I have just attained what feels like a portal to Hell, and it’s really is not too frightening. 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 site is not very from home – only a 9 hour trip in Melbourne, followed by a 3 hour through the Javanese rice fields.
Where’s this infernal place? . I am on the top of Climbing Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java, Indonesia, looking down to Its fire caldera as plumes of a thick smoke explosion from deep in the earth. For many travelers, Indonesia brings to mind the images of surf, sand and tropics rain forests teeming with bio varied 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 handful of local guides and their horses – it strikes me that this really is about as hellish as it gets in equatorial, jungle clad Indonesia.
Rising, quite literally, from a sea of ashes in the 10 kilometre broad Tengger caldera, Mount Bromo, in 2, 392 metres above sea level, is not even Java’s highest summit, that name belongs to 3, 676m tall Mount Semeru, which stands impressively from the background, as a bouncer, often smoking and occasionally erupting in a burning rage. However, what Mount Bromo lacks in stature it increases from notoriety and religious significance. 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 – not a trivial distinction in a nation where eruptions happen as on a regular basis as the seasons – Mount Bromo was respected by the native Hindus villagers for hundreds of years. In a bid to keep 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 kilometre In the sky, disrupting flights and covering nearby villages in layers of ash fall.
My Journey into the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park started at the hour of 4: 00am in the rear of a navy blue Toyota Land Cruiser. Accompanied with some buddies, we drove the 60 minute journey from Malang in East Java from the pre dawn darkness in the hope of catching one of these fleeting picture perfect postcard moments. I had been told, like many others I am sure, the best views of the volcano were from atop the Mount Penanjakan lookout point – ideally at sunrise. Seemingly, the dawn sun’s warm light bathes the caldera at a kaleidoscope of purple and orange, producing the type of mythical scene that truly warrants a 4: 00am wakeup call.
It’ll be 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’d be worth the pre dawn wakeup call and the chilly conditions at high elevation. A hundred slippery measures later, following a 45 minute 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 thick gray cloud obstinately guarding the sight I had trudged so much to see.
I had been burned again. Disappointed and eager to move onwe descend the hundred slippery steps down Mount Penanjakan and back into our red jeep, idling at the dawn light and awaiting us into the caldera floor push our disappointment does not last long. However, our disappointment does not last long. In front of me, volcanic smoke from Mount Bromo drifts eastwards like a low lying cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok showing In front of me, volcanic smoke from Mount Bromo drifts eastwards like a low lying cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok. In front of me, volcanic smoke from Mount Bromo drifts eastwards like a low lying cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok from the jeep we create our final turn off the mountain road and hit the caldera floor with a thump excellent composition.
It is scene I had seen several times before, in pictures on-line and in magazines, but I am totally captivated. We pull the jeep we create our final turn off the mountain road and hit the caldera floor with a thump pictures of ourself against the otherworldly background. Back at the jeep we make our final turn of the mountain road and hit the floor of the caldera with a thump. Instantly the landscape transforms from lush green to barren greys, and the screeching of the tires falls into a lower register, signalling we’ve only entered the sea. From the space, lone Indonesian cowboys zig-zag up ahead a procession of jeeps horses, while up ahead a procession of jeeps and bashful, take through the caldera floor towards Mount Brom, kicking up dust clouds in their wake.
After disembarking from our jeep in the edges of Pura Luhur Poten ,- a Hindu temple dedicated to the god of Bromo, and the focal point of the festivities throughout Yadnya Kasada – we are instantly encompassed by gruff guides keen on taking us round the sands on horseback into the beginning of the 253 measures leading to the crater’s edge. My Indonesian buddies haggle, and haggle a little more, and soon we are off such as cowboys and cowgirls to satisfy our destiny, all for a reasonable amount of IDR100, 000.