Hiking Ijen and Mt Semeru, Sept 2014

And here we are again.  Not sure if its more a promise to Dani and Daniel or to ourselves to see Ijen again that we once again embarked on this trip, just 2 months after our previous.  Yes, its almost a sequel to the previous trip with the same group of crazy people.

We arrived at the airport and it was a familiar face that greeted us.  I spotted his face right away, our F1 driver and his lovely smile.  But no one reading my blog will ever get to see this.  It happens only in a face to face situation because he has the most stern face when it comes to photo taking.  Anyway, it was a real pleasure to see him again.  We had a new guide to meet us at the airport and if I got his name spelt correctly, it should be Bidien.  A pleasant surprise too when we saw Martha, bubbly and cheerful lady you would fall in love with at first sight.  No sign of my favourite guide, Dani.  It seemed that he was still away on a trip and would not be able to join us to Mount Ijen.  Or maybe he got scared of the 2 crazy girls. :p

Mount Ijen

We had company too on our ride to the base of Mount Ijen.  If we were known to have an insane itinerary, our travelling partners had an out of the world one. They had arrived from Jakarta early in the morning around 6am and had gone on a city tour till we met up around 1pm.  A really lovely couple who will be going on to Mount Ijen with us.  Well, the car ride was at least an opportunity for a good sleep.  It was going to be a long long ride, at least much long than I had expected.

By the time we reached our homestay it was already 11pm in the night.  We were staying at Catimor Homestay this time.  The room was huge and several rooms shared a living area with sofas and a TV.  Nice set up but once again, I guessed we would not have a chance to enjoy this.  We were setting off for Mt Ijen in 2 hours time.  We had to gather at 1am to get ready to set off.  Sara and I took turns to take a quick shower before we headed to bed.  We were seriously laughing at ourselves.  i thought we had a slightly more relaxed and more humane schedule this time round.  Obviously I was wrong.  Alarm was set at 1230am so I tried really hard to take five before our climb.

And so, did I sleep?  A super early breakfast before we headed out.  A nice surprise to see Sukron (Aka our F1 driver) up so early, all wrapped up in his sarong and looking so comfortable.  He had jokingly said that he was joining us today.  Whether he was joining us, he still had to drive us over.  Poor guy, it had been such a long day for him.

A very familiar sight just that we were having a good day, no rain this time.  Well, that means no pop mie too. But the nice thing was Sukron decided to join us after all and this was his first mountain.  Another first with us! 🙂  We ended up splitting into 2 groups with Sara and me following Sukron.  He was good and super fast, pushing us to go faster constantly.   Not sure why but it seemed much easier to hike up this time round.  Was it the pop mie the other time?

And right at the top, we looked down into the crater and we saw that blue glow, that mesmerising blue glow that had beckoned us to come back.  Amazingly, danger seemed to be at the back of our mind this time round and it seemed natural to head down to the crater.  The air was getting really bad and it got chokingly smoky and difficult to breathe as we headed down to the crater.  Sara had asked Sukron if we should get one of the local miners to lead us but he had been confident that he would be able to take care of us.  And he did, first time guide too and an excellent one.  The funny thing was he actually spoke to me.  Most of the time, ermm… perhaps all the time, I had no idea what he was saying.  🙂  He spoke bahasa to me and Javanese to Sara.  Most of the time, I looked to Sara for help.  I really wished I could chat with him.

And for that very reason, I kept going on, nearer and nearer to the the blue flame.  Guess I misunderstood Sukron.  I had thought that he wanted me to keep moving on since I ended right up front.  My throat was dry, it was freezing cold and the air was smoky and tough to breathe.  The smell of burning sulphur was getting more and more unbearable too.  Finally, I got what Sukron was saying.  Hand gestures, best form of communication.  He used his hands and gestured for me to stay and not move.  He wanted me to stay put and take photos. Haha, it must be a moment of frustration and a sense of relief that I finally got the message.

Time to relax and soak in the amazing blue flames before our very eyes.  It burns and burns, glowing blue against the dark skies, so breathtakingly beautiful that I almost forgot to breathe.

Ijen, Surabaya, Indonesia
admiring the blue fire

I finally got to see the blue flame in Ijen and it was definitely way nicer than the blue flame on my stove. 🙂  We headed up and met Bidien and the couple at the top.  Now it was time to head to the highest point to catch sunrise.  Sukron must be tired and I caught him pounding at his thighs a few times.  But he was not giving up halfway through.  We continued our journey in the direction which Daniel had led us previously.  I had peered over a few times but my green lake was still shrouded with a thick layer of mist.  It was much clearer this time round but it was still tough to make the edges.  Maybe the mist will clear up later.

And we moved on… going higher and higher, in search of a good spot to catch sunrise.  From our previous experience, Sara and I knew we had to be patient with the ‘yoke’  which actually crept up after the entire sky is lit up, so we waited.

