Ijen Crater Tour or How Nature Can Destroy Your Plans

Bali. Majestic, natural, sacred, free. The adjectives usually used to describe the island. It attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists annually and I was not an exception. Bali was especially interesting to me for its picturesque views and hippie vibe that can inspire for amazing shots.

One of the trips that you can take from the island is a hike to the Ijen volcano complex. I was anticipating that day for two reasons. First, a night hike to the top of the volcano sounds like a great challenge worth trying. Second, I should have filmed a promo video for a travel agency there. So, I was obviously excited.

8 pm. I am ready. My bag is packed with all the equipment: my camera, drone, stabilizer and lots of other stuff which in total weighed around 10 kilos. But I am still excited.

We have to get to another island, Java. And this is a long way, believe me. In the beginning, we head to the port Gilimanuk, where we take a ferry to the Java island and after that, we go to the city Banyuwangi. Here is the place where the volcano is located. Overall it takes 6 hours to get just to the bottom of a volcano. And it would sound not as dramatic if there was not a little “but”.

It rains all along the way. I checked the weather forecast a day earlier but our guide was trying to calm us down telling us that the weather may differ, that it changes so fast that at the moment we get to the top, it will be way better. And we believed. However, the closer we get to the bottom of the volcano, the more we lose hope for any improvements.

It pours down heavily. We are completely wet and we even have not started our hike up the hill.

2 am. We listen to the instructions; get special masks that protect from acid evaporations and flashlights. The hike starts. However, it still rains heavily. I start hesitating. Thinking if it is actually worth it. But I keep walking. Me, three Russian girls and a guide.  All are dressed in raincoats that make no use. We are soaking wet. Dark, cold, damp, slippery. The only thing you dream about is home, a warm fluffy blanket and a cup of hot tea.

One of the girls gives up, pays a so-called riksha to pull her to the top. But others still desperately hope for the best and continue the hike or just don’t want to waste around $100 for these services.

2 hours. This is the approximate time you need to get to the top of the volcano Ijen. But it is definitely worth it because the view is just breathtaking. I would love to say this if only it was true. At least that day it was not.

At sunrise, everything has to be lit by tender pink shine which combines perfectly with a turquoise lake in the crater. However, nature had its own plans for that morning. Because of thick fog, we cannot see anything at all. By the way, we are the only group who reached the very top. Kind of an achievement.

The feelings are mixed. On the one hand, we do not see what we expected. The plan to film a promo fails miserably. On the other hand, the feeling of being alone without crowds of tourists in one of the greatest places in Indonesia wins. The feeling of realizing how insignificant you are in comparison to the greatness and power of nature.

I walk a bit further, go deep right in the fog. Now there is nobody else. Just me and a hill covered with dry and tired soil in maroon color. And suddenly, I see some shadow. Creepy but exciting at the same time. Who is this? We were the only group who got to the top. A stranger who came out of nowhere and is going somewhere far away. I stand still. I realize that soon the stranger is going to disappear beyond the horizon. No time to pull off a camera from a backpack. Too little time. I grab a phone from my pocket and take a single shot. After that, the stranger vanishes away. I look at the picture and I see the magic.

Maybe this is the reason why I made all the way through. To take one single but such a memorable shot. To realize the insignificance of human’s plans comparing to nature. To feel the solitude at least for a few minutes in the place usually crowded with people. To remember the real purpose of photography: catch a moment.


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