I’m not exactly Miss Outdoors, but considering Indonesia is home to hundreds of active volcanoes and is a fabled part of the “Ring of Fire,” I felt it was only appropriate for me to check out a few of them. Two of the most accessible were on my route from Java to Bali, so I had no excuses. From Yogyakarta, I booked a 2-day 3-night tour that would deposit me in Bali after I had visited Mt. Bromo and Kawah Ijen, two of the most famous and popular volcanos on Java. I was a bit concerned about falling in, because let’s face it, if anyone was going to fall in, it was going to be me but I decided it suck it up and go trekking anyway. I’m really glad I did, because even though it didn’t go according to plan, it was still an adventure.
Mt. Bromo was my first stop en route to Bali. I arrived later in the evening and was woken up at 3 AM for the journey up the mountain for the sunrise. I was picked up in a 4 wheel drive jeep for what may have been the most terrifying ride of my life. Because of our altitude, we were driving through the clouds themselves, and even with the headlights on, we could only see at most five feet ahead of us. I was convinced we were about to plummet off of the cliff. Thankfully, we arrived at the top in one piece. It was crowded up top, but after some poking around, I found that if I climbed under the barrier, I had an unobstructed view of the sunrise. And what a sunrise it was! It came up over the cloud-filled caldera, turning the gray peak behind it pink in the process. Simply stunning.
Post-sunrise, we were driven to the start of the hike, which began in an ashy plain. Because I was back at cloud level, I could barely see ten feet in front of me, but as I gained altitude, the clouds slipped away. Finally, I made it to the top where I could see the steam coming from the vent. An awe-inspiring view, plus a great place to take pictures.
I also enjoyed the religious offerings to the volcano. Although Java is generally Muslim and these are more common in Hindu Bali, it was great to see them at Bromo.
Mt. Bromo was stunning and absolutely worth the time and price (~$300 all together) of the trip.
Volcano #2 didn’t go exactly according to plan. Kawah Ijen was about five hours from Bromo. It was a beautiful drive up to the crater, and I loved watching the misty emerald rice paddies and shocking pink flowers turn gradually to alpine forests of pine and lava-covered rock. I got out of the car near the top and began the hike to the sulfur lake. In addition to being an active volcano, the lake is a working sulfur mine, so on my way up, I passed many miners carrying hefty loads down the mountain.
The hike was taxing, but not too taxing to where I didn’t notice that something strange was going on. People were coming down from the crater quickly, and the miners weren’t going back up. Finally, an Indonesian tour guide stopped me.
“Miss,” he said, “there’s a forest fire. The crater is closed. You need to go down the mountain NOW.” Looking up, I could see a big plume of smoke on the hill. I just assumed it was part of the volcano, but apparently the trees had caught fire and it was rapidly spreading downhill. According to the guide, a few miners had already been burned and it was imperative I start back down immediately before the fire continued down the hillside. Because the path was slippery, I couldn’t quite run, but I booked it down as fast as I could. Sure, it was disappointing, but Mother Nature is nothing if not unpredictable. I wish I could have seen Ijen, but I guess it will just have to wait for my next trip to Indonesia.