Ijen, Surabaya, Indonesia
waiting for sunrise
Ijen, Surabaya, Indonesia
mysterious Ijen revealing herself slowly

And the mist did clear a little as our shy lady slowly unveiled herself.  And now I know Daniel was not lying.  All the surrounding mountains and ridges were all there,  a vast difference from our sheet of white previously.  Unfortunately, the lake was still hidden from view.

Ijen, Surabaya, Indonesia
and the skies turn pink

As the sun rose, her rays came on first, hitting the layer and layer of mist, turning it into a misty pink shroud covering the skies.  The layers were so unlike any I had seen so far.  A layer of purplish blue, then the red and orange and yellow, followed by a layer of baby blue, but this time, God had turned on the pink filter.  So soft with all the pastel colours.

Ijen, Surabaya, Indonesia
sun peeking from behind

Finally, the long awaited son peeked from behind the mountain slope, emerging amidst a band of rainbow.  At moments like these, I wished I had one of those huge cameras and the technical know how to capture it the exact way I was seeing it.  The emergence of a brand new day had no meaning for someone who had not slept the night.  I was looking at a brand new day in the middle of my day. 🙂  A rare philosophical moment and conversation I had with myself.

Ijen, Surabaya, Indonesia
casting our shadows against the mist

As we turned around, ready to leave, we saw a strange sight.  Our shadows being cast on the mist with the sun behind us.  That’s Sara’s shadow by the way.

Ijen, Surabaya, Indonesia
resisting our fortress

The old fortress that was crumpling apart had been our saviour, shielding us from the cold winds and rain during our previous trip.  As we walked in, we bumped into a guy who had set up camp the night before.  Coffee in his hand, he was about to head out to catch the awesome sunrise.  I couldn’t imagine camping out here in the misty cold and strong winds.  It must have been freezing cold.

We were now caught between staying a little longer to see if the mist would go away or making our way down.  I was hanging out by the edge to see if we were able to catch our beautiful green lake.  Guess Ijen wanted us back, so she wasn’t prepared to show us all her beauties.  Well, we hit 2 out of 3 items.   We had blue fire and an amazing sunrise within a rainbow, so we shouldn’t be too greedy.  Not sure about Sara ;), but I was a happy girl already.

We had our fun making our way down with Bidien joining us midway.  Steep to climb up and now super tough on the knees going down.  We went from threading slowly, to slipping, to sliding,  to simply just running down.  Haha it was actually fun laughing at one another as we tried to keep our balance.  Do we always end up with crazy guides or do we turn them as crazy as us?  I wonder …. …

Back at the waring, I was famished.  Time to eat!!!  and what else but my favourite pop mie… oh not forgetting goreng pisang.  wait, or was it pisang goreng? The couple had decided to go back to the home stay for a nap.  They must be really tired.  I was sleepy too but I wanted a different kind of rest.  I couldn’t wait to soak myself in the hot spring.  Really looking forward to that and it was supposed to relax me physically, mentally and emotionally.

Balawan waterfall

We dropped the couple off and we drove a short distance before the car stopped again.  I definitely didn’t see any waterfall or hot spring.  Arghhh….. it meant we had to walk.  Of course it would entail a hike, however short it was.  We took a short cut and walked down a steep slope.  Once we reached the bottom, we realised that there were cars below and the car could have just gone down the road.  I turned around and shot Sukron a piercing look.  He laughed and said something.  I turned around and Sara translated that he said we needed exercise!!!  My goodness, didn’t we just finished Ijen??!!

We walked on and there was the little teaser fall.  The water was warm to the touch.  We headed on to a forested area and towards the far end I could see what seemed liked a little opening amidst the dense foliage.  It was like light at the end of a tunnel and i was curious to see what lies beyond.  Almost like Alice in wonderland, we walked towards what seemed like a secret garden, silently hidden away.  Pushing the leaves slightly out of the way, we stepped into an open area where the majestic fall appeared right before us.  I was in awe.  We must have taken a little pill that shrunk us to a size the waterfall towered over us.  No amount of photos I took could capture that.  The one shot with Sara in the background showed how grand and overpowering the fall was and how minute we were right next to it.  Welcome to Balawan waterfall, the hidden fall behind the secret garden. 😉

Balawan waterfall, Surabaya, Indonesia
balawan waterfall
Balawan waterfall, Surabaya, Indonesia
the majestic falls

And of course, one with my partner in crime who made this trip possible.

Balawan waterfall, Surabaya, Indonesia
getting wet from the splatter

Edging closer and closer before we were told to step back.  The original barrier was somehow removed so now we were told to imagine it.  The stumps where it used to be were still locked in the ground.  Hey, not entirely my fault, who would not be tempted to inch nearer for a good look.  And as I always say, the waterfall is calling and beckoning, I am only answering the call.  That one moment by the waterfall, getting wet from its splatter was a blissful one.  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, making a mental note to remember this very special moment and soaking in the sheer beauty of nature.

