The Ijen volcano is a wide complex with an active crater, located in East Java, Indonesia. The volcano is 2443 metres high. Here, the volcano has a high concentration of sulfur, creating a natural phenomenon known as the Ijen Blue Flame. The crater is full of hydrochloric acid with a 722 meter diameter and a depth of over 200 m. This is biggest acidic lake in the world with a fascinating turquoise water. Actually the hydrochloric acid is what makes the water turquoise.
How to Get to Ijen Crater?
My faithful driver Erwin was waiting for me exactly at midnight in the hall of the hotel, accompanied by a local guide, who was going to take me into the depths of the Ijen volcano. The tour included transport to the Ijen Blue flame, gas mask, flashlight and a guide. The road to there was around one hour. We arrived and after a short coffee break we headed for the top.
Ijen Volcano Hike
The hike started off with some smooth walking on a very wide path. On the way to the top there were rocks missing and uneven areas. There was a base camp in the middle of the route where they offered tea, coffee and other beverages. We needed about 2 hours to get to the crater. From the top to the bottom the displacement is about 300 metres, and the area is steep and slippery. I slipped a few times, but thankfully it wasn’t fatal. You have to get down carefully and slowly, one by one, because the path is narrow. Also keep in mind, that you must always allow the miners to work first! There are steps cut in the rocks because of the miners working there.
Ijen Blue Flame
Little by little an incredible view was revealed to me. One of the most famous natural phenomena that can only be observed in two volcanoes in the world – the blue flame. The Ijen Blue flame always appears every night. Years ago the Ijen Blue flame was famous only to the miners working there, but after a National Geographic report about this unusual place, more and more tourists are flocking here.
This incredible phenomena is the result of burning sulphur, whose temperature can reach up to 600°С, and the flames can get up to five metres tall. When we were almost at the bottom I tried to take a few pictures, but there was no light and the smell of sulphur, that was all around us was unbearable. At times I couldn’t see further than a meter away because of the toxic stinging gas. The wind made things even more complicated and even though we had gas masks on we were forced to climb back up. We climbed up and we hid in a convenient shelter in the rocks and we waited for the sunrise. In the meantime, the miners kept on working.
Mining: Is This the Hardest Job in the World?
Mining here is done manually. One part of the miners carry big yellow blocks of sulphur on the steep steps. The guide told me they work every night with no rest day. They go down to the crater of the volcano and climb back up with a load between 80-100 kg., divided in two baskets. They have to walk all the way to the purchasing point that is located 3 km away from the top. They do this 2, maximum 3 times per night. The company buys sulphur for about 1000 IDR (€ 0.06) per kilogram. It’s no wonder many of the miners suffer from different cardiac diseases, and some die young due to being constantly exposed to toxic gasses, including sulphur dioxide. A big part of them do not have the opportunity to buy gas masks and they only use wet towels. Other that have masks for protection, do not have the opportunity to change filters often. Most of the miners have no other choice and have to work to support their families. The conditions in which these miners work day after day are incredibly harsh.
After the sunrise a mind-blowing view was revealed to me. It won’t be too much if I say that it was out of this world. I could finally see the yellow sulphur rocks under the beautiful azure crater lake, which was completely invisible during the night.
My trip to Ijen Blue flame was one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life. If you are ever planning a trip to Indonesia make sure to include this place on your list.
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