To Penanjakan 1 (2,700 m)
We had to wake up at 2:00 a.m. in the morning to ensure we got a spot at Penanjakan — the popular viewpoint. But we weren’t the only ones. The cottage was buzzing with alarms and hurried footsteps. Eko (our guide) met us at the reception area and looked pretty bundled up. He was surprised that we hadn’t worn thicker woollens and said it will get cooler at the viewpoint. We wouldn’t be coming back for breakfast and Basil had to rush back to get our night bags.
Local jeeps were lining outside the main waiting area and people started getting impatient. Guides scurried around and tried to choose their preferred vehicle. The whole arrangement is planned on the earlier night and visitors are informed about the departure time accordingly. It was roughly 3:15 a.m. when we left the cottage. We zipped around curving roads, in pitch darkness, to the sounds of roaring engines. Everyone was in a hurry to get to the top of the mountain. I wasn’t very nervous, but I was having some difficulty breathing. Eko pointed to Bukit Cinta (Love Hill) and Bukit King Kong (King Kong Hill) on the way. Many locals prefer to watch sunrise from here because it’s cheaper and easier to reach.
After a point, once the the mountain road was clogged with jeeps on either side, we had to get off and start climbing. It’s not a long climb, but I was feeling breathless. Eko looked at me with a sorry face. I tried not to get annoyed and continued to climb after breaks. There are many food stalls at the entrance of Penanjakan 1. I wanted to catch my breath and eat a small snack. Unfortunately, everyone was smoking around us. Our neighbours, at the adjoining table, were rolling joints. Many locals were feeling cold and were dressed to beat sub-zero temperatures. After spending 2 winters in Korea, my body thought the temperatures was pleasant so far.
Blinded by Darkness
The seating area at the viewpoint was packed with excited locals. Even the railing was packed with people blocking spots. Eko went to pray and would join us later. I found a spot between a pillar and a girl blocking my view with her hand. She nervously looked for an invisible friend. After 15 minutes, my patience had worn out, and I asked her if I could peak around the pillar. She said it was OK, but she was holding that narrow patch for her friend. I’ve always thought that travel brings out the best in people. I guess I was wrong.
We all want a piece of a memory and will fight to get it. When you think about the money and effort that goes into a sunrise, even the best of us might give up our ideals. I saw people jumping under the bars of the railing and I urged Basil to do the same. I joined him after realising that I didn’t want to fight for the sun. It kills the purpose of the experience.
First Rays of Light
It was a long wait to see the first rays of sunlight pierce into the darkness. It was hard to differentiate clouds from fog. The first views of Mount Bromo, in the cluster of mountains, was breathtaking. It wasn’t easy to capture the mountain with insufficient light.
A caldera (or crater) is formed when the mountain top collapses under its own weight — after massive explosions of magma — in a short period of time. It is believed: the ancient Tengger Caldera (the large crater surrounding the 5 mountains) was formed as a result of a massive explosion that occurred, around 100,000 to 200,000 (or probably more) years ago, in the parent mountain.
The volcanic complex, in the ancient caldera, is made up of 5 mountains and Mount Bromo (2,329 m) is the most popular because of smoke pluming from its crater. Mount Batok (2,470 m) is the extinct volcano in the foreground. The other three (Mount Kursi, Mount Watangan, and Mount Widodaren) blend seamlessly into the Tengger Massif. Mount Semeru (3,676m) rises up in the background.
The Rising Sun
It’s hard to keep a track of the rising sun and also get a good shot of the mountains. The mood was upbeat and someone started playing, House of the Rising Sun by Animals. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.
Mount Bromo & Cemoro Lawang
Mount Bromo looked surreal with every extra ray of light spilling over it. The primeval volcanic complex burst alive with shades of brown and pops of green. Cemoro Lawang, the village to the far left of the landscape (second pic), was finally visible. I tried not to shiver and focus on the sight before me. How often can we look back into the past? For a moment, I could even imagine what life must have been with dinosaurs roaming around. Although, I’m not sure if that was the case here.
We gave up our places to focus our attention to the rising sun. The sun was diffused in the sky. It looked as if someone had smashed an egg yolk above.
I’d have liked to be alone in this moment. But, that’s not possible when you have bobbing heads and excited shouts all around you. Was it worth it? Absolutely! It’s a small price to pay for the experience.
Mount Bromo in Direct Sunlight
As the sun rose higher, tourists started leaving. I wanted to stay back for a while, but Eko wanted us to continue. The smoke from Mount Bromo mixed with the fog and created a magical sight.
Leaving Penanjakan 1
We had to walk back to our jeep and it didn’t take too long this time. We were happy with our sighting, even if Eko felt the fog wasn’t as spectacular. Tourists were still climbing up the mountain. It would be quieter than sunrise viewing.
Journey to the Sand Sea
I was pretty excited now and nearly forgot that we hadn’t eaten breakfast. The views kept getting better as the jeep wobbled on the narrow road to the Tengger Caldera also known as the Sand Sea. The area gets its name from the vast bed of dark sand that surrounds every inch of the caldera.
The Sand Sea
Eko didn’t seem to share our excitement. Perhaps, he’d been here so often that there was nothing new about this experience. Basil and I were high on all that natural beauty around us. There were footprints mixed with tyre tracks and hoof marks.
Eyeing Mount Bromo
It isn’t very far to Mount Bromo from the parking lot, but our package had a horse ride included in the trip. Besides the sun was heating up the place. I didn’t have much difficulty finding a pony. Basil wasn’t as lucky and had to walk for a while until he got a willing horse. The horse would take us to the base of the stairs and we’d have to climb from there. Eko looked at me as if I wanted to take the horse up the mountain. I was too excited to let his negativity (or lack of faith in my ability) affect me. We were going to climb Mount Bromo!
- Jakpost explores Mount Bromo
- Bromo Volcano by Dr. Richard Roscoe
- A Report on the Tengger Caldera (Global Volcanism Program by the Smithsonian Institution)