Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Road Less Traveled to Mount Bromo from Malang (Part 2)

Note: This is the second of two parts. You can read the first part here: Mount Bromo from Malang (Part 1).

Three loud knocks on my room's glass windows and I was jolted awake. It was 3 a.m., still cold and very dark. I reckoned I had only slept for around three hours then, but the jeep we hired the previous night had already arrived to pick us up and take us to Mount Pananjakan. The peak was a popular viewpoint for witnessing the sunrise on the entire Mount Bromo volcanic complex.

We drove in complete darkness up to the peak. The narrow roads inclined steeply and zigzagged deliriously. When we reached the viewing deck, we quickly learned that we were sharing it with 300 other tourists who flooded in the area and blocked the views. I realized today might not be the day I get to witness Mount Bromo's famed sunrise.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
The Mount Bromo volcanic complex.


To the Vast, Open Space

The number of tourists we saw on the Mount Penanjakan viewing deck clearly took us aback. The road to Mount Bromo from Malang, where we came from the day before, cut through remote mountains and passed through isolated roads. We saw no other tourists, besides ourselves, along the route.

That was certainly the case when I stood the previous day at the quiet fork we encountered a few minutes from the remote village of Ngadas, a pit stop en route to Mount Bromo from Malang. At the fork, we saw that a right lane headed further into the forested hills while the left lane headed downhill. It was then I realized we were already standing on the crater lip of the vast Tengger Massif, an ancient supervolcano so vast that it contained the entire Mount Bromo volcanic complex within its crater.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
The Tengger crater and the hills within it formed a canyon which contained a savannah, a landscape unlike anything I have seen in Southeast Asia.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
A section of the savannah the locals and the guides like to call Teletubbies Land. Do you see it?

From this vantage point at the southern crater lip, it was impossible to see the entire Tengger crater. Its diameter averaged around nine kilometers after all. Within the crater, however, I saw a hill scarred with a number of vertical ridges on its face. The hill and the crater lip, both almost vertical in many sections, formed a wide canyon which contained a savannah. The savannah was covered in evergreen shrubs, Javanese Edelweiss plants, and some pine trees. It was the cool, dry season in this part of Indonesia so the savannah took on a green-brown hue.

We drove on taking the left lane and continued carefully down towards the canyon, on to the savannah. It felt almost like driving through sub-Saharan Africa. Views had to be soaked in and photos had to be taken.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
The crew, less myself and our driver, with our 4x4 jeep I dubbed "white lightning"

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
The sandy road in the savannah along the route to Mount Bromo from Malang

A few minutes on the road further, the savannah abruptly ended. From here, the landscape became a vast, flat, and barren desert of gray, volcanic sand. We had just entered the Tengger Sand Sea, which signaled our driver to hit the gas.

The jeep roared through the desert, battering our faces with cold breeze and leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. On one side of the valley, we saw the crater lip covered in a thin layer of fog which dropped onto the sand sea like white dense smoke. On the other side, the cone of dormant Mount Batok slowly revealed itself before the wide crater of Mount Bromo, which constantly fumed from volcanic activity, became visible, too.

Related Post: The Road Less Traveled to Mount Bromo from Malang (Part 1).

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
The savannah abruptly ends right as you enter the Tengger Sand Sea.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
Fog accummulates on the Tengger Massif's crater lip.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
Locals wave at us as they drive through Tengger Sand Sea, the fog-covered Tengger crater lip behind them.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
As we sped through the vast Tengger Sand Sea, we left a cloud of dust in our wake. The route to Mount Bromo from Malang definitely had its rewards.
Photo by Jordi Habets


Up-close and Personal

We reached the village of Cemoro Lawang after an hour or so. The huts of the village huddled on the northern lip of the Tengger Massif's crater. Guesthouses, eateries, and shops could be found here. Being the tourist central for the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, this was where everybody stayed the night whether you took the usual route from Probolinggo or, like us, the route to Mount Bromo from Malang.

As soon as we located our guesthouse here, we dropped our bags, grabbed something to eat, and started to make our way on foot to see Mount Bromo up-close. Distances seemed little when you walked in the vast and flat Tengger Sand Sea. The hike across it to Mount Bromo took around 40 minutes. Though the sun was hot that afternoon, our altitude of around 2,100 meters above sea level, ensured that the cold wind battered our slightly sweaty backs and faces constantly.

Related Post: The Road Less Traveled to Mount Bromo from Malang (Part 1).

At the foot of the volcano, we saw a few other all-terrain jeeps and a number of horses, preferred modes of transport for tourists in these parts. A staircase from here to Bromo's crater lip had been constructed to help visitors climb the caldera.

Standing on the caldera itself, I and presumably many others before me found it difficult to believe that right there was a very active volcano, smoking and bubbling away. Mount Bromo's last significant eruption took place in January 2011 when it spewed out a tall cloud plume containing ash and other materials, which eventually rained on the surrounding villages.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
A preferred means of transport for both locals and tourists in Mount Bromo
Photo by Jordi Habets

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
A staircase had been constructed to help visitors climb the collapsed caldera of Mount Bromo.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
Views from the caldera of Mount Bromo: the sand sea, the crater lip, and the fog. These were the spectacular vistas I was anticipating when I decided to get on the road less traveled to Mount Bromo from Malang.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
It was difficult to believe we were standing this close to a very active volcano. Mount Bromo's last significant eruption happened only in 2011.


Sunrise on the Moon

The next morning, we found ourselves surrounded by 300 other tourists on Mount Penanjakan's viewing deck. Obviously, finding an open space with a clear view of the sunrise proved challenging in a place as packed as this. Looking through the fence, however, I saw a few people standing on a narrow strip of earth beyond the viewing deck. The strip was barely two feet wide. It dropped abruptly and steeply many storeys below.

"Hey, it might be worth the risk," I thought.

Quickly, I squeezed myself through the fence and found myself a spot without anyone blocking my view. I sat patiently in the cold ground eagerly anticipating the sun. A few minutes later, the light very slowly revealed the landscape before us. Contained in the center of the vast Tengger crater was the ridged cone of Mount Batok. Beside it, seeming like a volcano roughly sawed crosswise in half, was Mount Bromo. Finally, in the distance beyond the Tengger crater, was the barren peak of Mount Semeru.

Seeing that lunar landscape before me, I began thinking. I might never in my life travel to space, I told myself. However, sitting on this narrow strip of ground with a clear, uninterrupted view of the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru volcanic complex, I might have just come close to witnessing the sun rising on the moon.

Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Indonesia
Sunrise on the lunar landscape of Mount Bromo


The road less traveled to Mount Bromo from Malang rewarded us with some otherworldly views. You can read the first part of this story in this page. Which places in the world have you encountered other similar unearthly landscapes?


Hi there, traveler! Did you like this post? Got any comments? Do leave me a message below. A RETWEET or a LIKE would be very much appreciated, too. Sharing buttons can be found at the beginning of this post and below. You can also subscribe to this site to get new posts via email:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...