10.07.2010 - 11.07.2010 15 °C
All flights were full to Surabaya (the nearest airport to Mt Bromo) so we organised a bus all the way there. We had been informed by the book and the travel agent that the trip would take 7 hrs. A slight understatement ....
We sat right at the front of the minibus with the driver so that we could see what was going on. I must say it was a little scary. The driving was crazy overtaking at every possible opportunity however dangerous. We definately saw our lives flash before our eyes as we frequently faced oncoming trucks.
There were 11 of us on the bus.
- 1 dutch girl (very excited about the football), 2 swiss girls, 2 indonesian young men and an american guy, his indonesian wife and their very cheerful 2yr daughter and her uncle.
The scenery of paddy fields on one side and the coast one the other was amazing. We also managed to get some sleep with some chitter chatter from time to time. All in all, time passed quickly for the first 6 hours.
Until there was a burst tyre.
We pulled up to a half renovated petrol station. It was blisteringly hot and we all huddled together at the corner of station under some trees near a budha. The driver's jack was not strong enough, so he persisted with trying to fashion together a more powerful one using bricks and stones. It would have been comical if we weren't the ones waiting.
My husband was getting increasingly aggitated, by this lack of progress, and after about 45minutes, he went over there and started directing and helping the driver and soon enough the tyre was changed and we were on our way. Altogether we had lost 1.5 hours and it was clear that with the distance we were travelling, we would be doubling our original duration.
The minibus then bombed it to the ferry from Bali to Java.
A rather industrial looking trawler type ferry. Before we set off, boys were swimming around the ferry beckoning us to throw them some coins. They would rolly polly into the water to catch the glistening coins.
The ferry ride was pleasant enough. The entertainment consisted of 2 guys at the front with ear splittingly loud microphones, selling random items such as a pack of books, rubik cubes, a really cool back massager (which looked a cross between a nik nak at ikea all rubbery and hard plastic and primary coloured, 2 balls at the end of curved bits of plastic with a back scratcher at the end, so you would flagellate yourself with the contraption) .
We changed our watches because we gain an hour in Java.
We had another stop around 6pm to eat and for the driver to pick up some commission. We were all knackered by this stage and thought we had only 3 hours to go but we had another 6 hours.
On the bus, we were a motley crew with one thing in common. Not one of us had sorted out accommodation. We all reaffirmed each other's laissez-faire attitude. There are always rooms right ?
Our driver laboriously approached every hotel in turn to ask about availability. I turned to Julian and said, even if there is a room, the family with the kid should get it, and then the 3 girls, then us and then the travelling guys, so we were pretty low down the pecking order. By now it was after midnight and had been travelling since 8am we were the last minibus up there. All the rooms had gone. We were all absolutely dog tired but in good spirits and relaxed and all laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.
As we approached the mountain it the temperature dropped rapidly. Driving around, we saw many local guides sleeping around the square with just a blanket. At least we had the minibus to sleep in and we would have to get up at 3am to take the trip up the mountain to see the sunrise anyway.
A lot of the houses were empty. Our driver asked a cafe full of weary guides if there was a house for rent. And there was – woohoo ! It had 2 small bedrooms and then there were beds and mattresses strewn across the other 2 rooms of the house. And one adequate bathroom with freezing water. There was elation and relief in the minibus.
The Swiss girls were thrilled, one of them said that she had never previously rented a room as she had always lived with her parents. One of the Indonesians said – this is great it is like we are one big family. The enthusiasm was contagious but it was near on 1am and were delirious with tiredness. It was appropriately priced too and we paid around £6 each.
We took one of the beds, it was rock hard, freezing but quiet and pitch black. We lay there shivering fully clothes under a fleece blanket with a big yellow teddy bear print, knackered and excited about seeing the mountain.
A local guide in a red battered antique Toyota 4WD landcruiser (that's when Toyota used to make cars that lasted forever) turned up at 3.30am (actually they did knock on our door at 2.30am – which was painful) to drive us up the mountain.
Our guide was clearly an experienced driver, as we hurtled past hikers, off roaded past other 4WDs to the mountain. As we approached the mountain, he started to slow down because of traffic congestion ! We looked up the hair bin bends to the viewing point. It was lit up with hundreds of 4WDs and motorbikes. May be we should have started at 2.30am ! We revved up the whole way on the clutch breaking point, stopping and starting. It took nearly 2 hours before the 4WD could park. There were 100s already parked up.
We hiked up the last section of the mountain trying not to get run over by motorbikes with tourists who couldn't be arsed to walk the last 100 metres. It was chaos. At the top of the mountain, we walked passed a strip of brightly lit stalls – cafes and tourist niknak shops.
When we reached the viewing point, initially we were dismayed because it was so crowded and we had made such a bloomin effort to get there. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to see Mount Bromo while the sun rose.
It felt a bit like a concert. Tonnes of atmosphere, good spirts and anticipation but lots of heads in the way.
We politely pushed our way to the front near to the metal safety fence. A couple of Indian guys standing on the bars of the fence crawled onto the other side. A rather precarious place to stand, with only some bushes on the ledge which preventing them from falling.
We took our chance and stood on the fence sideways, holding onto the bar with one hand and cameras with the other hand. As the first light trickled through, there were cheers and woops. The sunrise was stunning. Totally uplifting.