I had gone off to Indonesia with high expectation for Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen. Expectations of, not just visiting these gorgeous bucket-list destinations, but also of organizing my own solo travel once there once I got to Yogyakarta! Let’s just say that the expectations of organizing my own way to Bromo and Ijen took a backseat once I reached Yogyakarta.
Let me explain the landscape of these destinations – both these places are situated in hard-to-reach places, and finding your way there, maintaining the correct time for the sunrise, finding the viewpoints, organizing your own lodging and transport – that is all damn freaking difficult to do, especially if you’re short on time! Plus, apparently, you don’t save much $$$ and run the risk of missing out on the vantage spots. Sad, but true.
With a shortage of time on our hands (we had elected to stay at Yogyakarta for 4 days instead of the original 2, because we fell in love with that place!), we decided to speak to Cicilia at our Hotel, who went ahead and booked us on a joint tour of Bromo and Ijen. So, the next morning, we woke up, ran to our tour microbus (we were up till 4.30 am the previous night saying goodbye to our friends in Yogyakarta!), and started the insanely long journey to Probolinggo Town. FYI, by insanely long ride, I mean a 15 hour long bus journey with just an hour’s break for lunch and restroom use! We made our first stop at the tour company’s office, where a guide called us all in and explained the itinerary for the next few hours to catch the sunrise at Bromo.
Once our briefing was complete, we were split into two smaller ‘microbuses’. I put microbus in inverted commas, mainly because these were rickety old vehicles, seemingly more appropriate for extremely cheap local travel around Indonesia, hardly appropriate for our upcoming 3 hour journey into the hills and Probolinggo.
Our luggage was all thrown up on the microbus roof (yes, thrown!) and my concerns of my luggage falling off along the way was greeted with mirthful laughter from the driver and his helper (well, excuse me for trying to ensure I have all my clothes for the rest of my trip!). I later figured out that the helper was going to tie all our luggage together on top of the micro, and then sort of tie himself to all of the luggage as well *astounded face*. The things you come across when travelling!
Some 3-4 hours later, we reached our stop for the night, at around midnight. The drive to our rest house, situated in a small village high up in the mountains, was pleasant and the feel of the chilly breeze was soothing. Once you reach the guest house, prepare yourself to pay more cash in the form of “entrance fees”. Our guide didn’t explain this properly to us (and neither did our tour company in Yogyakarta where we booked), which actually led to a minor altercation. We finally paid the Bromo entrance fee (appx. Around 350,000 Rupiah) and *somehow* made it to bed for a couple of hours of sleep. Less than 3 hours later, at around 3 a.m., we were once again picked up by a jeep and once again started our journey to the “Bromo Viewpoint”. En-route we actually found ourselves driving through clouds – an unbeatable experience!
The jeeps took us as high as they could, following which we were then required to trek up the mountain to get to the top. Although it was 4 o’clock in the morning, we passed several small shops and tea stalls selling souvenirs and warm refreshments. The temperature was quite low and I was lamenting my poor choice of a light cardigan, which did nothing really to protect me against the elements! Once we made our way to the top, the next battle began – we had to secure our own individual viewpoints! I climbed up on a very thin perch and hung on for dear life on the railing at the far end, somehow squashed between two other strangers.
It was an “other-worldly experience”. Standing on that thin perch, holding on for dear life to that flimsy railing, shivering in the cold and looking up to see a thousand stars twinkling down on , successfully finding that magical spot amongst that crowd (a spot more precious than gold!) – THAT is a memory I still cherish! We also got to check out the many beautiful and ornamental offerings left by the locals.
It wasn’t long before the first rays of the sun illuminated that early morning sky and the crowd unanimously cheered. What followed next was the frenzied snapping of cameras hearty jostling of tourists against each other. Unfortunately the initial view of Bromo was completely obscured by the clouds and the early morning mist. A lot of tourists left, quite disappointed with the situation. However, my group and I decided to stick around and we were eventually rewarded by an amazing, un-obscured, clear view of the gorgeous Mount Bromo.
We eagerly snapped our photos as quickly as we could, unsure of how long we had before the clouds came rushing back again.
Only when we had photographed this UNESCO site to our heart’s content, did our group finally make our way back to our Jeep halfway down the mountain. On the way back, we again passed the many refreshment stands and enjoyed a little warm breakfast with tea.
Next stop on the itinerary was the infamous Bromo itself – only this time we would be lucky enough to view it up close and make our way to the top of the active volcano crater – READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE!