Sulphur mines at Kawah Ijen

My brother, uncle and me recently made a trip to East Java, Indonesia in search of a long lost Javanese legend.

We rode over mountains,

Crossed endless deserts,

And ventured into unknown roads,

Till we found at long last, the last living man who remembers this sacred Javanese legend.

The legend goes something like this:

Once upon time, in a land far far away. There lived a small chic by the name of Chicky-chicky-micky-micky. He stayed with his mother and his many brothers and sisters.

One day, he decided to go for a walk alone in the woods.

As he was walking, a curious sight caught his attention.

He was so excited, he ran as fast as his tiny legs could carry him back home to tell his brothers and sisters.

Upon hearing the news, they all rushed to see this sight.

The sight which interest them was this new building which never was seen before in this land.

They entered the building out of curiosity and that was the last we ever heard of Chicky-chicky-micky-micky and his siblings.


Ok seriously, we went to East Jawa to visit Mount Bromo and the Sulphur Mines at Kawah Ijen. I have to say the sulphur mines were pretty interesting.

This sulphur mine is located in the crater of a volcano called Kawah Ijen. We had to ascend the volcano then descend into it's crater to visit the mines.

Standing at the top of the volcano and looking down the crater, the sight of the mines coloured yellow by the abundant amount of sulphur and swathed in a thick choking sheet of smoke greeted us.

We quickly descended despite warning signs prohibiting us from going down.

In the mines, a dozen iron pipes channel molten sulphur from beneath the depths of the volcano to the surface.

The liquid sulphur will solidify, forming solid stones of sulphur.

The miners will then break up the stones of sulphur, collect the broken pieces of sulphur, put them in a basket then carry them down the volcano.

A miner breaking up the sulphur 

A basket of sulphur waiting to be carried down

I'm astounded at how the miners can actually carry the basket of sulphur weighting at least 90kg and manoeuvre across the treacherous pathways of the volcano.

I tried lifting the basket of sulphur and I tell you it is heavy. It is so heavy it hurts. I barely could take one step, let alone make my way uphill. 

The bamboo resting on my shoulder dug into my clavicle, exerting such force that my clavicle threaten to snap at the weight of the bloody basket of sulphur. 

I managed to speak with a local miner named Poniman, who has been working here for the past 17 years. He braves the the suffocating sulphuric smoke, the crushing weigh upon his shoulders and the treacherous pathways just to earn a little money to feed his family. 

After so many years of carrying the this heavy burden, his body has adapted to allow him to perform his job. Notice the hypertrophied trapezius muscle to protect his clavicle from the obscene pressure exerted by the basket of sulphur. Notice also the bruising around the shoulders and the yellowing of his teeth and sclera. 

The ravages of sulphur mining

Seeing the miners being able to go about their work cheerfully despite the heavy burden they carry, even teasing and helping one another as they slowly made their way down the volcano made me realise that I have officially lost the right to complain about life. No matter how bad or tough I think my life is, it can never be as hard as these sulphur miners. 

I mean what are long working hours or parade which takes 3 hours compared to this lifestyle?

Henceforth, if I ever start to complain, please give me a full cup of water with a cover and ask me to shut the full cup.

Lim Shimri4 Comments