Indonesia, Java, Sharing

Hiking the Fire Mountains


No need for a package tour. No need for a guide.

One night at 1 a.m. I started from my guesthouse Gandrung Payungan Inn in the village Karang Asem with a scooter (IDR 75,000/day) and turned back because after a while it was raining too hard. It was around 2 a.m. when I decided that it’s not worth it. The road had become a waterfall with me going upstream on a steep & uneven road in dark fog. I pushed on. Reminded myself “Dude you have no proper shoes.” My rain poncho was still the same one I had torn up in Bali and makeshift-fixed with a safety pin. Looking back, it was wise to turn back and give it another try the next day.

And that’s what I did. Next day I found some hiking shoes my size – that is, finally!… after having checked more than a dozen shops in Banyuwangi and surroundings in vain. I was so glad to find this adventure/hiking equipment store that I also exchanged my flippers for a pair of trekking sandals. Evening I prepared myself, went to bed early. Got up at 1 a.m. and went up northwest, following the signs indicating ‘Kawah Ijen’. Ohhhh, the scooter ride is so much better without rain! Even so, dear adventurous reader, be sure to get a good scooter – sometimes the road is quite steep and rough, with pits here and potholes there!

When I was almost at the entrance (thank you GPS!) I noticed that I am running out of gas. I made it there but the marker was on ‘E’ (empty). Well it was about 3 a.m. or so and I could worry about going back later, so no reason to do that now ;-P

Within one hour I was on top of the hill. A guide called Tao was joining me up the whole time. I told him “Thank you but the path is obvious, Tao” but he said he don’t mind joining me and it’s for free. There were so many people going up there! I overtook most of them and was at the summit in an hour. There are three steep ascents with plateaus in between so it’s not a real hike, rather a nice morning walk.

Walking up? Walking down?

At the top Tao asked for IDR150,000 to go down to see the blue flames: “It’s very dangerous, very dangerous” down there. Yeah right. I said goodbye and joined an American photographer named Jason and his Malay friend. As we go down, I meet the workers I know from Glawogger’s movie Workingman’s Death. It’s an entire different thing to watch it with your own eyes, to smell the sulfur, to have to crouch down in order to avoid burning eyes. These people carry loads of sulphur uphill every day, and they are paid per kilo. I do not buy a turtle or any other ornament made of sulphuric rock to ease their lot – but I want to give something. So two of them get my last pieces of chocolate.

For pictures or videos of the blue flames, please consult the internet, e.g. Wikipedia. There are great records of that phenomenon… far better than what I could ever achieve with my tablet camera.


Wokers on Kawah Ijen carrying bringing up loads of sulphuric rocks from the place tourists go to see whooohooo the ‘blue fire!’


Sunrise at the edge of Ijen Volcano (2,800m above sea level)



Sulphuric acid lake at Mount Ijen. In the morning I was down there (top right corner of the lake) together with hundreds of other people



I meet Jakob at the guesthouse in Karang Asem. Together we walk up and down Mount Semeru in around 26 hours. It is one fast hike. The last part is quite heavy and we almost do not start the climb in the early morning because of heavy rain – again, like on my first eve at Kawah Ijen. At 4 a.m. the rain stops and at 5 a.m. we start to hike the last section. Rolling gravel has gotten lumped together by the recent rainfall. That makes the ascent somewhat easier. It takes us around 2hrs30 from Kalimati to the Volcano peak (3676m).


Are we fit enough?? … Before starting the hike, we need to get a document confirming our health



After the ride from Ranupani Base we pose for a photo before we have a 30min briefing in Indonesian language and start the hike up to Lake Kumbolo (4hrs) and Base Kalimati (2hrs)


Up there at the summit – it’s hard to describe. The volcano spits out ashes every 15-20 minutes. It is loud. It is spectacular. It is immense, gigantic! I have never seen anything like it. Very impressive. Certainly unforgettable.  


