– 15th March 2015
How glad we were to finally be boarding a train again. The
coaches and minibuses of Indonesia had really started to get old. Sure you see
some funny people and awesome landscapes along the way but for anyone over four
foot tall the prospect of having to spend whole days crunched up in the fetal
position in a vehicle driven by a suicidal child takes its toll after a while.
The last train we had caught was from Ayutthaya to Bangkok and after almost
three months it felt like catching up with an old friend.
|The quiet village near Kampung Osing Inn|
|Come on guys. Hi Ho, Hi Ho its off to work we go!|
Since we first set
our sights on this trip it had been our intention to trek a volcano and in Java
there were plenty to choose from. Should we stay in Yogyakarta and hike Mt
Merapi, head East to Mt Bromo or even further East to Mt Ijen? In the end we
opted for the latter.
|Jono doing his impression of Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody|
It took around
thirteen hours for our economy train to reach the coastal town of Banyuwangi.
It wasn’t the most spacious of carriages but at £2.50 a ticket you can’t complain. As
with the buses it was still slow going but at least you’re able to wander
around, grab some food from the restaurant cart or just sit down and people
watch while listening to Indonesian commuters play acoustic guitars and cover
great tracks in Chinglish.
|Dude was that you who farted?|
We arrived in Banyuwangi at around 21:00 and followed the advice of Tom (fellow overlander we met in Jakarta) and headed to the nearby “Kampung Osing Inn” for a room. If you’re only planning on stopping one night for the volcano Kampung Osing is the perfect place to base yourself. This super cheap family run guesthouse has really basic rooms with shared bathrooms and offers a free breakfast of banana pancakes. If the pancakes don’t convince you then its location in a sleepy village outside the bustling town surrounded by rice fields will. We grabbed a bemo to our new guesthouse with Dutch girls Milou and Cilie who we had originally met in Yogyakarta but had bumped into again on the train. They had chosen to trek Mt Bromo and travel to Banyuwangi all in one day. It makes for a knackering day but it does mean you press on towards Bali in one large jump. As it was late in the day and we had no urgent timeframe Jono and I decided to have a lazy day in the village before attempting the climb up Mt Ijen.
|Stunning view of the chloride lake|
|The hills are alive with the smell of eggs!|
Our group set off from the guesthouse at 1am the following morning and arrived at the trail entrance an hour later. Our guides provided head torches as it was naturally pretty dark when we started the steep climb all the way to the crater edge. The guides take it steady so despite the constant gradient the walk is pretty easy. Every now and then our group would have to make way for one of the many sulpur miners carrying incredible loads on their shoulders. These guys are some of the worst paid workers in the world and considering the effort it takes and the everyday risks to return home with 900 rupiah
per kilogram (4p) of the mustard
yellow resource is a clear case of human exploitation. To ensure they return
home with enough cash to survive these super humans carry on average 90kg per
load rain or shine, day in day out, traversing thin mountain trails strewn with
loose boulders, steep ravines and toxic fumes. Even their equipment is limited
to a bamboo basket, coat, jeans, flip flops and a pack of smokes. I guess when
you have to put up with sulphur monoxide fumes having the odd cigarette must be
like grabbing a breath of fresh air.
|The miners below|
|Totally worth the effort|
Being foreign pansies
our guide was kind enough to provide us with gas masks to block out the worst
of the sulfurous atmosphere and after trekking down to the crater base to see a
sulphur mine in action it was not long before we had to backtrack to the crater
rim for the sunrise and a spectacular view of the chloride lake. We were
extremely lucky to have a clear morning during the rainy season and as the morning
sun crept over an adjacent peak its warming rays slowly illuminated the turquoise
acidic water, peeled back the dense layer of sulphuric fog and allowed us to
overlook the workers beavering about the mustard tinged strata. An everyday
scene for the families working here but for a couple of shire folk
(Northamptonshire folk) it was an image forever etched into our memory.
|The lifeless forest. well apart from the monkeys|
|No this is not an optical illusion. Just two sets of twins.|
Banyuwangi is a convenient pit stop for most travelers in the region not just for the volcano but also because the town is home to a ferry terminal linking Java to Bali and after a quick breakfast, a taxi ride and a 40p car ferry had made landfall in Bali.
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