Land of volcanoes and scaling up Mahameru, the highest mountain on Java
26.06.2016 - 09.06.2017
Sunday [26/6/2016] Kolin and I took an evening flight from Brunei to Surabaya which was not a very long flight. By the time we landed in Surabaya, it was about 8.40pm. The airport is similar to Bali airport and is way bigger than Jogjakarta airport where I first arrived to Java back in December 2014. We took a taxi to our hotel, The Square which happens to be near to a weekend night market where people were selling all sorts of stuffs on both sides of the road. After being held up by the slow traffic due to people walking on the street as well as motorbikes and other cars passing by, we finally reached to The Square. Unfortunately, most of the shops had already closed but we were glad that the room was not disappointing. I didn't even release that The Square is actually an apartment when I book it online as it as an ensuite kitchen. Without anything much to do, after settling down, we went to bed since we have more than a week of adventurous trip ahead of us.
Monday [27/6/2016] We went down for breakfast at 6.30am since Cahyo was coming to our hotel at 8am. To our surprise, although there were signs that some people had already taken breakfast, we were the only ones there. Apparently, due to the time difference, it was only 5.30am even though the sun was already up and shining brightly like as if it was after 7.30am and we did to adjust out watch to the time zone in Java. People who were fasting had already eaten during sahur which was why the food was already partly taken. After having a simple buffet breakfast, we packed our stuff and waited for Cahyo and the driver to come and pick us up at 8am. From Surabaya, we drove 2 hours to Probolinggo where we stopped by at Madakaripura waterfall which is located at Sapih village. In order to go there, we had to take the motorbike from the parking area and it was not a comfortable experience since we never sat on motorbikes in Brunei. We then had to walk by foot for ½ hour before we reached the waterfall area where we had to walk across the stream in certain areas. Some parts of the stream were shallow while other parts were deep. There are altogether 7 waterfalls but because there has not been much rain at all, only a few of the waterfall had strong flow of water flowing down. After getting wet from walking under the waterfalls and also from the strong blast of water from the biggest waterfall, we headed back to the car park and moved on to the next destination.
It had started to drizzling by the time we reached to the grape plantation. Initially, I thought Cahyo found a commercial grape plantation like the one I visited in Thailand but it turned out that we were brought to an agricultural research station which carries out research on different grape varieties. Oh well, we got to learn that there were over 60 varieties of grapes planted in that research station and had the opportunity to taste several varieties from the vine, some sweet and some sour. After some lesson about growing grapes, we went for lunch first before stopping by the Red church. Unfortunately, the Red church was not open to the public today so from the gate, Cahyo explained that this church was built in 1862 with the materials shipped from Holland. The design of this church is exactly the same as the red church in Holland and the external materials have never been replaced for more than 100 years except that it has been repainted.
Even though it was still early in the afternoon, we decided to head straight to Beejay Resort Probolinggo which is located at the coastal port of Mayangan. We specifically chose to stay at this resort because even though we do have mangroves in Brunei, no chalet has been built in between the mangroves so it's a new experience for us to stay within the mangroves. The suite we stayed in was nice, air conditioned and has a veranda outside where we could sit and just enjoy the peaceful view of the sea as well as watching people walking on the walkway which was still under construction. They even sent a complimentary afternoon tea with some finger food to our bungalow! After eating and relaxing for a while, we decided to check out the whole resort area. There were single story bungalows like ours, a few double storey houses, restaurants, function hall and even outdoor sports facilities across the other side of the road which unfortunately we did not not managed to as it was about to rain. When it started to rain, we decided to have our dinner early at the Caterpillar lobby which is just next to our bungalow. We happened to be the only clients there and since there were only 2 of us for the chef to entertain, he was pretty chatty and put up a nice teppanyaki show for us. The only down side of eating among the mangrove forest were the annoying mosquitoes which was flying around us and especially while we were eating. It's like as if they intentionally want to annoy us rather than letting us enjoy our dinner. After dinner, we went back to the bungalow to settle down and had an early rest for our trip tomorrow.
Tuesday [28/6/2016] I woke up early before 5.30am to see the sun rise since we were told that the view at the sea was nice. Even this early, there were already a few people walking on the incomplete wooden walkway. Everything was so quiet and peaceful and it feels like heaven to just seat outside the veranda just enjoying the view. Breakfast was special because it was delivered to our suite at 6.30am. After having breakfast, packing all our stuff and checking out from Beejay Resort, we headed off to Ranu segaran which is a 2 hour drive. Situated 600m above sea level, it is in Segaran village which has cool weather. This lake used to be a crater of a volcano but after the volcano became inactive, it became a lake from the accumulation of water. To go down to the lake area, we had to slowly walk down the stony trail which became a warming up session for us before we start our big hike in a few days' time. At the lake, there were bamboo rafts that has to be manually paddled by a boatman that can take people around the lake as well as to where some of the locals had set up a few fish cages. After taking some photos, we headed back towards the car park which required some time to hike back up.
