Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

Mt. Bromo and the Tenggerese

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After finding a reasonable flight to Surabaya, my friend and I hopped on a plane for our summer vacation to explore the wonders of East Java. As Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, one can still find many similarities in the colorful hues and architectural structures left behind by the Netherlands. East Java attracts travelers from around the world who desire to experience two unique and stunning volcanos: Mt. Bromo and Kawa Ijen. As Surabaya is closer to Mt. Bromo, that was the obvious first stop on our journey. There isn't really an exact route to Bromo from Surabaya so we had to take a shabby 2 hour train (which was hard to get a seat on, book that shit in advance!!) to a central bus hub, Probolinggo. At the train station, minibuses wait to pick up the backpackers and even though we insisted to the driver that we wanted to go to bus station, he insisted on a tourist office. So, en mass, the backpackers all had to walk from the expensive private tour bus office, to the bus station. The bus station did not actually have buses up to Cemoro Lawang, the village near Bromo. The only option, as it seemed, was to take a tourist minibus which only goes to the village when it is absolutely full. This was extremely irritating as we had to wait more than an hour and we still didn't have enough people so we had to pay more to get the driver to get us up there sooner. On the bus, we met a Vietnamese adventurer, Emily, who ended up spending her time in Bromo with us.

The village itself has an abundance of local homestays which were run by the Tenggerese people. The shower water was cold, the toilets were squatters, the rooms were freezing, but who the hell cared when we had a view of a glorious volcano?  We arrived the village around 3 PM and decided to trek down the mountain the village was on and to hike Bromo so that we could have a little peak inside its crater. The field in front of Bromo was surrounded by centuries of volcanic ash buildup and thus, our shoes were black within seconds. In the flat field of crunchy, dead grass, there was one visible tree remaining (which immediately became a goal to photograph). It is probably the most hardcore tree ever to still be remaining in such a dead pit of nothingness thus making it an interesting subject. We were happy to have brought masks on our walk because the amount of windy ash made it hard to breathe.

Closer to the crater, Tenggerese men rested with their horses. As we climbed up the steep stairs, it became evident how loud the active volcano was. It was booming and smoking. I'm not sure what I expected an active volcano to sound like but it definitely didn't sound like the time Gollum visited Mt. Doom. The sun set on our descent and the Tenggerese men sitting at the foot tried very persistently to get us to take their jeeps/horses combination back to the village. We took the horses for like ten minutes and at the bottom of the hill, the men told us to get off and that we had to walk the rest of the way, haha. Now, walking back became increasingly challenging. It was pitch black, there were obviously zero lights, and we could not remember the location of the path up to the village. However, it was the most beautiful, star filled sky I have ever seen. There was zero light pollution nearby and every constellation was vividly visible. After shooting a few pictures of the amazing sky, we actually had to follow the edges of the mountain to even find any path back up because of the darkness. After about an hour or so of being lost, we decided to stop for dinner. There were a variety of tourist restaurants selling Western food but we decided to go to a small local corner shop for dinner - you can get pizza anywhere, right? Here, were were able to try what we would end up eating the entirety of our trip, Mie Goreng, or as most people commonly know it as, stir fry noodles.

By early evening, the majority of the tourists had already turned in so that they could wake up for the real tourist attraction of Bromo, the sunrise over the volcano. I would say around 75% of the tourists took jeeps up as far as they could and hiked a little to the viewpoint. We were trying to save money so we decided to walk the whole way from 3 AM to the viewpoint. (If you wish to do this, go down the main road at the top of the village that goes along the farms that overlook the volcanoes and essentially just follow the path. Eventually you will see jeeps stopped and it'll be obvious where to go. It takes around an hour and a half). We got to the top with about 45 minutes to spare until the sun rose and when it did, we were pleasantly greeted with an array of colors that slowly painted the mountains. Really, only pictures can somewhat describe the magnificence we witnessed above the clouds, not words.

Following the vivid sunrise, the walk back was well-worth it regardless of the inevitable exhaustion. Because we had hiked in the pitch black on the way up, the walk back was like an entire new horizon. We passed countless rolling hills of farms and we even occasionally were able to lock eyes with some of the compelling faces of the local Tenggerese. The area was filled with greenery, farms, mountains, and beautiful people. What more could one want?