Mount Bromo Day Trip
My Mount Bromo trek yesterday was another amazing experience. While Mount Bromo is an active volcano, it is one of the main tourist attractions of Java and every day hundreds of people visit.
Luckily I went with a tour which went directly to Gunung Bromo and not via the town of Cemoro Lawang which would have not only made the drive longer, but also meant a vehicle change. I was also fortunate to have 4 very lovely people in my group. 2 young girls from Jakarta and a young couple from Holland. We all got on so well together. Our guide/driver was Harry and he was also great.
Harry collected us from our hotels at midnight and we then began our slow drive towards Bromo. Once we hit the slopes of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, it was very steep and it felt like we were barely doing 20km. In parts the road was terrible too which didn’t help. Also parts of the drive was through very heavy cloud and there was no way I could have navigated through it! All up, the drive to the lookout at Penanjakan took about 3 hours. As soon as we got out of the car we were immediately approached by people carrying rental snow coats! It was freezing and thankfully I had lashed out the day before in preparation for the cold and bought a AUD$9 jacket from Matahari. Also for sale were beanies, scarves and gloves with the Bromo logo and most of the Indonesian visitors I saw that day wore at least a beanie! The ‘must have’ souvenir obviously!
After a welcome cuppa, we headed up the steps to the lookout to wait for sunrise. Harry showed us the best spot to stand and then headed back to the warung! By this time it was 4am and sunrise is around 5:30am! We stood in the freezing cold watching the llights of the jeeps coming along the plateau from Cemoro Lawang towards Penanjakan and watched the sky slowly lighten. The sunrise was nowhere near as spectacular as watching Mt Bromo, Mt Semeru (the tallest point/volcano in Java) & Mt Batok appear out of the darkness and then change colour with the sunrise. Truly spectacular. Here are a few photos to get a taste of what I saw.
Bromo is the volcano with the smoke coming out of it. Semeru is the tall one towards the back.
After many many photos, we headed back down to the warung for breakfast. Guess what it was! Yep; and here’s the photo to prove it!
After breakfast, we headed back to our landrover and headed down to the plateau.The volcanoes sit in a huge crater and cemoro lawang actually sits right at the top, on the edge! We had to drive down a road which took us down from the top of the crater to the bottom. It was narrow and very windy yet had recently been surfaced thankfully. The plateau feels like the crater of a past enormous volcano. It is covered in black sand and in some places around the edge, I saw aniseed growing!
We drove across the plateau to the base of Gunung Bromo. There were hundreds of horses available for people to ride to the base of the steps of Bromo but we decided to walk. We passed a huge Hindu temple. Apparently there are many hindu followers who live around Bromo who follow the original Majapahit form of Hinduism which differs from the Hinduism of Bali. About half way towarrds the foot of Bromo, Sri, the younger of the 2 girls from Jakarta, ran out of breath and so we bargained for a horse for her. For RP20,000 ($2) she was deposited at the base and waited for us there. Then began the climb to the rim of Bromo’s crater. Hundreds of steps; I lost count after 100 when we took our first break! There was a steady stream of people going up and down the concrete steps and the rest points along the way were appreciated by many!
At the top, we could look directly into the cratere where there was a constant cloud puffing out. The slopes into the crater were very steep so thankfully the looking area was fenced off with concrete pillars! From this point I tried face timing several teachers at school to share with the classes the amazing sight of an active volcano however I was unsuccessful. Thankfully Bec was online and I could share it with her. She was suitably impressed! I rested the ipad on the concrete pillar and she could see right into the crater and then I panned around to show her the plateau and surrounding volcanoes. It was awesome!
After descending to the bottom of Bromo, we drove out across the plateau heading back to Malang. Just before leaving the plateau, we stopped at a place called Teletubby hills. Here were rolling green hills just like on the teletubbies. Obviously a program watched all over the world because everyone in the group knew it well!
