3.30 am On the restaurant table we find a sandwich of uncertain content wrapped in film and a hard-boiled egg for breakfast. Then we packed our bags in the van and at four in the morning we started up. After an hour along a tortuous and dark road, we reach the skirt of the Kawah Ijen volcano. From that point we expected 3,000 meters of ascent, about 45 minutes for fast legs and almost double for me.
At the beginning, the road is flat, but at the point of 700 meters a climb begins that made me eternal. As I climbed as I could, sulfur carriers passed at full speed, stood at my height to offer you to take pictures in exchange for a few rupees and followed every train up or down if they were already loaded with sulfur. Discouraging.
At the 2,000 meter point, there was a kind of station where miners weighed the baskets with the sulfur they had taken from the volcano: between 60 and 80 kilos per trip. The station itself seemed out of the far-west, only instead of gold, it was full of sulfur.
From that point on, the road becomes flat and that is when a boy who went with an empty basket approached me and started talking to me very happily. We both had a lively conversation, too bad that he did not even understand what I said and that I corresponded in the same way, but it seems that in one of our verbal exchanges, I told him that I would go with him until the crater without knowing it, and when we reached the mouth of the crater, he gestured for me to follow him and, although I considered staying there due to the complicated descent, I thought: «these men do it loaded with 80 kilos and wearing flip flops, How can I not be able to get down with everything I am equipped? So down I went.
The descent to the bottom of the crater is complicated and the miners themselves have created a kind of staircase based on small rocks that had been strategically placed to facilitate their climb loaded. Little by little, I went down with the help of my unofficial guide, who was telling me where I had to put my foot, where to grab me, when to stop and when to get away so as not to disturb any miner who climbed up to the top.
After about fifteen minutes, I managed to reach the bottom of the crater. The turquoise blue water of the lake in the background could barely be seen because of the toxic cloud emanating from the volcano. Although the guide proposed me to go down to the water, I declined the invitation. At that point, the ration of recklessness had already reached its maximum limit and, as I thought that, the wind changed direction and brought me a toxic cloud that enveloped me in a matter of seconds. I quickly turned and covered my mouth and nose with a mask that had taken me in case the flies. Even so, the few sulfur particles I breathed began to burn inside and I didn't stop coughing for a long time.
Of course, I don't know how miners can endure in conditions like these, not only breathing pure poison, but also carrying kilos and kilos of sulfur up and down the mountain several times a day. That day was hard, both physically and emotionally.
I told "Ferguson" (see the author's note at the end) that I was turning up, since my partner had not come down and was beginning to be a little restless, and accompanied me until he left me safe and sound in the mouth of the volcano. Suddenly, all the smiles and kindnesses he had lent me throughout the journey turned into a serious face and roughly snapped at me: "rupees!", And that is where our platonic relationship ended. Obviously, I knew that I was not giving all those attentions for my fabulous gift of people and my unparalleled beauty and I was already planning to compensate him financially for his services, but hey, it seemed to me that he shouldn't have put himself on that edge. I gave him the rupees and faced down the mountain with a little sore legs.
Best of all (read as irony) is that at that moment I learned that I was FULLY FORBIDDEN TO DOWNLOAD TO THE VOLCANO FUND. You don't want to know the face that left me when I saw the poster. Really of the good that I did not know, I did not see the sign where I put it, or at the beginning of the ascent or when arriving at the crater, because if so, NO I would have gone down. It is seen that a while ago, a French tourist died and that is why it is forbidden, apart from the fact that the massive decrease of visitors could cause accidents and hinder and hinder the work of miners. That does not mean that the latter do not stop telling you to accompany them to get a bonus. Even so, it is not justified.
We were lucky to have reached the volcano soon, because, just when we started the descent, the weather changed and everything began to be covered with fog and cold. While we were going down (or, rather, we were braking so as not to give ourselves a bump against the ground or rolling down the mountain), we met an old lady who climbed little by little with two hiking sticks and we had no choice but to stop to congratulate her and tell her that she was our "heroine". The woman told us it was a «old lady»(Don't tell me?), Who was 76 years old, as if excusing himself from climbing so slowly, but I would like to be climbing volcanoes at his age.
Upon arriving at the foot of the volcano, we ate some cookies and the sandwich of uncertain content that turned out to be butter, orange marmalade and chocolate chips, since the dishes served in the small restaurant looked good, but the dishes I think that had not been washed in five years (me and my new digestive food precaution policy).