Tagarchief: Java

Mount Bromo: DIY without a guide or tour

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A guide took me to Kawah Ijen two days ago, but other than transport, his guiding limited itself to walking up the mountain behind me, with me often having to wait for him to catch up (mind you, I’m not athletic or a trained hiker AT ALL, so safe to say he was in abominable shape). With a little encouragement from the Be My Travelmuse blog, I decided to save money and get some excercise and go solo for the Bromo experience. It was supposed to be an easy walk, with an obvious path leading up to several viewpoints. How hard could it be?

I rented a beautiful pink jacket (25,000 INR) at Cemara Indah which I needed immediately: this place is COLD, y’all! I was, again, surprised at the total lack of western people here. Cemara said they were fully booked, but I didn’t find any European tourists around town, safe for an older German couple at my homestay. Strange, as this is the Bromo entrypoint after all.
I had dinner at what I *think* was the Toko Edi warung mentioned in the LP, but now I’m not sure. As I had expected, they were “finish” with the sate I ordered, so I went for the bumbu chicken and mie goreng to go with it. They gave me a banana shake and mie, which was obviously instant noodle and literally only had 5 pieces of cabbage in it… (To pay 50 cents for that! I can’t even..) I returned the shake and asked for a hot ginger instead. The chicken never arrived. The ginger looked interesting to say the least (as if they had cooked a full ginger root and then put it in a glas of tea without even cutting it). Total damage: 13,000 INR (under 1€. Yeah, I shouldn’t complain). The place had pancakes, and I’m never one to skip dessert but I just didn’t trust them anymore. They even tried to charge me 33,000 rupiah, I still don’t understand why and how.

On the way back, Lava cafe had miraculously opened and I went in for information. My own “research” had apparently been so thorough that they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, except that the wifi didn’t work and had not been working for days in the whole area. They pointed me to a place just down from Yog’s, a local restaurant where I bought fruit, krupuk and fake oreo’s (called Goriorio’s. Gorey oreo’s?) for my trip. Also, I ended up having my (pan)cake and eat it too, and it was pretty awesome! Perfect combination of crispy-salty and sweet! Banana and chocolate – can’t go wrong. Stuffed and satisfied, I walked back and passed a warung with a lot (like 10) of bule (“foreigners”), so I walked in and asked if anyone was planning on hiking to the viewpoint. A French couple was, and we decided to meet at 3 in front of Yog’s. Although I had been kind of excited to do this all by myself, it felt like a good decision to team up (also, it would definitely make my mom happy).

My alarm went off at 2.30 but it wasn’t until 2.50 I found the courage to peel off the 4 layers of blankets and face the cold. I’d anticipated this and had therefore slept in my hiking clothes. Not quite sure if this qualifies as being “smart” or “lazy”. All I had to do was brush my teeth, get my bag and I was all ready for my rendezvous with the French. Apparently, they weren’t. While I waited and waited, I saw exactly one other couple heading up the trail by foot and wondered if I should quickly join them instead of waiting in vain. Ten minutes later, Isabel, the French lady, met me and said that her partner had been sick all night and they weren’t doing the trip. I wasn’t too disappointed (Adventure here I come!), but secretly found myself walking really fast to catch up with the couple I saw earlier. The road was extremely dark and my mini solar-flashlight wasn’t of much use at all, unless I kept wiring it. So I used my iPhone flashlight instead, yay for Apple. After about 20 minutes, I heard something coming up behind me, but it wasn’t a car or an ojek (motorbike). I turned around and a horse (and rider) passed me. I remember thinking “why doesn’t the horse turn on his lights!?…” – guess I must’ve still been very sleepy. Although now I think about it, I don’t know how you could ride that road without any light whatsoever. “You take horse upstairs, mister?”. “No, I take foot”, I said bravely. I then realized that I was doing my second night-trek in two days, and wondered who the hell I was and what I’d done with Ilona (you know, the lazy-Ilona we all know and love. The Ilona that swore never to hike again only two weeks ago, the one that was so happy hearing about the possibility of taking a 4×4 up the mountain and had been thinking about that Jeep for weeks… Yeah, she had left the building). About 100 meters in front of me, I saw the vague but unmistakeable lights of a headlight and only 10 minutes later, I caught up with two girls (Sion and Yuli) who were taking off their jackets. I did the same; wearing 5 layers of clothing really isn’t necessary while hiking. I would later find out that the jacket was actually extremely welcome while waiting for the sunrise, but more on that in a minute.

