Climbing Mount Bromo and Ijen

Don't say I didn't warn you - this post is extremely long because I combined the whole 4D3N into one post. It made more sense because most of stuff we did there, when we were not climbing was travelling and sleeping.

So, I had no idea what got into me, but my friend Jo suggested a climbing trip to Bromo, to Bree and I a while back, and having never climbed a volcano before, I said yes, not knowing what to expect. We were also partially enticed into going there because Tigerair had really cheap tickets since there was a promotion. A few days before the trip, I realised how incredibly ill-equipped I was for any sort of climbing. I didn't have hiking shoes, track pants or wind breakers. Thankfully, another friend of mine was a frequent climber so I borrowed a couple of items from her. I decided to also invest in a pair of Timberland hiking shoes, though they cost quite a bit. (Same price as a pair of sports shoes!)

On hindsight, the trip didn't cost much. The air tickets itself added up to about $200-300 while the tour agents we engaged charged us about S$350 for the whole trip, with meals, accommodation and transport inclusive. I also exchanged about S$50 extra to grab snacks and meals along the way. It was the purchasing of items that cost quite a bit for me (ie. my shoes and warm clothing).We engaged The Private Tour for our trip and went on their 3D2N trip which covered Bromo and Ijen. We stretched this to 4D3N and bunked at the Surabaya aiport hotel because there were no evening flights.

We flew to Surabaya on Tigerair. It took about 2 hours? I remember sleeping most of the plane ride away till it suddenly got turbulent towards the end. Oh, my poor heart.

First meal in Surabaya!

None of us have any make up on since this was supposed to be a no-frills kinda trip.

Sam and Jo.

We reached Surabaya at about 1pm and met one of our guides, Maria, at the airport. We had to wait quite a while for her husband, Alvin, to come with our ride though. By the time we got on, it was 2pm and we got ourselves comfortable on the 6-seater van for the 4 hour ride to Bromo. 

Getting comfortable in the 6-seater van. 

During the car ride, I slept (again) and we talked about loads of random things. We also stopped by at a random mall so Jo could grab a handphone and us, random essentials and snacks. It was a crazy ride there because Alvin kept zipping in and out of traffic. While the other girls loved the thrill, I was just hiding my face in my jacket cos' I kept screaming necessarily when we got too dangerously close to a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. I was quite thankful for Alvin's driving though, given that most of the roads in Surabaya are one-way roads. If he didn't overtake the way he did, I have no idea how late we would reach Bromo. 

We got to Bromo at about 6pm and by then it was really dark. It was really refreshing as we drove up due to the cool air. What I didn't like was the dark, winding road. Once again, I was thankful that Alvin had pretty good driving skills and ensured that we got to Bromo in one piece. (Pun completely intended.) We were bunking at Cafe Lava Hostel for the evening. There aren't a lot of restaurants around so most hostels/hotels come with adjacent restaurants, which was a welcome relief for us considering how hungry we were by then.

My meal for the evening. The chicken was mediocre but the potatoes were awesome!

Mangoes that Maria bought on the way and got them to cut for us. These mangoes were really green but incredibly sweet! We polished off the plate in about 5 minutes! 

I shared a room with Bree. It was really minimal, but comfortable. The heater was really old-school, using fire to heat up the water. 

We got up at 3.45am the next day to go up to Bromo to see the sunrise (which supposedly comes up around 5am). It took us about 20 minutes to reach the sunrise viewpoint from our hostel. And we didn't know this before we went, but it is extremely important to bring a face mask on the way up because of the sheer amount of volcanic ash in the air, when vehicles drive past, when the wind blows. The air was also really cold, so bring along a thick jacket if you must. It gets warmer after the sun rises though. 

The rewarding view of sunrise after about 30 minutes of waiting in the cold.

Several hawkers selling Pop Mi and hot beverages. I was a bit sceptical about the hygiene level but I was so hungry I decided to give it a shot. After all, it's boiled water right?

Bakso, one of Indonesia's specialities. A real pity that I didn't get to try the actual Bakso noodles!

A shot of us against the Bromo crater.

Maria then told us that this wasn't it, that we could still walk across the Sea of Sand to the Bromo crater itself. She left us to take a rest because it was quite a straightforward walk to the crater. Most people would opt to ride a pony up or to take 4WD. We didn't choose either because we heard from Maria that it was a short walk and also because that would take part of the fun out. The walk down was easy, it was downhill all the way, though it was pretty steep. 

The famous Sea of Sand (Laut Pasir). The so-called 'sand' is actually volcanic ash, hence the colour.

Almost no plants can grow on the Sea of Sand, but the sight is still strangely beautiful. This is the volcano we were heading towards.

Mount Batok, which we didn't climb, but looks amazing nonetheless.

