Mt. Bromo, an active volcano on the island of Java in Indonesia, gives its visitors a taste of nature’s magnificence as it rumbles and spews smoke from dawn until dusk.
It’s not necessary to pay for the large, guided tours to Bromo. Many people, from sheer lack of information, chose to go to the volcano by jeep. This costs 90,000 RP, and the jeep simply drives along a dirt road to the base of the volcano. From there, tourists walk up a relatively easy path with built-in steps to the viewpoint. If you are feeling lazy in the early a.m., go ahead and get the jeep. Know that you can very easily walk, and there’s something quite wonderful about taking in the mountain air, gravel crunching under your tennies, on the way to the top.
I stayed at Yoschi’s hotel and got a 3:30 a.m. wake up call along everyone else. My Parama driver offered to take me to Cemoro, where I could easily make the walk to the viewpoint in around 50 minutes. He did this for no extra charge, so I accepted. It saved me waking up at 2:30 a.m. and a few extra kilometers. Once he dropped me off I trekked steadily uphill in the dark as jeeps and motorbikes drove past.
***Should you want to walk, planning on sleeping in Cemoro may be easiest. There are a couple of options for inexpensive lodging. Otherwise, you can get a shuttle to Cemoro in the morning, but there’s most likely an extra charge for this and it could be more of a hassle. Also, plenty of motorbikes offered to give me a ride to the base for 10,000 RP, you could easily take a ride if you wanted and save yourself the 80,000 RP on a jeep. The walking is easy, though, and the path quite clear.
I just followed the road the whole way, shaking off offer after offer for a ride up to the base. In about 45 minutes I arrived and climbed up. The path quickly turns into actual steps up to the viewpoint pavilion. The only hassle is dodging and weaving around horses also trudging up the path (watch your step if you don’t want poop covered shoes…) At the viewpoint they sell coffee, tea, fried banana, etc.
After sunrise, I walked back down the mountain and over to the park entrance, which is essentially just back down the same road and then you make a right toward the volcano. I was again harassed by motorbikers and horseback riders. There’s a steep first decent, and then a brief walk across the dessert-like terrain to the volcano. If you go by jeep, the driver will drop you off at the temple located at the base of Mt. Bromo. This is technically the tourist viewpoint area.
When I arrived at the plateau I crossed straight through towards Bromo, where I ran into my first walker, a German man named Clemens.
Clemens, a long-legged man in his 40’s, quickly strolled past me as I poured a bag of honey roasted peanuts into my mouth. Shortly he stopped to have a chat about climbing up with a crazy looking, ash-covered French man. I caught up, sensing an opportunity for adventure. The French man had been all the way to the crater rim – this was his second day exploring the volcano. Clemens told me later he suspected the French man was a little crazy – maybe even camping out there – we saw him again on our way back towards town, apparently making circles around the volcano.
He advised us to make the climb, and Clemens and I exchanged glances and agreed on our mission: get to the crater rim, whatever it takes.
This generally isn’t allowed. Park officials are justifiably afraid people would fall into the crater if they allowed everyone up. There are also toxic gases and sulfur being emitted from the billowing smoke. We walked up a fairly obvious path in the sand, eventually reaching a ranger who asked us what we were up to.
His gaze narrowed on us: he knew already what we had in mind.
“Please not go. I will lose my job if you fall in. I have a wife and kids. You cannot go up. Is bad for me,” he said.
“Okay, okay,” we said. “We won’t go up. But we just want to walk a little closer.”
So we passed him as he stared on after us, looking a little desperate as he got on his radio behind us. We walked closer and I put on my raincoat if the ash got to be too much. Unfortunately, because my raincoat is highly conspicuous and bright blue, some tourists saw me down below. This brought our friend Aziz running towards us. He met us at a little platform right before the short, steep climb to the top. I took off my raincoat and he breathed a little easier, then seemed to consider the situation. He glanced down toward the temple below and paced back and forth, radio in hand.
“How long will you want to be up there?” he asked.
“Not long,” we said. “5 minutes up, 3 minutes at the top, and down again.”
“Okay,” Aziz said. “It’s bastard like you make my job hard.”
But he was smiling when he said it…(he would later ask Clemens to be Facebook friends, identifying his own name as, “Fuck Hell”).
We all climbed – Aziz ushered us up – and sat at the top of the volcano for a good 10 minutes while it smoked and rumbled, belched up puffs from the deep and bits of magma came flitting up too.
It was insanely cool. One of those brief, wondrous moments when you feel totally aligned with the universe, a part of this powerful earth, awestruck by nature’s mysterious ways. Beneath my knees I could feel the vibrations each time the volcano rumbled and released.