Ijen is a beautiful volcano with an impressive blue crater lake where locals mine sulfur under severe conditions out the crater. The basic methods used to mine the sulfer is a bit odd but intresting to watch. They sell the sulfer for a couple of cents a kilo, after which it is used in cosmetics and other products.
The tour of the miners
The miners chop sulfur from the bottom of the crater in the early morning, the yellow sulfur chunks are loaded into a basket. There is usually around 70 to 80 kilo of sulfur in the baskets, but there are men who take up to 90 kilo on their shoulders. First they have to climb an extremely steep path to come out of the crater and then they have to follow a long path down the volcano. The miners have deformed shoulders because of the heavy burden they carry out of the volcano several times a day. It’s a bit of a mystery why the miners don’t use a cart from the middle of the volcano down. The path from there is pretty good; they even drive with their motorbike to middle of the volcano. Down at the volcano they carry the sulfur over the parking lot and then they are finally there. Besides the wear and tear by the enormous weight, there are also toxic gases and flames coming out of the crater. When the wind turns, you’re suddenly in a yellow toxic cloud, that’s not okay. You’re without oxygen, which you do get inside sets a fire in your throat and eyes. You will understand, that shouldn’t take too long. A cloth in front of the mouth helps a little, but don’t expect much from it. Off course it looks tough on the picture!
The ‘Ijen’ hotel
At night we took another brave walk into the crater. We didn’t came far, as sensible sissies we didn’t dare to walk into the crater. It was raining a little and the only thing we saw was this yellow fog in the crater. Our flashlight wasn’t the best too, only the flashlight of our mobile phone worked okay. Preparing well is pretty important in these cases. It was too exciting, with the tail between our legs, we slunk off. To our surprise we passed on our way back two men walking towards the crater. There is a tent set up in the crater where they go to sleep, also called the ‘Ijen hotel’. That of course, is a great plan because you’re the first in the morning at the new sulfur deposition. Only they think it’s a great idea to sleep next to the toxic sulfur gasses. One of the men wanted to guide us down, so we went into the crater in the evening after all. When it’s dark, you can see the blue fire in the crater, which you can’t see during the day through all the smoke.
How to you get to Gunung Ijen?
When you would like to go to the Ijen on your own, it will take a while. We can tell this from experience. First you will arrive after a long time in the sad cheerless city Bondowoso. From here you can take a minibus (Bemo) to Sempol, from here you can go to several hotels. We took a motorbike taxi (Ojek) to Hotel Catimore in the village Blawan. From Catimore you can walk through the coffee plantations to Gunung Ijen, this will take a couple of hours. Another possibility is arranging an Ojek, at least for your way back. There are not a lot of tourist visiting the Ijen. The people who are visiting the Ijen most of the time come with a tour including a visit to Bromo. A tour is not as fun as doing it yourself, but if you don’t have much time, you can do it this way. Hotel Catimore, a Dutch villa on an old coffee plantation, is a great place to stay during your visit. It has a regular swimming pool and a small hot spring. We enjoyed our coffee in the morning and the afternoon sitting in the hot spring. We felt like king and queen. It is a great start of the day or at the end of the day after a long walk. In the surrounding there are two other hot springs and a waterfall, which you can visit. You can spend here around 3 days. Nice extra thing, as a breakfast in Hotel Catimore you get a sandwich with chocolate sprinkles! Even Hugo, who never eats them, was happy with such a ‘Dutch’ surprise.
Can’t you get enough of the Ijen?
Watch the amazing pictures or the video for a great impression.