A Fascinating Mountain in East Java

The stretch between Bromo and Bali, is an often overlooked part of East Java. With tropical rainforest protecting the inlets of the southern coast and several highly accessible nature reserves, this is unfortunate. Just before entering East Java's plantation country, the mighty Ijen Plateau captures the eye of all true travelers. A series of dramatic mountain peaks and numerous coffee plantations, dominate the entire eastern end of Java... The stunning views over the perpendicular mountain walls, enclosing a greenish-turquoise lake, make up largely for the little effort it took you to climb all the way up to the crater rim. You will need more courage though, to follow the track the locals down. That is where blows of sulfuric clouds find their way into the atmosphere through natural pipes, and the steam from the inner sanctums of the Earth is transformed instantly into half-liquid yellow mineral pools. It is the risky business of the local workers to exactly calculate the time they'll need to hack off some blocks for their baskets before this smoke becomes too poisonous to bare. Then they can start their climb out of the bassin of the Crater Lake and re-descend to the base of the mountain where the sulpher will be further processed.

You too will have more encounters with these tough mountain men, used to carry baskets of 60 kg and more, attached to custom-shaped bamboo poles. Just make sure to carry some cigarettes with you even if you don't smoke. You'll find it the best way to break the ice for a photo op or a friendly chat as these guys are never too burdened to ask for a puff…