Next on our trip was an unplanned stop in a tiny village still high up in the hills. All traffic was halted just beyond the entrance to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park by roadwork. It ws fascinating watching how teams repair holes in Indonesia and also the equipment used. We were able to watch up close the entire process before we were able to continue on our way 2 hours later! It was lovely yet odd not having to stress about being delayed! Knowing there was absolutely no reason why we had to be back in Malang by a certain time and that we could just sit around chatting and enjoying the unexpected experience. I enjoyed having the chance to get to know the Dutch couple who both enjoy working in a very difficult sector. Miriam is a pscychiatric nurse working with people who have tried every other avenue available unsuccesssfully. Lars is a youth worker whose clients range from being extremely uncooperative and resisting help and support to those who grasp fullly the opportunity to learn skills to improve their life. Both are amazing people who do very difficult jobs. For people who work in such challenging jobs, they are both so upbeat and positive about everything and I bet they are both highly respected by both coworkers and clients.
It was actually sad to say goodbye to such a great group of people at the end of the day. Sri was going sttraight to the train station to catch a train back to Jakarta and Lars and Miriam were like me, heading out the following day. Whereas I am heading west, they are heading east to Bali & Lombok. Diah was the only person not leaving Malang. She is studying at university there.
My homestay is in Blawan, a very small village, which feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. It is actually in the valley between several mountains. The road in was narrow, windy, steep and very rocky. I arrived around 9:30am which is unusual apparently. I was the only person here this morning but they are expecting 15 visitors and said it will be much busier later. People are just starting to arrive and it is now 3:30pm.
I have paid the Rp300,000 (AUD$30) it will cost me for the 2 nights here and apparently I have hot water (it was amazing), a western style toilet and blankets! True luxury.
Catimor Homestay was originally built in 1894 as a family home on a coffee plantation by the Dutch but is now owned 100% by the Indonesian government. The architecture and layout is very Dutch. It has a very nice feel to the place even though very shabby and needs a lot of money spent on it to avoid total disrepair. There seems to be hundreds of rooms. It includes a swimming pool, a small spa pool which will fill with hot water at 4pm and huge grounds. It backs onto a steep mountain wall which is lightly wooded with decent sized trees.
It is at one end of Blawan village which is largely a main street seemingly only with houses either side of it. However I discovered this afternoon that there are actually several rows of houses with families living cheek and jowl back there. The houses along the main road have the most amazing front gardens. They are all very neatly manicured and include a tiny hedge behind which is the family vegetable garden most including cabbage, eggplant, bayam, sawi, spring onion and/or kangkung. Several gardens also incorporate an impressive fish pond full of large koi. As I was walking home this afternoon, it was obviously the time of the day to work in the garden. Several people were busy weeding and pruning. All gardens look very tidy and freshly weeded with all weeds left on the road! I guess they blow away eventually?
People seemed a lot more relaxed this afternoon than earlier this morning. A gaggle of young girls walked intentionally towards me to say hello. They giggled when I asked them where they were going (the standard greeting in Indonesia). They were heading to the shop which was fortuitous because I was just thinking I needed to get some more water. Being curious, I asked if I could come with them to see where the warung was. On the way they asked me if I have tried labala. Apparently it is the specialty of this village and consists of tofu in a spicy sauce. I was very keen to try this and was able to discover the usual price before getting to the shop. For Rp1000 (AUD10c) I got a small bag full of surprisingly warm contents. I carried it home to photograph before eating it. It was absolutely delicious. A little spicy, a little salty and very tasty. Definitely going to get more of that tomorrow if I can!
Dinner here at Catimor Homestay is a set menu for Rp50,000 and is a buffet of nasi, vegetable soup, omelet, fried chicken, potato fritters, mie goreng, krupuk and fruit. I can’t face a huge meal tonight and so the lovely Bu Ningroom (not sure of the spelling but that is how it sounds) said I can not only have dinner served 2 hours early but I can just have the soup with rice. The only thing she asks is that I have it in my room! Small price to pay! Tomorrow I will hunt down a warung that sells nasi bungkus (rice packets like I had for breakfast in Denpasar) which I am sure will be much cheaper.
Bu Ningroom is going to make sure the public transport van comes here to collect me on the 17th which will get me to Bondowoso and from there I can head to Jember. Unfortunately my internet connection here is absolutely terrible, so I can’t research my options (or blog!). I have a blank in my diary for a few days and I am tossing up whether to spend a couple of days with Bu Wulan’s family in Pandaan before heading to Borobudur or just spend some time exploring Malang. If I had internet, it would be much easier. Actually, poor internet connectivity is so far the only negative I can find about this lovely place! It is so odd. My emails intermittently ping in but I can’t open a browser or send any messages.
The next morning….
