Published: June 19th 2009June 14th 2009
Our visit to Mount Bromo was amazing, mind blowing, infuriating, crazy, white knuckled and a whole lot of other emotions thrown in.
Our journey began from Malang. We decided to catch a 3hr bus to Problibingo and then another connecting to Mt Bromo. We did our research before we left and felt confident that this journey would be stress free (we even knew which guesthouse to check into).
So far in Java trains have been our best friend and we had yet to encounter any crazy Indonesian buses. It all changes now. Believe me we have been on some 'speedy' buses in Vietnam and are accustomed to erratic road ruling drivers but this particular journey was nuts. We didn't book ahead, opting to board a local bus at the station not far from our hotel. We avoided the rusty looking buses and eventually decided on getting a newish looking one with no visible holes.
The driver departed just after lunch and once we escaped the traffic and hit the main road it seemed like the driver had just taken a drink of 'I'm on a mission to scare the living daylights out of every passenger' juice. We
thought we had seen it all before and tried to assure each other that he would settle down and drive normal 'ish. That didn't happen and after 20 minutes he took another sip of crazy juice and started ploughing motorbikes, cars, cycles and anything else off the road. We had to stop. We asked the ticket collector if we could get off and he didn't even ask why, he knew himself that this was the 'BUS OF DOOM'!!
We got off the bus without a clue where we were and within seconds we were surrounded by the WHOLE of the village. Everyone was curious to why we were in a place that probably has never seen a white person. Out of nowhere a lady appeared who spoke a little English and found us a minibus to the train station.
We eventually arrived in Probilbingo about 5pm and hopped on a bemo (small shuttle bus that zips around town) to the bus station hoping to find a bus to take us onward up the Mountain. We stopped at the corner of the station, paid the guy and soon found out that there is no public bus. The touts that
hang around assured us that there was a minibus around the corner with other westerners on waiting to leave straight away. 'Hurry, hurry.. bus leaves now' the touts screamed at us running by our side to catch the bus, agreeing the fee of 25,000 in the process. Just around the corner and the minibus was still there, great we didn't miss it. We threw our bags on and jumped in, only to find 2 other people sitting on the 12 man bus.
Anyone who knows anything about Indonesian buses knows that they don't leave until they are full. Now at 5pm surely no more tourist will be arriving so who is going to fill the empty seats?? The 'BUS MAFIA' (more later) told us we had to wait (so much for rushing). It's weird because there seems to be 3 groups of locals sitting around this bus waiting for something? maybe they are also passengers. I ask one of them, who replied 'no' in broken English and pointed to the road indicating they are waiting for another bus and suddenly one of the mafia jump in front of me and ask me what I am doing, insisting no one
else is on this bus and moving me away from any more locals.
We wait for an hour and the mafia look uneasy. They tell us that we have to 'private charter' the bus. We pay for the whole bus and it's ours, no locals, no stopping.. BUT for 75,000 each rather than the original 25,000, no deal. The other two guys (Marcel and Cindy) both agreed that we will only pay 25 and no more. The mafia shift about and whisper into each others ears, eying us up and seeing how much they can screw us for. I have enough of this and go to the other side of the bus station and ask a few questions about other buses. I ask a security guard (he looked the most likely to tell the truth) but as I began to ask, a mafia tout interrupted and spoke in Indonesian.. where did HE come from?? The once helpful security guard who was just about to tell me the truth changed his expression and waved his head at me before turning away. I moved onto the next person but once again the mafia tout rudely interrupted. This guy was following me
around the bus station to ensure I didn't find another bus!!
Anyway without filling this blog up with stories of speedy drivers and mafia based bus companies we arrived in Bromo at 8pm. After 2 hour of negotiations and paying 35,000 for a private charter (which was shared with the lying locals sitting around the bus waiting for the rich tourist to overpay for the bus.. argghhhh!!! grrrr!!) we checked into our hostel. We opted for a very basic room which consisted of a bed, 4 walls, a ceiling and a floor.
