Beyond the Fear - Into The Crater of A LIVE Volcano

Have you ever wanted something but you are afraid of what you might get? Would you still go for it despite knowing the risks that come with it? Or would you choose to pass?

F.E.A.R — Face Everything And Rise — was what my mentor reminded me when I was preparing my speech on overcoming fear of my first experience climbing into the crater of a livevolcano, the Ijen Crater located at East Java, Indonesia.

Below was how my story went.

F.E.A.R — Face Everything And Rise. That is what I learned when I recently, I signed up for a scary yet exhilaratingly exciting experience I’d never have dreamt I’d do; to trek up to the crater rim of a live volcano in the middle of the night just to catch the sunrise.

The night before the trek, our guide informed us that we would have the opportunity to descend into the crater to observe the ‘blue fire’ and Sulphur miners at work, at our own risk. The blue fire is reportedly found in only two volcanoes in the world, and this one is the biggest with flames up to 5 meters high.

My unprecedented trek up a volcano in darkness and was coupled with a feeling of uncertainity. Instead of excitement, I was anxious. As I shut my eye trying to get some rest before the trek, the words of my guide, swirled endlessly in my mind.

  • Muddy tracks
  • Loose stones
  • Steep terrain
  • Perilous obstacles

Then my own misguided words of fear and doubt crept in

  • What if I’m not fit enough?
  • What if I fall off the volcano edge?
  • What if go tumbling down the crater?
  • What if I get roasted and toasted by the blue fire?

There were too many scenarios running through my head.

My alarm buzzed. As I got up and quietly packed my gears in the cold night, I told myself through gritted teeth that this had to be it. After two hours flight and six hours on the road, I have come too far to back out. I only need to survive into the morning, I had butterflies in my stomach but I kept telling myself to bite the bullet.

I thought to myself that I could forgo going into the crater, but I was still half-hearted about not doing it. What if I missed this once-in-a lifetime experience to witness the blue fire upclose?

Not long later, we were at the entrance to where we would start our trek. It was pitch darkness out there and even with a lamp, I could only see two steps ahead of me.

The path was of dirt mud, about six feet wide and had shrubs and trees on the sides, not the kind of environment I imagined. The night was cold but I was soon feeling warm as the slope got steeper with each step. However, perhaps what I imagined was far worse than the actual scenario, it felt like a much easier trail to me despite me panting and wheezing up the steep mountainous winding slope.

We arrived the crater rim faster than I thought. Looking down, we could see the blue fire, but at that distance, it was too small.

Our guide gathered us for a serious briefing and warned us on the risks and consequences of going into the crater is entirely at our own risks (the crater is strictly prohibited by the government due to the toxic nature of the sulphur gas). As soon as he finished, he started his way down the rocky steps into the crater. There was little time for me to hesitate. I stuck to my guide like glue as I followed him down the slope.

The route down was cold, dark, narrow and rocky. Only the guide would know which ones are safe to step on. There was no room for error for any slips or trips due to a wrong footing could mean falling over to the rocks underneath

We stopped a few times to let sulphur miners carry basketful of sulphur rocks to pass. I watched in awe as they made the track up the slippery crater slope look easy, balancing 75kg load of sulphur rocks on their shoulders.

(Below picture was taken after daybreak as it was too dark to capture the miners carrying the load)

Half an hour later, we finally arrived the crater base, where the blue fire was dancing away beautifully with the wind. Further below, the sulphur miners were hacking away sulphur rocks just inches away from the poisonous and pungent sulphur fumes.

I stood there thinking about my journey in the last three hours, more emotional than physical.

What I feared and what I went through were two different scenarios altogether.

My worries, my fear and my concerns, though valid, was far from what I had experienced.

I realise that fear is always within us, but if we don’t pluck the courage up to face them, we would never be able to achieve and experience what is beyond the fear.

I would never have been able to witness the spectacular sight and could have gone home with a mediocre experience had I chosen not to stay up there and waited for the sunrise. Having said that, it’s definitely important to prepare ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically for what may come, even if they wouldn’t.

Nevertheless, the sunrise was beautiful. We took another half an hour to climb back up to the rim and trekked another ten minutes to the summit where I waited for the sunrise.

Where the fumes originate from, was where we climbed into to watch the ‘blue fire’
How we climbed into the crater in darkness, I have NO IDEA!

Parting Words

The only fear holding us back is inside us. Move past that fear and rise to the occasion, we might find ourselves rewarded with a journey of amazing life experiences.

This applies to most other fears and worries we hold inside ourselves too, be it starting a business, going for a marathon/dualthon/triathlon, running a campaign or doing something that matters to you.

What is something that you have been putting off because of fear?

Face Everything And Rise.

Appreciating the amazing view of the volcano from the summit. Nothing feels sweeter than completing a challenge you never think you could do!

Originally published at