From Segaran, we headed towards Situbondo which took more about 4 hours to reach. Since it was a long driver, we just stop at one of the rest area and ordered burger to take away. I also bought brownies (it was ok but too dry for my liking) and pia tape which according to Cahyo, means fermented tapioca. I am actually not a big fan of tapioca but they made it in such a way that it actually tasted like the Taiwanese suncakes and I really loved it. Even Cahyo and Doni said they have never tasted it before like that. By the time we reached to Baluran National Park, it was already after 4pm and we had to drive 12km through the bumpy stony road inside the park just to reach towards the bekol savannah. Along the way, we saw wild chicken, monitor lizard, Javanese langur and a peacock but they ran away as our car was approaching them. By the time we reached to the savanah area, the sky was gloomy and since it was about to rain, we did not go up the watch tower which was pretty unfortunate or else we could see the vast land of the savannah. As it started to rain, we saw deers and banteng just standing still and enjoying the rain while we passed by and drove another 3km towards Bama beach first just to wait for the rain to die down. Eventually by the time we reach to the beach, the rain did stop but we were the only ones there since everyone left when it started to rain. So, we just took some photos and then headed out towards the bekol savannah again. We noticed now that a lot of drenched macaques were just sitting along the roadside watching our car pass by, hoping that we will give them some food. One thing we weren't informed by Cahyo is that the ground of the bekol savannah is very sticky like 'tar' used for surfacing the road when it is wet. When I walked towards the signboard to have my photo taken, every step I took accumulated the black 'tar' like soil on my sandal and it was weighing me down. In the end, I didn't have my photo taken as I was busy trying to remove the sticky 'tar' from the sole of my sandals with a stick and running it against the grass but it was all in vain. I would just have to bring my 'tar' souvenior along with me. Since we needed to wake up very early to go to Ijen by 2am, we decided to head straight to Ketapang Indah hotel to rest and have dinner which was a good choice because the rooms are not in a hotel building but in separate buildings with open spaces. So at least with my dirty sandals, I did not dirty the floor much. By the time we settled in our room, it started to rain heavily this time so we decided to order room service since we were too lazy to walk to the restaurant even though the restaurant was open concept. We just hoped that the rain will stop by the time we head to Jien.
Wednesday [29/6/2016] Doni came and pick us up at midnight and fortunately, the rain had already stop. After checking out from the hotel, we headed towards Paltuding where Ijen is located. On the way, we picked up Miz, our Ijen guide since Cahyo had some personal thing to attend to and will only be meeting us the next morning. It was not my first time to go to Ijen crater to see the blue fire but when I was there the first time in December 2014, it was drizzling and the smoke was too heavy to rise up so we were not able to see the blue fire clearly and this was the main reason why I decided to come again the second time. By the time we reached to Paltuding car park, it was only 1.30am and they normally allow visitors to go up Ijen at 2am. After 1½ hours of slow hike and getting to know Miz, we finally reached to the top of the crater. Then we hiked slowly down towards the blue fire and this time, not only did we not had to wear any mask but we were able to see how the miners mine the solidified sulphur up close and personal. Since Miz used to be a sulphur miner himself before he changed his profession to being an Ijen guide, he knew where to take good shots of the blue fire so he borrowed our mobile and went off to take videos of the blue fore for us. While waiting for Miz, we took photos of the sulphur miners working. By the time Miz came back from taking the blue fire video, we stayed for a while before deciding to head up back to the top of the crater. Since 5am was still dark, all we did was rested and waited for the sun to rise so that we can see the surrounding and the visibility of lake was not so clear due to the thick sulphur smoke rising but at least we saw some blue colour from where we were. After taking photos here and there, we decided to head down to the car park at 6am. It was quite a distance especially if you need to go to the toilet but at least the weather was fine and I managed to take close shots of a Javanese langur which was just sitting calmly on a branch even though people were passing by unlike the langurs in Baluran National Park. After reaching to the car park, we rested at the warung while having our packed breakfast of fried nasi goreng given by the hotel.
On the way back down towards Bayuwangi, we dropped Miz off where we had picked him up and headed back to town to pick up Cahyo from the hospital and then headed to a clinic to get our medical checkup certificate which was required for the Semeru trip. While waiting for our medical certificate to be done, I managed to use the time to remove the rest of the sticky 'tar' from my sandal since it was easy to come off once it has dried and boy, the toilet floor was just full of dirt. After getting our medical certificate, we headed off towards southwest of Banyuwangi which we were told that it will take 7 hours to reach to Meru Betiri National Park. A very long drive but it was interesting to see different places. We stopped by at the market where Cahyo bought some vegetables to make soup for our dinner and we went around to see the market where they were selling fruits, vegetables, kitchen utensils, cooked food and tobacco strips before continuing our journey and further along the way, we made another stop to buy some fruits. Before we continue towards Sukamade beach through the bumpy stony road, we stopped by a warung and had lunch. Delicious food to fill up the tummy. After enough of stretching, we continued on and met up with our 4WD driver who will take us all the way to Sukamade beach since we need to cross a few stream and a wide river which tend to flood during the rainy season. A long, slow bumpy drive but we saw the forests and 2 villages where the people work for the coffee and cocoa plantations. Once we reached to the wide river, we were asked whether if we were interested in sitting on the roof of the 4WD while the car cross the river and all the way to the beach so of course, Doni and I were interested. It was an interesting experience since the driver drove fast across the river and water was splashing everywhere and the wind was very cool even though the sun was shining brightly.
The Sukamade guesthouse was very basic and poorly maintained as there were brown stains on the walls. Similar to the Belalong study field centre in Brunei, there was no electricity until 6pm since it is supplied by the generator. Initally, the plan was to relax at the beach while waiting for dinner to be prepared but the rangers had put up a new rule stating that no one is allowed to go to the beach after 5pm so that turtles which might land on the beach to find a nesting place would not be disturbed. So with nothing to do, we relax for a while and went into the hatchery house to see where they had buried the turtle eggs which they had collected from the beach. We did not see any baby turtles since we were told they only hatch at night. We had our simple dinner at 6pm and at 7pm, we were briefed by the ranger on what we could and couldn't do while we were at the beach. Half way walking towards the beach, the ranger informed us that a turtle was spotted laying eggs on the beach so all of us were asked to be quiet and switched off our flashlight. Once we were given the cue to proceed, all of us walked as fast as we could to where the turtle was sighted. It was my first time walking on the beach at night in total darkness and if we weren't rushing to get to the site where the turtle was at, I would have just stay put on the spot, listen to the sound of the strong waves and enjoy the view of the mist from the waves hitting the beach as well as the white lights from the fishing boats out at the sea. It was just amazing!
When we reached to the green turtle, it had already laid all the eggs and the rangers have collected the eggs from the sand and lined them up to record down the number. Just from 1 turtle, it laid 122 eggs. After everyone had a chance to take photos of the eggs, the rangers put them into a bag to be taken back to the hatchery to be buried. Then after some explanations given by the ranger about the green turtle, everyone was given a chance to take photo with it while it was busy trying to cover the hole back with sand. After observing the turtle for a while, we didn't stay until the end since we were told it would take another 2 hours for the turtle to fully cover the hole back and since we have another long day tomorrow, we decided to go back before the other groups to get some rest.
Thursday [30/6/2016] Next morning, I woke up early because the program was to release baby turtles back to the sea. While waiting for the rangers to bring out the baby turtles, we went into the hatchery which we visited yesterday and this time, there were baby turtles in a few cages. It was pretty funny to see two of them which were just relaxing on their back with their tummy upwards like enjoying themselves on a beach. At 6.30am, we headed towards the beach, carrying our own bucket of baby turtles and found a spot to release them. With their nature instinct, once they were released on the sand, they headed towards the sea where they were carried away by the waves that came ashore. After releasing all of them, all of us just stayed at the beach for a while and just enjoyed the view. While doing so, we witnessed a sea eagle successfully caught two baby turtles from the sea and took each of them to a tall tree to be eaten and it was kind of sad but as the ranger said, that is how nature works. Out of the hundreds of baby turtles released, only 10 mature turtles will survive and come back to the same beach to lay their eggs. This is the reason why Sukamade beach was made into a turtle conservation facility and the rangers have continuously make a lot of effort to save as many eggs as they could find and release the baby turtles back into the sea. After having breakfast, we slowly made a move back to the 4WD driver's house. When we reached to the big river, the driver drove the jeep half way through the river and stopped the car so that all of us could walk in the cold refreshing water and of course, photo taking sessions. After having enough of photo taking, we continued our journey through the bumpy road.
