A lot of people have asked me why I don’t write a travel blog. My answer was usually something like “well, I like writing, but not it it’s an obligation.” Also, I thought “Who, except for my mother and some close friends, will read it anyway?”. So instead I opted for ye good olde facebook, posting some pictures and short travel stories along the way.
Now, after almost 3 months of travelling, I can finally answer my previous question: “Other travellers will.” I relied mostly on my lonely planet and other backpackers’ mouth-to-mouth information while travelling, but Java might be the least touristic place I’ve visited (of course, I haven’t been to Yogja yet). I found some really useful travelblogs (like Walk Fly Pinoy and Be My Travelmuse) and wanted to be of use myself, hence starting a travelblog at the end of my trip.
The other reason for this blog is that I couldn’t find any comprehensive information of getting to Bromo, one of Java’s main attractions. I made it all the way to Probolinggo and despite reading a lot about the rip-off-eager mentality of the place, I fear I still fell for it. So let me tell you about the trip to Probolinggo first. (This is the first part of that story. For the second, click here).
BONDOWOSO TO (SITUBONDO, TO) PROBOLINGGO
A day before going to Probo, I checked the buses leaving from the bus terminal in Bondowoso, since this would be my drop-off point after my Kawah Ijen trip. My guide showed me there was a bus leaving every hour, so I wasn’t worried at all when I arrived in Bondo the next day at 1.10pm. From my hotel, I took a Riksha (which of course overcharged me for a 7 minute ride: 5,000 Rupiah). However, asking about the 2 o’clock bus, told me it was “not parking” – I don’t know exactly what they meant, but it sounded pretty self-explanatory. How about the 3 o’clock one? “Not parking”, either. 3.30 maybe? “No Miss, not parking. Only 4pm go to Probo.” At that point I had been awake for a good 30 hours straight and nearly started crying at the prospect of having to idly wait for another 2.5 hours. Furthermore, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t reach my intended destination, Cemoro Lawang, that day. Because of the stories I’d read, I didn’t want to stay in Probo. Then the information clerk showed my a different route, which would take me 4 instead of 2 hrs and be more expensive, namely going to Situbondo and changing buses to Probo from there. I’d rather do that than wait, so I took the Situbondo bus. Of course I had to wait in Situ for another 30 minutes and finally arrived in Probo at 7.15pm. We were at a gasstation when a guy came in and asked me in which hotel I was staying. I told him about the one from my Lonely Planet but he said it was too far and he knew a cheaper and cleaner one. Writing this, it sounds really sketchy but bear in mind that I was extremely tired, fed up with that bus and a clean hotel sounded like heaven to me. Across the gasstation, he took me into his office (some nameless travel agency that just said “tourist information”). I heard about these places and said I just wanted to go to a hotel. I took a bemo for 4,000 Rupiah and it indeed took me to a cheap hotel (hotel Bromo Per Mai II), but the rooms had no showers, only mandi. If I wanted a shower, it would be 150,000INR). I turned my mind to “whatever” and took the room, I really needed a shower and IT INCLUDED TEA (yay. I guess). The hotel was fine and the people nice enough. After my shower I slept for 13hrs before waking up, eating the complimentary toast and jam and heading to the Probo bus terminal. I didn’t rush, because I figured there would be plenty of buses leaving for Cemoro Lawang…
PROBOLINGGO TO CEMORO LAWANG
I took a bemo from my hotel to the bus terminal, which took about 15 minutes. I realized I had arrived when the guy from the “travel agency” helped me get out of the bemo. It was 10.45 and the bus would leave at 11.30. I let another guy from the agency rattle on about all the tour options for Bromo, and just thought “I will not pay one rupiah, I just want to go to CL”. He offered me coffee and cigarettes and we ended up having quite a nice conversation, he didn’t push me or anything. Some other tourists came and I helped them out with information about Ubud, Bali. At that point I realized it was 11.45 and asked about the bus, “at 12”, the guy, naming himself Toto, said. I had read about the Toto travel company being trustworthy so I just assumed I was there, despite there being no name or ANYTHING saying “TOTO”. A middle-aged New-Zealander asked me if I had booked anything in CL, because he was going there as well and like me, he had read about a lot of ripoffs in Probo. And this, my dear readers, is when things started to get ugly. A guy sitting next to Toto overheard, looked at him furiously and raised his voice: “WE NOT RIPOFF! IF YOU DON’T LIKE, YOU GO AWAY!”. We were kind of caught off guard by this sudden change of personality and when my fellow traveller opened his mouth to respond, the guy repeated “GO AWAY! GO! GO OUTSIDE!”. The guy left, leaving me to reconsider my decision, since I had read about the exact same situation on the JIPP WORLD blog. I turned to the angry guy and told him he shouldn’t get so mad, because the tourist didn’t accuse him of anything (well, not him specifically). “I heard, and I am Probolinggo so I get mad.” Toto replied. “You will scare tourists if you respond like this.” “IF YOU SCARED, YOU GO AWAY TOO!” they said. At that point, a big bus pulled up and Toto said “Lawang”. I took my stuff… and the bus left! Without me! When I looked at Toto and his colleague, they did nothing and just looked back at me like they didn’t care, which they probably didn’t. Yet another guy took me to the opposite side of the street and said I had to wait 10, maybe 30 minutes for the next bus. Instead, I finally realized I wasn’t at the busstation at all and started walking. Another bemo took me to a place which didn’t look like the busstation either and after I insisted on being brought there, he did. It was 30 meters further, and I ended up walking back there anyway because that place was indeed the public busstop to CL. These buses, small and green (directions: leave the busstation, walk 30 meters to the left) leave when there are enough people. I had wasted so much time that morning that in fact, I’m writing this while still waiting for it to leave, 90 minutes later. We are still 5 people short, probably because everyone went early in the morning. The funny thing is, they ask the same price here (30,000 Rupiah) as at the scammy tourist place (though I got it down from 35,000 to 30,000 there). The LP says it’s a common route for ripping people off, and it should be 15.000 INR. All the blogs I read say 25-30 though. It’s 2PM now and I wonder when I will finally get there… I’m even contemplating offering them 100.000 INR if we go now, but that would be such a waste of the time and effort I put into this.
DO’s and DON’T’s
– Get off the bus anywhere else but the busstation. (Tip: If it doesn’t look like a bus station and there are no buses; it’s not the busstation).
– Let anyone persuade you to take a bus or tour to any place you don’t want to go. Stick to your gut and to your plan. Normally while travelling, plans change, but in this case, they shouldn’t.
– Pay more than 30.000 INR for the ride up.
– argue with scammers over anything, least of all their bedside manner.
– Get to Probo early so you can get to Cemoro Lawang on time.
– If you have no other option and arrive in Probo late, just search for a hotel near the busstation, this will save you time and bemomoney.
– Find a small bus to take you up to Cemoro Lawang.
PS: an hour after finishing this post – I had just started on my Soto Ayam lunch, of course – we were still 5 people short. The driver said we could go if we all paid 35,000. I tried to object, but went anyway. Depending on what time this bus arrives, it only took me 7hrs to get to CL from Probolinggo. I spend 6,000 on bemo’s and 35,000 on the minibus, and another 17,000 on snacks and drinks. All combined just under 4€ so actually not bad at all.