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Making It To Bromo

At 1 am I heard the jeep honking outside Dayana’s home in Malang. Though I was awake I let the driver honk at least two more times to make sure it was my pick-up and not just some irate driver.

Half hoping that it was and I’d get to laze a little longer.

It had been raining in Malang all night and was pretty chilly. The driver got out to open the door to the back seats in the jeep. All the good spots were taken! There were four people- two couples in the jeep already and quite begrudgingly I settled in on the narrow seats at the back.

And so began the incredibly bumpy 3 hour ride to ‘sunrise point’; a predictable name for an equally predictable tourist trap. But- this time I was ready to make an exception. How often do you see an active volcano anyway?

An hour out of Malang and it had gotten really cold. I fished out my trusty fleece hoody and wished I’d worn a full sleeve jumper instead of a t-shirt. My teeth were chattering by now and the sniffles had kicked it.

It was pitch black and we, our driver included, couldn’t see much. The dim lights from his jeep were illuminating barely 5 feet ahead of the car. It was a narrow road along the mountains and I had the worst seat ever!

Eventually we reached the ‘Sea of Sand’ an expanse of flat land covered in volcanic ash surrounding Mount Bromo. It was three thirty am and the mist was so thick that we couldn’t see where we were going. Lost and disoriented, our driver finally admitted that we were lost! So we all got out with our torches and started looking for tire tracks we could follow. We found a clear one and started following it… soon realizing that they were ours and we’d been going around in circles.

Another 20 minutes of aimless driving later, we spotted the headlights of another jeep and started following it. Soon enough we were back on the road and heading up to sunrise point atop Mount Penanjakan- approximately 2770 meters above sea level.

When we arrived there I was so cold that I agreed to rent a jacket from one of the eager vendors who spotted me blowing furiously at my hands so they’d un-freeze enough for me to take a few pictures! The jacket had warmed the backs of hundreds of tourists before me… I could smell all of them!

I’d gotten talking to the two couples in the jeep with me and they were really nice folks. I spent most of the time talking to Jenny and Brett- a wonderful American couple- both 38 and recently engaged. The two have put all their stuff in storage, their apartment on rent and will be traveling the world for a year. They were eager for some advice on India and I was happy to gloat about how amazing my country is.

We were split up in the huge crowd that had come to see the Sunrise and Bromo. As the first rays lit up the sky, I was more taken in by the number of people there than the actual sight. So I walked off to a corner where none of the tourist had bothered to venture to and got an amazing view and fabulous pictures.

The sea of sand we had gotten lost in was now a sea of mist from this vantage point. Even with the throng of tourist, the sight of Mount Bromo emerging from the mist, steadily smoking away was quite incredible.

We stayed till the sun was out completely from behind the mountains and had made the cold a lot more bearable. A leisurely cup of tea and a snack later we were bundled into the jeep again to go to Bromo’s base for the trek up.

About two-dozen jeeps were already lined up when we got there. You could either trek up or take a pony. The sad little buggers were tiny! I always feel saddened by the plight of working animals. Their saddles were old and worn out and they looked poorly fed- you had only need look at their impoverished owners to understand why.

It’s might have been a tough climb up Bromo, but it’s made easier by the concrete steps leading up to the mouth of the crater. On my way up I saw a young Korean girl being carried down by her friends. Apparently the trek up and the stench of the smoke were too much for her and she had passed out. By the time I reached the top, I was wishing for a few close friends to carry me down too!

The Crater emitted thick plumes of smoke consistently. The smell of Sulphur was quite overwhelming when I first got to the top but the sight of the active volcano and the view from up there were worth it.

For me, it was one of those moments of feeling utterly insignificant on the face of the earth. How powerless and vulnerable we are to the Earth’s might. It was amazing to feel so distant from the predictability of daily life and to stare down into a crater that’s fueled from the earth’s core. I’ll never forget it.

On my way down I saw a biting and kicking match break up between two horses- obviously exhausted from ferrying people back and forth all day. Their respective owners eventually gave them a big smack on their bottoms to break it up. Made me think of my older sister… I wonder why?

Back at the base and after a tiny breakfast of one banana, a glass of milk and some bread, we were off to the next sight on the agenda of this tour- a beautiful waterfall that can only be reached after a gorgeous trek through the lush mountains. The waterfall itself wasn’t spectacular, but the trek was. A thousand shades of green, rice paddies carved out from the mountains and by now, just a beautiful, warm and sunny day.

Two hours later we were on our way back to Malang. It was a gorgeous day spent in nature and certainly something I’d recommend when in east Java Indonesia.

Back at the hostel, my beautiful hostess Dayana was waiting for me to take me back to Surabaya. The bus ride was uneventful except for the roaming musicians playing for money. I always find it hard to resist young kids working for their money. This lot was really talented. Even with their broken down guitar and improvised drums they made some amazing music. Big tip from me!

I learned so much about Indonesian culture and life from Dayana. Details and nuances you can’t read about on the Internet nor gather from news as an outsider. On the way back, Dayana made a few phone calls and booked me on the night bus to Bali. This gave me enough time to get back, shower, pack and some quality time with her and B.J before my pick-up arrived. I couldn’t stop hugging Dayana as I said goodbye. What an amazing lady. I’m going to miss her terribly.

I was feeling a little better by now, and considering how tired I was… I thought I’d sleep the entire way to Bali. I was so wrong.

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5 Responses to “Making It To Bromo”

  1. arathi. says:

    Your experiences in Indonesia seem fantastic! I can completely understand what you mean by feeling insignificant in the face of nature. It’s a breathtaking feeling! (:

  2. kiran says:

    Hi tithi, chasing you is like seeing the carrot under my nose. Yes, I am hungry for more….each day. Now I understand the addiction of the arm chair traveller!

  3. Dyana says:

    Hi Tithiya Sharma!
    Wow…amazing….fantastic! I didn’t think that you are really such a wonderful woman! Pretty, beautiful, strong, and smart too… I am lucky to meet and know you. Even Wiwiek and I have been talked about you like Kajol…because everything in you is pretty, even Wiwiek caught your beautiful fingers so neat and she said how different with ours..short and fat….lol….You should have met with a nice, handsome, and wonderful man like Superman or Spiderman…lol…
    If I have known you before I read this, I should have not been charged you anything because you are our special guest…and hey… all you have talked about me is too much, really touching my heart…thanks so much for good words about me…I never forget you and please never forget us..You have home here, come and stay with us anytime…
    Good luck and have a nice journey! I’ll keep in touch with your news…And let me know if I could do a favor…

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