Balawan waterfall, Surabaya, Indonesia
the falls and us

Then I got curious and a little anxious.  So where do we get to soak in the hot water?  Was there a pool that we had to make our way to?  We went out the exact same way we came in.  The hot water river flowed down across the village.  There was a little hot spring resort with 3 pools.  It was amazingly hot and it took a while before I could place myself in.  My heart was pumping away with the high temperature but it felt so good when I sat in.  I was hoping that it would heal my bad knee, bad back, bad ankle, bad wrist… oops, seems to be a super long list.

Balawan waterfall, Surabaya, Indonesia

Sukron was taking a nap and Bidien and Sara just dipping in their feet.  I felt so relaxed in the pool I was afraid I would fall asleep in it.  Reluctantly, I went to change into something dry for the car ride.  We had to rush back to Catimor to pack up and check out.  We had a pretty tight schedule ahead… as usual.  A super quick shower and it was packing and packing.  I tried ignoring the knock on the door because I knew exactly who it was.  We needed just another 5 minutes and we would be ready.  Finally done.

It was another long drive.  First to Jember to pick up Daniel and back to Malang to drop off our travelling partners and pick up Dani at the same time.  Then to head on to Semeru area to spend the night so we can have an early start the next day.  It would be fun to meet up with the guys again.  For a moment I thought they were terrified of us and trying to stay away :p .  Poor Sukron hardly slept and he now had to drive the entire day.

Got a bit lost when we got to Jember to pick up Daniel.  It was good to see him again.  After 17 years, Sara was seeing him just 2 months after our last visit.  I thought that was kind of funny.  Anyway it was good, really really good to see Daniel again.  My first impression of him as the honest, quiet guy was completely dashed after the previous trip.  Not a bad thing though because it only meant that he’s actually a fun guy to hang out with.  Now to head to Malang to pick up the crazy one.

Another long ride before we reached Dani’s place.  Good to see Martha too.  Boy, I was tired.  It was completely unbelievable.  Once again, we were reaching  all our destinations in the dark.  Poor Sukron could finally rest.  We hung around Dani’s house a bit, joking and chatting about the day that had passed and how we had Sukron as our guide in Ijen.  All were congratulating him on his very first mountain.  Dani suggested that we took a shower at his place.  Sounded good, nice warm shower.  Actually it wasn’t really suggesting, at least for Daniel, he was almost forcing him to take one. :p  The guys loaded up the 4-wheel drive, our food, tents and we had a different driver.  Its good bye to Sukron, at least for the next 3 days.  Bidien will be joining us at Semeru the following morning.  Another long ride.

Mount Semeru

We got to our little home stay around 1am.  I had fallen asleep in the car and was really in a daze when Dani woke us up.  All I recalled was him calling us to go sleep on proper beds.  At least for me, I was walking around like a zombie.  It was freezing cold.  A short toilet break and I now know why Dani had insisted we take the shower back at his place.  The water was icy cold.  Heading back to the room, we climbed onto bed and was going to sleep when I heard a knock on the door.  Daniel passed us 2 sleeping bags which I took over, mumbled thanks and closed the door.  We had to be up at 6am in the morning.  I threw Sara a sleeping bag, took one and crawled in.  Nice and warm and I was dead tired.

It was chilly when we got up.  I was so unwilling to crawl out of my bag.  We had to wash up and get ready for our day.  We were having a full day of hiking today.  I had a good laugh when i opened our door.  The 2 silly girls had gone to bed with the room key stuck to the door on the outside.  Haha, I was so tired I didn’t even checked if I locked the door.  Washed up and changed, the boys said we had to wait for Bidien.  I felt I was terrible.  I kept asking if we were having breakfast.  Hungry after a freezing night.

Finally breakfast!!!.  It was a sumptuous breakfast.  Rice, egg, vegetable.  It was yummy.  As we were eating, Dani was joking that he asked for this to be prepared for us as most foreigners would usually just have a sandwich.  Oops, what did this mean?  We ate a lot?  Haha, but rice, egg and vegetables were normal for Singaporeans too.  Since we were still waiting, i took time to take some photos of our home stay.  Going to the boys’ room, we found lots of food that would last us for the next 3 days.  I was glad we had porters for them.  And the biggest surprise of all, Dani bought lots of mineral water for us.  I had initially thought we were drinking from the lake.  He was really worried that we would not be used to it, so he prepared lots of bottled drinks for us.  Thank you Dani.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
waking up to a lovely morning
Mount Semeru, Indonesia
all set to go

And we still couldn’t locate Bidien, so finally we decided to set off without him.  Our 3 porters with all the food load had moved off first.  We followed shortly behind.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
the start of our journey

I was glad the sun was out so it was beginning to warm up a little.  So here we were, still looking fresh at the start of our journey.  The weather was great, bright and sunny with clear blue sky.  Sara and Daniel ended up moving ahead of us while Dani and I took our time.  We had started out late so I guessed we did have to move a little faster in order to make it to our camp ground before dark.

