Volcanolovers in Indonesia
In Java Island, Mount Raung is the 2nd most eastern volcano, second only to Mount Merapi which is well known as Mount Ijen. As a trekking destination, Mount Raung is the least popular compared to the other volcanoes in Java Island. Actually, this is unfair as Mount Raung offers both poetic and dramatic views. The poetic parts are the west and north views from the summit area and the dramatic one is the summit crater view. Its remote location is possibly the cause of the unpopularity among the mountain trekkers. Bondowoso, the closest town to Mount Raung is situated close enough to the east coast of Java Island, 192 km or around 7 hours of public bus ride from Surabaya. From Jakarta it is 985 km away and involves several public transportation changes.
There are at least 2 approaches to Mount Raung summit. Northwest approach of Sumberwringin, which is the approach we took. The other approach is from the south slope of Mount Raung, namely Kalibaru approach. The southern approach brings you to the true peak of 3332 m with technical climbing at the last section of the trek. Rope techniques are required to reach the true summit. While northwest approach takes 2 days trekking to the summit, the southern approach takes 6 days. A recent field report mentioned now it has been shortened to 3 days after treks clearing.
Indeed the Sumberwringin approach does not bring us to the true peak (3332 m) but to the lesser peak of 3200 m or so. There is no passable access from the Sumberwringin or flag peak to the true peak as the caldera rim is impassable. All around the large caldera, the rim has many miniature jagged peaks and many are unstable to climb. The only practical route to the true peak is the southern approach.
On Sumberwringin route summit area, to the west we enjoy the beautiful golden sunset on Mount Argapura (3088 m) and Mount Semeru (3676 m). To the south, one would not be bored when scaling the P Madura, Madura Strait, East Java northern coast and the lesser mountain range south of the north coast. And then off course the magnificent giant caldera, the lesser half cone and the ever smoking crater at the bottom of the caldera. The 650 m deep and 2 km wide caldera with the all vertical cliffs is like a giant bowl and some people have managed to descend to the caldera bottom.
While the 15 km trekking from Sumberwringin has been noted as lengthy, in actual it is very enjoyable with the gentle ascent from the trailhead to the vegetation limit. The last 30 minutes ascent to the summit is not extremely difficult nor dangerous. There is a very narrow ca. 20 meters passage but there is a safer route just a few meters beside it. The 15 km trek was partly shady with tall vegetation and partly more open with bushes and pine trees. Birds were many but we did not see any monkeys we had seen playing on the trees in 2009.
Our trip in October 2016 is actually a revenge after a failure to reach the summit in March 2009 due to the treacherous rain storm a few hundred meters from the summit. It was actually only a few hundred meters or a little less than 30 minutes away from the summit when we had to return. We waited for a few hours but the storm continued and we had to catch the train back to Jakarta.
This time we were successful as the weather was on our side. The team summited twice, on October 22 afternoon and on October 23 morning. On both occasions, we enjoyed the magnificent summit views.
The Trip to Sumberwringin Basecamp
The 3 team members met in Surabaya Bungurasih Bus Station/ Terminal on October 21, 2016. Public buses are available to Bungurasih from Pasarturi Railway Station as well as from Surabaya Juanda Airport. From Surabaya we rode the public bus to Probolinggo and then changed to the one to Bondowoso. Totally it was 7 hours. The cost was Rp 50,000 per pax. The buses were economy non-aircon class type, therefore there were musicians and snack sellers busy offering conveniences and stuffs.
Direct buses from Surabaya to Bondowoso are not many and available only until 10:30. Beyond that we have to go to Probolinggo and then take another bus to Bondowoso. Be very clear about the cost and the coverage. Make sure you get the ticket with the destination clearly written on it. Some parties tried to take advantage from ignorant or unaware passengers by extracting extra cost from Probolinggo to Bondowoso. The amount is insignificant but the practice is still annoying.
Bondowoso bus station is relatively peaceful and quiet day and night. Most of the time there are only 1 or 2 buses in it. It was 19:00 o’clock when we arrived and it was easy to find further transportation to Sumberwringin, the basecamp for Mount Raung. It is 27 km from Bondowoso and Rp 250,000 on a decent Isuzu Panther mini-bus rental car. Public rural bus is also available but in 19:00 o’clock it would only goes as far as Garduatta intersection, which is still 15 km away from the basecamp. During the day, there are public rural buses that go as far as Sumberwringin.
