Sweating, sticky, exhausted and ready for some hard earned rest. I was greeted at the train station by my hosts for the night. Off into the darkness we ventured.
Arriving in the small town of Licin, my driver told me that under a 100 residents live in the village. The money generated by tourism is divided up amongst the community to help develop roads and infrastructure. I asked my driver if tourism was helping or making things worse and he replied, "We did not want the community to fight about making money from tourism, so we decided that the money made will go back into the community so that we can grow together. This way everyone stays happy."
As I arrived to my homestay, I was greeted by my hosts Ahs and Supri welcoming me in with food and showing me where I could rest. With no other travellers around it was just me and the locals. I still had the intention of completing the Ijen climb in a few hours but as willing as my mind was, my body said no. Two hours sleep and two volcano climbs is not a great combination.
A good rest is what I needed, but that was unfortunately not what I was to receive. As 4am clicked over, blasting over the P.A system of the near by mosque was morning prayer. For anyone travelling around Muslim populated areas during Ramadan, just a heads up, prayer starts between 4 and 4.30am. Have some ear plugs ready. After prayer the whole town is awake and sleeping becomes almost impossible.
After some form of sleep I had a bite then headed out into the town. The locals were very welcoming. Most said hello and did their best to have a chat with me. The children looked at me like an alien, which was to be expected, I am quite strange looking to them and they do no get to see many travellers through the town.
Venturing into the local rice fields, I was able to observe a different way of life. The people here had few concerns. It was humbling to take in the village. The people had what they needed and were joyous in their way of life.
Supri also invited me to a local waterfall for a quick day trip. His hospitality and welcoming nature were what really made the experience in the town for me. Go take in the beauty of the surrounding nature.
If you are looking for accommodation close to Ijen crater, I cannot recommend the Ijen Adventure hostel/homestay more. Your money helps contribute to the towns development and if you have some time and can speak English, talk to as many people as you can. They are trying to learn, increase tourism, and generate income to create a better life for themselves. Most of the locals are sulphur miners, and this contribution can help give them more options.
I sat with my host Supri, talking about his view of life. He taught me quite a few things about the religion and the leadership of the town. He gave me one of my favourite sayings to date: "Daniel, do you see that man, he is the leader of the town, he upholds a great image for the people, but remember, life is like a game of chess. The king may seem very important, as everyone is protecting him, but in the end he does not do much, and it is up to everyone to keep the team together."
Sometimes finding some culture is more challenging and away from comforts, but the best places to see are usually the hardest to find.