We touched down at Yogyakarta airport in the afternoon. Dani and Daniel had arrived a day early and picked up the car from their friend. It had been almost a year since our last trip so it was good to see them again. Oh, that probably applies to Sara too. It’ll seem strange to people but we hardly meet up in Singapore and the only time we meet, it’s always in some jungle or mountains. It was going to be a long drive so the plan was to head straight out to Dieng and stay the night. Yes, literally stay the night because we have to wake up in the wee hours for our first sunrise climb. Yes, nothing new… the marathon would start right from the time we land.
It was a long drive and Dani was going to be doing all the driving this trip. I wished I could help but they would probably freaked out if I was the one behind the wheel. Driving in Indonesia was not easy especially once we got off the main roads. Night time only made things worst. We stopped by for a simple dinner and was a bit undecided on where to put up for the night. Daniel had booked our accommodation but there was some confusion and it seemed that they had given the rooms to someone else. Fortunately, they found a homestay for us which I thought was quite nice. 2 rooms and a living area. It almost seem like we had the house to ourselves. After a shower, I felt cold again. Why did it always get so cold in the night?
This was the area that we would be trying to cover. Our first stop would be early in the morning, so we decided we should try to catch some sleep. And it was really a short nap. Got dressed, some snacks and we were on the road again. Off to our first sunrise in Dieng.
It was surprisingly crowded but we were pretty early, so we wondered around the mountain area a little while waiting for the sun to rise. In the distance is Gunung Mindoro and Gunung Sumbing. I remembered that there was a love story behind the legend of these 2 mountains. All along the way, I had been very disturbed that the 2 mountains were separated but looking at them now, they looked like they were still a pair and somehow, I felt better. As usual, I kept bugging Daniel and Dani along the way and now it seem that the 2 mountains are now on our trekking list. By the way this entry is again late and after these months, I surprised myself that I could still remember their names.
On one side we had the mountains and on the other, the terraced plantations. No matter how many sunrise I had seen, the way the sky lit up just before the ‘yolk’ appeared was always amazingly beautiful. The layers of colours looked as though an artist had painstakingly painted the sky right before us. And I waited patiently for the rising of the ‘yolk’.
And finally, the sun peeked out from the layers of clouds, rising slowly above the mountains in the distance.
This was the famous Sukunir golden sunrise. The plantations beyond shone a golden shade as the sun rays hit upon them. For me it was not just a visual treat, the warmth was long awaited. Yes, it was freezing cold and I could not be happier now that the sun was out.
And who would be the one stepping on my pair of favourite mountains? Dani, as usual, was having fun posing for that classic shot. It was a breathtakingly beautiful morning and it was at times like these, I knew all problems would find a way to sort themselves out eventually. Right now, I should just enjoy what was before me.
Chasing the sun was a tiring task and what could be more important now other than filling our stomachs. As we headed downhill, the stalls were all opened for business with ready food for the early risers. Breakfast time!!
We had a bit of everything. From the street to the little shop where we sat down for our morning coffee and tea. After satisfying our hunger, we took a short drive back to the homestay for a little rest. We had a long list of destinations to cover within the Dieng area.
The itinerary on paper seem to only say exploring Dieng area but what followed was an entire day of craters and lakes. I must admit that I almost could not figure out which was which when I was preparing for this article. Again poor Dani got behind the wheel and we drove off. The scenery along the way was amazing but we seem determined to head all the way to the furthest lake in the area.
The roads got trickier as we drove along from paved road to dirt road and when we hit the rocky road, we were wondering if we should press on. We had a Mitsubishi Pajero behind us and it seem that we were both heading towards the same destination but seeing how bad the ‘road’ condition was they gave up and turned back. A proper 4-wheeler had given up but we seem very confident with our MPV. We decided to move on and at this moment, I thought of Sukron, our F1 driver. Dani was a more careful driver in comparison so I was really wondering how Sukron would be driving given the same conditions. One thing for sure, he would definitely be much faster.
When we hit the end of the road, we were cheering! We found it Dringo Lake. We parked the car and walked towards the lake. I had no idea how but there was a car right by the lake. How did they get there? Other than that, it was a beautiful area and i could tell not many people came out all the way here. Oh, time wise, it was still morning. Waking up early meant that we actually had so much more time.
