One of the highlights of our adventurous tour through Indonesia was certainly the climbing of Mount Bromo, a 2,392 m high volcano on the island of Java that has become one of the most iconic mountains in Indonesia for its picturesque, other-worldly beauty.
I was very excited to get the opportunity to see this famous tourist attraction, as Mount Bromo had shown signs of increasing activity since early November 2015, when the amount of smoke and ashes coming out of the crater intensified and an exclusion zone of 2.5 km radius was placed around the crater. It was thus a real surprise to hear that the area was reopened to the public exactly on the day when we arrived.
We were accommodated in the mountain village of Cemoro Lawang; departure to the viewpoint on Mount Penanjakan (2770 m) – the place where visitors from around the world come to see the sunrise over Mount Bromo – was planned next morning at 03.30 AM. The trip in open 4×4 vehicles through the lush environment was an adventure, but a great disappointment expected us when we reached the top: dozens of jeeps were parked on both sides of the road, motor riders were crisscrossing the area offering a ride to lazy tourists and local people were selling souvenirs and drinks – while we were making our way through the dark to the overcrowded platform. Can you imagine it? Hundreds of people with cameras and smartphones waiting for the sunrise? It was a crazy experience, especially because the sunrise was far from spectacular, due to the clouds behind the mountains…
But fortunately, Mount Bromo had much more to offer. Jeeps transported us to an eerie moon-like landscape soaked in cotton clouds: the famous “Sea of Sand” around the Bromo crater. While we were walking through the spooky and misty landscape, the contours of a picturesque Hindu temple appeared in front of us. Instead of walking, many tourists accepted the offer of local horse riders who could be seen everywhere around us like ghost riders. It all seemed so unrealistic, so isolated – and so beautiful.
No wonder that the Sea of Sand has particular significance for the local Tengger people who believe that this was the site where a brave prince sacrificed his life for his family. That is the reason why they throw, once a year, offerings of vegetables, chickens and money into the Bromo crater.
Once arrived at the base of the volcano, we made the last steep incline by horse. It was a fantastic experience. Fine dust (or was it smoke? fog?) was everywhere. The strong mountain horses took us to the stairs that led to the crater – 249 steps. It was not easy to master all those high steps, but we made it! The views were spectacular.
Standing on the narrow edge of the crater, we could look down in the deep smoking hole. There was a kind of wooden fence on the side of the crater, but nothing to stop you from sliding off downhill on the outside, so we soon left this dangerous place and walked back through the eerie sand desert to the jeeps.
Was it a dream? When I see the photographs I made, I can hardly imagine that I really climbed Mount Bromo!