From one volcano (Mount Bromo) we headed straight for another, this time to Ijen Crater, the acid blue monster right in the very east of Java.
Buses run from Probalinggo for 75,000rhp in the direction of Banyuwangi, the port of east java, and the closest real town to Ijen. Outside of the ferry terminal, we split a ‘taxi’ between the six of us heading inland for a date with mother nature; finding ourselves late in the evening in the small village of Bondowoso, maybe 60 people live here, there are no restaurants, shops or much of anything barring a row of traditional Indonesian houses and a whole lot of chickens.
Ten hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep went by, our bones fully rested, the four of us went in search of the only other attraction in these parts, the waterfall. With no real idea where we were going; just following instincts and the dubious directions of passing locals, leading us across rice paddies, through thick palm tree fields, past children playing in a stream, every person we encountered threw us inquisitive smiles, we bought potatoes from farmers in a field and eventually got to rest our aching legs in the pretty little waterfall for half an hour. Back at Ijen Krater homestay, the owners mother cooked us some rice and eggs, her father told me of his 73 years mining sulphur from the volcano (he looked alright for a man who worked one of the most dangerous jobs in the world for the best part of a century), in anticipation of the 1am wake up call, I went to bed at 8pm.
Through half asleep eyes we drove for an hour or so to the foot of the volcano, the lady selling strong coffee from a little hut at the entrance was a godsend, bought a head torch for a measly 50,000rhp and off up the face of the volcano we trekked. The torch proved a great purchase, one turn away from the dim lights of the ticket office turned the night pitch black once more. For an hour or so we pushed on, the path inclined for what felt like an eternity, the black never flinched. The first we saw of anything that seemed like light came where the rim of the crater was no more, a small viewing platform allowed us to marvel at the blue light of the flames, 8ft high sulphuric blue fire lighting this one corner of night. As the crowds began to catch up, we swiftly moved on up towards the lip of the crater. The sunrise point sits on the opposite side to the flames, wary of the usual bothering of Chinese tourists that had followed us up, we found a spot half way round between an opening in the fauna and awaited the suns victory over the night.
Minutes bled into hours and the eternal cycling of the earth around the sun remained steadfast once more. First onto the stage were the vast surrounding peaks and valleys, light flooding them before our eyes, then came the big reveal, the doom of the crater at our feet awoke, greens ignited, the turquoise canvas swung open its arms and embraced us all. Where the flames had lit our path, a giant plume of smoke now billowed up and over the neck of Ijen. Too many colours for words to describe, dispatched across the sweeping panorama, birds came to life and sang the soundtrack to true beauty. The early start, the wittering of tour groups and the haranguing of the wannabe guides seemed like a distant memory as the four of us sat alone atop the world and gazed at one of South East Asia’s most alluring natural wonders.