Day 3: A fortunate detour to Sempol

I was woken up by my ojek driver after snoozing my alarm 3 times since 3 am. I had a hard time sleeping on the flat mattress in my guesthouse. I could see that it was supposed to be thick but it got flattened over time. I wonder how many people had slept on it.

Showering was a bad idea. So I just washed my face and got ready within minutes. It was so cold in the morning. The first thing I said to the driver was, “Dingin banget, pak!” (It’s cold!) He giggled. He was in his sarong, covering his head too. I thought the cold air that dawn on the way to Angkor Wat last year was bad. This was a whole new level. I checked the temperature on my iPhone and it was 10 degrees!

Jeeps were queuing to get out of Cemoro Lawang. Lucky, I was on an ojek and it could queeze its way out pretty fast. Again, I had to use more of my thigh muscle power to push myself up so I don’t press my whole body weight on my driver on the way down. But at the same time, I had to hold on the handle at the back of the motorbike. Holding on the handle was like touching ice. The trip was worsened by my lack of preparation having only a hoodie jacket on. The morning wind blew on my face and froze my ears! I should’ve bought a beanie. At first I felt the pain, but after 5 minutes or so, I couldn’t feel my ear anymore. Bad or nah?

Wearing a mask was such a blessing. Although it was thin, my breath kept my mouth and nose warm. Also, it protected me from the dust when passing by the sea of sand with jeeps ahead of us. Dust. Dust everywhere.

When I finally reached Penanjakan viewpoint, I was surprised to see so many people sitting on the benches at this time! But since it was still one and a half hour to sunrise, I guessed more people were coming. I was so proud of myself to actually opened the compass app on my iPhone to confirm the sunrise direction and went straight to the fences and waited there for the sunrise. As time went by, people started to nudge around and tried to squeeze where I was standing. I turned around and saw that the place was packed! There was no room to move around. I got the best spot, I think.

Slowly, the sky turned into beautiful combination of red, orange and yellow. I didn’t move from my spot till the sky turned blue. By the time I moved to see the view of the volcanoes and Cemoro Lawang, someone quickly filled up the space. The view-point was clearly not big enough to accommodate the tourist. And by the way, it was Monday. There were so many local tourists too. Mostly those with selfie sticks with them. I had enough of selfie sticks.

Moments before the sun appears

Moments before the sun appears

Sunrise at Penanjakan

Sunrise at Penanjakan

Penanjakan

Bromo and other volcanoes just after sunrise

The town I stayed at, viewed from Penanjakan

The town I stayed at, viewed from Penanjakan

The crowd

The crowd

My hands were numb and my feet were actually trembling because of the cold. I really could drink some hot soup or at least hot coffee. Luckily there were some shops selling food and souvenirs. I ordered this Tora Bika Cappuccino instant coffee and Pop Mie. Good heavens! I never enjoyed instant noodles and instant coffee like I did there.

My driver asked if I wanted to go to Bromo next. NO, I told him. The crowd and the jeeps and the diesel smell were such turn-offs. Exploring Bromo yesterday afternoon was a great idea. But instead, I asked him to take me to other view points. The view was incredible!

View from other view point

View from other view point

So, on the way back to the guest house, there were over 50 jeeps parking at the sea of sand if not a hundred. I cannot believe how crowded it was at the staircase to the top. And how dangerous it was to walk on the caldera with such crowd.
Just one side of the parking lot for jeeps.

Just one side of the parking lot for jeeps.

Jeeeeeeeeeeps

Jeeeeeeeeeeps

I was at my guest house by 7 am. I took my time to take ice-cold shower, no, actually I did it pretty fast. But I packed really slow to pass the time. I wanted to go back to Cafe Lava to eat something hot, but the restaurant was serving buffet breakfast for hotel guest only. So I just sat at the reception area leaching on their wi-fi.

Some guys came near me asking where I’m from and offer a ride to where ever I was going. I planned to go to Probolinggo. Then to Bondowoso after hearing good story about it from a blogger. But the guys said there’s nothing to see in Bondowoso and suggested to go to Ijen straight. They had an orange bus that was parked outside, going to Ijen via Probolinggo at 0930. They said they already have 7 people on board. I knew, it would cost me a lot. I kindly said no. I preferred the public transport which cost me only Rp 35,000 to Probolinggo and around the same price to Bondowoso.

