I had always wanted to go to Ijen Crater. This magical crater is not as well known as Mt. Bromo to Indonesians, yet it is famous amongst French.
I made it to Mt. Ijen on the 18th October 2011 during my 7-day overland trip on Java with my friend. I could say it was last-minutes decision that we finally went to Ijen. It was not so easy to get information on how to reach Ijen by public transport. On the 16th October 2011 I was on Mt. Bromo where I got information that the hotel where I was staying could arrange a transport from Bromo-Bondowoso-Ijen-Probolinggo for Rp 300,000. It was not a bad deal I thought, so my friend and I decided to take the chance and booked the trip. After booking the trip, another issue that came up was how to find a hotel. From my little research before going on trip, I found out 2 lodgings; Arabica Homestay and Catimor Homestay. After a little talk with fellow travellers during dinner, we decided to stay at Catimor. We took standard room for Rp 135,000 per night.
On the 17th morning, we were leaving Bromo and heading to Ijen. Besides us, there were 4 Russians tourists sharing the car. The road from Bondowoso to Ijen was terrible, though the view I saw is magnificent. At a point, the car had to stop to cool the engine. We finally reached Catimor after dark. It is located in the middle of coffee plantation and is a beautiful small hostel. The room was decent and was better than what I had imagined.
We left Catimor at 4 am to go to Ijen. I had to pay Rp 5,000 for the entrance ticket and Rp 35,000 for my camera. From the parking area we supposed to walk for about 1.5 hours. The track was slippery, yet the sulphur miners were walking as if it were nothing but a smooth track. The view along the way to the crater was awesome, unfortunately it was foggy. The wind was blowing hard. Despite the low temperature, I felt really hot; thanks to the gruesome path and my red chucks. It was kind of stupid to hike with Converse sneakers indeed. The sky was grey and dull, but the velvet green scenery was indulging my eyes. All along the way we passed sulphur miners who greeted us. Some of them even spoke French fluently. On this way up we met Slamet, a young sulphur miner with 2 children. From him, we got some interesting facts on Mt. Ijen and the life of sulphur miners.
After hiking for 1.5 hours finally we arrived at the rim of the turquoise crater of Ijen. There we decided to go down to the crater to have a closer look. It was against the rule, but it seemed nobody cared about that. The way down to the crater was very slippery and tiny. When we passed the miners who were carrying sulphur baskets, we had to give them way and put ourselves in difficult position.
We had the chance to see sulphur miners working from near distance. So near that when the wind blew, we were suddenly surrounded by thick sulphuric smoke. It felt really bad because when I tried to breathe, the smoke burned my throat. I wonder how these people could endure all this hardship and still be friendly and happy only with minimum equipments.
At 8 am, we were leaving the crater as our van was scheduled to leave Mt. Ijen at 10 am. I fell down several times on the way down to the parking ground. I found it easier to keep myself standing while running than to walking. So I decided to run all the way back to the van, leaving nothing but my footprints and dust behind me.