After a pleasant 8 hour journey with a few sleeps and a stop for lunch our group used the time to get to know each other. Our elite trekking unit consisted of 2 Walloons, 4 French and 2 Russians. Most of the group were holiday makers bar myself and a French couple so we had the opportunity to swap and share stories of travels so far. Indonesia seems to attract the French as this is the only country that I have really noticed them in abundance. The French are normally quite easy to spot (apart from the usual obvious none pc traits I could mention) as most speak poor English and seemed to be dressed from head to toe in Quencha gear (a French Outdoor trekking brand akin to North Face) but my group was an exception as all spoke great English and were great fun. The Russians were a different story – moody, sullen and didn’t speak a word, typical.
We all amused ourselves during the drive by taking the mickey out of the driver who spoke no English but communicated with hand signals that baffled the lot of us. The best of all was the front passenger seat belt that had no clasp but forced me to wear it in fear of being fined by the police. With no regard for passenger safety he drove in the usual Indonesian manner and swerved and barged his way to Yoshi guesthouse 2 miles from the base of Mount Bromo where we would start our trek the next day. Another early start loomed so after a bite to eat and a chat it was bed time looking forward once more for a 3.30am wake up call.
It was quite cold up in the hills at around 1500m which was a refreshing change to the sometime oppressive 35 degree heat in lowland Indo. The next morning I was woken up well and truly by the cold shower which took me from a daze to fully conscious in less than 1/2 second. The coldest shower I have ever had and still shivering I hopped into the Jeep and we began our ascent up to Mount Penanjkan which is the main viewing point that overlooks the Tenngar National Park.
From this viewpoint we were treated to a spectacular view of Mount Sennaru (the tallest volcano in Java at 3600m) and Mount Bromo (2900m) in its shadow. Mount Bromo is the main attraction as its entire top was blown off and constantly belches out sulfurous smoke. Bromo sits inside the massive Tenggar Sand Sea of fine volcanic sand which stretches like a massive bowl which is 6 miles across. The view is breathtaking and unsettling as the volcanoes and dusts of the sea of sand break the lush green surroundings that encompass the area. Usually a massive blanket of mist carpets the bottom of the bowl surround the volcanoes but unfortunately this morning there was no such sight. The view was still unbelievable as when the darkness lifted we began to see the volcanoes before us.
Finally around 5.30am the sun broke free of the clouds and the Sand Sea before us light up and the true colours of the red and brown volcanic sand where shown to us. With around 100 people up at the viewpoint this enphasised why this is one of the main attractions in Indonesia. With enough pictures to fill a small library it was time to head back to the jeep and into the center of the Sand Sea in order to climb up to the crater of Mount Bromo. As we arrived at the start point of the near the base of the volcano we were greeted by around 50 horsemen all offering to take us up to the base of the volcano. Feeling no need for such a waste of money and looking at the very small and tired horses, I felt I would give them a rest and walk up which was easy enough.
Thirty minutes later and after steep climb up the man made stairs we were greeted at the top by plumes of sulphuric smoke. Not only did it sting the eyes but also made it impossible to breath at times. The smell was a mix of Chemistry labs and bad eggs and was at times unbearable. A quick walk around the crater rim trying to avoid all fumes and being harassed by the most bizarre flower seller dressed in a balaclava it was time to head on back to the minibus to get back tot he guesthouse and another 6 hr journey to our next destination. Looking down at the top of the crater into the center of the volcano felt like being on a bleak and barren world with a mixture of apprehension that anytime this smoldering beast could blow another top. A great day trip with not as much trekking as expected and it well deserves its tag as one of Indonesia’s most visited attraction.