Soon we reached what looked like a viewpoint. People were selling coffee and playing loud music, not the rustic scenery I had hoped for. Because it was still very dark, we couldn’t see what the view was like from there, and although the coffeelady confirmed this was viewpoint #1, we kept walking. Somehow, a large group of Indonesian guys joined us (or was it vice versa?) and they led the way, that had suddenly become very steep. We had to make several stops to catch our breath in a matter of minutes, and for the first time I experienced the burning lungs caused by sulphur gas. The smell had been incredibly bad this morning, even in my room I was hardly able to breathe. For those of you who don’t know; sulphur smells like eggs, farts, and rotten rottenness. (Watch the first Shrek movie when Donkey & Shrek walk up the mountain. Donkey knows what he’s talking about…) The guys stopped at yet another “viewpoint” with a big concrete bench, saying this was the “finish” and you couldn’t go any higher. Seriously, I don’t know if all these people the last couple of days are either terribly misinformed, enjoy lying or their English is just too limited to explain anything, but they sure have been giving me/us misdirections A LOT. Indeed, the road was seemingly ending here, but with our flashlights we quickly found a case of stairs leading further up. Shawn was concerned because the impromptu map she had gotten from Cafe Lava said that the stairs led up to the *first* viewpoint. The map wasn’t lying: when we reached the (first) stairs’ end, there was a big sign saying “Serundi Viewpoint”, apparently meaning “first”. We felt silly and naive thinking we had almost made it to the second one, when in reality it was still an hour away. It was 4.35am by then and we decided to wait for the sunrise here while warming ourselves with tea, cookies and our jackets. (Final verdict: take a jacket, but make sure you have a backpack to put it in whenever you get too hot, or you will end up carrying it around). I saw the man who got shouted at at the Probolinggo “tourist information center” and we talked about how totally weird that had been. Poor guy had had it even worse than me, for he got on a wrong bus, leading him 2.5 hours in the wrong direction. Really hope my previous blogs will prevent this happening to other travellers, it was such a hassle!

The mountain we were climbing was Gunung Pananjakan, and at around 5am the sky slowly started turning orange, giving us a preview of what we had been staring at in the dark: the immense Tengger caldera with the Bromo Crater, Mount Batok and Mount Semuru luring and puffing in the background. From blue, it turned orange and when the sun eventually hit the crater it was magical. The sun doesn’t come up from behind the volcano family though, it comes up on the left, behind the villages. The clouds formed a sea around some other mountain tops and at one point I wondered if it maybe just was the sea and the Javanese hadn’t told us… Drinking coffee, eating krupuk and taking loads of pictures, we stayed up here for 2 or 2,5 hours. We didn’t go up to the second point, because we heard there would be tons of jeeps and tourist fighting for a good spot there. Viewpoint 1 cannot be reached by jeep or motorbike, and I guess there were “only” 50-70 people there. No one was fighting to get a good picture and we had an excellent view. If you are up for the hike though, leave early and pound your chest screaming you’re the king of the world (or your personal choice of victoryscream) when you reach the top. I myself was quite happy with where I ended up. The walk back was just under an hour, and we had a nice breakfast at the pancake-warung (don’t worry, this time I took toast and omelette). I went to bed after, and just woke up to catch the sunset from the famous Bromo itself.

DO’s & DON’T’s:

– be afraid! The road might be dark, full of terrors it is not;
– think you reached the viewpoint unless it says viewpoint;
– miss the sunrise because you desperately wanted to get to viewpoint #2 but took too long and ended up watching it from the bushes.

– bring a flashlight, jacket, bag full of snacks, money for coffee or tea (5,000 INR per cup);
– charge your camera’s battery, you will need it;
– climb the Pananjakan solo. It will save you so much money, it’s not that long of a hike and you will have the same experience as all the people up there overpaying for a jeep. Actually, you won’t, because you will feel much more satisfied!
– stretch after the hike to avoid those nasty pains the next morning. (I totally forgot about that this morning. Ouch!)

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Sea of clouds…


The weirdest ginger tea ever


Me totally working my Bromo hat and pink puffy jacket


Mie goreng with “vegetables”, egg.


My very yummy pancake, in this lovely little colourful warung.


Semuru, puffing smoke.


The purple blue Tengger Caldera, just before sunrise. Oh, and there’s me, too.


Sunny but still cold, against a most excellent background.



How to get to Mount Bromo (part I)

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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).

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…

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.

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