I know I had said this umpteen times but I really could not believe i was in Indonesia.  The view was amazing and the weather just nice for hiking.  The air was chilly with the occasional gust of wind but it was a clear day so the it was still warm from the sun.  Me being me just couldn’t help it when I saw the locals selling food stuff and fruits along the way.  I had my pisang goreng and water melon.  Filling and refreshing.  Great snack to have along the way.  Unfortunately no coke. 🙁

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
beautiful stone wall behind the mist
Mount Semeru, Indonesia
on the road again

Dani and I took our time, taking photos and soaking in the beauty of our surroundings.  Of course, Dani also helped quite a number of climbers take photos along the way, excellent service. 🙂 It got misty as we got higher and Dani was trying to point out Watu Rejeng, a stone wall.  Not easy to see as I tried to peer through the drifting mist.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
taking a break

And we finally caught up with Sara and Daniel.  We were chatting about Watu Rejeng when we found out that Daniel had lied to Sara.  We had a good laugh about it.  The wall was huge contrary to what Daniel had said apparently.  No worries Sara, we would still be passing through on our descent. 🙂

According to Daniel, this was the popular resting place, right before the torturous part ahead.  Seemed that it would be pretty steep from here on, so I finished up the last watermelon before moving on.  Needed to hydrate and be prepared.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
the big guy from afar

All worth it because it opened up to a beautiful view and for some strange reason, the skies cleared up completely. Just nice for us to have a clear view of the peak, smoking hot peak. 🙂

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
our smoking hot goal

And as we got higher up, we got better views of the big guy ahead.  As it was a live volcano, it was constantly smoking.  The puffs of smoke emerged constantly.  Suddenly, looking at it, I was a  bit skeptical.  By now I know this was not a easy mountain.  The original idea was to really camp at the beautiful Ranu Kumbolo.  Climbing the peak was a by the way idea, so i didn’t really research on it.  What did we just land ourselves into?

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
first glimpse of the beautiful Ranu Kumbolo

And finally we reached Ranu Kumbolo where the sunrise view was a legendary beauty.  We were passing through it today and would be back on our descent to camp before heading back.  We had lunch, enjoying the cool breeze from the lake.  It was indeed a little hidden paradise.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
view from the love hill

After lunch, we had to conquer the Love Hill.  It was a steep uphill climb and it had to be done with no stops.  No stopping and no turning back and you will find the man of your dreams.  And what could i do but to go through with this?  There’s always the what ifs so I figured I better simply follow the rules.  Completely out of breath when I reached the top.  Taking photo was probably an excuse to take a rest.  So this meant I would be able to find my Mr Right?

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
savannah behind the love hill

A hill that separates 2 worlds.  A hidden lake and a great savannah.  A pity it was the dry season and we couldn’t catch the lavender field view.  i could only imagine walking through a field of purple flowers.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
the dried up lavender field purple no more 🙁

We could still spot some flowers but most of them were all dried up.  After the lavender field, we came to what I called the ‘moss’ field.  To a huge extent, this trip had sceneries close to that of Kilimanjaro, perhaps a mini version. But no less beautiful.  Even the weather and temperature seemed similar.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
the moss balls field

Once again, I couldn’t resist it.  I had to run my hand through them.  So soft that I wanted to lie flat on them, balls and balls of them.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
nearing our campsite for the night

And yes we were nearing our campsite.  At this point, I realised we were a strange looking group and many fellow climbers we met along the way must be wondering how our group formed.  Guessed there were not many foreigners and it was strange because I didn’t look local and Sara and I looked like sisters.  But she spoke fluent Bahasa and even Javanese.  We must have puzzled a lot of people.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
smoking hot view before our campsite

I remembered running down slope at the very last stretch just before we reached the campsite at Kalimati.  Sara and I helped to set up the tents and we were looking forward to cleaning ourselves up a little.  I needed the ‘toilet’ too and this was a good area, plenty of good spots. 🙂  We surveyed the area a little too, just in case we needed to use the ‘loo’ int he middle of the night.  After a good wash up and changing into clean clothes, I felt a lot better.  It was also getting dark and cold without the warmth of the sun.

We went to bed early as we had to start climbing at midnight.  I hardly slept that night.  It was really cold.  Before our alarm went off, we heard Daniel waking us up.  Silly me had kicked over my bottle of water last night and my most important knee guard was all wet.  even the sleeping bag was wet.  This meant I had to do this without my knee guard and i really hoped my knee would hold up well.  I could tell Dani seemed really worried.  Daniel had insisted on getting me stick and he had the guys cut one for me.  At this moment I saw Bidien and he said he had climbed up last night.  There was a slight commotion outside the tent last night and I guessed that was Bidien turning up unexpectedly.  It was nice to see him.

We moved on after having some bread and the initial part was not that bad.  Some loose sand and rocks but all manageable.  We had an extra guide now.  One of our porters was coming along and leading the way.  What followed was a gruelling journey.  My first time climbing up volcano ash and I was glad I had the stick.  Each step up and I was sliding backwards.  So tiring.  Now I got why Dani said I would be on all fours without a stick.  And it was crowded.  There was actually a human traffic jam.  Some guys started shouting for people in front to move on.  It was cold and tough staying put in queue.  By now Dani and I had worked out an excellent system.  He would go ahead in front of me and jammed in a foothold for me.  I only had to retrace his steps.  No coke but fanta was a saviour now.  I had no idea how I looked.  But it was cold, dry and I was so tired.  Dani said I stopped smiling and he got worried.  He pulled out some chocolate and forced me to stop and eat.  We shared the fanta and he finally agreed it was a refreshing drink to have.

