Life begins at the end of your comfort zone – this meaningful quote flashed through my mind when I was hiking up and down Ijen caldera a.k.a Kawah Ijen, East Java. By now, my sister and I had successfully made it up to the rim of the caldera, and down into the mouth of Kawah Ijen. 😀
A Cauldron of Serene Beauty
After spending several hours in the crater, we bid farewell to Kawah Ijen and made our way back through the very same trail we came from – now in broad daylight. This means we can now see the path we took and whatever there was around us when we hiked in the dark.
Standing 2799 metres high at the edge of the caldera, we had a good 360 degrees look at the entire site of Kawah Ijen, and the flora and fauna surrounding Ijen caldera. A sea of white fluffy clouds and endless rows of hills stretched out as far as our eyes can see. It was such a captivating sight!
Mysterious, Bewitching, Foggy Trail
One thing I love about hiking Kawah Ijen in the early hours of the morning is its bewitching foggy trail. The entire path was clouded in a misty blanket of fog that gives a sense of mystery and eeriness to it. The temperature was about 15 – 18 degrees Celsius. The air was crisp and cool, making our journey more enjoyable. 🙂 Needless to say, we crossed path with many more people and sulphur miners as we carefully made our way back to our jeep parked below.
As mentioned earlier, the trail leading to Ijen caldera is very steep at certain elevations. Therefore, I couldn’t stress more on the importance of wearing proper hiking shoes before one embarks on the journey up and down Ijen caldera @ Kawah Ijen. If going up is tough, going down doesn’t get any easier as it puts a heavy strain on our knees, and on the joints of our foot as well as we balanced ourselves on the slippery, steep slope.
My sister had to hold on to me throughout the journey down the caldera because she kept slipping and sliding down the slippery, steep slope due to her improper shoes that doesn’t grip or provide enough friction to hold her to the ground. One wrong move could send us both tumbling down the caldera and we could kiss good bye to our journey to Mt. Bromo afterwards, but thank goodness we didn’t experience that. 😛
Food, Drinks & Sulphur At Pondok Bunder
Halfway through the journey, we made a quick stop at Pondok Bunder for light refreshments and to catch our breath. Here, we can get a cup of instant hot coffee or chilled carbonated drinks for Rp. 8,000, whereas a cup of instant noodles a.k.a Pop Mie costs about Rp.10,000.
I discovered that this is also the place where the sulphur miners weigh their load of raw sulphur blocks before transporting it to a nearby sulphur processing factory, located 19 kilometres away. The sulphur miners are paid about Rp.350 for a kilogram of sulphur blocks. The average sulphur miner carries about 60 – 100 kilograms of sulphur blocks per way, 2 – 3 times a day, earning a minimum sum of Rp.42,000 a day.
Fyi, the life of an Ijen sulphur miner is not long, with an estimate life expectancy of 30 years. 🙁 The constant exposure to sulphur, a corrosive irritant, damages their skin, eyes, mouth, teeth, nose, and lungs. It makes breathing difficult. It makes them dizzy, thus maintaining their balance at the caldera is a constant struggle. The Ijen miners expose themselves to these awful conditions day in, day out, for an honest day’s work and pay in order to support themselves and their families. I have nothing but high respect and admiration for them.
Mt. Bromo, Here We Come!
We arrived safely at our jeep at around 7.30am, collected money from the seven of us and paid Rp.210,000 (extra Rp.10,000 as group tip) to our local guide, Sim for his service. For his kind, friendly and helpful demeanour, my sister and I decided to tip him an extra Rp.100,000. We could see the pure joy and gratitude in his eyes when we handed him the money. He thanked us profusely. I guess that made his day, and ours as well. 🙂
Sim totally deserved the tip for his good service. He offered and carried my bag throughout the journey. He dedicatedly aided my sister and I through the narrow, steep and slippery trail without any complaints. Moreover, he gave a detailed explanation and patiently answered all of our questions on Ijen caldera @ Kawah Ijen. If you would like to engage Sim to be your local guide at Kawah Ijen, do give Ganda of Kg. Osing Inn a call.
After that, we bid farewell to Sim and our newfound friends and made our way back to Kg. Osing Inn in order to catch the early morning train from Karangasem, Banywangi to Probolinggo.