Dani had brought along his Go-pro with the selfie stick so we had lots of wefie taken this round. And this was the start to ‘face the sun’. Notice how clear and well-lit our faces were in the photo? The price to pay for this was to look into the sun without squinting… and boy, that was tough. Guess who the photographer who orchestrated this was… 😉
It was tough to get all the way out here and I took tons of photos of this well-hidden lake and the pretty little white flowers everywhere. There were these overgrown bushes that seem to form some kind of shelter with a nice opening right at the end. It looked pretty cool and nice from the outside but the privacy it offered also made it a natural toilet place. It was at this point of time that Daniel went missing. We shouted out for him and looked around for him.
Daniel finally reappeared and looked totally nonchalant. He gave us that usual sheepish smile and said he merely went for a toilet break. Time to head back to the earlier crater we passed by on our way here.
We drove past Candradimuka crater but decided to push on to Dringo lake and since we had to come back the same way, we could do this later. The signboard looked well worn out and it took me awhile to figure out the writings. There were many times when I couldn’t really figure out if the signboards showed the name of the place or if they were just warning signs. Luckily I had Sara and the boys to confirm this.
The crater was still smoking and the fumes smelled really bad. It was the smell of sulphur burning and I always felt that it was definitely worse than rotten eggs. But for some strange reason, I still headed down. The water was really boiling and bubbling away. I definitely would watch my step. A fall into the pool would not be fun.
Just this morning, I was freezing my ass off waiting for sunrise but now, it was freakingly hot. The smell and heat were almost unbearable. But if I had to choose, I think I still take heat better than the cold.
At the end of the walkway, there was a small stream of water that was reasonably warm. I saw a few people filling their bottle with the water. I would think more for washing hands and cleaning your body rather than drinking.
The area seemed to be developing quite a bit to cater to the influx of tourists. More local tourist from different parts of Indonesia, I guess. That kind of put me in a strange position as I was travelling with 3 Indonesians. ok, sara is the mitigating factor…. she’s half Singaporean. 🙂 Back to the developments… The hot spring area seem to have a huge playground for children and adults. Bright, colourful and all cheery. I always felt torn. While development was definitely good for the locals, I felt that if it went out of hand, the natural charm of the place would all be destroyed. That tipping point would always be tough to gauge.
I felt a tinge of guilt as I walked across a small plantation ground for the beautiful view beyond it. But I took care not to step on any crops. Hopefully no one would be mad at us.
And that was where we would be heading to next…. Slieri crater.
We had to drive a little more where we could park the car. Daniel and Sara did not seem keen so Dani and I headed down to the lake. The smell was overpowering as usual but what the view before my eyes was extraordinary. It was a steaming lake and it was huge. The immediate perimeter of the lake was almost bare of vegetation but beyond that, the plants grew lush and wild. The water in the lake was boiling away and a cloud of steam shrouded the lake, giving it a eerie and mystical feel. This was definitely a lake that no one would be eager to jump into.
Where the sulphur deposits laced the edge of the lake, nothing grew. The yellow in the ground was evidence of sulphur and the barren land evidence of how toxic the substance was. Dani was telling me that even the fumes was toxic and that we should have brought along mask. This reminded me of my Ijen trip with Sukron where I had innocently ventured much closer to the burning sulphur than he had actually intended. It was a sweet memory.
In the lake, the water was bubbling away. In comparison with the earlier ones, this was way bigger so the bubbling effect was a totally different scale. I was so mesmerised by the steamy scene before me, I didn’t even realise I had taken more than 20 shots of the same photo. But I wasn’t the only one. Dani was happily taking selfie shots. We only headed back because Sara and Daniel were still up there waiting for us. Time to climb those steps and head back up to the carpark.
Next stop, a temple, Candi Arjuna, that was restored. Not a huge one but apparently a very popular tourist spot in this area. It was interesting because this was like a photo taking stop. There were people in different costumes, like the Teletubbies which I recognised. For some reason, I felt I must look weird or strange too as there were a few people who came and asked to take photos with Sara and me. Daniel said it was my sunglasses so they probably thought I was some superstar? Haha, I hoped I didn’t disappoint and looked photogenic enough.
