The transformative effect of a visit to the Ijen Crater is slow to materialise. Some say the volcanic acid lake and its environs are home to sprites and ghosts and goblins and demons. Others point to the unending task of the sulphur miners and their attendant suffering as evidence that some hitherto unacknowledged level of the underworld is closer than we dare imagine.
Locals tell tales of presences and paranormal activity. Of disembodied Javanese chants permeating the air, of ghostly figures in places no corporeal vessel can reach, of invisible arms crushing dreaming sleepers.
And soon enough this worms this way into the traveller’s consciousness. Indonesia is a country attuned differently to many places. Tales of revenants and the spaces between spaces are met not with grins but a grim reverence.
As the traveller picks up this frequency, they find they notice the inexplicable. Indeterminate shapes flit in and out of their peripheral vision. Walking down a quiet street they double take. Is that a figure or a lamppost in front of them? Has that crouching man become a dustbin? Why is it impossible to see these figures’ faces? The traveller imperceptibly shakes their head and offers a conciliatory rebuke: this will pass. But it never does. The Ijen Crater has moulded another visitor