The best trip (to date) I’ve been on, and probably my worst (to date)
Back in 2017, I (Steff) spent some time travelling round SE Asia and Indonesia. I had recently broken up with my long term partner and it felt like going Travelling was the right thing to do. I mean, I had dreamed for years about going Travelling but was always held back by my then partner. So now that person wasn’t holding me back, what was stopping me!? NOTHING! So off I went, taking a 3 month sabbatical from work, doing what had always dreamed of. And you know what, fuck my life, it was probably the best thing I have ever done (hence why I am getting ready to do it all over again, except this time for longer and with my beautiful partner Ella).
In these three months I experienced some of the best times (and some of the lowest) times of my life. But there is one particular story that sticks out. It sticks out for its achievement, it’s hard work, its determination and its poo. Yes poo, you got that right, I said poo… but we’ll get to that bit in a minute!
Whilst in Java, Fran and I kept hearing about this ‘blue flame’ and wondered what it was all about. So we did a bit of research and asking around. Turns out that this blue flame is a phenomenon that happens in the early hours of the morning deep in the crater of Ijen. So we headed to a tour operator in Yogyakarta and booked our tour. We opted for the Mount Bromo and Ijen Crater tour and could add on the optional blue flame tour if we liked. After doing a bit of research we decided that it was all a bit too risky as a lot of people had said about how the sulphur really irritated their eyes and throat! Plus the fact you had to be up at 1am, so taking into consideration the day before we would have been climbing Mount Bromo and wouldn’t get to our next place of rest until 8pm the day before the Ijen tour, we felt we were much too under prepared as novice hikers to indulge in that. So the sunrise tour it was! (We still had to get up at 3.30am!)
The trip started with us taking a 9 hour train journey to Probolingo, and even though we traveled in economy (the first train ride we did Jakarta to Yogyakarta we were in business class) it really wasn’t THAT bad, I mean you’re in the middle of Java so the landscape was enough to keep you entertained for the majority of it!
The views of Java from the train
Once we got to Probolingo we were shuffled onto a coach which then drove us for another two hours to the base of Mount Bromo, where we were dropped off for the night.
After an awful nights sleep in the sketchiest “Hotel” the next morning we woke at 2am to be picked up at 3am to take a jeep up the side of the mountain. It was crazy how many other jeeps there were. To the point that the jeep can only take you so far up and then the last 1-2Km is done by foot to the view point for sunrise.
Christ almighty this is one sunrise I won’t ever forget, as the sun rose to the east, it slowly unveiled the Bromo Craters in all their glory. Words aren’t enough to describe this sight…
The sun rising over Mount Bromo
The revealing of the craters of Bromo
Once the sun had fully risen, off we set back down the mountain to find our jeep… trust me this was a right ball ache trying to find the right one. There were literally thousands of the bloody things. Luckily we had taken a photo of our number plate… still, it was a struggle to identify the right one!
The next part was a little more exiting, the jeep driver took us out into the vast black sand desert of Bromo and took us for a bit of dune bashing before dropping us off again so we could walk across more of the sand desert to actually climb up to one of the craters that we had previously viewed upon at sunrise! This was a pretty incredible experience as the closer you got to the crater the
Fran & I covering up to cross the desert!
louder the rumble got. It was like climbing up to the belly of a giant who hadn’t snacked on any humans for a few days! The roar in the crater was pretty spectacular!
Back to the jeep and then back to the hotel where we waited for the bus to pick us up again to drive another couple of hours on to the base of Ijen.
On the way the bus driver, who obviously didn’t speak the best English, mimics eating and as we some how manage to understand that there won’t be any food when we get to the hotel so we agree to stop to eat. Well… the place that the bus driver stopped at was horrific, all of us on the bus took one look at the place and turned straight back around. We weren’t being fussy, the food looked like it had been out for days and had hundreds of flies all over it!
So we took a little walk down the road and found a few locals cooking up some chicken satay and rice. There were quite a few locals eating there so we thought why not!? If the locals are eating there we can risk it! It was actually delicious and cost about 40p.
It was so surreal because I had not done anything like this before and when we arrived the accommodation, in comparison to the flashpacking hotels we had stayed in it certainly was a new experience! At least the next place had a little more life to it, although our room was situated right next to the “restaurant”/reception… so ear plugs in for the night!
