I found a van driver outside of the Ship terminal who took me to a hostel in Banyuwangi from where most tourists start their hike for Ijen. The people over there were nice and helpful. Since it was not the tourist season, they had no other people in the Hostel, and also no tours, I decided to hire a bike and do the hike myself, which the person assured me was not that hard.I had Hollywood like expectations while hiring a bike, I thought I would wear a cool jacket and drive a 1000cc bike all around the volcano, with a babe sitting behind me, making people turn to look at me with jealousy. But reality strikes again, all I could get for a bike at midnight without any prior booking was a 50cc Honda scooter and instead of the babe, I had my friend behind me.
If you think Bali has good food, you haven't had the local Nasi Padang in Banyuwangi.
I had booked the Ijen Crater tour through Quinn homestay. The cost of the tour was 275000 IDR on weekdays and 325000 IDR on weekends which included masks, a tour guide and also a stop at a nearby waterfall. The tour left at 12:15 am and was usually back by 9am.Ijen crater is an active volcanic crater which is also a natural Sulphur mine. It also consists of the world's most acidic lake and the famous blue fire. This place was made famous by Nature documentaries. At least I saw it on one of the BBC/Nat Geo documentaries. The other famous volcano trek that you can do in Java is the Mount Bromo, which is accessible from a town called Probolinggo. I did not end up doing Mount Bromo because of time constraints.The jeep picked me up from my hostel at 12:40 am. I was part of a group which included 15 more people. We proceeded to the starting point for the trek which was an hour or so away. Here we were given masks, head torches and eyewear to protect us from the Sulphur fumes. The hike to the crater was a total of 3 kilometres: 2 kilometres uphill at a steep gradient, followed by 1 kilometre in flat terrain. After this we descended to the crater floor, which was a 200 meter steep descent. We reached the bottom of the crater under the cover of darkness. Here we saw the blue fire produced by the burning sulphur gases. The phenomenon was only visible at night. We also saw how Sulphur was mined in this natural mine. The workers earned about 1000 IDR for every kilogram that they could mine and carry to the valley below. These miners were exposed to the poisonous Sulphur dioxide gas for prolonged periods, as they would usually work without masks. They carried the mined sulphur in baskets which often weighed equal to or more than their body weight. As a result of the recent tourism, to increase their incomes, the miners also made snall toys out of sulphur which they sold to tourists for 20000 IDR.Another site to witness here, was a turquoise lake that had formed inside the crater. This lake was higly acidic due to sulphuric acid generated from the mining and was allegedly the world's most acidic lake with a PH of 0.5.The views from inside the crater at sunrise were surreal. Post sunrise we began our ascent to the mouth of the crater. This was followed by our descent to the vehicles. We were back to the vehicles by 7 am. After this, we were supposed to go see a waterfall as part of the tour but we all opted against it because of tiredness. I was dropped of at the hostel by 9 am.
I left for the train station at 12:30 am. I would advise that you to leave a little early, even though the station is just 10 minutes away. It generally takes some time to figure stuff out in a foreign country. The station experience itself, was seamless. You need to take a print out of your online ticket and then go to a checkin kiosk (which is located at every station), scan the barcode and then print your boarding pass over there. This has to be done 10 minutes before departure. The trains come in three categories: Executive, Business and Economy. The Executive being the best and most expensive with reclining seats/plenty of legroom and economy being the cheapest. Even though economy was the cheapest and supposedly the worst of the lot, I found it pretty good when compared to our Indian railway chair cars. My train to Baniyuwangi went via Surabaya. I left yogyakarta at 1:35 am and arrived at Surabaya (Surabaya Gubeng station) at 6:15 am. My first train was executive class with reclining seats and cost me 300000 IDR. My train from Surabaya to Baniyuwangi was scheduled at 9 am. This was economy class and cost me 180000 IDR. The closest station to Baniyuwangi was Karangasem station and the scheduled arrival there was at 3 pm.You can book train tickets at any hostel or online through www.m.ticket.com. The hostel charges a fee of 14000 IDR for economy tickets and 22000 IDR for business or executive tickets. This is on top of the fare prices which I have already mentioned. Another website to research about trains in Java is www.seat61.com/Indonesia. They have detailed information with pictures on their website.Overall the train experience was fantastic. The train stations and the train itself were super comfortable and clean. They always departed on time and there were hardly any delays.At Baniyuwangi, I stayed at Quinn homestay which was located at walking distance from the train station. It was a house converted to a hostel and was cheap and basic. The hostess, Anna, was amazing and helped out with everything.  Baniyuwangi is a small town towards the southern end of Java. It is the point from where you can take the ferry to Bali. So, until recently, people usually did not stay here for long. They would travel to Baniyuwangi and then immediately get a ferry to Bali. Nowadays, there is the famous Ijen trek which has started attracting more and more tourists to stay in Baniyuwangi. Apart from Ijen, there is not much to do around here. There are a few beaches in town but they are not that great. The good stuff is all 2+ hours away, so it is not easily accessible.There arent a lot of food options close to the hostel. I was recommended by the hostel staff to check out Palm Sugar cafe which was 2 minutes away. I got some Indonesian curry again. I was in the entire "eat local" mode. I chilled in the hostel pretty much all day otherwise. The hostel was empty and I was the only one.
We reached Banyuwangi at 7 pm and headed straight to our Airbnb. Ibu Hjanies was an excellent host. I would strongly recommend staying here. One can either take a scooter to Ijen hike starting point or book a jeep (at 6,00,000 IDR). We took the jeep and started towards the crater after picking up Julia and Marissa at around 12 30 am. We reached the starting point at around 1 30 am. Every non-Indonesian has to purchase a ticket to enter the hike (at 3,00,000 IDR per head). We got them and started hiking in the dark with loads of other people at 2 am. It is a 1.5 hour hike which takes you to the top of the crater, where you can start smelling sulphur.