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.