What an amazing experience! I was picked up from my hotel at 1am and after an hour and a half drive, we reached Pos Paltung, the point from where the path to Ijen begins. It was freezing here but thankfully I had a sarong which I wrapped around my shoulders.
The climb up to the rim of the crater was done in total darkness using torches and it took about 45 minutes of steady uphill walking. It was very tiring and we needed to take several breaks to get our breath back. At times too we were swamped by the sulphur gas cloud which was horrible. We had to cover our mouth and nose to breathe. I used my sarong which I wrapped around my mouth and nose. My eyes also stung.
Once at the rim, we then had to clamber down into the crater. This track was treacherous and very steep and it was still dark. It was one small step in front of another small step searching for a good rock to use as a step. We finally reached the bottom where in total darkness by the light of torches, workers were chopping up the sulphur into rocks and loading their baskets which the they balanced on their shoulder. The total weight of the baskets were around 7o – 75kg and this they then carried up the very steep rocky track to the rim of the crater and then back to Pos Palting via a weighing station.
The sulphur gas cloud here was very thick and the workers all wore scarves around their mouth and nose to make it easier to breathe. It swirled around going where the breeze took it and suddenly through a break in the gas cloud we were able to see the api biru (blue fire) on the crater wall. It looked like lots of tiny gas fires burning. Absolutely beautiful.
We then clambered back up to the crater rim where we watched daylight arrive. It was amazing to suddenly see the landscape through which we had walked. But the most amazing sight was when the sulphur cloud suddenly cleared and we got a very quick glimpse of the huge crater lake. so beautiful and breath-taking.