Adventures on Horse & Sand

We had just witnessed a fantastic sunrise at Penanjakan and now it was time to explore Mount Bromo. It was about 6:30 a.m. when my horse-ride started. I would have preferred my feet over a pony (to cover a 3 Km patch), but I was so tired and the sun was turning the heat up. I couldn’t see Basil and I guessed he was trailing behind me, in search of a willing horse. Given the precarious nature of the ride, the undulating terrain, and what was to follow; I attached my phone to a selfie stick. Turns out, it’s a smart choice to click indiscriminately — without worrying about your balance or falling flat on your face.

Mount Batok (2,470 m)

It’s hard to miss Mount Batok on the way. This mountain isn’t active anymore and is covered with green trees and shrubs.

Pura Luhur Poten Temple

I was so focussed on the view in front of me that I missed seeing the temple to the left. Fortunately, Basil caught a glimpse of it on his ride. Ideally, we should have stopped here and explored the temple, but Eko didn’t mention it. Besides, I was more eager to get to Mount Bromo as fast as I could.

Riding on Treacherous Paths

I’m not a fan of horse or pony rides. I’ve had my fair share of them and it’s just not me. The sand sea was flat for the most of the ride and it helped me calm my nerves. But, as we approached the mountain, the path narrowed down to a ravine. An Indonesian girl fell off her horse, after it tripped and fell to the ground. The frightened horse kicked the girl before she could get up. This happened just before we approached this stretch. I remembered our travel planner insisting on travel insurance and I got a little jittery at this point. I almost told the guy, who was pulling my horse, to stop. But, I don’t think he would have understood me and I decided to test my luck. I tried staying calm and hoped my pony knew I trusted him/her.

Those walking to Mount Bromo bypassed this stretch and walked on either side of it. Every time a charging horse approached my pony, I panicked. After few nervous moments that felt like eternity, we reached our destination.

The Horse Stand

There’s a waiting area for horses at the base of Mount Bromo. It’s chaotic with horses standing in close quarters of each other. It’s never a good idea. The man leading my pony said he’d wait for me here. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be able to remember him (or his pony) and clicked a picture of him. Basil wasn’t far behind and I was happy to see a familiar face in the chaos.

To Climb or Not To

I hadn’t decided if I would do the last (and most important) bit of this whole trip. I had convinced myself that I would go as far as fear would let me. My legs were wobbly after the ride and the adventure so far. It was the ninth day of our trip and my body was giving up on me. But, I couldn’t control this excitement within me and I gradually succumbed to it. I had to see what was above those steps.

Don’t look Back…

There are about 250 steps connecting — the base to the crater — on top of Mount Bromo. The climb isn’t challenging because of the height. The challenge lies in trying to find your footwork on ash-strewn steps — without taking support on the barely-there (rusted) railings on the side. Crowds buildup after sunrise and long halts are part of the climb up. I wish I had brought a mask to cover my nose and mouth from the dust and fumes.

There are pit-stops along the way and I tried to catch my breath here. The view above and below was equally captivating. It was a good idea to leave our backpacks with Eko, but I should have carried a small bottle of water. Once you’re on the trail up, you can only keep going further, so decide to proceed only if you’re confident enough. I was running high on excitement and that was proving to be great so far.

On the Top

“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”

I had waited for 2 years to reach here and it was a dream come true. I never thought I’d be brave enough. Basil was equally captivated by the sight before us. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of seeing a living and breathing volcano. You realise how insignificant you are in the grand-scheme-of-things. It’s not often that we get to see our planet regenerate itself — whilst allowing us to witness the process — at such close quarters.

The Edge of the Crater

I had forgotten about my fear of heights. It’s possible that I was numb with excitement and a part of me wanted to be here so badly. But, the narrow pathway around the crater shouldn’t be taken lightly. Look before you step and focus on your balance before taking pictures.

The Heart of Mount Bromo

When I looked into the heart of Mount Bromo, I couldn’t help but think of my mum. I’m not a deeply religious person, but at that moment, I could see my mum praying for us, and it gave me immense confidence to look below without feeling woozy in my head. Sometimes, when you believe that everything will be alright: it will.

The Outer Rim of the Crater

It is believed, the Tengger Hindus sought refuge in the mountains after the rise of Islam in the plains. Tengger people consider themselves to be the direct descendants of the Majapahit Dynasty. Not surprisingly, Mount Bromo is named after the Hindu God of creation: Brahma. A mud idol of Ganesha, Shiva’s son, is placed at the central point of the mountain. Some locals were selling offerings to the volcano.

It’s scary walking around the outer rim of the crater. Beyond a point, the railing disappears and it’s a test of your balance. I decided that I had achieved more than I had hoped for and it was time to head back. We could see few daredevils walking as far as their feet and will would take them.

