Category Archives: Hiking

The Machame route of Kilimanjaro

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Just a little bit more than a year now, me and my friends did the Kilimanjaro trek. We chose the Machame route knowing its reputation as the most scenic of all the routes. Contrary to The Marrangu route(Coca Cola route- the easiest) you are supposed to sleep in tents and the path does not have a gradual ascent. This is the reason why Machame is called the Whiskey route! Continue reading The Machame route of Kilimanjaro

Kawah Ijen (“Ijen Crater”), East Java, Indonesia

Along the East Java tourist circuit, the most oft visited volcanic site is Mount Bromo.

The tourist facilities near the volcano and the ease of reaching the site are the main reasons why it is the most popular volcanic site of East Java. This popularity goes to the detriment of another beautiful volcanic site in the region: Ijen.

Bromo at Dawn
Bromo at Dawn

Ijen plays second fiddle to Bromo, and if you have to choose one volcanic site, why not choose the most practical one? Ijen is harder to reach, for one it takes an hour and a half to hike the rim of Ijen, which is three times more than that of Mount Bromo!

The Blue Fire of Ijen
The Blue Fire of Ijen

In recent years though, one could argue that practicality shouldn’t weigh as much as to choose Bromo over the other. The Ijen trek is evolving, instead of just seeing the crater from Ijen’s rim to see the emerald acid lake from afar, more and more people go down the crater to see a beautiful phenomenon dubbed “The Blue fire of Ijen”.

The Blue Fire of Ijen. Deep down the crater of Ijen, is the largest blue flame area in the world. The fire could be seen on midnight treks or treks after sunset. The Blue Fire emanates from Sulphur burning at very high temperatures. 

As a result most tours dedicated for this starts the trek from the Ijen  car park at 2 am. This means you leave your hotel at 11 pm or midnight.

View of the crater rim, the stars, the rime and the blue fire  from the bottom of the crater
View of the crater rim, the stars, the rime and the blue fire from the bottom of the crater

There are always people going to the the crater. Miners are here 24/7 to get sulphur for their livelihood. Conditions are hard as they have to carry on average 70 kilos of Sulphur on a very steep slope to to get out of the Caldera.

At dawn it is nauseating to vividly see the work conditions of the Sulphur miners.

Miners and Tourists at Ijen
Miners and Tourists at Ijen

 

After Dawn, the hike back to the camp is really rewarding, the view can be spectacular especially with the emerald coloured lake down the crater.

Sulphur loads with the Kawajh Ijen Lake as backdrop
Sulphur loads with the Kawajh Ijen Lake as backdrop

 

On the rim of the crater as you head down away from the crater you may even get a view of Bali if the weather is nice. In any case the neighbouring volcanos are quite a view already

The Hike back to camp after a daw visit of Ijen Crater
The Hike back to camp after a dawn visit of Ijen Crater

If you are in East Java the option of going to Kawah Ijen is definitely worth it.

 

 

 

From Manila to Batad

 

I’ve just been to Batad last month, and I have to say that it definitely is high on my list of most rewarding places to visit. The rice terraces, built over 2 thousands years ago, stands as  testimony to man’s ingenuity in converting barren land into such fertile ground. The effort to reach this remote place is part of the reason why the visit is rewarding: it is half a day’s trip from Manila, you have to hike at least 45 minutes to reach it– Saddle point is the furtherest point that vehicles can go towards Batad.  Beyond it, you’d be really lucky to have a network on your mobile phone, but who needs a network when you can get away from it all and go back to the basics. It is such a rewarding experience to stay  overnight and wakeup to the sound of Roosters in the absence of cars and jeepneys so prevalent in Manila. Batad is of course not the only village with rice terraces, but it’s the one with the most consistent stone-wall structure; the amphitheatre-like arrangement of  its terraces is quite simply stunning.

Hiking around Batad

Here is a link to a website which can help you plan your trip to Batad (Our Awesome Planet). You’ll have info on the different options to reach Saddle point from Banaue. Another option is by joining organised tour from Manila like those done by trailadventours(Filipino trek company) and international tour companies like Intrepid and  Gap(it doesn’t come cheap for these two as they only offer 2 weeks travel to the Philippines …on  Western prices of course).

Note that Ohayami trans(+639175060817)  is now the only bus company that services the Manila-Banaue route.  Do reserve your ticket a day in advance as there are only 2 daily buses that ply this route. Both leave Manila on the  Corner of J. Fajardo and A.H. Lacson in Sampaloc, at 9 and 10PM respectively.

Bring a sweat shirt and a blanket as the bus is a moving freezer. Don’t pack too much stuff on your bag, you will have to hike in and out of Batad.

Afraid of heights?

Going to Batad from the Saddle point is not an issue if you are afraid of heights. However treks to other villages from Batad could be challenging:  the trek from Batad to Cambulo for one has a few passages where you have to pass by rice terrace ridges where you have rice field on one side and a cliff on the other.

It is good that most of the ridges are at least half a meter wide. I am told this is not the case for other hikes. For this reason, do get a guide when deciding to hike to other villages from Batad. Ask the guide how he handles situations where the client has fear of heights. He could for example propose that you hold on to his rucksack as you walk through narrow ridges. The guide can also provide you with a walking stick: this sure helped me for my balance.

It costs around 1,300 PHP to hire the service of a guide for a day(for 5 people I believe), a small cost for your safety.  It is better to hire a guide in Batad than in Banaue, it is good to support those who live in the remote areas, and of course the local guides would know their area better.

Lodging:

Normally you don’t need prior reservation for lodging in Batad, I am trying to search the internet for contact info… to no avail. We didn’t reserve anything and just organised on our arrival at Batad. The Lonely Planet suggests Simon’s place for the best viewpoint. We stayed at a native cottage(no nails) at  Ramon’s homestay. Ramon is very friendly, I am told he is a respected individual in the community.

The native hut, had six beds, you could rent the hut for 1200 PHP or share the cost with other people who are willing to share accommodation with you.

Enjoy Batad!… And as they say… it is more fun in the Philippines!