Saturday, March 2, 2013

Indonesia: Mt. Bromo

Most of my time in East Java included getting up incredibly early, feeling sick because of the hour, then hiking somewhere.  I barely recognized myself, because none of those things sound like me.  However, I forgave myself, because I got to see some really cool things.  As well as seeing the Ijen Crater, I went to see Mt. Bromo, a very active volcano/tourist trap.

We actually got hiking before dawn to see the sun rise over Mt. Bromo.  That was a bit nerve wracking, as we were walking up lava-tracked roads in the literal pitch-darkness.  One wrong step, and I would slip down into the deep craters left by lava from a recent eruption.  Considering that I couldn't see anything, that happened really frequently.
At first, I didn't realize we were there for the sunrise, so I got a little frustrated, waiting to move on, but I figured it out eventually.  It would have been really awesome, but the morning was so foggy I couldn't see the volcano.  What I did see was really pretty, though.  
Sadly, the fog turned into rain before I really got going on the day, so most of my photos ended up looking like this:

Look closely and you'll see my first glimpse of Mt. Bromo.

Needless to say, we're going to be relying rather heavily on my descriptive abilities.

I was pretty excited about Mt. Bromo for a couple of reasons.  1. It's constantly active.  The most recent eruption was the month before I saw it.  2. It's a much shorter hike than Ijen.  3. I got to ride a pony for most of the hike.  The negative was that it was below freezing.  Boo.  The hotel let me rent a big puffy coat, but I think I got the one that had been in the rain before, so it was very lumpy.  It was also several sizes too big for me, so it was not my most favorite of fashion statements, but it kept me from getting sick, thus it accomplished its goal.  It did not, however prevent me from getting soaked.

My soaked self, my pony, and a temple near the volcano. 
Incidentally, that was the last time I got to use those gloves.  A man from Portugal now has them, due to a bit of a miscommunication.  It's a bummer, but I hope they're keeping him warm, since my cousin worked so hard to make them!

Since the volcano had recently erupted, the entire area was brown and barren. There were deep tracks from where the lava had been.  As I rode my pony across it all, heading for an active volcano, I couldn't help but feeling like I had landed in Middle Earth and was on my way to storm Mt. Doom.  A 10th grade math test/over-confidence fiasco taught me never to hum epic movie themes in semi-dangerous situations, so I kept myself quiet this time, but, had that not happened, I would have probably been humming some Lord of the Rings throughout this adventure.  (PS. I wasn't the only person who was feeling connected to Tolkien; most people brought it up at some point during their time at the volcano.)

When the pony could go no further, I was presented with a massive set of stairs that led to the mouth of the volcano crater, where I bought a bunch of flowers to attempt to toss into the lake below:

Although stairs aren't my greatest pleasure in life, I think they're much nicer than having to deal with a hill on hikes like these.

The only guard rail was to keep you from falling into the volcano, which, while I appreciated that the park coordinators didn't want me accidentally sacrificing myself, wasn't always helpful when the wind wanted to push me over backward.  Many places were very narrow, so, once I found a spot that felt decently safe, I rooted myself to it and didn't budge until I was ready to go.

A new Korean man I met took a picture of me and my "sacrifice" for me.  Korean is turning out to be a more useful language than I originally anticipated.

Legend has it that there used to be a kingdom near Mt. Bromo.  The kingdom's princess married a young man, but they could not get pregnant.  She petitioned the gods, and they answered her prayer, telling her they'd allow her to get pregnant, only if she agreed to sacrifice her final child in the fires of the volcano.  She agreed and was able to have children.
I didn't hear if she followed through with her promise or not, but now, every year on August 4, the local people have a festival for the legend.  They buy flowers and dolls to try to throw into the volcano so as to protect their land.  (***EDIT 3/4/13: My friend Mark told me the rest of the story today - He's currently living in Indonesia, so I'm sure he's heard this a lot: The queen refused to sacrifice her youngest son, but when he became aware of the deal, he jumped into the crater in order to protect his village/family.***)
Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I annoyed whatever god decided we needed to throw stuff into the volcano, because I failed miserably.

My flowers landed close enough to the top of the volcano that I probably could have climbed down, grabbed them, and tried again, like one Korean man near me did.  However, it was very windy, and I didn't feel like tempting Mother Nature, so I left them were they were (the bottom right corner of the left picture).

Basically, Bromo was this incredible experience.  Ever since I was a child, I had a ridiculously irrational fear of volcanoes (I blame it mostly on the movie Volcano and some children's book I read, which, in combination, left me thinking that a volcano could randomly sprout under my feet at any given moment).  I still vividly remember some of the nightmares I had about volcanoes.  I swore to myself that one day I would face that fear, and I was able to do that with this trip.
I touched the acid like and handled molten sulfur at Ijen.
I climbed up the side of an active volcano and threw things into its depths at Bromo.
I am one volcano-fear-conquering lady, and I'm incredibly proud of myself.


  1. Man...
    I don't know if I could have done it! Dante's Peak did it for me... and it just so happened that after seeing that movie, my parents decided to take a trip through the mountains of West Virginia.... at which point, I believed ALL mountains to be volcanoes in disguise lol My brother only reinforced my fear as I cried the whole trip. Bleh. I'm impressed by you though! That is sooo cool!

    1. Yeah, I definitely had some Dante's Peak moments when they told me to touch the acid lake at the Ijen Crater. But they assured me that was fine; I just wouldn't want to swim in it.