Across the street from the bus station you can find the Bamboo Homestay, who caters for Mount Ijen bound tourists. It is reasonably inexpensive at Rp. 100,000. Mount Ijen is nowadays a very popular destination for its blue fire. Therefore transportation and accommodation around Bondowoso bus station is easy.
Sumberwringin basecamp is an old Dutch coffee plantation house managed by Ibu Endang. She is very friendly and helpful. She helps Mount Raung trekkers with accommodation (Rp. 200,000 for a spacious 2 beds room), logistics, guide/ porter (Rp. 450,000 for 2 days service) and ojek – motorbike taxi (Rp. 50,000 / trip). The ojek is important to save time on 3 km of partially paved road to the trailhead at the coffee plantation area.
On October 22, 2016 after a heavy breakfast at 6:10 o’clock we were driven by the ojeks to the trailhead. The road to the Pondok Motor or the supposedly 1st stop (Pos-1) was partially paved and partially of macadam. Halfway the ojeks went around the poorly macadamized road although it was a little further. They did not stop at Pondok Motor, they even took us further deeper into the plantation, thus saved us an additional 30 minutes of walking. Overall it took 1 hour from Sumberwringin basecamp to the trailhead. It was 7:15 when we started the hike. The trek was shady and nowhere steep although the trees were relatively small. Instead of constantly ascending, the trek goes up and sometimes goes down small valleys. Overall it still ascends but very gentle. The larger trees we saw in 2009 has become less and the monkeys who shouted loudly welcoming us were not there anymore.
Within 2:45 hours we got to the Pondok Sumur or the 2nd stop. Its altitude is 1750 masl and the plot is small, good only for some 3 tents. We stopped a little while for savoring snacks and hid some of the water to reduce weights on our carriers. Then we continued to Pondok Tonyok (the 3rd stop). Pondok Tonyok at ca. 2100 masl is 45 minutes away and a few hundred meters beyond Pondok Sumur towards it the trek became a little steep. But afterwards it became gentle again. The bushes were thick, grasses covered the trek and scratched our skins.
By 11:00 o’clock we got to the Pondok Tonyok and continued our hike. The trek was still gentle, the bushes became thicker but more open to the sky. Some large fallen tree trunks obstructed the going but nowhere difficult. Surprisingly by 11:40 we already arrived at Pondok Demit (2350 masl), the 4th stop or Pos-4. Pondok Demit houses only a few large tents if you need to. It is said that an hour or so from it to the east there is a water source. We savored our lunch packs in Pondok Demit and took a nap until 13:00.
The trek from Pondok Demit to the 5th stop of Pondok Mayit was still gentle and thick with bushes. Edelweiss flowers began to appear along the trek. In this part of the trek we observed 2 things we had never seen in other mountains. The 1st was a bird nest with a birdling inside it. The nest lied on some branches only about 1 meter high from the terrain. And the 2nd was a bird egg that lied on a thick intertwining or naturally woven branches about the same height with the bird nest.
By 13:45 we reached a terrain with dried needle pine leaves covering it. A little further up a sign was nailed to a large pine tree, Pondok Mayit (the 6th stop) at 2550 m. Pondok Mayit is wide enough for many tents but the ground was sloping. Camping on it must be not very convenient like what we did back in 2009.
After a short stop we continued the hike along the pine trees trek. Some part of the trek was still thick with bushes. By 14:45 we arrived at Pondok Angin or the 7th stop at 2750 m. The camping site was terraced and almost perfectly cleared and levelled. It houses some 10 smaller tents in separated plots. In 2009 it was quite open and prone to wind but in October 2016 it is well protected by bushes and some medium sized trees. There are some larger tall trees good for tying tent or flysheet ropes.
The view from Pondok Angin was beautiful with Mount Argapura (3088 masl) and Mount Semeru (3676 m) in the west. The northern coast of East Java was clearly visible and even Madura Island further north was very clear. To the east is the proud and ever guarding Mount Suket (2950 m). To the south, off course we observe the caldera cliffs and summit trek. Some of the cliffs are vertical facing northwest while behind it they were also vertical facing the caldera.
After erecting our tents and waited for clear weather by 16:30 we continued to the Deden Hidayat Memorial 30 minutes away towards the summit. The trek was steep but not extremely. Deden or the vegetation limit is 3000 masl. From it the summit was clearly visible complete with a post and a flag. I did not know the summit was that close from Deden when I had to return a little higher from Deden due to bad weather back in 2009.
