4D/3N Backpacking Bromo & Ijen Without A Tour (Part 5) : Unforgettable Sunrise & Picturesque Kawah Ijen

        Kawah Ijen unfolds as the sky changed colours from pitch black, dark orange, golden yellow and subsequently, bright blue as the sun rose in the background; overpowering the glow of the electric blue sulphur flames, while revealing the hidden treasures of the crater. Our eyes welcomed the rays of light with delight after spending several hours in the dark, for with it we could clearly see and admire the beautiful natural setting before us.

        It was at that moment when I realised the height and level of difficulty of the hike we made to get down from the rim of the caldera to reach the foot of the crater. In an instant, I felt a sense of relief to have hiked in the dark for I might not be able to do so in broad daylight. When crossing a high bridge, people always say do not look down for a good reason; the same trick applies when hiking in the dark. The dark helps to conceal and limit my ability to sense the possible dangers or risks lying around me, therefore I managed to complete the mission with ease.

Travellers taking a breather at the break of dawn in Kawah Ijen, East Java

The sun lights up the place, revealing the majestic walls of the crater

Sunlight overpowering the glow of the electric blue sulphur flames

Two adventurous women backpackers from Malaysia

Picturesque Kawah Ijen and me

Kawah Ijen and its turquoise sulphuric acid lake

Danger, Danger, High Risks!

        After watching the sun rose over the lake seasoned with a light drizzle of rain, my sister and I, as well as the rest of us in the group went to explore our surroundings. A few of us went to talk and made friends with the friendly sulphur miners. Most of us took the opportunity to check out the yellow residue of sulphur lying all over the place. Many could not resist balancing and carrying basketsful of sulphur blocks on our shoulders while posing for a photo or two. Everyone was enjoying their time at Kawah Ijen.

        However, our fun time was cut short when all of a sudden our guide, Sim shouted for us to take cover and get away from the billowing toxic smoke that was about to engulf everyone in its path! The unpredictable wind changed her mind and blew directly into our direction, bringing along a parade of foul smelling noxious smoke that sent us running in all directions to save ourselves. Sim signalled us to leave the area immediately, thus we made our way back to the edge of the crater wall. There, we started to ascend the same trail we took to get down to the crater and carefully made our way back up to the rim of the caldera; one step at a time, covering a distance of 200 – 300 metres in height, defying gravity at 45 – 60 degrees steep in certain areas.

The rocky trail leading up and down Kawah Ijen, East Java

We huffed, and puffed, and strike a pose!

Active sulphur vents in action

A miner left his basketful of sulphur blocks behind 

Back up we go to the rim of the crater @ Ijen caldera

Brave souls from all over the world

Utmost Respect & Admiration For The Kawah Ijen Sulphur Miners

        I am amazed on how the Kawah Ijen sulphur miners make an honest living off the crater, deliberately ignoring and exposing themselves to the dangers it possess, day in day out. Most I saw were not wearing any protective gears. They rely on damp pieces of cloth to protect them from inhaling the toxic smoke and they smoke cigarettes to put off the awful taste of sulphur that lingers in their mouths. How they managed to balance themselves and move steadfastly on the steep and slippery trail with a very heavy load on their shoulders baffles me. All I can say is I developed a very high sense of admiration and respect for these humble sulphur miners

That is one super duper heavy load to balance and carry at Kawah Ijen!!

A bird's eye view of the crater @ Kawah Ijen


There is no proper road, only a rocky, uneven trail leading up and down Kawah Ijen

Ijen sulphur miners taking a puff 

A diamond in the rough, one of Mother Nature's best kept treasures

Ashes, smoke, sulphur, jagged rocks and turquoise acid lake await you at Kawah Ijen, East Java

A Worthwhile Adventure

        The hike back up to the rim of Kawah Ijen @ Ijen caldera took about 45 minutes. Standing at the edge of the crater, overlooking the entire crater from above gave me a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I was able to see the entire crater from another perspective. By now, Kawah Ijen’s famous turquoise sulphuric acid lake was in full view. Dangerously beautiful, it was one of the many picturesque scenes I have ever seen in my life. It is also one of the most challenging hikes I ever did in my life so far, but I will not hesitate to do it again. 

Certain areas of the trail can be very steep - wooden railings provide some support

Colourful layers of sand and rocks exposed along the trail

People looking like ants from this angle

Wind and water erosion carved out these interesting markings in the soil

If you are physically fit and is an adventurous person, do give Kawah Ijen a try! ;-)

Up next: Ijen Caldera @ Kawah Ijen's rim walk, panoramic hiking trails & off to Mt. Bromo, we go!

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