Gunung Bromo - Java

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the impressive volcano Gunung Bromo at sunrise.

With black sand as far as the eye can see, thick fog and distant thunder, one of Java's most active volcanoes greeted us. We are talking about Gunung Bromo, a 2,329 meter high stratovolcano, the youngest of its kind in the Tengger volcanic massif and a popular tourist destination. Gunug Bromo itself lies in a huge volcanic crater, nestled in a sea of sand it provides a mysterious atmosphere with deep fog. But for this we first had to take on an arduous journey!

The starting point of our trip to Gunung Bromo was the temple Borobudur, which we had visited the day before for sunrise. Accordingly, we took the bus back to the train station in Yogyakarta early in the morning, with the door open and crammed between Indonesian school children. Once there, we bought a train ticket to Surabaya for a few rupiah. So we sat on our chairs in the waiting area for a while, watching the strange people around us and constantly wondering if we had missed our train yet. After some time, two local ladies asked us if they could take a picture with us. Of course!

When our train finally pulled in, there was a brief flurry of activity. Did we have everything? Was this really our train? Yes it was and yes we had everything. After we had found our seats in one of the air-conditioned carriages, we made ourselves comfortable, because the journey would take about five hours. The route took us through Java, passing rice fields, forests and towns. Scooter riders waited in droves at the railroad crossings, interrupting the passing scenery for the blink of an eye. The endless green of rice paddies followed again. On the whole, the train ride was very pleasant and quiet. We passed the time reading, sleeping and watching the rural idyll on the other side of the window. Once we arrived in Surabaya, we took a connecting train for another two hours to Probolinggo, the gateway to Bromo Volcano. Beware of the touts who want to pull tourists over the table with dubious offers!

Once we arrived in Probolinggo, we drove from the train station to a hotel and stayed one night. The next morning we grabbed a private cab to take us to the crater rim in the town of Cemoro Lawang. After a short negotiation, we agreed on $40, packed our backpacks in the trunk and drove off. At first the roads were pleasantly wide and straight, but after an hour the road meandered more and more up the mountain. Countless potholes, a multitude of oncoming vehicles and a construction site, where we got lost several times, strained the nerves of our cab driver immensely. In the meantime he had to ask for the right way. The journey took a total of 3 hours and our driver did not want to believe until the end that we would really spend the night at the top of the crater. Our accommodation for this night was already in the area of the national park. When we finally reached the top, we felt sorry for the driver. And so we added a good tip to the fare.

The place itself is located directly on the crater rim of the giant volcano and offers a first view of the Sea of Sand and the Bromo volcano. However, it was already 3 p.m. when we arrived and the first clouds of fog moved into the crater, which was to be our undoing. In good spirits we marched down to the Sea of Sand. We were the only tourists at this time and legions of vendors besieged us on the meters down into the crater valley. The locals wanted to take us directly to Bromo on their scooters, but since we preferred to walk the distance, we tried to lose the people. One vendor was extremely pushy and rode his scooter next to us. We repeated our intention to walk. When we reached the bottom, we asked the scooter driver at a fork in the road, who was still at our side, which direction we had to go. Left. No sooner said than done. Off we went. Visibility was limited to 30 meters. The scooter driver did not let go of us, but we marched on into the unknown. After some time our unwanted companion changed his statement and only said "You are wrong!". We ignored him. Eventually he saw the light and let us go. But after an hour it gradually dawned on us that we had probably gone in the wrong direction, or rather the local had sent us there. The way to Bromo should have taken only 30 minutes in total. So there we were, standing in the middle of an active volcano in a sea of sand, visibility zero. Our only guide were the pillars placed in the ground. From the direction we had been walking for an hour, jeeps came at steady intervals, crossing the valley. We decided to stop one and ask for directions. The occupants confirmed that we were indeed marching in the completely wrong direction, but the two Swedish women who had rented the jeep invited us along for the ride. We accepted the invitation with thanks. So we were once again lucky in misfortune.

Finally we had reached the foot of the volcano after the "small" detour. Actually, one needs about 30 minutes for this distance, with us it was rather 1.5 hours. From here a narrow sandy path led up to the crater rim. At first it was relatively wide, but at the end of the ascent a steep staircase has to be mastered. The closer we came to the volcano crater, the louder the thunder from its interior. Once at the top, we looked into the smoking maw and realized how small and insignificant we are even in the face of such a force of nature. Especially when you consider that Gunung Bromo itself is located in a huge crater created millions of years ago by a volcanic eruption.

Sea of Sand with Bromo volcano in the background.
Mouth of Gunung Bromo with rising smoke.

As dusk fell, we made our way back to our accommodation. Here it must be noted that most tourists spend only one or two nights in this little place and accordingly the accommodations are very spartan equipped. Since we ourselves stayed only one night, we accepted this and had to do without running water, for example, and had a bathroom door that was only 1.60 meters high. It was going to be a short night anyway, because we wanted to watch the sunrise at a viewpoint the next day. Oh and on the way back from the crater to the accommodation a scooter overtook us. They stopped 20 meters in front of us. When we caught up with them they asked if they could take a picture with us. Of course!

At 3:00 a.m. the alarm clock ended our restless sleep. We were both glad to finally get going. Armed with cereal bars and a headlamp, we set off into the dark night. After an hour of walking through the darkness, we were not alone, because the sunrise is the highlight at the volcano, we reached the "King-Kong Viewpoint". Some sunrise spots are really crowded, but we found a quiet, windless spot and waited. In the darkness, we could make out scattered lights that were also on their way to one of the viewpoints. Dress warmly and take another layer of clothes with you, because on the way up you start to sweat and afterwards you cool down very quickly in the cold. After an hour of waiting, the first rays of sunlight flashed out and the surrounding crater rim colored in the morning light. When the sun fully hit the volcanoes, the distant Gunung Semeru emitted a small cloud and made the panorama perfect. The stronger the sun became, the more breathtaking the sight became.

Panorama shot of Bromo volcano at sunrise.
Reddish colored volcanic landscape at sunrise.

When the sun had completely risen, we made our way back. The deeper we got, the more people we met, some of whom had horses or donkeys take them to the viewpoints. Back in the village, we packed our things and marched on foot to the village center. Here we met a column of jeeps that brought the tourists to the crater valley. The vehicles blocked all the roads without getting a bit ahead or back. The engines were running anyway and the exhaust fumes polluted the air. Again, one more event that confirmed us in preferring to walk the distances. With a community bus we drove back to the city of Probolinggo. Here a train took us to Ketapang, 5 hours away on the coast of Bali. Our last stage on Java was already waiting for us, the Ijen massif!

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