May 19, 2014

Sunrise at the Bromo Caldera. Gunung Bromo, Java.

The caldera at Mt Bromo in Java is a vulcanologists paradise. Four active volcanoes are located close together in a beautiful and easy to access location. A short journey by public transport from Probolinggo, or via bike from Malang (see this blog), and you are in Cemora Lawang, perched on the very edge of the caldera crater.

Everyone comes for the sunrise tours. Leaving your hotel at 3:30AM you join your motorcycle or Jeep driver and head down to the caldera and then up a big and steep hill on the eastern edge to a viewpoint. You can walk if you set out earlier, but after already hiking up and down volcanoes over the last few days I was happy to ride my bike. I stopped at King Kong hill, 50 metres beneath the official and overcrowded viewpoint. I had the viewpoint to myself and watched as the sun slowly rose over the Bromo, Kursi and Batok volcanoes in the foreground, and the larger Semeru in the distance. Only Bromo was smoking, Semeru gave off a large puff of smoke just before dawn and was then quiet. At this early hour all the country surrounding the caldera was covered in early morning mist.

After enjoying the view for three hours, I went down to Bromo. The smallest of the volcanoes at 2932m, Bromo is the most active and easiest to climb. Joining the throngs making their way slowly to the top the biggest obstacle was avoiding the horses and their poo, which covered the ash path, as they carried those who wanted an easy way up. Smoke constantly billowed out of the mouth of Bromo, accompanied by a strong smell of sulphur. The crater lip was uneven and is prone to collapse, so the best place to see into the volcano is from the viewpoint at the top of the walkway.

Returning back to my guesthouse, I was in time for the 9:00 breakfast. If the weather is good it is worth hanging around for the sunset. You can sit outside at the bar at the Cemora Indah hotel on the edge of the crater, drinking a bottle of Bintang, as the sun slowly sets behind the spectacular volcanic landscape beneath you.

Far Flung Travel Tips:

* Unless arriving in high season, or on a weekend (when half of Java can seem to descend) wait until arrival before booking a room. Ride, or ask the minibus to take you to the Cemora Indah Hotel at the lip of the crater and then walk back into town. There are many reasonably priced home stays (mine cost 75,000 Rupiah for a room) or the hotel itself if you want to splurge.

* A place in a Jeep can be hired at your accommodation, or on the street, for between 175,000 to 450,000 Rupiah. If you do not have your own transport I recommend a motorbike with driver. It costs approx 100,000 Rupiah and gives you the flexibility to go to different viewpoints, and stay as long as you want. They can be hired on the street in Cemoro Lawang.

* If you are on your own, or going by motorbike with a driver, stop at King Kong Hill. A small sign, easily missed, two thirds of the way up the hill points to the small track on the right.

* There is a national park charge of 75,500 Rupiah payable just before you enter Cemoro Lawang coming from Probolinggo, and at the edge of the crater on the Malang entry point.

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