This was another very early start and although we had a lift to the starting point – this one was to be an ‘A’ grade grueller and I was not feeling at all well at this time as I felt achy all over and generally all over unwell – touch of the man-flu – right time then to be doing a 3km uphill hike followed by a 1km hike downhill into the abyss that was Ijen.
As the 3km uphill started to kill me off, after about five, possibly as many as ten paces in – we started to see the miners who were also on their upward trek but they were going along at quite a pace and carrying the large baskets that they would be filling with the Sulphurous ore for the uphill return journey. Now this was some trek up Ijen volcano but at least it did have a path and every now and again something you could lean against or sit on to cough up a lung (or any other vital organ you needed to remove), Liz was bursting for a wee but a slight mis-communication with our guide meant that no loo was forthcoming. Our guide was a man of few words his phrase of choice being ‘one more kilometre to go’ but after a few renditions of it, this soon pulled no punches with us, the crowd.
When we finally did reach the summit it was like a scene from Victorian miner’s weekly, no real lights just bobbing torches, no real paths just ways through, around and over the rocks but ever-present throughout was the sulphurous fumes coming up from below and we still had another 1km to reach the bottom and the source of these fumes. Meanwhile the guys we had earlier seen ‘sprinting’ up had since been to the bottom and filled their baskets and were now on their upward journey from Hades, fully laden with 50-80kg of the ore and all this was done wearing ill-fitting wellies or sandals, no facemasks and in order to clear their lungs they were stopping every once in a while for a fag! Liz had earlier read to me about how the Lonely Planet says these guys are super fit and how do they celebrate, with a good old Park Drive cigarette – or the Indonesian equivalent whatever ‘Black Lunger’ that is! These are some tough guys.
Down we went into the abyss slipping and sliding towards the bottom and as we went we began to get glimpses of the ‘Blue Fire’, it actually looked really good and our guide offered to take our mobile in order to get some close-up photos – possibly in the hope of getting a big fat tip. Only when he came back from risking life and limb not a single piccie had turned out. I should have sent him back down but I did not have the heart or the breath left to give such instructions and besides we had managed to get good enough photos on our own.
Getting down the rocky trail was difficult enough in the dark and even though the first light was beginning to put in an appearance, getting back up was still a tremendous effort and yet the guys carrying their haul were overtaking us, merely added insult to injury.
It was only when we had completed the trip back up to the top of the volcano’s cone that we realised we had been standing and walking next to a turquoise lake that now we were only just getting the full view of – it was an amazing colour and looked quite surreal in the dawning light.
At the top a couple of Indonesian girls had taken markers and paper to write messages for any photos they were taking and then they invited us to do the same – I am sure this was yet another ploy for them to get photos of us gullible Westerners and yes haha, it worked!
After the brief photoshoot it was the 3km journey back down the volcano to look forward to and boy did it drag. We spent a lot of time talking to a lady from Argentina who we had seen at Yogya. During the walk, every now and again we heard the odd rumble and as the morning had looked a bit overcast we merely put all these noises down to a bit of far off thunder! However, when we got to the bottom of the volcano and popped in the cafe Liz innocently asked what all the rumbling was about and was somewhat surprised to hear that it was a nearby volcano letting off a bit of steam. Continuing the conversation she asked when this particular volcano had last erupted – the reply was ‘last month, but it was only a small eruption’! I am sure we would have got down Ijen in half the time if we had known this along the way!
After Ijen, the journey onwards was to Bali – Denpasar bus station to be more exact, so first we had to go back to Probbolingo and more Nick Nack again, the little robbing evil henchman – so what could go wrong! First we clarified once or twice that we actually paid for the trip right the way through to Denpasar as he seemed to have problems remembering this – the next issue occurred when we reached the bus station after the ferry trip over from Java. The Bali bus station at Denpasar, not far from our next port of call – Sanur – had now moved to Mwinge, quite far from our digs. My dander was up, I had been up early and was, was my wife would say ‘a tired little bunny rabbit’, the bus police came on board so I challenged them that we were being right royally ripped off. With a shrug of their shoulders I understood my point had been made and we would be fully refunded with a bit extra for good measure – oh no that was just the dream I had after I had been thrown off the bus!!!
Note to self – never trust Bond Villians to book your onward travel arrangements – good thing I wrote this because Jaws just tried to offer to book my ferry from Malapascua to Maya!
Needless to say we ended up having to pay for a taxi to Sanur but our room actually made up for my poor first impression of Bali as it was loverly. So we donned our least scruffy gear (aka our Gladrags) and out we went for food – a very, very, very long day indeed.