The Ijen volcano is known for its unusual phenomena on earth ; the blue flame and highly acidic lake. Basically, for the night trekking, it is the blue flame that we are after. Over the internet, it is said that Ijen Crater is one of the two places in the world where you can see the blue flame phenomena. The other place is in Iceland. However, further search on similar phenomenon in Iceland is futile because there is no mention of the exact location. Could it be Ethiopia as a National Geographic explorer gave a testimony that he photographed similar display of colour and fire in Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression (another bucket list). Click here to see the picture:- Volcano erupts in bright blue flames: Stunning photos. While I still have the question lingering in my mind, here are my travel anecdotes of my recent Ijen Crater trekking.
“Lobby, at 12am.” Leya reminded us too many a time the night before our epic Ijen Crater blue flame hike. After a wake up call from the reception at 11pm, I quickly packed warm clothes, headlamp, drinks and snacks for the trekking. For me, this is the major highlight of the Trip of Wonders fam trip. You must also wear proper trekking shoes. The Ijen tour leader gave a brief explanation before we embarked on our respective jeeps. According to Mr. Sofyan, we have the journey took about 2 hours to reach the ridge and a further 45 minutes to go down to the crater. If we want to see the crater, we have to reach before 5am. After the blue fire, we can walk along the ridge of the crater for fantastic view of sunrise. Well, that’s what awaited us in Ijen Crater.
Briefing by our Ijen Crater tour leader, Mr. Sofyan
Final prep by Kat Go (Singapore) before the trekking.
The ascent from the base camp began slightly after 2.30am. I paired up with Lily Riani as she did not seem to be in her good condition. As a good friend, her condition compelled me to stay close to her just in case of any emergency. After 15 minutes ascending the gentle slope in dark, Lily slowed down her pace and hinted she was about to throw up as the smell of sulfur became stronger. We pulled over to the side to make way to the other hikers. She decided to call off the hike and walk back to the base camp on her own. After putting her in the good hand of the organizer, I continued the ascent.
My trekking partner who did not make it to the top.
I was not in my best stamina performance, so I walked slowly on my own. With headlamp strapped to my head, I pushed myself forward and took short breaks in between the switchbacks. The crescent moon brightened the sky and looked as if it were putting a motivational smile to us.
In my years of hiking, I am never fond of night trekking. So, that night there was a mental game on my mind. Walk smaller steps, take lesser breaks, count each of my steps and stop after 100 steps or so. As a person who have been to Ijen Crater during the day, the night trekking felt so different and indeed it gave me different experience of the blue flame of Ijen Crater, which is only visible at night until dawn. Since most of us never trekked together before, the person who shared the same pace as mine was Jessica and Marul. So we ended up trekking together up until the ridge of the crater.
Don’t forget to rent the mask from at the Pondok Bunder at an elevation of 2218mdpl.
From the ridge, Jessica and I joined a group of Filipino bloggers to go down to the crater. It was here that the people traffic started to pick up. Unless you are adventurous enough to experiment the loose rocks, there was only one apparent way up and down the crater. The people who was rushing down about the same time as I was, wanted to catch a glimpse of the blue flame before the sunrise. Those coming up the crater was after the sunrise further up from the ridge crater point. Things could get tensed when the tour guides start to shout to give way to the sulfur miners who were carrying tons of sulfur on their shoulders and to the visitors who have yet to see the blue flame.
My advice for the people going up the crater after seeing the blue fame is to give way to those going down trying to make it on time to see the blue flame.
The closer I got to the crater, the stronger the smell of sulfur became. I was given the standard face mask and forgot to bring any money with me to rent the proper mask. I recommend renting the mask from the locals. Hygiene aside, better to wear one than just a face mask. It was around the crater, I started to cough and felt uneasy in my throat. I noticed other people around me also started to cough more and more. Don’t forget to bring bottles of water and drink, drink, drink. Snacks too!
The Ijen volcano is known for its unusual phenomena on earth – the blue flame and highly acidic lake. The electric blue flame is formed as a result of flammable sulfurous gases emitted from the fumarole, the crack in the planet’s crust interacting with the oxygen-rich atmosphere.
By the time I reached down, the blue flame came and disappeared amidst the sulfur gases. If you are serious in wanting to capture the blue flame pictures, bring a tripod. Else, your pictures can’t do justice to this bizarre phenomenon.
After the sunrise, I walked close to the fumarole to have a close up view of the world’s last traditional sulfur mines. The miners use metal pipes to trap the gases, which condense into a reddish fiery liquid and eventually turned to a yellowish harden sulfur. Only the tour guides and miners dare to walk very close to the pipe with fuming gases.
The metal pipes to trap the sulfur oxide gases.
Where the blue flame comes from at night – the fumarole
Ijen lake is the largest highly acidic crater lake in the world. The pH of the water in the crater was measured to be 0.5 due to sulfuric acid. We spent some time around the lake before going up to the crater ridge.
Because the climbing up to the crater ridge and down to the crater took place in the dark, the views of the crater and the ridge mesmerized me especially the lunarscape of ijen crater. Ijen Crater is gorgeous from every angle. I had a hard time to stop taking photographs of Ijen Crater on the way back to the base camp.
Next to Ijen Crater lies Gunung Merapi which has the highest point in the Ijen Volcano complex.
Along the trek, the locals offered to sell sulfur figurines for a nominal price. However, some of the bloggers have been asked to remove the sulfur figurines from their bags during flight check-in. One thing you have to know about the miners who you might bump along the trek is that after allowing their pictures to be taken, they would ask you for money. Make sure you bring a lot of small cash.
This trip to Ijen Crater, Banyuwangi was made possible by the invitation of Ministry of Tourism Indonesia for Trip of Wonders – Wonderful Indonesia campaign. Date of travel: 28 July 2016