Day 54: Gunung Bromo & Bus to Bali

Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Aug 19, 2008

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Where I stayed
Kedin's Inn

Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

At 3am, I awakened to the feeling that a truck had crashed into my head. Somehow in the previous five hours, I'd picked up an ear ache (motorcycle ride I'm guessing), an evil gum sore under one of my teeth, an entirely separate sweet tooth (Iraqi dates + deficient dental hygiene), and a sidesplitting headache either from an oncoming cold, heat (unlikely), a sinus infection (maybe), or who who knows what. I don't think my head has ever been in that much pain from that many different ailments before. The Mt Bromo sunrise was not only one of the main reasons I'd chosen Indonesia over Vietnam though, but also the main reason I came to urban industrial Java at all as opposed to going straight to more exotic Sumatra, Bali, or Borneo. I couldn't let four separate simultaneous aches ruin it, and wasn't going to be put a day behind schedule waiting for them to go away.

Out whipped the first aid kit, and into my mouth popped two Tylenol pills. Within twenty minutes, I was well enough to enjoy the ensuing experience. I picked up my packed lunch, rented the goofiest looking winter coat I'd ever seen, and hopped in my designated jeep alongside a German family and elderly French couple (European tourists are common here, Americans are not.) We arrived at the viewpoint by five and beheld the sunrise. This is the same volcano viewpoint pictured on the cover of the Baraka DVD, fyi. Gimmelwald, Switzerland remains untopped, but it was nevertheless an awe-inspiring sight. A gigantic crater with one tiny smoking volcano in the middle (Bromo), one tiny long extinct volcano adjacent, and one HUGE, full sized active volcano in the distance spitting out plumes of smoke and fury every ten minutes or so. It was like being on the surface of Mars. After soaking in the view, we drove down into the crater to pay an up close and personal visit to Bromo itself. This was the first of what I suspect will be two total times I'll regret having left my sneakers in Singapore storage, flip flops were not the easiest foot gear to traverse this landscape in. It was worth the effort nonetheless.

The bus ride to Bali was a mind-numbing 9h long and sucked up the rest of the day, so I'm just going to gloss through that bit. Basically, the Tylenol wore off as I left Bromo, I by some miracle caught the "11am, are you sure I won't have to rush Bromo?" Totomobile to Bali, slept through most of the ride, and passed the last section talking with an alcoholic Scottish boat design student. He and his friend have been traversing literally all of South East Asia (except Burma, naturally) for the past two months and had traveled extensively prior to that as well. His best travel tale took place in some random Chinese city at the end of the TransSiberian rail trip, where he and his friend marched around town with over-sized plastic bags of a local home brewed beer. The brewer punched holes in the bags and stuck straws through these holes to drink through. The resulting mental image was quite silly.

One other noteworthy thing happened, the bus dropped us off in Denpasar, Bali's major city, but we were all going to Kuta (the beach town a half hour away), so a share taxi was needed. Just as we entered Kuta, the drivers (one of which sported a Khan-style mullet) inquired about our accommodation. I'd already made a reservation and was partially immune to their antics, but the four Australian girls were all "Lalala just drop us off at this random one we found in our book." I lunged at them screaming "Nooooo!!!" in slow motion, but failed to stop them from repeating my Bromo mistake of letting a taxi driver know you're desperate for a bed. Sure enough, the taxi whizzed past both my hotel and the one the Australian's wanted, stopping in front of a random restaurant and hotel at the far South end of the strip. "You stay here! Good place!" Goddamnit. Having just let this scam slide last night and now being in a position to fight it, and with a squadron of fiery Australians and a drunk Scot on my side who weren't going to be messed with either, I got the taxi to turn around and go back to my hotel. The fate of the others is unknown, but the Australian Alpha Female was angry. I was more worried about the drivers than I was her, I'm sure the rest got to their desired hotel as a result.

PS: All head ailments were cured by one good night's sleep, though allergies I never knew I had to the local flora surfaced a day later. If I get one day in SE Asia without some random annoying health issue, I'll be eternally grateful.
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