We finally saw Daniel and Sara slightly ahead of us.  They were continuing but Dani and I decided to stop and enjoy the sunrise at the slope.  The queue was hardly moving so I guessed no point standing there.  We found a spot that was out of the way of anyone and sat down to enjoy the moment, sipping Fanta as we admire the sunrise view.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
view from the slope of Mount Semeru

I had always loved the colours of sunrise and at this moment, I was also looking forward to the warmth it would bring.  Yes, I was smiling again and with such a view, who wouldn’t?

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
taking a moment to enjoy the warmth
Mount Semeru, Indonesia
the amazing view

We moved on towards the summit but had to stop occasionally to wait for the queue to clear.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
waiting for the queue to clear
Mount Semeru, Indonesia
and up we go
Mount Semeru, Indonesia
my toughest hike thus far

I had to admit that this was really my toughest mountain thus far.  It was really painful and I was really asking myself why.  But I know, if there was a chance, I would be packed up and ready to go again in another 2 weeks time.  This was what we had to go through, a slope of loose sand, volcano ash and loose rocks.  Dust was everywhere and the air was not the most pleasant to breath.  But finally we reached the summit.  It was all worth it.  Thank you Daniel and Dani.  You guys got us up!!

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
my partner in crime and the guys who made this happen

We made it!!! And of course, photo taking time.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
exhilarating views and thundering booms

This is the amazing part, watching the volcano spew mushrooms and mushrooms of thick white smoke.  There had been a lot of activities these days so we got to see the smoke balls every few minutes.  And each time, it came with a thunderous cough, almost liked it was having a bad cold and was all stuffed up.  Each time it coughed, the ground shook.  Quite an experience to be up here and experiencing this.   Do not be mistaken by the blue skies, it was freezing cold.  And yes, Dani was the crazy one to undress and change into a short sleeved shirt.  But he was shivering after that. :p

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
jumping for joy at the top
Mount Semeru, Indonesia
a familiar view from the top

Oh we could also see Mt Bromo from here.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
on top of a live volcano

And thats a huge ball of smoke.  We were enjoying the view and we each took our own spot for that quiet moment.  At least I did.  Just a moment to enjoy this view and at the same time sort through my thoughts.

Hard to decide if it was cold or hot up there.  With the sun up and the hard ground heating up, it was hot.  Sunny and hot.  But it was also a mistake to remove the jacket because the wind was strong and each gust brought with it cold air that made your hair stand.  It was then we realised Daniel was missing.  He did mention that it was cold and we should descend so we were wondering if he had abandoned us.  We went on our descent search for Daniel.

It didn’t take long and we didn’t have to go far.  He was just finding a spot to hide from the wind and had not left us behind.  Though we had decided to descend, I had an important question in my mind.  How do we make our way down these slopes of loose rocks, gravels and sand?  I had no idea if I could even keep my balance or if my knee could take the brunt of my weight on it.  Lucky for me, or us, the way down was easy.  Dani taught us how to do it proper and we slid all our way down.  Both Sara and I fell a couple of times but surprisingly we just picked ourselves up and continued our way down.  By the time I reached the bottom of the main gravel area, I was already covered in dust from head to toe.  Everything was covered in volcano ash.  And I looked like a really old lady with white hair.

We made our way back to camp and I was so tired. Back at camp, the nicest surprise was the plate of cut fruits and jelly.  And for me, the greatest reward was my bottle of coke!!!  Dani did buy coke for me.  😉 Fruits and jelly tasted so good and so refreshing while coke was really my sugar fix.  I felt so filthy but didn’t really know how to clean myself up.  Too much dust and dirt everywhere and I could never really get myself clean.  The last 2 days had been extremely tiring and we hardly slept.  For once, I have no appetite and had to skip breakfast.  We all agreed that we should take a nap.  The guys moved our tent to a slightly more shaded area.  Sara and I packed up a little and I tried to take a nap.

2pm and it was time to break camp and set off again.  For most people, they would be descending and heading back to civilisation.  Dani had been surprised and a little worried that we actually wanted to spend one more night in a tent in the wild.  We were heading back to Ranu kumbolo for our sunrise view the next morning.  It would be a freezing cold night by the lake but some of the photos I had seen were so amazing, I was pretty sure it would definitely be worth it.

