By hiking just that little bit further and exploring beyond the traditional tourist routes, photographer Reuben Wu is able to capture some incredible feats of nature. On his must-see list for many years, he recently visited the volcanoes of East Java, timing his trip to a full moon, which he knew would illuminate his photos.
Ijen crater (Kawah Ijen) is a ninety-minute hike from basecamp. The bright turquoise crater lake is the largest acid lake in the world, and boiling hot. In order to breathe and see clearly, Reuben had to wear a gas mask and goggles because of the plumes of toxic sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. “Whilst I was inside the crater, there were numerous local miners harvesting large chunks of yellow sulphur (at least 150 pounds) and carrying it up out of the crater back to base camp, where they sell it and make about $10/day from two trips”, says Reuben. “The blue flames from the molten sulphur is only visible at night, and it’s an amazing sight. However, the clouds of gas venting from the numerous fumaroles in the crater make it difficult and dangerous to get close.”
Afew hours from Ijen is the active Mount Bromo, which sits inside the Bromo Tengger Caldera alongside the extinct Batuk and the active Semeru. A low plain of ash called the Sand Sea, which is enclosed by a steep caldera wall, surrounds all. “When I was there at full moon, they were celebrating the Yadnya Kasada Ceremony, and hundreds of Tenggerese people were at the temple at the foot of Bromo, celebrating and setting off fireworks. It was an interesting scene of intense human activity in a vast barren landscape of immense lunar-looking peaks.”