I HAD HEARD about the sulfur miners of Ijen before I arrived in Banyuwangi, a town on the eastern edge of the island of Java. Not many tourists visit this town, and finding information in English was tough. Some people told me access to the mountain was closed. Others knew nothing about what went on there, even though the volcano rose right behind their homes. Buses did not run there, and taxis were expensive.
So the next morning, I set out hitchhiking. A girl on a motorbike left me at an intersection close to the volcano: “Wait here, a truck will come with all the miners,” she said. After 15 minutes, the vehicle arrived. I boarded the truck with the miners, and we traversed the east face of the volcano.
My expectation was that the place would not be touristy at all. I was wrong. After we arrived at the trailhead, tourists seemed to be everywhere. They had come up the west face, paying a significant amount of money for the opportunity.
Here is some of what I saw.