We survived the drive to Ijen (just) and spent the night at the Ijen Resort before our 4am wake up call. The setting for Ijen Resort was quite spectacular, high up in the mountains and surrounded by rice paddies, but there was a torrential downpour which started about 30 seconds after we arrived and continued until sometime early in the morning. Our wake up call was for 4am, and we set off to drive to the base of Ijen at 4.30am.
The drive to Ijen was along possibly the worst road I have ever been on. The first bit was relatively flat but the tarmac had so many holes and cracks it was like driving over rocks. And further along we were in fact driving over rocks. And by then we were going up some steep hills too. It was only a 17km drive but it took over an hour to get to the park ranger's station.
So we set off up the path. Me, the boy, and our ever-cheerful guide Prad. The signs said it was a 3km walk, and some of it was steep.
Some of it, my ass. The first 500m was a gentle slope and the rest was practically a vertical climb. I made it up 1.7km before throwing in the towel, after nearly having an asthma attack. The others continued up the hill while I sat on a conveniently place concrete plinth and recovered.
I'm glad someone made it to the top, because it was totally worth it:
See the yellow bits and the smoke? That's a sulphur mine. It's a barbaric place to work. Local men climb the hill, hack the sulphur out of the mine, then cart it back down the hill in baskets. They get paid approximately 7 cents per kilogram of sulphur. Most of them carry between 60 and 80 kg in their baskets.
And it's a horrible work environment. They don't have proper gas masks, or protective clothing. A lot of them were either in thongs or had bare feet. A few wore gumboots.
After collecting me on the way down, we walked back to the car and then spent 123456789 hours driving back to Bali. And I am glad I didn't finish the climb, the boy said the second half was a lot worse and even he thought about not going all the way. But I'm glad he did.