The Enchanting Blue Flame in Ijen Crater

It all started with a video I saw on the internet. There was this guy backpacking all around Indonesia and he made a short video showcasing each exotic place he’s been. And Ijen crater is one of those places. When I saw it, instantaneously I paused the video right there and googled Ijen crater. I am Indonesian and I live in Indonesia. I never heard of the word Ijen. It is a shame that this guy (presumably American) knew this place but I (Indonesian) didn’t. I told myself that Ijen will be my next destination. And now I can say, I have been to Ijen and saw the enchanting blue flame in Ijen crater.

2015-01-13 17.47.39

This is my story 🙂

Ijen is located in Banyuwangi, East Java. I took this trip with best mate, Wayne from Jakarta. In order to get to Ijen, we flew from Jakarta to Surabaya, capital city of East Java. We stayed overnight in Surabaya in order to take the earliest train from Surabaya to Banyuwangi.

2015-01-12 08.40.29

2015-01-12 08.58.53

It was a long ride from Gubeng Station, Surabaya to Karang Asem Station, Banyuwangi.

We took executive class departing at 09:00 and arriving at 15:00.

2015-01-12 15.11.44 2015-01-12 15.11.52

After arriving in Banyuwangi station, we got picked up to our B&B. AirBnB is really helpful for this trip! Our host arranged us to meet a tour operator to Ijen crater and we made a deal with them. We took off from our B&B at 1 in the morning. Why that early? The blue flame is only visible in the wee hours so we had to rush to get there. The ride to Ijen mountain was about an hour. That was the craziest winding road I’ve ever been. And the driver just didn’t slow down. He drove like F1 racer but the winding part is like 80% of the road. I felt sick so I took a mint candy and closed my eyes.

When we got there, it was dark. No light whatsoever. I only saw some people with flashlight. My fellow hikers. It’s dark and it’s slanted to be about 45 degrees up. It took us 1,5 hours to get to the top.

Along the hike, we met many sulphur miners.

They have one the hardest jobs in the world. Why? They carry 70 to 100 KGs (around 220 lbs) of sulphur (one time) and walk through a very dangerous area. The crazy part is for each KG, they are paid merely RP 910,- (around 0.07 USD). Imagine this. They have to hike like 4 KMs up (very steep) and almost 1 KM down to the crater to mine. So in total, they’ll have to do 10 KM both for mining the sulphur and taking them to the weighing area down there.

2015-01-13 02.39.50

One of the miners in Ijen. If you want to take photos of him, prepare some cash. He’d be asking for it right after you clicked you camera. “Money?”

A miner offered us this sulphur-based carving

A miner offered us this sulphur-based carving

I was shocked to find out that in order to see the blue flame, we had to go down the crater through some crazy paths that the miners take. Thank God that we have our guide with us. Oh I forget to mention that our guide is a miner. He works seasonally as guide as well.

The way down wasn’t like anything I imagined. It was dark and we solely depended on flashlight. The steep level is staggering. It’s not for amateurs and it’s actually forbidden for visitors because it’s too dangerous. My feet were shaking like crazy going down. It’s slippery because of the sand and it started to drizzle. Since it was a really narrow rocky path, whenever a miner wants to pass by, we’ll have to move somewhere and let him pass by first. No rail or anything like that. All giant rock. And if you slip, I’ll say adios. The closer we hiked to the crater, the stronger the scent of sulphur was so we wore our gas mask.

After a grueling 45 minutes, we finally got to the crater. It was AMAZING. We went down there and it all paid off.

The famous blue flame

We spent some time down at the crater before hiking up to the top. As the sun was rising, I could see the way down to the crater. Thankfully it was dark when we got down to the crater and I couldn’t see anything clearly aside from the area with our flashlight. Had I seen all the crazy steep paths, I wouldn’t had gone down to the blue flame, I’d pass. Nope.

Typing this somehow makes me reflecting on life. Often times, I ask God to show me what His plan really is down the line for me. But thankfully, He doesn’t do it because if He did, I’d be too scared to move because I thought it’s all impossible. One step at at time 🙂

Alright back to Ijen 😉

When we reached the top of Ijen mountain, the sun was ready to rise.

2015-01-13 04.52.14

The beloved guide who saved my life several times lol

The beloved guide who saved my life lol

2015-01-13 04.54.51 2015-01-13 04.55.02

IMG_0745

That’s the way down to the crater. After this, you’ll have to pass some really narrow path with cliff on your sides. Not for the faint-hearted fella.

IMG_0727

2015-01-13 05.27.42 2015-01-13 17.44.122015-01-13 17.46.55 2015-01-13 17.45.52

2015-01-13 17.48.42

Overall, it was a great experience for me. I highly recommend this place for anyone looking for some adventure and looking for something incredible the nature offers. Don’t hesitate to book your flight and accommodation to visit Ijen. 🙂

Until next time!