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Published: June 22nd 2015
The idea of getting close to an active volcano known to cause mass destruction was exciting for us and was actually one of the main reasons we wanted to come to Indonesia. The closest either of us had been to an active volcano was when P travelled central america and went to Guatemala but it was too dangerous to get close enough to see into the crater.
Unsure exactly how beautiful the scenary would be, we were more excited about the prospect of a DIY trekking opportunity, up a mountain to watch the sunrise and the trek up the crater itself.
From Solo, we woke up and missed our train the only train to Probolingo and so decided to book one of the tourist minibuses picking us up at 10am for 200,000 Rupiah taking 10 hours to get to Bromo. At least it would take us to Cemoro Lewang directly.
The journey was horribly long to be sat in a very squashed minibus. Throughout the journey we constantly changed positions trying to get comfortable, edging in and out of consciousness.
During the journey we were quite taken back by the amount of greenery with many scenes of
people in rice terraces tending or planting rice. This reminded us of
Banaue (Philippines) and even Myanmar.
We say surprised because when in Jogjakarta, during one of our conversations with the most annoying man possible (who we tried to avoid but the lobby was the only place to get a WiFi signal) he had told us he had not seen any greenery during his time on Java. We therefore stupidly listened to him when he said due to the population numbers there was a distinct lack of greenery. Bearing in mind this guy had already made the journey in the reverse we thought it made sense.
In hindsight this guy's observations must have been made with his eyes closed. In truth there were many towns and built up areas but equally we saw lots of green land always being cultivated. Nothing really wasted. In all actuality we felt the urge to stop the van to take pictures. Not that we were going to do this. What was a shame however is that at the road side in front of such scenes were many cable lines and sometimes huge towers found right in the middle of some of them
obscuring their beauty and being a contrasted symbol of bold manufactured metal.
As most of the passengers had took the journey from jogja, the van was full so we had to sit in seperate seats, both however next to equally entertaining passengers.
Chris sat next to 2 Chinese women, who thought it would be appropriate to sing and hum throughout the journey. Like who does this?
P sat next to a Spanish woman and her grown daughter. The mother was edgy the whole journey sitting upright, gripping her seat while her eyes were glued to the road and she made shrieks everytime the driver manoeuvred in between traffic, sometimes going off road to beat traffic. I don't know why she did this to herself, sometimes it's best not to watch.
As per usual on a long bus journey we made a pit stop at a food place. However what was annoying was as we caught the tourist minibus we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere at an overpriced restaurant. At first we tried to resist paying these ridiculous prices although in the end as we were hungry we gave in and watched the taxi driver
get his commission at the end.
To make things worse when we all just wanted to be dropped off at our homestay in Cemoro lewang (one we hadn't booked yet) 10 hours into our journey we were dropped at a tour agency in Probolingo.
They convinced the whole van, that it was not possible to trek to the viewpoint. P told other travellers in the group that she heard it was possible as we were going to attempt it ourselves. This did not go down well with the tour agency. Nevertheless the whole group booked the jeep tour regardless and all purchased park entrance fees here. We had read these are not official tickets and are pocketed by the agency with a tip given to the men at the entrance gates.
Being the only ones who had not booked or purchased anything, this made us question whether we were doing the right thing. We however kept with our initial plan as we told ourselves we could always stay another night and do the jeep tour the following day if our diy trek did not work out.
The drivers of the agency also take a cut and
resultingly as we did not book the tour with them, they turned on us. First they were unwilling to let us out of the bus until all the other passengers had been dropped off to their assigned hotels. We had not booked a package, so they took us to a Homestay with inflated prices demanding "you stay here" unwilling to let us get our bags at first, raising their voices in our faces. Not willing to pay the inflated price of a commissioned arrangement we went back to the van took our bags and in return they shouted what must have been profanities at us. This was really unsettling, plus it was around 10:30pm, everywhere appeared closed. We did however find another place to stay that was a lot cheaper, but not necessarily cheerful (although neither was the first which appeared to be a bed in a corridor).
After finally finding somewhere to stay, we threw our bags inside and went for something to eat. We found a small local eatery that turned out to be really pleasant (Nasi Goreng with a side noodle soup dish of soto ayam; Perfect).
Acknowledging we had 3 hours left before we had to
start our trek we jumped straight into the uncomfortable bed and tried to drift off. It was not as easy as we thought it would be as it was extremely cold in our room.
