We started our visit to Java from a small town of Banyuwangi which is close to Ijen volcano. There was a thick layer of clouds covering the volcano so we decided to go to Sukamade first. Sukamade is a remote beach where sea turtles come to hatch eggs. Based on the information from Emiwdrodze, getting there could be an adventure in itself. We got a jeep with a driver and our adventure started when we reached the river after a long drive. The bridge was half-collapsed and the water level way too high to cross to the other side in our 4×4 car. Our guide said that after rains the water level can rise and fall quickly and suggested to wait. So we waited, 3 more jeeps arrived in the meantime. We all observeed how the local guys load people, their luggage, scooters onto a small boat, wading in a knee-deep brown water. After 3 hours the drivers decided to try and cross the river in a different place. The biggest car went first and got stuck in the middle, water reaching windows. The passengers escaped trough windows and finally with the help of the other drivers the jeep made it to the other side. Yet our driver and his colleagues did not look like they want to give it a try. We came back to the previous place, took our backpacks and crossed the river by boat. Our driver promised to come back to pick us up tomorrow. It was getting dark and we still had about half an hour walk trough the jungle to the rangers camp. Headlights on and off we go. In the darkness we could see eyes looking at us in the lightbeams. Our guide said these are luwaks (the famous animals that eat coffee beans and then people make coffee out of their poo). Finally we reached the camp. The accommodation turned out to be very basic (I am running a photo contest of all toilets we visit – I will share it here one day) but hey, we are here for the turtles.
In the evening we go to the beach in complete darkness not to scare the turtles away. Simon is a bit scared (darkness!), tired but also excited. The sea roars and despite no light we can see white tops of the waves crushing on the shore. Finally! A great turtle, slowly moves toward the sea. The rangers collect eggs to prevent animals and poachers from stealing them. In their camp they bury the eggs again and wait until small turtless are born. There is a detailed description of the species, date,number of eggs…
Next day we wake up at 6 a.m., equipped with a bucket full of small turtles we go to the beach again to release them to the sea. The sea roars and these tiny babies rush towards the water the moment they touch the sand. After a while they are gone, taken by a big wave.
In the daylight I can see many turtle trails in the sand, pits in which they bury eggs, egg shells and of course… rubbish. Even though Java is cleaner than Bali, plastic rubbish is everywhere. Together with Szymon we pick up whatever we can. One of the rangers tells us the story about the rubbish coming from Australia. I do not want to argue with him. I will not save the world but at lease I want not to leave trash behind me and pick up what I can see.
On the way back from Sukamade (on foot) we pass a rubber plantation. The level of water in the river is much lower than the day before and today our car would have crossed without any problem. The weather conditions have improved so we plan to climb Ijen for the sunrise. Thanks to our visit at Sukamade, Szymon, usually scared of darkness is very excided this time – another adventure. Half past midnight our transport comes and we go to the park entrance. Equipped with gas masks (sulfur dioxide smoke stinks and is not healthy) and headlights off we go. I know that from the perspective of your coach it looks like an amazing adventure. In fact the trek is easy, there are many people and their headlights make a chain of light from the very bottom of the ascend up to the edge of the caldera. There are local guys waiting along the way, offering a ride to the top, selling small figures made of sulphur and to be honest, a white panda bear to make photos with would complete the picture. In fact our sons seem to be taking over the panda-job. Wherever we go, people start conversation (light version), ask if they can take a selfie together (standard version) or just stand next to them and take photo. I am wondering how many of our photos are already spreading throughout social media here. Perhaps we could turn it into business? Photo with blue-eyed Crood – $3. Both ofthem for $5.
Have you seen The Croods? This is a story about cavemen family. Our sons got this nickname when their communication style reached cavemen level. It should not come as a surprise after spending 3 weeks together 24×7 but it is very tiring. Currently the Croods are trying to “leave the cave” and we practice non-violent communication, teaching them to replace “you stupid moron” with “Please” and “Thank you”. This is an adventure in itself.
So we climbed Ijen and walked down into the caldera to see the famous blue flames. Along the way we passed workers (this is an operational sulphur mine) each of them carrying 80 kilograms of sulphur on their back. Then got back to the rim to observe how the daylight reveals a beautiful sulphur lake at the bottom. The view is breathtaking and it was worth a sleepless night.
We wave goodbye to Banyuwangi and take a train to Probolinggo, which is known as a starting point for Bromo volcano. There are three train couch classes (economy, business, executive). The trains are clean and air-conditioned, there is soap and toilet paper – a luxury compared to polish ones. We made a reservation for two nights in Probolinggo. A/C in the rooms, a normal toilet – comfort that comes unexpected.
We decide to hike Bromo next day. We catch a Bemo, then a local bus and walk a path through the wilderness into the caldera of Tengger volcao. Walking through the Sea of Sand we leave clouds uf dust behind us with every step. Bromo and others ahead of us. We pass by a Hindu temple, reject offers to get a ride on a horse or motorbike, climb 253 stairs (Szymon counted) to face a smoking and roaring abyss of the volcano. Bromo is impressive, magnificient and scary at the same time.
Tytus is a great companion during our treks. Always first. Szymon is handling them surprisingly well too. When he is tired, to restore his strength it is enough to just ask him about something from Harry Potter books or pretend that all scooters passing you by are Death Eaters. Or give him a sugar boost which is extremely easy here. They add sugar to everything. Each time we order a drink, we have to specifically ask for “no sugar” version. Otherwise we would get a coffee/tea-like sticky, sweet-like-hell drink. We even found something called happy cola – which is a can of coke with sweet, condensed milk. Enjoy your meal!
So far all cities we visited have been exhausting but we are now heading to Yogyakarta, which as they say is a cultural capital of Java. I hope it will break the spell. Then we wave good bye to Java and I know already I could spend a year here and still not see everything. We need to make tough decision or it is an overkill to travel in such pace. This time we decided to move to Sulawesi next. Then Borneo, Malaysia and Singapore. It’s been 8 hours on a train now so I am sorry for a long post.