This was not a solo trip and I must say, I had a great time with an excellent travelling partner and a wonderful team. Daniel, I had to steal your photo for this as I realised I didn’t have any group photos of everyone. From left to right, Daniel (sara’s long lost friend for 17 years), Dani (best guide from Our Trip 1st), Sara (best travel mate), me and our F1 driver (all terrain). It was a trip filled with endless laughter and silly jokes but one to remember and hey, I’m going back again, real soon. Addictive group to hang out with.
We took a direct flight from Singapore to Surabaya where Dani met up with us. I had forgotten that it was ramadan and was reminded only when Dani mentioned that some food stalls in the village area might not be opened. We grabbed a quick lunch at the airport. I had to plead guilty here as I had left all the planning to Sara and the truth was I had not even looked closely at our itinerary. Only when Dani mentioned that we had a pretty tight itinerary did I realise what I was really in for. I had a rough idea but I guessed it did not really register till this moment.
As usual I had to make some calls and reply a few emails before we set off. I left the airport with a heavy heart and was still worried about my work. We needed a little change in our travel plans as the next day could be too tiring for us to handle. I didn’t mind heading to the waterfalls and after a good sleep on the plane, I was all charged up. Our very first stop, Madakaripura waterfall.
We made a quick change into singlet and shorts and we were all prepared to get really wet. Other than Dani, we had a local villager who was leading the way and guiding us along. The rocks were wet and slippery and we had to cross it at several points. I had not expected it to be this chilly. Really nice weather. I hoped the waters will not be too cold though as I had wanted a short swim. The last trip at Mt Ophir, the pool at the waterfall was too shallow for swimming, so I was hoping that I would be able to have at least a short dip this round.
The waterfall is made up of series of falls. Even at the lower falls, I was already in awe. The forest around it had been designated as a national park, so everything had been very well-protected. As it was getting late, my guess was we were the last visitors around. Even the stalls were all closed. In a way, this was nice as we got to enjoy the river and the falls in the most natural way ever.
Dani had prepared raincoats for us. We had been crossing the river so we were definitely wet from below our knees. I had wanted to skip the raincoats but when we saw a family who was leaving the place, we knew we needed the raincoats. We were literally walking under the cascading waters, a really amazing experience. The water was refreshing but without the afternoon sun, I was really getting cold.
As I looked up towards the sky above, I felt as though we were in a cave which had collapsed from above. And it was almost a perfect circle and we were surrounded by falling waters everywhere. It was so breathtakingly beautiful that I was dumbfounded. I knew I was smiling stupidly to myself and though I had my camera in hand, I was still tempted to remove my raincoat and all. How I wished I could crawl under the rocks and sleep in the cave. Maybe I could also be enlightened in a similar way.
And I jumped in. Alright, it wasn’t a jump, I inched my way in. The water was freezing cold and when I pulled out a pair of goggles from my bag, I really had the guys laughing. Well, it definitely didn’t hurt to be well prepared. I kind of wondered if it was advisable to swim but I had Dani’s assurance that people do that, so I decided I shouldn’t chicken out on this. And boy, it was freezing cold. I could hardly breathe. Literally wet and cold by the time I pulled myself out of the waters. (It took 2 days before Dani told me that people do swim, just that that usually happens in the afternoon when it is warmer. Not in the late afternoon before the sun set with the surrounding chilly air.) :p
We dried ourselves and got back into the car for a long ride to our hotel around Mt Bromo area. It was already dark by the time we set off and by then, I had put all my troubles away. It was exactly times like this that nothing seems to matter and all problems seem only that small and insignificant. We snacked on the local goodies that Dani had prepared for us and I was definitely looking forward to a bintang beer once we reached our hotel.
I fell asleep along the way and I knew I was really tired. Sara, on the other had, seem wide awake. Lava view hotel looked great and honestly, I didn’t feel like I was in Indonesia. It was chilly and even with my jacket on, I felt cold. Dani checked us in and told us to have an early night. He would be dropping by to give us a morning call at 3am to set off for our sunrise view. Sara and I had a good laugh over this and wondered why we were torturing ourselves and seriously, the trip’s itinerary had simply zero resemblance to one of a holiday. We had a quick shower and we were eager to head out for our first beer of the trip.
The cafe was amazing. A wooden cabin with live music, I would think this would pass off as any European ski resort. Love our fried banana with cheese, the only problem being the huge serving. My first beer on the trip and the very first beer with Sara.
