It was still very early in the morning when I clambered into the sweltering bus that was heading to Banyuwangi from the Ubung bus terminal in Bali. Still bleary-eyed from the lack of sleep, I paid the IDR850k for the bus ticket - a rate that seems to have been standardised amongst all the bus services, and included the cost of the ferry from Gilimanuk to Ketapang - and squeezed my way through the narrow rows trying to find an unoccupied seat next to the window. I knew we would be travelling west on the coastal road, so in order to get the views of the coast, I made sure that the seat was on the left side of the bus.
Unbelievably, the din seemed to increase after the bus started on its way. The rickety bus shuddered, rattled, and shook with every bump and pothole it went over, almost as if it was complaining to the bus driver to slow down. All the sounds went unheeded by the driver however, who blared the horn every few seconds to warn motorbikes to stay out of the way, as he made the bus swerve in and out of small gaps in the early morning traffic. Screams of "Jember!" pierced the air every now and then as the bus tout leaned out of the doorway looking for more passengers. As more and more people piled on, plastic chairs seemed to materialise out of no where and were laid out to fill the seatless aisles. Fortunately, things seemed to settle down a little bit once we had left the city of Denpasar, with the views opening up to unbelievably green, terraced paddy fields and the crashing waves of the beautiful beaches along the Southern Coast of Bali.
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The inside of the bus was inundated with all sorts of sounds and smells that completely overwhelmed my senses. Despite it being just past 07:00, the stagnant air of the parked bus seemed to amplify the humidity and the already sweltering heat. Several men on the bus were smoking cigarettes openly and I would normally find the smell of the smoke to be disgusting, but I found that it overwhelmed the lingering scent of vomit and the pungent, salty sweat that was in the air. Shouts of merchants who made their way through the aisles selling their merchandise drowned out everything else. The shouts of "Tauhu! Tauhu! Menambahkan kecantikan!" and "Aqua! Aqua!" were tolerable, but when they shoved whatever they were selling in my face and left it there for a good 5 seconds or so, even after politely saying "Nggak, terima kasih!", I started to feel my nerves beginning to fray. It was a wonder how I managed to hang on until the bus set off, considering the coffee That I had taken earlier hadn't really kicked in yet.I reached Gilimanuk for the hour-long crossing by ferry around 11:00, and I disembarked the bus at Ketapang once the ferry had made the crossing. The waiting bemo took me straight into the city for IDR20k, dropping me off at a place where I could rent a 'sepeda motor' (apparently motorbikes for rent were pretty hard to find in Banyuwangi). The shop was called 'Tripoli' (Jl. Basuki Rachmat, No.77 – (0333)7740215) and rented out motorbikes for IDR65k per day, but required you to either leave your passport, or some other form of identification and 1 million rupiah.>> If you decide to rent a motorbike, please ensure that the brakes work well as you will be using them A LOT on the way down from Ijen back to Banyuwangi.
Up to Pos Paltuding
The hour-long ride up to Pos Paltuding (the start of the hike up to the Ijen Crater) was very straightforward. I rode southwards down Jl. Bachuki Rachmat and then turned right to head west along Jl. Jaksa Agung Suprapto, and just continued following the signs that pointed their way up to Ijen from there.After passing rice terrace-lined villages, the road got narrower and windier the higher up the mountain it went. I was surprised at how pleasant the ride up was as other online accounts that mentioned how steep and windy the road was had somehow left me expecting the worst. The road was instead shouldered by forests with gorgeous trees and huge ferns that fanned up and above the road, leaving intricate shadows on the road cast by the light from the sun. Monkeys hooted down from the tree canopy and at one point, I even thought that I may have heard a hornbill (Bucerotidae). Friendly people rode by in the other direction with beaming smiles on their faces, and the occasional wink and wave, excited to see a foreigner making his way up the volcano alone.
"Ramon is a hiker, climber, and diver who loves to get off the beaten path. His website is a combination of his drive to explore and his passion to capture and share what he sees. Ramon is a bit of a minimalist and is currently torn between his yearning to travel the world and his need to decrease his carbon footprint. Read more here." View all posts by Ramon Fadli