It was on travelling from Yogyakarta to Bali, that I realised quite how big a place Indonesia is. Java is only one island out of the 17,000 that make up the country, and a pretty small one compared to Sumatra or Borneo, and yet it took us two whole days of travelling – fifteen hours on day one, and then another thirteen the next day to make it just half way across Java and on to Bali.
We arrived at our night stop after 9pm, and left again the next morning at 9am. But as night stops to break up a long bus journey go, this one was pretty hard to beat – for it was at one of the most spectacular volcanoes in the country.
The volcano is commonly known as Mt Bromo, but Bromo itself is actually a relatively recent volcanic cone rising out of the centre of a massive 10km wide collapsed caldera. Of course we couldn’t see any of this when we arrived well after nightfall. Instead, as has become depressingly familiar so far on these travels, the best time to see the volcano is of course at sunrise, meaning yet another pre-4am start.
There are two options for seeing the sunrise – walk across the caldera and then up the slopes of Mt Bromo; or take a jeep to a viewpoint on another volcano sitting just outside the caldera. Most of the travellers turned their noses up at the jeep option (‘we prefer to do things independently’). Their loss is all I can say, as the viewpoint was spectacular. From there, you can see the whole expanse of the caldera, with its steep cliffs dropping down to this massive, wide, flat plateau, from the middle of which rise up two cones, one extinct, and the other the active Mt Bromo. In the distance behind, you can see yet another volcano just beyond the caldera, erupting away with huge plumes of smoke at regular intervals. Getting to see the sunrise over this was quite incredible too (and at this time of year, pretty practical, as in the rainy season the whole view clouds over later on).
Sunrise duly having been watched, the jeep took us down to the base of Bromo so we could climb that too, and from the top peer down into the deep, smoking crater below.
I’ve been up numerous volcanoes in my trip now in several countries, each has been spectacular (from the molten lava of Pacaya in Guatemala, to the snow-capped Mt Tongariro in New Zealand) and each has been completely different. Mt Bromo has to be the one with the best view so far though, and as I said, not a bad way to spend a few hours in between bus journeys.