After packing our stuff back into Doni's car at the 4WD driver's house, we continued onwards to Lumajang which is about 7 hours' drive. On the way, we stopped to buy mineral water for cooking and drinking as well as some nuggets to be cooked at Semeru. This was actually the main highlight of our trip and I have been waiting since December 2015 to climb Mount Semeru, the highest mountain on Java. By the time we had almost reached to Ranu Pane village using the back road instead of Lumajang since Cahyo insisted to use that way to save time, it had started to drizzle so even though it was only 5pm, it was already dark. When we reached to Ranu Pane, we were blocked by a truck which was stuck in the muddy part of the road. In the end, we had no choice but to emergency pack the stuff that we need for the next 2 days in the dark and then carry it with us as we walk by foot towards the homestay. The homestay was pretty ok for a night stay just to sleep but was very cold at night so it feels like haven to have a hot shower as we won’t have any chance to shower for the next 2 days. We also made a joke on the bedsheet which happened to have a picture of the animation, Frozen which did fit the cold weather we were in at the moment. It was so cold that we had to sleep with our jacket, 2 layers of trousers and socks.
Friday [1/7/2016] We woke up as early as 5.30am to prepare ourselves and pack all our stuff before having breakfast at 7am. After breakfast, we went out to see Ranu pane village while waiting for Cahyo and the porters to get ready with everything. It's a small quite village with dirt road and the locals just mainly walked by foot. We also took advantage of the only free internet service available near to the satellite which was placed near to the entrance going into the homestay. By 8am, we started walking towards the post to get permission to climb Semeru whereas 2 of our porters have already gone ahead of us while the extra porter cum guide that we hired to carry our bags were with us. After filling in all the necessary documents and submitting our health certificate, we were briefed about the rules and regulations, the dangers, the toilets as well as stories of fallen climbers while climbing the summit. Unfortunately, not many people attended the briefing since it’s only held at 8am and another one in the afternoon whereas a lot of climbers go up at different times of the day depending on what time they arrive at Ranu Pane.
Passing by Watu Rejang and going to the first camping base, Ranu Kumbolo was not that difficult as long as you have the stamina to walk 10.5km and it took us less than 4 hours to reach. Since it had rained the night before, the weather was very cool and misty so the view of Ranu Kumbolo lake was very mystical but visibility was very low. There were some people resting and eating cooked instant noodles at the porters' shelter house. The air in the open was cold but inside the shelter house, it was warm and comfy. There were open air toilets which were very dirty with lots of wet tissues left inside the corner of each cubicle. If they had attended the briefing like we had before climbing up, they would have known that they were supposed to throw their rubbish inside the hole and not leaving them inside the cubicles which became smelly and attracted a lot of mosquitoes. After resting for 1 hour and having a plate of instant mi goreng and egg for lunch at the lake, we continued again towards the second camp base, Kalimati which was 7.5km away.
The route this time started to get steeper in certain areas like at Tanjakan Cinta, then going down towards Oro-oro Ombo, a vast field of verbena flowers which people usually mistaken them for lavender because of the purple flowers and then up Cemoro Kandang again before reaching to the flat ground of Jambangan and then finally to Kalimati. We took less than 2 hours to reach there and we were lucky because shortly after we arrived at Kalimati, it started to rain again. Since our porters arrived there earlier, they managed to pitch our tent just below the roof of the porters' shelter house so at least our tent won’t be wet. The toilets were so clean here when we arrived since there weren't many of us and this base camp was only for the small numbers of climbers who intent to go up the summit compared to Ranu Kumbolo where a lot of people love to camp there just to enjoy the scenery of the lake. We had our early luxurious dinner of cabbage soup, fried chicken nugget and rice before 6pm and went to sleep by 8pm since I had to get ready before 12am to climb the summit while Kolin chose to stay at the base camp. Getting sleep was impossible because I was worried that it would still rain as I kept on hearing thunder sound (apparently, it turned out to be the sound of the roaring Semeru crater every time it puff out smoke every 20 mins or so). Plus I was also excited and yet worried about climbing up the summit since it's one of the biggest challenge I’ve ever done which I was also not sure if I could make it up there after reading blogs from people did and did not managed to reach to the summit whereas some of them experienced altitude sickness and climbing up 3,676m is the highest elevation that I have never climbed before since the highest volcano I’ve climbed in Indonesia so far was only 2,799m (Ijen volcano). But I do hope that I could make it since it’s the highest mountain on Java and said to be one of the toughest to climb. When I woke up around 11pm, some people with headlights who started off from Ranu Kumbolo were already on their way up to the summit which meant that they probably did not sleep at all since they need at least 1 to 2 hours to reach to Kalimati before starting the climb to the summit.
