Ijen’s Blue Flames, it is worthy?

The Ijen volcano is famous for its Blue Flames that light up in the darkness of the volcano crater. Located in the Banyuwangi Regency on the East Java, Indonesia.

For many, hiking the Ijen is the highlight of their Indonesia trip and an extraordinary experience.  Find here how to hike to the heart of the Ijen Crater and chase the blue flames, without a tour.

After doing my trip to Ijen I really have mixed feelings about this place. I can’t really understand why people love it so much, for me it is a very controversial tourist attraction with serious problems.

Why I don’t recommend the blue flames

Trekking down the crater during the night can be extremely dangerous, there’s no paths or railings, the terrain is boulders and rubbles and there are so much more people than you can imagine doing the same as you at the same time.

When you get to the centre of the crater, and you look up, it’s just horrifying, to see thousands of tiny dots from the torches coming down, in a flow that never stops.

The rocky path down to the crater is breaking up because of the number of people walking on it daily.

Wind, as you know, is unpredictable so that means that sometimes is nearly impossible to breathe or see, and you’re trapped in a sulphur mine. During my visit I had to sit on the floor, several times close my eyes and try to breathe as slowly and calmly as I could, till the wind was blowing the fumes in a different direction.

Despite having a gas mask you can barely breathe and the gas stings your eyes.

You see impressive photographs from the blue flames on the internet but if you’re lucky to see them at all is just a small defuse light far in the distance.

The Sulfur Miners in Ijen

Miners do an arduous and inhumane work in conditions that can only be described as hell. In the middle of toxic fumes and heat, without equipment.

They trek up Ijen’s 9,000-foot slopes during the night and descending another 3,000 feet into the crater, where they extract the sulfur, they then carry 150 to 200-pound of the so-called “devil’s gold” back up the crater twice a day, earning an average of five dollars per trip.

While miners are working thousands of tourist invade the space, making their work even harder, asking them to pose for photographs, and blocking the path ways.

Can’t really get my head around it, it seems to me that this is the commodification of human suffering and the objectification of people living in terrible conditions.

For me, visiting the ijen during the nighh was an intoxicating, scary and not memorable experience, that I wouldn’t repeat.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

3 thoughts on “Ijen’s Blue Flames, it is worthy?

  1. snowgood

    Mining Sulphur – manually – in this day and age? Wow. Just read Pompeii by Robert Harris – one of the main characters dies because of Sulphur inhalation on Vesuvius.

  2. Image Earth Travel

    Great post!

    If these type of tours in Indonesia are anything like back in 1998 when I visited, there won’t be much care on safety, but a ‘get them in and out’ approach.

    Sadly, it’s the miners that really have the arduous daily job. I can see that tourists would be like salt (or sulphur) to their wounds. I’m sure miners are paid a pittance as is the same in other countries, when locals do this type of work for big corps.

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