The sound of the alarm cut straight into my head and I quickly opened my eyes. I waited for them to adjust to the darkness as I laid there thinking to myself, ‘Where the hell am I?’. It had been a long couple of days that included endless hours of bus travel across Bali, on a ferry, then across the Eastern reaches of Java.
Feeling like I had just shut my eyes, I fumbled around for my phone. 4am. That is when it dawned on me, we were supposed to be woken up at 3:30am by our transport driver, my phone was set only as a back up. Good thing too, because obviously he never showed up for the wake-up call. I roused Meghan and David out of bed as we rushed around packing our bags and getting our shoes on.
Wandering down the hall I was greeted by a squater toilet and no toilet paper. Lovely. Asking for a sink to get a quick tooth brushing in would have been greedy. We all opted not to change, from the clothes we had slept in, that I will admit are the same clothes we wore the entire day before. We threw on some socks, laced up our shoes, grabbed our cameras and ran down three flights of stairs and out into the brisk, dark morning air.
We were in the remote mountain village of Cemoro Lawang, in the eastern side of Java, Indonesia. After traveling for 13 hours overland from Bali the previous day, we had arrived here very late the night before without accommodation. We spent 40 minutes driving around in search of a place to rests our head, knowing we only had a few precious hours of sleep once we found one.
The thing about Cemoro Lawang, is you can’t just pull up at the Holiday Inn. There isn’t one. There isn’t even a hostel for that matter. The small town is littered with a handful of private home stays. That’s it. You can’t book online, you just have to show up and hope to god there is a room for you. You reconcile yourself that just finding one is a good thing, regardless of the actual conditions of the place.
After securing a room at the last place we looked, we shuffled inside, climbed three flights of stairs and went straight to bed. We threw the fact that the bed sheets hadn’t been changed or washed in probably months and the thought of possible bedbugs out of our minds. We needed to rest; we were in for an adventure before the sun even rises.
So why on earth would we subject ourselves to such a travel situation? Well, located smack dab next to Cemoro Lawang is the Indonesia wonder of Mount Bromo. This site is probably the most visited volcano in all of Indonesia, although the country boasts several that are worth taking the time to visit.
Experiencing a sunrise here is very popular, followed by a dusty climb to the lip of the crater. The views are stunning but you will find yourself fighting the crowds every step of the way. For us, we took a 4WD Jeep from Cemoro Lawang across the base of the volcano to the base, where we hiked to the top for the sunrise.
Despite the large crowds, we were able to edge ourselves to the front and take advantage of the picturesque photo opportunities. The biggest thing in these situations is to be mindful of people around you. Don’t walk in front of peoples cameras and don’t go straight to the front and then take up everyone’s view. We managed to get to the front and get low, thanks to the drop off of the mountain.
The sun rising up over the surrounding landscape was beautiful and something that made time stand still for us. We were able to actually watch and enjoy it since the crater was actually located outside of the sunrise lit area. It was a solid hour before we were able to take decent photos of that view.
Following the sunrise and an obnoxious photo session, we headed back down to the base and our jeep brought us promptly to the area of the crater. We were dropped off a ways back from the temple and even though there were excruciatingly cute ponies available for transport, we decided to make the walk. Which turned out to be one hell of a workout after the past couple days we had been through.
Reaching the base of the crater wasn’t too hard, as it was flat land and despite the small amount of dust being kicked up we were in pretty high spirits about our visit. The hard part came when we realized that we didn’t get to start climbing steps at that point. We had to first climb halfway up the crater, THEN we would climb the 250 steps to the very lip of the crater.
Normally I wouldn’t think this climb was too hard, but with the sleep deprivation, increasing amounts of dust due to the sudden arrival of many people and numerous tout led ponies running us off the path every 5 seconds, it was a little brutal. My legs were burning by the time we got to the stairs, but I set my pace and climbed up to the lip.
What a view it was. We were standing on the rim of the crater staring straight down into a sleeping volcano. The smoke swirled and puffed from the center while we all lined up against the rail to just take it all in. It isn’t every day that you can stare straight in the face of an active volcano and live to tell about it.
We lingered for a while, got daring and climbed beyond the part where there was a railing, then slowly made our way back down. By the time we reached the end of the stairs, the dust was so thick you could barely see those around you. The influx of people and horses had stirred up enough dust to create a desert sand storm. So making our way back down and across to the find the jeep was a slow process.
After arriving back in Cemoro Lawang, I was finally tempted to change my clothes. We had exactly 1 hour before we would round ourselves back into a van and begin a 12 hour cross country trip across more of Java to Yogyakarta. A change of clothes and a stiff coffee were in order. The hour went fast, yes I changed my clothes, and in no time at all we were saying our last goodbyes to Cemoro Lawang, Mount Bromo and heading down the mountainside to our next adventure.