Miners of Kawah Ijen

10254044_10152365062793529_8381213138107099218_nTwo days back into the civilisation, first world country. He was tying his boots – getting ready for diurnal commute to place with cubicles. When realisation hit him, that while he was living in upscale apartment with pretty much all the modern facilities, a miner back there would be heaving and bulging under the weight of ninety kilograms, and to earn meagre. While he would lie back on easy chair, with air-conditioning and coffee brewed in a french press. There was a stark juxtaposition. He felt deluded and disillusioned, and a sheer respect for the miners back there.

A miner would climb up with impossible 90kgs on his shoulder and budging under the weight of sulphur , with a torchlight and scarf in his mouth. It was beyond comprehension for a normal city dwellers to understand  the challenger and risk these folks took, for 700 rupiah per kilogram of sulphur. And a days’ labor worth of 5-6 usd. He was discussing this with miner’s family at the house in kampung. His father was a miner and so was his elder brother. They would trek daily up the Mount Ijen and descend down 800 metres into the crater. Brave poisonous sulphur fumes, wait for the red molten sulphur cool down as yellow crystals, and then break it with a rod, fill in the bamboo basket and then carry the onerous ninety kilograms up and above, followed by three kilometres descend. They would weigh the load at intermediate stop, and finally deliver it to the factory. And make 49,000 IDR – 63000 IDR(4.9 – 6.3 USD).

Younger brother, Ganda,  attended college in nearby university at Surabaya, and studied physics. He took 5 years to finish the course, compared to usual 4 years and soon realised that it wasn’t his mettle. He started off as developer in a Chinese software firm, and tried to stick for 4 months. Then with the advent of technology he started seeing tourism growing in east Java. It was when he listed his place on airbnb and started getting guests, 5-6 a month. He made a decent website with his HTML skills, and later realised that wordpress plugin was much better to manage. Now he gets a monthly influx of 4-5 tourists and charges around 45 USD for 2 days stay, with breakfast et al, trip to rice paddy, coffee plantation and then trekking up to kawah ijen. Samsul helps him with his business.

Still Ganda faces some inherent business issues, for one, airbnb pays a lump sum at $600, and t
o accumulate that much amount takes a bit long with the conversion rate of Indonesian rupiah. Initially when he started off his village (Kampung) folks were not very conductive of the idea, and complained about the presence of foreigners flocking around. But as on april 2014, the villagers now mingled freely, laughed together and conversed in broken english. It must have been a liberating experience for Ganda.

For folks who wanna go there, or are planning to here are the weblinks.

Website http://www.ijenminertour.com/

Fb page https://www.facebook.com/ijenminertour

Airbnb link https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1697023?s=OJUR

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