What initially seemed to me a luxurious journey by train just because of the fact that there was AC, turned out not too luxurious. The seats were tiny, the space more than limited, the train full and the journey wasn’t too long but the arrival time was 1.30 am and the previous facts didn’t help in any possible way. To put the cherry on top of the cake, when we arrived it was pissing rain. We went straight to the room we had book next to Surabaya’s train station and fell asleep.
Next morning we were to meet Lola in the bus station and get the bus together to Probolingo, but she showed up in our room with bad news: the station was far far away from the city. So Lea and me put clothes on and took the backpacks in record time and the three of us made our way to the bus station to arrive to this town with a name that sounds Italian. The journey wasn’t short and by the time we were dropped in the middle of nowhere and made our way to the town bus station, we had to catch another bus to Cemorro Lawang, the town at the foot of Mount Bromo. It was exhausting and the worst part was to fight against touts and people trying to cheat us in the bus stations at the same time we had to carry all our stuff and make it through the heat. But we arrived there and then got on the task of finding a place to stay as cheap as possible for the three of us. We ended up in a home stay and although the family was very cute we kind of were tricked because there was no Wi-Fi (there was, but once you were connected nothing was happing), not hot water, not drinking water, no extra bed and not even extra blanket. We ended up managing moving the twin beds and making a whole big bed that we would share.
But before all that came into our consciousness, we went for a walk around Mount Bromo and enjoyed the landscape. It was like being in another planet. Like Mars or the Moon, or a mix of both. Plus, we got the whole thing for ourselves before our eyes and that made it very special, like the feeling you get when you are in the dessert but surrounded by volcanic sand and lava landscapes.
Despite our problems with the accommodation, we had to go to sleep very early as the plan was to trek during the night to catch Mount Bromo at sunrise. Some of my new friends were already sleeping at 6.30pm. It took me a bit longer but that didn’t change the fact that the alarm was set to ring at 3am. 15 minutes after that we were starting the day: we trekked to the viewpoint, not without stories to tell in between. First, we wanted to avoid the park entrance fees and we were chatting away and then going in silent by houses where the light was on thinking that they be the entrance were we were going to be asked the fees. Then we had some coffee in the middle of the way in one of the warungs in the middle of the track. And lastly, it was an adventure itself to find a good spot to see the sunrise. We tried several and, in an attempt to avoid people as much as we could, we left the built platform and found a flat part before the concrete platform where we could have a look to the sunrise and Mount Bromo at the same time. We hadn’t been there very long when Lola fell down the precipice. In the darkness. Lea and me couldn’t see her and didn’t know where she was or even if she was okay. Then, we heard her. She was holding on to something, quite below us, just with her hands. We freaked out without knowing what to do. I mean, there was not much we could do because it was dark, there was no way down to help her and we couldn’t even see her. There was no help we could ask for either. She got to hold onto something else and made her way a bit up, climbing. Then, I saw a tree and asked Lea to make sure she was lighting up the area while I was going to try to hold the tree with both of my arms and get leg down or something so Lola could use it to hold or climb. And that’s how we got her back. They were truly scary moments we lived without knowing what to do for her and doubting of her wellbeing.
After that, we had a beautiful and quiet sunrise watching the volcanoes smoking the sky. It was stunning, as nothing I have ever seen before. I have no words to describe the beauty of the landscape, the mighty volcanoes, the smoke, the feelings…
Once sunrise was done, we got back to pack our stuff and in a few minutes we were back to Probolingo in a van, to make our way to another town that I never get the name right but sounds like Bungy Jumping. We had a long horrible journey in the bus, with all the heat stroking and making us more tired. We didn’t have proper sleep, a shower or any rest and our bodies were wrecked. But the Ijen crater was waiting for us!
By the time we arrived to our destination, we had no accommodation, no idea where to go because the bus dropped us in the middle of nowhere (as usual), we were tired, hungry, sweaty, dirty, smelly and in addition we had no idea how we were going to be able to get to the Ijen crater that night to see the blue fires but we only knew we needed some transportation as any accommodation would be very very far from it and our legs would not be an option this time.
First things first, we got accommodation. A cheap hotel where they were not even speak English (not a chance they would help us with getting to Ijen) but offered us some relief from some of our issues, mainly hygienic. Once the three of us were showered, we already felt better and followed the next natural step: food! And with our bellies all full, we kept walking to find a way to get to Ijen that night. Our first idea had been to rent a motorbike, as it is quite cheap and share expenses. But the minute that Lola added up to the plan, we needed 2 motorbikes. Somehow, I volunteered to drive one with the condition we were going slow and I was not carrying anybody. But it wasn’t meant to be, thank God. We walked around and we didn’t find any place to rent a motorbike. Asking and asking around for scooters to rent, we managed to arrange a tour for that night with a price that was affordable and we were happy to pay. In the process, we even managed to arrange the lift back to the hotel.
Once back, we only had to get our stuff ready and have some rest, as we were waking up at 1am. I am very sure this is the earliest time I have ever got up and start my day. The car was picking us up before 1.15 and we arrived to Ijen around 3am. Our hike up would take around an hour and a half or something like that and then we saw them: the blue fires. Between all the darkness, between all the miners, around some sulfure pool that we can barely distinguish in the darkness, we could see some blue fire getting powerful and then almost extinguishing and again. I had no words, people were trying to get pictures and pictures and miners were coming up loaded with sulfure and coming down to keep carrying up. They had no protection, no mask, nothing. We had been given some masks, but there were not necessary, as the wind was not blowing in our direction. I supposed we were lucky, although I wasn’t thinking that they were very necessary for just a day.
After being left amazed by the blue fires, we kept hiking up to the top to enjoy a sunrise with views and the views to the biggest sulfure pool in the world.
We run down all the way back, because running is just easier where the track is so steep and also more fun. We got back to the car at 7am and then our driver took us to some waterfalls. I think we were all already dying in the car. When we got to the waterfalls, Lea went straight away to get some food and Lola and me checked them very quickly and when we realised they were not very impressive (we were already sick of seeing waterfalls), we went to get some food. A good plate of rice and whatever else gave us the energies to keep going with the journey and the driver dropped us at the ferry terminal to catch a ferry straight away to Bali. We took our ferry, got to Bali, and then we needed to take a bus to Denpasar, at the center of the island. The journey in the bus was horrible. The heat, the 4 hours that seemed 12 and the fact that we had being awake for so long and hadn’t have proper sleep in a few days made it worse. But we survived, and once there, we ONLY had to take a taxi for on more hour to get to our destination, the very south of Bali.