Perhaps it was a load of my mind, though tired, I felt I was enjoying the view more retracing our steps back to the lake.  Back to my hill and field of hairballs, I walked right to the midst of it.  Dani was happily sitting on a ball while I looked for my dense spot where I could lie down.  They were really soft to the touch and it really felt like my fingers were combing through balls and balls of long fury hair.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
back to my hill of hairballs

A night had pass and still no purple field.  Yes, I was dreaming and hoping that our little wish will be fulfilled over night.  No purple field but we found an area of little bright yellow flowers.  As usual, it was hard to resist not walking right into it. 🙂

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
walking into a section of golden yellow flowers

Sara and Daniel had gone ahead first while Dani and I took some time admiring the scenery from the top of love hill.  Sitting among the tall grass, the air was fresh here and I swore I self hypnotised myself and for a brief moment, time stood still.  The last bit of warmth from the sun before we head downhill.  According to Dani, the lake area is so well secluded that the sun hardly reached it which was why the temperature was low.  Both of us were reluctant to face the cold but the thought of being able to wash up a little by the lake was appealing though.

I thought climbing up love hill was tough but going down it was much tougher and Dani had to help me along.  Looking at the lake from above, I was shocked at how crowded the area was.  There were so many tents.  Dani and i were wondering where ours would be.  A good view would probably mean a freezing night as we would probably take in the onslaught of the cold air from the lake.  Anywhere warmer, we would be blocked and deprived of the amazing view.

We found the guys after some looking around.  Bidien had been amazing and we had gotten a spot on the front row right in front of the lake.  But that also meant a freezing night ahead.  I found Sara and we cleaned ourselves up as much as we could.  There were dust and sand everywhere and we laughed at our attempts to clean up.  I decided to try washing my black fingers in the lake.  Changing into my sandals, I walked over and stuck my feet in.  My goodness, it was cold.  Gingerly, I dipped my fingers in and washed my face.  I really wasn’t kidding when I felt my face go numb, so I guessed washing my hair would be a huge mistake.

I headed back to tent and together with Sara, we combed out our hair.  It was a total mess.  There was so much sand in between.  Becoming our routine, we went in search of toilet spot but this was really tough because it was so crowded and there were people everywhere.  We decided to seek advice from Dani and he said we should only do it in the dark.  Guess we would try again much later then.  We walked around a bit before I decided it was too cold and had to make a run for our tent.  It was getting really cold and it was nice to snuggle up in our sleeping bag in the tent.  Nope, I wasn’t going out again unless it was absolutely necessary.

It wasn’t really just us.  Both Dani and Daniel were feeling cold too.  Dinner time was funny when Daniel entered our tent all wrapped up, sarong, sleeping bag.  Poor Dani was running in and out serving food and drinks.  At that moment, Dani mentioned that he had prepared 3 bottles of bintang for us.  And it was truly unbelievable when I said no.  I guessed we were really all tired and I was hoping for a good night’s rest.  Dinner was great and we had a good chat over silly things we did during the previous trip and the trip thus far.  It was a cold cold night and we would be waking up early for sunrise tomorrow, so an early rest was definitely welcome.

It wasn’t as easy to sleep as I had hoped.  It was noisy with the crowd and for some reason, our neighbours were packing up in the middle of the night.  They were breaking camp for the summit climb.  Snugly tucked into my sleeping bag, I was trying to minimise movements so I could keep the warm spots warm.  Strangely i felt as though there was something very close to me.  Reluctantly I unzipped a little to stick out my head a little.  I laughed to myself.  There was a wrapped up mummy whose head portion was just next to mine.  I checked to see if I had strangely moved out of my corner.  Nope, it wasnt’s me but the tent was big so I rolled over a little and continued sleeping.  I woke up again to feel a little tap on my feet.  Once, twice, then it stopped.  And it came again, tap tap tap.  I unzipped again as I thought Sara was calling me.  This was even funnier.  The cocoon next to me was now diagonally across the tent.  I inched away a little to give her more space and went back to sleep.

I woke up to the ‘sounds’ of sunrise.  Everyone was up early.  I struggled out of my bag, too cold.  Sara was unzipping too… Cold, cold, cold.  Were we going to be so cowardly to hide in the tent and miss sunrise?  It was still early so I took my time to sit up, slowly warming each cold spot before moving on.  Please do not be mistaken, I was still wriggling around tent in my sleeping bag with simply no intention of leaving its warmth.  sara did the same and it was a while before we mustered enough courage to slightly open up the tent zipper.  That was the first experiment, to test the outside air temperature.  The cold air came rushing in and I moved back a little to return to the warm tent air.  At this point, we heard a familiar voice.  It was Daniel calling us.  I heard the tent unzipping and this time his voice was loud and clear. ‘Sara, Panny, wake up!!’

