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The Ijen volcano, located in East Java, in Indonesia, is a very special place. Lots of surreal phenomenons happen there and that’s why I think it’s a landscape photographer’s paradise. It is home to the largest acidic lake in the world and is one of the only two places where we can see blue fire, which is a chemical reaction from the sulfuric gas. What makes the visit even more memorable is that to see this blue fire, you have to start a 2 hours hike in the middle of the night to get to the top of the ridge (2700m elevation). Then, it’s another 45 minutes walk down into the crater through huge rocks, with a gas mask.
Sometimes, you’ll cross path with a miner transporting up to 200lbs of sulfur in baskets on its shoulders. They don’t wear masks, and usually have a reduced life span due to respiratory problems because they lack protection while working. They don’t get paid well either. It is shocking that so many people witness this injustice every day, but their conditions remain unchanged.
Usually, tourists will stay for the sunrise and get back down right after. I tried talking a little bit more with the miners and the guides to understand their work. They didn’t complain at all and were friendly. Although they did try to sell me these little sulfur rock sculptures! Apparently they make more money with that than with their actual job...
If you ever decide to go, I suggest spending the day to fully explore the areas without the crowds and get to know these warriors-miners!