Saturday [2/7/2016] We were supposed to start by 12am but because I was still trying to go to the toilet before going up (there was no way I could do my business on the way up except men were able to do so easily), the porter, Cahyo and me only started off from the base camp at about 12.15am and we were the last group to go up as those who were also staying at Kalimati had already gone off. I wouldn't say that I am fit compared to other people who hike regularly but I guess the cardio exercises I did at the gym did help a bit because we were able to catch up with the groups who left earlier than us once we were at Arcopodo and we were actually the first group to start climbing towards the summit. However, the climb became slow and difficult because we were walking on soft sand with gravel which was slippery so it was a struggle not to slip downwards if you stop for a while to rest and we were going directly from 2,700m towards 3,676m high on the steep slope all the way up to the summit. There were parts with big rocks with lesser gravels where you can climb up faster but we were told not to use those parts as the rocks tend to fall. Of course, there were some ignorant Europeans who didn’t care for the safety of others but rather wanted to reach to the top first (even though Cahyo and porter did repeatedly told them not use that part), so a few of them overshoot us but there were still a lot of climbers who were still far behind us. It’s also funny how the Semeru porters love to use time instead of distance when you ask them how far more to the summit. The first time I asked our porter cum guide how far more (since the summit looked close in the dark), he said 30 mins but that 30 mins turned to be 1 hour and yet we were not anywhere near to the summit. Then the next time I asked him the same question, he said 10 mins but 10 mins went by and yet I still didn’t even see the summit anywhere near. The last 1 hour was the most challenging climb for me as my ankles were already aching so much with the steep gradient of the slope and I had to stop to rest after every few steps up. At one point, I said to myself that if my ankles really gave way, I have to call it quits even though we were already almost (though not yet) near to the summit but fortunately, Cahyo, the porter and another climber decided to really stop and take a rest on the big rocks. So we just sat down, munch on some snacks (I was starting to get hungry actually) and just enjoy the night view for a while and it felt so good to have a "short" break and sit down like that. Then when I saw that the sky was starting turning slightly blue in colour (it was close to 5am), I reminded myself that we have to reach to the summit before sunrise. So we started again and apparently, they didn't tell me that we were actually near the summit already before we sat down to rest! So we continued for another 15 minutes climb through the big rocks and we finally arrived at the summit!! How many of you have experienced this before that no matter how tired you felt while climbing for almost 5 hours, the feeling of finally reaching to the summit was just amazing and you don’t even feel the pain and exhaustion anymore?
Yayyy!!! I've made it to the highest mountain on Java and it's so freezing cold so it was also good that we didn’t reach up too early or else we won’t be able to stand so long there to see the sunrise. A lot of climbers especially the European group had already gone down after taking a few photos at the summit since they did not wear proper clothing and were freezing their butt off. We were the last 3 groups to go down the summit at 6am because we were waiting for the crater to puff up smoke again so that we could take photo with it which took quite a while of waiting even though we were very cold but it was worth the wait. Going down the summit was no different than climbing the summit. Even though it took only 2½ hours to go down, it was just as slippery as going up so just like an inexperienced skier, I kept on slipping while the others had no problem going down without slipping. Note to self - need to learn and practice the Indonesian technique of going down slippery volcanoes without slipping at all since they kept on saying that it's not the sole of the shoes but the technique of balancing the body.
Since it was impossible to have simple breakfast of bread and jam at the summit, we had it on the way down at Cemoro Tunggal where it marks the end of Arcopodo and the start of the rocky and sandy slope up the summit. After resting for a while, we headed back to the base camp and I was surprised at first to see the Europeans sunbathing on the ground. It was a funny sight to see them since they normally do that at the beach and this is like 2700m above sea level on a mountain. While waiting for breakfast to be served, I checked out the view of Semeru from the toilet as mentioned by the Semeru volunteer during the briefing and yes, indeed it is true that we can see the beautiful scenery of Semeru while we do our business but unfortunately, there is a tall tree now growing in front of the toilet so blocking the view of Semeru. Fried rice was served as breakfast (all the burnt calories down the drain) and by then, the sun was bright and hot. Initially I planned that we go down to Ranu Kumbolo base camp after lunch so that we could rest a bit first but after resting until 9am inside the tent, I couldn’t stand the heat of the sun any longer so I decided that we should go down to Ranu Kumbolo as soon as they packed up everything because the lake would be cooler than at Kalimati with the wind and also Kolin would spend all her time there while we rested.
