Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kawah Ijen, East Java Indonesia

Volcano visiting in Indonesia is definitely one of the must-do's given that there are so many volcanoes in the country. One of the more interesting ones to visit is Kawah Ijen in East Java.

Kawah Ijen is an active volcano and it's crater holds the world's largest acid lake. The crater lake is quite a sight to behold with its mesmerizing turquoise colour. But its beauty belies the danger surrounding it. The water in the lake was measured to have a pH value of 0.5!! So it's literally really acid! And at the edge of the crater, a vent throws forth volumes of noxious fumes and volcanic gasses. And it's here that an active sulphur mine operates.

Visiting the crater lake entails close to 2 hours hike up, but half-way through the journey, one would have encountered the sulphur miners already. These miners literally carry blocks of sulphur weighing 75-90kg on their shoulders, and make their journey from the crater edge down to the volcano base. The sulphur fumes that they had to endure further aggravates the situation, and to make matters more miserable, they are paid pittance. It was an eye-opener (and heart-wrenching one) watching these miners working amidst the harsh and surreal environment.

For the adventurous, one could start the journey to the crater and sulphur mine at 1+am, and you would be rewarded with views of the 'blue flame'. Essentially, the molten sulphur in the mine burns with a beautiful blue flame, and it would really been quite a sight. After that, a hike to a viewpoint for sunrise completes the adventure. I did not take up this option as I arrived at 11pm after a 9+hr ride from Surabaya and was pretty tired. Do note that it is actually quite dangerous as the descent into the mine is quite steep, and even with torches, once the sulphur fumes obscure your sight, you are pretty much helpless!

Accommodation options near Kawah Ijen is limited though. The nearest village of Sempol has a Arabica Homestay which was popularly used by many agencies but reviews were pretty bad, and the room we had was indeed not particularly clean. The other options would be in Bondowoso, which is abit further away.

There are many agencies in Surabaya who can arrange the trip (together with Mt Bromo) and I think it's one of the more interesting volcano trip I had! For Singaporeans, it makes a great long weekend trip, especially with so many cheap flights to Surabaya. Check it out!

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