Imagine smelling fumes overtaking you until you feel overwhelmed by nausea, imagine that those fumes enter surreptitiously your throat, down to the lungs, and your eyes will burn up and prevent to see around.This is the situation faced by the so-called “sulfur collectors” in Kawah Ijen, East Java, Indonesia,whose labors are used to produce fertilizers and cosmetics.
In this remote corner of the Earth is the Kawah Ijen volcano, which conceals a beautiful turquoise sulfurous lake. It ‘s a seemingly idyllic place, but that lies an hellish atmosphere: yellowish smokes impossible to breathe and temperatures at the limit of endurance.
Since the sixties some fumaroles have been raised around the crater, whose function is that of removing sulfur, and it is here that Isroni, one of these sulfur collectors , every day goes to.
I followed Isroni during one of his days of exhausting work. I saw him setting out with the empty basket through the path at dawn, 3 kilometers to the crater rim, then dropping down to the shores of the lake. I saw him splitting the blocks of sulfur with a stick of metal, among toxic fumes that cause him a persistent cough and make his eyes weep. I saw him upload 100 pounds of sulfur on his back full of sores, and effort to trace the reverse path to the point of collection for an hour of walk.
Isroni earns about $ 6 per day, and he will hardly reach fifty years old.
He is aware of the risky and extreme conditions in which he is forced to work, but unfortunately this is the only work he can do to eat and support his family.