Ijen Plateau and Kawah Ijen, East Java

Trip Start Jun 09, 2009
Trip End Aug 10, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , East Java,
Saturday, July 4, 2009

From Ubud we decided that it was time to bid farewell to Bali and move on to the island of Java.  Of the thousands of islands that comprise Indonesia, it could be argued that Java is the heart of the country.  Here you will find the bustling capital city of Jakarta and home to most of the foreign investment and industry that drives the Indonesian economy.  Java can easily be described as the most developed part of the country with reasonable infrastructure.  The island itself is about half the size of Great Britain, yet it has a growing population of over 120 million people; a dense population to say the least.  We came here primarily to see some of the natural wonders that the island has to offer while visiting a city or two along the way.

After a four hour bus journey we had reached Bali's western port city of Gilimanuk where we would catch the ferry over to Java on our way to the Ijen Plateau.  The ferry crossing takes only about 30 minutes or so, but it was just enough time for a family to approach us and begin asking us questions.  Not a surprise, as we have found the Indonesians to be genuinely friendly and curious as we travel the bus routes and walk around the locations we stop in.  While tourism isn't anything new here, many of the local people seem to truly appreciate the foreign stranger who comes to visit their country.  The lady struck up a conversation with Liz regarding where we were from, where we had been, and where we were going.  She too was coming from a holiday in Bali and was traveling with her husband, her younger sister, her 9 year old daughter, and her 4 year old son.  They had spent a week in Bali and would spend the next week driving across Java on their way home to south Sumatra.  Both worked in education, she as an English teacher and he as an administrator.  They were also traveling with another family - part of their extended family.  As the ferry docked, we headed off in separate directions.  They would drive on towards the husband's hometown and, by chance, we would be taking a bus to the same city - Bondowoso.  They planned to visit their family there, while we planned to make a bus connection up to the Ijen Plateau.

As fate would have it, our bus pulled into a connecting bus stop a few hours later and there they were, saying farewell and parting ways with their extended family.  We said hello once more and, with the new found room in their vehicle, they offered to take us an hour up the road with them to Bondowoso!  Along the way, we explained where we were ultimately heading and, before we knew it, they decided they would go ahead and take us the hour and a half further up the mountain to the plateau.  Somewhere along that route, since they had the time and had never seen Ijen, they decided to go along with us to our guesthouse and spend the next day with us visiting the crater.  In short, we spent 24 hours with one of the kindest families we have ever met; a family who was willing to take a couple of complete strangers into their vehicle and make them a temporary part of their family.  The children, wary at first, quickly become impromptu English students as we taught them English, while Liz and I became impromptu Indonesian students as they taught us Indonesian vocabulary.  With the parents, we talked about life in Indonesia and life in America.  Most of all, we enjoyed each other's company as a group of accidental and unlikely travelers.  In the end, they took us back down the mountain, dropped us at our hotel in Bondowoso and we bid them farewell.

This one day alone encapsulates why we love to travel so much.  For all of the fear of the unknown that exists in the world, for all of the hate spurned on by the media that overtakes our awareness, and for all of the labels that are so easily given, but never really earned, we have believed and will continue to believe that people throughout the world are generally good natured and kind.  Thanks to this family, our point has been proven once again.

Enjoy the pictures!

Until next time,
Jon and Liz
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