At Ranupani Base Camp after ½hr intro talk in Indonesian

Misty Jungle Hike


Lake Kumbolo Base Camp. We decide not to stay but venture forth to reach Kalimati


Someother bloggers described this ascent as challenging, and yes, it is quite challenging. But if you’re not fixated on being there at sh rise, have proper shoes and a good walking stick to prevent you from sliding back down, it can be done in around 2.5 hours. Especially if you have a friend carrying the backpack with camera, water and peanuts – Thank you, Jakob!!

The summit 🙂




Every 15-20 it goes WHOOOOSHHHhhh !!!! and the volcano erupts, spewing out ashes hundreds of metres high




Thank you, dear Jakob, for embarking on that beautiful hiking trip to Mount Semeru with me. We made it… in 26 hours, man!!

Sitting in the night bus to Yogyakarta. I skipped the hitchhiking I had planned because of Eid Al-Fitr, the muslim festival in June. Prices of accommodation are raised five times as high as normal. Traffic is gridlocked (kemacetan) because people from Bali go west to visit their parents in Java. On the other hand, people from central Java go east to Bali and west to Jakarta, and Jakartanesians go everywhere to spend some time with their relatives. To put it in simple terms: it’s all a huge car salad!

Indonesia, Java

Bardo states

Again, a day or two when I simply rest. Not do anything special. Read. Eat. Sleep. Meditate. Recover. Digesting impressions of Kawah Ijen and preparing the hike of Gunung Semeru.


One of the most beautiful guesthouses and friendliest hosts I have come across during my travels this year: Mango Moon, Pemuteran, Bali. The owner of this guesthouse, Kadek, is a diving instructor, ouhhyeahh 🙂


While I am at Doddy’s place in Surabaya, nothing much happens. Still, in retrosprct, these two days have been filled with events. He showed me around Malang, Batu, and Sidoarjo – There was a mud flow here which people call Lumpur Lapindo 2006!


Travelling these days feels really great! Accepting that things do not turn out the way I thought. Almost always, plans don’t hold when confrontwith reality. Whenever there is an agenda, there is lack of flow. And I just love the flow of koving with what comes along. And I also feel the magick of staying somewhere for some days or weeks 🙂

It’s a good mix, indeed: Beaches, Hikes, National Parks, Retreats. And from time to time a temple, a shopping spree, a day of relaxing with  good book.


Balinese Buddhist Art

Bali, Sharing

Balinese dancers at traditional Buddhist ceremony

I was staying in Pemuteran at Mango Moon Guesthouse. Putu & Kadek did everything to make my life more beautiful there. Kadek Suparma is also a diving instructor! Well well well… Time for some fun dives. And so I went to Menjangan Island off the Northwest coast of Bali. No GoPro Cam, no pictures. Instead, some pictures of my visit at the largest Buddhist temple in Bali. Also, a video about the ceremony I attended.


Thai monks from Wat Pha Nanachat invite Andrea and me to join a traditional Buddhist ceremony at the Balinese Temple Brahma Arama Vihāra



The Chief monk explaining what is going to happen and why (in Malay and Thai)


Thank you, Terima kasih for posing, ladies!


Thank you Master Gotama

Bali, Bedugul, Sharing

Motivations of giving

Doddy and me had just met yesterday evening – it so happened we stay at the same guesthouse. We share some stories and he tells me he goes to Surabaya the next day. Sure he can give me a ride to Pemuteran – he is happy to do so! We are meant to start at 5 a.m. But for some reason we leave two hours later. Ok by me. Going back to bed for another two hours I listen to this:   

We go south from Bedugul (Hotel Melita, IDR150,000/double room)… I had scootered there from Ubud with an Italian guy named Andrea: Mille grazie amico!


My Italian travelmate Andrea & me on scooter ride to Bedugul. A taxi driver wanted IDR500,000 for the ride from Ubud to Bedugul. So we rented a scooter for 1/10 of that and went up north by ourselves. Thank you, Andrea, for taking me along with my big backpack 😉


Pura Ulun Danu Beratan (Temple at Lake Beratan, in Bedugul, Bali)



So from Bedugul Doddy goes south to do some business, and from there he goes to Surabaya where he lives. He brings me all the way to Gilimanuk. So generous! Inviting me for breakfast (Nasi pecel) and offering to help out as a guide next time i am travelling Indonesia. Please bring some friends along so We can make a group tour, he says, and keeps on repeating also when I visit him in Surabaya a week later. So, my dear reader, now you know that I know a guy who can help you with organising a trip to Bali-Lombok-Flores-Timur!!


