Java: The learning curve, the transformation from city girl to back packer that wanted to make the most of her spontaneous trip.
An island nestled between Sumatra and Bali that would open my eyes to its magical archaeological sites, volcanic beauty, art and of course, the ever so warm and kind people of Java.
“I have made my trip quite long and varied and because I am still not ready to give most of my clothes away or come back home I have to drag my suitcase everywhere I go. To make it lighter I made sure I used my weekend bag and I also have a rucksack for my laptop, camera, chargers etc. However, it makes no difference to the weight I am carrying and I have tried many different ways to move my luggage: pulling/pushing my suitcase whilst holding my weekend bag or placing it on top of my suitcase and even just kicking my weekend bag at times. I obviously have way too much to carry and not the most sensible choice of luggage especially when deciding to go to a small island by boat or in this case to trek volcanoes. That is what backpacks are for!”
I honestly do not see the difference between my baggage of clothes and the ‘Life Baggage’ that this is beginning to symbolise. I have a feeling this journey is a metaphorical step in getting me to where I need to be. I do believe it is true that no matter where you are, where you go, what you may want to distract yourself from, whatever you need to work on will always show up until you stop resisting, accept it, push through it and move on from it.
Letting go is something I have written about before. I have written so much about it because I know it is one of the hardest things for us to do. It is something we have to do throughout life. Even within our current day to day duties there is an element of letting go. It is never ending and we always have to remind ourselves to let things go, whether it be missing our train, a negative exchange, letting go of a relationship, job or way of thinking.
It is a part of life.
Although we may not die from it, it is as important as breathing. It doesn’t need to be dramatic or heartbreaking but letting go is an act that will make way for a lighter, brighter and more peaceful existence.
What better way to practise the art of letting go, by trekking up a volcano.
Let go of controlling a situation you don’t know much about.
Just let go of the need to know anything other than what is happening in the present moment.
There is peace in that.
Blue Flames: Ijen Crater
I was alone, it was dark, there were no street lights and I was miles away from any home comforts. The only sounds I heard as we parked the car was the engine turning off, my driver getting out and shutting the door, some footsteps, a few men talking and that’s about it. Despite the fact it was midnight, I was alert and mentally geared myself up to trek for the next 7 hours. I was ready to trust in those I did not know, a trek I knew little about and expect the unexpected. I took my guides advice seriously, so when he said “Don’t panic and do not run!” I thought okay, I won’t. “Even if you can not see anything and smoke is coming towards you”. Yes. Got it!
This was my Ijen Crater trek and it was the start of a funny and messy (slipping down on my bottom in volcanic dirt made me cry with laughter), suffocating trek which gave me a sense of accomplishment, movie – like action and a feeling of awe.
A health warning
After some research I took a plane to Surabaya. After a 5-7 hour drive I was taken to a town one hour from Ijen. To be ready for the midnight trek (which in total took 7 hours) you have to sleep during the day. I tried. What is also a must is to get a guide to help you up and down the crater because possibly you will drop at times. When you get there mask yourself up. It was not fun inhaling so much fumes (even with a mask this happens).
Seeing the blue flames from the crater was awesome but seeing the miners working there was extremely sad. They were not wearing masks and coughing a lot. They still smiled for the hikers and even after carrying a load of sulphur back up the crater they whistled a song or two. It seems absurd now that I paid to put myself in this environment and these poor workers are working hard, risking their health to earn a living.
Dangle your legs down a crater: Mount Bromo
Mount Bromo was fun, less strenuous and made me feel like I was on the set of Star Wars. Although there were more tourists here I loved the space around me and enjoyed the freedom of feeling like I was in the middle of nowhere…or possibly it was the adrenaline rush of danger, the natural kind.
How did I get to these awesome places?
I went with Bromo Ijen Travel. Check them out here: https://www.facebook.com/bromoijentravel/?pnref=lhc
Alternatives or on a budget?
There are many ways to get to Ijen and Mount Bromo and this could be by getting a group of travellers to pay for one of the tours you can find online or with Bromo Ijen Travel. What I found by the time I went to Yogyakarta was that many drivers offer a way to go on this trip but bear in mind you may get no sleep to be ready for your trek and I would be weary of safety.
If you have the time, are on a backpackers budget and enjoy finding your own way to places check out the link below of how this blogger did it on a budget. I initially came across this site when researching for ways to get to the volcanoes but did not think I had that much time for my travels. At this stage I was not even travelling properly and had to bear in mind where I would put my luggage.
Top tips for your Ijen Crater and Mount Bromo trek
- Know where you are going and how you will get there
- Make sure you are happy with the details: If/Where you will sleep, eat and dangers to be aware of.
- Make sure you have a walking guide for Ijen crater if you are like me and only have trainers. The path gets slippery. You can also follow the path and/or other hikers.
- Take warm clothing, a torch, water and any snacks you may need.
- Get there before the tourists come! At Ijen crater I was there as early as midnight which meant the tour groups had not arrived and I was able to enjoy getting up close to the blue flames without much hassle.
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Next blog post: Java Continued…Explore the magical sites of Java, going on a date and kindness from others!