I felt like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
‘Jack, we’re not in Indonesia anymore, are we?’
I looked around at our new environment. Indonesia for me had so far been white beaches, turquoise seas and palm trees. We had arrived in the late hours the previous night, completely surrounded by darkness of Probolinggo, East Java. Now it was early dawn, and sitting in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser, we traversed throughthe bleak light on what seemed like a desolate, extraterrestrial desert. Where are we?
* * *
After an hour’s flight from Jakarta to Surabaya and a three hour drive through the night to Probolinggo, we had scaled up the precarious mountainous heights to a small village at the base of our mission, Mount Bromo; an active volcano which sits right in the heart of Java, 2,300 metres high. And we wanted to climb right up to the crater. Woohah.
Tucked up in the warm blankets of my bed and feeling the chill emanate from the air touching my ears, it was an effort and a half to get out of bed at 4am. Bleary eyed and half in a grump, I got up – and so my eyes could adjust to the brightness, I turned on the small lamp in the room before turning on the main lights. The lamp illuminated the room with a wintery glow. Outside the window the view was pitch black. It felt like being back in England during December.
Still half asleep, I laboriously put on three tops, a jumper, a hoodie, leggings and pulled on a pair of socks. Socks? I thought. How bizarre. Apart from my infrequent trips to the gym, this was the first time I had worn socks whilst living in Indonesia. Trainers on with a scarf wrapped snugly around my neck and camera in bag, I was all set to go. Jack entered the room – I looked down at his feet… sandals?!
‘Where are your shoes?’ I asked him.
‘I didn’t bring any,’ he said.
‘Your toes are gonna freeze off.’
‘I’ll be fiiiiiine.’
This was one situation where I would have condoned the dreadful sock and sandal combination. But alas, Jack hadn’t packed any socks. And he’d left his leather jacket back home. One t-shirt, a pair of jeans, a thin hoodie and sandals, Jack stood ready to face the chilly temperatures of Bromo’s brisk morning. Having spent most of my life preparing for and withstanding the unpredictable weathers of England, every bone in my body winced upon seeing Jack in such delicate attire. Luckily, I had thought to bring a second scarf. I wrapped it around his neck.
I couldn’t help but smile with disbelief, ‘At least it’s something.’
We left our little lodging and through the dark (I actually got lost for a good ten minutes), made our way to the hostel’s entrance where a robust looking red Land Cruiser stood proudly waiting for us. Donning a patchwork shawl, our guide (who I shall name DJ due to his apparently radio-friendly sounding voice) smiled and shook our hands and all three of us took our place in the front of the jeep.
Lighting on the road was minimal and the journey was bumpy and rickety. DJ explained to us that he made this trek almost two or three times a day. A farmer by trade, he did this on the side to supply extra income for his family and he had done this extra job for so long, that the wonder and mystery surrounding Bromo no longer phased him.
‘It’s a job for me now, you know?’ he said to Jack in Indonesian.
It wasn’t long before the sky began to glow with flecks of light. Around twenty minutes on into the trek now, the slight glimmer illuminated the people around us. A myriad of people on their motorbikes consumed the area around us, honking, beeping and swerving – it seemed like the end of the world. This was reinforced when we made it to higher ground, which then plateaued, revealing a dusty, iron red earth, as if we were traversing the surface of Mars. The motorbikes continued to rev around us and a few intrepid chaps sitting outside their tents on the side of the road began to wake up and shake off the sooty debris. Wow, they’re doing it properly, I thought upon seeing the simple sheets of material that they used as tents.
Go Go Go!
Where: Mount Bromo in Probolinggo, East Java.
Why: Hiking, mountains and active volcanoes.
When: Dry season (from May – September) is best. We travelled during October time and the weather was perfect. Be careful during the rainy season (particularly from January – February) as the area can often flood and become slippery.
How: We took the one hour flight with Air Asia To Surabaya For 1million RP return. We then drove from Surabaya to Probolinggo which took around 3-4 hours.
Accommodation: We stayed at Yoschi’s Guesthouse for 160,000 RP per night. Our room was big and cosy – we had a shared toilet, which contained only cold water, splash –style Indonesian showers and squat toilets (I finally overcame my fear of the dreaded squatters.) However, if you pay a little extra, you can have your own toilet and the premises do other a hot water shower. Being quite touristy, the food and drinks were considerably overpriced.
Transport: Other friends have hiked all the way to Bromo from their accommodation. We didn’t know this was an option, so we hired a Land Cruiser jeep for the day at a price of 600,000 RP – it had a bit more of an Indiana Jones feel to it and if you’re seriously unfit like myself, may be an easier option!