it was the month of Christmas, everyone was buzzing about holiday plans and new year resolutions yet to be made for the next year. Meanwhile me and other 9 people in our group decided to join the holiday bandwagon and planned for ourself a trip to our beloved country's hidden gem, the Ijen Crater. It was known for its blue fire, which happened to be a very rare sightings in this world. Till now, only two sites known to mankind that has blue fire, one in Indonesia, and one in Switzerland.
The itinerary was ready, and we all set to go to Surabaya, which was the nearest available airport to Bondowoso, the small city near Mount Ijen. i was sick the day before with fever and it was a close call on not going for the trip. I decided to soldier on and wishing that it would just heal up along the way. So the 6 of us went from Singapore headed to Surabaya while 3 came straight from Jakarta and 1 happens to be a local resident of Surabaya. It was 12pm and we all met at the airport safely and a minivan came which was by no means a luxury RV, it seats 14 but the back row has quickly turned into a lair of luggages so we had to snugged in.
I took the front seats and without me knowing while we were having fun on the road, I was getting better. We tried our best to get some sleep on the road, it took us 7 hours on the road to Bondowoso, that includes the occasional toilet breaks and stops for supplies. Nothing much going on the side road as we drove along, but we caught a glimpse of The Lapindo mud flow site at Sidoarjo, a small town near Surabaya. the site has now become a tourist attraction and people has to pay money to visit.
We arrived at the hotel at around 8.30pm just to check in, a quick bath, dinner, and short nap then quicky went back on the road to continue another 2 hour drive to the national park.
The road was pretty much okay just a few bends here and there but it was pretty much an empty road. it was past midnight when we arrived at the national park, we quickly ready ourselves up with our torchlights and soldiered through the dark up the hilly trek. Our guide explained to us that the normal trip would take us around 2 hours without any breaks, however for the avid trekkers, it would probably take them around 1.5 hours. It was quite a shock as we have read many reviews that said it would only take around 45 minutes to reach the top.
We continued our journey up, with countless breaks and stops we finally reach the top of the crater in 3 hours. Once we reached the top, we were trying to get a glimpse of the blue fire, but to no avail. The trip did not finish there, we have to climb down the crater to get to the source to be able to see. It didn't get easier, in fact there was no clear path going down the crater, our guide had to guide us and gave us directions on which path we should take. Mashed with sand, rocks and tiny stones, the road was very slippery and it was recorded for that year alone that there was a death casualty caused by accident as it was quite a drop down the crater.
As we were getting closer, the sight of the blue fire became apparent. Smokes clouded over the most part of the fire which is quite hazardous to breathe in, we began to put our mask on and after a tough descent to the crater, we finally reached the bottom of it and gotten ourselves up close with the fire.
We could see that there were people mining sulphur down the crater close to the source of the smoke, they began to pack their portion of sulphur to be carried up the cliff and to be brought back to town for sale. Mr Rofik, our guide explained that most men could carry around 60-70kg heavy of sulphur on their back and walk up the crater going back to town barefooted. So much respect for them, as it was their primary source of income and a lot of hardwork being put in doing it. Mining sulphur forced them to be up close and be in contact with smokes and sulphur and to climb back up carrying 60-70kg weight barefooted up the cliff is deadly, their job has become one of the most daring and dangerous i have ever seen. However the income did not really add up to the work being put. The mining company is owned privately and for everything that each worker had gotten for a day's work, most of it has to go back to the company, and the rest they can sell it for their own extra income, that forces them to carry more than what is required of them.
The clock hits 6am and we began our trip back.