelies.

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