Part 2 – Volcanoes
My first glimpse of Indonesia’s famous ring of fires was actually from the air. We were about to land in Yogyakarta when suddenly I saw a giant black cone under the plane’s wing. The volcano was in a deep sleep, wrapped in a thick blanket of white clouds, and nursed by a lullaby of the wind. It seemed floating gently in that vast space between earth and sky. Simply spectacular!
But the jewel of the crowd that I came to Indonesia to see is Gunung Bromo. It is in all Indonesia must-see lists, and it is there for a good reason. It’s wild. ‘A lunaresque landscape of epic proportion and surreal beauty’, that’s how Lonely Planet describes this eerie volcano and its surrounding. Gunung Bromo and its two equally impressive neighbours Gunung Kursi and Gunung Batok rise up magnificently from the vast Tengger caldera. On a good day, you could see smoke coming up from Mt. Bromo, and if you are lucky, you may even get some volcanic ash from the nearby Gunung Semeru, Java’s highest mountain.
After a terribly long 13-hour road trip from Yogyakarta to Cemoro Lawang, I got up at 3.30am the next morning for a sunrise tour of Gunung Bromo. Somehow, this reminded me of my sunrise climb up Mt Kinabalu 6 years ago. But this time instead of sweating myself under the moonlight, I sat comfortably in a jeep going up Penanjakan viewpoint. When we got there, *surprise*, there were literally hundreds of jeeps already tightly parked side by side along the narrow winding road up to the viewing platform. I walked up and found a huge crowd filling almost every possible space there, not just on the platform, but also on the benches, on the barrier, even outside the barrier and down the mountain side. Sometimes being small is a huge advantage, I somehow managed to squeeze myself through the crowd and got a good spot right by the barrier.
As the first sunlight slowly crept over the distant horizon, the black dark landscape below was separated from the deep indigo sky above by a magic carpet of warm colors: red, orrange, yellow, pink… Stars faded and gradually the outlines of Gunung Bromo and surrounding peaks were unveiled. The view was stunning!!!
And my day just got better and better. We descended from Penanjakan to a vast desolate plain called the Sea of Sands that surrounds Gunung Bromo. No sign of civilization in sight apart from the jeeps in front of us. Sand ripples glimmered in the morning sunlight, volcanic ash swirled around, and then I saw four locals on horses, their faces partially covered up. Both men and beasts stood still when our long line of jeeps passed by. My imagination ran wild, I thought I was in a remote desert somewhere in Mongolia, greeted by Genghis Khan’s cavalries.
Soon after, we reached the parking lot where all tourists started their journey to Gunung Bromo either on foot or on horse back. I opted for the latter, and finished it off by walking up 300 steps to the rim of the crater. Gunung Bromo was quiet that day, not even a single breath of volcanic smoke came out of its giant mouth, all I saw was a small green crater lake hidden in the shadow at the bottom of this giant funnel-shaped crater. It’s beautiful though.
First view of a volcano
Watching sunrise from Penanjakan viewpoint
Descending to the Sea of Sands
Horse-riding to Gunung Bromo
The Sea of Sands
Leaving Cemoro Lawang