I’ve had a certain fascination with volcanoes for a long time and the urge to see one seemed to overpower me. After a lot of research, we decided that if we were going to trek up a volcano it had to be a relatively easy trek and it had to be worth our while. That is how we chose Mount Bromo. No other volcano that I have seen from near or from far has given me the thrill that this huffing volcano gave me. While Ijen came pretty close, Mount Bromo differs because of its just like what you would expect a volcano to be like. Most of the other volcanoes are sadly anticlimactic.
MOUNT BROMO AND WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT ITS HISTORY
The view once you get to the top! Impressive isn’t it?
The Indonesians call it Gunung Bromo where ‘Gunung’ means volcano or so I assume. Situated in East Java, Bromo is definitely not the largest peak in the Tengger mastiff but at 2,329 meters it sure is impressive.
Bromo attracted us because it is still an active volcano and just how active can be determined by a look at its recent activity. Truth be told, we had our eyes set on Ijen that we forgot to look at Bromo in detail. In retrospect that was a sad mistake for I enjoyed Bromo far more than Ijen. It was a mistake that I quickly rectified as soon as I caught my first glance at the volcano from the nearby village Cemoro Lawang.
Wikipedia will tell you that the volcano has erupted in 2004, 2010 and in 2011. In 2015 the Indonesian government issued a warning because the volcano began to show signs of increased activity. From where I stood on the crater, I could see exactly why. The smoke from the volcano hovered around overhead and the sound emitted from the wind funneling through it gave me the jitters. Despite all of that you can’t look away.
MOUNT BROMO: Trekking to the mouth of the roaring beast!
I don’t really know whether it is right to call Mount Bromo a fairytale for it often feels like you have just walked into one of those sci-fi movies. There are two routes to get down to the crater. The route for the adventurers and the route for people like me. There is a difference between the routes and let me enlighten you about them.
The first route is the government approved route and being government approved it is extremely costly. You reach a booth which is located at the side of road which signals the start of the National park. The park fees are IDR 217,000 per person on a weekday and IDR 320,000 per person on a weekend.
Now walking down via the well tarred road isn’t a big deal. It’s an easy enough path to follow and it takes you down to the main big crater floor. This crater floor is the base of the large caldera in which Bromo lies. The walk to the foot of Bromo traverses across a sandy plain. It is a long walk so be prepared.
There is a way around this entire fee schedule and dumb as it may sound, it is to rent a motorbike. For a fee of around IDR 60,000 the local will ride down and drop you at the foothills. The government officials seem to turn a blind eye to this and you aren’t required to pay the entrance fee. We however learned this only later. Nevertheless we had a fine walk.
There is another way to circumvent the fees and this is by either taking a horse or going by foot. The path that is used isn’t a paved one and may require a little skill to navigate through. A couple of people we met used this route.
A FEW IDEAS MADE OUR DAY AT MOUNT BROMO EXTRA SPECIAL
When you are introduced to a beast you say hello and take a selfie!
I suffer from Irritable bowel syndrome (popularly known as IBS) and both Shawn and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make a great pace. Since we had a whole day to spend and we were due to leave the next day (so no rush!), we decided to do what few tourists ever have time for. We decided to stroll and relax.
The previous day we found a nice wagon with satays and longtons (the Indonesian rice dish). We bought a few longtons and kept it for the next day. Shawn even managed to get a loaf of bread (which surprise! Surprise! Was filled with chocolate!), a can of tuna and some spicy sauce. Armed with our provisions we climbed Bromo and spent a long while gazing down at the center of the beast.
That is how difficult the climb is. Not to bad is it?
Our walk back involved a stop at the temple and a break for lunch which I must say was delicious! It had been long since we had spice and it was a great relief. With lunch done, we wandered around the foothills of the volcano. You would be surprised at what the walls of eroded channels can tell you. Layers of ash, lava and all sorts of stones have a history that would require a geologist to narrate. Poor Shawn struggled with my questions for his background in geology was way better than mine.
We would have stayed longer but we saw the storm clouds gathering overhead. We had already been caught in a storm the previous evening and had no intention of getting wet again. So we trudged along and then suddenly realized that we couldn’t see the road from where we had come from.
That was the confounding thing about the mountain paths. They existed… They were large and yet once you left them behind they were hard to spot. We got back home in time for some hot ‘White Coffee’ and some hot banana pancakes drizzled with chocolate sauce.
AT BROMO IT IS NOT ONLY ABOUT THE CRATER, IT IS ALSO ABOUT THE SUN
The coveted sunrise.
Adventurous (and fit) tourists manage to climb up to the viewpoint and then down to the crater in a day but we did it on two different mornings. While Shawn kept saying that he wouldn’t manage, I’m inclined to believe that he was being chivalrous. Who am I trying to kid? We missed the view point on the first day because of an unfortunate event. We got up late! It was too late to walk to any of the view points and definitely too late to watch the sunrise in all its glory.
If we look back at that day, we are glad that it happened that way for we would have been too tired to climb up Bromo after the viewpoint. We also made a couple of friends along the way up. Friends that were with us till Ijen and friends who I doubt I will ever forget.
