So far, this has been a year of many firsts.
First time overseas with my favourite girlfriends, first time to Taiwan, Germany & Vietnam (which surprised a lot of friends cos they think that I only like visiting cold countries), and this trip, my first time hiking up a mountain!
If you ask me, I probably wouldn’t have planned this in a million years because I’m just not sporty. I cannot count with 2 hands the number of people who’ve expressed their shock at this piece of information. But hey, if Evonne can “climb a mountain”, so can you!
If you were to ask the typical Singaporean whether they’ve been to Indonesia and where, they would most likely respond with the typical answer of “Bali” or “Bintan” – and that would be my exact reply too, hahaha. This trip though, have opened my eyes to the bountiful sights Indonesia has to offer.
We were blessed that Nuffnang Singapore Blogger’s trip to East Java, organized jointly by Garuda Indonesia and Visit Indonesia Tourism Office, was all well planned for – from flights, food, to transport on land and even our insurance (IMPORTANT!) were covered by ACE Insurance – all I had to do was to soak up the beauty and culture of East Java with my fellow Nuffnang Bloggeratis!
In the span of 5 days / 4 nights, we scaled the famous Ijen Crater, got a fabulous view of Mt Bromo and the surrounding spots of interest (Whispering sands), and then to explore what Malang & Surabaya has to offer!
P.S. Did you know that Indonesia has over 18,000 islands?
If you were to spend 1 day on each island alone, it would take you 50 years to finish exploring everything!
I know there has been a lot of aviation scared recently, but I knew that I could trust Garuda, since they were pretty well known, with an extensive flight network as the 20th member of the SkyTeam alliance, with a modern and young fleet of technologically advanced aircraft!
We were pleasantly surprised by the Business Class seats they offered us – it’s actually my first time on business class! Garuda Indonesia is NOT a LCC (low cost carrier), so you can rest assured that your business class seats are comfortable!
There are many ways of getting to the city where Kawah Ijen is nearest to, but the route planned for us was to board a flight on Garuda Airlines from Singapore to Denpasar (yes Bali, Ngurah Rai International Airport), where we would then take a smaller propeller plane from Denpasar to Banyuwangi (Blimbingsari Airport)!
There was a short wait between flights at Denpasar and Banyuwangi, so Garuda actually arranged a small surprise for us – lunch outside the airport, at Kuta, Bali! It was a very quick drive out from the airport – it was literally around the corner.
“Banyuwangi (Fragrant Water) is at the easternmost tip of Java, and is best known for its ferry connection at Ketapang to Gilimanuk in Bali. This area has a lot more to offer though and it is becoming better known as a visitor destination in its own right. Banyuwangi is also the gateway to some stunning volcanic scenery on the Ijen Plateau as well as the main access point for the Baluran National Park, world renowned surfing at G-Land (Grajagan), and the remote Alas Purwo National Park. – Wikitravel“
By then it was almost 9pm and we really needed to prepare, and then catch up on our sleep as we start our hike at midnight! YES MIDNIGHT!
What to wear for hiking up Kawah Ijen? I was told that it’s around 2 – 8 degrees, but it didn’t feel like it at all, so it really wasn’t necessary to go all arctic expedition here. It gets warm when the sun rises and also when you’re hiking up, so I decided to layer smartly.
- Comfy shoes with a GOOD GRIP on the SOLE (also, preferably wear ankle socks, or something high so that you don’t get abrasions at the back of your feet (I didn’t, sensitivity differs from person to person) and less dirt on your feet)
- Layers – I had on a relatively thin windproof jacket from Under Armour, but a fleece layer inside (which I later took off halfway up the hike)
- Neck warmer (mine’s a balaclava from north face, you can bring a scarf but i found this most convenient)
- Beanie (to keep your head warm and lose less heat, however I didn’t really wear this in the end. Also protects your head from all the dust)
- Tights / Comfy pants (anything that wouldn’t obstruct you from climbing – I personally didn’t find thick woolen layers or windproof pants necessary)
I would think that if I had known about the slippery downslopes earlier, I might have brought some padding for my knees too because we nearly slipped a few times! Heat pack to me weren’t necessary because you get hot and sweaty really fast hiking up!
When I first showed my husband what I’d intended to bring along for my hike, he laughed at me.
