This was in February 2013. My master thesis was in Indonesia and I was in Pasuruan, East Java collecting field data. During one of the weekends, me and Victor Samuel (working on a similar project) decided to visit Mt. Bromo. Mt. Bromo is an active volcano and had an eruption as recently as 2011. As it was only 50 km away, we decided to hire a taxi and visit. Victor was Indonesian, no problems whatsoever during the whole trip.
On the day, we left before 0500 and the taxi picked us up at our hotel in Pasuruan. The idea was to capture the sunrise from another peak overlooking the mountains. The taxi, after an hour long journey, dropped us off near Penanjakan at a parking lot. We then climbed up to a hill. There was already a sizable crowd awaiting at the top of the mountain. As it was early February, it was chilly at the top – luckily we had jackets.
After waiting for an hour or so, we saw the first glimpses of sunrise and it was majestic. The clouds over the mountains dispersed slowly and sunlight flooded the valley ahead. It was then that I realized why the valley is called the ‘Sea of Sand‘. The whole valley was filled with black sand due to the volcano nearby.
To get to Mt. Bromo, there are couple of ways. You can hire a taxi, take a horse ride or trek the distance ( 3 to 4 km). We instead decided to take the motorbike ride. For a cost of 50 000 IDR (about 33 SEK) per person, you can ride pillion. Too bad, they weren’t renting out the bikes. The trip is exciting and scary at the same time. There are no road rails on the side and the riders drive at a fast pace. Some road sections inclined at almost 70 degrees.
The most fascinating aspect of the trip was the night sky. I had never seen so many stars, so clearly in my life. It was breathtaking – figuratively and literally as the cold wind and high altitude made breathing difficult. The whole trip took about 20 – 30 minutes and they dropped us off close to the volcano. We then trekked our way to the base of the mountain.
Once at the base, there are concrete steps (approx. 200) leading up to the mountain top. Once we reached the top, we saw white smoke coming out of the crater at the center. There was a small walking path on the top, barely a meter or so wide. The railings are pretty much non existent, so we had to be very careful. However, after walking about 20 meters along the edge, the walking path stops and if you are adventurous enough, you can attempt to walk on the edge of the mountain without any supporting structure. It is a stupid idea and hence, we did it 🙂
The highest location is on the left side of the crater. So, we started walking upwards along the edge. At one point, the wind started picking up pace and blew the sand right over the edge. We could barely see our own hands and had to depend on intuition and luck to walk – a bad idea. The path was barely couple of feet wide and a slip would mean a slide into the crater and the hot volcanic mush brewing inside.!
After walking for about 20 minutes, we finally reached the top. After the trek up, we sat down, opened our backpacks and did something I never imagined I would – have breakfast on top of an active volcano. The cover picture says it all!
We sat for about half hour. Watching us sit on top encouraged few more tourists to make the dangerous walk. After having our fill, we made our way back to the bottom of the mountain via the concrete steps. There is a temple (Pura Luhur Poten) located to the left which was unfortunately closed when we visited.
We could sneak a peek at the courtyard and the external structure of the temple. We then walked back to the motorcycle and went back to the parking lot to board our taxi. We then headed to Yogyakarta to visit the famous Borobudur and Prambanan – 9th century Buddhist and Hindu temples respectively – which I will cover in the next blog posts.