Kawah Ijen – a true gem of East Java

May & I decided to go somewhere we have never been for the holidays and decided to go to Kawah Ijen, Mount Bromo and Surabaya. We planned to take the first flight to Surabaya which will give us plenty of time to get to Bondowoso which is 70 km from Kawah Ijen, the first leg of our journey.

After having to wake up in the wee dark early hours, paying extra for taxi and while we waited excitedly for our adventure, Air Asia announced that the flight was delayed. Okay, that is expected, I thought. We waited and we waited and there was no announcements. . Finally, we were asked to line up. Thought we finally get to fly but then I realised that they were distributing lunch boxes. This must be bad.  I was joking with May that the flight will probably be another 3 hours because they were trying to bribe us with food. As though they heard me, Air Asia immediately announced that flight is ready to be boarded.

We finally arrived in Surabaya,  almost 4 hours later. The pretty Indonesian lass at the tourist reception counter was very nice, friendly and helpful. She provided us with 3 different maps and discouraged us from taking a taxi. Instead, she immediately directed us to a local bus shuttle which will take us directly to the main bus terminal.

The bus terminal was a mad house filled with people, buses and noise. We were very glad that we could speak bahasa but still we were directed from one platform to another. Then we were told there were no Bondowoso buses and we had to take a bus to Situbondo to switch buses. Then someone pointed the Situbondo bus was leaving. May reacted first by running after the bus. I stood still when May shouted come on, move. And there, we were running after the bus comically carrying our 70 litres back packs. The conductor saw us and stopped the bus.

Riding in a local Indonesian bus was quite an experience. The bus stopped every 2 km or so. Tons of people got on and alighted. And there were peddlers at every stop. They get on to peddle everything from fruits, cakes, nuts, drinks, newspapers, cigarettes, flowers, fried noodles, crackers, the list seemed endless. Here we were, two foreigners stuck in a bus with tons and tons of locals. A sensitive non smoker would be horrified to find that the locals smoke their kreteks (clover cigarettes) in the bus.

After three hours on the bus, I called the hotel to informed that we will be late because we were on a bus to Situbondo and need to switch buses there. Then the bombshell came, the hotel informed us that we will miss the connecting last bus when we reach Situbondo. The hotel advised us to get down in Besuki to get an connecting bus. It was dark, we were in a foreign land and chances of getting stuck in a small village in the middle of East Jawa became possibility. We both panicked and asked everyone on the bus how to get to Bondowoso. Our bus conductor saved the day when she stopped another bus and asked us to get switch. She reassured us that that bus will take us directly to Bondowoso.

Finally, we reached Bondowoso at about 9 pm where we grabbed two (one could not accommodate both of us with our 70 litres packs) becaks (tricycles) we see because we were tired and disorientated. Turns out the beca ride took only 3 minutes and we were at our hotel.

Originally, we expected to check out the town when we arrive in the afternoon to look for the place to take the local bus to Patulding when you start to climb Kawah Ijen. But we were desperate and asked the local bellboy to arrange for a taxi. Mas came to meet us at 10 pm to discuss our journey. He was going to charge us RM 50 for a return trip. After much negotiation, we conclude at RM 80 for him to take us to Patulding and then sent us to Cemoro Lawang the station for Bromo. We agreed to a 6:30 an pick up.

It was a long day and quite an experience for us. Thankfully, the next day was a breeze. No delays. We were picked up prompt at 6:30 am.

Kawah Ijen  (1)

We started climbing at about 8:00 am

Kawah Ijen  (3)

Posing at Kawah Ijen Pondok

Kawah Ijen  (2)

Mei and Mas

Kawah Ijen  (4)

The long road up the crater. You can see sulphur carriers in the distance.

Kawah Ijen  (5)

It was cold and misty

Kawah Ijen  (6)

Sulphur collection centre

Kawah Ijen  (7)

A sulphur carrier with a 70 kg load on his back

Kawah Ijen  (8)

Finally, reaching the crater. It was too misty for a clear picture.

Kwah Ijen was quite an experience. The trek was beautiful. Unfortunately, we couldn’t catch a clear shot at the crate. Felt great that we made it to Kawah Ijen, we proceed to Cemoro Lawang for Bromo.

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