What a terrible person. But later on I realized he was right… *sigh* let’s review what I brought along:
- Mask (necessity, because of the sulfur fumes + volcanic dust/fine soil around)
- Portable WiFi (not necessary but good to have)
- Portable charger (you won’t even be using your phone much actually)
- Towel (Negligible weight so just bring along)
- Water (Important)
- Weatherproof Camera (missing cos I’m using it to take this picture)
- Secondary camera (it’s a HTC RE, which i wanted to use for taking videos of the sunrise while main camera shoots stills)
- Zoom Lens (Unnecessary – JUST GET ONE GOOD LENS AND FIX IT ONTO YOUR CAMERA)
- Tripod (GOOD TO HAVE if you’re doing astrophotography)
- Spare batteries/SD card, plasters, money (for the miners, if you want to)
- Sunblock, nutmeg balm (just in case), eyedrops, wet wipes (important)
- Snickers (for energy)
- Torchlight (necessity! even better if you have the ones that you attach on your head)
- Backpack to store everything (it’s important to note that this should be washable or at least easy to clean)
I think I could have done away with at least 1KG from all the unnecessary items! Sigh. Thank god I had the guys to help me along (more about that later haha)
The weatherproof part for the camera wasn’t exactly necessary, but the Olympus OMD EM5 MKII was weatherproof anyway so it was a really good plus. I have a friend who went, encountered a sandstorm, fine sand got into the camera and killed it – so I wasn’t taking any risks. And after this PLUS Bromo, I really thank god that I have a weatherproof camera with me because I didn’t have to overly care for it.
I took a quick shower (20 mins), blew dry my hair (20 mins), packed my stuff (15 mins) and tried to hop into bed ASAP but I ended up sleeping all of 2 hours before we had to meet in the lobby of Hotel Santika (12.30am).
The bumpy jeep ride (seats 5 persons, excluding driver) up to Pos Paltuding, (where we start hiking) took approximately 1 hour from Hotel Santika Banyuwangi.
“West of Gunung Merapi is the Ijen volcano, which has a one-kilometer-wide turquoise-colored acidic crater lake. The lake is the site of a labor-intensive sulfur mining operation, in which sulfur-laden baskets are carried by hand from the crater floor. The lake is recognised as the largest highly acidic crater lake in the world.” – Wikipedia
Kawah Ijen is made popular with tourists after a feature on TV, showing it as one of the only 2 locations in the world with “blue flames”. The blue flames aren’t lava – they are actually light, created by the combustion of sulfuric gases when it comes into contact with air that’s being released through the cracks at high pressure. For a series of beautiful images by Olivier Grunewald, click here (because I wasn’t able to get down the crater of Kawah Ijen to take pictures)
The hike up to Kawah Ijen from Pos Paltuding base is about 3.2km long, and you’ll need 2-3 hours to reach the rim of the volcano, depending on your speed. The sun rises at about 4.30am, which meant that you NEED to start early or you’ll miss the famous blue flames as it’s no longer visible once the sun is up!
We arrive at Pos Paltuding at about 1.30 / 1.45am. Pos Paltuding which is also a base camp with shower facilities to sleep over should you wish to begin here instead of staying at a nearby (and more comfortable) hotel like we did. We all took turns to use the lavatory (if it can be called one – it’s more of a just a floor with a drain for you to pee on) before we started the climb as it’s hard to find a toilet once you begin your journey.
And we began our hike up, in the dark – when I first hopped off the jeep after arrival at base camp, I was awed by the display of stars above me, and it only got prettier and prettier as we hiked up the trail. It wasn’t a bed of roses for sure, but I had severely underestimated the 90 degree slopes! I was way, way, way behind the first group, taking 10 second rests for every 10 steps climbed, panting for air between cursing my weak calves, and also really thankful for Randy who was practically my handrail the entire way up the mountain! And Chuanren the photog who carried my camera. And Andy who helped me with my tripod. And the guide, who stayed behind with us and even offered to carry my entire backpack for me. I said no in an effort to preserve any last bit of dignity I have! Now you see why I say don’t bring so much stuff… or just bring along a man or two with you. XD
The climb up started easy, then slowly became full of really steep upward slopes – as we neared the top, the slope’s incline began to level a bit more and it got easier. So it’s sort of like BEGINNER > EXTREMELY DIFFICULT > EASY MODE going uphill. And mind you, there were no railings at all on the side! It began to get dustier and dustier as we scaled – when we were about 3/4 uphill, you could smell the difference in air quality! I strapped on my mask at this point to protect myself.
If you don’t have a mask, you need not worry – there are masks for rental and you wouldn’t miss them. It was about 20,000 rupiah for a gas mask, though I cannot be sure if they changed the filters or not so… I would still suggest that you bring your own. $50 for your own safety is a small amount to pay!
