This week has been much better than I had thought it would be. I had to wait around in Singaraja while the incredibly slow Indonesian immigration service took 4 days to do what most African immigration services can do in an hour. I dropped off my passport and filled in the application form on Monday, they then said I had to come back on Wednesday to pay them my $25, then back again on Friday to collect my passport with the extension. Luckily I was staying only a couple of Km down the road from the office, the staff were really friendly, the office supplied free water and sweets and I was staying with a really awesome CouchSurfing host. My host and his family were really friendly and welcoming, I spent the daytimes trying to stay cool in the house with his two young kids, then we went out in the evenings to visit his friends, cycle through the city and go to swim in Gitgit waterfall. Then on Friday morning I went to pick up my passport which had an underwhelming (considering the amount of time it took) stamp in it granting my visa, then I cycled almost 100Km. First 85Km to the ferry to Java, then about 15Km to my new CouchSurfing hosts place.
I arrived very tired, washed and ate with my new hosts then had a long nights sleep. My new hosts are also really great, I had originally planned to stay one night, but decided to stay for two. We spent my first full day visiting their fruit garden where they grow dragon fruit. We harvested a bucket full, then sat eating them with a coconut to wash it all down. In the evening we went to the train station to get some information about my journey to Yogyakarta. Unfortunately the company was on holiday on Sunday, the day I wanted to travel, which meant that I would need to stay a third night here in Banyuwangi, but I didn’t mind because it meant I would spend more time with my hosts and would have a chance to visit Ijen Sulphur Volcano. So today I took a scooter and rode up the mountain and hiked the last few Km to the crater. On the way up I passed by many of the miners who carry the sulphur down the mountain and sell it, each miner carries 100Kg of sulphur 800 meters up out of the crater itself, then about 3Km down the steep track on the side of the mountain. Each man will do this twice each day and will earn around $20 for doing so.
At the top of the crater there are clouds of smoky gas which escape from the volcano and swirl up to surround you as the wind turns. The smoke smells really bad, like eggs, but it also burns your eyes, nose and throat. Visitors are only supposed to visit the edge of the crater, but it is possible to walk past the no entry sign and down the 800 meters to the edge of the lake where the mine is located. The further down you go, the worse the smoke gets, but the more beautiful the views are. The lake is a light blue colour, surrounded by these strange pale grey cliffs, then at the edge of the lake is the bright yellow sulphur rock. I hiked down to the edge of the lake and got some pictures and videos, the pictures are already available on my Facebook Page and Google+ Page, the video will become available at some stage.
Hiking back out of the crater was terrible, the wind had changed direction and I was in the smoke most of the time. But once I was out I headed back down the mountain to my hosts place to shower off the smell. My plan is to get the train to Yogyakarta early tomorrow morning, it’s supposed to be a great city to visit. I guess I’ll see for myself soon enough.