I had been to Borobudur quite a few years ago and I knew that restoration work was really not easy. It was like a 3-dimensional puzzle game trying to fit all the loose pieces together. Moreover, these were not small, palm sized jigsaw pieces; they were all huge stone pieces that weighed a ton. One of the temple seem to be more completed than the rest and the carvings on the interior were amazing. It really made me wonder how these were actually built that long ago when all the builders had were probably the most basic tools and their hands.
There was a museum and Dani was asking if anyone was interested. I could tell Daniel and Sara were not too keen. If I were alone, I wouldn’t mind but I knew that I would usually lose myself in a museum. The last time I was in a small one, I spent almost half a day so it wasn’t really a good idea. Time to move on…
Sikidang crater is another must go location. The extent of the built-up and the activities in the area would give a hint of the popularity of the place. The fence built around were for safety so that I could understand. It was more a demarcation of where not to venture beyond. This was a huge area so there were spots that were carved out for mud riding in a 4-wheeler as well as dirt biking. But the dirt bike riders were having fun riding all over the hill, kicking up plenty of dirt and ash. Personally, I just felt that dirt bike riding here probably wasn’t that idea especially if this was a place to be conserved and enjoyed for its natural beauty. Other than that, the place was amazing.
There were locals selling eggs that you could place into the crater to cook. This was done using a ‘fishing rod’ method where the egg was carefully dipped into the boiling water. I was pretty sure though, that the egg should not be edible given the sulphur content.
Daniel had a bad foot, think he had sprained it before the trip. I kept egging him on to try soaking it in the mud bath. :p If soaking oneself in hot spring had healing effects, then a muddy hot foot spa should work the same? Unfortunately, (or probably fortunately), Daniel wasn’t about to give it a try. He was not convinced even for a little bit.
In areas where there was no water bodies, even the ground was smoking hot. I had this feeling that I might well melt away the soles of my hiking boots if I didn’t watch where I walked. The air was smoky, dusty and hot with a pungent rotten egg smell. I wondered how much toxin I had taken in for the day. Dani and I were probably more intoxicated than Sara and Daniel since we had been walking right up to quite a lot more fuming craters than them.
For a change now, we were heading for a short hike up to Bukit Batu Pandang. Up till now, I was still the confused tourist. At the ticket counters, I was always told not to speak so I could pass off as an Indonesian tourist. The reason? So I could purchase cheaper entrance tickets. :p Terrible thing to do but I was travelling with 2.5 Indonesians so I guess it was easier to purchase just a single type of ticket. Oh. 2.5 because Sara is 0.5 Indonesian and 0.5 Singaporean. 🙂
After the ticketing office, we had to walk through a path lined with Carica trees. Carica is native to Dieng and is not found in other parts of Indonesia. The plant looked weird to me. It looked like a mutant papaya tree with a lot of off shoots. The fruit is nowhere near the looks of a papaya too. I was curious how the fruit would taste. But right now, we would just admire the tree for itself.
So up, up, up we continued to the view point. It wasn’t a tough hike but I guessed I was more lazy than tired. We were aiming to reach higher grounds so we could look at the lakes from above.
The higher we got, the clearer the colour difference. In the past, the colour difference was obviously more distinct from the posters we saw. One of the lake contained sulphur while the other is a fresh water lake but over the years, the water had slowly seeped through the dividing banks. In more years to come, the 2 lakes might just end up being one single lake? Considering the lives that would be killed in the fresh water lake, I certainly hope that would not happen.
It was not the most spacious rock on earth so having the 3 of us standing there was scary for me. One quick shot and we would be done? Of course not when we were under the watchful eyes of our photographer. No prize for guessing who that person is. He even pointed out another rock and said that spot would garner a much better view with a clearer and wider vista. He must be joking because I really had no idea how to get up there and knowing myself, even if I did manage to crawl up there, I was pretty sure I would once again get stuck and would probably need help in getting back down to stable ground. So a definite no-no for me.
Whatever goes up must come down. So next stop, we headed to the lakes. It was crowded and Daniel had to queue for the tickets to get in. The lakes did not look that big from up there but right now, we were standing by the lake nearer the entrance and we could not see the adjoining lake. The branches falling over the lake reminded me of our campover at Semeru right next to the lake. Sara and I played models for Daniel on a very similar looking log.