It was a good decision to go down to Ranu Kumbolo before my legs started to ache and I was able to wash myself with a small towel at the lake (better than having no bath at all) and change my clothes before more people came to the lake for camping. Since we had heavy breakfast, we decided not to have lunch since we were still full and I couldn't keep my eyes shut even though I was resting in the tent. By 5pm, it was starting to get cold and as time passes, the whole camping ground was full of tents and campers. Dinner was yet another luxury for us as Pak Omar, our head porter cooked for us rice, vegetable soup with sausage, stewed potatoes, fried chicken wings and nuggets compared to other campers who only cooked mi goreng. We decided to go to sleep early but it was impossible with all the noises and conversations going on outside our tent. Unfortunately, no matter how tired I was, I just couldn't sleep at all that night because not only the ground was very hard but it was too cold and people were snoring around me.
Sunday [3/7/2016] Since I couldn’t sleep at all, I woke up before 5.30am to see the sunrise from the lake without having to go out from our tent. Initially, there wasn't much to see at the lake but as the sun started to rise, you can see mists forming on the lake and it's just amazing. After having a short walk and packing up our stuff, we had a huge breakfast of rice with fried chicken wings and nuggets again. By 8.30am, we started walking back to Ranu Pane at a relaxing pace. Since it was Sunday, more people were coming up as we were going down and we even met a group of Indonesian rescuers who were sent once again to search for the Swiss national who went missing while climbing Semeru on 3rd June 2016. Good luck to them as it has already been almost a month since that guy went missing. With almost 48 hours of no sleep at all, I still managed to walk 10.5km back to Ranu Pane without feeling sleepy at all though my thighs were aching now and I just realized that I got sunburnt on my arms. Once we reached to the village, we rested at Pak Omar's house while waiting for a driver to pick us up. We used the Lumajang road this time to head towards the place where Doni was waiting for us and on the way, we stopped at the roadside to see the savanah of Bromo which is located at the back of Bromo which I did not go to when I was at Bromo. This savanah area is also known as the Teletubbies hill because it resembles the landscape picture of the green hills where Teletubbies played. How similar it actually looks like, I don't know since I don't watch Teletubbies.
After meeting up with Doni at the entrance to a waterfall and transferring all our stuff to his car, we headed off to Malang which was a 2 hour drive from Ranu Pane. I didn’t even sleep much in the car and since we had a heavy breakfast, we didn't stop for lunch. In Malang, we went to see the bird and flower market, Ijen boulevard which consist of old fashioned Dutch architecture houses that have never changed for decades, Kayu tangan church and the Tugu Malang square. By the time we were done with sightseeing, we started to feel hungry again and since Malang is Doni's hometown, he brought us to a stall selling special grilled bakso. It's either we were hungry or the meatballs were really delicious especially with the sweet gravy as we finished everything in our bowl. By the time we checked in Ibis hotel, I was so dead tired and since we had late lunch, we did not have the appetite to eat dinner. After having a nice shower and relaxing a bit, we decided to go to bed early but I didn’t sleep much because lying still made my body ached even more.
Monday [4/7/2016] Batu in Malang is famous for apples so we went to the plantation to pick them. Since we paid for the entrance ticket to go to an apple plantation, we could eat as many apples as we can for free in the plantation but we have to pay for them if we want to take them back with us. Unlike the green apples sold in Brunei which is usually slightly sourish, the green apples in this farm were quite sweet even though their size is small. Since it wasn't expensive to buy the apples, we filled our plastic bag with some apples to eat during our trip. After that, we went to look for strawberry plantation since Kolin has never picked strawberries before. Unfortunately since it was near to Idul Fitri, a lot of the strawberry home industry have closed for the festival. Fortunately, there was a lady watering her strawberry plants but she told us that the strawberries had already been picked earlier that morning so what was left were small unripe ones which was pretty sour or are not really good already compared to the ones I've handpicked in Chiang Mai. Then we headed to Coban Rondo waterfall which to me was not as impressive as Grojogan Sewu waterfall. The last place that we went to was Mount Kelud which I was quite disappointed because I expected to see something since Cahyo did not inform me that after the 2014 eruption, everything was destroyed and now what was left was only flat ground. The road was damaged so we couldn't proceed any further to where the hot springs used to be. In the end, we just walked up to the highest part of the road where it was torn apart to see what was left after the explosion and came down after that. On the way back towards town, we passed through a signboard about the mysterious road which even gave instructions on what to do with the car. According to the signboard, the vehicle will go up even when the engine is turned off but when we tried it twice, nothing happened so in the end, we gave up and headed towards Bukit Daun hotel. The room in Bukit Daun hotel was lovely and most things are made of solid wood. The door has a traditional lock like in the olden days before modern locks were invented where you have to push the block of wood through a hole. The toilet was also nice as the there are steps going up into a hole which was meant to act as a bath tub but none of us was bothered to fill it up because it will take a long time and we were just so tired. After having dinner, we rested early but once again, I couldn't sleep much even though I was so tired as my body was still aching if I lay still. Probably the beds were not comfortable which caused my already aching body to ache even more if I am not moving at all.