Loads of people climbing up. There were lots of hawkers selling snacks, drinks and face masks (though overpriced). Some people made do with scarves over their faces.

After a 250-step climb, we reached the top of the volcano, also known as the caldera. It was pretty narrow up there yet extremely crowded. The thought of someone or something falling into the bubbling volcano is pretty scary...

A celebratory shot. Everyone has their faces covered as the surrounding air is really, really dusty.

The route back was really strenuous due to the steepness of the slopes. It took us twice or thrice as long to climb back up to our hostel area and we had to stop quite a number of times to rest. When we got back at about 8am (yes, we did so much but it was only 8am), we gobbled the breakfast of nasi goreng, orange juice and eggs. Given that it was so early, Maria and Alvin let us rest for a bit before we hit the road again. I had a good shower, washed all the volcanic dust off my hair, face and skin before I took a short nap.

The view of the hostel in the day. Pretty huh?

We hit the road at about 11-12pm, with a stop in between for lunch. The ride to Ijen took about 5-6 hours, with a lunch stop in between at a nice little restaurant with stilt houses.  

Us on our boat seats!

Some of our dishes. Almost all were spicy, but good nonetheless. 

We then continued on the road to Manyar Garden Hotel, where we would bunk in for the evening before our Ijen climb. It was still bright when we got there, so we headed out to the nearby beach. 

Our room, which eeriely had a mirror right next to our beds. We draped a towel over it.

The beach, which was also full of volcanic ash instead of sand.

Love this shot! Don't know how come they all ended up in the almost exact pose.

A parting shot of the beach. The sunset was also as lovely. 

We had a quick, but rather uncomfortable dinner at their outdoor restaurant before we retired for the evening. Given that we had to be up at 12.30am, we tried to go to sleep as soon as we could. The next morning, Maria and Alvin drove right up to our villa and picked us up for the climb. The ride to Ijen itself took about an hour, where I tried to sleep a little. When we reached there it was pitch-black and really cold! We then began the steep climb up to the Ijen crater. The 3,000m climb really killed me because it was not only steep, but the air was stinking of sulphur so it was really hard to breathe. It was also pitch-black and we had to hold onto our torchlights to make sure we didn't steer off the track (or risk falling off?). 

We reached the top at about 4am, just right in time for sunrise. As usual the sunrise was gorgeous, though we didn't see the actual sun itself. It was also really cold on the peak, such that I could even see my own breath.

There were some tourists making chicken atop Ijen.

We made it!

The surrounding sulphur mist made the place seem really mystical, but no, it was just really smelly.

I have to admit the view is gorgeous though. The yellow bit is the sulphur which the suplhur miners collect.

Can you imagine we hiked through this path in pitch-darkness?

A shot of the crater from the lower end of it.

Sulphur miners with their load. 

It's really not an easy job, having to carry loads of up to 90kg up and down the Ijen crater. They also earn really little. I regret not buying a souvenir from them or passing them some money after I took their photo. If you do head there, do give them a small fee if you can afford it when you take their photo. 

Jo trying her hand at lifting the load. Failed.

I failed too. It's really heavy!

We then ran all the way down, because it was too steep to walk without falling. Maria taught us to quickly go down with our feet positioned sideways as it was easier to topple over and trip if we just went down straight. She also had a climbing stick, so that also helped loads. (Note to self, consider getting a hiking stick.)

We met Alvin at the bottom of the crater and he drove us all back to our accommodation as we slept. Sadly, it got so much warmer when we went back.

My breakfast at the outdoor restaurant. 

We headed back to the same restaurant we were at the previous day, for lunch. This time we chose to sit at the stilt seating area. We ordered pretty much the same dishes. 

Their belacan is awesome. They sell small servings of these for a few cents.

Our beef ribs, which were coated with the same belacan, I believe. SO GOOD.

Maria and Alvin then drove us towards Surabaya airport, but we stopped in between at a super mart to stock up on essentials because it was so cheap. I got some Maybelline make up items, banana cereal (which is really awesome, but yet unavailable locally) and loads of Sensodyne toothpaste. (Don't judge!) We then bade good-bye to Maria and Alvin after they dropped us off at the Ibis hotel at Surabaya Airport. I've never been in an airport hotel before, so it was quite an eye-opener. 

Our compact room which was comfortable and also had a (semi-obstructed) view of the runway. There were also English channels, so thumbs up for the hotel! 

We got up at about 6am the next morning as our flight was at 7am. (How convenient living right next to the airport.) Jo was heading for Bali to climb more volcanoes! I would want to head back to Indonesia to climb a couple more volcanoes, but let's just say, I definitely prefer mountains to volcanoes, given how dusty and smelly volcanoes can be. 

Till the next trip post then! 

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