Wonderful Buddha statue at Brahma Arama Vihāra, Bali


12 links of paticcasamuppada – Dependent Origination on the steps of the Biggest Buddhist Temple in Bali (Brahma Arama Vihāra)


Ignorant fools, aggressive, greedy minds, closely related to humanity


Oftentimes I suspect people expect something from me in return. That might be true in some cases. Sometimes, though, the generosity of some person I meet is genuine and his/her only motivation is to give without wanting something back (and be it only a loose connection to that Austral… European traveller). Anyways, I have to make a confession of being somewhat stingy at times. Having arrived here at yet another paradise in Bali – a shadow cast over dat place – all I can think of is to save money by negotiating the price of accommodation. I am ashamed of how I acted. Even if it is common as a backpacker to negotiate and to try saving a buck – I have come across people who truly excel at this pastime, made it a sport even (“look, I’ve only spent 100 rupiah in a month” etc. etc.) – even so, I sense that I hurt Putu by my attitude, the lady welcoming me at their homestay in Pemuteran. I regretted this and told her I am sorry as soon as i could muster up the courage to do so. Stinginess hits me sometimes. I would like to be inspired by the generosity of the people I meet. Or is it that I am generally generous, grateful and giving? Am I being too harsh with myself? Like a white cloth on which a small stain of stinginess is all the more visible than on a dirty rag? Who can tell? Who knows my innermost drives, values and motivations… but me? All I know is that I don’t particularly like myself in survival mode!

Maybe it has brought the species where it is nowadays. Be that as it may, suspicion and mistrust remains a nasty habit nonetheless. So I give the tuktuk driver some more than he expects, something more than what we agreed upon. Surprised, he looks at me and smiles… and tells me my next ride “if you go to airport or whatever, sir” is free of charge. Now I am surprised.

Too surprised to get his phone number.

And off he goes.


Sun sets over rice fields on our way back to Bedegul, Bali


Suspecting others to take advantage of me and trying to make the best deal. I need to change my view if my actions shall habe a more gentleman touch. Simply ‘wanting’ to be more generous does not work. It’s gotta be in the spirit of wuwei – not forcing it. Advice is appreciated, dear readers? how do you deal with this issue in your life? Are you aware of why you are giving time, money, resources, smiles? Do you expect anything in return? Are you disappointed, even angry, when someone is ungrateful? Do you identify yourself with the giver? Do you use giving as a means of self-aggrandizement? Do you think you can only give once you have enough – and when will it ever be enough?

This has helped me along my journey:


“Any wish, any desire, any activity in the mind is dukkha, because all thinking is forever moving. Movement is irritation, which creates dukkha, and can never be totally fulfilling. if we think about the past, for instance, we bring it into the present. If that past was unsatisfactory, we wish it had been different, thereby causing ourselves a lot of needless suffering. We should let the past rest. […] Equally, if we bring the future to mind, hoping for something we want, or praying that some other thing will not happen, we bring that also into the present and with it, dukkha. We need to look at ourselves honestl, though without judgment, and recognize how frequently we do this and how foolish it is.”

Ayya Khema

Dhamma investigation, Sharing


The intervals between different manifestations of the universe are important, and so are the intervals between this decaying and dying body and a baby being born somewhere else someday soon.

Time and space are not (only) what they seem to be. There are connections where we don’t see any!

Likewise, while travelling to a certain place – going there the fastest way possible or ever so slowly – we establish patterns in and of our lives and hereby determine not only where we’re gonna end up eventually but also how, i.e. what kind of a human being we will have become once we get there. The places in-between our destinations are not at all insignificant. These spaces make the journey. They are the journey, with our bodies as observers and document-producing interpreters.


