15 August 2013
The most photographed volcano of Indonesia: Bromo
“Why, but why did I not take my coat and my gloves with me?”, I kept asking myself in the dead of the cold night, with a full moon palely warming me up, as I was riding yet another borrowed scooter up yet another mountain close to 3,000 metres above sea level, attempting to get there before dawn (after a similar experience at Papandayan).
I had brought a coat and gloves all the way from Europe just for this ride... but dumbly left them with my big backpack at a hotel located two hours from where I was (I had only taken a smaller bag with me for a two-day trip). Renting a scooter from a random guy was a whole different story, after several inhabitants warning me off of supposed “gangsters” on the way from that seaside town up to the volcano, forty kilometres away – the road proved to be the best paved road across Indonesia and only tranquil, bucolic villages were bordering it.
That ride at dawn hadn’t started well. As I was ready to set off – at 4.30am – I couldn’t figure out how to unlock the fre*king arg$ f*cking scooter. I started to panic. Banging on the door of the guest house owner got her out of bed – I felt really stupid, unlocking the scooter was obvious, I simply had never done it.
So what did I do to protect myself from the cold? A mere plastic rain cape – and my desperate attempt to try to “mind-control” my shivering: I had in mind the probably illusory images of half-naked Buddhist monks sitting in their temples atop Himalayan mountains. The combination probably worked and I soon saw hordes of jeeps parked alongside the road leading to the mountaintop, at 2,770 metres above sea level – aaah, the advantage of riding a scooter to be able to park right at the very top :).
The funny thing is that everyone talks about “Bromo” but the best view of it is actually from that mountain called Penanjakan, where I took the attached photos from (in fact, if you add “ökull” at the end of that mountain name, you get the name of an Icelandic volcano – okay, sorry, that’s my type of humour). Also, Bromo is actually not that nice green conical volcano that you see in the middle of the pictures – that’s Batok. It’s instead the broken brown one on the left, from which white steam is blowing most of the time. The less funny thing is that people therefore get confused and hike up the wrong volcano (can’t help but smile nonetheless, sorry).
Sunrise on Penanjakan is bustling with people as if it were rush hour in a city – but they all leave hurriedly twenty minutes after the sun has risen. Good for me, it’s better without anybody up there. It’s indeed an experience to watch colours gradually brighten up, the mist drifting across the caldeira (this is the area surrounding the Bromo crater and Batok), and steam coming out at regular intervals (every thirty minutes almost precisely) of Java’s highest peak, Gunung Semeru at 3,676 metres above sea level, in the background. The whole scenery is really pretty to watch: the sides of volcanoes looking like ruffled drapes, the different shades of greens and browns, the encompassing view from five hundred metres above the site, the apparent calmness of the setting – apparent only since Indonesia sits atop the Pacific “Ring of Fire”. and boom! (okay, not funny, it really does happen :-/).
My adventure with the scooter did not stop there, at the top of Penanjakan. I would then ride down to the caldeira on a 45-degree road and then across a really tough desert-like surface (so that’s what those jeeps were for, I got it only then... /facepalm), so I could possibly walk up to the crater of Bromo. But that’s for an upcoming story.