This post highlights personal experience, motorbike rental, riding/hiking time estimation, tips in Bahasa Indonesia.
Ijen’s crater blue flames are phenomenal, so I took it upon myself to witness the famous blue.
August last year, just the night before Indonesia celebrated its 70th Independence day, I rode a motorcycle up to the Paltuding parking, which is the last stop for any vehicle going to Ijen mountain. After that, what’s left is to hike for approximately 3,5 kilometers to reach the top or the crater.
At that time, the night was super cold for me. Probably around or less than 10 degrees Celcius. For a person who doesn’t really enjoy cold, I was hardly prepared for the temperature dropping as I rode up. My only consolation was a proper mountain jacket, but sadly without gloves, shawls or socks. I took a hard lesson to prepare myself better next time to anticipate the cold temperature. Especially if I decided to ride a motorbike again. The cold wind wasn’t exactly friendly, they were bitingly cold. I almost couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers!
The riding up to Paltuding from Banyuwangi city, which is around 34 km, lasted 1 hour plus–including getting lost and eating bakso somewhere along the road. I recommended Yamaha X-Ride from Tripoli Tour and Travels in Banyuwangi city. Even though the motorbike is a matic one, but very reliable and tough. The road was bumpy in some places, and there was only minimal lighting, especially when you got into the forest area and far from the local settlements.
At Paltuding, people have to report to the checkpoint and paid for entrance fee and parking. It costed me under USD2 for one person and a motorbike. It’s a local price, so expect to pay more if you are foreigners.
Trekking to the crater open around midnight. It depends on your trekking speed, but probably will take around 1 to 2 and a half hours. There is also trekking down into the crater, which was less than a kilometer or around half hour down track on a very rocky-no-safety-procedure path. It was quite challenging since there was possibility of slippery stone-sands or mini man-caused landslide. It was crowded at that time, and some visitors were just plain stupid or careless that made it even more dangerous.
The rocky path was actually path for the sulfur miners and I was blown by their strength. They usually carried up to 80 kilograms of sulfur in one trip–that’s around 7 kilometers back and forth, with half the trip carrying sulfur almost twice their weight! Although unlikely, I hope they got paid handsomely for their hard and dangerous work. Because surely breathing on sulfur everyday is not recommended for health.
Slow trekking to the top and down the crater for me was two hours plus, with many stops to catch my breath and stare at the blinking stars and teasing milky way. The blue flames were great! But since the wind was strong, I was attacked by sulfuric gas. That was awful! I can’t breathe and my eyes were itchy. Like I said, regrettably, I came unprepared–not even a decent mask. Served me right, because I totally didn’t do my homework before going on this impromptu solo trip. Anyway, if you don’t have a standard good mask, then at least wet your cloth mask to minimalize breathing on the sulfuric gas. The blue flames are visible just until dawn, around 4 AM local time.
For me the highlight of Ijen crater was the morning after. At night, things were plain dark, nothing to see at all, but as morning came and the sun slowly lit the world, the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. It was my first time standing above the cloud. Stupidly, it just dawned on me that that was my first time ever trekking a mountain, hence my lousy preparation. I wasn’t even aware that I was fricking trekking a mountain at that time, my head only chanted blue flames the whole time. I was lucky nothing bad happened to me.
Overall this solo trip was unforgettable. Aaand, it’s possible to do a solo trip to Kawah Ijen!
One suggestion I have to make is to get much rest or sleep before trekking up or after trekking down. The problem of Ijen night trekking is that you’ll get sleepy on the ride down from Paltuding back to the city, and my friend, like drunk driving, sleepy-driving is also dangerous!
Tips untuk para pejalan solo yang ingin menyaksikan api biru di Ijen:
- Pilih motor yang nyaman, aman digunakan (periksa rem dan ban). Dan motor CC besar bila bisa, karena selain jalannya menanjak, sebagian jalan menuju ke Paltuding rusak. Saya merekomendasikan rental motor Tripoli Tour dan Travels di kota Banyuwangi.
- Jika menghabiskan malam untuk trekking, pastikan untuk istirahat sebelum berkendara turun dari Paltuding ke Banyuwangi. Intinya, jangan berkendara sambil mengantuk! Bahaya, karena kamu sendirian!
- Pakai alas kaki yang nyaman. Sandal gunung bisa, tapi lebih baik sepatu untuk melindungi kaki dari bebatuan tajam saat menuruni kawah.
- Gunakan pakaian hangat dan nyaman. Syal, kaos kaki, dan sarung tangan akan membantu bila kamu tidak suka dingin.
- Bawa masker yang bagus kalau ingin melihat api birunya dari jarak dekat. Kalau membawa masker berbahan kain, basahi secukupnya untuk meminimalisir menghirup gas belerang.
- Jangan lupa bawa senter. Headlamp kalau bisa, soalnya kamu akan membutuhkan tangan untuk membantu naik di beberapa tanjakan atau turunan.
ETA: picture of a sulfur miner and a tip.