The Mud Volcano and Drive to Mt Bromo

The Mud Volcano and
Drive to Mount Bromo

Friday, March 29th:
It was an early morning start today to get to our 7:35am flight on AirAsia from Denpasar to Surabaya, which is on the Eastern end of Java Island. It's a very short flight, less than an hour, and we are reminded that AirAsia is a far better airline than all the other budget airlines in Asia.

We are picked up at Surabaya airport by our new guide Henry. Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia with about 2.5m people. We don't see anything in Surabaya and drive straight towards Mount Bromo, but first we stop to see one of the weirder things I have ever seen in my life: The Lusi Mud Volcano near the town of Porong, also known by it's official name as the Sidoarjo Mud Flow:

It is the largest mud volcano in the world, and it started erupting in May 2006 following a blowout in a natural gas well (the oil and gas company responsible still disputes that the eruption has anything to do with the drilling). The mud volcano has now been spewing thick black and smelly mud for 7 years, and although the amount of material ejected has been reduced significantly from the peak, it is expected to keep spewing out mud for another 25 to 30 years. In 2007 they built a large wall around it in order to contain it. We climb up to the rim of the dyke to see the huge area completely buried in up to 70 meters of mud. The mud stretches out all the way the horizon. It now covers an area of about 2 by 3 km. We can see white clouds in the distance were the main eruption is still happening.

We get two guys to drive us around the perimeter wall on scooters and then further along a dyke deeper towards the centre of whole area. We can even walk a little bit onto the mud, but we have to be very careful, since in most places the mud is still very soft and hot.

The eruption has inundated 16 villages and several factories and displaced thousands of people. Although a geological study in 2012 has concluded that the mud flow was definitely caused by misconduct at the drilling operation, PT Lapindo Brantas, the company responsible, still disputes any fault on their behalf, and that is why the people who lost their homes and livelihoods are still waiting for any kind of compensation.

The drive to Mt Bromo takes about 4 hours, the last hour of which takes us high up into the mountains on a fairly narrow road with the occasional huge pot hole. The landscape up here is very different, instead of rice fields we see vegetable fields, mainly potatoes, onions, and lots of cabbage fields. Apparently this area is also famous for it Edelweiss flowers. We get to the very nice Java Banana Lodge (near the town of Probolinggo) around noon.

In the afternoon we go on a walk near the lodge through the villages. We walk down to a bat cave. It requires a bit of scrambling and we get quite dirty, but it turns out well worth the effort. The bat cave is an overhanging rock over a river bed. And on the ceiling there are thousands and thousands of bats. A lot of them fly around and make a lot of noise. Quite an impressive sight.

We also see a couple of small Hindu temples. Although the vast majority of people in Java are Muslims, the people around this area are mostly Hindu. It is nice and cool up here, probably not much more than 15 degrees. We are now at about 2000 m above sea level.

We have a very nice dinner at the hotel restaurant, and then go to bed very early, because all our alarms are set for 3 am. (Yes, that is not a misprint. The car to take us up to Mt Bromo will pick us up at 3:30am). 


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