Friday, December 4, 2015

Ijen Crater - Epic Blue Flames!

Last week was probably one of the longest wait i've anticipated since i last clicked that AirAsia "Submit Payment" button for a unplanned trip of my lifetime..well i've been to many "spontaneous" trip before, but this was booked 379 days ago and which I do not have a single clue on what to expect or what to see or even where to stay. It's all started when last year (2014), Ericka and I was chatting online on going for an adventure together and she offered me to join a hiking trip to this "much less talked-about" volcanic mountain in Surabaya compared to Bromo happening in end of November. Coincidentally, AirAsia is having free seats promo at that time, so I quickly set the date and month to book while chatting with her. I didnt managed to get the free seats but booking that return flight to Surabaya worth RM302 was one of the best decision I've made. The thing is, Ericka and I was having communication breakdown because all this long while we were chatting, my mind was thinking about 2015 while Ericka was thinking about the present which was 2014 even after I have send to her my confirmation flight details. oohhh geezz..and we only realized when she texted me on whatsapp a week later.. am i coming? ahaks! then we both started to laugh. 

Anyway, as time flies, the wait has finally arrived. 20 November 2015, I took that kinda-scary flight because the turbulence was quite bad and my mind was running with craziness images of something that i dont even wanna think of . But all went well, and as I approaching the exit door after immigration, Ericka was waiting there with her big huge smile. We last met in 2013! Great that Ericka has also arranged with another 4 travellers, Vincent, Ilenia, Petra & Essi for Ijen Crater. 
we-fie time!
We get along very easily and since Mount Bromo was closed due to active reaction and increasing of volcanic dust, we have to skip that mystical mountain..too bad..i was really hoping to get a glimpse of Mount Bromo. Anyway, Surabaya offered me even better deal, something better than the unexpected, something unfamiliar, somewhere exotic, something that was literally blown my imagination away and leaving me nothing but breathless..literally. And then, all 6 of us were on a long road trip from Surabaya city to a small town called Bondowoso about 272km away which took us almost 6 hours to arrive as there were massive traffic along the way and we also did a pitstop for late lunch (Tongas Asri, KM84 Probolinggo) plus toilet break in between. 
the kampung chicken is tender and crispy but smaller size. it was the rice & kapow chili that fill up my stomach. This was 20,500 @ RM6.70
what is he selling? lets have a look.
its meatballs
Ericka was kind enough to arrange for us to chill at her place before we continued for another 2 hours road trip to Ijen Crater for one of the greatest scenery and adventure of my lifetime. If you would like to arrange for a trip to Ijen Crater, i recommend you to take 4WD tour arranged locally. 

As we arrived at Ericka's home, the skies were so dark even though it was only 6pm. Ericka suggested to us to take some rest as we will only be leaving by 10pm so that we could reached at the foot of mount Ijen before midnite. And we can start hiking by 1am. Ilenia and I decided to skip dinner as we were not hungry and too tired, so we took a nap while the rest when out to hunt for some food. After shower, I just give myself a good rest after a long week of not getting enough sleep as i was busy with work and finishing up my blog for TSDAYout. But I didnt managed to sleep, probably because i didnt know what to expect, a little anxious, excited, fear and everything in no particular order. 

By 10pm, all of us are ready to rock the road. It was Ericka's first time driving to that place. She follow other guides to Ijen before this but it was during the day. We passed by really creepy road with no street light except for our beam lights accompanied by white stripes painted trees. 
creepy? hahaha..not quite
There are times where the road condition was really bad and we prayed that the tyre and suspension will put us through till we reached the destination. I really need to give my hats off to Ericka for her driving skills that put shame to every men out there. And by the way, she was driving manual. There are times when we were driving uphill while there are times we were going downhill and some were winding road that Ericka keep honking as an alert incase there were cars coming from the opposite direction. It was exhilarating, our hearts did skipped a beat when suddenly the car stop as we passed by some loopholes in the middle of the night, pitch dark with no single reception line. I felt like i was on a ride of a horror movie. And as usual, when entering an unfamiliar territory especially in the deep jungle, I will normally humbly ask for permission. I guessed everything went well since i am still alive sitting here while I'm recollecting every pieces of the segment of that Friday night. 

