After two months it’s time to say goodbye to Indonesia. Our journey took us from the busy metropole Jakarta to funeral ceremonies on Sulawesi, to an island paradise on the Togians, to a cigarette factory and a sulfur mine, temples and volcanoes, sea cows and dolphins, and finally to a party on a beach.
We spent one week exploring Lombok and rented a motorbike to go to Kuta, surfers’ paradise. Moving on to Sumbawa proved difficult with slow and cumbersome public transport, and we once more regretted not having our own wheels.
Maluk in Sumbawa was another surfers’ dream, and that’s it. As travelling became too time-consuming to move further eastwards and explore more of Sumbawa and Flores, we decided to move back west instead. We passed some nicely quiet days on Gili Meno before celebrating New Year’s on Gili Trawangan together with many others.
As so often in places where transport was time-consuming and difficult, we were rewarded by meeting friendly locals and having some nice adventures, whereas in very touristy places near Bali we experienced only hassle and shameless crooks. This is certainly a consequence of so many visitors carelessly spraying their cash.
But overall we very much enjoyed Indonesia – especially the less frequented areas without mass tourism. The country is incredibly large, very spread out and has much to offer. We did not have enough time to visit Sumatra, Molucco and other regions, so we definitely have to come back!
It began with the alarm at two a.m. We were the first to tackle the ascent from Pos Paltuding to Kawah Ijen, active volcano crater and source of raw sulfur in east Java.
Already the day before we had observed the miners carrying their baskets, connected with a wooden stick across their shoulders and loaded with at least 60, but up to 100 kg of the yellow substance. They carry this unbelievably heavy and uncomfortable load two to three times per day. This means one long hour of hiking first up the crater and then down through the forest to earn three to five euros per load.
In the early hours we already met a couple of them marching uphill with their empty baskets. When we had made it up the forest path and through the sulfur-heavy air still before sunrise, we were rewarded by an incredible view of the smoking crater spilling its yellow treasure. The workers stood in the middle of the smoke, breaking the sulfur with iron bars and loading it into the baskets with their bare hands.
Most amazing were the blue flames of burning sulfur at the point where the substance emerges in liquid form from the earth and solidifies. These flames are hardly visible in daylight and complete a stunning and unforgettable scenery of yellow rock, the crater lake, the noise and smell of the acidic smoke and the moonlit crater walls.
and a happy New Year! Thanks for reading our blog and all the best from Indonesia.
We miss you!
Mount Bromo is one of the three holy mountains for Indonesian Hindus and also a main tourist attraction in Java. According to the legend, a childless Hindu queen prayed to the volcano god for children, and got 25 of them. The last one sacrificed himself by jumping into the crater in order to thank the god.
We made our way to Bromo from the town of Probolinggo and – as a lot of others – got up very early in the morning to see Bromo and the landscape from the Penanjakan viewpoint at sunrise. Despite the crowd the experience was great, especially avoiding the offered expensive Jeep transport that will only take you when and where all others go and that will not save you from climbing the steep part anyway.
To see the crater from close-by, best is to hike to Bromo in late afternoon when you have it almost to yourself. The volcano lies in a landscape scattered with other volcanoes, on a plain of grey ash that offers views into the surrounding green Javan fields and mountains. We decided that we love volcanoes and moved straight on to the next one, Kawah Ijen.
Passing through a beautiful Javanese landscape of fertile rice fields and small villages ringed by mountains and volcanoes, our train finally reached Yogyakarta. Still headed by its sultan, Yogya is Java’s cultural capital. The historic palace with halls, pavillions and spacious courtyards remains the hub of traditional life.
We enjoyed some slower and easy-going days in the colourful city and the green region known for tofu, woodcarvings, ceramics and batik.
Considered one of Asia’s most spectacular archaeological sites, we were curious to see the temple of Borobudur. Built about 1,200 years ago from 60,000 cubic meters of stone, it is said to be as impressive as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
The two million stone blocks are structured in ten levels that each represent a different passage of the soul from Earth to heaven. A clockwise walk will take you through narrow corridors showing carved panels of Buddha’s incarnations and various aspects of Javanese life, finally leading to the bell-shaped stupas on the top three levels. Viewed from the sky, Borobudur resembles a tantric mandala – conceived as a Buddhist vision of the cosmos in stone.
It all sounds amazing, but to be honest, we were a bit disappointed, especially comparing to Angkor. The temple is certainly nice, but it somehow lacked the advertised magnificience, and maybe due to the World Heritage status, access is overpriced.