I have to be honest and tell you guys that I have kind of been avoiding this post because well, I really am at a loss for words. Let’s start at the beginning of the exhausting, but life changing trip.
What is ‘Bromo’? Mount Bromo, is an active volcano in East Java. It is located in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, and sits in the middle of a giant plain called ‘The Sea of Sand’, which has been a protected nature reserve since 1919. It is a really popular tourist attraction. Some people hike and travel to the park independently, but we took a jeep tour.
Our driver, picked us up at Sam’s house at midnight Wednesday night/Thursday morning. I didn’t know anything about Bromo, other than it was a volcano, and I had no idea why we would be picked up so early. Sam, Vriz, Carly (Sam’s friend, current Peace Crops Volunteer), and I, tried to sleep before the trip, but didn’t have much luck. We loaded up into the van, all bundled up (because it is cold in the mountains at that time of night), and headed out. The Jeep was this awesome neon blue color. I sat in the front and everyone else sat in the back. The back seats weren’t traditional seats, they were benches that faced inward, and in the center there was a sound system. Pretty cool!
We began the trip and before I knew it, we were driving straight up mountains. Our top speed was probably only 30mph, but most of the time we were crawling. The road was a thin, one way style road, and was incredibly bumpy and super curvy. There were curves that were harder than a full u-turn. The girls in the back fell asleep, or at least rested their heads, but I couldn’t rest up in the front seat because it was so bumpy and my seat was sitting straight up. It was a long and slightly terrifying ride; especially without a seatbelt, but the views were really cool. It was pitch black outside, but when we got up high enough, you could see all of the lights in the towns and villages below. It was really cool.
When we finally arrived at the park, our Jeep driver hooked us up with awesome prices, we paid for 3 local tickets and Vriz got in for free! We went up and parked, and got out to get some hot drinks and wait for the sunrise. That’s why you go so late at night!! So you can watch the sunrise over the mountains! Anyway, when we got out of the Jeep, it was a little chilly. Probably around 50-55 degrees. I was a little cold, but since i just came from Denver, right after the blizzard, 55 felt fine. The little tropical babies however, were whining non stop! They all had sweaters and coats, hats and were freezing. I felt badly for them, but was happy that I felt ok, and was grateful for the cool, as I have been boiling ever since I got off the plane. I couldn’t wait for it to warm up so we could stop talking about how cold it was! 😉 To help warm up, we went into one of the little stalls and got hot drinks. That’s when I had the energen! The milky, vanilla, oat drink. Sam, Vriz and Carly all had coffee, and we waited for sunrise. We walked around and Carly and I bought some souvenirs. I go an awesome, neon multi-colored winter hat, with a patch that says ‘G Bromo’, and also a really cool ‘Bromo’ sweater. I paid 15,000Rp for the hat and 80,000Rp for the sweater. That’s about $1 for the hat and about $6 for the sweater. Score!
It was time! We walked up to the sunrise view point, and waited among the sea of people. The sunrise was slow and wonderful. It was kind of stressful at first to be around so many people, but as time went on I became a little more comfortable. The colors of the sunrise were different than I had ever seen. The sky turned this beautiful aqua color, and the sun was bright, pure orange. There was one weird shaped cloud that blocked the actual sun for quite a while, so we were able to actually look and enjoy the sky longer.
After the sun was up, it was selfie-stick time!! We all took so many selfies, group pics, individual pics, landscape pics, it was great! The people started to clear out to head to their next destination within the park We were watching the sunset at the top of the view point, and when the people cleared out, we could go up to the edge, stand up on the ledge and peer over the railing at the view. When I ran up there and jumped up, I lost my words. The entire landscape opened up, and the day was so clear and beautiful, you could see everything. I could see Bromo, steaming away. It was the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen; it looked fake. We took a lot of pictures here, and finally went to go eat, then move on to the next site. This is when we had the pisang goreng (fried bananas).
We got in the jeep and headed to the next location, and made a couple stops at some view points on the way. The next actual stop was the sand sea. We went down, down, down the mountain, down to the sand sea. This landscape looked completely different from where we just were. We were surrounded by jungle on all sides, and were in front of a giant, inactive volcano. There were people on motorcycles zipping around in the sand. We took a lot of awesome pictures then headed up to the crater of Bromo. When we got close to the area where you start the hike, a bunch of guys on horses started folllowing the jeep. It was a funny thing to see. The guys were trying to sell us rides on the horses, up to the crater. Sam had done Bromo before, and said the hike sucked, because it’s all thick, black, volcanic sand, and its a really steep incline. We decided to take the horses.
