Visiting Mt. Bromo, Indonesia
Having a 3am wake up call is not exactly what my thoughts were on visiting Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, better known as Mt. Bromo, which is one of Indonesia’s amazing natural landmarks in eastern Java. But apparently, sunrise is the best time for a first view of the magnificent volcano and surrounding landscape of the area. It felt like I just hit my pillow for the night and already I was getting a wake up call for the rush to get into our four wheel jeep ride to the top. I’m feeling that this will be a bumpy wild ride to the lookout point and it definitely was, part Mad Max mixed in with Amazing Race to the top spot at Mount Penanjakan. So many bikes passing by us with passengers, I can’t even imagine all the dust and dirt flying everywhere – that definitely wouldn’t be my choice for experiencing this amazing journey to the peak of Mt. Penanjakan. But maybe they knew something we didn’t because when we were fairly close to the starting point, the Jeep stopped and parked on the side of the road and apparently we would have to walk the rest of the way up to the look out point. Instead of just crazy jeeps and motorcycles, it was mayhem with people, dust and those crazy loud bikes whizzing past us. Somehow, I didn’t imagine my morning would start like this in a very confused state of where am I and who is leading the way in front of us.
Fortunately, there were a few of us walking in a big group, and we finally made it to the base area where many of the vendors were busy selling hot ramen noodles, grilled corn and other warm snacks to the many there were not used to the chilly morning cold. I trudged on with a few more of the hardy souls so we could stake a good viewing spot for what we hoped would be a spectacular sunrise over the main caldera of Bromo. For some reason, this was not what I had imagined with hundreds if not a few thousand other tourists doing the same thing at 4am in the morning, and when we reached the viewing point on top, it was already packed with more crowds and their selfie sticks sticking up into the fog. (I’m not kidding)
While our group staked a spot for us to wait out the sunrise next to a the chain link fence over looking the still dark caldera, I walked around looking for any other areas where we might have more space to take better photographs. It was crazy, every square inch of the viewing areas were already filled with people and more were still below drinking their hot chocolates and eating boiling ramen. This massive crowd was not going to be pretty or easy to maneuver, so I walked back to where our group was waiting and it was even more packed with tourists like sardines. Fortunately someone mentioned that there was a break at the end of the chain link fence and I followed a few people out into the dark and from what I could see were trails going down the canyon in steep unmarked dirt paths. Better to wait for a little more light before I go down to areas I could barely see, it didn’t help that a thick layer of fog was still lingering all the way up to sunrise.
I slowly traversed down the steep path to the edge of the caldera and unfortunately the fog was still as thick as soup and I was already ready to give up but noticed some of the wonderful plants and flowers in the immediate area that I could focus on as my only captures for the morning. These beautiful yellow Euphorbia and other botanical plants were popping up all along the steep hill with the fog in the background – these are a few of the images I captured below and I think they turned out nicely.
Sunrise at Mr. Bromo
It didn’t look like the sunrise was going to turn out well with the thick fog still lurking around the base of the caldera and covering up the entire area. Oh well, what now – I decided since there were few people around this hilly area, I would try to concentrate on the little sunrise effects that I could capture and surprisingly, I did get to take some interesting pictures. Of course these are not the typical images you would see of the Bromo Tennger caldera, but one has to think outside of the box in these circumstances. I decided to play along with the fog and see what else I could come up with, take a look at these images below.
Playing with the Sunrise at Mt. Bromo
Well the sunrise was a bust, but I still had fun playing with my silhouette shots and taking photos of the beautiful botany in the area. I tried to take a few images of the caldera and volcano below but this was the best of what you could actually see once the sun had come out over the entire area below. I also took a shot of my friend Gael in her colorful outfit, she took all the crazy shots of me in silhouette so I’m glad I had an accomplice for this.
Overlooking Tengger caldera at Mt. Bromo in the fog
Well, I was happy with what I was able to capture and far away from the hordes above in a sea of selfie sticks. I decided to take the steep climb back to the top so I could then walk back down the stairs to the small food shacks where the rest of my group was still busy eating noodles and drinking some hot chocolate. Surprisingly, on the way back to the jeep, the fog had cleared up and I we were able to stop at few lookout points to take pictures on the back side of the caldera looking out at different mountain ranges in the area.
We eventually found our jeeps and continued down to the next viewing area overlooking the caldera and surprise – the fog had burned off the main areas around the volcano and steam vent. We all took a very long photo-op stop to enjoy the stunning views from above. No-one wanted to miss getting the perfect shot and catch up on the missed opportunities from the early sunrise experience at the upper lookout point. Below are magnificent views of the caldera looking down at the volcano cones of Bromo and Botok behind which is still active.
Stunning views of the caldera of Mt. Bromo
The next part of the trip would be just as crazy as the start of the journey with the jeeps clamoring down to the base of the caldera and then driving straight to the main volcano and steam vent through unmarked dirt roads. This part of the trip really did feel like another episode of Mad Max with all the jeeps and motor bikes trying to see who can get to the main destination first. All around us were clouds of dust and dirt where spewing everywhere and anywhere you can imagine. Again, I was glad to be riding in a 4×4 instead of sitting behind a motorcycle rider and going through all this dirty mess. Eventually we lined up about a mile away from the volcano and the next part of the adventure would either be a walk through the sandy and hilly areas or take a guide and horse to the base of Bromo crater. I decided to save my strength and take the horse option, fortunately the guide was there so it really was just sitting while the horse and guide walked all way uphill to the base area. I’m actually glad I did this because the climb up to the steam vent was pretty intense (below images)
I was so glad to be taking the horse ride, the trails were again dusty and not easy to traverse so this was the better option. Once we got to the base of the steam vent, the guide just motioned that he would be waiting for me at the base and the rest would be on my own – oh great a big flight of stairs before I get to smell some toxic fumes off the volcano hole on the top.
Climb to the steam vent at Mt. Bromo
The climb up the volcanic cone to the crater of Bromo is intense due to the higher elevation and the crowds of tourists jamming the main staircase. The intense fumes from the sulfur plumes above were already smelly from below so I could already image how noxious the fumes would be at the top, but I was determined to witness this amazing scene and crater from above. And it definitely was worth all the effort to see this amazing crater and active volcano, the closest I’ve ever been to something like this on the perimeter of a volcano cinder cone.
The top of Bromo crater looking out at the rim of the Tengger caldera
Gunung Botok volcano cone
The sulfur fume was really intense up on the rim of the crater, so I could only take a few quick pictures and enjoy the views of the crater and the entire Tengger caldera before I decided to take the stairs back down to the base where the horses were waiting.
My guide spotted me quickly at the base and we went back to the jeeps at a relatively fast pace so he could drum up more business and I can get away from all the intense sulfur fumes and crowds. This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience to visit this amazing national park in Java.
A last selfie image with our 4×4 jeeps
While waiting for the rest of my group to come back down Bromo crater, I decided to take a few more shots with the cool 4×4 jeeps that we were taking all around the caldera. They were lined up in colorful fashion, so I just had to take another selfie and I’m glad it turned out great.
In spite of the early morning wake up call and unfortunate sunrise experience, overall I thought the entire trip to visiting Mt. Bromo national park was a spectacular experience and worth visiting in East Java, Indonesia. Thank you for hosting me on this tour Wonderful Indonesia and Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia, all thoughts and opinions are my own.