Textbook. I arrived in the village of Cemoro Lawang mid morning for a cost of less than I would normally pay for a night’s accommodation. Sure I was tired but the Dieng effect kicked in as I looked out over the sharp drop below and across the Laotian Pasir (sea of sand) to a smoldering Mount Bromo. Tiredness immediately evaporated and I reached for possibly one last time for my much abused walking shoes.
The activity around Bromo appeared to be something that happened during the morning. From my vantage point I could see that the clouds were not in and hatched a plan to head up to the crater after lunch when I guessed it would be noticeably quieter. Over food I met the first English traveler in Indonesia. We talked for a while and I convinced him as to the merits of my idea. We cleared the bill and set off.
To make it a little more interesting (and as it turned out avoided the ticket booth) we scrambled down a small insignificant path that ran down the cliff to the plateau below. By the time I had reached the bottom I had become covered in ash. The whole surrounding area to Bromo has become cloaked in volcanic ash. It creates a landscape that is so unique that it is the definition of breathtaking.
From above the Laotian Pasir appears relatively flat and covers a couple of kilometers until the foot of Bromo. On the ground it is indeed flat for the most part but then changes and becomes far more reminiscent of the Sahara desert, except there is no sand here just layers and layers of ash. I couldn’t help but recall Hampi in India. Not because they shared any similarities in how they looked but rather in just how different both places are to anything I had seen before. In Bromo I found myself continuously stopping and surveying the mountains that surrounded me, the volcanoes in the distance and this layer of ash to battle over. It was just incredible.
A closed off Hindu temple stands at the foot of Bromo where it is then a hundred or so steps to the top. Mount Bromo’s collapsed crater was very quickly reached. The top precarious, it looked as if there once was a fence that has long fallen away. Sitting on a ledge, dangling my feet over the crater; the wind was blowing the right direction keeping the smoke well away.
Not as active as Kericini, the crater was far more easy to observe. It was a long way down and quite frankly a little unnerving. We made our way back both lost a little for words as to the landscape. Chris asked whether it was the best volcano I had seen. I couldn’t say. They’ve all been very different, each one special in their own way.
The following morning I was up at three in the morning and began my solitary walk up to Gunung Penanjakan. Chris had pre booked himself onto one of the dozens of four by fours that appear from nowhere shepherding people up the mountain in time for sunrise. I can’t think of a moment on this trip where I have felt so smug. It was a true triumph both for the local business men and for the three or so people and me who walked it.
After half an hour of walking I noticed the string of four by fours had ground to a halt. They could go no further. People had paid incredible sums of money to not have to walk half an hour! I skipped on ahead of the early arrivals and reached the view point in just over an hour. Looking back to the road it was alight with queues of these four by fours. I still have no idea where all these people came from, although it did make me laugh to see the car park stretching almost as far back as I had started walking from.
Expecting a lot of people I scrambled up the mud bank and continued walking up the mountain. Finding a good ledge I awaited the sun to rise. It was as beautiful as expected. The sea of sand, Bromo and various other more dominating volcanoes completed one of the most iconic images of Indonesia. Walking back, photos snapped I saw the viewing point and couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have enjoyed such a special moment in peace and quiet without the hoards below. I had heard of some people finding the area disappointing, I now understood why some would feel that. I however loved the place, all I had to do was use some common sense and stay away from the tours!
It might be strange to read that after Mount Bromo all I wanted to do was stand up and shout in anger but it was strangely the case. Indonesia appears to be able to do nothing wrong. Every country needs a Jaipur, a Pai, a Hikkaduwa but so far Indonesia seems incapable of throwing up a disappointment. Not that that should be a bad thing. It just all feels a little unreal. Every place I have visited has been on a level of beauty that I did not know existed. It really is an incredible country.