It was a good thing we didn't push through visiting the Thousand Islands. I wouldn't have decided to finally make the trip to one of the destinations I had to go to before I die. Welcome to the Bromo National Park in East Java, Indonesia.
The national park is an hour away from Probolinggo, a town 3 hours away from Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. Surabaya is an hour's flight from Jakarta. From Surabaya, I took a bus to Probolinggo where I checked in. The better option is to go up to Cemoro Lewang which sits on the edge of the Tengger Caldera. You can take a mini bus from the Probolinggo Bus Station to Cemoro Lewang.
From Cemoro Lewang, the jump off point, you could actually view three distinct volcanoes. One is Bromo, the other and more picturesque one is Mount Batok, while the most towering is Mount Semeru. What makes Bromo stand out is the fact that it is constantly erupting and belches white sulfur smoke. The mouth of Tengger Caldera is aptly called the Sea of Sand as it is an seemingly endless desert of fine volcanic sand that gives you the feeling of being on the movie set of Lord of the Rings.
The goal for the trip is to watch the sun rise on top of the crater of Mount Bromo. This means beginning the journey at an ungodly hour of 2AM from Probolinggo. You don't have to do this though if you are already staying in Cemoro Lewang. The trek from Cemoro Lewang to the crater is just about 45 minutes on foot. You can ride on horseback as well to make the journey easier. I chose to walk, giving me more freedom. I felt like walking on a different planet at dark with a flashlight at hand. Slowly, the sun started to rise, and you could see the fog and sulfur mix blanketing the surreal landscape.
I reached the top of the crater just at the right time, my feet already aching after going up 300 steps and half an hour of trekking on black sand. But the reward was worth it. It was an experience I will never forget. Imagine, Mount Bromo spewing smoke as the sun rose, covering the vast landscape of the sand below with a mystical haze. The sun rose gently, radiating deep colors on the sky.
After an hour, I decided to go down and head back to Cemoro Lewang. I took a horse also just to experience it. We passed by the Hindu Temple near Mount Batok.
Surrounding the caldera are lush green valleys, which gives it a stark contrast with the unearthly surroundings. The small town of Cemoro Lewang has quaint hotels and cafes mainly for tourists. The views of the valleys and mountains were very pleasant. Vegetable and tea plantations make the mountainside a work of art.
My trip to Bromo was definitely one of the highlights in all my travels. Most people don't even know this marvelous natural wonder. I must say this sight puts to shame all our volcanoes. I have to go to Mount Pinatubo soon. I won't expect something as surreal as Bromo, but at least the thrill of going up a volcano remains the same. Mount Bromo and the caldera is definitely one of the destinations you must see in Asia.
I was supposed to go up further to take a better shot of the caldera, but I had to catch my flight back to Jakarta. I was disappointed to not have shot the image that makes most postcards on Bromo. And there was mist everywhere, which blocked the views. Anyway, here was the best I could take, a panoramic shot from the highest point of view.