Monday, 11 August 2014

Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo 

Monday 11/08 - Tuesday 12/08

After a very stressful morning of returning our motor bike, collecting the late washing (that was supposed to have been delivered the night before) and then checking out of the hostel, the pick up car finally arrived two hours late.  We then met up with the other people in our mini bus (with no aircon) and we embarked on our 11 hour journey to Probolinggo. On our mini bus we met Helen (from Scotland) and four others from Spain (Catalonia).  We stopped on the way for a local lunch.  After a long and hot day, we finally arrived at Probolinggo where we were confronted with what looked like the Indonesian Mafia.  We had heard from Helen that it was better to view the volcano from the mountain opposite it and then climb the crater once the sun had already risen, so we decided to upgrade our package.  Helen had a pamphlet that showed how much the upgraded package was suppose to be, but the Mafia were wanting to charge us more than double the normal rate (as it was a 'last minute' booking).  We had been forewarned about all the scams associated with the Mount Bromo tour but since the man collecting the money was a one-eyed bandit, we didn't want to press the issue.  We finally got to our accommodation at about 10.30 pm and basically went to bed straight away - we had to be up at 2.15am to leave by 3 am sharp.  It was freezing at that time in the morning, especially at that altitude, so we put on everything we owned (it was Mount Kinabalu all over again) and got into the Jeep to face what the Volcano had in store for us.  Another hidden cost of the tour was that the Mafia wanted us to pay 217 Rupiah extra for a park entrance fee.  We had heard that this was also a scam and that there was no entrance fee to the Mount, but since these characters looked so dodgy, there was no other way into the park and we still needed this company to get us back to Bali, we had to suck up the taste of being ripped off and pay the agent.  We knew it was a scam because our receipt was typed on a computer with no date specified, was issued by the company and not the park's office, was given to us the evening before we were to enter the park and the agent said we could just pay 200 and not the specified 217 Rupiah.  Lastly, as we weren't prepared for this additional hidden cost and didn't have the extra cash on hand, the gent told us that he would 'pay' for us and then he would drive us to an ATM the next day so that we could pay him back. We shared our jeep with three other German girls as we headed through the dust and the dark...        

We arrived at Pananjakan, the mountain view point of Mount Bromo.  We were frozen and dusty and huddled together to draw some sort of warmth for this harsh terrain.  At least the moon was still full and offered us some visibility.

And then at about 5.15 we saw the first break of dawn and the light outlined the magnificent contours of the surrounding mountains.
First break of dawn

As the light began to fill the sky, we caught our first glimpse of Mount Bromo which was surrounded by a sea of white clouds.

Mount Bromo 

Blanket of white fog

On the right side of Mount Bromo was another active volcano in the distance, which we could actually see the sulphur bellowing out of the Earth.  

Evidence of the harsh terrain and contours of the landscape 

Looking particularly 'spritely' at about 5.30 am 

Joy admiring the sheer beauty of this arid place 

Many of the other tourists were just admiring the Mount and had all their fancy camera stands set up to take photos from this viewpoint.  However, we were more flexible and preferred to explore the area- and it was a good thing we did, because behind lay this breathtaking view of the full moon, pink skies and a mountain on a bed of clouds- SPECTACULAR!


As we were waiting for the sunrise we were fooling around a bit using the 'erupting' volcano as a background.

But our bubbly personalities didn't go unnoticed and pretty soon we had a bunch of young Asian guys all queueing up to take pictures with us- normal normal!

Just as the sun was rising 

And finally at about 6am the sun began to rise...

Joy eating the sun 

Blurry sunrise selfie 
Rox has a glowing stone on her head!


The sun and the moon were up at the same time for just a few minutes 

A few minutes after the sun had risen we were all herded back into the jeeps to make our way to the bottom of Mount Bromo's crater. 

View of Mount Bromo from within the Jeep on the way down the mountain

Once we reached the foot of Mount Bromo we were engulfed in the fog/ cloud of sulphur dust.

We were told by our driver that we had an hour to view the Volcano, which we thought would be plenty of time, as it didn't look like such a strenuous climb to the top.  However, we hadn't been warned that the sulphur pumping out of the crater was a highly poisonous gas that would burn through our nasal passages and lungs.  We had seen locals at the bottom trying to sell masks to the tourists, but we had thought that these were just meant for the dust and obviously we (being tough South Africans chicks) didn't think this was necessary...we were terribly wrong. Even though we were stupidly stingy, in hind sight, we don't think these basic masks would have done much to stop the piercing fumes from entering our bodies (a person would need one of those heavy duty bio-hazard air-tight masks to be able to be properly protected from these gases!)  It also didn't help that on that particular day, the wind was blowing the gas in our direction.  In any event we tried our best to cover our noses with our tops and started the ascent.