We have to pass by 4 check-points before reaching the foot of Mount Ijen. Each check points, we need to write our names at the log book and Ericka told me to place in 5,000 rupiah as token. It was freaking cold as I came out of the car for the next check point. I tried to greet and speak Indonesian language to the guards for easy entrance flow. 
signing in the guest book
the guard caretaker
stop for toilet break...dont worry ..there are toilets at the first gate, no lights bring your torch lights
Upon reaching the destination, we went straight to the loo..again. hahah.. it was freaking cold and i quickly put on my jackets, beanie hat and another layer of pants.  I could literally feel it in my bones. We were one of the early birds and we saw people started to pouring in with motorbikes. it was 1130pm and we wanted to start hiking when suddenly was stopped by the locals. They said that we can only start hiking after the ticket counter is open, which will be only after 230am. We were like looking at each other, puzzled coz didnt realized this as we thought we could start hiking immediately. so what do we do now? Sleep in the car! it was like bursting aircond with the wind outside of the car so we went in and took a nap. I managed to doze off for 1hour 40 min before waking up due to the cold weather and was suddenly feeling hungry. Lucky that I managed to buy chocolate buns from Ericka's mum grocery shop earlier. That buns kept me and Ilena enough energy to hike during that wee hours. 

While munching the chocolate bun, i could see that people start flocking the ticket counter. We decided to go for another loo break as it was closed to 215am. At anytime the counter will be opened now and we are ready to hike as according to the locals, the blue fire/flame can only be witnessed during the night up to 430am as it will disappeared once the sun is up. We paid 100,000 IDR for the entrance fee and bid goodbye to Ericka as she will have to rest and continue her sleep in the car for she has been driving the whole day for us. It was so dark and cold plus headlamp was the light that guided me for that quiet night. I looked up and I could see million stars of the milky way. Still blurred after the power nap, I covered my face with headbuff and instantly I got hit with running nose. hahaaa..but it was just temporary. 
Freaking cold wei
Dusty cold night..let's search for that blue flames.
i am going to haunt you tonite..muahahah..yours truly with the headlamp..what a creepy selfie.
just be extra careful when you are walking. 
dusty road and feeling a little warm after 30 minutes hike.
We started hiking together but Petra, Essi and Ilenia were like speedy Gonzales so I told them to go ahead. Vincent and I took our own phase as we didnt want to rush. The path are pretty obvious uphill so you dont really need a guide. Just be extra careful of cliff way. There are moment when we are going uphill, while there are route when it was flat land, but after 30 minutes of uphill, I started to sweat and feeling warm, so I took out my wind-breaker. My heart are racing just like "boom clap" the sound of my beating heart. While hiking, slowly there was one local guy came walking with us and he introduced himself as Adi. Ericka did warned us to be extra careful with scam and mafia around. But turned out that Adi is actually  a genuine person that come to Ijen every day from Banyuwangi to earn a decent living by charging a minimal fee for his guidance to lead the way downhill from the prohibited point and to rent out the face mask.
wheelbarrow for the miners to carry the sulfur stones up and downhill daily
after hiking for an hour, we reached this point, so what now?
This is Adi with blue cap
a walk of pain, endure and determination for a living.
And I thought I was being cheated when I saw the sign post at that prohibited point. I really thought that blue fire as what written in the google was just a gimmick for us to hike all the way here and only to find out that we are not allowed to go further than this point. Well, the hike is not over, infact it is just the beginning of another phase of solid rock with steps of dangerous path. There's where when we decided to take Adi's offer and rent the face mask as our head buff definitely not going to help our lungs to stay healthy for the next hours. We paid 60,000 IDR per person and Adi helped us to lead the path of slippery downhill. Vincent keep asking are we there yet? When Adi said 5 minutes, that means we should be reaching there in 15 minutes. hahaha even though it was only 3km but that was quite a special 3km i have ever hike apart from Mount Kinabalu.  
Some of the hikers head lamps coming toward the crater and the moon decided to watch us from above!
Finally after carefully, slow walking, crawling at times and pick up my phase, finally I was blessed to witness the stunning blue fire! Witnessing the blue flames with its glorious heat, where the blue flames seems to be like a dancing wave gracefully, almost seductively in that pitch dark moutain was something special. A rare sight to be told.. The only 'camera' that could captured clearly and vividly this craziness imaginary scene on that indescribably morning was my eyes. And as I breath profusely via the mask as suddenly I was 'attacked' by this thick sulfuric smoke, I really live the moment with great appreciation of Mother Nature. I could only paint a smile of satisfaction in my heart. 

The mysterious blue fire is actually the result of the combustion of sulphuric gases in contact with air at temperatures above 360°C..i repeat..360°C! The burning sulphur offer an enchanting bright blue flames which are only visible at night. This fact was taken from the famous photographer Olivier Runewald 's research. 
One of my bucketlist - checked! 
some people are looking for treasure while some people are looking for trouble
And why did I have to post the above photo? Because within minutes later (even after all the guides shouted to some of the tourists up there to come down but too stubborn to listen), the heavy smoke actually turned towards one of the tourists up there and suddenly we heard loud screaming asking for help and the voices seems to be trembling down. The heavy smoke made us difficult to see and check what had happened. I could only hear the screaming getting louder when suddenly a man appearing from the heavy smoke..I was shocked to see half of his face was bleeding with his eyes closed and was burned in black. I just couldn't look at him (dizziness starts to kicks in), but i've managed to offer a bottle of my mineral water to him and walk away. Few guides was trying to help but nothing can be done because there were no first aid kit. Lucky that he didnt go blind, he fell straight to the burning sulfur lava when the heavy smoke turns towards him. The gas are poisonous and I can tell that it really feel like sharp burning hot sensation penetrating your eyes when I get closer to take a glimpse of the fire. 

