2 pm. The alarm goes off. Meh. And once again, I have a sore throat due to the air conditioning. 15 minutes later the phone rings. Huh? A wake up call – although we did not order it, the staff thought that we should be on the safe side after we mentioned our trip and the upcoming check-out for today. They even prepared a breakfast-package for us! Awesome ! Our shuttle to Mount Bromo doesn’t take long to arrive. Punctually at 2:30 am we are on our way.
We are quite some time on the road till we arrive at the small village Cemoro Lawang next to some smaller hotels. We get out of the car and have a little time to strech our legs. A few moments later, Tammy (from the States) and Eduardo (from Brazil) join us. Our next vehicle will be an older jeep, which seems to be still quite sturdy though. We enter the jeep through the rear door and join a couple from Thailand and France. Tammy and Eduardo take the seats in the front next to the driver. We got an interesting mixture of people in the car – all 7 having a different nationalities ()
You really need a genuine off-road vehicle here: The unpaved serpentine road is not only extremely narrow but also quite sloping. Steep rocky walls along the left side of the road and deep abysses without any vegetation on the right side. You can get really get a “baaaad feeling” about this here, since we have just about 3-5m visibility through all the fog. Although our driver seems to be very experienced, Tammy is more likely to solve the tension with her deliberately squeaky voice: “Ohmagawd, we’re all gonna dieeeeeeee!”
Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park –
After a few hours ride we reach the entrance to the national park for which we have to pay 200000 IDR (13.88 USD) entry per person. We arrive at a paved road with lots of other off-road vehicles parking on both sides.
We have finally arrived at Pinajakan II (the famous viewpoint from which probably 3/4 of all Mount Bromo pictures are taken)! We get out – and abruptly feel the much lower temperature. Wow. The hoodie I took along doesn’t seem to keep me warm at all – but luckily you can rent some warm jackets here…
Then the reality-flash: According to the amount of parked jeeps I am not expecting it to be exactly “empty” here. Rather the opposite. A large number of people have lined up along the railing to get the best view of the volcanoes – and the sun is nowhere to be seen yet. It is also particularly foggy today – you can only see some parts of the volcanic landscape, but this does not affect the impressive view. Once again the reality defers from all those “perfect” photos in the net. There is still a small edge behind the railing, on which there are already 2 other people. Whatever – this way I won’t have a “good” position for taking photos, at at least a little more “personal space”. I climb over the railing and sit down on the floor. The guy next to me grins: “Damn tourists, eh?” And waves with his camera. “Don’t you dare to ruin my professional photos!” – I wave with my cam on the one hand and jokily show my other clenched fist. Hmm, I remember my trip to Greece with my buddy Florian a couple of years ago. Back then I deliberately decided not to take any camera with me so I wouldn’t take pictures like a maniac. Things have changed I’m afraid, the image counter on the compact camera is already close to the 4-digit range. I don’t think anybody is “one with nature” and all the crap during travelling. Whether you put the label “traveller” or “tourist” on yourself it is just some sugarcoating after all.
The place clears up after a while, since some people are already heading towards their jeeps to continue to the volcano. Though I have already devoured my breakfast-package on the journey up here, my stomach is growling again – fortunately, there are different kinds of streetfood: Jagung Bakar for example – I like corn Somehow we manage to find our group at the jeep while following all the human masses (Unfortunately, the jeeps look almost all the same – I could have taken a photo of the license plate, but I didn’t think of that…). Next, we are on our way to the caldera, riding through a wide plain, the Segara Wedi (Sea of Sand). Arriving at the edge of the caldera, we have to walk about 5km to reach the highest point (eighter that or you can rent a pony). While walking through the ashes and the sand, the fog and dust make the landscape look almost unreal… Combined with all the ponies passing by, I have to inevitably think about the movie “Hidalgo”…
Halfway there the silhouette of a temple appears through the mixture of fog and dust – Pura Luhur Poten as I am told later. Some piles of stones have been positioned leading the way so you don’t get lost in the poor visibility. I really hope that the folks in front of us are going in the right direction .
At some point we reach the first volcanic rocks, then we have to follow a path going uphill until we reach a plateau just below Mount Bromo. We’re almost there – there is just a quite steep staircase with about 300 steps to be climbed. Anyhow, you have to watch out here since it is quite slippery at some places and a gust of wind from the side can blow sand and ashes into the eyes (It is also recommended to climb slowly, this isn’t a race). But the climb is absolutely worth it: You get an unforgettable and unique view from above: On the ascending side you can see the sand desert just below with some occasionally small whirlwinds in the plain. The crater of Bromo is even more impressive with its constantly rising smoke clouds.
