Where To Go
My Quest For Zest...
What To Do
DESTINATIONS IN JAVA
MY QUEST FOR ZEST...
I came to Java for volcano trekking and views. I took a 3 day-2 night tour from Ubud, but with an overpriced and poorly organized trip, I recommend just doing the trip on your own. You will save money and can still visit the same viewpoints. Even if you just arrive to Java on your own, as soon as you get off the ferry you will see signs for volcano tours for a third of what you'll pay when purchasing from Ubud.
I booked through a tour agency near my hostel in Ubud, discussing all the logistics prior to booking to make sure it was the tour for me. The tour began Tuesday morning and as the day started to unfold, I quickly realized that I was misinformed about what was actually included in the tour. I was safe, no worries there, but little things that combine to make the experience fluid were seriously lacking. I was promised an English speaking guide, meals included, and to be joining a group for the tour when I would arrive in Java (which was crucial for me since I was traveling alone). However, this was not the case. There were different people guiding me each step of the way so the time seriously lacked consistency. Neither I, or the person guiding me at the time, was sure of what was happening next. I was like a baton on a relay race. Day one lunch came around, and the meal was not included... It turned out that travel (long car rides between sites) and hostel stays were solo, I joined groups only on the volcano treks.
I was struggling internally a lot with wanting to express my thoughts to the tour agency but also not wanting to complain or be rude in any way. I was grateful for the opportunity to take the trip in the first place. I ended up realizing, it would hurt me more not to express myself and help try and make the tour better for future clients than to stay silent. It didn't seem ethical to say a tour included things when in fact it didn't (and I had budgeted on these expectations). I managed to chat with the company I booked through in a calm way, not wanting to express anger but just relay the events that occurred. I learned a lot from the experience, so I can't look at it in a negative light. I now reflect my initial emotions of anger, confusion and isolation with a smile. A reminder to release expectations, even when you think you have an idea of what is coming.
What To Do
Mother Nature on the volcano trek however, did not disappoint in any way! Wow...Planet Earth! Ijen stirred some more deep emotions as we trekked along side miners carrying heavy loads of sulfur from the depths of the crater. It was smoky and hard to breath. We were required to wear a mask given to us by the guide. The miners wore a mask (maybe) or just a buff...their coughs were heard from far away. As we descended in the dark on a steep and rocky trail into the smoke smelling of sulfur, some people in the group began to get overwhelmed and panicked. It was quite intense, even for just the short amount of time we stayed at the bottom witnessing the natural Blue Fire. This hurt my heart knowing how physically, mentally and emotionally hard these conditions were for the body to be in for just a short time, and the miners experience this day in and day out 24/7.
Our tour guide was a miner himself and offered his story as we trekked through the darkness. It amazed me how good his English was from chatting with tourists and how cheerful his outlook on life was. His father was also a miner, until he was 70 years old. He is an only child, taking care of his parents, wife and children, and is solely responsible for the families income. He is leading tours in the morning and mining in the afternoon, sleeping just several hours a night. He works for a month, no days off, and travels home just one day to visit his family. Miners are working 24/7. The average miner will carry 2 loads of sulfur a day. This is trekking down the crater, extracting the sulfur from the earth and carrying it back up...twice. They carry the sulfur on their backs in a balanced basket connected by bamboo. Some have enough money to buy a wagon to transport the sulfur down a section of the volcano, but this is not the case for most. A daily load is around 160-200 kilos of sulfur. The miner is paid 1,000rupiah per kilo, which is around 7cents. A miner makes around $7-10usd daily..... It weighed heavy on my heart to gain all this information and witness the conditions for myself, making me wonder how can I help! I felt so horrible just touring around to see the Blue Fire and crater while they worked so hard in unfavorable conditions around me.
As we climbed from the Blue Fire to the sunrise view , my mind was spiraling in so many directions trying to process and make sense of this world. As we reached the top, and the sun began to come up, light being shed on the surroundings, it was also shed on my heart. The most I can do as a human is not save the world and all the problems and inequalities, but be aware, conscious, and connect in a positive way to what's around me each day; do my part to make a positive influence on the people and environment in which I am involved. The sunrise was beautiful, and I was reminded of gratitude, the balance of life, the yin and the yang, the dark and the light, that we are all connected, all one...
Mount Bromo was as well stunning views and time to soak in the natural, magical beauty of this earth. It was another early morning start, 2:00am jeep pick up from the guesthouse. It's super cold in the dark and waiting for the sun to come up, so bring layers! The view points accumulate many spectators so be prepared that you won't be witnessing the view alone. However, the colors and view are spectacular.
After sunrise we drove with the Jeep to the volcano crater and got to walk around the top. It was a lot of stairs to reach the peak, but looking into the sulfur acidic waters below creating a steamy volcanic effect was well worth it. There felt like so much energy and power in that place. It was like nothing I had experienced before. You can take a walk at the top on a small path around the rim; be careful as there is no railing and a slip would appear to be well...the worst...
Note: I met a couple that was doing the tour on their own. They woke up early and walked to the Bromo crater from where they stayed in town. It took them less time than they thought, and they made it in plenty of time for sunrise. They said the view was incredible from this point and there was hardly anyone there at the time! Most tours go to the sunrise viewpoint prior to the crater.
Besides the volcanoes I didn't experience much else on Java. I left Bromo around 9am after the tour with an 8 hour bus ride and 2 hour ferry ride to reach Bali. Then there was an additional 3 hour bus ride and 1 hour car ride to Ubud.
Long travel, lost sleep but ignited fire in the soul and an eternal Earth connection.