We had left our big backpacks at the adorable hostel called Ratih Bali in Denpasar so after grabbing them and saying goodbye to our wonderfully old and slow hostel owner we headed on his instruction to the back of Bali’s Ubung bus terminal.
There we found a big coach which we took for about 30 mins of solid traffic before transferring to another cramped and chilly coach which took us all the way to the very west of Bali.
Hoping we were heading in the right direction, we transferred onto a ferry for a 20 minute ride and an Indonesian pop mie (pot noodle) surrounded by chain smoking passengers before finally arriving into Javanese waters. A tiny yellow mini van with doors that didn’t close then trundled us to our home stay in a gorgeous village where we could finally crash for the night.
Volcano number 1; Kawah Ijen
Our home stay, Osing Vacation, was run by the incredibly helpful Ben and his wife who cooked the best Indonesian breakfast feasts. We had an encounter with our first cockroach there and a spider the size of my head in the bathroom but I guess it was about time we had to meet the super sized Indonesian insects. Our lovely host family pretty much sorted out our trip to the volcanic crater for us including our guide Sam who was an absolutely hilarious character so all we had to manage was the 1am wake up call. We spent a lot of our trek teaching English and singing head shoulders knees and toes which definitely helped with the more strenuous parts of the trip! The smell of sulfur was pretty strong in the air as we reached our first stop, along the way we passed plenty of sulfur miners on our trek carrying huge baskets of the crisp yellow chemical using makeshift scarves as masks to cover their mouths from the fumes. We soon arrived to the top of the crater and as Sam proudly confirmed, we were the first (and therefore the fastest) tourists there! As a consequence we had the best views of these amazing blue sulfur flames darting across our smoky view. Being so close to the sulfur meant we had to wear gas masks which was a little unsettling and made breathing pretty tricky when ascending to the second peak. We did however manage a quick stop to sneak in some TimTams under the rubber mask as a little 4am energy boost!
We soon made it to the final point of our trek with a view over an incredibly otherworld-ly turquoise acid lake as the sun began to rise. Sam was an excellently thorough photographer and commenced on a grand photo shoot of sara ad I which was hilarious and has featured nicely in Sara’s current feature length Indonesia Go-Pro film. We then made it back to the jeep where our guide promptly fell fast asleep most likely in preparation to take another group up the following day.
Volcano 2 and 3; Mount Bromo and the surrounding trek routes
The next leg of our trip began with a lovely clean and efficient train journey to the town of Probollingo where we managed to then haggle down a cheap mini bus to the bus station. There we had a choice of paying ten times the price of a second little bus to get a private car to Bromo or waiting until 13 other tourists turned up to share the costs. Being in no rush we opted to wait and sure enough about 4 sweaty hours later the bus was full and we trundled up mountain roads to reach the village of Cemoro Lewang in Mount Bromo’s village region to finally crash in our big double bed and get some proper sleep.
Having driven to our hostel in the dark we weren’t prepared for the gorgeous mountain views right outside our rooms as we woke! Being Ramadan most breakfast places were closed so we made do with a borrowed flask of hot water to make coffee and found a little corner store with bread to make sandwiches with peanut butter and vegimite (I don’t think I have travelled without a jar of peanut butter lurking in my bag since leaving India!). There we settled feeling very satisfied with life listening to desert island discs in the sunshine with sublime mountain views!
We had been advised by various travellers and travel blogs that you didn’t need a guide for Mount Bromo but nothing was made very clear as to actually how the trek would work and how you could avoid the exorbitant fees suounding it. Eventually we worked out that there were two different walks; the actual trek of the volcano and a second trek to a nearby spot to watch the sunrise over Bromo itself.
With a whole day to spare and having finally worked this out we packed bags of water and biscuits and began our first walk. As recommended by plenty of bloggers we sneaked past the x hotel to a winding dirt track that leads down to the sea of sand which is this gorgeous moon scape landscape of a desert joining Cemoro Lawang to Bromo and its neighbouring volcanos. This was one of the most unbelievably sublime sights I have experienced yet with literally no other people around and this crazy feeling of being on an entirely different planet. We eventually reached the foot of Bromo past a beautiful temple and began our ascent up the steep stone steps. Nothing could have prepared us for the roar of the volcano when we reached its crater and it suddenly became very clear that it was definitely active! Our legs were both shaking as we stood at the top and with a very low barrier to keep us from tumbling down and the resonating knowledge of its eruption only two years prior its safe to say we didn’t spend long up on the crater lip!
We eventually retraced our steps with adrenaline pumping and headed back to reward ourselves with the usual bargain Nasi goreng dinner! The next day we woke up horribly early to commence on another sunrise hike. This however was unelievably steep and painful as we dragged our feet up flanked by stray dogs. Definitely nowhere near as enjoyable as our previous sunrises and with such a beautiful walk the day before it definitely didn’t compare. Still, at this point since Bali’s Mount Batur we had 4 Volcanoes completed so felt incredibly proud and slightly smug despite the pain! When we reached our lovely hostel back in Cemoro Lewang we were very ready for a sleep so headed back for a shower and a final hot coffee with a view before a bumpy bus, yellow mini bus and two long trains to our next city Yogyakarta. The journey was wholly improved by steaming bowls of Nasi soto ayam (rice chicken soup) outside the train station!
With plenty of early mornings under our belt we had a very leisurely start to the day grabbing breakfast at lunch time on the roof of our hostel. In a bid to save money after a hostel in a great location we swiftly made a move to a huge hostel much more out of the way it for three quid a night with the best rooftop fried rice breakfasts!
What to do in Yogyakarta
In the city…
Make sure you visit Pasar Beringharjo market for great views of city life
Potter around boomerang book shop for great book exchange deals as well s lovely homemade gifts
Pop next door for phenomena fried bananas and vanilla milkshakes at Wanderlust cafe
Try the local speciality of jackfruit curry at the night market
Pop in to Oxen Free bar for great live music and happy hour Bintangs
If you are travelling around June check out the Jogja National Gallery for ARTJOG which is a huge contemporary art festival with amazing exhibitions featuring live music, theatre, fine art, sculpture and film
Eat from the street-food stalls dotted about the city where you can take-away delicious noodle and rice dishes wrapped in little paper packages!
Outside the city…
Visit Borobudur – a lovey buddhist Stupa complex. This is very easy to get to just using two busses, the first out to A central bus station and the second to a bus station just a short walk from the temple and maps.me
The price is using continuously here but was $15 for a student and $25 for an adult when we went. We both felt that for our experience i was overpriced and for the crazily expensive sunrise tours would have definitely not been worth it but perhaps this is demonstrative of our slight temple fatigue a this point when temples are just overrun with group tours and selfie sticks so none of the peaceful spiritual nature we experienced in India.
(Photos will follow when wifi is better!)