After my depressing Bromo experience I was pleasantly surprised by my dealings in Banyuwangi. This little coastal town is the gateway to Bali via ferry and Kawa Ijen by jeep. I’d heard from a few travel friends that Kawa Ijen and it’s mysterious blue fire were going to be worth the expense and long night hike.
I stayed at Titans Green House homestay and had an altogether good stay. The rooms smelled weird, but were clean. Breakfast was delicious and the owner was helpful. He booked a 12:15 AM hiking tour for me and I enjoyed a full day’s rest prior.
Our tour guides were two brothers with a beat up old jeep and great senses of humor. They made the bumpy hour and a half ride to the crater a lot of fun. Two hours of strenuous hiking flew by under a crystalline sky.
My hiking companions, an adventurous German and peace-seeking Italian and I took turns helping a miner push his cart to the top of the crater. We were amazed at his endurance and good English and enjoyed an informative conversation.
A dark descent into the crater was rewarded with the view of ethereal blue vapor (ignited sulfuric gas) dancing up from the mine pipes and cracks. Gas masks were applied further into the crater and we would occasionally crouch and cover our faces from huge gusts of stinging sulfur cloud.
With dawn approaching we climbed out of the crater and found a shale perch to sit and wait. Peace, silence, a dim glow slowly revealed our surroundings. Wow. Just, wow. I fell more in love with Kawa Ijen with every passing minute and degree of illumination. We live in a mysterious and fantastic world.
The working conditions had been described to me earlier as nearly unbearable to witness. I came prepared with some cash on hand to ease my mind. Within twenty minutes all of my money was gone and I wished I’d brought more to give. It’s a hard life, no doubt. The theme of contrasting of beauty and hardship continued to move me here at my last Indonesian adventure.