Ijen volcano in south east Java, Indonesia was one of the most stunning adventures I had in my life. This untypical scenery consists lots of unique stories of people and nature phenomenons.
We started the trip very early. Got up at 1 am to start trekking toward Ijen crater. The road is quite simple, you just need to undertake few kilometers to get to the top of the crater. Try to reach Ijen before 4 am. It will give you the possibility to see the unique blue flames in the bottom of the crater. They appear very rare.
Some habitats say that blue flames can only be seen once a week. We were lucky and saw this magnificent phenomenon. Many people are going down toward the crater so you don’t need to worry you get lost. Although you need to be careful as the slope is steep and dangerous walking down. It’s still dark when you reach the bottom of the crater, so the blue flames look amazing. Some of the gases condense into liquid sulfur, which pours from the side of volcano and flows down the slopes burning blue fire. The burning leaks are rare phenomenon to see anywhere in the world. You feel the heat and the smoke is so choking that it’s impossible to get really close to the blue flames. The scenery is so unbelievable as the blue flames spread over the surrounding rocks.
When it turns bright you start to see the lake. Ijen volcano contains the world’s largest acidic volcanic lake. The acidic lake has a green-blue lagoon color and boils constantly at 300 degrees. We climbed to the top of the crater to admire magnificent view. The crater is huge, so is the lake. In the bottom of the crater miners dig sulphur from the active vents at Ijen. The liquid red sulphur erupts from the vents and in contact with air cools to a yellow color. The area is covered with smoke coming form the underground. The smell is terrible and choking.
The miners spend their life probably in one of the hardest working conditions on earth. Working from pale down until the sun is not too scorching they receive very little money for the sulphur stones, which they get from the bottom of the crater to climb the caldera to the top carrying 80-100 kg on their back. It looks impossible to climb such a steep slope carrying such weight. Reaching the top of the caldera they still need to walk 3 km one way to bring the stones and receive the money for delivering. Some of them do the trek twice a day but some even three times which is extremely exhausting. They are so small and thin that actually it’s really hard to believe that they can be so resistant. We ask them to tell us about health consequences. Most of them have absolutely deformed back and shoulders. Their skin is rather a crust because of the heavy stick carrying the baskets. They feel constant pain in the back and of the spine but eagerly show us the wounds on the shoulders. They try to sell you the small figures made of sulphur. It’s very typical that you give the minors small money, simply to support their effort or just to take a picture or hear a short story. It really doesn’t have to be much, every coin is important for them as they are really poor. We took a walk around the caldera to stay as long as we could in that place.