Stairway to Hell: Climbing On the Slopes of Mt. Bromo

Wonderful Indonesia

I have just attained what feels like a portal to Hell, and it is really isn’t too frightening. There’s no fire, no brimstones and no demons waving plugs. And the heat isn’t all that bad either. It does odor however – what a rotten sulfur egg odor on the air. Where’s this infernal place? I’m on the crest of Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java, Indonesia, looking down to its own fire caldera as plumes of thick smoke explosion from deep in the ground. For many travelers, Indonesia brings to mind the pictures of tropics and sand, surf rain forests teeming with varied wildlife that is bio directly from an Attenborough documentary.

Nevertheless, 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 really is about as hellish as it gets in equatorial, jungle clad Indonesia. Rising, very literally, from a sea of ashes in the 10 kilometers broad Tengger caldera, Mount Bromo, in two, 392 meters above sea level, isn’t even Java’s highest summit, this name belongs to 3, 676m tall Mount Semeru, which stands remarkably from the backdrop, as a bouncer, frequently smoking and sometimes erupts in burning rage.

Nevertheless, 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 possibly the most active volcanoes in Indonesia – not a non-trivial difference in a country where eruptions occur as on a daily base over the seasons – Mount Bromo was admired by the native Hindus villagers for centuries. In an attempt to keep the beast’s smoldering fury at bay, they do annual pilgrimage to its smoky crater through the YadnyaKasada festival with supplies of fruit, rice and livestock, that’s assuming the volcano isn’t erupting and spewing volcanic ash kilometersat the sky, disrupting flights and covering neighboring villages in the layers of ash fall.

My Journey to the BromoTenggerSemeru National Park started in the hour of 4: 00am in the back of a navy blue Toyota Land Cruiser. Accompanied with a few pals, we drove the 60 minute journey from Malang in east Java, from the pre-dawn darkness in the hope of grabbing one of those merry picture perfect moments. I’d been told, as many others I’m sure, the best view of the volcano were from atop the Mount Penanjakan Mountain Lookout – ideally in sunrise. Apparently, the dawn sun’s warm light bathes the caldera in a kaleidoscope of purple and orange, producing the kind of mythical scene that truly guarantees a 4: 00am wakeup call.

It’ll be well worth it, my Indonesian mates stated. Personally I wasn’t so sure. I’d was burned before with the assurance of a glorious ascent of the sunrise and that I was doubtful it would be well worth the pre-dawn wakeup call and the cold conditions at high elevation. A hundred slippery steps later, following a 45 minute-drive up to the observation deck in the inky shadow at the back of a jeep driven by a beefy Indonesian I find my reservations warranted. As opposed to that postcard moment, I’m introduced with a wall of thick grey blur obstinately guarding the sight I’d trudged so much to see.

I had been burned. Disappointed and excited to move onwe descend the hundred slippery steps down Mount Penanjakan and back to our red jeep, idling in the dawn light and anticipating us to the caldera floor push our disappointment doesn’t last long. Our disappointment does not last long. In front of me, volcanic smoke from Mount Bromo drifts eastwards just like a low lying cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok showing in front of me, volcanic smoke from Mount Bromo drifts eastward just like a low lying cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok. In front of me, volcanic smoke from Mount Bromo drifts eastwards just like a low lying cloud, past crinkly surfaced Mount Batok from a jeep, we create our final turn away from mountain road and hit the caldera floor with a thud excellent composition.

It’s scene I’d seen a few times before, in movies on the line and in magazines, but I’m totally captivated. We pull on the jeep we create our final turn away from the mountain road and hit the caldera floor with a thump images of ourselves against the otherworldly background. Back in the jeep we create our final turn of the mountain road and hit the floor of the caldera with a thud. Immediately the landscape transforms from lush green to barren greys, and the screeching of the tire drops in a lower register, signaling we have only entered the ocean. From the distance, lone Indonesian cowboys zig-zag up ahead a procession of jeeps horsesup ahead a procession of jeeps and bashful, take throughout the caldera floor towards Mount Brom, kicking up dust clouds in their aftermath. After disembarking from our jeep from the borders of PuraLuhurPoten&perhaps not,- a Hindu temple devoted into the god of Bromo, and the focus of the festivities during YadnyaKasada – we’re immediately surrounded by gruff guides eager to take us around the sand on horseback in the start of the 253 steps leading to the crater’s edge. My Indonesian buddies relatives, and haggle a little more, and soon we’re away like cowboys and cowgirls to meet our fate, all for a reasonable quantity of IDR100, 000.

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