The sulfur miner in a crater of Ijen volcano with the blue flame of burning sulfur on his background.
It was a very difficult hike. I was benefiting the time and checking the weather forecast but it turned out to be useless. On this day the volcano was particularly active. We put on respirators before even reaching the crater. Everything was in a caustic sulfide gas.
Standing on the edge of the caldera, I was looking at string of lights, which was disappearing in the mist far below. I had plenty of time before the sunrise, so I’ve decided to go down. The way down was an almost vertical descent on the rocks. With each step, I realized that it will be really hard to climb up with 15 kilo backpack and a respirator at the same time but curiosity prevailed.
As it turned out later, the crater has 200 meters depth and filled by the lake with sulfuric solution. It is not the most pleasant place on the Earth.
So … I went down. It was very difficult to take pictures from my hands because the respiratory prevented me to bring the camera close to my face, otherwise I couldn’t birth without it. I slowly began to feel sick because of sulfur dioxide gas. I wanted to get out and take a deep breath as soon as possible; moreover gas was stinging my eyes.
I needed shots. I wanted to get here for a long time and planned to take a lot of pictures but in reality everything was different. The inability to breathe blunted any desire to take photos. At that moment I had the only thought in my head: if there is a hell, it definitely looks that way. I made a couple of shots and decided to get out.
The way back was something more than awful. After 10-20 steps with a heavy backpack you begin to breathe faster but there is nothing with. In addition I was covered by a brimstone cloud in the middle of the way, and it was so corrosive to my eyes that I couldn’t keep them open. I leaned against the stone and closed my eyes trying to catch my breath. We were passed by workers who were carrying baskets with 70-80 kilograms of sulfur. We had to get out. My eyes were burning and tears were streaming. Step by step I was climbing out from this hell. The way up took me 40 minutes.
The Sun was rising. I’ve decided to get around the caldera just in case the smoke clears and I would be able to take shots. It didn’t happen. From time to time I’ve seen pieces of the crater but it wasn’t fully opened once. It was unbearable to breathe through a respirator for 5 hours. It was decided to descend from the volcano. I had to admit that Ijen wasn’t conquered by me. And I was going away with nothing.