The next morning, alarms going off at 3am, we get dressed in the warmest clothes we had . Which was basically for me, a pair of hippie trousers and a flannel shirt, obviously travelling round SE Asia for a few months meant I didn’t have any warm clothes to hand, so I just had to layer up with vest tops!
Now this is where the REAL story comes in… so remember that road side meal I had the night before from the locals… by this point I’m starting get bit of a gurgle in my tummy, but I’m trying to bat it off and put it down to nerves because of how early it was and the climb we were about to take on. So I get on with… we drive for about 45 minutes, in pitch black until we start to see a few lights up front where the coach pulls over and ushers us out of the vehicle. We are greeted by locals trying to sell us Woolley hats and gloves and you know what? We gladly accept the invitation to buy some hats and gloves because Jesus it’s bloody FREEZING!!!
With everything that’s going on I forget my gurgling tummy and get swept up in the excitement. Our guide tells us we have to meet back down by the coach at 8:30am – so we’ve got just over 4 hours to go up and come back down. Perfect!
Now I’m no hiker, like, AT ALL, but it all seemed cushty to begin with, I mean it seemed steep but nothing that we couldn’t deal with. But as we kept going it kept on getting steeper and steeper and there was no give! It just kept increasing in incline! Until one point I swear we were actually climbing up the mountain on all fours! We stopped a guy nearby who was on his descent and asked how much further we had to go, he promised only another kilometre or so… so we pushed on, I was stopping every 5 steps just to catch my breath. Sweat running into my eyes and tears running out of them! At one point I reached out to Fran as if to say ‘help me, I’m dying’ but she simply just looked at me told me to get a move on (It’s alright for her she hasn’t got an ass that weighs a tonne, she’s a slender little thing so this part was easy for her!)
Then, all of sudden I get THAT feeling. You know the feeling you get, when it suddenly washes over you and makes you go all hot and sweaty under the collar, where your heart starts racing and you start frantically looking around for the nearest toilet? Yeah, well THAT happened to me. Half way up a frigging volcano (oh yeah… I forgot to mention we’re hiking a VOLCANO).
So there I am, 4km up the side of volcano with nothing around but a path going straight up and nowhere for me to relieve myself. So what do I do? I sit down. I mean, at the time it felt like the logical thing to do considering I had no other options available. So Fran starts asking me what’s up, obviously I explain to her that basically my insides are about to explode out of me and she just laughs at me! Then she turns round and points out that to the right of the path is a bit of a clearing in the bushes and that maybe I could go there.
I’m now sat on the side of a volcano crossing my legs so tightly to ensure that no explosions happen, really contemplating my life choices and cursing my decision to eat street food when I had avoided it this far!
At this point I am really struggling to decide if moving is going to be a good idea, but I also have no other option, so slowly and extremely carefully, I pull my self off the ground, cross my legs tight and kind of shuffle across the path (god knows what any onlookers must have thought of me!)
I manage to pull myself down into the opening off the path, having to stop a few times, because you know an accident may have occurred… I see that there is a bit of cover by a big tree and by now it’s actually super urgent so I leg it across to the tree scanning the ground as I go… all clear! Phew! So I get to the tree (I am pleased to say there is total coverage thank god!) drop my pants and well you know the rest of that. So any ways, I pull my trousers back up and as I am doing so I notice that I am stood in something… yup! You’ve guessed it, I’m standing in a big old smelly pile of poo (not mine may I add) and then to my complete horror as look around further I notice that I am actually stood in a grave yard of poo, where other people have clearly had the same issue as me! I’m horrified! I leg it out, back up to the path where I immediately start heaving and Fran is trying to ask me what’s wrong, then she notices it… she asks me “Steff, what have you got up your leg?” Jesus Christ I’ve got someone else’s poo up my leg!!! So that sets her off, there’s the both of us, stood half way up the side of a volcano wrenching and heaving because I’ve managed to get myself covered in someone else’s poo! Probably the most horrific day of my life so far!
Luckily, the Ijen Crater is something that is so incredibly beautiful I almost forgot that something like that had ever happened to me! And because it was one of the most strenuous activities I had ever taken part in I try not to let the poo covered leg shroud my experience, because to be quite honest I really achieved something that day and was rewarded by some incredible views at the top!
Fran and I at Ijen Crater
But there we go… that’s my best and worst adventure so far… anyone else care to share theirs?
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