Beware of ITM

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July 11th 2011
Published: August 2nd 2011
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by Jan

After spending 10 whole days in Jogja, it was time to move on, if we wanted to see some other parts of Indonesia. We booked a tour which included the transportation to Mt. Bromo, accomodation for a night and a transportation to Bali the day after.

We got picked up in front of a hotel close to where we were staying at 9 am, as agreed. It all started off really well. The mini van was already more or less full when we got picked up, so I sat next to the driver, while Polona got a seat in the last row, next to a Polish couple who didn't understand that they are supposed to share the three seats with another person.

The 350 km drive took us more than 12 hours as there is no such thing as a higway. All along you are driving through towns and most of the population and bussinesses are concentrated next to the main road. We did have a few stops and when we stoped for lunch Polona and I were up for a shock! All the tourist vans namely stopped at the same place. I walked to the main road to see if there were any local stalls where we could get a bite to eat, but there were none. They know very well where they need to stop to not give you any options. And when we entered the restaurant we almost got blown back to the street! There was somewhere between 200, 300 tourists seating inside! In two months of our trip we have not seen that many tourists in one place, and they were all white (can't say Europeans as there was probably loads of Australians in there as well). Welcome to Indonesia during high season! We had our most expensive meal so far in Indonesia (going for the cheapest items on the menu we spent about 4-5£) and the food was, hmmm, how to put it gently, as good as Wayne Rooney is attractive. It was shit!

At around 9pm or so we arrived to Probolingo, a small town below Mount Bromo, where the van stoped in front of an agency trying to sell us jeep rides for the next days and issuing bus tickets which we already purchased for the next day. Here it all got weird! The guy in the office didn't even look up at any of us, just told us we need to purchase jeep tickets, told us the prices and that was that! He was rude to all of us, and was only interested in the money! When booking a tour we were told you can walk to the view point and didn't go for the jeep rides; he was not impressed. Once we were already out of the door we remembered that we were also told that if you walk you are guided towards the view point, so Polona went back inside to ask about it. Few minutes later she came out and said the guy was really rude to her and was laughing at her etc., so I went in as well. When we asked about the guide the guy said stupid tourist, look how much you paid, and you want a guide?, laughing, without ever even looking up at us from his desk. As you can imagine I started to get a bit annoyed, but at this point I was still somehow keeping my cool. After more laughing, calling us stupid a few more times, we demanded a refund and he said fine (it seems they are doing really well?!) but that he will deduct the transportation to Probolingo. We didn't agree with this as we paid for a whole tour, not for individual parts of it! He agreed to the whole refund and asked for the bus tickets back, when I tried handing them over he changed his mind and said again he will refund only a part of it. I held on to the tickets, but he tore them out of my hands, ripping them in half. At this time I lost my cool and saw red. Not just that he was rude to Polona, insulting her, then did the same to both of us and finally lied to us, he just kept on laughing at our faces. I grabbed him by his shirt and pushed him against the wall, already getting my arm up to,well you get the picture. In a second, the arrogant look on his face changed to one of a child who is scared shitless. A few locals siting outside ran in, as did a fellow Irish traveler (we ran into him the next day and had a chat) and I let go of the guy, who pulled the money out of his pocket and gave us a full refund in a matter of seconds. He kept repeating stupid tourist, stupid tourist[/i}, but he was no longer laughing! I am far from happy about my reaction. It played out OK, but it could have been much, much worse! But after a whole day in the van, he pushed all the wrong buttons.

We left the office, took our bags and walked away. We found another agency and asked about how we could sort out a ride to Mt Bromo this late in the evening. We got told that it might be easier to stay in Probolingo and organize a ride to Mt. Bromo early next morning, like 2:30 AM the next morning. We asked about a guide and got told we don't need one, as there is only one road leading to the view point and we just need to follow the jeeps going the same way! Now, why the f##k couldn't the guy at the previous place just say that! We would have accepted that with no problems and all would be fine!

We sorted out the ride to Mt. Bromo and a night bus for
the next day to Mataram in Lombok (where we wanted to go) and got told about a cheap hotel where we could stay the night. We took a becak to the hotel as we were told it's close. It took almost half an hour and we were followed by a weirdo on a motorbike all the way to the door but at about 11pm we were finally in our room. Before we had a shower (well, a bucketing) and a bite to eat it was almost midnight and we had to be up two and a half hours later.

Right, Mt. Bromo or Gunung Bromo, which is the official name, is an active volcano. And the best time to see the volcano is during the sun rise. If you are staying in the village close by you have to wake up at about 4 am, but as we were staying in Probolingo we had to be up at 2:30 am.

We got picked up on time and arrived to the point from where you have to walk (or take a jeep or a horse) about an hour later and started walking! Let me tell you, it was cold. Luckily we expected it and put enough layers on, otherwise you can borrow a jacket at the spot as well. The road is covered in ashes and dust from the volcano and everytime the jeep passes by it all gets lifted up in the air. We didn't walk all the way to the view points but stopped a bit before where all the jeep drivers parked and found a nice spot where we could enjoy the view by ourselves. More than 80 jeeps drove to the view point, so there were more than 400 people there!

The volcano seemed impressive while it was still dark but when the sun came up the view was amazing! Well worth all the trouble, the early wake up call, the walking etc. Well, just have a look at the pics [😊}.