Tuesday [5/7/2016] To have our breakfast, we have to walk to the riverside cafe which was located next to a small river. The breakfast was simple but filling and it was pretty relaxing to hear the sound of the river flowing by. After breakfast, we did our packing and waited for Cahyo and Doni to pick us up to go to Pacitan. It was a 5 hours drive, going around the curvy mountainous road to goa Gong which is claimed to be the most beautiful cave in South East Asia. The cave was full of stalactite and stalagmite and it is called goa Gong because they say that when you hit on the stalactite and stalagmite, it sounds like a gong. We were also told that Pacitan is actually famous for precious stones and is known as the city with 1001 caves because there are so many caves around. After exiting from the cave on the way out, there were small stalls selling stones, t-shirts and food souvenirs for visitors. I bought one of Pacitan's souvenir called 'sale pisang' or steamed banana slice which is rolled into a ball shape and then wrapped with plastic and coloured paper. Each of these balls are then tied together to form a bunch of grape. It's very unique and beautifully wrapped so I bought some to give as souvenir for my colleagues. We then drove to Klayar beach and finally to Banyu Tibo beach. Both beaches have blue waters and the waves are quite strong. The uniqueness of Klayar beach is that the waves have carve one of the rock into the shape of a sphinx whereas in Banyu Tibo, one could see the coral pools in the rocks during low tide. Unfortunately by the time we reached to Banyu Tibo beach, the sun was starting to set so the tide was very high already to see the coral pools near to the shore. We stayed overnight at Prasasti Hotel which is a very basic but one of the top hotel in Pacitan which did not have any restaurant service except for breakfast. Since it was the eve of Idul Fitri, a lot of eateries have closed early as their workers went back to their hometown but we were lucky enough to still have a simple dinner at a satay stall. While waiting for our satay, we witnessed trucks with people playing traditional music passing by to announce the arrival of Idul Fitri around the city which was pretty interesting as we do not have this tradition in Brunei. Since our hotel is near to the road, it was pretty noisy as the convoy was going around and people playing fireworks but due to tiredness, we were still able to sleep through the loud noise.
Wednesday [6/7/2016] After breakfast, we headed off to Pindul cave which is located in the Gunung Kidul region, Yogyakarta. It was a good thing that there were not many cars on the road as many people have gone back to their hometown for lebaran so by the time we reached to Pindul area, it was noon time. After preparing ourselves to get wet, we were ready for a wet adventure. We went up a small pick up truck filled with our rubber tubes and headed for Pindul cave tubing first. The water and the cave was cool but unfortunately, we did not bring any headlamps so we were basically floating in the water and being pulled in the dark for at least 30 mins by the guide. After coming out from the dark cave, we waited for another pick up to bring us to the other side of the village to do river tubing. There were quite a lot of people doing river tubing so it was a bit crowded in the river. Since it had not rained for quite a while, the current was not very strong but we still could move if we were in the middle of the river. However, further downstream, the guides had to pull us along because the current wasn’t strong enough. It would be more fun if the current was more rapid. Then we reached to the Kali Oyo Waterfall where we got off our rubber tube and climbed up the rocks to go up the ladder if we want to try jumping into the river from the platform which was about 10m high. Cahyo initially wanted to try but changed his mind when he was getting ready to jump because he said that it looked really high from above. Then we got back to our rubber tube and continued to float down the river. Half way after asking the guide whether if the river was deep or not, I decided to just get off from the rubber tube and floated (as well as swam) in the water to cool off because the tube was getting hot. Cahyo did the same but Kolin was the only one still sitting on the tube. After having a quick shower and changing our clothes, we headed towards Yogyakarta.
The first thing we did after arriving to Yogyakarta city was to check out if Legian Garden restaurant in Jalan Maliboro was open since as what Wisnu had told me I was in Yogyakarta the first time, even though Doni and Cahyo had been to Yogyakarta before, they had never eaten there before since they thought it is expensive. Unfortunately, that restaurant was closed so we had to find another place to have our late lunch. Doni brought us to an alley where there were a number of cheap homestay for backpackers and we decided to try a Balinese restaurant which was just starting business so we were their first customers for that day. After stuffing ourselves with seafood, we headed back to Jalan Maliboro to check into Ibis hotel. Apparently, it's located at the end of the Jalan Dagen, the same road where I stayed in Whiz hotel last time. So after freshing up a bit, Kolin and I walked by foot to Jalan Maliboro. We did a bit of shopping for souvenirs but a lot of the shops were still closed due to the lebaran celebration.