Ok so real talk, I was the heaviest person on this trip, and I swear, the guys gave me the tiniest little pony to ride. Sam, Carly and Vriz’s horses looked like giants compared to mine. What the heck, man!! Poor pony. I’ve only ever ridden a horse one other time, and I was probably 11, went with my dad, and my dad’s horse bit my horses tail and my horse freaked out, threw me off, and I vowed to not ride a horse again. But, the main thing I said I wanted to do on this trip, was get out of my comfort zone. I mean, flying here by myself, was way out of my comfort zone, so I figured I could ride a horse. Getting on was awkward! I had some tiny Indonesian man trying to help me, and I ended up flopping onto the poor things back, laying on my stomach. Somehow I mounted the horse, and we immediately started walking toward the crater. The horse and the saddle were both so tiny, with every step I thought I was going to fall off. I didn’t get many pictures of this ride, because I was holding on for dear life, but the ride up was pretty scary. There were steep inclines and declines, and a lot of other horse traffic. But somehow, we made it up! It was time to get off of the horse, and the guy that was leading mine, came around to the side and patted his shoulder. I was supposed to put all of my body weight on him, and be lifted off the horse. Um, so not happening, he was so tiny, probably smaller than L, so I just clutched my horse and said no! Carly was off of her horse, so I yelled for her to come help me. Carly is super tall and in shape so I felt fine having her help me instead of that tiny guy! I kind of plopped off of the horse, and landed on the ground. No one was squished. Success.
Now we got to climb 250 steps up to the crater. The steps were wet and covered in volcanic sand, but the scenery was spectacular. It looked like we were on a different planet. We took a break at all of the break points, and worked our way up to the crater. At the top of the stairs, you have to take a bigggg step up so you can walk over to the crater. I wont lie, I needed a little help up!
I never thought that I would be so nervous at the top of the crater. It was steaming and Carly and I both swear you could hear it churning deep down in the Earth. There was so much steam you couldn’t even see inside and the sulfur smell truly does smell like rotten eggs. Being up there made me so nervous. We took a few pictures and Carly and I were like OK LET’S GO. But Sam and Vriz were fine with staying up there. Maybe I was nervous because the volcano was sputtering not very long ago, and everything in my body was telling me to run away. As if I could outrun and eruption, even if one happened! It was very very cool, but I didn’t want to be up there any longer than I had to be, so we started the trip down the stairs and back to our horses.
We got on our horses and made the trek back. Toward the end, I hear Vriz yelling ‘Carly!! Caitlin!! Samantha!!’ at the top of her lungs. I look over, and the guy leading the horse is sprinting alongside her horse, the horse running! ‘I’M RUNNING!!!!’ Vriz yelled. I turned around, laughing, to see Carly and Sam were laughing soon. The horse was going so fast!! ‘I’M GOING TO DIE SOON!!!’ was the next yell that came from Vriz. It was so funny!! I’m laughing now just writing about it. We finally got back to the jeeps, and Carly helped me off of my horse. We paid the guys and went to another view point, similar to the last one. We took some pictures and then continued our drive.
We were driving through the sand sea, which was all dark and sandy with no vegetation, and all of the sudden we entered the Savannah, which was plush, rich green. It was an instant change from desert to savannah. We drove a little farther and pulled up to the ‘Teletubby’ hills. They were beautfil hills, similar to the ones in Teletubbies, and we took some amazing pictures.
We were exhausted and it was time to go back. The drive home was quiet, the girls in the back were sleeping, but I stayed awake until my phone storage was full, taking pictures. We drove down the mountain and past some amazing farm lands. The crops were on the side of the mountain, and we so perfectly planted, it looked like someone laid a giant quilt along the mountain. We drove through small villages, forests, and more villages, until I finally filled up my memory and went to sleep.
Seeing this national park, and how beautiful it was, invoked so many thoughts and feelings. I felt a childlike sense of wonder that I have only experienced one other time, at the top of Crowder’s Mountain in North Carolina. I felt amazed, deeply grateful, and spiritually connected to the Earth. I felt a deep sense of peace and stillness within me that I have trouble finding on my own. On the way back, I was thinking about how much of the Earth I just saw. I was thinking ‘wow, that was so amazing and so big and wondrous’, but in reality, that entire park, containing the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen in my life, is smaller than a dime on a world map. How can I have traveled this far, and seen so much, and still, only be seeing so little of what’s out there? I always said before that I wanted to travel… but I never really understood what that meant. If I didn’t have full blown wanderlust before, I absolutely do now.