! After another couple of hours we pulled up all hoping that we'd arrived but were told we were now having our briefing for the morning, then a change of bus and another hour to go! So much for getting an early night to prepare for the 3am start! We finally pulled up to our hotel at 10pm just in time to grab a bowl of Indonesian soup and then off to bed.
The next morning our alarms went off at 3am and we crawled out of bed and got bundled up in our thermals and jumpers. Outside locals were selling wool blankets and hats for the walk. Everyone else in the group had opted to take a jeep to the top of a viewing point to watch the sunrise over Bromo and they all headed off in their 4x4's. Only the two of us and one other girl Robin had chosen the 'authentic' experience and were walking it. Our bus driver dropped us off at the highest village on the mountain Cemoro Lawang and we started our trek across the 'Sea of Sand' in the darkness. It was bizarre being the only ones around hiking in the dark with the locals galloping past on their horses! The sky was beginning to brighten as we started up the steps to the crater and we arrived just in time to see the sun coming up and a bolt of blue light streak across the sky like a laser. It was brilliant. There were only about 8 people in total up there to break the silence. After a few minutes enjoying the sunrise we decided to start our trek round the crater - as our guide the night before had recommended it and said it would take 45 minutes
. We set off expecting a path around the top but it quickly became apparent that this wasn't the case and literally you are walking along the rim on the crater. Fall one way and you fall down the side of the volcano - fall the other and you fall into the volcano! It was a bit hairy for the first 5 minutes until we got used to it - but then we were able to appreciate just how amazing the scenery was and really soak it in. Bromo is in the middle of an enormous crater - the 'Sea of Sand' - and there are other volcanoes all around so it is just breathtaking.
We continued on round the rim of the crater making OK time - at points the going was a little difficult as we had to scramble up a small incline - and we were just deciding that we needed to start heading back towards our meeting point for the bus as it was still about an hour away. Suddenly the "path" disappeared and became impassable as the rim of the crater came to a severe point. We didn't have enough time to turn back and complete the loop again, and we were touching distance from the finishing point. We decided to drop down about a meter and continue around the side until we could get back up and continue walking along the top. As soon as we stepped down we realised it was a mistake and yet we didn't have any other option. What looked like rock immediately crumbled into sand as soon as we put our weight on it and started sliding down the side of the volcano taking us with it
. We managed to stop sliding after a couple of metres but there was absolutely no way we could climb back up and we couldn't move to either side as there were spiky peaks and and troughs where the lava has created paths down the side. We had no idea what to do... We're stuck on the side of a volcano, only one person knows where we are, we only have 20%25 battery on our phone if we need to be rescued and we only have an hour to get back to our bus.
Our only option left to us was down so we decided to follow one of the lava paths down the side and try and walk round the base of Bromo in the time we had left. We first had to navigate a 2ft overhang knowing that as soon as we landed the ground was going to give way and we would start sliding again but we made it down OK. The going was a bit easier down here and it was all looking good until we reached a 15metre drop with no way of climbing down! Now what? We were starting to feel a little panicky - one half of our brain was saying 'look it's OK just take your time, worse case scenario is you miss your bus and have to spend another night here, just get down safely' and the other half going 'oh crap! I'm stuck on the side of a mountain with no idea what to do or who to call!'
We decided to try and climb back up a little bit to a point where we could try another lava path and see if it had a drop
. It was incredibly hard work going back up hill, using your arms as well as legs to pull yourself up - spreading your body weight to reduce how much the ground would crumble underneath. Every three steps you would slide back two and we had to rest a lot. We finally made it over into another lava path and started to slide back down - only to find a 20metre drop at the bottom. It was becoming apparent that the only way out was to climb all the way back up to the top! So again we started the slow slow climb back up. We got to a point where we could see all of the jeeps parked at the bottom of the volcano but there was no way of reaching them. As we carried on climbing some of them were starting to leave! By this point our bus was leaving any minute and it was still a 45 minute walk away. So we carried on climbing and climbing and finally I saw someone standing at the top facing away from us and started shouting to get their attention. I asked if they could see a route up for us but they just told us it looked impossible and we should go back the way we came!!! I shouted at them to stay put and not leave us. We'd reached a point where we really couldn't go any higher we'd reached the overhangs that we'd struggled to get down let alone up! We couldn't pull ourselves over them as every time you tried whatever we had a hold of would just come away in our hands and send rocks tumbling down. So again we had to go down in order to be able to go back up and after sliding down a little way managed to reach the smallest overhang we could see
. We braced ourselves as much as possible in the constantly moving sand and James managed to push me up, then followed slowly after me spreading his body weight along the overhang so it didn't crumble. The guy at the top was still shouting that it looked impossible but when I had a look it looked so easy compared to what we'd already done! We walked along the last few metres of the rim of the crater in a matter of seconds - easy!! And it felt so good to be back to safe ground!
People at the top were asking if we were OK and what had happened but we were still late for our bus so we set off at a run back down the side of the mountain. At the bottom we found some friends from our group and managed to get a lift in their jeep back to Cemoro Lawang, however, our hotel was still 3km from there so we were expecting to have to run it. We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw our bus by the side of the road still waiting for us 40 minutes later! We were covered from head to toe in dust and sand and the rest of our group just looked like they'd been for a leisurely walk! We made it back to the hotel in plenty of time in the end - and still managed to grab a hot shower and some breakfast - we definitely weren't expecting that 40 minutes before!
We then all piled back into the oven bus and started on our 8 hour journey to Ijen...
So the next morning we were picked up at 8am as we were starting our travel across Java. We arrived at the bus first and gradually the rest of the group arrived and we all piled in. Within about a minute we all realised that our air-con bus wasn't so air-conned. Oh well only 11 hours to go during the heat of the day! Everyone in the group was about our age and were all lovely, we had couples from France and Germany, some girls from Switzerland and Holland, as well as guys from Austria and Australia. Our driver was absolutely crazy - over here it's not so much that they don't pay attention to the lanes - they don't pay attention to which side of the road they're on either! We would be cruising down the wrong side of the road with lorries coming towards us with no indication that we were actually going to move out of the way! We had a quick stop for lunch and were all grateful to get off the oven bus for a while. A little while later the 11 hour mark had come and gone with no sign of any mountains anywhere near us