29 July 2013
A strange, rotten smell was making its way into my nose. A hissing sound, like the one of a pressure cooker, was getting louder and louder as I walked on the path leading to the crater. White fumaroles were coming out of Papandayan, one of Indonesia’s 127 active volcanoes which had already killed thousands of people in the past two centuries. I couldn’t yet see where exactly the steam was coming out from and I was a little worried the gases I was inhaling – possibly hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide – were a bit too toxic both for my lungs and for my camera.
And then I saw them: little holes dispersed on the sides of the volcano, some of them on top of bright greenish-yellow cones of sulfur, as well as bubbling mud pools and steaming rivers. The smell wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be, but it was not particularly pleasant either.
Workers overtook me – they would soon disappear after a turn in the volcano. They were sulfur miners with their heavy loads of sulfur blocks. None of them were wearing gas masks and while it was not Kawah Ijen in West Java (see The Big Picture’s stunning pictures), I could bet their life expectancy didn’t exceed much the one of their colleagues over there, that is, around fifty years...
PS: this is part 2 of a story which started here.