We decided to continue to the summit as it was so tempting. It was so close and we reckon it would be only 30 mintes away max. Plus we would try our luck to be able to see a rare occasional the red melting lava from the crater. Unfortunately the red melting lava did not appear until the darkness came. The Sumberwringin or Flag Peak as they call it was approximately 3200 masl. There was a sandy polt of terrain with a pole and flag on it. The plot is good for some 10 people and annually at August 17 is the place for students to celebrate RI independece day.
In the morning of October 23, 2016 we returned to the summit to enjoy the summit view. And then back to the camp site at Pondok Angin and by 8:15 we left it for Sumberwringin basecamp.
Our descent to Sumberwringin was slower than it should be due to the rain from 9:00 to 11:00. The trek was very friendly, there was almost no treacherous part. We only had to carefully negotiate a large slippery tree trunk and the thick bushes. By 14:00 we got to the trailhead where the ojeks have been ready to take us to Sumberwringin.
Surabaya – Bondowoso 192 km 7 hours Rp. 50,000 on non-aircon bus
Bondowoso – Sumberwringin 27 km 45 minutes Rp. 250,000 on rental car
Alternatively Rp. 20,000 on rural bus.
Sumberwringin Rp. 200,000 for 2 beds room accomodation
Ticket Rp 25,000 national, Rp 50,000expatriate
Logistics available in the basecamp and a shop nearby
Sumberwringin – Trailhead Rp. 50,000 on motorbike taxi
Trailhead – Pondok Sumur (1750 m) 2-1/2 hours
Pondok Sumur – Pondok Tonyok (2100 m) 3/4 hours
Pondok Tonyok – Pondok Demit (2350 m) 1 hour
Pondok Demit – Pondok Mayit (2550 m) 1 hour
Pondok Mayit – Pondok Angin (2750 m) 3/4 hours
Pondok Angin – Deden (3000 m) 1/2 hours
Deden – Summit (3200 m) 1/2 hours
Pondok Angin – Trailhead 6 hours
Ijen Crater is a world famous natural phenomena said to exist only in 2 places. In Ijen Crater and somewhere far away in Iceland. Ijen Crater nowadays is a prime tourist destination and notes about it are abundant in the internet and travel books. The main attraction is the blue fire coming from the burning solid sulfur. The blue fire had been there for long time but was promoted to fame by some French naturalists in 1990’s.
There are 2 approaches, namely Bondowoso or western approach and Banyuwangi or eastern approach. Banyuwangi approach is more practical if one comes from Bali, and Bondowoso approach is better for people coming from Surabaya or Probolinggo (the town near Mount Bromo).
From Sumberwringin we rode the same rental car to Platuding, the entry gate to Ijen Crater. We started the 70 km or 2 hours ride at 19:30. The road was quiet and well paved most of the stretch. Arriving at Paltuding by 21:30, after a quick dinner we took a 3 hours rest in a guest house near the parking lot. The guest house was free, tents were available for rent for Rp 150,000. We were lucky to find an unlocked living room complete with sofa to sleep on.
On October 24, 2016, 1:30 o’clock we started the 3 km trekking to the Ijen Crater rim. The trek was indeed wide enough for a car but the soil is unpaved. After a few hundred meters gentle part, the trek became quite steep. The steepness continued for some 2 km and the last 1 km was gentle. There was no lighting, you need a torch or a headlamp to trek it. The short trek took 1 hour and then we had to descend to the crater through steep rocky zig-zag path. The narrow path was also actively used by the sulfur miners to carry the 60 kg sulfur to the collecting point up there at the rim. It took 30 minutes to get into the crater where the blue fire is situated.
It was only a few people watching the blue fire when we arrived but very soon afterwards hundreds of hikers came to the scene and the small place became very crowded. While we enjoyed the spectacular blue fire, down there the miners swung their hammers to break solid sulfur outcrops.
Going back to the crater rim was easier. There were many hikers coming down so you would not miss the path like you could when going down in the dark all by yourself. Some miners watched our ways and shouted to correct our steps.
Ijen Crater was like an international bazaar when we were there. We heard so many different languages in that congested spot. Bahasa Indonesia, Malaysian, Javanese, Sundanese, Thai, Tamil, Russian, Chechs, German, Dutch, English, Tagalog, Mandarin, French, Spanish and some other languages we have not heard before.
To the east of the Ijen Crater rim, stood proudly the less trekked Mount Merapi or well known as Mount Ijen. The 2800 m tall volcano peak has become more famous lately for its unique peak scene. There is a crescent shaped bush at the peak. Situated some 2 km east of the rim, the trekking is said to be steep and at least 3 hours are required to negotiate the off tourist limit trek.
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