From Medan in Sumatra, we flew to the most densely populated island in the world, Java. In Surabaya, the second largest city of Indonesia, we spent our first night with a very lovely couch surfer. Already on the next morning we boarded a bus and off we went in direction of our first volcano on Java, the famous Bromo. Of this we had dreamed about already before our arrival in Indonesia, as photos of this volcanic landscape looked simply fantastic. When we (finally) arrived in the small village near the volcano, we were able to enjoy it, unfortunately, only in the evening light. Our real objective was to watch the sunrise over the crater from a viewing platform at five clock in the morning. Sadly, we were only able to observe the rising of the sun behind the clouds. The magnificent view was most of the time hidden behind a veil of clouds.
After this, a bit unsuccessful, volcano tour already the next fire mountain was waiting for us. Since public transportation and roads in Java (just like on Sumatra) are hardly existing and time consuming, we booked us a package tour as an exception. And so we sped off towards Ijen crater. On the road we stopped at a beach where we enjoyed a delicious fish meal and marveled at the fishermen in their colorful boats.
In the evening we arrived at our accommodation, a coffee plantation in Sempol. From here we left the next morning to the Ijen crater. On the ascent we were met some of the miners who work under extreme conditions. This is one of the toughest jobs in the world, since the toxic gases in the crater destroy the lungs on a long term. After a tiring removal of the sulfur, the men have to carry about 80 kg of the mineral in baskets out of the deep crater and finally walk the 2 km down the mountain. And what is the reward? Earning about four euros per load. So it is no wonder that the life expectancy of the miners is just 40 years.
Just as “breathtaking” as the sulfur vapors, however, was the surrounding landscape. When we reached the crater rim, the beautiful crater lake was still shrouded in clouds. A sign explicitly pointed out that visitors are not allowed to climb down into the crater, as the path is very steep and difficult and one is completely exposed to the gases. Since we were curious, however, this warning did not keep us away. Moreover, many miners offered their assistance for the descent. When we reached the middle part of the descent, we were finally able to see the impressive crater lake Kawah Ijen, which is referred to by geologists as “the biggest acid pool on earth.”
In addition, we had already seen the bright yellow and orange sulfur sources. However, we were a little unsure whether we really should venture further down, as the wind at the foot of the crater often changed quickly and then one was stuck in a thick cloud of sulfur vapor. The air was almost unbearable and the looks of returning, coughing tourists were not very encouraging. However, the curiosity was bigger and so we went and shot many impressive images of the sulfur mining and mine workers and the turquoise-blue crater lake. With coughs and lung achings we came back out of the crater and spend the afternoon in the port city Banjuwangi. From here it is only a stone’s throw to Bali. After the exertions of the past weeks, we finally allowed ourselves a nice hotel room with air conditioning, TV and breakfast for four euros per person.
Our future plans were supposed to lead us to the beautiful temple complex of Borobodur near Yogyakarta city. Unfortunately, however, a “bad” volcano changed our travel planning. Mount Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia, had returned after four years of abstinence. Since our departure airport near Yogyakarta was hit, we decided spontaneously for an earlier departure in the direction of Singapore.