Blown away by Bromo…

Blown away by Bromo…

Our last two nights on Java were spent in the tiny village of Cemoro Lawang, over 2000 metres above sea level in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. It was here that we spent perhaps the most memorable and exciting day of our entire trip… all thanks to the mighty Mount Bromo.

Bromo is an active Volcano and began erupting again at the end of November 2010 – because of this a 2km exclusion zone was in place around it so no hope for climbing. Despite this we were still looking forward to getting a glimpse, however distant – but didn’t quite anticipate how close we would actually get!

We arrived at the Lava View Lodge in darkness, after a long drive starting at 6.30am. The hotel had organised a big meal for all of us, so half an hour after checking in we all sat down to some traditional Indonesian food and beer accompanied by a live musician, before hitting the sack.

Half the group had opted to wake up early and take a Jeep or trek to Mount Penanjakan – a nearby mountain and popular Bromo viewpoint – at Sunrise. So we set our alarms for 3.30am then clambered into a Toyota Jeep along with Oz-Busers Chris, Katie and Andrew – all of us wrapped up in fleeces and woolly hats as it was absolutely freezing!

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The jeep trundled along bumpy plains in the pitch black before twisting and turning steeply up the mountain road. It took around an hour to get to the viewpoint and once there, we were disappointed to find that our ‘view’ consisted of huge, greyish clouds and not much else! We stood there for ages just willing the sky to clear and were gradually able to spot a plume of black smoke, poking out from behind the clouds.

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After about half an hour, the clouds suddenly dispersed and we were able to view Bromo in all its glory. It has to be one of the most awesome sights any of us had ever seen – the volcano, with its tip blown off from a previous eruption, was pumping out a huge plume of ash which drifted for miles across the sky. We couldn’t take our eyes off it or the vast, surrounding landscape which was constantly changing in the early light. It really was a sight to behold and even though we didn’t manage to witness the sunrise itself it was so worth tearing ourselves out of bed for!

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We could also see just how close Bromo was to our village!

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Andrew and Katie decided to walk back down the mountain with the rest of the group, so it was just us and Chris who took the Jeep back to the hotel. On the way we were able to see where the jeep had taken us in darkness a few hours earlier and were surprised to discover that we had driven right past the volcano itself! It was so close, we jumped out to take some more photos.

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It was at this moment that a plan formulated in all of our heads. We looked at Mount Bromo, then at each other and could tell that not one of us would be satisfied until we had gotten a closer look! We decided that despite the exclusion zone, we were going to head back out after the jeep dropped us off to see how close we could get.

We wolfed down our breakfast back at the hotel before meeting Chris outside. The view from the Lava View car park was also awesome – we could see Bromo and its neighbour Mount Batok so clearly, which  just added to the excitement of what we were about to do!

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Making our way across the ‘Sea of Sand’ (aka the caldera that Bromo stands in) we were struck by the uniqueness of the terrain around us. Rugged, barren and grey – we imagined that this must be exactly what the moon looks like! As we got closer and closer to Bromo itself the adrenaline started kicking in and we walked faster and faster, keeping our eyes peeled for anything resembling a Park Ranger. We had a great laugh during the 45 minutes it took us to reach the feet of the volcano and could hardly believe the sight that lay before us.

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As we neared the 25o steps that lead up to the crater itself, we donned our make-shift face masks (aka scarfs) to guard our lungs from the sulphuric smoke and prepared to climb those last few hundred yards.

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Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a jeep racing towards the mountain. I pointed it out to the others and we all froze thinking “is this for us”? Our fears were confirmed with flashing lights and a siren blasting out from the jeep below us and echoing across the plains. After a few whispers of “Oh my God, what shall we do” we debated making a run for it up the steps, but were stopped in our tracks by a loud voice shouting at us from behind. We turned around and saw a man on a motorbike waving his arms in the air and shouting at us to come down. Can’t believe he made it all the way up the mountain on his bike! Feeling bad for his efforts and not wanting to get arrested, we decided to call it a day and made our way back down the solidified ash with our tails between our legs.

However, our adventure didn’t end there. On our way back to the hotel we bumped into three more Oz Busers – Tyler, Dave and Andrew who had obviously had the same idea as us. We filled them in on what had just happened and the fact that the rangers were now on the lookout but they still wanted to give it a ago and asked if we wanted to join them. “Of Course!” was the answer to that.

Walking back towards the ‘Sea of Sand’, Tyler and Dave came up with a plan to tackle Bromo from another direction – away from jeeps and rangers – so we walked for ages past the volcano, across black sand dunes until we were faced with an alternative ‘path’.

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We began to climb the walls of ash and mud, which got steeper and steeper the further we went towards Bromo’s mouth. Because we were conscious of keeping away from the pathway to avoid being seen, our route became more and more difficult and we began to stumble over the crumbling rocks, which disintegrated as soon as we put weight on them. The ground kept slipping away underneath us and there was more than one occasion where we each though we were goners! Crossing gorges and steep ridges for around three hours, it began to dawn on Us, Chris and Andrew that this was a hopeless task and we weren’t going to risk our lives any longer! We told Tyler and Dave, who were a bit further ahead that we were turning back.

This was by no means the end of it however, as our ‘route’ back had pretty much crumbled away after we clambered over the mountain the first time round. Soon after, the weather also turned on us and we noticed clouds gathering over Mount Bromo’s plume and heading towards us. It began to rain and the slippery rocks became more slippy and we found ourselves unable to go forwards or backwards. Panic started to set in amongst us but we all gave each other a helping hand and eventually pulled ourselves back up to the path.

Relieved and elated that we had made it off the mountain alive, we headed back across the cloudy plains, laughing at the state of our clothing and faces, which were covered in mud and ash. Whilst we were disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to look inside Bromo – we were pleased with our efforts, and to be honest, going right up to the mouth of an active volcano probably wouldn’t have been the smartest of things to do.

Luckily, Dave and Tyler returned soon after us with tales of their own ‘survival’. They were also forced to turn back due to the weather and Tyler was covered from head to toe in dirt.

The rest of our day was spent at the Lodge, eating, drinking and chatting. We had such a fantastic day and got to know some of the others in our group a lot better. We’re so pleased to be travelling with such a great bunch of people and don’t want this trip to end! Bromo has been one of the major highlights of our trip and an experience that we won’t forget in a hurry!


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  1. December 15, 10:30 #1 Mum

    UNBELIEVABLE isn’t the word for it!!!!!!! OMG what were you thinking – you really took a risk but what a wonderful experience and what fantastic photos but – DON’T DO THAT AGAIN!!! You naughty children – I don’t want a double funeral to go to. xxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. December 14, 10:56 #2 Aisleen Author

    I know!!!

  3. December 13, 19:49 #3 Auntie Pat