I slept so well after enjoying a very hot mandi and have woken feeling slightly more human! It is absolutely lovely having a lazy morning and resting. My hips are surprisingly the sorest part of me this morning, so a nice walk might be the best thing to loosen up the muscles before heading back to the hot springs!
What an unusual place this is. The guests arrive mid to late afternoon and then are all gone by daylight. No wonder everyone is surprised that I am still here today and not only that, don’t plan to leave till tomorrow! It is purely a convenient place to break their travel between visiting all the interesting tourist sites around here.
I have had a couple of cups of coffee already this morning and once I had let the grounds settle to the bottom of my cup and wiped a section of the rim of the cup, I loved it. The grounds are like tiny grains of sand.
Breakfast here is, once again, bread and a boiled egg! It must be the breakfast most Europeans prefer! When I looked disappointed with the prospect of bread & egg, Bu Ningroom quickly suggested an alternative; mie goreng or nasi goreng! Delighted, I ordered nasi goreng. I was served a plate of rice flavoured with spices topped with a krupuk and a fried egg. Why does fried egg in Indonesia always taste so delicious. I can never replicate it at home!
The cook walked past after I had finished eating it, so I was able to pass my compliments to the chef personally! Terima kasih Bu. Enak sekali! She was tickled pink. She is also happy if I drop into the kitchen later and watch her cook!
This morning was quite warm as the sun shone for quite a while. I was amazed as I didn’t see the sun at all yesterday and assumed it was overcast and cool all the time here, being so high up in the mountains. I was almost tempted to go for a swim in the pool here and it was certainly too warm to think about immersing myself in the hot springs.
Instead I thought I would work up a sweat and loosen my joints by going for a walk. I began by paying Rp20,000 to look around the coffee factory behind Catimor Homestay. There is a doorway near my room which opens up onto the factory grounds. I headed in and was immediately assaulted by the noise of a chain saw. I followed the noise expecting to see a tree behind the hotel crash to the ground but instead I found a man chainsawing huge logs. I was hoping he would take a break so that I could ask him why he was chopping up the logs, but he seemed even more determined than before to continue his work! So I gave it a miss and assumed it was for the roasting process. I next walked around a few empty buildings all very glaringly painted white and I regretted not bringing my sunglasses. The only building that was busy was the sorting area.
There were apparently 30 women all wearing uniform, sitting behind benches sorting out the black coffee beans from the brown. I was invited to sit down too and join them and my fingers were nowhere near as nimble as theirs. They start sorting at 6am and finish at 2pm with an hour break at 10am. That explained why a horn blared yesterday at 10 and again at 11! Another Dutch legacy!
I looked around a little longer but as the coffee season doesn’t start for another month, there was not much happening. I finished my ‘tour’ of the coffee factory at the main office so I could photograph the factory name for future reference. As I was taking the photo, a lovely young man came out of his office and offered to take the photo. Instead I asked him to be in my photo! He was very friendly and polite. As I chatted to him, other men also came outside to join the conversation. They recommended that I head up the track behind the hotel to look at the orange grove and the coffee plantation.
I came back to the hotel to discover that a large group of Thai people have arrived. They speak no Indonesian and are communicating in English with the staff here at the hotel. I met a few of the younger members of the group who are in the room next to me. I have forgotten their names already unfortunately but they were extremely friendly. Like the Indonesians, they too leave their shoes outside their rooms. I tried to but the tiled floor is so cold I can’t bare to put my feet down on it
I grabbed my bag and headed off up the track to continue my walk. I was a little way up when I remembered that I had intended to avoid climbing hills today! I continued and found a great spot to photograph the village to show exactly it’s layout.
From up there it became clear just how Dutch the layout of the entire valley is. It looks like a complete model village from the boom gate at the entrance to the manicured main street of the village. Catimor itself was obviously the ‘homestead’ where the Dutch family who over saw the coffee plantation resided. Inside the main building it is beautifully set out and easy to feel the history. The part of the building I am staying in is nowhere near as grand so would have been for less important visitors or even workers who were not local.
On my walk I saw an area of coffee bushes surrounded by cages similar to a cattery. Apparently during the coffee season they catch wild civets and lock them up in the cages. What I am not sure about is how the civets get to the coffee beans. Someone said yesterday they let the civet choose the coffee beans to ensure that only the best are eaten and then their droppings are collected by hand.
