I have just reached what seems as a portal to Hell, and it’s really is not too scary. There is no fire, no brimstones and no demons brandishing forks. And the heat is not all of that bad either. It does odor though – which sulphurous rotten egg scent on the air. Disconcertingly, the portal is not very from home – a 9 hour trip from Melbourne, followed by a 3 hour through the Javanese rice fields.
Where is this infernal place? . I am on the top of Climbing Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java, Indonesia, looking down to its caldera like plumes of a thick smoke billow from deep in the earth. For many travelers, Indonesia brings to mind pictures of sand, surf and tropics rain forests teeming with bio wildlife straight from an Attenborough documentary. However, as I look over this barren, moon like landscape – devoid of life, apart from a trickle of travelers, a couple of local guides and their horses – it strikes me that this is about as hellish as it gets in equatorial, jungle clad Indonesia.
Growing, very literally, by a sea of ashes in the 10 kilometre wide Tengger caldera, Mount Bromo, in 2, 392 metres over sea level, is not even Java’s highest peak, that name belongs to 3, 676m tall Mount Semeru, that stands imposingly in the background, like a bouncer, frequently smoking and occasionally erupting in a burning rage. However, what Mount Bromo lacks in stature it increases in notoriety and religious importance. The name Bromo derives from the Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, the Hindu creator god, a nod to the volcano’s raw, elemental power. As probably the most active volcanoes in Indonesia are not a trivial difference in a country where eruptions happen as on a regular basis as the seasons – Mount Bromo was revered by the regional Hindu villagers for centuries.
In a bid to maintain the beast’s smouldering fury at bay, they do annual pilgrimage to its smoky crater throughout the Yadnya Kasada festival with supplies of rice, fruit and livestock, that is assuming the volcano is not erupting and spewing volcanic ash plantations in the sky, disrupting flights and covering neighboring villages in layers of ash autumn. My trip to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park began at the hour of in the rear of a navy blue Toyota Land Cruiser. We drove the 60 minute travel from Malang in East Java in the pre dawn darkness in the hope of catching one of these fleeting picture perfect moments. I’d been told, as many others I am sure, that the best views of the volcano have been from atop the Mount Penanjakan lookout point – rather.Seemingly, the dawn sun light bathes the caldera into a kaleidoscope of purple and orange, producing the type of scene that warrants a 4: 00am wakeup call. It is going to be well worth it, my Indonesian mates stated.
Personally I wasn’t so sure. I had been burned before with the guarantee of a glorious sunrise ascent and I was doubtful it would be well worth the pre dawn wakeup call and the chilly conditions at high elevation. A hundred steps later, following a drive up to the lookout point in the inky darkness in the rear of a jeep driven by a beefy Indonesian I locate my reservations warranted.
Rather than that postcard moment, I am introduced with a wall of gray blur, stubbornly guarding the perspective I had trudged far to see. I had been burned. Disappointed and eager to move on, we descend the hundred slippery steps down Mount Penanjakan and straight back into our red jeep, idling in the dawn light and awaiting us into the caldera floor push us to the caldera floor. Cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok. Cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok showing cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok. In front of mesmoke cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok to the side of the road to take blues and greens – all arranged in composition.
It is scene I had seen several times before, in pictures on-line to the side of the road to take I am totally captivated. We pull to the side of the road to take pictures of ourself against the otherworldly background. Back in the jeep we do our ultimate turn off the mountain road and hit the floor of the caldera with a thump. Instantly the landscape transforms from lush green to bare entered the sea of sand register, signalling we entered the sea of sand. In the distance, lone Indonesian cowboys zig-zag up ahead a procession of jeeps horses, while up ahead a procession of jeeps and shy, take through the caldera floor towards Mount Brom, kicking up dust clouds in their wake. After disembarking from our jeep at the edges of Pura Luhur Poten ,- a Hindu temple dedicated to the god of Bromo, and the focal point of the festivities during Yadnya Kasada – we’re instantly encompassed the sands on horseback to the start of the 253 steps leading up to the crater’s edge round to satisfy our destiny, all for a reasonable. My Indonesian friends haggle a little more, and haggle, and soon we are off like cowgirls and cowboys amount of IDR100, 000.