Climbing Volcanoes in East Java
At the top, in all the sulphurous smoke
After a blissful week or so on Bali, relaxing with friends and eating our heads off, our friend Heinz (who was also our host at Rumah Bali Resort in Nusa Dua), his son Fabian and a small assortment of other friends and workmates took us off to East Java to climb a volcano. It wasn't the first one we'd climbed in Indonesia with Heinz. We did another in Bali many years ago.
Heinz, photographing Kawah Ijen the next morning
Piling into a minivan with enough photographic gear to outfit an expedition (Heinz and Fabian are also keen photographers) we set up the southwestern highway, heading for Gilimanuk to take the ferry over to East Java. I'm glad I didn't have to drive that road. One lane each way, with trucks hurtling towards us in our lane a common sight. I learned not to look - especially when our driver giggled!
Kawah Ijen from inside the caldera. Early morning
Once over the strait we headed up through small villages to the caldera of an enormous volcano; Kawah Ijen. The part you climb to get to the sulphur lake is only a small fraction of the volcano complex. The slopes of the main crater and much of the caldera is covered with coffee plants. There are several villages inside this area and a resort inside a coffee plantation complex, which mainly services those who plan on climbing.
Coffee plants; flower and unripe berries
It was before 2 am when we assembled in the dark, and it was freezing! Yes, we were in Indonesia, but we were way up in the mountains, and it was COLD. Coffee would warm us up - but alas, in the middle of a coffee plantation, they had inexplicably run out!
The minibus took us back to the 'base camp' where hundreds of people were preparing to climb that morning. Coffee and fried bananas were sourced and we were off. Because I would be slower to climb than Mike or Heinz, I was assigned Rudi, an ex-sulphur porter and Made, Heinz's right hand man, to ensure my safety and assist me. They stuck to me like glue and thank goodness they did. I wouldn't have been able to make it without them.
Mike will write a blog about the sulphur porters of Kawah Ijen. They deserve a blog all of their own.