Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Beautiful World's Largest Acidic Volcanic Crater Lake Ijen - Bondowoso, East Java, Indonesia

The largest acidic volcanic crater lake in the world
We're in Paltuding - 3 km to go

We told Hasbullah, we will be starting our journey after fajar which is about 4.15 am. No hurry, I told him since we're not going after the blue flame. He nodded his head faithfully. In the dark, our jeep hit the bumpy, rough, narrow roads with potholes. At about 5.15 am we arrived in Paltuding (1,850m above sea level), the base and starting point before the 3 km climb to Ijen Crater. Ijen Crater or Kawah Ijen is 2,799m and for us the 3 km hike is a struggle! 

A serious sign board to remind climbers
The signboard says, people with asthma, heart diseases and hypertension are prohibited from climbing the crater. You really do not know what to expect when you're in the crater. The wind can be dangerous if it blows the sulfuric fumes towards you but if you're lucky it will puff towards the opposite direction.   Hasbullah, our driver, bade goodbye and told us to take our time and not to rush the hike up the mountain. 

The sulfur at rest while the miner makes a turn back for another load
Walking about 100 meters we could feel the escalating gradient. This is going to be difficult I thought.  One of the miners stopped to greet us and we chatted him.  He introduced himself as Sur (Suryanto), and instantly, we hired him as our guide for the day but he put no price for his service. He carried our knapsacks, put our water bottles and jackets in his baskets and he walked with us. The first 2 km was hard but our determination kept us going! 

Huge chunks of sulfur
Along the way we saw several baskets loaded with sulfur at rest. We were told that the owner had made a turn back for another load of sulfur. A strategy  to get the sulfur out of the crater as early as possible before the sulfuric smokes get thicker approaching midday. Our conversation had somehow helped us managed the climb and along the way Sur told us a story of how the miners once carried an old lady who wanted to see Kawah Ijen badly. 

Mount Merapi behind us - this is a different Merapi found in Central Java
It is extremely dangerous if one falls or gets hurt along the track. He also told us many people made a turn back after few hundred meters.  We were elated after the struggle to arrive at the first station which meant we have made it to the first 2 km. We had a brief stop at the station, which is actually a small shack which sells coffee and very simple breakfast. The cafe is also the first weighing post where all miners weigh their loads of sulfurs. Take their note and walk another 2 km to the Paltuding station.
Mount Raung just next to Mount Merapi at the background

While it takes the fittest person to ascend Ijen crater in one hour, we did it in two hours and most people did the whole journey in 3 hours and we took five hours :)!  Never mind, we made it and we didn't make or ever thought of a turn back. Once the first 2 km is over, the mesmerizing view is worth all the troubles. The path began to get scenic and we made several stops for photographs. With Mount Merapi and Raung behind us, we can't help turning our heads occasionally to catch a glimpse of the mountains. 

Soon we came to the flattest part of the mountain with a massive view of the caldera laid perfectly before our eyes.  We forgot about our aching feet and trembling knees. The stunning view just took our breath away  We saw the three girls in our group neatly tucked on the slope of the mountain taking a rest.  At about 10 am the wind starts to spread the acidic sulfuric smokes across wider area and by 2 pm access to the crater is closed as hiking is impossible with thick smokes covering the crater. 
Landscape at the rim of the crater
Glad we made it!
Stratovolcano - last eruption in 1999
A worker at the edge of the lake
Water source for river Banyupahit - making it highly acidic and metal polluted
The path down the crater
The sulfur miners exposed to the dangerous sulfur smokes daily
The rocky 'path' the miners climb every day
From the other side of the crater we watched the miner
A miner at rest with his load just after the ascend from the crater
The corrosive blue green water 
Tourists who successfully made up to the top
Beautiful landscape with hardly any vegetation surviving here
The unusual beauty that outweighs the risks
The miner's walk produces the squeaking sound of the bamboos basket, 
The rest point at the mid-way of the journey

1 comment:

  1. Hi I am SK. Its really good site for beautiful photo and knowledge.... Beautiful Worlds