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Published: February 28th 2015
We met the van in the morning and escaped from Kuta on the stupidly slow highway up the coast to Gilimanuk. This is where the ferry leaves from Bali to Banyuwangi on Java. The ferry ride is not much more than a puddle jump. There are a number of companies running back and forth with no obvious schedule or anything. The boats just get out into the harbour and jockey for position looking for an opportunity to get called into the dock.
Once we got onto Java, the van rolled onto the city of Probolinggo before veering left into the hills towards the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. The higher the climb the cooler the climate and the landscape started to change. It was a sharp change as the road was not only rising in elevation but also getting further away from the coast. Before we knew it we pulled into the small town of Cemoro Lawang which serves as the best jumping off point for the tours of the active volcano Mt. Bromo. This stretch of the drive was 5-6 hours and we arrived in town quite late. All of the guesthouses were booked up so our driver helped us and our van mates find accommodation in the driver quarters of one of the guesthouses. It was basic but we were not there long as the jeep left at 4am to hit the sunrise.
Early the next morning we crawled out of bed and got bundled up for the sunrise. It was cold and we were wearing most of the clothes we brought to this tropical getaway! We piled into the jeep with our group and made off into the crater and up Mt. Penanjakan where you find the sunrise viewpoint over the crater below and Mt. Bromo in the distance. This is a standard on the tourist trail and the viewpoint was packed. There were 100+ jeeps full of people (no joking) making their was up Mt. Penanjakan. While the others stopped for breakfast or tea we took a straight shot to the top to get a good spot. We were glad we did as we had a great elevated view over the rest of the crowd and were able to keep the tourist cattle at bay as they started to pile in. The sunrise happens slowly as it grows from pitch black to a red glow to an orange sky before the sun crested the horizon lighting up the crater below. This has to be one of the most striking sunrises we have ever witnessed. Mt. Bromo is silhouetted against the sunrise with a steady plume of smoke rising from the centre of the volcano. In the distance there are dozens of different volcanoes of different sizes and activity. The crater looks like another world.
After we got out of the viewpoint we made our way back to the jeep which took us back down to the base of Bromo to meet the trail that leads you up the volcano. We have never been this close to an active volcano so this was the highlight of the tour for us. One more thing to check off the geographical bucket list. We hit the trail head and the groups were already making their way up the stairs. You can hire horses to take you to the top as well if you're lazy or physically unable. We spotted some adventurous travelers taking the hard route up the side of the mountain instead so naturally we followed them! The climbing was tough as it was soft sand and dust. Making our way to the top we started to hear a few people ahead of us start to hack and cough. We didn't think much of it until it hit us; a wave of sulphur that just ate at your lungs like you would not believe. This was a little unexpected but it got better once we checked our deep breathing and ripped off our shirts to cover our mouths. Now this started to feel like an adventure! We reached the crater and peered over the edge. It was a steep sloping drop down into the centre of the volcano that was rumbling and steaming away like mad. I didn't realize how loud an active volcano would be. It felt like this was a port hole into the centre of the earth. No wonder so many tribes and civilizations over time have revered volcanoes. Jay had enough after a little bit and headed back down to get a good breath. I was pretty mesmerized and just stared into the crater in awe. Come to think of it that might have been a severe lack of oxygen to the brain but it was pretty cool at the time.
After the hike down the volcano we loaded back up into the jeep and made our way back to Cemoro Lawang where we switched to another van for the onward journey. This was a whirlwind tour but worth it nonetheless. It was nice to get away from the beach again to see something different. This trip has been the perfect mix of beach time and wicked jungle/volcano/cultural time. Next stop the historic city of Yogyakarta in the heartland of Java.
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