Mount Bromo and Probolinggo, Indonesia: travel Video, Photos and travel writing. Or view more photos from the landscapes, nature and sunrise in Mount Bromo, Indonesia.
I’ve been dozing with an eye open ever since 2, when, in the middle of the night, the conductor shakes me into awakeness.
We gather our bags drowsily, driving past mosque after mosque, their awnings full with row upon row of the bundled homeless clutching to loose sleep. A single, dreary main street – how the scenery has changed, but a ferry-ride away from Bali, or is it the lull of night alone that drapes the town in fear? Our fear.
We’re thrown off the Guns n’ Roses tour bus in the middle of the road.
We’re thrown off the Guns n’ Roses tour bus in the middle of the road. A typical Muslim Indonesian town: the imam’s chants and daily prayers rise in the dark of the night (lyrical – even more so? – at 4am).
There’s nothing to do, nowhere to go. A few decrepit stalls line the road. We sit tight on a bench, order an instant coffee and a cigarette. It’s a dangerous time to be drowsy.
Don’t take candy from strangers.
The rare passer-bys eye Coco and her Hijab-less face and neck. A motorcycle stops:
“Going to Mount Bromo? Private bus for you.”
I reply negatively, eager to send him away. I’ve no intent to jump, even less so with Coco, in a minivan that will drive us away and into the unknown night. Don’t take candy from strangers. This holds true for grownup travelers and suburban kids alike.
Suggest to Coco that she wraps a scarf on her shoulders preventively. We think of investing in a plastic ring to slip on her finger in the future. Some people have bestial conceptions of the depravity of unmarried Western women, and I’m eager to avoid such misunderstanding.
I know not to trust my judgment thus muddled with sleep – but where else to turn?
And we wait on the bench till dawn for safety. As the first rays of dawn stray across the horizon, reassured by the presence of the shopkeepers, I momentarily leave Coco to inspect the surroundings. The streets are deserted still. The motorcycle returns towards me (had he been watching?), the man renews his offer. I know not to trust my judgment thus muddled with sleep – but where else to turn?
“Call your man. We can talk here.”
He calls, evidently awaking his contact. The man on the phone will meet us nearby in fifteen minutes. I return to Coco, ponderingly.
“Let’s try this. We can always refuse.”
We follow the motorcycle on foot. The streets are slowly coming alive, which is a good thing. There’s enough daylight to get a sense of our surroundings. We’re led to a flimsy building. But there’s a washed-out travel agency billboard, and we’re still on a main street. That too, is a good thing.
The contact eventually appears, freshly showered. A short, stout man with lacquered hair, silver wristwatch: I’m now fully reassured he only means business.
Commences the bargaining: bus costs to and from Mount Bromo, jeep rental, hotel and so on – and where are we headed next? Despite my best efforts to remain vague, he soon corners me into an inclusive package. I desperately struggle with my muddled mind to remember the individual costs seen online, adding them up as we speak. After much bargaining, we settle on a mutually attractive deal. I have no doubt he’s pocketing a worthwhile commission, but I think we’re roughly on par with the DIY solution. And it feels good, for once, to get rid of the headache of logistics, at least for 24h.
Triple-check the invoice, weary of any loopholes. And refuse to pay the full amount ahead of time. Will give him the other half when we return tomorrow.
Later that morning (we’ve been lingering aimlessly in Probolinggo for a good four or five hours already, are drowning with fatigue). The business man throws us into a public minibus (that’s commission right there) and waves us off with a big fat grin.
Mount Bromo at Sunrise
the Build-up to beauty is important as Beauty itself.
The slowest minibus in the world drives and jams, up the hill and past schools, churches and mosques, colored yellow, orange and pink.
A old man with a wide smile sits in the back, grinning. I grin back.
A tiny old lady hops in, carrying a bag full of fried fritters. She hands some over, sharing with the other passengers, smiling. I begin to relax. Coco slumbers.
Expected volcanic landscape, got green, brown and gold mountain slopes instead – but the Build-up to beauty is important as Beauty itself. And these mountainous slopes have nothing to be ashamed of.
At Yoschis, the only reasonably priced hotel in town – we’re relieved to see tourists for the first time since Bali, who would’ve thought? Am even more relieved to see the hotel clerks expecting our arrival, and everything seems to be in order.
Day to kill. Plate of potatoes. Cheap and starchy.
Later that night: two sinister-looking henchmen drop by the hotel, request to see me.
There’s no room for negotiation this time. Our business man likely reports higher too. So be it.
Bromo sleeps as clouds circle at its base, a divine cauldron.
Bromo’s like no other. Don’t take my word. See it. To believe it.
2am. Jeep drivers come around the hotel knocking on every door. Sleepy tourists ready to be awed, given a packed lunch. Driving on a bumpy road in the night, the glare of the headlights. Then.
Stars by the bucket like fish in pre-industrial seas. Bromo sleeps as clouds circle at its base, a divine cauldron. The sun rises.
The stuff of movies – or dreams.
The jeep descends from the viewpoint to the base of the crater: amazed to discover what I’d been expecting all along: a surreal volcanic desert covered in low-lying mist rising from the moistness of the ash. Horses stirring in the mist. A hidden monastery in the clouds. The stuff of movies – or dreams.
Watch the video on Youtube or on Facebook.
Pocket your Instagram, Bromo Comes Pre-Filtered. (#CPF)
Summing up: Mount Bromo is among the most beautiful – damn trite words – natural scenes I’ve ever witnessed. I leave tearfully.
Dead-Man Driving: Bromo to Yogyakarta
“In a minibus? That’s sooo stuu-pid.”
We’ve returned to Probolinggo (in a private shuttle this time, as had been originally agreed with Business Man), along with three Spanish girls. We’re all waiting for our promised minibus, which will take us through nearly a third of Java, to the cultural hub of Yogyakarta. A ten-hour ride. We’re all beat from the early jeep ride and nerve-wracked at the idea of spending ten hours in one of these Dead-Man minivans. And to add to our stress, the obnoxious Russian girl (who’s not taking the minivan with us) repeats:
“That’s sooo stuu-pid.”
I whisper to Coco, more out of fatigue than meanness:
“Bitch.” She nods silently.
an upturned truck in the middle of the road doesn’t serve to reassure us as to our fate.
Of course, the girl wasn’t altogether wrong. But some things are better left unsaid.
The ride begins unpleasantly, with the apparition of a seventeen-year old (or less) rebel, whom we discover to be our designated driver.
On a two-lane road throughout, swamped with traffic, railroad tracks, scooters and pedestrians, we trudge. Early into the journey, an upturned truck in the middle of the road doesn’t serve to reassure us as to our fate.
In the end, I’m here to write this story. And little does the judgmental Russian girl know, her quip has given us cause to smile cynically ever since.
Next: Yogyakarta, Indonesia’s cultural hub and home to two of the world’s most revered places of worship.
Watch the timelapse video from Bromo, view more travel photos from the landscapes, nature and sunrise, or read the travel tips for Mount Bromo, Indonesia.