Bali, Denpasar, Indonesia, Sharing, Ubud

First impressions of Bali


Gib mir Mut mich zu verändern
Und dabei ich zu bleiben
Auch in schlechten Zeiten zu akzeptieren
Mal nichts zu schreiben
Lieber der Feder weichen
Um am Ende zu begreifen
Dass es sinnlos is Texte zu schreiben
Die nie Qualität erreichen



Having refrained from documenting my activities and travel itineraries for about a month, I am finally in the mood to write something again. There was a lot going on and most of it extraordinary and beautiful. Some of it was ordinary and not worth reporting. Now that I am in Sri Lanka at an animal shelter with 160 dogs and around 60 cats I take the time to let you all know how I experienced my travels through Indonesia.


Landed in Bali Denpasar and checked in at Eco-Living Hostel. It’s a nice, quiet and tidy place with a budget dormitory. I met a French guy there who I found extremely well prepared. His name is Robin. I find it amazing how organised he seems to be. he has 9 months to travel. When I met him downstairs at the lobby he told me that he is currently planning the upcoming two months, checking routes and accommodation on his way to Mount Rinjani. Later on I learn he brought along water purification pills (Hydroclonazone). In the evening he skypes his parents. He gets information about the places he will go to, checks internet forums and websites, keeps a balance sheet of how much he has spent for what (app: ‘Handtrip’). Really an inspiration, that guy. Check out his blog.

From Denpasar I moved on. Went up north to Ubud. First time for me. It was quite an experience. Also, I felt a bit lonely there to be honest. So many couples! So much to buy. Babylon Babylon who gonna chant down Babylon?! I went there by scooter and could not relax, could not take it Bali pace that day. Too much going on.


I went back to Denpasar to Szabrian hostel – the couple who owns the place: very lovely and hospitable. She is a Hungarian named Betty so i could practice my language skills a bit 😉 She is married to Ryan, a Balinese man. They have two little children. During my way back it started to rain. My rain poncho got torn apart cuz I tried to cover myself and my small backpack as well. Fixed it with a safety pin. Got some salad and hot chocolate for IDR100,000 at a fancy vegan organic restaurant called ‘Sage’. Great food, great service but it comes at a price which for Ubud is normal, for Indonesia in general is sky-high and certainly unaffordable for locals.

Anyway, I went back. It seemed a lot faster to go back.

Anyone knows why that is? How come it always seems faster to return from somewhere than to go there in the first place?

Ubud feels like Pai³. Or rather, Paiⁿ. I just haven’t discovered the entire scope of it yet. It’s huge. I went around and around. It’s so crowded. I had a pumpkin soup at Lotus cafe and chilld at the lake near Lotus temple. all the time drizzle, rainy.

So.. that same day I went back to Denpasar. When I went to bed my nose was running, my eyes were burning, and a slight headache caught my attention. The next day as well – only worse. So I gave back the scooter to Eco-Living Hostel, said thanks to Sinda and Gede. Walked back some kilometres. Bad idea. Half-way my face was melting away, I sweated like crazy. Still, I kept going. Got some curry puffs and bananas on the way. Also, some ‘maskers’, facial masks. I put one of them over my nose and mouth… ahhh, that’s better. It was not a snotty wet blur any more. I entered the hostel and slept three hours. Got up. Got food. Talked to the other hostel guests there, sitting outside, sharing stories, chilling. Went back to bed soon. Drank turmeric juice and moringa tea. Next day, all good!!!

Some days later I joined my new friend Quino to Ubud. Here are some pictures I took while I was there with him and a German guy, Alex.






Coming up: How my trip on Bali continued… Meeting a Javanese friend, visiting Bedugul, going for SCUBA diving in northwest area, and participating in a traditional Balinese Buddhist ceremony.



Just before I left Kota Kinabalu to go to Bali, I enjoyed a day at the beach of Pulau Sapi. This lovely island is located in the north of KK. It can be reached by boat within 20 minutes.


In the evening I was lucky to meet an extraordinary man. His name is Huang Poh Lo. You might have heard of him. Be sure to check out his website (and facebook page if you’re into that)


He greeted me and I sat down to talk with him. We ended up talking for two or more hours. He taught himself Chinese and over the last two decades became a professional calligrapher and photographer.