Round the World

Gunung Bromo

My first efforts to leave Yogyakarta were set back when I missed my train. As you approach the station you cross 3 or 4 sets of tracks to reach the buildings. I had arrived on these tracks and had crossed them to buy my ticket earlier. In the evening as I arrived to catch my train east to Surabaya there were a lot of people waiting so I sat down with them. There were no information screens or signs about trains (there aren’t at any Java station) but the tannoy piped up with an announcement that was about my train. Unfortunately I couldn’t understand any of it apart from the destination name, but as the people round me didn’t appear affected I didn’t worry. There was no train in sight and I assumed it was late….. just then I heard the squeal of metal on metal. There was no train in sight, but the sound came from round a corner. I ran round to the back of the station to see the back of my train as it left the station on a set of tracks I didn’t realise was there. Nuts.

It meant one more night here before catching the morning train to Surabaya and changing on one to Probolinggo. Unfortunately the second train had a problem and didn’t depart for an hours so on arrival it was too late to catch a Bemo up the mountain. I found the hotel recommended in the guide and set out of food. Not much choice but a plainly furnished restaurant supplied some tasty food and cold beer. At the end of my meal a couple of local girls asked if they could show me their town whilst they practiced their english. Seemed like a plan, I was just rereading a book anyway. We wandered round for a bit not seeing much and when I asked about this they replied there was nothing to see in town. Still we chatted for a bit, covering all the usual question Asian tourist as a westerner : How old are you?? Are you married??? No!! Why not?? Do you like Indonesia?? Where is best?? Eventually the conversation moved wider and we all agreed George Bush is a dangerous idiot.

A submarine I spotted between trains in Surabaya!!

That night I was eaten alive by mosquitoes getting over 30 bites, lots of them on my hands which is unusual. Catching a bemo up the mountain to Cemoro Lawang was easy enough and I arrived around midday. Cemoro Lawang is a village perched on the edge of the Bromo caldera, formed by the collapse of an ancient gigantic volcano. In the crater are several newer volcanoes at least two of which are still live I had a quick lunch a then walked round to explore the area but this was limited by mist and rain. Over dinner I met a Dutch guy and a French guy and we hired a jeep & driver between us to take us to the sights at dawn tomorrow. As this meant setting off at 4am it was an early night.

The 4×4 was an old fashioned looking Toyota Landcruiser in good nick and covered in little flashing lights. It was rapidly christened the Christmas Tree. First stop was up a volcano that forms part of the north ridge of the caldera. To get there meant driving down into the crater and through the mist that collects there before driving up the steepest road I have ever been on to the top. When we parked up it was behind a load of other similar Toyotas (the vehicle of choice here) and amongst a set of tourist tat stalls. Walking past them to get to the viewpoint I noticed the locals glued to the Man United vs Man City match and it was a reminder of just how popular the English Premier League is with the Asians.

Arriving at the viewpoint was a shock as there must have been 50 or so people there all tourists but 80% Asian. The rest of Indonesia had been so quiet and here I was in loud chatty voices and constant flashguns. There were two main directions to look, to the east to the colours of sunrise and to the south across the caldera with Mt Bromo constantly steaming and Mt Semeru exploding a small cloud of smoke 20 km behind. As the sun rose it lit up what may be the most spectacular view of my life. I took over 30 pictures from which I’ll have to pick the best few.

The sky just before sunrise
The view across the Bromo caldera

After this we headed down in the 4×4 to near the base of Mt Bromo. You could hire a horse to take you the remain few hundred yards to the bottom of the steps that led up the side but feeling fit (and after my experience in Navajo country) I walked. It was easy enough until we got to the steps but climbing them you felt the atmosphere attacking your throat. It must have been gases from the volcano, however if you breathed through your nose it was OK. That made progress up the stairs very slow as my nose is particularly inefficient and breathing through your mouth made you gag and wheeze. At the top the view was OK but nothing after the views from an hour before.

The staircase up the Bromo cone itself.

We were back to the hotel for breakfast just after 7 and with it being so early I decided it was worth moving on. A Bemo down to Probolonggo, another across town to the train station before catching the 5 hour long train to Ketapang where the ferry leaves to Bali. It was after 4pm by then and with the early start and the heat of the journey I decided to call it a day. I found an nice resort hotel nearby ready to catch the ferry early next day.

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