Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo

Saturday, March 30th:
The 3:00 am wake up call wasn't quite as bad as it sounds, since we managed to go to sleep at 9:00 pm. When we got outside we saw to our great surprise, that the entire town was already awake and incredibly busy at 3:00 am. Henry was waiting for us and we got into a small Jeep. There were hundreds and hundreds of these Jeeps together with probably a thousand little motor bikes and scooters driving up through the small town. During the first hour we hardly moved at all. It was complete and utter traffic chaos here. Everyone honked and tried to squeeze into impossibly tight spaces, which made the entire gridlock even worse. It was hard to imagine how we would ever get through this, but somehow we managed to eventually get to the gate of the park, where everyone has to buy a ticket (which seems to be one of the reasons for the traffic chaos further down).

After that, traffic ran a little smother. We drove across the Sea of Sand. At this stage it was still completely dark, so we didn't see Mt Bromo, which was apparently right next to us. The road up to Mt Penanjakan is paved. After another couple of kilometers we had to stop, since there were cars parked left and right of the street, and no one could get through any further. We parked the car and started walking up the road along with a few other thousand people, and lots of motor bikes offering us a ride up. This is one of the reasons you have to get up this early. The later you get up, the further down you park, and the longer you hike up. Our guide Henry told us to go as fast as we can otherwise we might miss the sunrise 5:20. The walk only took about 20 min, and we got there at least 30 min before sunrise.

Seeing the sunrise over Mt Bromo clearly was not going to be the quiet zen like experience we had imagined. There were literally thousands of people cramped on every last ledge on the terrace and along the hillside. It also was a three day weekend in Indonesia, so there were a lot of local people in addition to the tourists here. Henry found us a place underneath the main viewing terrace on a little path above a big drop off. So we hoped there weren't more people squeezing in here and pushing us off. But it was all very cheerful and everyone was very polite and friendly, and no one pushed or shoved.

The changing colors of the sky in front of us were beautiful as it started to get lighter very slowly, but we only realized after about half an hour or so, that Henry had put us in a position, where we could see the sunrise but not Mount Bromo. Apparently, seeing the sunrise here is a big deal for Indonesians, so he had assumed that the sunrise is the most important reason why we were here. We had to walk around the terrace to see the actual reason we came here, the view of Mount Bromo, Mount Batok and Mount Semeru. It was already light by the time we saw them, but this was one of the most amazing views I had ever seen.

It is an unreal landscape - no plants, just ash, sand and these three enormous volcanoes. Mt Bromo, which is just a huge crater and the much higher Mt Semeru (3676m) in the distance are both active and smoking, whereas the almost perfect cone of Mt Batuk in the foreground is dormant. We spent quite a lot of time up here taking pictures. We were very lucky about the weather, as the people who came up here the day before saw nothing but fog.

Mount Bromo
Mount Batok
Mount Semeru

After about an hour or so we started to make our way down again from Mt Penanjakan, which was quite slow going as well, as the whole traffic was now moving downhill at the same time and every car parked on the road now had to do a u-turn on the very narrow road. We stopped a couple more times on the way down to get slightly different views. Back down on the Sea of Sand (which is really more ash than sand) we parked together with all the other Jeeps right in front of Mt Bromo. We walked up towards the crater wall together with several hundred other people. There were also horses available for people who didn't want to walk. They had built stairs on the steepest last 100 meters or so up the crater, but since we didn't have a lot of time and the crowds on the stairs seemed to be moving very slowly, we decided to keep climbing next to the staircase. On top of the crater wall another amazing sight greeted us. The huge crater has a deep hole at the bottom with lots of smoke belching out. We spent a bit of time sitting on the crater wall enjoying the view before we walked back down to the cars.

Walking up to Mount Bromo:

The Crater Rim:

The traffic on the way back was just as crazy and chaotic again, as now the streets were blocked by lots of cars and buses parked on the side. We finally made it back to the hotel by 9:00 am, just enough time for a quick breakfast and shower before we got back in our car for the 3 to 4 hour drive to Surabaya. The drive was a bit scary as our driver now went very fast and used every opportunity to overtake other cars left or right. About 2 hours into it we suddenly heard a strange rattling sound from the back of the car. Our driver stopped at a service station and discovered a blown rear tire. He managed to replace it pretty quickly though, and we were back on a our way after about 20 min (going just as fast as before).

They dropped us off at the Surabaya train station for our 3:00 pm train to Yogyakarta, which takes 4 hours 45 min. The train ride was very nice (we were in Executive Class) and fairly uneventful. There are people selling interesting food at every station we stopped. We decided to try a few things from the stations rather than the Nasi Goreng, which the train staff seemed to offer us about every 20 min. The train arrived in Yogyakarta 30 min late, and it was raining pretty heavily here. We got a taxi to the very nice Phoenix Hotel.

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