Java - Sunrise at Mount Bromo

The next day was the start of our volcano adventures. As part of the tour we had booked through EDU Hostel, we got a mini bus that pretty much took all day to drive up into the mountains to a small village just on the edge of Mount Bromo. Our accommodation was shocking. Very basic with no hot water – and you needed it as it was rather chilly up in the mountains – and not even a shower or sink to wash in. But it was a bed for the night and as we got there late in the evening, around 10pm, and were getting up about 3am to see the sunrise, we weren’t there very long so it didn’t bother us too much. As we said, the next morning we were up bright and early, but instead of climbing up Mount Bromo to watch the sunrise, we got a rather old and falling apart jeep to drive us through the amazing sand sea that surrounded the volcano, and up a hill opposite so we could see Mount Bromo with the sunrise in the background. It was so cold up there on that hill, especially when we had been used to Bali weather for so long. We were freezing our socks off so the sunrise couldn’t come quick enough. But when it did, it was absolutely spectacular. Pinks and oranges filled the sky and the volcano was framed with this beautiful backdrop.

Once the sun had completely risen at about 5:30am we walked back to our jeep to be driven down the hill so we could start to climb Mount Bromo itself. It was still pretty cold but the sun was warming up a bit and clambering through the dusty sand-like floor got your heart rate up so we warmed up a little. Once at the top and standing on the edge of this huge volcano, it was pretty clear why lots of people come to do it. It was amazing. Almost like you were standing on the edge of the world. And the views looked like you could have been on Mars with all the dusty grey soil scattered about. Unfortunately the sulphur from the volcano gave a whiff of egg occasionally, but who’s complaining!?

Shortly after reaching the top (and lots of photos!) we headed down again to get back in the jeep, to then pack and get back in the mini bus to take us to the small village outside Mount Ijen and our accommodation for the night. This guest house was much nicer with a heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi. They also provided dinner – although it came at a price – which was really good and there was lots of it. The only problem was, we were running low on cash as we hadn’t been able to get any out since leaving Yogyakarta as the ATMs were not accepting our cards. Others were having the same problem but they had clearly got more cash with them than we did. So paying for this huge (but yummy) dinner meant that we were probably down to our last £10, and that needed to last us long enough to get back onto the mainland of Bali the next day. This was when we also got asked by the tour guides to pay for the entry fee Mount Ijen. Firstly, we didn’t have the money, secondly we were told by the hostel in Yogyakarta that all entry fees were paid for, and thirdly we had heard rumours and seen on the internet that Mount Ijen was actually closed to tourists as there had been some activity from the volcano and for safety reasons they had to close it off to the public. After explaining all of this to our tour guides they left it for the night, only to badger us again early the next morning. 

Although by this point our whole group was pretty certain that none of us would be climbing Mount Ijen any time soon, and we told our tour guides this, at 3:30am the next morning we got up to a rather deserted hotel who served us breakfast nearly an hour later than they had said the night before. It was clear that they didn’t care about sticking to the times as they knew we weren’t going to be going up the volcano. We eventually left in our mini buses and to be fair, the guides did drive us to the volcano, so we could see for ourselves that it was closed. Of course all of us said that we had been telling them that for the last 24 hours and that we should get a refund or some sort of compensation as we had all paid to do the whole tour, and now we couldn’t do half of it. But in Asia, it’s sad to say that customer service pretty much goes out of the window and they rarely offer and apology or want the chance to make it up. For example, if something is wrong with your food in a restaurant in Asia that is run by locals, don’t even bother mentioning it as they won’t replace it or take if off your bill as a gesture of goodwill. You just have to accept that when in Asia, the normal customer service that is offered in Western culture, is not offered here. So thank God we didn’t use our very last bit of money to pay for the ‘entrance fee’ as there’s a good chance the tour guides wouldn’t have given it back and we would have been even more screwed than we actually were. After a lot of deliberating between us and the locals and then between the locals themselves, they drove us to the ferry port and dropped us at the side of the road and zoomed off after we’d got our luggage. No apology, no offer of a refund, nothing. We were absolutely gutted we couldn’t do the Mount Ijen climb as we’d heard such great things about it and seen amazing pictures of the blue flame. Obviously you can’t control nature and if it was dangerous then clearly we shouldn’t have gone, but the tour guides should have told us this the day before so not to get our hopes up. And with us being low on money due to the ATM problem, we could have really used a cash refund for the inconvenience. 

So feeling disappointed about the trip and worried when we will be able to get some more money out, we bought a ferry ticket each to Gilimanuk on Bali mainland. Luckily, we met a local guy on the ferry who offered to help us get back to Seminyak – if anyone knew what to do about the ATM situation, it would be Michelle and Theo at Capsule Hostel. Once we got off the ferry the guy walked us to a mini bus which was going to Kuta and with our very last bit of money, we paid for our tickets. We then met a French couple on the mini bus who were also going to Seminyak and offered to pay for our taxi with them after they heard about our predicament. They also offered us some water and something to eat as we hadn’t eaten since 3:30am that morning (the breakfast before Mount Ijen was shocking so we were both starving). After what seemed like the longest day ever (and it was only midday) we finally got back to Seminyak and tried all the different ATMs with no luck. None of them were accepting our cards. We asked at Capsule Hostel, who luckily had two beds available in a dorm for us, and they said lots of people had been struggling to get money out. Jordan stayed at the hostel to ring our bank and see what was going on, and Natalie went on a walk around the main Seminyak town to try every single type of cash machine, noting down the ones that didn’t work. One cash machine had a notice saying they no longer accepted Visa cards, and ours were both Visas. Natalie then bumped into someone at a bank who said that Visa and the Indonesian government had had a falling out and as of 1st October, no Visa cards were allowed to get money out of any ATMs, and they had no idea how long it was going to go on for. Great, just great. We were down to our last £2. Kindly, a guy gave Jordan 100 rupiah which is £5 so we could get a late lunch as we had barely eaten all day. There was a small warung down the road from the hostel which did Nasi Goreng (fried rice) with egg and chilli flakes for next to nothing so we each ordered a portion and scoffed it down. Luckily we could still pay on card so afterwards we went to the supermarket and bought some food to last us a few days as Capsule Hostel had a kitchen we could cook in. We also frantically skyped family to see if they could wire us some money through Western Union so we could at least have some cash to last us. So many different options were going round in our heads and we were close to thinking we would have to book a flight out of Indonesia ASAP and leave much earlier than we wanted to. Luckily it didn’t come to that. A guy in our hostel told us of a place we could go to get money out which was kind of like a cash back service. You had to pay a small handling fee but at least we could get cash out. So we got about £200 out as we had no idea when this ATM problem would be resolved.