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Into the flame, Ijen Crater

Stepping into the heart of mother nature my journey led me to this.

Cracking open my eyes, my ears caught the sound of a giant flying insect, time to rise into the darkness, another one of natures wonders was awaiting me. I was up an hour early as my phone decided to changed its time to Bali time, watch out for that one.

Once my guide and group was ready we headed out, the endless bumpy roads and the bitter cold were all that stood in my way. No sleep fell to the back of my mind as the anticipation began to build and the cool breeze began to wake me up.

You are dropped off at the start of the trail, with approximately two or three kilometres ahead of you. Its a good thing you cannot see it in the darkness or you may be deterred from how incline this journey is. Once you are out in the cold you will be eager to get the blood pumping, once again I was the only person in shorts.

As we headed up my group continued to slow and my guide had to stop half way to catch his breath. Too many cigarettes and I would say.

About 500 meters from the decent you will need to throw on your gas mask as the sulphur smoke is quite toxic and bellows over the peak of the volcano. Prepare yourself for controlled breathing as it will become difficult to take deep breaths from here.

The way into the volcano is quite sketchy, as the path changes constantly to just jagged stone. Watch out for the miners on their way back up also.

As the smoke clears the electric blue flame will show itself. If you are lucky enough the smoke will completely clear and you will have the full view to behold. Prepare yourself to be surrounded in smoke, as the wind changes it will creep into your eyes and slowly begin to burn. Also don't shine your light on the flame, try it and see what happens.

I was at the base until around 4.45am once the group decided they did not want to make the hike to the peak for sunrise. I said hell to this I'm out of here, I left my guide and group and made way to the summit. I guess if you are happy to just chill and take in the smoke for another hour or so stay below and make your way to the lake. It is only a hundred meters or less to the right of the flame.

Racing up the crater I came across a roadblock of people, those trying to get down to the flame clashing with those trying to get up. Tour guides were arguing and screaming at one another while trying to decongest the mess of people.

After waiting for ten minutes helping people down I found a gap and raced for the top. A struggle as I had my gas mask on and could barely breath. Once I broke past everyone and reached the top what I saw will stay with me forever, and to everyone that chose to stay down in the crater, all I have to say is you missed out on something special.

The view from the top was much more impressive that the flame itself so be sure to go for the climb, even if you miss the sunrise. After taking it all in I made my way down to find my group chilling and sipping tea, my tour guide nocking back a smoke, "how was it?" he asked "worth every step" was my delighted response.

My Tips

I booked my trip through my homestay but I think I payed a little extra. If you are a thrill seeker and can go it alone or would prefer to go with friends do this.

Cab or scooter to the entry point.

Rent a gas make once you are there, they are 50,000 rupiah.

Don't worry about using a guide as there will probably be a trail of people to follow or other groups to show you the way.

Once the sun is up the flame is no longer visible.

Be inside the crater and at the flame by 4am, enough time to see the flame and make the peak by sunrise.

At the peak, go all the way until you can see the beach and Bali, you will have a 360 degree view of Ijen and the sunrise.

Doing this will save you anywhere between $20-40 AUD, and give you more control of your experience.

Have fun guys, this is one you don't want to miss.

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