|Smoke rising from the crater of Bromo|
Indonesian friends advertised Bromo with plenty of superlatives:
spectacular, stunning, a lifetime experience. In consequence, our
expectations were high when I set out with my friend Daria to explore
the volcanoes of East Java.
comfortable night bus (Rosalia Indah) brought us for 115'000 IDR (8
EUR) from Solo to Probolinggo. We arrived around 5am, a perfect time
to head to the bus terminal to continue the journey. Quickly we found
the minibuses to Cemoro Lawang, the village on the rim of the outer
crater. Unfortunately, we were the first ones to arrive that morning.
The price of 30'000 IDR (2 EUR) was not an issue. But the minibuses
leave only once at least 16 passengers are crammed in. As the trickle
of tourists wasn't that steady this morning, we finally left around
9am. During the first hour we crossed the usual cities, villages and
rice fields. It was the second hour that got more interesting. The
road climbed steeper and steeper, the lanes got more narrow with
every meter, but the traffic didn't slow down. We arrived safely and
happily in Cemoro Lawang at 11am.
quickly checked out a couple of homestays, the whole village is full
of them. The prices hover around 150'000 to 300'000 IDR (10-20 EUR),
depending on if you want a private bathroom or not. Highly unusual
for Indonesia, they all feature a hot water shower. You'll definitely
be happy to have one as the temperatures here at over 2200m drop to
five degrees Celsius at night. But during the day it's pleasantly
warm thanks to the strong tropical sun. After dropping our luggage
and a quick shower, we went to the rim – about two minutes up from
our homestay – to enjoy the view. Impressive is an understatement.
by some Nasi Pecel, we set out to walk into the huge crater, across
the so called Ocean of Sand and up to the rim of sulfur-smoking
Bromo. It's a dry and barren land where only few plants and even
fewer animals survive. The ones that do have grown stings, claws,
thorns and a thick skin in order do so. Thick hiking socks and long
pants are therefore advisable. The path itself is easy to find. It's
a short and steep way down into the crater, then a direct line across
the plain to the foot of Bromo. The climb itself is easy, as the
steepest part is eased by a concrete stair. The view into the crater
once you get to the rim is literally breathtaking. Most days, only
part of the steep drop into the mouth of the volcano is visible. The
sulfuric clouds usually obscure the view. My headscarf proved very
valuable in this moment.
|Sunrise - Bromo on the left, Semeru in the back|
in the village, we organized our jeep tour to see the sunrise above
Bromo and Semeru (the highest peak of the mountain). The jeep tours
(a jeep carries usually five to six passengers) themselves are not
hugely expensive. We paid 150'000 IDR (10 EUR) each. But while
exploring Bromo by foot is absolutely possible without paying the
inflated visitor fee* (225'000 IDR – 18 EUR), the jeep have to pass
the gate to the park. Avoiding the fee is impossible in that case.
Even though the tour is highly touristy, it's well worth it.
|Lisa and her assistants|
got picked up at 3am, then drove in a surreal caravan of far over 200
jeeps across the plain and up to a viewpoint where several thousand
people where already waiting. We found a nice spot from where we
could see well on both Semeru and Bromo as well as the sandy plain
leading towards them. Around 4:30am, you can actually feel the
tension of the crowd rising, as sunrise approaches. Between 4:45 and
6am, most people are constantly moving around in order to find the
best spot for their photos and selfies. By 6:30am, the action is over.
Most people are on their way back to Bromo. As we already saw the
smoking crater before, we skipped the overcrowded stairs and went
directly back to the village. After a warm and comforting morning
shower, we packed our bags and headed off with the first minibus back
to Probolinggo. One volcano down, one more to come.
|View from Bromo towards the outer crater walls|
to Lisa's work, we had the chance to visit Bromo together, only three
weeks after my first visit. The trip proved to be quite different
than the previous one. First, because ten members of the UNS joined
us (Lisa's four assistants plus a group of teachers), second, because
we chose a different route this time. We took a night train from Solo
to Malang where we slept a little after our arrival. In the late
morning, a huge jeep picked us up and drove us up the western slopes
of the Bromo Tengger Massif. On the way, we made a couple of stops at
a waterfall, in the Savannah and in the Ocean of Sand and arrived
perfectly on time for the sunset on Bromo. We also spent the night in
Cemoro Lawang, but thanks to our friend Boim we found a less crowded
spot to enjoy the sunrise. Even though Lisa caught a cold due to the
freezing early morning temperatures, we enjoyed the trip and the
company immensely and would like to thank everyone for the great
time. You rock!
|Lisa on Bromo|
|Surviving the early morning cold|
More pictures from our two trips to Bromo here
You might ask yourself why I call the visitor fee inflated. Let me
quickly explain. In May 2014, the Indonesian government, always short
of money, raised the fees to access it's natural and cultural
wonders. They didn't simply double their prices, but increased them
eight-fold! Their justification for the now hefty fees? None. I
personally don't mind to pay my share for the protection of natural
wonders. But the Indonesian government so far failed to convince me
that the money I paid in various sites actually contributes to their
protection. Garbage is, as elsewhere in Indonesia, liberally dumped
everywhere and I never saw a single ranger telling people off for
actively destroying the fragile ecosystems. National parks are
perceived by the Indonesian government, it seems to me, mainly as
cash cows and not as natural wonders worth protecting both for their
own sake and for future generations. There is a lot of room for
improvement in my eyes until the current visitor fees are justified.
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