It was an early morning and I was so reluctant to crawl out of bed when my alarm went off. Thank goodness for our leftover banana, I had some food to fill my tummy. And of course, my morning coffee. Interestingly, Sara had packed for cold weather. She had all the long sleeved stuff and me, I was packed for a blazing sun hiking day. Thank goodness, Sara had some extra warm clothing to spare and I still had my trusty pink jacket.
It was a drive up to Mt Penanjakan where we would catch the sunrise over Mt Bromo. The hike was a short ones, basically up to as far as the car could go. We were told this was a hotspot for mountain sunrise view as it was more of a drive up than walk up, so almost everyone could make it. Being early, Sara and I decided we should go ‘book’ our spot before more people arrived. What I had not expected was the sheer number of people that eventually came. Oh, and that was the moon, a moonlit night.
Capturing these views came with a price. Sara and I had to fight off ‘aunties’ who squeezed their way in. Hey but I was proud of us, we stood our grounds. Fighting the cold, we remained at our spot for more than an hour, waiting for our sunrise shot.
As the skies brightened up, I was getting worried. Where was my ‘yolk’? It seemed that the sun was already up. I was almost giving up and Sara was the one who stayed optimistic and we continued waiting even thought the crowd was clearing up. We refused to move. 🙂
Yes it came, the perfect circle that peeked out from the clouds in the distance. A perfect sunrise that was totally worth the wait in the cold.
We got the shot that looked almost surreal. It was so beautiful with Mt Bromo, Semeru and a few others on the right. B29, which we had hoped to explore was on the left. All set in a sea of fog. It did keep me wondering how the view would change once the fog cleared out.
Dani was bringing us to another area where we could have this beautiful view from a slightly different angle. Most importantly, we were going to visit the love hill. Hopefully, by taking a shot here, I might be able to find my Mr Right.
A quick breakfast before we headed to our next destination. Yes, we had started the day real early and it was only breakfast time. At the little warung, I had my first Pop mie. Sedap. 🙂 One craving satisfied. Back in our car, we took a ride to the base of Mount Bromo. Both Sara and I had thought we would be viewing sunrise on Mt Bromo but guessed we both had it wrong here.
Mt Bromo was definitely another tourist spot. I could tell from the number of food and drink stalls around. It was really dusty too, mainly from the black sand and dirt that was kicked up by the horses and cars surrounding us. Apparently, we could either take a horse ride or walk. After that many hours travelling by car, I guessed I would rather do a bit of working out.
After rejecting all the horse ride offers, we took a slow walk towards the foot of the mountain. The sun was coming up and it was a beautiful morning. Right at this moment, I felt I was finally in the right clothing as I stripped down to my sleeveless top.
I wasn’t sure if it was the air, the sand or simply the lack of exercise recently that I was actually panting when we made our way up. The initial stretch was tiring. It was pretty steep and walking up the loose sand was definitely not as easy as I thought it would be. The way right to the top includes a flight of stairs that was pretty worn out and crowded. It was tiring and I could only push myself to move along lest I blocked the way of any other people behind. I was glad to finally make it up to the crater.
This was a live volcano and I could feel the heat emitting from within the crater mouth. The constant thick smoke was another tell-tale sign. There had been times when it was so active that the place had to be closed down. It was all smoking hot, dry and dusty on this mountain but next to it, Mount Botak was evergreen, a really stark contrast. The smoke and fumes were supposedly toxic and that explained why most people were wearing masks as they made their way up. It didn’t really bother me much though.
Sara and I took our time, taking in the view and walking the area. I was pretty glad we were in no rush today since we had covered our waterfall destination the day before. It was nice to be under the hot sun too after the chilly morning air. Descending was easy and I was looking forward to a bottle of coke to quench my thirst.
As we joined Dani upon our descent, we were told the very ground we stood on was the sea of fog we saw from above earlier. Pretty unbelievable. Since we had so much time, we were going to go round the entire area. We drove past an entire of sand and dirt and the area opened up to a lush green field with a cluster of hills fully covered with greens.
The savannah area with what the locals termed as the teletubby hills. We were so captivated we walked right into it. The air was so fresh one could literally smell the grass in the air. This was in absolute contrast to where we were just a few minutes ago.
And they grew, wild and lush and tall. We each took a separate path and took pictures of each other walking among the tall lalangs. The hills looked so soft and inviting and I kept wondering if I could climb up one and just roll off to the grasslands below.
