How to do Ijen / Blue fire without tour-2!

Part 2 – Accessing Ijen crater

Earlier post marked Karangasem as the starting point of our self-guided tour to Ijen Crater. This post explains how do we reach the Ijen base-point (parking point) and then trek to the crater.

After grabbing our bikes we were too exhausted and need some quick rest before starting our planned tour.

Ijen Sunrise : Relaxing view after a long tiring trek.
Ijen Sunrise : Relaxing view after a long tiring trek.

Mark Ijen Parking on Maps

Ijen parking point is the location which can be searched on the Google Map(or any other map). This is the access point  to hike up Kwang Ijen. We started by 12:45 AM (which turned out to be a little late for us). From our hostel to parking it was almost 42 km, which we thought to cover in less than one and half hour only. Initial 25 km of the road is just a city drive, and we could easily race that in less than 40 minutes.

Start of protected region around Ijen is marked by a government checkpoint. They charged 3 K IDR (as shown in ticket) in the name of Ijen National Park entrance fee per person. We saw many of the tour operators’ cars passing through the checkpoint and that was the relief that we were on the correct path. It also took us some time to understand what this check point was about and if it was legal or not to be charged by them – a waste of time. I encourage all, just to quickly pay the entrance fee and leave. This is not the place to waste any of your time.

ijen_park_entry_tkt
Issued Ticket to Ijen – Government Check Point

Steep Road to Ijen Parking

Then came the steep mountainous path to Ijen. Though the road was nicely paved and not very curvy, but it was at many points too steep to climb with not a good quality automatic bike. Our group had 4 scooters, and two of them were not in very good condition. Even the bestest of our bike couldn’t climb at a speed of more than 20 km/hr. At few instances, we even had to unload ourselves from the bike to climb it up.

Reason, why i thought of mentioning the same here is not to discourage anyone to rent bike and take the journey. But asking everyone to make sure to take a good quality motor bike, which I was not aware of while opting for it. The journey itself turned out to be an adventure, anyways hard work paid off and we reached the parking by 3:00 AM, which was quite late from our targeted time of 2:15- 2:30 AM.

Entry gate to Ijen
Entry gate to Ijen : Hike starts from here
vehicle_used_to_carry_mined_sulfur
Cart used by Miners : Offer ride to crater as well
Quick  Summary – Caution Points

Let me just summarize again what anyone should keep in mind while doing Ijen without tour in this way!!

  • Make sure the rented Bikes are in good condition. Tell the renting company the purpose (which is hiking Ijen), and they will rent you their best bikes.
  • Leave early (not later than 12:30 AM).
  • Don’t stop for anything other than quick purchase of forest entry ticket.

Following above points could have saved us a lot of time, which I missed because of lack of any experience.

Mid way : End of Steep Slope
Mid way : End of Steep Slope
Gas Mask – Easily Available at Ijen Parking

Once at parking, lot of hawkers renting gas mask approached us. We rent a mask from them. (Haggling is possible there) They asked us 50K IDR each mask, though we could haggle it down to 30K IDR.

I insist on renting gas mask, it made my life easy in the presence of dense fog of sulfuric gases for almost 30% of hike route .

Nearby parking itself, there’s the ticket counter. Ticket is compulsory and there is no student discount as well. Each ticket was priced at 100 K IDR per adult and 50 K IDR for children as on September -2016.

Ijen Entry Ticket
Ijen Entry Ticket

And now Hike up

Straight away proceed towards the much awaited Hike. Initial part of Ijen hike was paved but it was quite steep (and is almost 2 – 2.5 Km long). It took us almost 40-45 minutes to complete this part of the hike. Indeed it was a great midnight exercise.

Hike became much gradual after this for around 1.5 Km. This part could be easily covered without stopping for anything. This trail ends at the opening of the crater. Many of the tourists preferred not to go further without a guide. Even few of the Hawkers-cum-guide would suggest not to go further, quoting it would not be safe without a guide.

Even, we had quite a hard time when almost everyone gave us an intimidating look, quoting it will be quite dangerous to enter crater area by ourself. A few of the hawkers asked, “you are doing tour without any guide?”. They even offered take them with us as guide. But I was determined to explore the place by myself.

Dangerously close to Ijen fire
Dangerously close to Ijen fire

Do not just stop at the opening – go further down!

I moved ahead to a place from where we could see a way going down to the crater. There were wooden railings as well at the start. I took that way and kept on following the trail down. In no time, i could see blue fire. It was looking much more beautiful and in fact thrilling even from the top. It took me 20-25 minutes to reach down closer to the blue fire, from there we could have even touched the fire :P.

Ijen Crater Area - This is from where we have to walk down..
Ijen Crater Area – This is from where we have to walk down..
Total minimum hiking time

Lets just summarize total minimum time to reach to the blue fire:

  1. 45 minutes for steep trail,
  2. 25 minutes for gradual walk.
  3. 20 minutes for walking down into the crater to reach near the blue fire.
Steep trail to Ijen
Steep trail to Ijen

So, a total of 1.5 hours of minimum duration.

Don’t forgot to use mask. At some places sulphur gas is so intense, that it becomes difficult to breathe without a gas mask.

There is a turquoise coloured Crater Lake nearby. We had to miss it as we wanted to capture the beautiful sunrise for which we had to hike up again to the crater opening.

Tentative Expense Detail

Let me summarize the total expense for this trip with a short recap:

  • Reach Karangasem and rent motor bike (65 K IDR for 24 hours)- divide by 2 for two persons.
  • Start as early as 12:30 AM, and reach Ijen parking by 2:30 AM. On the way purchase forest entry ticket of 3 K IDR.
  • Rent Gas mask for maximum 50 K IDR.
  • Purchase Ijen entry ticket of 100 K IDR.
  • Reach the crater fire (Blue fire) – That’s free without any guide now.
  • Full tank petrol for hostel return (20 K IDR) divide by 2 for two persons.

Total Price of tour – 195 K IDR 

Ijen Miners

There is something more associated with Ijen besides blue fire, and that is Ijen Miners. Ijen produce almost 14 tons of sulfur daily and miners under quite harsh conditions mine the same for mere 7-10 dollars per trip. The weight of sulfur carried per trip is usually more than miner himself (130-150 pound) . Though now a lot of organisation and even local tour agencies are coming in their support.

ijen_miners

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