“It doesn’t look that hard, climbing Bromo” I pointed out to DH, as I squinted on the straight, white staircase that connects the Tengger caldera bed to Bromo smoky rim. The jeep drove off across the sea of sand, spinning dust as we passed. Little I know back then how wrong I was.
Cruising across the Sea of Sand, in the direction of Mount Bromo. The Sandsea itself is a part of the larger Tengger Caldera, formed around 25,000 years ago of what must have been a massive eruption.
Rider of Bromo
By the time we reached the parking area near the Pura Luhur Poten, the Tenggeran temple and the start of the Bromo walking trail, there were only few jeeps left. We had spent our morning at the savanna, and arrived a bit late. It turned out to be both good and bad. Good; as the crowd was gone hence less people cropping in the background of our photo; but bad as the sun was already high, heating the volcanic soils of the caldera bed that it was almost unbearable to walk.
Horse for hire if you don’t fancy walking on the dusty, hot plain.
Trudging the sandy path under the hot sun to the base of Bromo.
Like at Penanjakan, we were swarmed by the horsemen as soon as the jeep pulled over. They insistently offered the horse riding service and followed us as we walked. They were quite bothersome really, but you can’t really blaming them because that was how they earn their living. In an attempt to ignore these pesky pushers I focused my gaze on Bromo and its long, straight stairway instead. It was a strange view, the white stair; popping out from the grey, hazy background. It somehow reminded me one of the scene in H. Rider Haggard’s novels (which include a staircase to the smoldering volcano set in an African safari, leading lady being chained and dragged to be thrown into smoldering pit as sacrifice, and tribesmen in colorful loincloth and head gears ululating and high on ritual dances at the back). But the insufferable heat and the lack of stamina brought me back to reality, and walking on hot sand was no way easy. I trudged alongside DH who never failed to motivate me; more of dragging my feet instead of walking. As we get closer to the crater the ashes thicken and started accumulating in my socks and shoes, adding burdens to every steps.
Looking back. I was with throng of tourist, mostly locals who came to pray at the sacred volcano. The tiny dots behind the Pura Luhur Poten are the parked jeeps and the drop-off point. As to where we were standing was only half way of the journey.
The steep climb to the crater and our final hurdle.
Before long we arrived at the staircase and this time it was all up to me. The walk was already exasperating, and now we were challenged with another 250 concrete steps that leads to the edge of the crater. The staircase were almost covered with inches thick of hot volcanic sands and ashes that our feet sunk upon stepping on them. We forged ahead carrying dirt that conveniently found their places inside our shoes, and the climb was made difficult by the easily shifting sands that sometimes I can’t get enough resistance to push forward. Panting and gasping for air we finally made it to the top. We were actually standing on the verge of a very much active crater, and breathe its poisonous, white gas. Not that it matter. At least not today.
Half way to the top.
Smoking Bromo and the broken railing that divide us.
Between us and the precipitous slope of the volcano mouth was just a broken railing, and the reeking smell of the sulfuruous steam fumed out of it was nauseating. The fact that we were standing on a meter-wide ledge didn’t help either; and the thought that any slight unbalance movement would see one slipping and stumbling right into the deep, smoky cavity – a definite one-way journey.
This was the closest I’d been to any volcano so far, and an active one at that, with the latest seismic tremor recorded was just a few days before that had prompted the Indonesian Volcanological Survey to raise the alert level from 1 (normal) to 2 (unrest) on a scale of 1-4. Anyway all was well that day, and we counted our blessings for being able to conquer yet another volcanic mountain.
Somebody was celebrating birthday that day.
Pura Luhur Poten temple viewed from on top of Bromo.
I gingerly walked to the broken railing for a photo or two, and that was all about it. Standing precariously on a narrow crater rim without anything to hold on to made me anxious and dizzy, and to made thing worst it was kinda breezy up there. I couldn’t express how glad I was when DH finally said about descending.
On the way down.
The journey down supposed to be fast, but there I was lingering and taking photos of the unearthly view of the Tenggeren temple that sat alone in the middle of the Sea of Sand. By this time there were not so many people around, saved a few locals dressed in orange cloth, paying respect to the volcano.
Bromo has been part of the Tengerese (who mostly devoted Hindus and animist) since the time of their ancestors; and considered sacred. Eruptions are taken as signals that the gods are angry, and offerings or sacrifices were made from time to time to appease the unsettling volcano. I can’t help admiring these people; notwithstanding the danger of the land they are living in, the Tenggerese brave the odds and live side-by-side with nature. And despite its wrath Bromo indeed continues to provide the blessing to the Tenggerese – of fertile soils and tourism.
Goodbye Bromo, for now. Till we meet again.