On the edge

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Saturday, May 31, 2008

We hopped off the bus from Bali at a town called Probolingo around 5:15 in the morning.  There we were met by an ambassador, who made small talk to establish rapport then collected commission on everything we did.  He even hopped on the bemo to accompany us to the next bus.  These guys are extremely annoying at the best of times.  5:15 in the morning is not the best of times.  We were brought to the giant blue minibuses that would take us the couple hours to our final destination of Cemoro Lawang.  The price did not seem to be negotiable.  Oh well, at least we left right away.

We drove straight down the road for maybe forty minutes and then pulled up at a busy market town.  We proceeded to pile on a bunch of old ladies and their foul smelling wares, then started chugging up into the mountains.  The drive wasn't very pleasant but it was amazing scenery.  We climbed up through small villages surrounded by sloping volcanic fields full of produce.   Giant cascades of flowers fell down the slopes.  And we kept climbing higher and higher.

We were let off in the little village of Cemoro Lawang.  There are more or less two hotels here.  The first one we tried had doubled and tripled it's prices, meaning the cheapest room was out of our price range.  Luckily, the other one still had a true economy room.  The friendly (and nosy) owner brought us through the dining room to look at the room.

From here we had a perfect view of the Bromo landscape.  It was quiet a view. 

The hotel was sitting on the lip of a giant crater.  Directly below us the walls dropped a couple hundred feet to the flat, sandy bottom.  There was quite a huge expanse of this even ground.  But in the middle rose up three volcanoes.  One was short, squat, gray, and ugly.  This was Bromo.  The other was a perfect cone rising suddenly out of the ground right next to Bromo, named Batok.  The third was an indistinct mass of rock on the other side of Bromo.  Three volcanoes, inside the crater of an older volcano.  And there was yet another volcano we couldn't see this low down.

Even better, at the moment the entire crater was filled with fluffy, white cloud.  So we looked out into a sea of white, with only the volcanoes rising from the center.  It was an amazing sight.  We took the room and sat down to enjoy it over breakfast.  Unfortunately, the mist dissipated within the space of five minutes.  It never came back, so I can't show you a picture.  But it shouldn't be difficult to imagine. 

Erin took a nap after a hard night of travel, but I took a short walk to take advantage of the wonderful weather.  The town of Cemoro Lawang is almost as beautiful as the landscape it looks out on.  Small houses stretch back from the edge of the crater.  There are fields everywhere, some sloping at impossible angles.  They are all full of corn, onions, and cabbages.  Sometimes all three plants are growing on top of each other in a single field.  There are farmers everywhere, working in the fields.  It was a pleasant stroll.

Sure enough, the weather suddenly turned bad just when Erin got herself out of bed.  We had a leisurely lunch with a long-term traveller from Barcelona,  Jordi.  He was pretty entertaining.  Then we climbed down into the crater and strolled across the lava plain to the foot of Mt. Bromo.  There is a temple here, and locals make yearly offerings to appease the volcano.  There is also a short flight of stairs (253) that you can climb to look down into the crater.  It was constantly smoking while we were there.  The smoke smells awful.  But there isn't much to see besides a giant crater and a plume of smoke.  The clouds decided to clear, leaving us with great views of the sun setting through the sulfur.  The whole landscape looks like it could be on the moon.  You can see where a past eruption of Bromo had scorched the near side of Batok, preventing things from growing there.  We climbed back up to the hotel just as it was getting dark.  We had a good dinner and chatted with Jordi some more. 

The next morning we got up at an unpleasant 3:30am and set off on a two hour hike up to the main viewpoint overlooking Bromo.  The path was steep and needed a little maintenance work, but we made it up to the viewpoint just in time for the sun to emerge from the mountains to the far left of the crater and shine down into it.  Where before the smoke of Bromo was hiding the fourth volcano from view, we could now see the huge purple volcano (the largest and most active in Java) that seemed to complete the landscape.  There was some mist in the crater, although not as much as yesterday, and the sun tinted the whole scene slightly red.  We've seen a lot of landscapes, but I would definitely rank this at the top.  There isn't much in the world that looks like this.  Just look at the pictures.

We shared the sunrise with two Australians who had camped up here the night before.  We went to an alternate viewpoint and so avoided the sealed road and convoy of jeep tours.  Thankfully, the climb down was much shorter than the climb up.  We made it back to our hotel in time for a great berakfast.  Then we climbed in a van (this time all tourists), and made a fast run downhill and back to Probolingo.  The touts were desperate to get us to sign up for their private minibus to Yogyakarta, but we figured we could get a bus for less despite the massive discount.  But the bus station defeated us, since there didn't seem to be any ticket windows.  Only travel agencies with inflated prices.  The whole point of going to the bus station is so you can buy tickets directly from the bus company and not pay big commissions.  But anyway the cheapest price was almost the same as the private van, so we went back in disgrace.  This turned out to be a good idea, since the 8 hour drive to Yogya turned into a 12 hour drive (and this is in a fast, private van) meaning we got into Yogya really late.  So it was worth it because we didn't have to get a taxi from the bus station, but just got dropped off.

So we arrived in Yogya, our last stop before Jakarta and our flight back to Bangkok.

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