Javanese sulfur miners alongside the Ijen crater lake.
  • Javanese sulfur miners alongside the Ijen crater lake.
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After spending a week running around the island of Borneo, including stops in traditional villages of Sabah, Malaysia, and the primary rainforests of Brunei, we arrived in the capital of Indonesia at 3 a.m. Waking, we found Jakarta to be a large (18 million people), dirty and hot (102 degrees) city.

We quickly decided to get "back into nature" – if that was possible on Indonesia's most populous island – by doing a tour of Java's volcanoes. We set off on an overnight train to central Java, where we took an exceedingly slow bemo (like an old VW without doors) ride up to an abandoned building, where we transfered to a jeep for the final ascent up to a small village to await our sunrise hike overlooking Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.

volcano hunting in Java

After two hours of sleep, we awoke at 3 a.m. to find another jeep to drive higher up the mountain to a waiting horse that dropped us at a trail which led 30 minutes straight up to the most amazing sunrise. Perched precariously on a cliff, with a view over the Javanese "sea of sand" and multiple active, smoking volcanoes, we decided the 18 hours of travel was worth it.

But that wasn't the end of the journey. After crossing and hiking into one of the craters, we were at an impasse: without a hotel room, we had nowhere to go and it was only 10 a.m. So we decided to continue on to what was described as a "more active and dangerous" volcano.

We took the jeep down to the bemo, and on to another public bus that took us to the east coast of Java, arriving at 2 a.m. Luckily, the ascent of Ijen volcanic crater began at 3 a.m.

We immediately found another jeep and drove the two hours to the trail up to the crater. Along the way we passed the sulfur miners of Indonesia – amazing men who walk four hours up and down the mountain with 90 kg of sulfur on their backs for roughly 70 cents a trip.

view of Ijen from above

After an exhausting hike and inhaling sulfuric fumes that burn the lungs, we decided they're probably underpaid. When the smoke cleared in Ijen crater, we had a breathtaking view of the world's largest sulfur crater lake.

We then hiked the two hours down, took the jeep back to town and decided it was time to get a hotel and relax; it was, after all, our long-awaited relaxing honeymoon.

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Javajoe25 Aug. 7, 2012 @ 7:34 p.m.

Relaxing honeymoon? It sounded like the story of a group of POW's on a forced march. What are you planning for your anniversary -- a month in the gulag?


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