My Time Capsule: September 2016


Indonesia: Journey To The Heart Of Mount Ijen

Mount Ijen, July 2016

the rim of Ijen crater

The foul-smelling toxic plumes were choking me as I force myself to hike up the last leg of the steep slippery trail. My eyes and my throat were burning from the thick volcanic fumes. I could feel that my asthma was started to leave me out of breath.

"Keep going, Debz. You've made it this far. Few more steps....just few more steps." Firsta encouraged me not to give up.

"You can do it! We are almost there, Debz." Pojie put his hands on my shoulder to give me some support.

I was feeling dizzy and my legs were trembling but I refused to give up. Before the trip I've told myself that no matter how slow I walk, I won't stop before reaching the peak of mount Ijen. I'm so thankful to Firsta from Discover Your Indonesia and Pojie from POJIEGRAPHY who were very kind to accompany me all the way and keeping with my snail's pace :p

caught a glimpse of Ijen crater from my window seat

Hiking mount Ijen had been on my bucket list for a couple years. When I lived in Bali, I used to fly between Denpasar and Surabaya frequently every month. On some clear days, the plane flied above mount Ijen and I caught a glimpse of its turquoise colour crater. Wow! I was stunned and made a promise that I will stand on the rim of the crater one day.

the phenomenal blue fire in Ijen mountain

Hiking up on a steep trail in a complete dark environment was quite challenging. I had to rely on Firsta's headlamp which was the only source of lights. After a while my eyes adjusted to darkness and I started to enjoy the quiet and peaceful surroundings decorated with countless stars in the skies.
After slightly over 2 hours and more than 5000 stops later, we finally reached the rim of the crater. I needed to rest because the fumes were getting overwhelmingly stronger. My eyes got so sore and teary and I had difficulty to breath. I knew I've reached my limit and decided that it would be risky to force myself hike down to the crater. I managed to take some pictures of the famous blue fire from afar before the three of us moved to a gully to get some quick nap.

cotton candy skies

dramatic texture

sunrise in mount Ijen

Around 5 am-ish the charcoal black colour sky became lighter and soon turned into purple pink - cotton candy colour. We hiked up to the sunrise point but again it was getting harder to breath so I had to stop. My body just couldn't stand the altitude and toxic fumes. Though I never made it to the sunrise point, it didn't make my experience less amazing because the surroundings are just so beautiful and pictures don't do it justice. I just sat down on the rim of the crater and absorbing the moment. Feeling so grateful to be able to enjoy such magnificent nature.

my fav photo spot

smoke covering the crater

That morning the smoke was quite intense that I could hardly see the splendid Ijen crater lake. I was pretty upset when the guide told me it usually getting clearer after 8 am. And I was with the last few of the #TripOfWonders group who were quite late to reach our hotel. Because we did take a good time to enjoy the trek, lol. Well then, I'll just plan another trip to Ijen soon and hopefully I'll be able to enjoy a clear view of the turquoise colour crater lake.

yellow sulphur rock

sulphur miner

Besides the phenomenal blue fire, splendid scenery and the mystical crater lake, another thing that intrigues me a lot about mount Ijen is the mind-boggling story of sulphur miners. Everyday dozens of men start working at wee hours, ascending the 3 km steep trail to the peak then descending into the hazardous crater through a rocky slippery path. After harvesting they hike up again to the rim before climb down the mountain carrying wooden baskets full of sulphur blocks up to 80 kgs or even 100 kgs on their shoulder. Some of them would go back and forth 2 to 3 times a day in order to earn more money. They are not even well equipped, instead of proper shoes some of them only wear flip flop and wet towels to cover their face to reduce exposure to toxic gasses. I believe it's one of the toughest job in the world, yet they earn very little (only about 8 U.S. cents per kilo of sulphur) compare to the dangers they have to face every single day.

sulphur miner

basket for transporting the sulphur

walking into the clouds

vandalism :(


Indonesia, you are so dangerously beautiful, you never cease to amaze me. The fact that I've traveled the world makes me appreciate more the charm of my home country. It's #WonderfulIndonesia indeed. And mount Ijen is definitely worth to visit if you plan to travel to Indonesia. Even if you never hike before. If I can do it, so can you!

Here's some of the tips I'd like to share:

1. Make sure you have a good rest before hiking because if you plan to catch the blue fire, you will need to depart from your hotel around midnight.
2. Wear warm clothes. Layering is the best as it become pretty hot by the time you hike down. My all time favourites are HEATTECH inner wear from UNIQLO and The North Face waterproof jacket.
3. A good pair of trekking shoes is a must, the path is pretty slippery. My trusted Salomon trail-running shoes is a life saver.
4. Pack enough water and snacks. Though there's a small warung (food stall) on the way, I did pack some chocolate, biscuits and wafer.
5. Do bring headlamp and proper mask.
6. Some of the miners sell sulphuric art as souvenir. However you are not allowed to bring it on board the plane since it's considered as prohibited items. I bought a couple of these and the airport authorities asked me to remove it from my luggage. Boohooooo :'(

signature split pose above the cloud in an elevation 2799 m

I have almost non existent experience about mount climbing. In fact before this trip, I've only climbed one mountain which was mount Sinai in Egypt a few years back. At that time, after reaching the top of the mountain I felt so proud of myself. I've conquered a mountain! And so I thought. But then I realised it's just sounds wrong to say conquering the nature. For me it's not the mountain but I have conquered myself. I was over the moon when this time I finally reached the top of mount Ijen. I feel like a winner for have beaten my own weakness. I doubted my abilities from time to time and I proved it wrong. I thought I wasn't physically and mentally ready but I have pushed myself beyond the limit I set in my mind. Thank you, mount Ijen for teaching me that nothing is impossible when I am persistent enough. All I need is believing in myself. I must quit as my own worst critic and everything will be alright :)

'Remember, you have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.' -Louise L. Hay


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