Bromo: Third Time’s A Charm

56 comments
Asia, Indonesia
Mount Bromo with the Newly Renovated Staircase

Mount Bromo with the Newly Renovated Staircase

Going to Mount Bromo in East Java now seems to be a fortuitous annual trip for me. Having visited the scenic national park in November 2011 on a solo trip and October 2012 with my travel companion, James, last June I visited this quintessential Indonesian volcano experience for the third time with an even merrier troupe, my coworkers.

Unlike my previous two visits, this time I was based in Sukapura village, a bit further down from Cemoro Lawang, the village where I usually stayed. It was a cold rainy day when we arrived with clouds rolling over the terraced hills and a thick mist hanging low. Fields of garlic and cabbage were spread right in front of our hotel, all over the hill. We explored the village a little bit until a torrential downpour forced us to call it a day and go back to our hotel.

Contrary to my previous trips which included a hike to Mount Penanjakan to view the sunrise, this time we went straight to the crater of Mount Bromo. At 4 am the star-studded sky livened up the sleepy souls, amazed to see so many stars and constellations which are normally invisible in Jakarta due to light pollution. We were accompanied by Kukum, a young staff member at our hotel who seemed excited in joining us.

With our flashlights in our hands, we navigated through the terrain of volcanic ash to get to the staircase leading to the crater. A friend gave up walking and opted for riding a horse instead. With the stars above our heads and the dark path before us, we finally arrive at the base of the crater a few minutes later.

“The staircase is newly renovated because of the President’s recent visit,” Kukum explained.

We climbed up, still in the darkness of the dawn. At the cater rim we were the first to arrive as most visitors chose to go to Mount Penanjakan before viewing Bromo’s crater from its rim. The sun slowly started to show its first rays, unfortunately obstructed by the thick clouds in the east. We waited, until the sun was much higher and more visitors arrived at the crater rim.

We were heading to a place called Pasir Berbisik – whispering sand – where an eponymously titled movie was filmed. Dunes of volcanic ash stretch at the rear side of Mount Bromo, creating an even more desert-like landscape in the massive caldera of the ancient giant volcano. A sole food vendor was attending her stall in the midst of the vast expanse of Pasir Berbisik. She patiently waited for passers-by to come and buy something from her.

“Let’s go to the Teletubbies Hills now,” Kukum broke the silence to remind us of our last destination.

Named after the popular British children’s TV series whose characters live in a grassy floral landscape, Bromo’s Teletubbies Hills are now gaining popularity, especially among locals. But before we got there, a wide expanse of meadow welcomed us. It was such a stark contrast to the barren land we just left. Filled with countless fennels, we took our time to walk around this piece of heaven in Bromo. A few minutes later we decided to go to the hills.

“There was a time a tourist from New Zealand came here,” Kukum recalled, “but he was not impressed. He said what he has in New Zealand is far more beautiful,” he chuckled.

Despite lacking a dramatic view as other landscapes provide, the Teletubbies Hills offer an alternative way to enjoy Bromo and the caldera. Some people were too busy doing the jump shots to care about the others, while a small group of visitors decided to walk towards one of the hills. We, on the other hand, opted for sitting in a food stall to have bakso and tahu (meatballs and tofu) in a soup made from beef stock. It was a warm and satisfying way to end my third jaunt at this fabled volcano.

Sukapura Village

Sukapura Village

What Locals Do (left) vs What Tourists Do

What Locals Do (left) vs What Tourists Do

Misty Garlic Fields

Misty Garlic Fields

Rumah Masa Depan (Future House – Graveyard)

Rumah Masa Depan (Future House – Graveyard)

A Local Mosque

A Local Mosque

Sunrise Viewed from Bromo

Sunrise Viewed from Bromo

Actively Breathing Out Sulfurous Gases

Actively Breathing Out Sulfurous Gases

The Solid Safety Fence

The Solid Safety Fence

Sunrise over the Harsh Land

Sunrise over the Harsh Land

Mount Batok, Bromo's Dormant Companion

Mount Batok, Bromo’s Dormant Companion

Hindu Offerings Similar to Balinese Canang Sari

Hindu Offerings Similar to Balinese Canang Sari

Pura Luhur Poten, The Most Important Temple for Tenggerese Hindus

Pura Luhur Poten, The Most Important Temple for Tenggerese Hindus

Mount Batok Viewed from the Sand Dunes

Mount Batok Viewed from the Sand Dunes

A Lonesome Food Vendor

A Lonesome Food Vendor

From Sand Dunes to Forests

From Sand Dunes to Forests

Life beyond the Sand Dunes

Life beyond the Sand Dunes

The Fennel Land

The Fennel Land

The Most Trustworthy Vehicle in Bromo

The Most Trustworthy Vehicle in Bromo

The Teletubbies Hill as Locals Call It

The Teletubbies Hill as Locals Call It

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

56 thoughts on “Bromo: Third Time’s A Charm”

  1. Bama, seeing these photos reminds me of our trip there last year – I really enjoy the contrast between the misty shots and those taken the morning after. The staircase looks almost brand new (and somewhat gaudy) with the paint job for SBY! Can’t believe we missed the sand dunes when we were there… I’ve seen so many spectacular sunset/sunrise shots from that area. Next time we’ll have to stay another night in Cemoro Lawang. 🙂

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    • This month last year we went to Bromo, so that reminds me of how fast time flew. I couldn’t agree more about the staircase. Bright yellow against the dark backdrop, it can’t get any gaudier. 🙂 The next time we go, I’ll take you to what lies behind Bromo: sand dunes and green pastures.

