Four Friends, 2 Nights, 2 Volcanoes

In the countries I’ve been to thus far, I have to say Indonesia is the one that goes out of it’s way to creatively charge tourists, whether it’s through legal means or not. Local friends will often get you out of paying the very much legal bule tax foreigners pay at some national parks and religious sites. They can also negotiate for you to pay local prices. So if you’re on your way to Indonesia, make sure to activate your local friends, make some new ones at cafes and/or bars, or utilize your Couch Surfing presence.

Which brings me to Mt. Ijen and Bromo. Normally I would have planned to DIY these two volcanoes. It’s not impossible, and I had time. But this was something me and my office BFF Claudia planned to do together since we met in 2013. Also, she’s Indonesian, which means I will enjoy almost local prices (I still had to pay more for entrance fees).

asian requirement to stop at every photo opportunity
they let me drive this monster for a few minutes

Having a local arrange the tour ensured that we get the best service, and that they say yes to all our whims. In comparison, an American friend of mine joined a different tour and ended up not liking it at all: from pretending not to understand them to not providing the things that should have been included, a fun and awe-inspiring experience turned out to be money down the drain (I think they paid more than I did too).

The 3 days 2 nights marathon set me back by IDR2,500,000, but it was money well spent. It covered pick up, a very comfortable air-conditioned van bringing us to and from, 2 nights at “fancy” and fancy accommodations, snacks after hikes, and driving us back to our last hostel. You also get an experienced hiker who will help you make your way to slippery slopes. Our guide, Steven, also did a great job as a photographer (see feature photo).


waiting for the gates to open

A few weeks before our trip, Mt. Ijen exploded.

Hikes to the volcano were banned. A few days before our hike, it had a mini explosion again. So we knew getting close to the blue fire was a long shot, but it was once in a lifetime experience kinda thing. For a chance to see the blue fire, we had to pay an additional IDR50,000 each, whether or not we can get close. We chose to pay the additional fee, but that morning was not meant to be.

Aside from the views on the way up, you will see sulfer miners who make…if I remember correctly IDR10,000/kg (or maybe IDR100,000, 10k is too low). These are the people who kill themselves to make you externally beautiful,  people. So either don’t scrimp on your make-up, or don’t use any at all.

Once at the signpost, don’t be afraid to explore both sides. Hike to the right and left sides. The right side has nothing much to offer in terms of views, but it was exciting in that you will walk on smoother stones in fucking windy conditions (aka you can easily lose your balance and fall to the crater). Meanwhile the left side is tough to climb but will plateau eventually. It will lead you to the cliff that drops down to the crater.

We started our hike at 4pm and was back at the parking lot 7hrs later. We missed the sunrise because of too much picture taking (#asians), and because we were slow. But it was still fun.

By the way, bring warm clothes. It was fucking cold up there.


i woke up at 3am for this?!?

Before making our way to Mt. Bromo, we were dropped off at around 4pm at the viewing point. We waited there for…2hrs? for the sun to rise. It was foggy, so nothing much to see

Unlike Ijen with more heavy hiking, the approach to Mt. Bromo was easier. We rode a 4×4 from our hostel to the sand dunes. From the start point you can walk through the dunes or rent horses. Since my friends were lazy, we rented horses roundtrip. The horses will drop you off at the bottom of the volcano. From there you can take the stairs, or hike the side of the mountains. Again, if you’re crazy, totally doable.

There really was nothing much to do up Mt. Bromo. Once you’re up, all you can do is circle around the crater (we did half the crater). There were more crazy paths to do at Ijen.

mt-bromo-photo-op-near-parking-area-1Back to where all the 4x4s were parked, #asians saw another photo opportunity. The grey sands all of a sudden can support life. They coerced me into thinking of posing as if I’m in a boy/girl band.

If you really hate yourself and want to subject your body to torture, it is very possible to do both without tours, and probably cheaper. There are buses from Yogyakarta/Surabaya/Banyuwangi, and from there I think you can walk or ride a moped. I assume this will be cheaper, and will give you ample time to rest and not do both back to back. I’ve heard people walking all the way, but you will probably miss the sunrise/blue fire.


Hike Dates: 2015.10.09-11

Tour Costs: IDR2,500,000

Tour Includes: Van, pick-up and drop-off, 4×4 at Mt. Bromo, Accommodation for 2 nights, snacks after hikes, water

Other Costs

Blue Fire: IDR50,000

Horse Rental: IDR120,000

Food (2 dinners, 1 lunch): IDR140,000

*We were told that these are non-Caucasian costs. Sorry white people


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