Indonesia’s Volcano Panorama at Mount Bromo

One night on a crowded train brought me from Yogyakarta to Malang. From there I took a minibus and later an ojek (motorbike taxi) up a steep mountain road and told the driver to drop me off at a certain intersection. From there I would have continued to Ranupani, the starting point for hiking to Mt. Semeru, the highest volcano on Java, but I was told that it was erupting at that time, and that the path had been closed. So it would be another time…

This led me to execute my Plan B: The backway approach to Mount Bromo (plus I had gained an extra day, which I spent on another great and adventurous hike).

Lush volcanic valley

Backway to Mount Bromo

I passed underneath a boom gate and followed the road that was more potholes than asphalt down into a lush valley. On the ten kilometers or so to my new destination, the small village of Cemero Lawang I only met a handful of Indonesians on their motorcycles, otherwise I was on my own. The air was pleasantly cool (due to the high altitude), birds were singing, and butterflies flying from one colorful flower to the next. After loud and hot cities it felt freeing to be in this kind of environment again! The path bent around a hill, and the scenery changed yet once more: The grass turned less green and then disappeared, as did the flowers and the birds, and I was left in a monochrome desert of dark volcanic sand.

Hiking through the "Sea of Sand"

Beautiful in its own way I embraced this change and started climbing some crumbling dunes. Out of the clouds Mt Bromo rose as the daylight started fading away. By the time I had made my way out of the valley the sun had already set and it had gotten quite cold. (I had to get out my jacket!)

Mount Bromo seen from the Sea of Sand

I learned that also Mt Bromo was closed to the public, because of an eruption several months back, and was somewhat disappointed. But the viewpoint was still open, and would I like to book a tour? I understood that the best thing here, by far, was not climbing Bromo, but seeing the volcano, preferably at sunrise. So I got up at 4am the next morning, and started walking, without a tour (come on!). Many jeeps were passing me, and when it got too steep they stood parked, blocking the road, their passengers had been transferred to horseback for the last meters to the viewing platform. Hundreds of people had already arrived, it was loud and crowded. Not how I like my sunrises…

Anticipation before sunrise

It was still dark, so I had enough time to follow a narrow path further up the hillside. Half an hour later I arrived at another viewpoint which was more to my liking: only two other people had made it here! We waited for the sun to rise and watched a magnificent vista slowly emerging out of the dark: Rugged Mt Bromo with swirling clouds below, his smoking neighbor to the left, and rising high above them in the distance, elegant Mt Semeru, with a plume of smoke protruding from its flat top.

The "Bromo-View"

It was unbelievably beautiful and I stayed more than two hours, just soaking in this unique view. My camera’s health was unfortunately deteriorating rapidly since the day before, so the image quality at this point barely manages to convey even an idea of the beauty of the scene (sorry!).

Looking down on Cemero Lawang, where I walked back to a little later:

Sunrise above Cemero Lawang

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