The alarm sounded at midnight as we woke to begin our journey to our first active volcano. We hiked underneath a star-filled sky up Kawah Ijen in East Java, Indonesia to see blue flames, the largest area of blue fire in the world. Our hike began at base camp after a much needed "wakeup-cup" of coffee. We started our 1.5 hour ascent up the steep gravel pathway with no idea what surrounded us, passing miners pullings carts along the way. As we neared the rim of the crater the stench of sulfur filled the cool air. Gas masks were an absolute necessity. Upon reaching the stairs we had another 30-45 minute decent to the base of the crater. One could barely call these stairs, they closely resembled the pathway to Mordor, except these weren't a cut staircase. We carefully made our way down the boulder pathway, worn by the repetitive trips of the sulfur miners, with only a small headlamp to light the way. Every so often we'd reach a rickety wooden hand rail, as if it would actually break anyones fall. And to think miners do this every day with filled baskets over their shoulder, such hazardous work for little pay. (It gave me a heavy heart).
We were greeted at the bottom by billows of sulfur smoke as the miner chiseled it away. Water poured from my eyes from the fumes and smoke. As the light breeze began to clear it, it revealed the most mesmerizing blue flicker and soon beautiful flames. As the smoke rolled over it was illuminated by the fire creating clouds just as mesmerizing. How was this real?! The blue is the result of sulphuric gases burning at 1,100+ degrees as it is released from the cracks and at times turning to blue liquid. It was an unbelievable sight, a true natural wonder.
In hopes of watching the sunrise from the rim we began our climb up the steps of Mordor. The sulfur haze that morning was too abundant to see the actual sun but what I saw was something more unbelievable. As we made our way to base camp I was in awe from the world that surrounded me. Volcanoes were scattered across the horizon line, softened by the haze. Tones of pink, blue and green covered the land....tones which I have never seen naturally. It was soft, almost painterly. The whole journey suddenly felt so surreal.
I wish I had more to show you because words just don't do it justice…unfortunately, my computer crashed a couple months ago and this was all I had completed. Hope you enjoy either way!