While my visit to Indonesia didn’t include much in terms of sightseeing there were a few things I wanted to make sure to accomplish. The first, Borobudur, I completed within a few days of arrival, the other though would take some time. I hoped to visit Mount Bromo in East Java, a place I had heard about thanks to various travel blogs I’d been reading. From the information I found one was to work their way via public transport to the town of Cemora Laweng, wake up much earlier than the sun and hike two hours in complete darkness to the viewpoint where you’d join loads of other tourists. I didn’t bother thinking about the logistics of this trip and just jumped into it.
I started my travel plans with a Couchsurfing post for Surabaya, where I planed to spend a few days before working my way to the volcano. I don’t normally make public posts for my travel plans but decided to this time around and am I sure glad I did. In my travel plans I made a note that I was planning to visit Bromo and not long after posting received a message from Titi, asking if I’d like to join her and her friend to Bromo. I figured venturing out to a volcano would definitely be more fun with friends and jumped on board. Titi (her aunt and cousin) were kind enough to host me for a few nights before my trip, making the entire adventure easy, enjoyable and unique. After two days exploring the city and building new friendships it was time to head out.
Titi was able to score us a free car (we covered gas and driver) which picked us up early Saturday morning (4am) en route to Bromo, but not before a stop at Madakaripura Waterfall. I hadn’t heard of Madakaripura before our departure but Titi seemed pretty excited about the visit – enough so that we were waking up at 4am! We were [obviously] the first tourists to arrive as we pulled into the parking lot at 8am, with eager guides and vendors still setting up. People flocked to us trying to sell flip flops and ponchos but I couldn’t understand why, little did I know…
The walk to the falls was pretty basic (paved sidewalk) for the first 20 minutes, then we got to what I assumed was the stopping point, but I was oh so wrong. This is where the flip flops and rain jackets come into play, our guide (awesome local) took note of my footwear, encouraged me to leave my shoes behind and handed over his own sandals. From this point on we were climbing over rocks and through puddles while being sprinkled with water from above.
We were actually walking through the waterfall, making our way to the center which offered some fantastic views. The waterfall is also called the ‘Eternal waterfall’ as it’s thought to be the final resting place of the great commander Gajah Mada who used to meditate at the top. We didn’t quite make it to the top but we did thoroughly enjoy our time at the falls, taking more than enough pictures thanks both to our cool guide and Titi’s awesome waterproof case.
We eventually decided to move on, changing into dry clothes, packing into the truck and setting our sights towards Bromo. The drive offered amazing scenery but unfortunately my lack of sleep and food was catching up with me, causing me to be in a bit of a mood. We stopped for lunch at a small town before Cemora Lawang, but I had lost my appetite and chose to forego the limited options, instead getting some fresh air and enjoying the views.
The original plan for the afternoon was to find a guesthouse, visit Cafe Lava for some information and then hike/walk to Bromo crater to check it out without the crowds. As could have been expected things don’t always go as planned, Titi wasn’t feeling well, the skies weren’t looking promising and as much as I wanted to deny it I was tired. We found a room and decided to rest for a bit, thinking about our plans for the next morning. I had my heard set on hiking to the viewpoint, mostly because I wanted to avoid the entrance fee but also just as a challenge of myself. Titi was obviously in no shape to do so and her friend Arman was eager to rent a jeep, leaving me confused as to what to do.
Later in the afternoon we managed to explore the town as clouds began settling over the mountaintops, such a peaceful setting, somewhere I could’ve stayed for days The city reminded me a bit of Sapa Vietnam, equally as beautiful but not quite as sad. We ended the day with a pretty awesome (and cheap) dinner before tucking in early, prepared for another early rise. When we got up at 3am I realized I had no desire to hike by myself, through dark roads in chilly temperatures, but I also didn’t want to pay 300IDR to get in. Thankfully Titi, Arman and our driver were all in agreement with me and thus we hatched a plan of sneaking me in. Per Titi’s suggestion I joined her that morning in donning a hijab, concealing my light hair and white skin while doubling as an extra layer of warmth. I was worried that this could in some way be offensive as I myself am not Muslim, but Titi told me not to worry, all would be fine.
Titi’s faith couldn’t have been more correct, as we sat in the back of the jeep passing through the entrance gates, I somehow completely avoided paying. Our driver had brought his sister along and somehow the guard assumed both Titi and myself were the ‘sisters’ so we only payed two entrance fees between the three of us, go karma go. As expected (being a weekend) the viewpoint was extremely crowded, but we managed to squeeze into a front row spot as we were pretty early, unfortunately that also meant waiting. People were fully dressed in winter jackets, hats, gloves and scarves; it was cool but being from Wisconsin I had to laugh, these people would die in one of our winters.
Throughout my travels I’ve seen a fair share of amazing sunrises, in a variety of interesting locations, but these are one things that will never get old, the view of Bromo, Semaru and Batuk was amazing and totally worth the early morning crowds. I’ve [thankfully] learned to stop worrying so much about that perfect picture and simply breathing in the moment of a gorgeous sunrise, and let’s be honest no picture does the real life thing justice. After soaking in some rays and greeting the day we ventured back to our jeep, ready for the crater, savanna, sea of sand, and of course more crowds.
On the way down the mountain we passed a couple walking so Titi, being the amazingly kind person she is, insisted that pick them up to join us for the rest of the morning. They were shocked and appreciative at our offer, insisting to contribute some money but really all we needed was their company. The world being as small as it is, Mike was from Utretch Holland, one of a very few cities I’ve visited in Europe. The crater was a bit of a tourist trap but still worth a stop, if nothing else it gave us a bit of exercise for the morning, seeing as we decided to forego the ‘horse option’ and climb the many steep stairs to the top.
Many tourist only come for sunrise and a stop at the crater so once we made our way to the savannah we had more room to breath, especially true since our driver knew a ‘secret spot’, allowing for quite the spectacular photo shoot. We were having plenty of fun and could’ve stayed longer but our new travel buddies had a bus to catch so we continued on to the sea of sand, offering a completely different landscape than we’d come from. A few more pictures, modeling requests from some local boys (white girls get instant celebrity status in this country) and we were back to our guesthouse by 9am. We said goodbye to our new friends, packed our bags and prepared for our departure. The good karma we acquired from sharing our jeep came back quickly; another traveler was in a hurry to get back to town offering to pay to hire a van back, meaning we wouldn’t have to wait for another 8 passengers to join us.
On our way back to Surabaya with many hours in both a mini van and public bus I had time to reflect on the trip. I had been beating myself up about not hiking, as I had originally planned but I finally realized it turned out much better this way. I still managed to avoid the fees, was able to stay with my new friends Titi and Arman, met more awesome people along the way, and have a pretty unique (not exactly helpful) story of it all. I had been telling Titi I wanted to ‘prove’ that I could do the hike, but realized the only person I was really trying to prove it to, was myself. I wanted to save the money and get some exercise, following the route of the other blogs I had been reading, but that’s when it really hit me. I don’t want to live in their story, I’m here to write my own. The title of this blog is ‘yogi footprints’, my intent was to go out into the world leaving my mark, not trying to follow in the path of others. I learned a long time ago that my feet are too big for Asia [literally], but I’m glad I caught myself this time, trying to fit into others shoes as it turned out much better when I put my own back on.