We decided since this was the last stop of the day, we could circle round the 2 lakes before they closed up. Daniel’s leg was hurting and he wanted to rest it for our climb tomorrow so he decided to take a rest by the lake while the 3 of us set off to explore the rest of the area. The further we walked, the less crowded it became and according to Dani, most people just walked a distance and turned back. Crowd-phobic me was happy to have the lakes to ourselves.
The views along the same lake were vastly different. There was the ‘sandy beach’ and the marshlands. There was this portion that looked vaguely liked a little plantation of sort but we were really not sure if it was just natural or man-made.
We walked along and our pace quickened as it got chilly. It was around 4-5pm and no longer as sunny as it was during mid afternoon. I know it is hard to tell from the photos but trust me, blow it up and you would see a family of ducks crossing the lake. They emerged from the marshlands, swimming across in a single file. We were so excited. I took more than a dozen photos just hoping one of them would turn out clear enough.
And my favorite wild grass… don’t they look all fluffy and soft? And it was definitely a huge area, a nice place to roll around. 😉 I wondered if a bed of hay and grass would feel the same.
As we continued, there seem to be a little ‘island’ which we could walk through. There were stone paves and wooden boardwalks leading to tiny caves. Most of the caves were closed and locked. And almost in front of every cave, there was a deity statue. There were caves and deities of wealth, love, marriage and for child-bearing.
Some of the stories were very interesting. I remembered this in particular. The cave opening was tiny and it was hard for me to imagine a horse fitting in that space. We were urging one another to try it out. That was before we finished reading the story. The horse woke up the next morning to find that she was pregnant. Sara and I came up with the most ridiculous stories as to how this could have happened. We had a good laugh over our own nonsense. Sorry Dani, you had to put up with all our silly little stories. Daniel must be thanking his lucky stars.
It was getting dark and we moved on quickly amidst endless giggling all the way back. Poor Daniel was still sitting alone by the lake. We had taken a much longer time than he had expected and he was surprised that we walked round both lakes and the little island.
We drove back to our homestay and had a simple dinner across the road. Tried some local Dieng tea too as it could only be found here and not anywhere else in Indonesia. By now, I was beginning to think that Dieng was a very unique area with their own little cultures and foods and drinks in addition to the Indonesian culture we knew. We chatted before heading back. The boys were still watching television when I went out to get some warm drink. Sara and I had planned to go to bed early since we had another early morning the next day. Another sunrise day. The second night was slightly better since we had gotten used to the cold and I was tired. Time for bed.
The alarm set off way earlier than I thought it would. But no time to laze around. Sara was up first to get ready while I tried to stay warm hiding under the blanket. After getting dressed, we had a simple breakfast. Coffee and bread and some simple snacks to get us going. This time we didn’t have to drive. We set off on foot in total darkness. The whole area was so quiet and we seem to be the only people roaming the streets.
Only Daniel had been to Gunung Prau before so he was leading the way. We went through the backstreet and had to go over someone’s small plantation. After around 30mins, we realised we were lost!! Daniel had remembered the way that could bring us to the start of the trail but somehow it was all blocked up. I didn’t blame the owner a bit as it did seem that we had to cut through someone’s backyard. But we were not backing off… we probably went through a lot of places where we shouldn’t just heading in the general direction where we should be going. It was a cold morning but after the little mis-adventure, scrambling around, I was all hot and sweaty. We stopped for a moment to remove some layers of clothes once we seem to be on the right track. The boys were shocked because the 2 girls were ‘undressing’ right outside the cemetery. Oops…
In any case, we found the way and we were definitely at the trailhead when we saw this signboard.
And we were just walking and walking in total darkness after that. I recalled we were pretty silent, just focused on going uphill and staying warm at the same time.
What kept my sanity was probably these signboards. It meant that we were drawing close to where we wanted to be. And strangely, we had not seen anyone till now. And since there was not any views that we could stop and take photos, we just kept going.
Suddenly, Daniel slowed down and the terrain turned flat. At this point, Daniel announced that we were very near the summit and we were way too early for sunrise. He suggested we wait a while before heading further along as it was pretty bare up there and the winds would be blowing. In short, we might freeze.