I continued up the road to find the shelter that I had seen from down below so I could sit and relax while enjoying the view. The road entered the orange grove and finally I could see the shelter, however just before I reached it, a motorbike arrived. The fellow on it insisted on chatting and as usual the first thing he said after he got over the shock of me being able to speak Indonesian was “sendiri?” (are you by yourself?). If I had a dollar for each time someone has asked me that! Indonesians are not amazed that I am traveling alone, they are puzzled by it. The idea of not being with friends or family is foreign. After all the questions one gets asked by strangers (siapa nama?, umur berapa?, tinggal dimana? etc) I headed back the way I had come but didn’t get far! Not far down the road women were picking oranges and wanted their photo taken. They then offered to sell me some oranges but without thinking I refused. I regretted this later as it would have been a nice way to say thank you.
A few steps later down the road I got talking to another fellow who was sitting under shade cloth. He does all the grafting and was thrilled I knew what he was talking about. He proudly showed me the hundreds of trees that were at different stages of the process and explained that the major reason they graft is that it significantly reduces the number of years they have to wait before the tree fruits. He was impressed that my father too grafts and I was thankful that only recently I had watched Dad graft a peach cutting so I could pretend to be knowledgeable!
On my way back down the hill, people were working in the strawberry field. When they noticed me they asked me to come in and take a photo. Any excuse to chat, I clambered down the terraced strawberry rows to where they’d been weeding. After the usual, “sendiri?” we had a lovely chat about strawberries and swapped information about our children. One lady has a son who is studying law and a daughter studying to become a teacher. At this point it started to rain lightly so I said my goodbyes and quickly headed back to the hotel. I got down to the bottom of the track and took shelter in a shed where several men were working. As usual, 3 men were working while many more looked on. They were working on a tower which would help them get internet connectivity here by next month! Great! I am a month too early!
Here it is after 3pm and it is STILL raining! However my time wasn’t wasted. I grabbed the chance to spend some time with the cook, Bu In, in the kitchen. She is such a darling and kept plying me with food that she had cooked. Unlike yesterday where I was the only person here, they had 2 groups here for lunch; the Thai group and also a group of local kindergarten teachers who held a meeting here over lunch. I sat on one of the low stools you always find in a kitchen to stay out of her way. There were 4 staff all busy cooking or doing preparation. The dish I watched Bu In make was tempeh penyet. Fried tempeh pieces served pushed firmly down into freshly made sambal and garnished with kedongdong leaves.
I jumped in the spa to discover that the rain had stopped! Realising that this could be my last opportunity to take photos of the beautiful gardens in Blawan, I quickly got changed and headed out again for what I thought would be a brief walk. Thus began my last adventure in Blawan!
Along the road out of Blawan a man approached me and started chatting. Unlike most local men here, he was very friendly. He explained that he looked after the power supply here and that everything in Blawan is run on hydroelectricity. He then offered to show me the power station. We headed through a gate which clearly stated ’employees only’ and past the beautiful waterfall which greets visitors as they arrive into Blawan. We came to the pump station which was tucked away from the road with huge machinery all beautifully maintained. He is on duty there from 2pm till midnight each day. He then showed me where the water for the station is sourced. It comes into the pumping station in enormous pipes straight from the river and I could feel the water hurtling through the pipes. We then headed over to the coffee factory where I got a personal tour. He showed me parts I hadn’t even noticed this morning and explained the different areas. He confirmed that the logs I saw being chopped this morning were for drying the coffee beans and showed me the enormous oven they are burned in. Opens just like Mama Lisa’s bread oven but then goes back about 20 meters! Apparently the coffee here is either sun dried or roasted. They also process macadamia nuts and he cracked one open for me to try. It was beautiful, like eating a square of chocolate. Soft and rich. I also tried a fresh coffee bean which was covered in a surprisingly sweet membrane. Not what I expected at all.
As it grew dark, I was keen to head home, not feeling comfortable being out by myself. I excused myself saying I wanted to head home to get a kenangan (memento) for his daughter, to say thank you. He quickly told me not to say anything to the staff at the hotel about the tour and I realised that the ‘tour’ had been unofficial and he actually didn’t have the authority to take me where we had been. I hope he doesn’t get into trouble because I really enjoyed seeing behind the scenes with a local and appreciated his patience explaining everything. An interesting way to spend my last afternoon in Blawan.