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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Scuba Diving !!

Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction-up, down, sideways-by merely flipping his hand. Under water, man becomes an archangel.”

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to the earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface, and he is free.” –Jacques Cousteau

Alright I did not make my bucket list on paper, but if I would have made one then scuba diving would be there for sure. Little did I know that s.diving will become the focus of my tropical vacation. We, at least I, went without much expectations. After paying around 100 bucks for 30 minutes underwater, I thought it was lil bit too much. Once we donned dry suit for diving, and diving mask then I started feeling some rush of blood to the head. Also blame it my hypermetropia  with 5.5D ,
-I was like dude am gonna see nothing in there without my glasses.
And in answer came diving mask with power lens.
-Wo Wo !! Lets do this boys
We jumped onto the motor boat, with dry suits, scuba fins (which made me look like merman from He-man series). Once the diving guide showed us diving signals and ear equalization technique, we went in open sea for training. The weight of gas cylinders was overwhelming , but slowly and slowly the acclimatization period got expired.

But soon all this enthusiasm flew away, like a soul from mortal body. To tell the truth, it was shit scary in the beginning, breathing underwater with the mouth piece !!(thanks to wiki, now I know its name – diving regulator) with weight belt tied around your waist. Also the dive fin took some time to get acclimatized to.
And lo ! I was in sea amid corals and fishes, frantically breathing through diving regulator, biting hard into the mouthpiece, lest it goes out of my mouth.
I clearly understood what Gonzalo (The tempest )meant when he said ‘The wills above be done! but I would fain die a dry death.’
I was still overwhelmed with the bubble , with the sea-grass and coral reefs down below  when diver handed me bread slices to spread around in water, it was then that I was surrounded by fishes – this being the moment of epiphany. It was soothing and heartening at the same time , and then I realised dude this is it !! Everything went on perfect after that.

I think poetry of Farhan , from zindagi na milegi dobara summarises is pretty well. I should/would have written one for myself if I had the solace and pen and paper, right after dive. (Although I would say it wasn’t this intense )

पिघले नीलम सा बहता हुआ येह समा
नीली नीली सी खामोशियाँ
ना कहीं है ज़मीन, ना कहीं आसमान
सरसराती हुयी टहनियाँ, पट्टियां
केह रही है की बस एक तुम हो यहाँ
सिर्फ मैं हूँ मेरी सांसें हैं और मेरी धडकनें
ऐसी गहराइयाँ , ऐसी  तनहाइयाँ
और मैं सिर्फ मैं
अपने होने पे मुझको यकीन आ   गया

Now that I have read through scuba diving literature and learned about the various risks involved, I know the risks and joys of it.  Also who remembers Captain Nemo elucidating about Rouquayrol apparatus in ‘20,000 leagues under the sea’, my first English novel at the age of 10 years.
And now there is a new item in bucket list, finish all greatest scuba diving locations around the world.

Insha Allah ! Amen !

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