Saturday, February 28, 2015

2/5/15 Day 385 The Road Less Travelled to Cemoro Lewang & Mount Bromo, Indonesia

We could have taken the easy way to Cemoro Lewang by public bus but there's no challenge to that, so we took the scenic route. We decided to go the least common route, barely traversed by tourists, from the center of Malang where we hailed a blue minibus (the colors generally are specific to an area or district) off one of the bigger streets, any combination of letters including an A should take you to Arjosari Bus Terminal, for 3,000 rupiah. From there a green minibus labeled TA will deliver you to Tumpang 20+ kilometers closer to Bromo. Here's where backpacker patience comes into play, we spent two hours bargaining up and down the streets looking for a palatable price for three up to the closest village to Bromo, Cemoro Lewang. For jeeps most people were charging, or more accurately overcharging 600,000 rupiahs to the top while motorbikes (ojeks) wanted 150,000 for each of us. We worked very hard to haggle down to 100,000 each and with fresh air in the tires and drivers ready to go we sped off towards the National Park. The finesse of our ojek drivers was incredible, the terrain is 4WD material and between the muddy ruts left by the jeeps, the sandy valleys spewed from the volcano and the pothole filled concrete great care must be taken to avoid spilling us, he drivers and our heavy packs draped over the handlebars to whatever ground lay beneath us. The drive up until the small village of Ngadas is typical Indonesia, small villages, terrible roads and careless motorbikes, but as we rounded one of the bends the most amazing hillside terraced farm plots came into view. Absolutely spellbinding the rest of the way as the farm plots turned into a rolling hilly savannah, safe even from the most lacking Indonesian waste management. We turned another bend and a bad feeling crept up into my throat, our ojeks slowed down as we approached the National Park Office. We had read that the new fees are ridiculous and that some guides will trick you into overpaying, also that if you enter the park by foot you do not have to pay the fees. With all of this is mind we stopped and mulled over our situation as the rangers smirked waiting for us to hand over the bogus fees, meanwhile two separate motorbikes carrying locals whizzed by without stopping. We pointed accusingly asking why they didn't pay and the guards just shrugged explaining that they were locals. While the locals are not required to pay the unreasonable 150,000 rupiah fee we are faced with, they do have a nominal fee of 30,000 to get into the park and with that the three of us grabbed our bags and started trekking up the hill, if they don't pay, we don't pay we offered calmly but loudly. It took no more than a confounded few second for our ojek drivers to shake off what had just happened and start on their bikes after us yelling "ojek ojek!" Leaving the guards still scratching their heads alone with no money to coat the inside of their pockets and no one remaining to complain to either. We told our ojek drivers that we hadn't been driven to our destination and they gladly let each of us pay days on the back of their bikes  towards the volcano. During the ride Kevin's driver over the roar of his bike said "tiket mahal," (expensive ticket) which must be why they allowed us to cross the threshold, they knew we were being ripped off and seemed to think it was hilarious that we stuck it to the man. The rest of the scenery was immaculate, just as we started to grasp the beauty of the green hillside the sea of sand came into view and in turn Mount Bromo and Mount Batok we had arrived. Our drivers delivered us to Cemoro Lewang right into the arms of a homestay for 150,000 rupiah for the night for the three of us and with a hot shower, score! We found some dinner and hit bed early anticipating an early awakening to see the volcano for sunrise. 

Here we go
Random huge sound system blaring Indian music as we passed
Lush terraced plots

Constantly skidding and catching with his feet my driver was definitely experienced
The gorgeous savanna

Entering the Sea of Sand surrounding Mount Bromo

Julie and her driver
Kevin chumming it up with his driver
Finally arrived, legs sore from being on a bike for nearly two hours but stoked nonetheless

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