On our first morning in Sidoarjo,we headed right down to the mud zone. After enduring a hellish traffic jam, we turned off the highway and walked up an incredibly dusty road crafted from the mud. On the way we passed buildings like this, submerged during the first stages of the eruption, before they built embankments to corral the hot mud. The sign says "Caution, depth +/- 5 meters" (that's about 16 feet for us metric-impaired Americans).
The mud dries into a really fine sand that blows into your eyes, ears and nose. You can see why, according to the fishermen, it gets into fish's gills and suffocates them. I felt a bit suffocated myself, especially given the pounding heat of the sun and the added warmth radiating from the mud volcano.
We checked in at this little control point with the helpful sign explaining the different levels of mud volcano danger, from "normal operation" to "extreme danger.". Strangely enough, I don't recall any flags or signs indicating what the actual level was. And what is "normal operation" of a hot mud geyser, anyway?
Now just another short dusty walk would bring us to the geyser, marked by the big construction machinery on the horizon.
Tomorrow: the volcano's mouth!!!