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  2. Jaden says:

    Miss that Javanese sense of humor …. to call your kuburan ”Rumah Masa Depan” ….

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  3. Finally launch the article about trip to bromo. Great Landscape, also traditional atmosphere there, splendid. How about Mahameru, at the end of this year maybe?

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    • Thank you Nur! I don’t think I will go climbing another mountain that soon. I’d prefer something easier for my next trip. 🙂

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  4. treiter89 says:

    Once again, beautiful photographs and a wonderful experience you bring to us. I found the Teletubbies Hills quite hilarious, it really looks a lot like the ones in the TV show. My favourite photograph is the one with the giant graveyard gate.

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    • Thank you Thorsten! I guess if the hills were a little greener, they would definitely be perfect for the TV show’s setting. 🙂 That graveyard gate looks somewhat mysterious, doesn’t it?

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      • treiter89 says:

        You’re welcome 🙂 Yes, mysterious, that’s what I was thinking. It has to be even more fascinating to see something like that in person.

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  5. Nice pics, Bama! 🙂

    Btw I have a confession to make: I’ve never been to Bromo 😦
    It should’ve been this year, but there was another cancellation, so…

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    • Thanks Badai!
      Oh what happened? Well, it doesn’t matter when you go, the most important thing is you go there at least once in your lifetime. 🙂 Try to go in summer because the chance to see the sunrise without the clouds is much likelier. However you need to prepare some masks as Lautan Pasir can be very dusty.

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      • Well, because of this and that, small things that can give a snowball effect 😉

        Anyways, yes, I believe I’ll be there one day. Thanks for your tips, Bama! 🙂

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  6. Fascinating place. The first thing that impressed me was the stairs to the top of a volcano! And that safety railing – so sturdy on the right with nothing on the left.
    I loved what the locals do contrasted with what the tourists do – great way to show reality.
    The lonesome vendor was brilliant – I wanted to buy something from her.
    The sand dunes creeping up the mountainside was also remarkable.

    Super post.

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    • Many thanks Marilyn! 🙂
      3 years ago someone told me that every visit to Bromo is different. And I’m glad to be able to experience this part of Indonesia in both rainy and dry season. The last time I went my colleagues and I decided to wander a little further behind the volcano itself, and there I found that lonesome vendor. It’s quite sad to see her alone amid the sand dunes, but some people do work that hard to make ends meet.

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  7. A breathtaking, if desolate landscape Bama! The steps do seem out of place. Love the ridged surface of Mount Batok, particularly viewed through the dunes, and that shot of the solitary vendor. Hope to see it all by 2015 at least 🙂

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    • Amazing, isn’t it? When I went with James last year the staircase was grey and partly buried under the ash. But you know how sometimes renovation works result in gaudier-looking things. That’s why art is important. 🙂 Ohhh, you’re planning to visit in 2015? Hmmm, around what month if I may know? Because I’m planning to do the other way around. 🙂

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    • Thank you! Oh did you live in Indonesia between 2009 – 2010? Because I remember there were so many volcanic eruptions during that period. There was even a time when I went to Jogja a month after Merapi erupted, so I could still see the aftermath of the deadly eruption.

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      • Oh dear, I can imagine how it must feel back then when they had the aftershocks. But again, living in Indonesia means we are so accustomed to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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  8. I’m amused at the juxtapositon of two pictures “What Locals Do vs What Tourists Do” hahaha! It just goes to show the easier ways with which visitors often see higher viewpoints. Hopefully no government official is thinking of an overkill – like an escalator perhaps 🙂

    Seriously now, getting the chance to see a volcano up close is one big lesson in natural history. Many islands in Indonesia and elsewhere in the world came to exist because of previous volcanic eruptions!

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    • I had the same experience at Rinjani when I saw how tourists are nothing compared to the locals in terms of physical strength. That old woman at a village near Bromo walked uphill without wearing any footwear on the slippery path, much less convenient compared to the staircase at Bromo. But it’s human nature to be strong at tough places. And I really really hope there won’t be any escalator or cable car at Bromo. That wouldn’t make any sense at all.

      You rightly put it Dennis. Volcanoes take lives, but they provide the ground for new lives to flourish.

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  9. turiscantik says:

    been here last year, one of the best mystical place ever. love your pictures 😉

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    • Bromo is one of the most beautiful places in Indonesia which is quite easy to access. Make your way to this corner of the country, and chances are you won’t be disappointed.

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  10. I’ve really enjoyed these posts of Bromo and Indonesia. We fly to Jakarta tomorrow. Thanks for the excellent writing and photos – you have been a real inspiration.

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    • Hi Jeff. Thanks! You’re too kind. I’ve been inspired by other bloggers too, so it’s really a matter of ‘pay it forward’ I suppose. Manage your expectation on Jakarta, it’s not a city people easily fall in love with. How long will you be in the capital?

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