Originally published on PassionPassport.com
Photographers Mauricio F. Corridan and Olja Ryzevski were exploring Bali when they decided to take a three-day side trip to Java. They had no idea what to expect of the volcano-covered Indonesian island.
It was pitch black outside as Mauricio and Olja hiked through the middle of the night. Headlights provided short beams of light, but didn’t illuminate their surroundings.
The tour group had been hiking since 11 p.m. to reach Bromo Volcano by sunrise.
After less than a day, Java had already surprised Mauricio and Olja in more ways than one. It felt and looked like another planet to them; completely different than places they’d traveled previously. And they’d learned that, with a population of over 124 million, Java was the most populous island in the world.
As the light peeked out just before sunrise and the world brightened around them, the group slowly realized just how far they’d come, how high they’d climbed.
Mauricio and Olja looked at the volcano in the distance in awe. They’d seen gas spewing out of the volcano from the hotel the night before and had felt the earth vibrate from miles away.
Both wondered what tomorrow would be like.
The next day, Mauricio and Olja descended into Ijen Crater on slippery ground. The people in front of them were no more than silhouettes. Every so often, an Ijen worker would pass by, carrying a heavy load of sulfur from the crater with a smile. Their cheeriness contrasted with the darkness of their surroundings.
It was difficult to breathe. Mauricio and Olja had been given masks to wear as protection from the toxic gas, but the masks were fitted awkwardly on their faces.
Mauricio and Olja took it all in. This was nothing like seeing the volcano from afar — this place was alive and anything could happen. The earth vibrated beneath their feet. The sour smell of sulfur hung in the air.
The acid lake in front of them was mesmerizing — like a beautiful but deadly swimming pool of vibrant, changing colors. The volcano erupted every 15 minutes, the lava changing colors because of the light and sulfur.
Mauricio and Olja couldn’t believe the place around them was real. Seemingly contradictory emotions overwhelmed them while they explored — fear and amazement at the powerful natural force in front of them. They felt so tiny, so insignificant.
Watching the eruption, they realized that them being there meant nothing. The world would go on when they left: the workers would keep hauling sulfur, the colors of the acid would continue changing, the volcano would erupt again and again.
It was unlike anything else they had ever seen.
When the group reached Madakaripura Waterfall they made sure their cameras and phones were in special, waterproof plastic bags.
The water fell from so high that water droplets hung in the air, making everything slightly damp.
Mauricio frantically took photos.
Shoot. Clean the lens. Shoot. Clean the lens. Repeat.
The side trip to Java had put things in perspective for Mauricio and Olja. They understood how big nature was in a new way, and realized that it needed to be more respected.
Neither had expected to find such an incredible place, but Java taught them that there would always be places waiting for them to find, if they only sought them out.