We were up, just unwilling to move.  I unzipped the tent a little further down and took a peek outside.  I burst out laughing, there stood Daniel outside his tent, all wrapped up in his sleeping bag.  I called Sara over and we popped our head out of the tent.  Daniel was trying hard to get us out of the tent.  I could hear Dani too.  As cowardly as us, he too was hiding in the tent. But with our great location, the view from our tent was amazing.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
early morning view from our tent

Daniel had pulled out a foam mattress from his tent and was sitting outside.  However, he was still in his sleeping bag.  He told us to do the same but Sara and I both agreed that the view from the tent was good enough.  The row of people standing by the lake were the early risers, all looking for a good spot for their tripod and camera.  We were happy to just stay in our tent.  This was first class tent spot and we really didn’t want to waste. it. 😉

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
sunrise from the tent

And the sun was coming up really slowly.  The magnificent rays could not be contained and were the first to lit up the skies.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
rising mist adding a mystical feel to the lake

The layer of mist covered the lake surface and with the rising sun and warmth, the mist was moving upwards and rising slowly, creating movements in the lake that exuded a supernatural beauty.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
my yoke is peeking through

I waited patiently for my ‘yoke’ to appear.  The perfect circle of light that was creeping up sneakily formed a picturesque view.  The rising sun brought with it warmth and light.  Daniel had removed his sleeping bag gear and was looking comfortable.   He had given up coaxing us and was going for a walk on his own.  It was then that we saw our neighbour, Dani who had stuck his head out of the tent and was taking photos of our 2 pop-out heads.  His stepping out was an assurance to us and we crawled out slowly.  Loved the sun in my face.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
and we finally braved the cold and crawled out of tent
Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
the sun is up

And the sun is up.  Daniel was happy to see us out and he was bringing us hot drinks.  That was probably the best tasting tea.  Heartwarming too.  We decided to go round the lake to to take some photos.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
the beautiful log

Daniel found the log.  No tree climbing as I had promised Sukron.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
posing with the log

Then again, its a log.  And it wasn’t reaching up to the skies, it was lying horizontally in the lake.  So my take was this didn’t really count as a tree. 🙂  Pardon the number of photos.  They were not taken by me, probably reason why they were good shots.  Well, I would like to think a good model makes all the difference too. 😉

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
admiring the lake view
Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
‘conference’ by the lake

The log was the perfect sit around area to have a nice chat.  Don’t we look as though we were having a serious conference?

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
breathtaking views
Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
taking a quiet moment

Wouldn’t you be mesmerised by the view around the lake?  I did and I fell in love with logs after logs.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
being at the right place at the right time

Daniel had been taking over my camera so i got to have all these lovely photos.  To quote Daniel, this was ‘being at the right place at the right time’.  We got our lovely shots with the sun rays but the moment, we switched around, the rays disappeared.  Oops… … but that was definitely a cool pose. 🙂

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
enjoying the soft warm rays of the morning sun

And we headed back to our tent to get ready to break camp.  As we headed back, the wind died and the lake became a perfectly still mirror, reflecting everything perfectly off its waters.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
when the wind dies down
Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
when all is still

The quiet moment lasted only a short while before the wind picked up again.  That was when the rippling of the water surface began.  The ripples were picking up the sun rays and sparkling against the clear blue sky.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
and the rippling starts

Packing had never been this hard.  I had thought we would all be glad to leave and return to civilisation.  A good shower and a good bed did sound good at the moment but I was actually sad to leave.  I was even toying with the idea of staying one more night.  Now that its day time, bright and sunny, we could easily grab some lake water and shower down at some corner.  Oh, swimming and bathing is not allowed in case you are wondering why i wasn’t in the water.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
group photo

And these were how we kept happy memories alive.  Happy, crazy photos.  We were even caught discussing our pose, haha.  Even as I type now, I’m smiling.  Love you guys!  really 🙂  One last look at the beautiful lake as we started on our descent.

Ranu Kumbolo, Indonesia
last look at the beautiful lake

There seemed to be an unannounced competition between us and our porters.  We were heading down really fast and Sara and Daniel  attributed that to me.   Well, I gave full credit to my last bottle of coke in hand.  Last burst of energy. 🙂  or maybe just sugar rush.  Oh a special mention, Sara got to see Watu Rejeng.  Nice clear view of the huge wall.  Reaching the base, it was a sad good bye and the last touch of the mountains water.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
saying goodbye to seamer

There was a stretch of tarmac road that was nicely patched as we headed back to our home stay area.  Definitely not Daniel’s cup of tea.  But at the end of the road, something else was. 😉  Ais Kacang!!  Even our porters were having theirs at the same stall.  We joined them, grinning away as our icy cold dessert arrived.  And Daniel got us keropk too!!!  another of my favourite snack.  Dani had gone to settle some paperwork and was in shock to see us eating away happily.  So much for all the effort to get us mineral water and now, here we were, seated in a local stall eating locally made ice dessert.  Yum yum.

Reality was another long ride back to civilisation, Malang.  On the way back, we stopped by the roadside to take in the last view of the area.  A familiar sighting of the teletubbies hill we saw during our previous trip.

Mount Semeru, Indonesia
view from the road

As we drove along, Dani mentioned that we would be passing by a waterfall.  Our eyes lit at the mention of that and I thought we were supposed to be tired and sleepy and all drained out.  But hey, that’s another beautiful place we had to see.

Coban Pelangi (rainbow waterfall)

Surabaya, Indonesia
the rainbow waterfall

We apparently did not learn our lesson.  A waterfall would never be out by the roadside.  Yes, it was walking and walking again.  As Dani put it, a short hike.  Perhaps after staying out in nature for the last few days had changed our perspectives a little, I was telling Sara as we walked down the steps that this felt so man made.  It was still rustic and forested but the way was pathed nicely with rocks and stone steps.  Something was missing or was i getting jaded?

