Part of our Indonesia trip was spent on the island of Java. We were attracted to two volcanoes on the island: Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen. Each had an appeal to them and great reviews of the sights, so we spent some time finding the perfect guide to take us there. This was going to be an epic trip so we needed an epic guide to show us the ropes!
After some research/Facebook stalking/review reading, we settled on Pierrick Bigot as our guide for this trip. We found out about him from another travel blog when we were looking into trips in Java. Pierrick works with a company named IndoTravelTeam and takes groups on trips from Bali to Java to see these volcanoes. We opted for a 3 day, 2 night trip with Pierrick and some other folks who were out to see the same sights.
On the first day, Pierrick and his driver picked us up at our hotel in Bali at 6 am. We hopped in a 14 passenger van with a bunch of strangers and headed out for a long day’s drive. Our drive took us all the way west across Bali, onto a ferry to Java, then further west along Java. This included multiple pit stops for snacks and toilet breaks (and our first of many encounters with squat toilets) and a lunch break as well.
Along the drive we slowly started getting to know our travel companions. From the adorable French couple to the quiet Russian couple and also the extremely friendly and well-traveled Australian-born girls that were close to our age. After a long day of travel we arrived near Bromo around 4 pm, got settled into our “villa” – a 4 room building, one room for each set of people, complete with a shower head (no designated shower area, just a small tiled room) with a bucket, a scoop and part of a toilet that did not have a flush valve. This resulted in us spending a good 30 minutes giggling about how we use such a toilet, debating taking Imodium to avoid ever having to use that toilet and then more immature jokes. Soon after we headed to dinner at a local warung (a local spot to grab a quick bite).
We settled in to sleep fairly early and had a 3 am wake up call the next morning. We all climbed into some Jeeps and headed out on our first adventure of the day. We drove up a nearby crater wall and bundled up in beanies, gloves and jackets to watch the sunrise over Mount Bromo and the nearby volcanoes. We spent the next hour or two quietly watching the sunrise, watching clouds roll in and out and seeing the smoke billowing out of Mount Bromo. It was relaxing and beautiful… and something we never thought we would get to experience.
Our Jeeps took us near the base of Mount Bromo next. We walked across the sand and up the side of Bromo, including 250 steps to the top and looked straight down into an active volcano! Kerry was a bit off and didn’t have her “hiking legs” that day, so she opted to skip the walk around the rim of the volcano. Jenny was a trooper though and went onward to experience everything Bromo had to offer! While Jenny hiked, saw amazing sites and took tons of killer photos, Kerry waited near the base of Bromo and talked with locals and had some photos taken with them (talk about feeling famous!)
We headed back to town and had breakfast at the same warung we ate at the night before. This time he had homemade pancakes, aka crepes, filled with fresh bananas and topped with chocolate. It was such an amazing breakfast feast! After we were completely stuffed, we packed up at the villa and headed out for our next destination. We drove for several hours and arrived at our hotel for the next night (afternoon) of sleep. We checked in around 3 pm and Pierrick said he would bring us our dinner for the night. The plan was to leave at midnight, so we had to sleep some bizarre hours in order to get rest for the next hike. The bathroom situation at this hotel was a bit more favorable (flush toilet) and we were pretty excited about this!
We cleaned up, laid out clothes for the next day and tried to fall asleep by 4 pm. We both got some sleep in before our 11:45 pm wake up call and midnight departure. Two hours later we rolled into the Kawah Ijen base camp and got to sleep a little more before our hike started.
Kawah Ijen is currently in an “eruptive” state and highly active. We don’t know when the next eruption will be, but we were told we would not be able to hike down into the crater on this trip since it is so active. The hike included a long, steep uphill trek for almost an hour, then about 20 minutes of fairly flat hiking to the edge of the crater.
The main draw of Kawah Ijen was the blue flames that come out of the crater and are only visible before the sun comes up. We arrived at the crater a bit after 4 am and saw miners working to carry sulfur out of the crater, a small blue blame and a whole lot of gas. So much that we had to wear gas masks for quite some time!
After we saw the blue flames, we hiked up a bit further in hopes to see the sunset on the top of Ijen. We learned that it was a rather foggy day… such is life. We know that it is unrealistic to expect the best weather everywhere we travel, so we stuck it out on top of the volcano in hopes the winds would push the fog and clouds in order for us to see the lake at the top of the crater, and we were finally able to see some of the green lake and the sulfur rings in the water.
On our way back down, we got to see several sulfur miners rising from inside the crater on one of their many loads of the day. One even stopped to let us lift the sulfur that he had just mined and gathered and even posed for a pic with us.
On our excursion up Mount Ijen, we had a guide named Harry. He was an ex-sulfur miner turned guide, and a very patient and kind man. He even showed us the evidence left upon his collarbone from his mining days…a huge indentation on his upper left shoulder. He walked along side us on our hike up, ensuring that we were ok and ready to help out at any point. He guided us to the blue flame, became our personal photographer, and talked us into staying at the top until the fog cleared, which was well worth the couple hour long wait.
We had such a great experience on this 3D/2N trip with IndoTravelTeam. Pierrick was incredibly friendly and helpful, always checking on us, providing us with way too much (delicious) food, giving us useful insights into the volcanoes, the culture and answering every question we had. We could not have asked for a more friendly, entertaining and supportive group to travel with in Java!
We have had an incredible time discovering so many sights in Indonesia. There is so much to see and do here and we feel like there is so much more to discover (on a future trip hopefully!).
We head to Phuket, Thailand next and couldn’t be more excited about seeing so many great sights, beaches, islands and having incredible cultural experiences!
~Kerry & Jenny