Mt Bromo stands at 2392 meters tall and is our first mountain visit! THE way to see the mountain is to hire a shared jeep with driver, leave at 4am and head up to the viewpoint, take some photos (oh and we did!) watch the sun come up, head back down with a stop off for more snaps, arrive at the crater at the bottom around 6am, climb the 253 steps to the top, peer into a live volcano and then head back around 7am.
We booked our jeep as soon as we arrived. The couple we met on the MAFIA bus (Marcel and Cindy)
were also doing the trip and we all had dinner together while discussing how p*ssed off we all were with the MAFIA.
So, up at 3.30am... wide awake!!! bright eyed and bushy tailed before we knew it we were on board the diesel fumed 4 wheel drive jeep with our very young driver. Good job it was dark and we were sleepy as some of the steep bends on the way up were heart stopping! (we noticed them on the way back down). It was cold. Locals were sitting around camp fires and tourist had their hands wrapped around hot mugs of coffee. We managed to secure a great spot perched on a fence overlooking the sunrise. It was difficult to get everything in the picture as the sun came up on one side and the mountain revealed itself on the other. All we can say is 'WOW'... it's hard to describe but as the sun rose and the mountain became clearer it was simply out of this world. Imagine the mountain from the movie Lord of the Rings, imagine someone lighting up a huge match that makes the sky glow orangey red. Someone felt so strong about it
all they were sick, another person couldn't believe the wonderful view and they had to have a big poo (on the viewpoint, we came across the pile of crap while changing angles for a photo!)
After 250 photos and lots of jostling about with the other tourists for space we headed down to the crater. As soon as we opened the jeep door a horse was on our lap, dripping flem and snorting - nice. Touts offer to take you up the peak in true John Wayne style on horseback... we passed and started our 2 mile hike. The climb up was steep and the air became very thin (don't think we will do mt Everest JUST YET!). In front of us was a long road which led to the bottom of the crater and the 253 steep steps to the top. Michelle didn't feel well and decided to hang back. The smell of the horse manure, the early morning start and everything was too much. I headed on and eventually reached the top of the peak.
Staring inside a mountain was a weird feeling. Straight ahead you can see smoke rising from the cracks in the crater, on
the left I was flanked by other mountain peaks, down a little and realising that one wrong footstep would take you into a volcano, and behind I could see for miles and miles.. tiny little figures getting out of jeeps and starting the climb you have just completed.
I managed to ask a random couple to take a picture at the top before we headed back down and drove back to base... and then to bed!!
The rest of the day was spent relaxing on our balcony over looking the mountains and flicking though the photos we had took, the occasional 'ohhh' and 'ahhhh' !!We took a shower in the shared bathroom which was fun. It was cold, and I mean freezing but more awkward was avoiding the pooh on the floor. We think some locals were staying in the lodge and they stand on the toilet and do their thing rather than sit, and results in missed.. err.. waste!
We met Marcel and Cindy for tea and went for a beer in a cafe with the best view over Bromo. We all watched the sun dip back over the mountain and felt we had seen Bromo
at it's best. The locals had told us that we were very lucky that is was so clear and it was a good day to visit!
That same night before bed we headed back to the lodge and had a few games of cards with our new friends before retiring to bed to catch up on more sleep.
We needed the rest as the next day the MAFIA tricks began again. We had asked them the night before if they would take us down the mountain but when we tried to get on the minibus to leave we were denied. Because we were making our own onward travel from Problibingo rather than booking any tickets from the lodge we were the last priority guests. We had several arguments with the owners of the lodge, the drivers of the mafia and everyone else before we secured a seat back down (paying over the odds for the privilege AGAIN).
Once we arrived back in Problibingo we knew we had to rush. The train left at 11.15am and had 20 minutes to find a minibus to the station, get there, buy our tickets and go. We made it ... JUST.
The train was just about to go when we got into the station and the guy behind the counter selling tickets indicated for the train to wait while we took his time printing out executive train tickets for the tourists!
Thanks for reading (we know it was long!)
see you soon.
Michelle and Lee
There are more photos below