We were back at the starting point before 7 am where we ran into the Irish guy who ran to my help less than 12 hours ago and his girlfriend. They were very pissed off as they had an eventfull time since we last saw them. The bus that took them to Mt. Bromo did not have enough seats (even if there were two people less than planned) so they had to sit on the floor for more than an hour and a half going up the hill (reminder: this is a paid tour, not a regular transport). They got dropped in a hotel a few kilometers away from the starting point even though they booked and paid for the one closer to it. They were told that a van would pick them up in the morning to take them there, but it didn't. After arguing and the guy loosing it (not as bad as I did) they got put in to a jeep and were taken to the point, but not before his girlfriend got insulted (in the sense: why is a woman even talking) and him getting told that she is mad – didn't sit very well with him and so on and so on.

It seems the whole Bromo tourism is run by, as I call them ITM: Indonesian Tourist Mob whose only concern is getting the money from your pockets into theirs. And with the amount of people visiting Mt. Bromo they are having a great time!

After the view point you walk to the actual crater as well but we passed. We were dead tired after sleeping for just a few hours and seeing the hoards of people walking in a very long line up and down the stairs to the crater we lost all interest. We just wanted to get back to the hotel and have a few hours of sleep before the 1pm check out time. But that proved out to be much more difficult than expected! Our driver was nowhere to be found for more than an hour (he was supposed to be waiting for us at one of the hotels) and when we finally found him we were told we are going back with a different van. At least the van was unlocked and we slept for a while before finally heading back at around 10 am. The van was full of other people (we paid for a private van) and we made it back to the hotel just before noon. I slept for an hour, while Polona decided she will spend the time washing her hair to get all the ashes out. I couln't have cared less 😊 about my hair, I just wanted to sleep!

After checking out of the hotel we went for a walk around Probolingo to kill the time untill our 6 pm bus ride. Probolingo is a small town that doesn't get many tourists as most of them just pass by to get to Bromo, but don't actually stop here. We got a lot of hellos from the locals, loads of smiles and so on. And when looking for an internet caffee a nice security guard reminded us how nice Indonesians can be. He had no clue where the caffee is but when we were already about 50 meters away he called us back as he checked with his friends. And as it was a bit further away he got his motorbike and drove us all the way there. He actually wanted to wait for us so that he could take us back but we explained we might be a while 😊. Such a nice guy!

When the time came for us to be picked up at our hotel to go to the bus stop the guy with the becak showed up and told us he is picking us up. We were a bit late so we were worried as the avarage speed of becak is probably lower than 10 km/h. We were running late and we got a bit worried, we actually got some help from a motorbike driver along the way, pushing the becak in front of it. We got to the bus stop (well, not a stop, just a yard in front of an office late, but not to worry, as the bus was late as well 😊

The bus did eventually show up, we got on, noticed we are the only tourists on it (as we like it 😉 and headed for Mataram. We arrived at Mataram around 11 am the next day and before the bus even managed to stop we could see a few people running towards it. Damn, we were spotted! A guy started knocking on our window and then managed to jump on to a still moving bus and started going at us where you go, where you go?. After the experience we had in Bromo we decided we would get to our next destination, port town towards Gili islands, by public transport. We ignored the guy and just got our bags while he kept following us. We asked somebody where we could get a bemo (small van) to Gilis and when our follower heard where we are heading he started negotiating with himself. He did well, lowering the starting price from 150.000 rupiah down to 80.000 without the two of us participating in the process at all.

It took us a while to figure out where the bemo stop was, but once we found it we agreed to pay 30.000 for both of us (when you are a tourist, the prices go sky high, so you need to bargain hard!). We had to wait for a while, which gave us a chance to get some food and load our SIM card. Here the kindness of locals came up again, as once more we got a free motorbike ride to the shop and back. See, Indonesians are amazing, really nice people, just not the ones working for ITM 😊. The port town, Bangsal , is supposed to be a nightmare stop for any tourist, but we were lucky! It was raining, so when we got to the bus stop there was nobody there apart from one horse carriage which took us all the way to the pier. There we quickly bought our tickets and jumped on the boat. Lonely planet, online pages and forums all warn travelers about Bangsal, but this time we caught a break. ,Officially the boat is allowed to carry 20 people, well there were more than 40 on it plus loads of cargo but it was fine, in about an hour's time we landed on Gili Trawagan! All together it took us about 24 hours to get there, starting with a becak, moving to a bus, changing two ferries, a bemo, a horse carriage and at the end a boat! With a help of Donald (another Irish lad - so far Irish people were all extremely nice, without exception) we settled down in a hotel run by Romi, who as we learned later is also a member of ITM 😊. More about that next time!

Till then!

Two ferry rides and 14 hours later we arrived at Mataram from where we still needed to somehow get to Gili.

P.s. We got a regular gig on a Slovenian radion show Gori, doli, naokoli thanks to Mojca. See below the links to our first two reportings (in Slovenian). We are actually getting paid a bit for it 😊. Wiiiii!

Radio report about Jogja

Radio report about Bromo & a bit of Gili


16th October 2011
Waiting for the sun rise

Getting better!
I can tell u are getting better with your camera. Nice shot!

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