And this was what we saw underneath the sea of fog when we were up on Mt Penanjakan this morning. Apparently, this was the area where the toxicity of the volcano smog could not reach and with the eruptions previously, the area was covered in rich fertile soil, hence the lushness of the greens here. The hills around were pushed and formed each time the volcano erupted.
We hoped on back into the car and headed back where we came from. We stopped by the sand desert area which was definitely a stark contrast to the previous views.
We were told to listen as the wind blew. This area was called the whispering sands, such a romantic name. Where the wind swept past, we could see the marks on the soft sand that was made up mainly of volcanic ash. Nothing grew and except for a few sparsely spread out rocks, it was just endless stretches of black sand.
A little geography lesson here. The entire sand desert and savannah area used to be where the original volcano sat before it exploded and blew itself off. The ground movement created the surrounding mountains and hill which were pushed out of the ground. A few remained as active volcanoes where the heat continued to push through. Not too sure how accurate this is, or rather, how well I understood what I was actually told. In any case, it was a lesson learnt.
Heading back to our hotel, we were eager to get some shots of where stayed the night before. Sara had chosen Lava View as it had an amazing view of Mount Bromo. So do bear with me, one more shot of Mt Bromo before we leave for Mt Ijen.
A quick shower and the bed suddenly looked so inviting. For some strange reason, both of us fell asleep. A really short nap before we heard a distinct knock on the door. Time to move off again. I guessed I wasn’t expecting another long ride but it was again nightfall when we reached the hotel. We had plenty of snacks in the car and Dani was worried that we were not eating enough. He got us more tidbits and even ice-cream. Well, we were definitely taken very good care of. Oh, lots of nonsense in the car along the way too…. mainly teasing Sara for not knowing her birthplace well. It simply went on and on and on…..
It was once again nightfall by the time we reached the hotel. It was a homestay area in the midst of a coffee plantation research centre area, hence the name, Arabica Homestay. In comparison, the area was quieter than Bromo and according to Dani, because it involved real work to get to the summit, it was apparently less popular. I was definitely looking forward to the blue fire and the amazing sunrise. Dinner was simple but delicious. I had a huge bowl of rice. 🙂 We were deciding if we should rest early or have a beer before heading to bed. Finally decided on the latter.
Sara had a pleasant surprise when she saw Daniel. It had been 17 years since they last met. While they chatted, I went to grab a beer, or rather, Dani got it for me. 🙂 First impression of Daniel was he was really serious. A very studious and honest looking guy. He had been going up Mount Ijen every other month and it seems like Ijen looked different every time he was up there. Anyway, we enjoyed our beer and headed to bed as instructed. We needed to be up by 1am. Seriously having our days and nights totally reversed.
Sadly, it was raining and we could hear the rain as we got dressed. Disappointed we were wondering if we should still get ready or just crawl back into bed. I went out to find out if we were still heading out. Since we were already wide awake, we got dressed and packed and got to the main dining area. The guys were all ready too. I grabbed my morning coffee and was a little sad as we sat in silence. The other group of hikers were all getting ready to set off.
A little chat with Daniel and Dani threw us back into reality. The chances of seeing the blue fire were almost zero but I guessed we could still catch sunrise. We set off still hoping for a miracle. By the time we reached the foot, we had come to realisation that seeing the blue fire was impossible. We sat in the car, staring at the rain outside. As it would be too cold to wait for sunrise at the summit, we decided to wait it out in the car for a while. A bit unbelievable but we actually started watching Thor in the car. Pop mee got us out of the car to have breakfast and coffee.
Hehe, besides goggles, I actually have umbrella, heat packs and raincoat with me. My amazing Doraemon bag. All the items were put to good use this time. Walking up, it was cold and wet and miserable. And when we finally got to the crater, the view was definitely….. misty.
Well, even Daniel said he had never seen Ijen like this so we comforted ourselves. This was indeed a rare view. Daniel was busy pointing out to us what the surroundings would look like on a clear day. I guessed I can only take his word for it. 😉
Daniel decided we should move on and we could still go to the summit, the highest point of Ijen. We walked on in the fog. Dani was finding it funny that Sara and I were still laughing. According to him, we looked happier now than the day before when it was bright and sunny.
Every now and then, we would right up to the edge, hoping that the fog would clear up a little and the green lake would show up.
Well, we made it up here and now we would wait, still hopeful that the skies would clear eventually. This was to become our little fortress and shelter against the rain and cold winds.
And finally, we thought we saw something. The fog was moving and we saw a vague glimpse of hope. Well, at least the green showed up, just that little bit.