The first day we got up at 4:30 AM which was way too late for the sun rises at 5. The second day we were up at 2. Now the morning air in the mountains is nippy at the mildest. Then again for an Indian born girl, anything below 10 0C is cold. So I bundled up with my scarf and a jacket. 5 minutes up the road I ditched the scarf and unzipped the jacket. Why? The climb is steep and your body does generate enough heat to keep you warm. Warm might be an understatement for I was sweating.
At about half way up, we stopped for coffee. Our addiction to White Coffee had already been set in stone by then. There was a small hut in which an old lady provided all the adventurers with nourishment for a nominal fee.
Our friends were fit and they soon overtook us for their aim was to reach the highest viewpoint. Us? We wanted to see how far we would get. The route was confounding for the road suddenly gave way. In the dark we managed to find a stairway of sorts that lead upwards. Google maps was not of much use for it couldn’t pin point where we were with precision and your network range tends to drop the higher you go.
Since everyone was taking the stairway up, we followed suit. We huffed and we puffed till we reached a small view pint with the shade of the tree. It was here we stopped for awhile. Some people continued to move onward but since the first tendrils of light began to creep out, we decided that we did not want to risk missing the sunrise. We had come so far with so much effort so we stopped.
The number of people walking up had dwindled down to one or two. Every once in a while we could hear the sound of voices coming from above. It was nice sweet spot but what happened next was so hilarious that I still start laughing when I think of it.
We finished clicking our photographs and then Shawn turned round and asked me if I wanted to go up to the viewpoint. I was game and so we started up the flight of steps. Imagine our surprise when we climbed the next twenty steps only to realize that the viewpoint was just above our heads.
The viewpoint wasn’t very crowded. Only around fifteen people sat and watched the sun. Our little niche however had the privacy that we liked and best of all, it shielded us from the wind. Once up at the viewpoint, the layers were quick to come back on for a breeze at 5 oC can make you feel real cold.
When we were planning our trip to Bromo everyone told us that it was a really amazing place to see a live volcano. True enough but you would be surprised by the sights that surround Bromo which most people leave out. Another thing that no one talks much about is the transport and how to make the best use of it. Our journey taught us a lot and sharing these facts may help future planners, so I took a while to add them down.
The right transport is the key!
While Cemoro Lawang may be the closest village to the famous Mount Bromo, it still has limited transport. Most tourists join tours and travel quickly through all the spots. A friend of mine called it cheating but I felt sorry for those on the tours. Not only did they pay extra to do the same things that we did, their experience was curtailed to a ridiculously small timeframe. I doubt they got a chance to stop and smell the fresh mountain air.
So if you go to Mount Bromo on your own make sure that you plan your day based on the transport that you want to take. The details of the transportation I will leave for a different post for this one has already gone on for far too long.
Always learn all you can about a place before you travel. You never know when you will need it!
THERE IS SO MUCH THAT PEOPLE DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT BROMO
Mount Bromo has been popularized for its smoking crater and its volcano experience. People are so involved in getting to the crater and back that they fail to see what is around them. That’s why I’m going to continue and talk about everything that we discovered.
You must always stop to cuddle kittens!
Yes! Fields of different kinds layer the sides of the mountain. Cabbage and onion were two that I could identify but I’m sure there are many more. We took a walk through one of the paths that was well hidden from your sight. Once you cross the small houses that line the main road, you see just how much the locals depend on farming as a source of income. The climate is cool and the walk is pleasant so if you have time give it a shot. I doubt you would regret it. We certainly did not!
Always eat where the locals eat if you really want a true taste of the country’s cuisine.
While Café Lava maybe the place that trip advisor tells you to go to, we never went there. We were drawn to the carts of fruits that people were selling. Here we got a taste of a local fruit called ‘Salak’ or ‘Snake fruit’ as it is known as in English. While Salak does taste a little like jackfruit, the fruit looks very different. The outer portion of the fruit has a scaly skin which is from where it derives its English name.
There was one place that attracted our attention because a great number of tourists and locals were perpetually crowded. It was a small restaurant named ‘Warung Sinta Ndani’. The interesting thing about this warung was that every item on the list was just IDR 15,000. The home made food that was prepared by the family gave a certain flavor to the whole experience. When they ran out of White coffee, they would provide us with hot water so we could make our own. It was a simple setup with a simple fare but one that we enjoyed immensely.
THE LOCAL STORES
A small cart which had pork satays was a must try. We weren’t disappointed for the satays were tasty and the longton was divine!
There are a few local stores in the area. Some of them have a run down and overcrowded feel to them. I would go to these overcrowded stores if I were you. We soon learned that the better the shop, the more the items cost. Our gold standard for comparison was the White Coffee swatches that we were always buying.
We also found the people really friendly. On our first day we were stuck in the rain and sought shelter in one of these shops. We had just bought some hot satays for dinner. The owner of the shop gave us two chairs so that we could sit and eat. She had never seen us before. Needless to say we soon became regulars at her shop for her smiling face was always ready to greet us.
OUR TAKE ON MOUNT BROMO AND CEMORO LAWANG
The entire expanse of area that surrounds Mount Bromo and Cemoro Lawang is beautiful. It is a place for reflection and a place of pace. We found that best way to enjoy the experience was not to rush through it. Yes! There were many who came with us and left a day before we did. There were others who were determined to leave the very same day. It was tempting to join them and move on but I’m glad that we didn’t. We would have missed a world of beauty if we did.