The trail would be chicken feet for people who exercise a lot and have relatively good stamina – I was probably the weakest link in the group, and made it just in time to the crater’s rim at 2368,m above sea level . I probably had a good 30mins before the sun started to rise, but I really didn’t want to go down the crater (which would take another 30 minutes) because I was afraid of falling.
I had wanted to stay at the rim of the crater and grab pictures of the amazing stars in the sky (SO CLEAR SO BRIGHT) BUT Andy went down with my tripod before I could ask for it, so… I had no tripod.
I decided to make an attempt to descend, and managed to make it down just maybe 50 steps before I gave up and crouched at a corner for pictures because I was too slow – the sun was already beginning to rise, and it would be pointless as the blue flames would no longer be visible.
I think you can clearly see why the 12-40 wasn’t enough to capture the blue flames, especially not this far away from it! I had a longer zoom lens in my bag, but you woudn’t want to expose your lenses as it’s really quite dusty at this point.
The descent wasn’t an easy one, either. It was definitely faster than going up, but you still had to be very careful, as the sand granules were so fine that they practically offered no grip.
Remember the 90 degree incline upslope? THEY ARE NOW 90 DEGREE DOWNSLOPES. You probably could slid down faster, but I wasn’t about to risk my ankles and thus walked very carefully. As careful as we were, we still had a few injuries (even the guide slipped and grazed his leg!). Thank god for the planner who assisted me downslope!
I have a confession to make. Remember I said this was a year of many firsts?
… I created another first – my first time peeing on a mountain, in the wild. *blushes red*
In my defence, I finished half a bottle of water and I had held my pee for at least 4.5 hours by now!!! I thought that there would be a midpoint post with a toilet somewhere, but NOPE! So I had to get Dayu to help me keep a look out while I uh, relieved myself. T_T I’m not very proud of myself and the whole time I was muttering sorry to nobody in particular. Aiyeeeesh.
Next up, Mt Bromo!
We took the jeep back to Hotel Santika Banyuwangi at around 830am and reached at about 930, where I grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel in my dirty clothes before showering up in the room, and doing some final packing before checking out at 11am. It really wasn’t easy getting the gunk out of my hair and off my body – and I had to clean my jacket and shoes before wearing them again for bromo tomorrow! Yikes!
There was practically no time to snooze – however, to get to Bromo, we had to take a 5 hour bus ride… Which somehow became a 7 hour bus ride and gave us more time to catch up with some sleep! We spent a good part of the 7 hours aboard the comfy big bus with reclining seats, and only transferred to a smaller bus at a terminal as the bigger bus was unable to go up the narrow roads where the mountain lodges were.
We finally reached Jiwa Jawa Banana Lodge at almost 7pm, and boy, was it cold or what?! They weren’t kidding when they said it was cold, and I understood why there were people hawking gloves and beanies at the bus terminal where we did a quick bus switch!
The Jiwa Jawa Banana Lodge (also known as Java Banana Lodge) was at 2000m above sea level, hence really chilly at night. It was about 10 degrees! A warm cup of ginger tea never felt more appropriate and comforting!
Quickly prepared my stuff and instantly tried to go to bed asap – not that hard since we had spotty internet connection anyway, haha. By the time I got to bed after cleaning up my shoes and gear further for Bromo, it was around 12mn *shocked emoji face*. I had to be ready and leave the lodge by 2.30am! Yikes.
Well, this post is getting REALLY long, so Day 3 (Bromo) would be a story for another day!
Promos & Discounts!
However, if you’re already keen on hiking up Ijen and following the route we took, here are some discount codes!
If you have any more questions, please ask away in the comments section!
Special promo price: SGD 350 (all inclusive)
Booking period: From now till 31 Oct 15
Travel period: From now till Mar 16
Departure: Singapore -> Denpasar (Bali) –> Banyuwangi
Return: Surabaya –> Singapore
Booking details: Tickets are available for purchase at Garuda ticketing office
(101 Thomson Road #12-03 United Square)
or via the reservation hotline +65 6250 2888.
Promo code: Please quote ‘GANuffnang’ when booking
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for information
Kawah Ijen Entrance Ticket:
Weekday: IDR 100000/pax
Weekend: IDR 150000/pax
Local Transport (jeep, trooper): IDR 75.000
20% off Single Trip Plan* OR 10% off Annual Plan
*Not applicable to Basic Plan for Malaysia/Batam/Bintan
All images in this post shot with an Olympus OMD EM5 MKII + 12-40mm (mostly) & 17mm lenses.