And we waited some more. It was a very tough decision but we finally decided it was time to turn back. We had spent a lot more time up here than intended and I guessed it was time to go. Sara and I both decided this meant that we would have to be back again. As we made our way back, we saw the sun behind a foggy veil. Well, a misty sunrise was much better than none. 🙂
Similar to Mt Bromo, the adjacent area just at the brim of the crater were all void of life. Everything was burnt or all dried up and the branches were all twisted up. But on the inner part, we could see lush greens growing. Again, where the toxic fumes were out of reach, life flourished. A beautifully formed spider web with the morning dews hanging on like a crystal jewelled chandelier. Only the web but no owner was in sight.
As we neared the main crater area, we realised the skies had cleared a little, probably the sunlight helped. The grounds were dried up and my guess is the crevices were where the water would run through. The yellow could be due to the presence of sulphur? Yes, I wasn’t really sure. Just a guess.
We came to the main mining area and I was surprised that the miners were working under such conditions. It was still drizzling and the ground still wet. It definitely wouldn’t be safe to walk all the way down to the crater in this condition. Moreover, these guys were carrying a load of at least 70-80kg of sulphur.
We stayed around for a little and I got myself some sulphur turtles as souvenirs. Some tourists were going down the crater even though there was a huge sign warning against that. Sara and I were not prepared to take the risk especially in this fog. We decided to descend. Found another web along the way down and again, no spiders. Wonder where they were all hiding.
It was dark, wet, cold and all fogged up when we ascended. Now that the skies were clearing up and it was bright, I could clearly see what surrounded us earlier this morning. The view was breathtaking.
And as I walked down, I kept repeating myself. I really did not not feel that I was in Indonesia. The weather, the views, the fact that there were no flies and no mosquitoes, I didn’t even feel I was still in tropical Asia. If I could, I would really love to roll and frolick in the greens.
We had been arriving at our lodges in the dark every night so this was the best chance we had to take some photos of the place. The garden had some really nice flowers.
We were running a little behind schedule as we had spent a really long time up on Ijen. The guys were suggesting not to shower and just packed, checked out and head to our next destination. We agreed but once we walked into our room, Sara and I decided we definitely need a quick shower. It seems that after we were all done, the guys were still nowhere in sight. We took our time, walked around and explored the area a little while we waited for Dani and Daniel.
We were going to explore a lesser known area Kawah Wurung. Frankly, I had no idea where we were heading to. And so, when after a super bumpy ride we reached the area, I was awestruck. It was beautiful and almost immediately, I wished I was staying here. This was my dream home.
The area was beautiful and here i felt a sense of freedom I had never felt anywhere else. Dani told me to walk the ground and i did exactly as told. Off came my sandals and I walked, feeling the grass and the soil beneath me. Other than the occasional cow dung to avoid, it was a really amazing feeling. 🙂 We came by an empty house and at that moment, how I wished that was mine. I could really stay here.
We went up a little hill nearby and finally, i found soft grass. I wasn’t about to start rolling down the hill though. I saw Dani sit at the edge and I went over. Using my sandals as my pillow, I lay there, taking in the fresh air and the sweet smell of the grass. The view was mesmerising but it wasn’t this that most captured me. It was the air around, the peace I was looking for. Here, I could sleep. Yes, I need to lose myself once again in order to be found. Trust me, I wish too that I know what I just said.
Although we did not get to stay at Jampit Guesthouse, Sara and I were determined to turn back to look at the place. We had both fallen in love with the place from photos that Sara picked out from the net. Unfortunately, because it was an old house, Dani and team had felt that it might be a bit spooky for just 2 girls to stay in a big old house. Somehow, both Sara and I picked up only the word spooky and we were definitely excited to go view what we termed the ghost house. Again I clarify, this was no haunted house, we simply made it up ourselves.
Arriving at the guesthouse, we first passed by a strawberry farm. I had no idea how, when and why but Dani managed to bribe the security guy to let us in. Totally not planned but we ended up picking strawberries and eating them.
Arriving at the old guesthouse. It had a old Dutch charm as Indonesia was once a Dutch colony and this was built way back in 1927. The timber architecture and the stone walls were distinctive. Perhaps our imagination but the old tree right in front did add to the spookiness. I was even imagining the curtains being drawn back from within the house. :p
But while we got our wish, what left the deepest impression was perhaps this fateful tree. I definitely provided a lot of laughter for everyone.