After 3 very short hours the alarm went off at 2:30am and we both questioned whether it was going to be worth it; getting out of bed to climb some mountain. The room was freezing, no doubt it would be worse outside, it was pitch black and we were really tired.
Trying to convince ourselves it would be worth it, we reluctantly rolled out of bed.
We had read that the trek to the viewpoint is at the top of Mount Pananjakan and should follow a paved road until the road ends and you climb a footpath (leading to viewpoint 2) roughly taking 90 minutes. From there we would make our way further up to viewpoint 1(or just below it) to get the best views. This would take another hour.
With our flashlights on we entered the cold darkness. The paved road we followed was slightly uphill but was easy enough to walk, the footpath however although well trodden was much steeper and
The smell of rotten eggs is strong
so required a bit more energy and a few stops to get out breaths back or to overcome the burn in our legs.
On the way we only came across one other western couple and a Chinese guy who made it up with a local guide. It took us 1 hour to get to viewpoint 2. Determined to carry on, to a better viewpoint albeit a more crowded one we climbed the second part of the trail to viewpoint 1. I’m sure viewpoint 2 would have been spectacular given that it would be secluded with 99% of tourists taking the jeep’s taking a paved route up to very top. We however wanted a better arial view and so climbed up further.
The second part of the trek was supposed to take us 1 hour but only took us 30mins. That might sound easy but this was far from easy, navigating steep uneven trails in an area that was not well trodden at all and with branches scratching us at either sides. It was treacherous, all while doing so in complete darkness except for our ever fading headlamps.
Instead of going all the way to the top, we
stopped at a viewing platform just below viewpoint 1 and were grateful for the local men serving coffee and tea here. It did get busier but we always had good views so we were happy that we came up to this point and not to tourist central at the very top.
The light cast on the landscape before and during the sunrise was very beautiful. All the colours in the sky slowly making Mount Bromo and the neighbouring volcanoes visible was captivating. We always say it but our pictures cannot do this place justice, plus we took far too many. We had a moment at our viewpoint as we reminded ourselves that quitting our jobs, selling our house was worth it just by moments like this. We both agreed that this rivalled Bagan for us in terms of scenery (although such a comparison is not really possible as the 2 are very different). Futhermore we we both thought that despite the many tourists that we shared such an experience with, what we had just witnessed was truly spectacular and will stay with us for a long time.
We really wanted to stay longer but we also wanted to
climb the Bromo creator itself. We knew the walk from the viewpoint would take 3 hours or so, so after the sunrise the skies were bright, the temperature warm again, we took off some layers and made our way back the same way we came up. Down the mountain. As we did, we laughed to ourselves saying how difficult the trail looked in day light and we did this at night with only our head torches.
Once we reached the paved road, using our offline app we found a trail down the side of the mountain and into the desert like terrain. Walking across this huge plain of land leading to Bromo was stunning, all void of anything and real dusty. There was no settlement or sign of life here other than ourselves. We understood the reference that described it as the sea of sand. On our way we had some fun taking some jumping pictures in front of the Volcano and saw no one else apart from a local guy riding a horse to the crater. It took us 2.5 hours from the viewpoint to the crater of Bromo.
Arriving at the volcano base, there were many
jeeps and locals offering horse rides to climb up a steep hill. Not many people took these rides, mainly just the local tourists. Plus it did not take you all the way to the top of the crater as you still had to climb a flight of stairs.
Arriving at the top was mentally rewarding, standing on the edge of such a dangerous volcano looking into its crater and admiring the absolutely stunning views around had us both silent for a minute or two. It was not as rewarding as the sunrise itself but still truly spectacular. After 20 minutes at the top, we both congratulated ourselves and started the final leg of the journey; back to the town. This took over 1 hour and again followed a different path from the jeeps as we followed a trail across the desert like terrain to the mountains and up a steep mountain footpath to the town. Again the remoteness of it all made it truly breath taking.
We were back 6.5 hours after we left (including 5 hours of trekking) and it was only 9am. It was still morning and we had climbed a mountain and a volcano in the
last 6 hours, not something you can usually say at 9am. Plus we did it on our own. That was our own little achievement and regardless of whether the jeep tour was cheap or not we would have done it the same way in a heartbeat.
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