Unexpected hospitality

Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
Trip End Jul 24, 2012

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thursday 5 July
Today nothing on the programme. Swimming, exploring the hotel. We have a 2 room bungalow in the lush tropical garden of the resort, with 2 open air bathrooms. There is free wifi in the restaurant, allowing us to check the emails, and writing in the blog. No Java coffee in this  restaurant, although the menu is OK and on the expensive side, but the food is good.

Friday 6 July
Early wake-up at 4AM to visit Ijen crater. Ijen is an active volcano with fumaroles blowing a sulphur containing gas and has the biggest crater lake in Java. The sulfuric-acid crater lake lies between natural dams of deeply etched rock. It contains steaming acid water, shrouded in a smelling swirling sulfur cloud. Escaping volcanic gasses are channeled through a network of ceramic pipes, resulting in condensation of molten sulfur. The sulfur, which is deep red in color when molten, pours slowly from the ends of these pipes and pools on the ground, turning bright yellow as it cools. The miners break the cooled material into large pieces and carry it away in baskets. Miners must carry loads, which range from 75 to 90 kg, up to the crater rim and then 3 km down the mountain for weighing. Most miners make this journey twice a day.
The 4WD Jeep drove into the night on bumpy roads and arrived at Pos Paltuding about 2hrs later, at an altitude of 1850 meters. We had breakfast-boxes from the hotel and after breakfast we headed to the crater rim. The 3km walk to the crater rim brought us through tropical jungle with streep slopes. Walking through the clouds gives a misty scenery but also drizzle. Diewertje and Sietse walked good with us and did well. After about 1.5hr hiking we reached the crater rim at an altitude of 2386m. The weather was not with us unfortunately as clouds were hiding sight of the fumaroles and crater lake. Patience weighs off and the clouds broke for a few minutes. Through the sulphuric smog, we could see the crater lake and the ceramic pipes and the fumes being blown out. Red sulphur was being collected and the solidified yellow material was hacked to pieces by a man. I wouldn't want to be in his place without good protection. Anja started being unwell because of the smell of rotten eggs and we headed back down again. Now that we had daylight we could see where we were going on the path down to Paltuding. Back in the Jeep we drove through thick jungle on a road that was only potholes at times. On our way back we passed through plantation fields of coffee, cinnamon and cloves. We stopped to get the taste of fresh cinnamon bark, pick coffee berries and open them to find the beans inside. It was not the season for cloves yet, in Java, as it is a flower and these had not sprouted yet. However, the leaves smelled weakly like cloves when crushed in your hand.
Back in the city we briefly stopped at Hardy's Supermarket  to get some fruits, cookies and shaving cream. Anja and the kids were craving for tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh fruits, that we could wash with bottled water. I wanted to try the smelly Durian, as pre-packed wedges were available but after a fierce no-go from Anja, this idea was cancelled.

Saturday 7 July
We rested most of the day and by 3PM, we were ready for some activity. We checked with the hotel reception if traditional dances were performed tonight and after a phone call it seemed there was a performance at the Taman Blambangan square at 18h30.
Before going to this performance, we wanted to check out some other things too. There is a chinese temple and a traditional market that is open after dark that we wanted to see too.
A taxi drove us to the Chinese temple. Although it may look like very kitch on the outside, the Chinese temple is very serene and traditional on the inside. Upon enting the temple, we were approached by Irene, a student who made use of the silence of the temple to study her exams.
Irene gave us a walkthrough of the temple - no photos inside please - She was so kind to guide us for about half an hour and explain every single god they worshipped. Thank you Irene for this kind gesture
In twilight we then strawled through back alleys, passing by a mosque at prayer time, before finding our way to the main street. OK, we were actually lost, but asking around we found the way. People kindly helped us and did not ask for alms in return.
A short, overpriced becak drive brought us to the traditional market. Meanwhile it was dark, but selling was still going on. We walked by fruitstalls, women selling fish and tofu, as well as watches, belts and anything you can think of. A piece of tofu was crammed in my mouth by an old women and I respectfully swallowed a piece of it. Diewertje saw a handbag she wanted and the price was negociated down to 40.000 Rp.
By 18h we were getting hungry and we settled down in a warung om Jl Kardeng Artini that was run by an old couple. 4 Soto Ayam were ordered and they were delicious!

At 18h30 we went to Taman Blambangan where the performance would be held and there are chairs and a stage. After informing it does appear to be here, a kind of public presentation. We first quickly had dinner and went back again. There appears to be a crowd of locals, and since we are long here, we can see well. A man comes to us, "Mr. Erik from Ketapang Indah Hotel?" - Yes - "Welcome, you are special guest for traditional performance". Pouf! Four seats on the first row (quite official, with tables for snacks and water, later Java coffee). This is so unexpected ! The Barung dance was already ongoing and then 2 presenters came on stage, introducing the play and the program of the evening. Completely in Indonesian, and then suddenly - in Inggris - they ask if I would want to stand up. I get up, friendly greet the audience (applause of about 500 people - only locals there). Then the man next to me says that when the Regent of Banyuwangi (Aswar Anas) comes, I should stand up and shake hands. Doink! Suddenly, the first row stands up, I veer right up and am the first in line to shake hands. What an honor! Then the show begins, it tells the "Legend of King Naga", which is very popular amongst the local population. Wonderfull costumes, good actors, a presentation of nearly 3 hours. The story is good - unmarried king seeking women. The story starts with the snake-woman. To escape from marriage to the snake-king, she is transformed into 100% human. King finds wife and everyone happy.
And then, very strange; just before the end of the show everybody leaves without applause. That's it. Apparently this is common practice in Indonesia.

And think of it, we just wanted a night out...
Finding a taxi is not that easy at 23h30 and we head back to the warung and ask kindly in broken Ingriss if they could call a meter-taxi for us. They are so kind to call the taxi company and about 5 minutes later we are heading Ketapang Indah. Many thanks again to the owners of this warung, a now old couple who have been running this waring since decades. Thank you !

Sunday 8 July
A visit to a cacao plantation (Kaliklatak) was on the agenda for today, but as a reservation had to be made at the plantation a day before, and it can not be reached buy meter-taxi because of bad road condition, this item is skipped, unfortunately. No harm, because we are still tired of yesterday's experience.
After staying 4 days at Ketapang Indah, the moves of the guests become apparent. Most of the guests stay only for one night, to go hiking on mount Ijen the next day, leaving 3 to 5 AM. They are back at around 13h hr so they are in time for lunch. The new guests arrive in the afternoon. This means that the resort is almost deserted in the morning. What a luxury, what a calm, we have the swimming pool just for ourselves, and we can rest in silence. A day of relaxing at the pool won't do harm and we have to prepare the backpacks for our next travel.

Tomorrow we are going to Bali.

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Stock Photos from 123RF  Stock Photos 

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