The year I went to Indonesia, one of my first stops was to see the live volcano of Mt Bromo on the island of Java.
We arrived at Denpasar about 1pm.and caught a bus, which took us across country through Bali to Banyuwangi in East Java to the sprawling dusty town of Probolinggo, arriving there about 1am in the morning.
After much negotiating we hired minibus to take us up the mountain to the village of Camara Lawang near Mt Bromo. It seemed a hazardous trip at that hour of the night/morning, a rough narrow winding track with rice fields on one side and a steep drop off on the other to the forest floor below. We managed a flat tyre on the way which was a bit of a drama. It was a very dark night with no moon and kind of eerie. We searched around in the dark until someone eventually found a large rock on the edge of the drop-off to place behind the vehicle. With the aid of match light and a joint effort we managed to change the tyre and get underway again.
We found a room at the village and put in a couple of hours sleep before a call at 5am for breakfast. A quick visit to the mandi, which is our equivalent of a cold shower; a cement well full of icy cold mountain water with a metal dipper to throw the water over oneself. Brrrr!!! Probably the quickest shower I’ve ever had, but very refreshing and guaranteed to wake you up.
Breakfast was traditional fare with sweet bread and tea with sugar. Outside we could see a mingling horde of people wearing brightly colored scarves and caps. They were the guides with their little ponies waiting to take tourists to the bottom of Mt Bromo. The mist was so heavy outside you could hardly see a thing and everyone else seemed to have disappeared. Out of the mist however, emerged one very little old man with a dear little pony and offered to guide us to the mountain. We accepted gratefully. From the restaurant it was a very steep downhill track, very rough and hard walking in the pitch-dark until we reached the sand sea.
We walked for an hour across the deep soft sand or “Sand Sea” as it is known (a soft grey volcanic ash). The sand got deeper and it was harder going by the time we reached the foothills. I decided it was time for a pony ride. Gratefully I sat on the dear little pony for the short distance up the foot hills to the base of the barren walls of Mt Bromo (7,846ft). The next hurdle was the huge perpendicular steps to climb to the top. My companion went ahead while by degrees I climbed the steps and eventually reached the rim of the volcano, just in time for the sunrise!
It was truly a glorious sight and absolutely breathtaking. A vast sea of cloud, tinged with pink and gold, filling the entire valley below. Clouds full to the rim of the surrounding mountains in glorious hues from the sunrise. An amazing sight and worth the effort.
The rim of the volcano had a ledge approx. 6-8 feet in width so we had to juggle with others trying to take a photo and stay safe. I decided to sit, felt much safer and could look down into the actual crater of Mt Bromo which was full of bubbling lava pools and short spiraling sulfur plumes, the acrid smell rising faintly on the still morning air.
Mt Bator an extinct volcano was on the right, and behind in the distance a live volcano with spiraling smoke, Mt Semeru, this one apparently erupts continuously.
The more adventurous were walking around the rim of Mt Bromo and were now black silhouettes against the sky. I’m not good at heights, so I sat and enjoyed the serenity of the sunrise and the spectacular view. At the foothills the guides and their ponies were milling around. Then suddenly there was a lot of whooping & yelling, and amid a sea of colorful flowing scarves they all took off speeding across the sand on their ponies (it looked like a scene from a desert movie). I wondered why, until I saw the tourist buses arriving in the distance. As it had been dark on the way over I had absolutely no idea which way we had come and all we could see was sand. Fortunately my friend had taken a few markers and a good sense of direction, so we found our way back to the motel. An amazing adventure.