The sun started to rise and Adi told us to follow him because he want to show us the crater lake..oh ya almost forgot since we are too engrossed on the epic blue fire which slowly disappeared as it was getting bright. We stayed there till 5am to enjoy the most mind boggling picturesque scene I've ever experienced. This is better than I've expected. If you have the chance, please.. experience this at least once in your lifetime. It was purely like the scene of the movie Lord of the Rings and I felt like I was out of this the miners, this place might be a norm but to me it was one of amazing place that calm my soul. the climb was simply worth the effort. 

Adi did this for us to bring home..yeah its still in my luggage bag
feeling so 'macho' ahahha
peace for a calm serene crater lake
I took out my mask and enjoyed the moment there while cool air breeze gripping my soul delightfully. The moment was perfect - exotic, beautiful, nice weather and a view that I couldnt ask for more. My fetish towards mountains, hills and nature is in the state of binging without guilty conscious and its getting intense as day goes by. Standing at 2,799m at the rim of the crater with one kilometre wide turquoise colored lake, Ijen has been recognized as the largest highly acidic crater lake in the world. So if you would like to ask me if anyone has swim at this lake before, well think again. 
Captivating mountain .never knew I can find a scene like this in Asia let alone in Indonesia..
so blue, so torquoise  in where is my blue-eyed man? haha 
weighing almost 80-90kg, the miners will carry this load for a very minimal earning. so stop complaining about your life.
i think God just introduced me to a piece of heaven
yeah beware!

Simply astonishing! As I was mesmerizing the view, I could not help it but keep smiling to myself trying to digest it as it was one of the most exquisite experience I have ever had. Was it a spell or am I just being melodramatic? Only God knows because I cant even explain it either. 

vincent and I with our helpful guide, Adi. He is from Banyuwangi and will be there every day. He charged 120,000 - 150,000 rupiah for mask rental + guide for 2 persons. pic from Vincent's FB.
from yellow sulphuric land and blue crater lake to dryland of slopes and hills
The hardworking miner
you make me smile.
mostly Westerners..
and some Asians
aaaahhh more seductive mountains caressing each other in the daylight.. overload of romantic moment.
Selfie with sunrise and yeah with my trusted Iphone6 
Descending down took us shorter time and finally upon reaching the entrance area, I quickly searched for Erica who was taking her breakfast at the stalls nearby. I kept thanking her for showing me a whole new world of hauntingly beautiful blue fire with blue crater lake. That 379 days of waiting was finally worth it.  

Entrance fee: 100,000 rupiah @ RM32.60
Mask rental : 50,000 @ RM16.30
Guide : optional
Important rules : BRING your HEADLAMP! wear proper shoes and wear layers of clothing to keep you warm and stay safe. Respect mother earth and you will received the respect to witness magical beauty of this mystical crater lake. 

Thank you Ericka for making my Saturday morning an epic journey to this highly anticipated crater lake (Ijen Crater), thanks Vincent and Adi for capturing kodak moments of me! 

Ijen Crater in my own perspective : It is a magical phenomenal yet deadly acidic and one smoking hot beauty that could pierce your soul distinctively and leave you breathless effortlessly.
ok wait up for my next post of more wonderful Indonesia's destination that I've managed to discover during the road trip in Surabaya! Keren bangat!


TianChad Chen said...

THe story of the guy injured by the sulphur lava is quite serious. THanks for sharing your travel story =)

By the way Devi your photos are great =) Just that the HDR effect is a bit overwhelmed to my personal opinion haha. Keep up the blogging~~!

Devi da Lil' DeviL said...

Lucky that the guy didnt turn blind but i do hope everyone can try to be a responsible hiker. Dont just for a selfie with the blue fire that it jeopardize their life. Thanks tian chad for the comment and okay will keep it low on the HDR effect. :)

jipp said...

Great post on Ijen. I don't know how that guy got into that accident. I actually went quite close to the fires and I could clearly see how they took the melted sulfur from the pipes. But you gotta be there very early so that they smoke is not that thick. As the morning came, it will become more windy and that's when the smokes begin to rise and erratic. they could suffocate ppl. And you are right, it's totally out of the world up there :-)

Devi da Lil' DeviL said...

hi jipp.
thank you for visiting my blog. yeah that incident was unfortunate but people still went near without mask. the guide has warned the tourist over not to go near as it may be fatal.

glad that u enjoyed your experience at ijen as much as i did.


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