Thursday [7/7/2016] Since we had to check out from the hotel at 6am to catch our train at 6.45am to Surabaya, the hotel was kind enough to pack our breakfast in a box which consist of buns, croissant, jam, butter and a bottle of orange juice which is better than nothing at all. The train station was so near to the hotel so I didn't know why Cahyo even bothered to use a taxi for us. I actually discussed with him before we went to Indonesia that his service will end after dropping us in Yogyakarta since we will taking the train back to Surabaya but it seemed like he didn’t trust that we could arrive to Surabaya on our own without him so he decided to come along with us. It took 5½ hours to reach to Surabaya by train and Doni met up with us at the train station since our luggage was with him. The road of Surabaya was pretty deserted which was an uncommon sight on normal days. We had lunch first before they sent us to our hotel which is just opposite Tunjungan Plaza. Since we are on our own now, we decided to spend our time at Tunjungan Plaza. Initially we thought it was a huge mall with 5 different blocks but it turned out that it was pretty small and we had actually gone through the 5 blocks of shops without even realising it when we checked with the receptionist. Since there were only some shops that we were interested in, after having dinner we went back to the hotel even though it was still early at night.
Friday [8/7/2016] Since today was our last day before going back to Brunei and we didn't have any plans, we decided to check out a few 'pasar' or market. The nearest one to our hotel is Pasar Genteng which is just walking distance. On the way to that pasar, there were also a lot of small souvenir shops but we decided to go to the pasar first. After going a short round on the ground floor of the pasar with nothing much to see as most of the tenants were not back yet from their hometown, we headed slowly back to our hotel but stopped by every shop selling food souvenirs just to check out whether if there was anything interesting to buy. We came across a bakery shop selling cookies and steamed brownies topped with shredded cheddar cheese and fortunately, since we were going back to Brunei tomorrow, I decided to buy a chocolate brownie and original brownie (a layer of vanilla and a layer of chocolate with cream cheese in between) which was nicely packed in boxes already and boy, it was the most delicious brownie I have ever tasted! It's soft, moist and so flavorful compared to baked brownies. With all the food souvenirs checked off from our list, we decided to go back to the hotel and put everything in our room first before grabbing a taxi to go to Pasar Atom since it was not even midday yet.
We did not know what to expect from Pasar Atom because all I know is that there is a new and old block and they sell textiles. The taxi driver dropped us off at the old block so we started going around from the highest floor just to see if there were anything interesting to buy. Half of shops were still closed due to lebaran so we only bought a few batik materials. There were also express tailors who can finish your dress in an hour and tailors who can sew a see through transparent rain cover for your luggage but in order for them to do so, you had to bring your luggage to them so that they can take all the necessary measurements. There's also stall selling Korean ice cream where instead of using the normal ice cream cone, they used activated black charcoal fish shaped waffle as the cone and it looks interesting. I was so tempted to try it but since we haven't had lunch yet, I planned to have it later. There are food courts on both blocks but boy, were the queues long everywhere and every seats were taken since there were a lot of Indonesian who came to Surabaya for holiday. In the end, we decided to eat at Navy Seals, a fast food eatery which has no queue compared to the other eateries and it tasted quite good actually. Since we were full and we planned to go to the ITC shopping mall opposite Pasar Atom, I ended up not buying the Korean ice cream as planned but after that I kind of regretted it because there were no other places selling it unless I come back to Pasar Atom next time. ITC shopping mall is newer than Pasar Atom but has few tenants and visitors compared to Pasar Atom. Nevertheless, there is always something for us to buy everywhere we went so we ended buying a few bags and some small souvenirs. After covering the mall, we took the taxi back to our hotel just to put the things we bought and went across to Tunjungan Plaza again for early dinner so that we could come back early to do our packing since our flight is early next morning. We ended up having dinner at Fish and Co which is slightly cheaper than in Brunei but the taste is similar which is good.
Saturday [9/7/2016] We had to wake up super early since our flight is at 6.30am. By 4am, we checked out and waited for a taxi to drive us to the airport. Although Junada is an international airport, it is a small one where there were only 2 duty free shops selling food souvenirs, perfumes and cosmetics which was not 24 hours and Starbucks in the departure hall. While waiting to board the plane, we were so sleepy because we woke up very early so I just couldn't wait to sit in the plane and sleep all the way back to Brunei. Oh well, as exhaustion sets in after all the adventure we did, it was still a trip I would never forget especially the experience going up the summit of mount Semeru. Maybe one day, I will go back and scale up to the summit of mount Semeru again just to see whether if I can break my existing record