The crater rim itself narrows on the left side of the staircase and leads up to Bromos highest point. However, you only have an about 40cm narrow path to walk on. I go on a few meters but as fog starts to take my sight I return to the area with the railing – Nah, I’m quite attached to my life… But doing some paragliding here..? This would be a whole different story…
We enjoy the view for a while and decide to slowly climb down the stairs again. Meanwhile the fog has cleared and you can notice some sculptures that have been cut into the rock – probably made by locals rather than by travelers… these certainly took a while to get them right. We continue with our jeep to the entrance to the caldera and get picked up by the shuttle to Probolinggo. Unfortunately, just about 15min after passing Cemoro Lawang the car begins to skidder: A flat tire. Looking at our watches we get a bit nervous – We may not be able to catch our ride to Yogyakarta. During the changing of the tire I get to talk to two British girls who have planned their route in the exactly opposite way. We exchange information for Bali, the Gilis, Yogyakarta and Jakarta. Nice :) .
The tire gets changed quite quickly… We get to our hotel just about 15 min before the shuttle to Yogyakarta arrives… Lucky .
We pack in a hurry and get picked up by a rickety minivan. The driver does some detours to pick up some other guys riding with us: Two guys from Sweden (Phil and Tom) and we get to see Eduardo again There are also 2 Javanese boys already sitting on the front bench. Although 5 people would have quite lots of space in the rear of the car, all the backpacks and the narrow seat benches make the ride quite “cozy”. We decide to split up on all three benches, more lying on them than sitting. About an hour later, the first boy gets dropped off in the middle of nowhere. So far, it doesn’t seem that we have been driving on some country road. There have always been buildings on both sides of the road. Strange.
We have some more detours, in which our driver stops at different houses to load and unload all kinds of different packages (Everyone in the van seems to be confused now). Then there is a longer break: He enters a house in a rural area and we kinda expect that he will pick up some package again. After waiting about 15 min I decide to open open the sliding door and get out. The van started to heat up in the sun. Everyone else decides to follow me – it was extremely uncomfortable in there. Unfortunately Arif, the boy who was sitting next to the driver doesn’t eighter have a clue what is going on here, he is just as perplexed as us.
Another 30 minutes later, our driver appears, chewing, still having half a sandwich in his hand. For real? He could have told us that he wanted to go home for lunch – we then could also have looked for a Warung or something. Instead, we get yelled “Gogo, fast in car!” at with full mouth. Dude…
We had taken some different kind snacks for the ride, same as the 3 other guys – we decide to just share everything among us – Arif seems also to be quite happy about this. Actually he should have already been at home at this time, he says. About an hour later we can drop him off. Slowly, fatigue spreads among us. After all, we didn’t really had much sleep today (Phil and Tom were on Mount Bromo this morning aswell) – But we cannot lose a thought about sleeping right now, since any attempt to doze off gets interrupted by risky overtaking maneuvers and abrupt braking. Statistically speaking, the van could have been transformed into a bizarre abstract masterpiece dozens of times. We try to take everything with a grim sense of humor.
Somewhere at a wide traffic crossroads we have to wait at the traffic lights. The lights turn green, we start driving… the engine starts clattering… and floods. We still have enough momentum to slowly roll into the intersection. I quickly open the sliding door, we get out and push – the engine clatters, grumbles… and we all get covered in a huge cloud of smoke, but at least we seem to be able to continue our ride. Meanwhile, the traffic light on the crossroad has jumped to red and the first scooters coming from the other side wind past us. We really seem to have quite some “luck” with choosing our rides in Java. First the ride from Denpasar to Probolinggo, then the flat tire this morning, now this .
The proceeding ride is just as shitty. Our grim sense of humor soon starts fading and changes into frustration. Even the small break around 6 pm we have for dinner at a service station cannot change anything about it. About 9-10 hours were actually predicted for this ride – we are now sitting for more than 13 ( ! ) in the way too narrow minibus. The last delivery the driver is about to make is just at the city limits of Yogyakarta, and this is aswell the place he wants to drop us of – Now we are definitely fed up with everything. The deal was to drop us off in the city center and not in the middle of nowhere. And this is how we get into our first argument…
Disgruntled, however, the driver seems to give up – everyone has paid a fixed price and there shouldn’t be an unwanted “sightseeing tour” through all kinds of different villages included in it. But as we get to the inner city and arrive at the train station we have a second argument: “You pay extra for center, long drive” – That wasn’t the deal, pal. You are doing your own side-business with the transfer company’s vehicle, leave us without a single word sitting in the bus while taking a break at your home, don’t want to drop us off at the agreed destination, and now you want even more money? Nope .
The whole situation heats up the moment we refuse – then he decides to threaten us . “I punch your face”. Yeah, right. You want to go up against 4 guys, hmm? Empty threats – he also realizes that this is going nowhere as we don’t give in. Pissed off, he gives up while we take off and search for a nearby hostel. As we turn around the corner, we hear the non-starting van-engine with some sort of satisfaction. Asshole.
We get into the very fist hostel we see: Tiny little rooms and no windows. Doesn’t matter. At least a bed to sleep.