There were even proper toilets.  I jokingly told the boys I had forgotten how to use one. :p  I needed a tree or a good bush. 😉  But the fall was amazing still.  No rainbow but still beautiful.

Surabaya, Indonesia
hiding from the ‘rain’

And of course, Dani was encouraging me to go swim so we headed down to the ‘pool’ area.  Hey, the water was icy cold but there were people in the waters.  Nope, I didn’t have the guts to go into the water.  Major splashing from the falls and the 2 guys were hiding away while we took photos.  As we left the waterfall, hiking back towards the car, I was asking why we were doing this.  Weren’t we supposed to be nursing our tired muscles and having a good sleep in the car?  I seriously felt that something was wrong with all 4 of us.

We had lunch along the way and I had no idea how, we landed up in somebody’s apple farm.  Dani again… but absolutely no complaints.  The plants were flowering but it wasn’t harvest time at the moment.  The Malang apple which was crunchy and refreshing.  We had quite a number of those in the mountain.

Malang, Indonesia
visting Malang apple farm
Malang, Indonesia
flowers from the apple tree

Malang and Batu

For some strange reason, we were really not as tired as I thought we would be.  In the car, we were discussion plans for the night.  We were going to head back to Dani’s place and Martha would be sending us to our hotel in the city .  Apparently the plan was to either go for a massage or we could head to Batu. Dani had been waiting to show me the hill where the locals paraglide and there were also lots of good food.  One particular must try was the flavoured glutinous rice.  And we could finish up our 3 bottles of Bintang too.  We now have a plan.

After dropping off the guys, we took Martha’s car and headed off.  I felt really bad as I was filthy.  Her car was so clean.  We had an hour to freshen up before Martha picked us up again for dinner.  The hotel was simple but nice and clean, so clean I actually felt bad as I was filthy.  I needed the toilet badly so I went first.  A nice warm bath and the amount of dirt that came through was unbelievable.  A whole lot of sand came off my hair as i combed through it and I had to wash it 3 times.  Cleaning the dirt from my nails was not an easy feat too.  I felt so clean after the good wash.

That was when the sleep bug hit me.  I didn’t want to lie down in bed lest I fell asleep.  I wanted to pack but was unwilling to touch anything.  So I decided to enjoy my hot tea while i waited for Sara.

Traffic was bad as we drove to Batu.  But we all looked clean and refreshed and we all smelled nice. 🙂  It was already dark when we got there and parking was not easy too.  Martha found a good spot pretty nearby.  One thing to note, do not wear shorts and singlet.  Firstly, the night air was chilly.  Secondly, I stood out like a sore thumb, too scantily dressed.  Sara and i went around to buy snacks from the street side stall while Martha queued for satay and the guys queued for seats at the glutinous rice stall.  The durian flavour one was delicious… yum yum.  I felt so contented and so full and so sleepy.  it was supposed to be a fun night out but my eyes could hardly stay open.  Final decision was to head back for a good rest before we caught a flight back to Singapore the following day.

I had an amazingly wonderful sleep and I felt so well rested.  Was i ready to head back to Singapore?  I had no answer to that.  We were early so I was wondering if we were going anywhere before the airport.

Happy to see everyone again and we all looked so clean it was a bit unusual. 🙂  They had a nice surprise for us.  I had been talking about it since the beginning of this trip.  Again not a tourist destination… haha, yes that sounds familiar.  I wanted to visit an allegedly haunted hotel. :p  And my wish is coming true, thanks to the gang.

Hotel Niagara

Ok, let me clarify.  I wasn’t sure and still am not sure if it was haunted but it definitely was an old building.  From the photos in the lobby, the hotel was completed in the 1930s.

Malang, Indonesia
visting Hotel Niagara
Malang, Indonesia
charming old building

And Dani being Dani, he somehow managed to get us into the building to view the rooms.  I did fall in love with the place, the old details were mostly intact and the charm was unmistakable.

Malang, Indonesia
the back of house and old chapel
Malang, Indonesia
old house details
Malang, Indonesia
bathroom details from olden times
Malang, Indonesia
intricate woodwork and flooring

Did i capture the lady of the hotel here? :p

Malang, Indonesia
2nd level rooms
Malang, Indonesia
means to go up

For a moment, I did wish that the elevator was still working.  It would be cool to take a ride in it.  Maybe it would still creak the same way it did in most horror movies. :p  ooops… just my imagination.

Malang, Indonesia
the first level

After the visit, we headed to the airport where we had lunch with our hosts.  Definitely going to miss the whole gang.  Really really good to see them all again after 2 months.   I guessed the earliest we head back would be in 2015, since Dani had already announced that this was Sara’s last trip to East Java … … this year.  And the 2 silly girls ran all the way to the gate… we made it back in Singapore on our scheduled flight.

Thank you Sara(s) and OurTrip First. 🙂