Monday, August 1, 2016

Midnight blue flames at Kawah Ijen/Ijen Crater - East Java AdventuresPart 1

My job takes me places I never even knew I was missing out on...

Trekking through sulphur fumes in the middle of the night, 
watching the light dawn upon the misty alien landscape 
that is Ijen Crater...

Ploughing through the black sea of sand towards Mt Bromo

Standing at the edge of an active volcano Mt Bromo!!!

Our virgin trip to Surabaya was for the most beautiful wedding for Sendjaja and Mona,
at the beautiful Shangri-La

Welcome gifts from Sendjaja and Mona...

The ballroom was transformed into lush garden,
and we performed on the lavish stage backed by a full orchestra :)

But after all the glitz and glamour
we were ready to rough it out in our trekking adventure!!!

For Day 1 of our trip we took it easy,
a 6 hour car journey to Bondowoso,
stopping by the seaside, and having a leisurely lunch...
(nothing picturesque about it...  haha!)

This is when the bio-clock needs to start re-adjusting,
as we got into bed at about 8pm,
and had to be up at 12am to head to Kawah Ijen!

In search of the elusive midnight blue flame...

It probably took about an hour or two to reach the base,
and our transit stop provided a very simple nasi goreng and sandwich breakfast
for us to bring on the road...

Honestly, we did not know what was  in store for us,
we had brought N95 masks for the sulphur fumes,
but they turned out to be pathetically insufficient!
Luckily our guide brought for us full on gas masks!

We trekked up and down the busy craters,
which was thronging with tourists and sulphur miners,
sharing the same narrow treacherous paths.

For a good hour or so all I was looking at
were rocks and gravel ahead of my feet
lit by the torch
and everything else was pitch black...

Finally we reached the blue flames, right before sunset!
As the sun rose  about 5am,
the flames would  no longer be visible...

Do you spot the blue flames in the distance?

We inched closer to the flames,
and there were no safety zones of any kind,
nor rules of any sort,
so you were solely  responsible for your  own safety..

Pipes were snaking along the crater
to direct the flow of the molten sulphur

The molten sulphur was poured into moulds and hawkered to tourists

Organic sulphur sculptures

After all the fumbling and photo-taking,
the sun was gradually rising and
lo behold
the world's largest acidic lake

We were in awe...
the pastel hues in the light of dawn
was really surreal and absolutely spectacular.

We took our time camwhoring
and soaking in the landscape that gradually lit up
with the break of dawn...

Demonstrating how to make the organic sulphur sculptures

We proceeded to ascend from the mines,
taking a different route from where we came

These sulphur miners work in such atrocious conditions
carrying about 70-90 kg of sulphur on their backs in rattan baskets
selling the load for a few USD$ only.

Most of  them don't even bother to wear any gas masks
as it is very cumbersome on a daily basis.

Our trekking guide used to be a sulphur miner
but he decided to learn a bit of English
and be a guide instead...

You can read more about it here

 Even Alfred cannot tahan!

 The paths the miners take are treacherous and difficult...


Many of them invest in a wheelbarrow,
which is not cheap by their standards.

But even so,
 these can only be used on the final leg of the slope
where it's less rocky.

The trek back is just insanely spectacular.

Mt Fuji's got nothing on this!
What is this underrated East Java beauty!!!

Every turn and every moment of  this little expedition
is really unexpected -
the views, the adventure.
I'm really glad we are here :)

Very tired post-gas mask faces!

This shot doesn't look very impressive
but truth is we are really near the edge
and we risked our lives taking this jump shot for you.

My gloves with velcro dots... so cute la!

More insane beauty...

As usual you are responsible for your own safety...
no ropes no handrails nothing.

Back at the only pitstop on this crater...
It was pitch black when we arrived here at 3am...
i almost did not recognise it  in the daylight!

A friendly reminder to wear high socks...
and pants that can ideally cover your shoes 
as the gravel gets 

With our driver and guide!

At a little sulphur stream near our basecamp...

Part 2 Mt Bromo and Madakaripura waterfalls coming up soon!

PS Itinerary tips:

 a 3d2n itinerary is sufficient!
we stayed one more day - and there was pretty much nothing else to do,
so went to another local spot to view the sunrise,
took lots of pictures,
and on the way back dropped by a keropok wholesale shop!

we did 4d3n and was quoted 6 million rupiah (~USD$455) for 2 people!
It included all accommodation and private minibus for just the 2 of us.
super affordable in my opinion!

Check out and see if you can get the same rates
as I think his quotes are not standard haha

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