The Sand Sea

A vast sand sea spread all around the mountain. It was a fascinating sight to witness.

The Journey Down

More tourists had started climbing up the stairs and the line to the top was spilling to the sides. People started climbing the mountain on its rocky face. In the midst of it all, some tried to take in a moment of the surreal beauty around us.

The Last Stretch

Basil’s horse disappeared from the scene. And once he was found, his owner refused to take Basil back. In the confusion, Basil got kicked by a horse. My pony was ready and I hopped on — hoping Basil followed soon. The ride was better this time and Basil caught up just before we reached our jeep.

Breakfast at Lava View Lodge

L-R: Eko, Chesil (twinning in olive pants), and Supree

The dining area of Lava View was brimming with tourists in the morning. We were reunited with Supree, our driver, who had driven around the mountain on the previous night. We managed to find a table, and for the first time (in 9 days), we were joined by both Eko and Supree. Eko narrated a legend of a Tengger Prince and Princess asking for the gift of a child from the gods — in return for a sacrifice at the mountain. I was lost in a different world and couldn’t keep up with the story. Later, Supree asked for a picture with us and the stunning backdrop. It was great way to end our morning adventure.

Next up, we’d drive to Madakaripura Waterfalls before heading to Surabaya.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

32 replies on “Staring into the Heart of Mount Bromo

  1. Wow, what an absolutely incredible, almost spiritual experience. Definitely one you’ll never forget I’m sure. Funny how I feel the same way as you do around horses, despite the fact that my daughter is a natural around them.
    Wonderful post Cheryl and, as usual, Basil’s photos are fantastic. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Miriam! It was strangely spiritual and you know how I feel about heights. I couldn’t believe I was there! I’ve learned so much from you and your blog. You’re such an inspiration. I think, it’s helping me travel differently. 🙂 I love animals a lot! But you know how jittery I get and animals pick that up immediately. 🙂
      I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it! Bear hugs! We’re back to shorter days, bad air, and no sun. On the bright side, autumn is nearly here. xoxo

      1. Yes, I do know how you feel about heights Cheryl, which makes it doubly impressive.
        Thanks for your kind words, you always make me feel so positive (which is just what I need right now). Big hugs to you from a warm, windy and grey Melbourne. xx 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing and for keeping calm while on the pony. I hope all riders are like you. I feel for these animals.
    Congratulations on your trek to Mt Bromo. What did you do to prepare? I am not athletic but I like walking and hope to be able to climb one day too.

    1. I know what you mean. I rarely do camel or horse rides in tourists spots. Most tourists were kind with animals here. But, it’s sad to see the horses carry people (in the heat) and chaos. It’s not my kind of thing. 😦 I do feel guilty and don’t recommend it at all.
      To get to the top of Mt. Bromo you have to climb couple of steps. I don’t think it should be too difficult if you like walking. Avoid the month of July because it’s very hot and there are too many tourists. It’s best to start your trip with Bromo and then do the rest of Java. Most tour companies will rush you through Bromo. So, choose wisely and split your trip to Bromo and the sunrise (previous post) separately. I think, it’s always good to exercise, jog, or walk to prepare for any kind of trip or hike. I wasn’t very athletic, but I’m working on my endurance. If you think you can, you will climb Bromo one day. 🙂 All the best!

    1. Thank you so much, Ally! I’ve never been the brave ‘one’. Trips like these test me in ways I never would imagine. Thank you for stopping by and joining the conversation. Have a great week!

    1. Aww! I’ve been setting new ‘heights’ to scale. I’m so glad that I could complete most of them. Mum’s positive vibes travel through space and time and help me through most challenges. 🙂

  3. Great adventure! Horrifying story about the Indonesian girl falling off her stumbling horse – I’m impressed you kept your composure after hearing about that (not sure I would have). That rim is so fascinating to me, especially the view of the long ridge line above the crater. I’m glad you were game for the whole thing so we could all take a peek into that volcano – wow!

    1. I still can’t believe I did it! lol. I’m collecting these incredible experiences to make me stronger. I saw the girl fall right in front of me. It was so scary! I’ve struggled with panic and anxiety for so long that I just used the ‘keep calm’ mantra all through. I’d never recommend the horse ride. It’s better to break the sunrise (previous post) and Bromo hike over 2 days. July is the worst season because of tourists and the heat. I’m so glad I kept walking and got to see the crater. It’s my new high! Helped me hike Bukhansan after that! 🙂

  4. I’m not really into heights with no barriers around me. I found it hard to sit on a donkey in Santoirini while the creature climbed up the steep steps along the cliff town. Glad you got to the top. 🙂

    1. Travel makes us stronger. I keep reminding myself when I have to get through tough situations in life. Good for you! Santorini is beautiful and I hope we get to see it. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by, Jean.

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