It was hard to believe it was 3 in the morning and time to start dragging ourselves up a volcano, we pulled on as much warmth as we could find in the depth of our backpacks and turned on our headlamps before setting off. The climb began next to the Cemara Indah Hotel where the avoid the National Park Ticket Office route begins. It is very simple to avoid the fees, you simply veer before you walk through the entryway, anyone taking a vehicle drives up and around a different way to the top ensuring they pass through and pay their 150,000 rupiah park fees. We followed the farm roads by moonlight and the glow of our headlamps to Mount Penanjakan where the best viewpoints are. We had no difficulty following the path and arrived in less than two hours even in the frigid temperatures. The terrain was not especially difficult, essentially a steep road that eventually funnels into a more narrow path leading up to the first viewpoint accessible only by foot and a very steep path further up to the last viewpoint, we settled ourselves half way between the two for sunrise where we met a German girl and her guide. Luckily for us this viewpoint is not the same place where the hordes of sleepy eyed volcano visitors step out of their jeep safety nets for the view. While waiting for the sun to summit we were told the legend of Bromo. It all started way back when the Princess and Prince couldn't conceive they prayed to the gods at the crater of Bromo, the gods agreed to give them children under one condition, they must sacrifice their last child into the crater for their gratitude. Shortly after agreeing they were blessed with many children, 25 even, but the mother didn't want to throw her last child in, until the gods threatened to drown the whole region in lava. Reluctantly they gave in and every year since there is a festival known as the Kasodo festival where locals throw many offering in to the crater to appease the gods. After watching the sun completely evaporate the clouds and splash the sky with color we were led by our newly acquired guide, by invitation of our new German friend down the secret horse track to see the volcano up close and personal. The track looked no wider than a bunny trail upon first entry but widened alongside the plots of cabbage and onions to follow the farmers while avoiding the park entrance fee for a third successful time. Walking across the sea of sand we kicked at black pumice and volcanic stone that at some point was ejected form the crater and watched as the lazy horse owners who had slept in trotted to find a client, anyone who might want a horseback ride to the crater. It seems we have found every single jeep that made the trek up, all parked and waiting for their passengers to return, it sure makes us glad we didn't go all the way to the highest point it would have been choked with people! The walk up Bromo has been made dull by the concrete staircase taking all of the hard work out of the climb. Inside the crater rim sulfurous smoke billows out. It was only 9:00 in the morning and we had already hiked more than 3 kilometers uphill in the dark, seen the sunrise over the marvelous scenery, and climbed up to Bromos rim to breathe in some sulphur. Looking forward to the hot shower our homestay was equipped with we walked back to town, triumphantly backwards through the park entrance pay gate, smiling and waving to the guards only to find that there is no water or power back at our place, oh well on to the next. We pack our bags and find the bemo in town that is heading for Probolinggo. It turns out the van can seat 15 and we had to wait two hours until it was full enough to head down, but it only cost us 35,000 for the 90 minute drive.
Dragon fruit breakfast
Just to the left of the fog sits Cemoro LewangMount Batok in front, with sulphurous smoke billowing from Mount Bromo