The real city of rain identified

Trip Start Oct 31, 2009
Trip End Feb 25, 2010

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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another long journey awaits us and we spend the whole day in a mini bus traveling from Solo to Malang.  Leg room is pretty cramped but at least lunch is included and they do pick us up and drop us off to our correct hotel.  In Malang we spend too nights at the 'a long time ago it may have well been' Splendid inn.  An old Dutch mansion, it has huge communal areas with faded sofas and lots of browning maps of Java and the surrounding attractions on the wall.  Our room is rather quirky - perfectly clean but straight from the 70's with a wood paneled ceiling, orange curtains, strange metal and black fake leather easy chairs and a very nearly avocado coloured bathroom suite.

We arrive quite late in the day and so head out straight for dinner to another quirky Malang institution.  L'armour Four is all the about the Love, man and all the music and decor fits with this theme.  There are pink elephant fountains, a private Romeo and Juliet dining room, love songs playing in the background...  even the pizzas we order are heart shaped (but no less tasty for this).  The whole place feels and looks like it belongs in some cheesy broadway musical.

The next day (in between the downpours and lightening storms) we explore what Malang has to offer.  The highlights were market based; - the bustling main market, the flower market (which was like a garden centre), and most interesting of all - the bird market.  As well as countless cages crammed with pretty budgies and so on there were also sleepy bats hanging up, grey and red spotted lizards, 2 different kinds of owl and some long furry animals we have not got a clue about.  Not to mention the vats of creepy bugs used to feed everything else.

For the first time in Java, the Alun Alun (town square) has not been turned into a carnival fairground and is a more sedate park, opposite the rather gaudy green and white mosque.

The next day we set a record for early mornings on this trip...  at 1.30am a mini bus picks us up from our hotel to take us to a view point from which we can watch the dawn over Gunung Bromo - one of Indonesia's many active volcanoes.  We are excited about this trip since none of the other volcanoes can be hiked safely in the wet season (we have already made a mental note to come back in the dry season for this particular activity).  What we actually get to see depends on how quickly the clouds roll in to the huge crater...

We arrive at the viewpoint at 4am and are quickly furnished with warm fleecy jackets and some spicy ginger tea.  At 4.15am we go and stake out our viewing position.  The sun does not rise until after 5 but according to our guide the area will be chocka by then so early marking is necessary.  We spend the next chilly hour anxiously monitoring the mist swirling around the outer crater to try and determine what we be visible when the sun comes up.  At present we can see the shadow of smoking Bromo, the inactive volcanic cone in front of it, the outer crater rim and another huge volcano in the background.

The crowds creep in, the time creeps on as does the mist...

At 5.30am the sky is cobalt blue.  The sun is not yet visible as it rising behind a thick bank of cloud.  Bromo and the hills beyond are now clearly visible.  Far from rising up to obscure our view, the mist seems content with it's position down in the valley - adding an ethereal touch to the beautiful sight.  The sun finally makes a spectacular entrance - blazing orange through the crowds and tinging the surrounding clouds and Bromo's smoke with pink.  We stay until the volcano is properly lit and then head back to the minibus for the next stage of our trip.

We join the trail of tourists and their vehicles all heading down in to the main crater.  Inside we find the sea of sands - a flat desert of black sand.  The mist is quite thick down here and the cones of the volcanoes appear as shadows.  We make our way to the base of Bromo to climb up the steps and hopefully peer into the crater.  There is the option of riding horses for this part, but they are so tiny we think it would be more fair if we carried them.  Even the petite Indonesian girls look like giants on their backs.  On the way to the base we pass a temple - the shadow of which is particularly striking through the mist.

The 249 steps to the crater are a doddle compared to Adam's Peak!  Bromo does not disappoint either - belching out huge amounts of smoke and sounding a bit like an aeroplane passing by.  When we get back down the mist has lifted from the bottom of the valley and is now sitting in front of our dawn viewpoint.  Nature does seem to want people to get up early to enjoy it...

We travel back to Malang via the back of Bromo - lush hillsides and farmlands.  At one point we are driving along a narrow strip of land with sheer drops either side.  Amazingly this area is all used for potato farming, which makes for 2 walls of patchwork on our right and left.

It starts to rain again.

Once back in Malang we have plans to go the post office and internet cafe after lunch (yes I know the excitement never ends).  These ideas are thwarted by yet another fearsome lightening storm which floods the roads and brings down tree branches.  We huddle with the locals for 45 minutes by the side of a building before giving up the idea and getting a damp becak ride back to our hotel.

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Cheryl on

You should go back and trek Bromo; that's the pesky volcano that almost claimed my soul!

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