Joy looking brave at the foot of Mount Bromo (face unmasked - the smell hadn't hit us yet) 
Rox starring back at the flurry of locals trying to offer tourists masks, flowers (used as offerings) and even donkey rides to the foot of the Volcano 

It was a mist of thick dust and gas at the foot of the volcano 

A shadow selfie 

And so the age of the make-shift masks began...

It was only a 133 metre (including 250 stairs) to climb to the rim of the crater, but the smoke inhalation was so suffocating that we couldn't breathe and so we started hyper ventilating and panic-attacking about half way up the stairs.  We felt like death was certain and were almost ready to give up.  But then we bumped into Helen (the Scottish girl from our mini bus ride). She was really battling to keep going and getting emotional.  We encouraged Helen to push through the pain, go back down a little (where the air was clearer) and calm herself down and then join us at the top.  By helping our friend to calm down this actually forced us to take our own advice and persevere to the top.  All that suffering finally paid off and we made it to the top of the crater. 

The smoke was thickest at the top, as the sulphur fumes were pouring over the rim of Mount Bromo   

Even though it was an incredible sight to be in the eye of an active volcano, the fumes were so bad that it was extremely difficult to keep our eyes open for any photos. 

It took lots of effort to take this make-shift mask selfie pic 

And miraculously Helen made it to the top to join us for this flattering pic 

And then we got really brave... we would hold our breathes, quickly take off our masks and pose for a very 'natural' photograph...
Epitomises the not forced-smile-look 

Can this stranger hurry up and take our photo ASAP!!!

While we were up there we witnessed many locals throwing various foodstuffs (like cabbages, rice and chickens into the crater).  There were other scary-looking hooded local men who waited on inside of the crater and collected the foodstuffs in their nets. 


As this video portrays, we first thought that the food was collected in the nets to be re-thrown further into the crater as a sacrifice to appease the mountain gods, but upon closer inspection its became clear that these men collected the foodstuffs that were 'symbolically' thrown into the volcano, but in actual fact the food is salvaged and eaten by the local people at a feast held at the foot of the Volcano.    


Place where the locals gather for the offerings feast 

Similarly, many tourists and locals alike throw bunches of flowers into the heart of the Volcano.  These make for better throwing than say a live and bound chicken and since they are inedible, the local men leave them to actually fall into the vast depths of the crater.

We being our normal stingy selves didn't buy our own offering of flowers, but instead happily encouraged other tourists to hoist theirs into the hole, as can be seen by this video. 

Since we had distracted ourselves with soaking up some of the culture and history of the place by watching a few offerings and hatting to some more 'know-it-all' tourist, our lungs seemed to acclimatise to the harsh vapours and we decided to break away from the crowds and walk a bit around the rim of the crater and soak up the sights (and not just the poisonous gases).  

Joy enjoying the outward view 

Getting down and dirty with the Volcano ash - No wonder they call Mount Bromo 'The Sea of Sand' 

The rim of the crater 

Just before we had to leave the top of the crater (our hour was running out), we decided to be really daring and take some photographs right on the unprotected edge of the rim. 


Notice the green limestone deposits on the inside of the crater 

And now to face our favourite flight of death stairs on the way back down  

Since our lungs had gotten used to the burning sensation, the trip down was easy peasy compared to the trip up! 

The three German girls and Rox posing next to out jeep (Yay!! We all survived the trek up the deathly Volcano)

After the jeep delivered us back to our accommodation we quickly had a sub-standard (but miraculously included) breakfast, a quick shower (to wash off all the volcanic ash) and then set off to Probolinggo to catch our bus to Bali.  We waited quite a while for the bus to arrive and once again since the one-eyed bandit was 'overseeing' the whole process, we couldn't complain (even though we had to pay for the 'public toilets').  Once on the rickety bus, we discovered that even though this was going to be an overnight trip, the Mafia had installed an extra make shift bench to squeeze more people onto the bus.  On top of that, they even further overbooked the bus by making eight additional local Indonesian people sit on little stools in the aisle of the bus.  To add even further to the claustrophobia, we had two really tall Dutch boys in front of us, who needed to push their seats all the way back just to fit into their little Asian spots.  After a 14 hour bus ride, some really interesting toilet facilities and a ferry crossing, we finally made it to Denpasar.  We quickly negotiated a cab ride for ourselves and Helen and even though the driver tried to take us to a 'much better' hotel that he 'independently' recommended, at last by the strike of midnight had made our way back to our trusted CX Hostel in Kuta, Bali and were keen to take refuge in our cosy pods.    

On the Ferry crossing from the Province of Java into the Province of Bali. 

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