When Java's former highest peak burst apart in cataclysm fashion thousands years ago, it left an imposing and extraordinary caldera that is now part of the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. At a mere 2.329 meters high, Gunung Bromo doesn’t earn its fame for being one of the tallest peaks around, but rather for being one of the top places in the world to admire the sunrise.
We had been living in Jakarta for months -it was polluted, humid, and sooo hot. Time for a change. We decided to go exploring East Java's volcanic landscape. To discover an incredible Moonscape.
Our trip across Java is one of the most extraordinary we have ever done. Obviously in terms of scenery, but also for the people, the atmosphere, the silence, the smoke slowly coming out of that huge crater, that feeling to be walking on the Moon, and that pristine nature...
gunung bromo: expedition on a moonscape
To the land of Volcanoes - An Incredible Journey
4:00 am. The alarm resonates in the bedroom. Tea. Muesli. Taxi. Off. We have a long journey to go. Starting with a flight to Surabaya, followed by a mini-bus to the main bus station, then a 5 hours bus ride to Probolinggo. There, we grab a quick Nasi Goreng -what's that thing moving in the plate? Oh, right, that's a baby cockroach. Bon appetit-, head up to a travel agency, book a bemo (an authentic one, you know, where you can throw your bag on the roof like they do in the adventure movies), wait for all the minibus seats to be filled, make some new friends, whereupon we finally kick off for the last part of the trip: two hours tossed in that old minibus through scary winding roads -do not look down in the ravine, do NOT look down!-. The journey is uncomfortable and never-ending. But it's so good to be on the road... We couldn't be more happy.
a village Perched on a ridge - Cemoro Lawang
The bemo stops. Here we are. Cemoro Lawang. A tiny village neighboring the caldera. First surprise: for the first time in months, we are COLD. That is such a good sensation, we can't help it but just go for a walk around, ignoring the rain falling, happier than ever. There is no car, no traffic noise, no pollution. There's not a soul here. We feel lost in the end of the world -in the best way you can imagine. We book a 'deluxe' room -which basically means we have hot water-, grab the best Sate Ayam we ever had, and go direct to bed. Sleeping WITHOUT air con. Amazing.
an immense Moonscape - the caldera's sand sea
3:00 am. It's time to see what we came for. The sunrise on Gunung Bromo's caldera. It's freezing cold outside. Fortunately, the locals knew we wouldn't be equipped, thus, they sell us hats and gloves, then we're ready to jump in the Land Cruiser that is awaiting us. There is something really exciting by crossing the caldera in the dark: you can't see anything, but you can feel the bumps, hear the silence, and simply let your imagination run wild. Perched on top of Mt Penanjakan, we are waiting for the sun to rise. The fog is really thick this morning. We can't see anything. People start to lose hope and give up: no sunrise for today. Two hours later, we are only a dozen of believers left. And the impossible happens. The fog gently dissipates, to reveal the top of Mt Semeru, the highest volcano around. We are speechless. Absolute silence. It's beautiful. And so impressive. Then comes the explosion of joy after three hours waiting in the cold. Everybody applauds, cheers and hugs. WE GOT IT! We got the view -even better: the view without the crowds.
Then we finally descend down the mountain to discover the wide and stupendous caldera. It's unbelievable. We feel like we are in a planet from Star Wars. Hiking surrounded by volcanoes has something magic and dangerous that makes us feel privileged. Gunung Bromo calmly smokes in front of us... It's a psychedelic desert looming around us. Our breath is taken away, as never before.
Serenity amid a threatening nature - A temple among the active volcanoes
On the Segara Wedi sand plain sits a beautiful Hindu temple called Pura Luhur Poten. It holds a significant importance to the Tenggerese tribe, to ask fod blessings in Mount Bromo. The place is spiritually charged. Absolutely splendid. It adds something up to this atmosphere out of this world. -On which planet are we?
How to get to the caldera?
To make the journey tremendously more exciting and authentic, we organized this expedition by ourselves. We flew from Jakarta to Surabaya, then took a minibus to Bondowoso bus station in Surabaya. From there, we took a public bus to Probolinggo. Stopping a few times to let on guitar-playing buskers and snack touts, the ride took us through absolutely stunning countryside. Then from Probolinggo bus station, we took a minibus to Cemoro Lawang -booked via Toto Travel, honest and nice guy.
ATTENTION if you too wanna travel INDEPENDENTLY. When we arrived in Probolinggo, the driver stopped in a street full of travel agencies, and let the agents jump into the bus to scam us, trying to sell 'the last tickets' for five times the price. They can be very persistant and annoying. Ignore remarks and stick to your initial plan.