According to the Bible the Ijen Plateau is a quiet place to escape the crowds. Not any more. Since the construction of a new road linking Kawah Ijen with the harbor to Bali the place is included on package tours and sees flocks of bule from that side. Still the place is worth a visit, extremely beautiful. Definitely we are not lucky with the weather at volcanoes and we could only enjoyed the views the few moments the clouds allowed. We missed the blue fire at night as we didn’t know about 😦
The place is as well known for the hard working sulfur miners. They go all the way to the crater to extract the yellow element and fill their baskets. They have then to climb all the way up to the rim and go downhill to the road where the trucks are loaded. They are paid per kg and earn about $8 a day. The sulfur they extract is of vital importance to our society being used to produce indispensables such as cosmetics. The same cosmetics you can see on the pretty Bali package bule faces accomplishing the heroic task of climbing to the rim with their guides. Some of the flocks don’t realize how they obstruct the way slowing down the miners on their job. Never mind, they will take pics smiling with one of them who will be happy with a cigarette on return. One grotesque image to illustrate XXI century Economic Colonialism.. Unfortunately one of many… without moving from Indonesia, Western renowned firms use dirty cheap child labor to make expensive clothes, JUST DO IT!
On the way up we were chatting with one of the miners. He was very friendly and took us all the way down to the place they extract the sulfur. Probably he liked we were making an effort to speak his language and asked about his life beyond the yellow stuff. The way is strenuous even without extra weight and wearing good shoes (they go on flip-flops). Mouth and nose must be covered with a wet clothe to ease the effects of sulfur gases. Sometimes when the wind was blowing a sulfuric steam in our direction I had to close the eyes and breathing was very difficult. The suffocation and nausea feelings were very strong. I tried to lift one of the baskets, no way, not even an inch. I don’t have enough words to describe such a painful job.
Sulfur stinks in a way that can even mask my socks, so does modern Capitalism. The perfect system that allows roughly 20% of the world population a “good life” (consuming is happiness, don’t forget new big brother teachings) just by using about 80% of the planet resources. The best system ever that should never-ever be replaced or questioned since God itself gave Milton Friedman the free market commandments. Unfortunately Western World needed of a crisis to start thinking and even then not much.
Someone can say I shouldn’t write this as I am another douche traveling on credit cards, taking advantage of the system and probably not better than the Bali bule I so much despise: mentioning Stalin or North Korea always give extra points in these matters… True that. Anyway this is my blog and here the sense of democracy and justice is as fake as in the so called Western Democracies.
A couple of pics below. More here.