We took our time and Daniel was already up the tree with the step ladder. I saw Dani looking at the other taller tree and when he managed to climb up, I decided to follow suit. The way up was not tough but I soon learnt tree climbing was not just about going up. The tough part was down climbing. Needless to say, I was terribly stuck. Sara had a full documentary of my attempt to get back to ground but I was definitely not about to share it here. 🙂 Nevertheless, I still need to thank Daniel for lending me his shoulder and getting me down on firm ground again.
Oh, we finally found a spider and a really pretty one too. After my tree drama, we were running out of time and there wasn’t much else we could do. We dropped Daniel back at the hotel where he picked up his bike before setting off again. Dani was hoping to drive past the forested area before dark. It was going to be another long drive.
We arrived into town late and we were all starving. Deciding on seafood, we came to a really nice restaurant. And i thought it was a Chinese thing to order too much but the fish that Dani got us was huge. Too much food but everything was delicious. Our last night before we returned to Singapore and it was a really nice hotel. After 2 nights of barely sleeping, both Sara and I were tired out. It had been a fun and eventful day.
BALURAN NATIONAL PARK
Just as I was preparing for reality to set in and pack up my stuff to go home, Dani told us we were going to a national park. We finally had a good sleep and I woke up naturally at 7am. After the previous 2 nights of barely sleeping, the final night was almost a huge reward. I slept like a pig.
We had only a few hours to spare before we needed to set out to the airport. To be honest I wasn’t really expecting much. When we first drove in, Dani had said he wasn’t expecting much too. Somehow we got really really lucky.
This somehow reminded me of my safari in Tanzania. Monkeys were the first to get us all excited. Then it got really quiet. Our F1 driver had an obsession with birds and it seems that he knew most of their names. Dani said he was looking out for their nests and would really love to get his hands on them. Hmmm, not so good to be doing that in the national park. 🙂
We had our driver who was obsessed with birds and Dani who seems crazy about tamarind. And he was right, they were almost everywhere. After the rain and cold yesterday, today’s bright and sunny clear sky was very much welcomed. It was windy though and we soon discovered the reason.
A bridge that we came by that had a flutter of butterflies. I had never seen such a gathering before. We tried walking into them and they came back after the initial scare.
And we had been talking about Bali throughout the trip. Dani and Sara were surprised that I had been going to Bali this frequently. I was joking that I had not been to Bali this year, so Dani suggested that I go to the ferry terminal instead of the airport. Apparently, I would be able to cross the seas and Bali was actually that nearby. Right at the edge of the park and right across that seas, we could actually see Bali.
Dani was bringing us to the viewing tower where we could possibly see the entire park. This was located near the resort area. We readily told Dani if we were to come by next time, we wanted to stay in the park. I thought he looked more worried than surprised. We would probably be staying in the park with him somewhere else in town. :p
The view from the tower was magnificent. It was superbly windy though and I felt that I had to hold on to prevent myself from being blown off. From above, we spotted a herd of buffaloes and deers, both at different spots in the park. This was a good way to locate the roaming animals. And not forgetting, we now had a clear view of the seas beyond.
Coming back down, we headed towards the direction of where we had spotted the buffaloes. These were not easily seen most of the time and we were excited to come up close with these.
Next we headed towards the deers. Another amazing encounter up close.
Just as we thought it was an amazing morning, Dani told us there was one last area to head to within the park. He had mentioned spending only 2 hours here but I knew it was definitely way past 2 hours. And again, he gave us a nice surprise when he drove to the beach area. This was another resort area. Sara and I were already planning. One night at the viewing tower area where we get to enjoy the inlands and one night out here by the beach where we get to hear the crashing in of the waves. I was beginning to wonder how long a trip we would need next.
It was refreshing to be near the sea again. The swing was irresistible too. If only we were not heading back this afternoon, I would definitely jumped into the waters.
We were running out of time but there was one last short trail to cover, the mangrove swamp trail. I had never seen such a rich healthy swamp area. Do we use the word lush on this too?
And at the end of the walkway, it opens up the sea. It was high tide and the sea breeze felt so comfortable on my face.
One last climb for the boys before we head back. And this time round, I kept myself in check. No monkeying around for me this time.
We stopped by the inland resort to take a final shot with the skull rack.
A long long drive back to Surabaya airport where we would head back to Singapore. This marked the end of our trip but as we promised Dani, we would definitely be back again soon. It had been a wonderful experience with Our Trip 1st and I would definitely recommend anyone intending to explore East Java to contact Dani and team.