The tour operator picked me up at Yoschi Hotel at 10am. There were three other participants – two Belgians and an Australian. Kawah Ijen was pretty far away, and the access road was VERY BAD. We spent that night at a coffee plantation in Sempol.
The following day we woke up at 3.30am, had breakfast at 4am, and check-out from the hotel at 4.30am. At around 5 in the morning we reached the Ijen National Park. From the entrance, we had to walk 3km up the hill.
Before I left for Java, someone had already warned me that the 3km hike to the rim of the crater would be very tough. I did everything I could to reduce the weight of my bag: The 908-page Lonely Planet and one of my two lenses were left in the car; I had eight AA size batteries. The Australian lady happened to need AA batteries, so I happily loaned four to her.
Unfortunately, I made a mistake for not bringing a raincoat or umbrella. It started to rain as we were ready to set out, and I had to look for shelter. The Austrian lady, who had an umbrella, was way ahead of me. I almost wanted to ask her, “Can we share the umbrella?”
It took me more than an hour before I made it to the rim of the crater. My efforts paid off, as I was presented with a view which marveled me. I took picture with great care. The wind was strong. I was concerned that I would be blown off the ground and tumble into the crater.
Kawah Ijen also produced sulfur. Workers transported loads of sulfur from the crater to the foot of the hill. It was a tough job which paid very little. I was told that the workers got 600 Rp for every kilogram they carried.
By the way, I was proud to be the only visitor who was neither Westerner nor Indonesian on that day…
The sign reads: All visitors strictly forbidden to go down to the crater… (But the sulfur collectors kept persuading us to descend.)
Two baskets of sulfur: