Mount Bromo and Ijen crater – Java Indonesia

And here I am…. Back on the (rail)road back to Bali. My sister has gone to India so I would have the place all to myself and have some quiet time to figure out where to go in China. But between here and Bali are a couple of volcano’s I had to see: Mount Bromo and the Ijen vulcano.

I took the train from Yogyakarta to Surabaya because there is no direct connection to Probolinggo so I had to change trains when I got to Surabaya. The first part took 5 hours and the second another 2 hours. It was already half past midnight when I got to Probolinggo and when I was on my way to the bus station in a becak  (= cycle-rickshaw) when someone on the street asked me if I wanted to go to Bromo. I arranged a deal for 800.000 to see everything and to get dropped off back in Bali. This was going to be an longgggg day because we would leave for Bromo at 03:00. No point in sleeping now. I had some fun with the becak people showing them what the iPad can do with your face (photobooth) and this always gets the people laughing. We got into a car at 3 and headed out for a long ride to a cliff side near Bromo. Here we hiked a short 15 minutes up the hill and watched the sun come up. The view was amazing to say the least and although it was a bit crowded with tourists up there it was really nice.

After the hike back down we drove about 8 KM to the volcano itself. At least they take you as far as possible because there is a fence made out of little polls and you have to walk the last kilometer yourself. Seeing that there are allot of old people here there are also allot of locals trying to sell you a ride up the mountain on a horse. “Only 20.000, mister. No need to walk”.

No way, dude. This guys is walking up :cool:.

After a last steep bit I was a bit disappointed. The view was nice but the volcano was a bit depressing. When I was walking down I started to take pictures of the locals while they were hassling the tourists that where coming down for a ride on their horses. When they started to notice me they started to talk and laugh with me. “Take picture of him! He look like terrorist! Indonesian Terrorist, Hahahahaha”. Man, I had some good laughs up there. That was better than the volcano.

 

From there it was 6 hours  of death defying driving to the Ijen crater region. The drivers were really insane and the roads were so bad that I felt like I was sitting inside a washing machine. At least that made them slow down a bit… but it was still bad enough for me not to get any sleep…

After a night in a hotel we headed up the crater edge to see the Merapi, the biggest stratovolcano here. The Ijen volcano, which has a one-kilometer-wide turquoise-colored acid crater lake. The lake is the site of a labor-intensive sulfur mining operation, in which sulfur-laden baskets are carried by hand from the crater floor. The sulfur mining operation here is extreme.

While I was walking up I already met the miners while they were walking down carrying large baskets of sulfur. Some of them where carrying 72 kilo’s on their back. That’s right! 72 Kilo’s. I tried to lift one of them when I still didn’t know how much they weight and I couldn’t lift it. I needed to put my back into it and these guys carry it all the way up and down the volcano.

From the crater edge you could already see the large clouds of sulfur  rising from the worksite. I quickly passed a sign that said “Strictly forbidden for tourists” and headed down.

I had walked all the way up (about 2,5 KM straight up) in one go with a miner so I had a good feeling what he walked all day. At the crater base I watched as he gathered sulfur and headed back up. Man, do have respect for these guys. They are small people but really strong. Some guys even do this twice a day or have multiple baskets so that they paddle up the volcano.

And then there are the sulfur clouds. These toxic clouds instantly get to your throat and lungs so you feel them burning. The miners have a little piece of cloth over their mouth but that won’t help protecting their health allot.

This is how Wikipedia describes it:

An active vent at the edge of the lake is a source of elemental sulfur, and supports a mining operation. Escaping volcanic gasses are channeled through a network of ceramic pipes, resulting in condensation of molten sulfur. The sulfur, which is deep red in color when molten, pours slowly from the ends of these pipes and pools on the ground, turning bright yellow as it cools. The miners break the cooled material into large pieces and carry it away in baskets. Miners must carry loads, which range from 70 kilograms (150 lb) to 100 kilograms (220 lb), up 200 metres (660 ft) to the crater rim and then several km (miles) down the mountain. Most miners make this journey twice a day. A nearby sugar refinery pays the miners by the weight of sulfur transported; as of September 2010, the typical daily earnings were equivalent to approximately $13 US. The miners often use insufficient protection while working around the volcano[2] and complain of numerous respiratory afflictions.

This was  truly an amazing site and the best I seen in Java. If you see one thing on Java see these though miners making their living. If you don’t believe me, check out this great series from the BBC called “Human Planet”

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After that we bounced 2 hours trough coffee fields back to the ferry. It was quite a long drive back to Seminyak (5 hours) but now I’m back at my sisters place relaxing. I’m making plans now for China and how to get back to Europe!

René