As we took our break, I was asking Daniel why we set off so early and he laughed. He didn’t think we would be this fast and because we lost our way from the start, he was also eager to catch up on time lost and might have gone a lot faster than planned. This coming from a guy with one injured foot was scary… maybe if that foot was well, he would be running all the way up.
It was also here we finally saw another group of hikers. It was quite rare to see foreigners as most of the hikers and tourists in Dieng were main Indonesians from other areas. We told them it would be cold so we were just hiding out where the trees still provide some shield against howling winds. They were surprised too that they were reaching the summit so soon. They took a super short break before deciding to move on. We watched as they moved off.
Finally we decided maybe moving would help in fighting the cold so we headed on. It might not have been the best decision because as Daniel said, it was really all opened. A little light had crept in now and I could see silhouettes of little trees or bushes. I tried to hide behind them but the wind just pierced right through. Nothing was helping. And so we could only wait in the piercing cold.
As we shivered in the cold, Daniel had a surprise for us. He had brought along his infamous sleeping bag that could be fully opened up. The very same one he was all wrapped up in when he stepped out of his tent at Mt Semeru. It was a life savior as we squeezed together, wrapped up with the sleeping bag.
As the skies lit up, we all took to our own spots, treasuring that little alone time. I walked around the summit area, slowly taking in the beauty of this place.
Experience told me that even though the sun might look as though it was already up, that was not the case. The sun must still be behind the layers of clouds and will slowly creep up. I was not missing my favourite ‘egg yolk’. Patience always paid off.
And there it was. It was at this point of time I realised how crowded the summit was. There were many people who had set up tents as there was a camping ground just next to the summit. But the place had more than enough space for everyone. With the sun up, I realised we were surrounded by endless rolling hills, or at least that was what it felt like. It was not the usual summit at one highest point.
Although I was tired from the hike up, I continued walking. It was so beautiful with the hills rolling into one another, forming the entire undulating summit top.
We had a 360 degrees view from the mountain top and while one side we could see Sumbing and Sindoro, the other side of Prau looked into a sea of clouds beyond the flowers-covered foreground.
In comparison with the sunrise the previous day, I felt today was a true golden sunrise. The hilltops were all glowing with the sun rays hitting on them. I could finally feel the warmth seeping into my body. It felt so good to be bathed in the sun’s warmth right now. Everything simply felt and looked surreal.
And with the sun fully up in the sky above us, I realised we were surrounded by flowers everywhere. I did not even bother asking for the name of the flowers. I knew the answer that the guys would tell me… little white wild flowers and little purple wild flowers. It was unreal.
We saw one guy sitting alone at the edge and he looked almost emotional. But we had to disturb him, jolt him back to reality by asking him to help us take a group photo. we were cold and tired but the joy was obviously showing on all our faces.
If wild grass were meant to be rolled in, pretty flowers were definitely a bed to sleep in. We just could not resist flattening them…. :p oops.
I do admit the flowers were beautiful but still, with a photographer who favoured them over the model, it still hurt a little. ouch. 😉
And after much protest, we had our photos taken… proper. 🙂
We headed back slowly, taking in the raw beauty that we had passed in total darkness earlier. I was making silly comments like… oh, so that was the bush I was trying to hide behind. 🙂 But we were blessed with excellent weather and beautiful clear blue skies.
We found a little enclave by the main trail that overlooked the entire town and the surrounding padi fields. It was a big wow for me, better than any maps.
And this was the bare patch I was freezing in earlier. It was really all bare. Unfortunately, the wild grass was not as soft as they looked and probably wouldn’t make that great a hay bed.
We found another view point and from this height, we could see that the whole of Dieng was built on rolling hills, mountains and valleys. It was really a gorgeous place.
And yes, though we did not go up the correct way, we did manage to descend the official route. According to Daniel, he had chosen our homestay because there used to be a shortcut that linked to the trailhead. I think the owner of that particular house of field probably got tired of all these unruly hikers and decided to end the ordeal once and for all. So, if anyone reading this wants to attempt Gunung Prau, please head towards the official route. 😉
For us, it was not the end of the trip. In fact, we had barely started. We had a proper breakfast and took a short nap back at the homestay. Before we left, Sara and I bought some Carica products and the owner was so nice to give us 2 fresh fruits. Magelang, here we come !