Leaving Kuta, leaving Bali, leaving that placed called itself home in my shallow desires of an easy life, but home as usual as always caging, choking me, you westernized scumwhole, upsetting me in a lost way, a trip without one deep breath. Unexceptional short, fast honks, nor groaning. So leaving with no welcome at the end, glad to get rid of that long legged beauty shit and try another road, exploring, not licking, figuratively, for sure – that´s the point, man!
So. A six hours ride on the local bus, no AC, no toilet, no toilet stops, with souvenir stalls and waiting, for what or whom ever, waiting, how great, I feel dismissed and right in place, on my uncomfortable, dirty seat of a leather´s circumstance.
Arriving at Banyuwangi felt freeing myself. No tourist information, nobody who took care after drop me off the bus, even was interested about my arrival at the opposite of the bus terminal. Honest hospitality gave me a ride to the hotel. “How much is it?” – “Up to you my friend, I am not a driver. – 20?” The room reminding me of my travel through Myanmar, basically cleaned dirt, no hot shower, no toilet paper, no mini-bar, sadly. Felt still baptist, sacrificing my next steps here in Indonesia.
On 1 a.m. next day, get a pick up, car transportation to the gate of an amazing, the most super-fantastic trekk I did so far, up the Ijen volcano, down the crater, to the acid lake.
No guide, just me, the other tourists, locals and abroads, and the slippery grey covered ashed road up to the caldera – burned hell. Following the spot of my headlamp, leaving the others behind, still can´t pace down, always take the gradient of an upheaval element personal, as a challenge, “You won´t dig me under your greatness, arrogant bitch of an hillside!” Unpatient reviewing the aging days. Welcome goal! Who cares about the way, it´s fucking dark. In the colorless shine of the ascent cheerful dust fluttering like dry flames of crust, pasting earthy humidity. A clear sky, jabed by a myriad of lightning eternity. Passing browsing spots. “See you on the top.” – “Or in hell, haha.” It´s getting colder. I just feel the heat of excitment, reaching the top, descending to the crater. Passing resting areas. Passing incredible views down the trenched darkly green to the resting lights of earth. Just can imagine, the fall, down the drain of hell. I smell the fire. A mix of urine and burned black powder, like the day after new year. As I arrived at the top, the moon was still enlightening the blast beaten fortress of an erupted crust, like a sharp teethed roar of a devil´s yab. Can´t wait to see that after sunrise, I thought while walking on the sheer leaped lips. Searching the way, the path, down to the lake, down the crater. A sign prohibits tourists to go down. Every tourist goes down, that´s you are climbing up for. But I have to admit, for a second I had to put my courage together, watching blue steaming light down there, at a volcano´s place. You don´t jump in to it like in a pool. The smell is getting stronger and more scratchy in my throat. Hell bless my cambodian scarf, bandaging my face, placing my headlamp from the forehead on my mouth to keep the scarf fixed. Stepping down, the stones are polished by the worker´s footsteps, decades of mining. Around 300 workers carrying sulphur the whole day up the crater, down the 2,000 feet, in baskets, two of them, connected with bamboo sticks, on their shoulders, weighing around 70 to 90 kg of hardened yellow sulphur, for around 8 Dollars a day. As a part time job, some of the workers are farmers, working on the coffee plantations, planted on the fertile landscape surrounding the Ijen volcano complex. Others told me, they do it because of tradition, their fathers did it and their fathers and – so kind of family business, or an never ending spiral of poverty. No company runs it or even takes care of health treatment, like at least supporting them with proper masks, glasses, cable car for transportation, whatever. They get income by delivering the sulphur down the volcano, from there it´s transported to a small factory, where it´s packed and send to manufacture. Sulphur is mostly needed for cosmetic products. They need the sulphur. The workers would just have to set up a company and sell it, to their terms and pricing – yes, just like that, without money and, I suppose, supporters in the government. Easy if they have to take care of their own, depended, slaved.
Arriving at the bottom, at the shores of the sulphuric acid lake, the steam, thick toxic clouds whipping around, turning directions of the acid impact windy. It´s remained dark, enlighten eventually by the blue fire, if the steam doesn´t cover the sight, by flashes of the cameras, of arriving and more like leaving people. “I have to get out of here.” “Warte doch mal, nicht so schnell.” – Ich will aber hier raus!” Coughing. Strong. Dry. The scarf helps a shit, but I take all what I get, just something, which protects breathing. The blue fire is explaining me in a straight and unmistakably way where I am. In the yab. Getting closer, impressed, hypnotized. The fucking cloud swallowing me again, the steam is not hot, or warm, it is burning, can´t believe, I was just suprised, not like a boy on christmas – Jesus, my eyes! Like tear gas, like the devil in person spits you in your face. Breathing is hardly possible, but you suck more, feeling like asphyxiating, sucking more in, blowing your lungs, seizing with dryness. HELL!!! It´s pain and an adventurer, so I stay. Me and the first worker finaly. Just felt like I can´t leave him alone here – and maybe I get the perfect picture. I even left after a while, feeling sick. So left the spot, stumbling, out of breath, worrying about my health, my further travel – no, no way, just did get more in panic, captured again and again by the hell´s whip. On the half way up, the sun already rised. Looking back, running into more workers, friendly greeting, descending, I went back again, overwhelmed by that place. Day lightens now the yellow sulphur, hackled looks like a sort of pumpkin. Stayed with the workers. Watching, how they are fighting with the elements, with their own weakness of an element. Breathing. Respiring, rising out of the clouds. Protecting is impossible if you are inside. The acid steam is just everywhere. I feel dizzy, wanna rub my eyes, even I know that doesn´t change anything. Try to see, nothing, just steam, thick, no sun, no daylight, not even a sight. Stumble around, open my hands to protect my eyes, feel my camera leaving my snatch, hear a dull noise. Down on my knees, coughing heavily, Christ, Hell!!! Where am I? Where is the lake, the red yellow crispy source, the frozen devil´s spit, the workers are diging for. Is their anything acid around I could loose my skin, my flesh to? Seconds of minutes are passing, before I can see, munition, cartridges, the parts of pipes they use for mining. A warzone. I gotta go, can´t stand anymore, feared of collapsing, need to drink something, eat or just do something to feel getting healthy again, to ease the throat by producing wetness.
Out of the crater I realize where I am… on the top of a volcano paradise. Fucking amazing. All this pores, widening, opened by the core of nature, by the elements of the earth. A fresh morning sky winding clouds over the caldera´s smoothly rough edge, traversed by the lava, green waves, tending down humble, from the center of, I don´t find another name for, HELL!
Taking the trail down, passing all the tourists, guided up, passing all the workers starting their work, selling small turtles made carved of sulphur, maybe soaps? I not sure, but what I know for sure is, I don´t wanna hold that acid in my hands, even if it´s not… after a couple of hours, back at the hotel, after a beautiful ride back, passing fields of coffee, mango trees, chocolate, vanilla, papaya, chili, cropmand what else more plantations, terraces, multistaging rice fileds, what a wonerful world!!! so bak at the hotel, still struggling… drinking, feeling dry but in a beautiful way explored, by myself, my inside, my road again is talking to me. Thank you, Hell!