However, the public transport would wait for other people to eventually have the van full. I waited for more than an hour because of some inconsiderate tourists! They had their bags on the van’s top since before 9 (The bags were already there when I put my backpack). They only came after 10. Seriously? There were other passengers before me, who had to stay for another night because they pre-booked the train from Probolinggo to Surabaya at 11 am. There was no way for them to catch that train. They had to reschedule. I went to explore more of Cemoro Lawang while waiting.

Cemoro Lawang

 I was rolling my eyes when we were finally moving off. One of the tourists, who were late because they said they were having breakfast, asked the driver to stop minutes after I thought the long ride to Probolinggo had already started. She forgot something at her guesthouse. Grrr…

But the ride was good. The scenery was awesome. My knees were touching the seats in front of me, though. Limited legs space. Couldn’t even stretch them.

On the way to Probolinggo. Squeezy but great scenery!

On the way to Probolinggo. Squeezy but great scenery!

 I slept along the way. I didn’t know when. I was so tired. When I woke up, we were already at Probolinggo. I was feeling a bit disoriented because of the sudden waking. I realised, though, that I was not at a bus terminal. So I asked where the bus terminal was and the driver told me that we were at the terminal. But I wasn’t stupid. The public transport dropped us at a tour agent. In my head I knew this was a scam. Sadly, though, I was lured. I was so mad at myself.

The story went like this. A guy approached me as I alighted and convincingly told me that yes, the public transport that I planned to take would be cheaper to get to Bondowoso, but it would be hard to get transportation from Bondowoso to Ijen. He told me it was up to me. The difficult way, or the easy way. He said he could provide transport straight to the village near Ijen, to Ijen and then to Banyuwangi for Rp 350,000.

I was shocked to hear the amount. I estimated the public transport to Bondowoso, ijen and banyuwangi would only take 150k to 200k. I tried to haggle but I was so bad at it. In the end, I said yes. He wrote for me all the route he told me before hand on a default piece of payment slip. I thought, where is the company stamp? But didn’t ask.

Then an orange van arrived and he told me to get on it. It was the exact same van I saw at Cemoro Lawang. When I got on board, there were 7 people on it. This is the same bus! I got into the same trap. Probably worse, because now I already paid for public transport to get to Probolinggo myself.

I complained to my family and friends over Whatsapp, telling them how a fool I was. But I tried to enjoy the trip and forget about the scam along the way. I passed by the beaches at Pasir Putih and they were beautiful. I was also brought to a tourist restaurant for lunch. The food was quite good, actually. I’m grateful for that. When we continued our journey, I got so paranoid about the scam again. There wasn’t any proof that the driver was affiliated to the guy I met at the tour agency. I was scared that I was brought to Ijen straight away without going by Sempol and that’s it, no more transport for me. Thankfully, though, the driver reassured me at one of the resting points that he was, indeed, going to be with the group all the way to Banyuwangi. That was a great relief to me. He even offered me transport to Surabaya, but I already booked my train ticket online.

The view that calmed me

The view that calmed me

The more we moved up to the mountain area, the colder the air became. We were brought to Rolaas Catimor Homestay and I had to pay Rp 220,000 for accomodation. I thought it was too expensive. What a monopoly! If I wasn’t on the tour, I could’ve asked the local if they would take me. Furthermore, I only stayed till 0130 am and headed to Ijen. Totally not worth it. I also had to pay Rp 100,000 for Ijen admin fee. So much money! I was running out cash. And this was over my budget. The scam from probolinggo started it all.

IMG_4863

Trying to take in the positive side of all these, I was grateful to have met people from Malaysia, Wales and France. I loved hearing their stories. The people from Wales travelled to Komodo Islands and Bali and Java. They climbed Rinjani before going to Bromo and they’d be climbing Ijen tomorrow. They almost completed their trip. The ones from Malaysia were friends since junior high school and planned to meet their Indonesian friends at Surabaya. They were funny bunch! The old guy from Paris was 67 years old. He travelled by his own from Bangkok, KL, Borneo, Sulawesi, Lombok and now Java and bragged about renting motorbike where ever he stayed. He loved exploring the cities by motorbike.

Flowers at Penanjakan

Flowers at Penanjakan

Blessing in disguise? Must have been. I wouldn’t have met and talked to a lot of people if I were to take the public transport instead. They added to my travel stories. Thank you, guys!
15th June 2015
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