Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A trip that taught me not to give up

Top of Mount Ijen, May 2015

A family affair

Truthfully, I didn't plan any vacation for the rest of 2015 until my sister, who's been living in Holland, told me that she was coming back for three weeks. After some planning with her and our brother, we decided to have a trip together. The destination was Mount Ijen, for they wanted a sight of the Blue Fire, which can only be found in two places in the entire world. 

So on Friday, 22nd of May, I dragged my love one and take a plane home to join my siblings. We picked this airways in the next picture. Since it wasn't a long flight, we figure that convenience can take a second place. I should tell you, though, the combination of rough weather (and knowing that most Indonesian does not take warning for not using their cellphone on board seriously) was not good for my mental health. (Though it paid off after getting home and having what my mother cooked for dinner).
Meet Mr. Turtle, my travelling avatar.
The plane flew quite low, and we got to see sights of Java island from above. I took this picture on the way, not knowing really what mountain it was.
Can it be Merapi?

Starting it hot

Fast forward to the next day, the real trip began. We were picked up by our ride around 10.00 AM on Saturday, since it will take around 6 to 8 hours drive from our house to Bondowoso, a city close to Mount Ijen. We had one guide who accompanied us along the trip and one driver. Our team consisted of me and my dearest love, my older brother, my sister and his boyfriend. Boy, did we have fun teasing my brother for being alone.

The ride itself was rather unpleasant due to the air conditioner malfunction. It was as hot as a sauna that we opted to open the windows. But that was about the only complain we had along this trip, fortunately.

Just at lunchtime, we arrived at the city of Probolinggo, one of the cities along the northern coast of East Java. We stopped at at place called Ocean Garden, a restaurant located in a mangrove forest. The restaurant has these tiny huts connected to the main area with boardwalks. Unfortunately, the path that goes to the seaside was being repaired, so we can't go too far inside the mangrove forest.

The food was good, by the way, so if you happened to be around the city and wanted a nice experience, Ocean Garden could be a place to check.

The hut that we picked for lunch
Mr. Turtle peeking at the swamp

A cute little fountain
Garuda statue

A long drive later, we arrived at the town of Bondowoso. It was past dusk, around 7 hours from when we set off. We stopped at a hotel for some dinner and rest. Our guide told us to take a good rest, because the hike up the mountain would not be easy. It will take another 3 hours drive from Bondowoso to the mountain, and since the gate to Mount Ijen itself won't be open until 2 AM, we had about 6 hours for rest.
The small cozy hotel

I couldn't rest that easily, though, since I am used to sleeping at certain hour at night. And since it was my first time in Bondowoso, I asked my boyfriend to accompany me sightseeing for a bit. 

Luckily the hotel was not far from the city square, or Alun-alun as we called it in Bahasa Indonesia. We walked there to see people enjoying their weekend, caught a sight of a bunch of kids practicing hip-hop dance, and passing by a small carnival held at one corner of the Alun-alun.

We spent around 1 hour strolling around the area. And I have to say, I envy the serenity and the slow-pace feel of the town. It was dark, yet the sidewalks were well-lit that I felt secure walking around at night in a place that I just visited that day, the vehicles were slow enough that crossing the streets was peaceful. Something that I haven't felt for years since I came to Bandung.  

To give up or not to give up, that was the question

An hour before midnight, we started out again. We left the hotel and head to our main destination, Mount Ijen. We arrived at the gate exactly when it was just opened, so we set out almost immediately after getting our tickets.

This picture is of the rest point near the entrance, just before the hiking path. As you can see, it was about 3 KM away from the crater, with around 1500 m difference in height. 

Paltuding under the morning light
Now you see, I'm not much of an exercising kind. Even my boyfriend would scold me time to time for my laziness. And it kinda show as we started out on the climb. Our guide brought along a second guide, a local man to join us, just to make sure we have a help if our team got separated. Mr guide said that sometimes a group would have different pace of walk, so having more than one guide would be advantageous. He probably could tell that I was not as fit as my siblings, for I got left behind so badly in the end. 

The climb took us through a series of sandy path, dark and unlit. We managed our way with flashlights, with the guide telling us to stay on one side of the road, avoiding the cliffs to the other side. The path itself were mostly sloped upward, testing both our stamina and willpower. 

For me, it was not easy. I fretted a lot to my boyfriend who stayed with me while my siblings took off ahead with the local guide. I stopped a lot too, sometimes walking just a few steps ahead before catching a breath. Groups and groups of people passed me by, making it look easy to climb up, yet I couldn't even force myself to walk more than 20 steps ahead without stopping. Thankfully I had my dearest and our guide who encouraged me along the way.

As we made our way up, slow as an old lady, we met people who turned back and gave up. Our guide said that lots of people do gave up, both men and women. I didn't want to. Even if it will take me hours, I still want to climb all the way up. Once I got the the halfway stop, it felt so good that I was whooping out like a kid.

The rest of the track was not as hard, though it still took me some time to get up there. We reached the peak just as dawn tinted the sky with colors. I didn't manage to climb down the crater and caught a sight of the blue fire, but I was just in time for the sunrise. And the beautiful view was enough to pay off for all the climbs.

Morning sky and the Ijen caldera
Saw this cute tree on the way down
I am happy that I didn't give up, otherwise I won't get to see such beautiful sights. It felt just like fiction, where at the end of a hardship, you will get such reward that you'd be forever grateful. That's what I learned from this trip, that I should never give up. Because life is too great of an adventure to give up.

I also learnt that the way down is almost always hardest than the climb up.

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