|Elevation:||657 m (2,156 ft)||Prominence:||657 m|
|Ribu category:||Spesial||Province:||Nusa Tenggara Timur|
|Google Earth:||kml||Other names:|
|Rating:||Eruptions:||1671, 1844, 1867-68, 1871, 1888, 1953, 1969|
When people think of volcano attractions in Flores, they probably think of the Kelimutu lakes and perhaps Gunung Egon near Maumere. But perhaps the most impressive volcano on the island is Iya, a small peak at the end of a short peninsula just 15 minutes south by motorbike from the large town of Ende. Whereas Kelimutu has a carpark near the top and cement walkway to the rim, getting to Iya is a little harder and more dangerous than you would think just looking at it on a map. Additionally, an experienced guide is absolutely essential for this area because despite its low height it is a remote area and more importantly there are some deep gullies which can prove very hazardous when route-finding on the descent.
There is a road leading south from Ende town along the west side of the peninsula which turns into a dirt track before snaking up the hillside slightly. This track is a very messy area – full of rubbish – and is or was the Ende rubbish dump site. There are a few people scattered around the hillside collecting black volcanic rocks in this area too. Don’t be put off by this very disappointing start. From the top of the dirt track at an elevation of about 150m a faint trail leads straight up the steep mountainside. Since the volcano is not very high at all, the temperature and heat from the sun on clear days requires that you set off as early as possible, wear plenty of sun cream and take an unusually large quantity of water with you.
As you follow the vague trail up the mountainside, the view opens out all around you – the flat topped Gunung Meja (‘Table Mountain’) to your left just above Ende town itself, and down to Ende bay and Pulau Ende (Ende island). In about an hour you will be hiking amongst pine trees near the top of the mountain. There are some very deep gullies and ravines halfway up the mountainside but these will not cause you any trouble if you are on the correct ascent route. You should notice a small white hut on the ridge to your left (north) which is presumably a volcanology monitoring hut. After another 30 minutes you will have reached the pine trees covered summit ridge. Make sure you leave something here so that on your return you know exactly where you gained the top of the ridge so you can go back exactly the same way.
From the top of the ridge, the view is superb – suddenly the geography of the mountain becomes clear. Below you is a grassy bowl-shaped depression with more pine trees growing on its sides. This is presumably an old dormant crater. On the other side of the old crater, the grass and trees give way to reddish volcanic sand and it becomes obvious that the sandy ridge on the opposite side of the old crater is the steep cliff edge of the Iya volcano crater which drops dramatically all the way down to the ocean on the other side.
Although it may be tempting to take a right from the top of the first ridge, if you want to bag the true summit (approx 657m), follow the pine tree ridge left for just 5 minutes to reach the highest point of the whole mountain. Views down to the ocean east of the peninsula are excellent. Although you could probably continue down to the old dormant crater and make a full circuit of the mountainside, it is safer and easier to return the same way and follow the ridge round to the sandy active crater cliff edge. It takes just 15 minutes to walk from the true peak to the edge of the active Iya crater.
When you reach the edge of the active crater itself you will be astounded at the sheer scale of it all. From a height of over 600 metres, the volcanic cliff edge drops vertically almost all the way down to seal level. The crater itself is at least a couple of kilometres across and it is certainly as awesome a sight as Raung in East Java or Tambora in Sumbawa. Needless to say, a trip or fall here would lead to certain death so do not venture too close to the crumbling cliff edge. There is also a reasonable amount of volcanic gas on the rim itself so watch out for this. The last major eruption here was in 1969 but it is being closely monitored and it is surely only a matter of time before another big one.
After taking photos of what is one of Indonesia’s most impressive sights, return the same way to the pine trees ridge where you came up and take extra care when descending what can quickly turn into incredibly confusing and dangerous terrain. See the comment below for an account of what happens when you underestimate this ‘little’ volcano. With an experienced guide and plenty of water you should be back down on the mud track in just over one hour and back in Ende soon afterwards.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn.