Following a 6 hr drive to an area that mostly served as a stop on the way to Bromo Tengger National Park, we arrived at our hotel in the middle of the afternoon. The main building which resembled an Italian mansion was situated in a giant, well-kept park with golf course, and old, majestic trees of all sorts added to the atmosphere.
We were immediately picked up by a golf cart, that took us from the main building to the reception in the hotel area. We were checked in and taken to our villas (they were not meant for 4 people, so the girls had their own), and on the surface, everything looked really classy, but we soon noticed smaller things that were kind of off; we didn’t see any other guests, the basin in the garden that used to be a fish pond was now empty with withered leaves and cracks, the curtains in the villas couldn’t be pulled up anymore, and were hanging with one side down, when they should be up. We went to the pool cafe for lunch, but were sent off to the cafe at the main building, in which we once again found we were the only guests. Still, the staff were kind, and lunch was decent.
The strange stuff went on for the rest of our one-night stay – the only ones at the swimming pool, the only ones having dinner in the pool cafe (except for two Germans), the only ones on the small roads between the villas, the only ones at breakfast. We ended up concluding that we had landed in a ghost hotel (“you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”), so we were almost relieved when Dendy picked us up the next day, and we drove down the alley with tthe huge old trees, away from the very strange place that seemed to have known better times.
On the way to our next accomodation, we had sought out a waterfall that we were keen to see on the way – the Madakaripura waterfall. This proved to be a really good decision. After a few hours drive, the last bit on bumpy roads, Dendy pulled up in a parking lot. From this parking lot it was a short drive on the back of a motorcycle to the beginning of the foot path. After the payment was made, we each jumped on the back of a motorcycle and had quite an experience when our motorcycle drivers with us holding on tight, took us the 4 km on dirt roads through the forest to the foot path.
Once there, locals were selling waterproof phone covers and rain coats, but we were prepared and had brought our own, so we kindly turned them down, bought 4 bananas for a snack, and went on.
The waterfall lies hidden at the end of a deep valley, so our guide took us through the foot path, once again letting us know when it would be a good time for him to take photos of the 4 of us. The foot path itself was beautiful – there was a stream gurgling along the path, walls of mossy, wet rocks rose high on both sides of the path, and everything was lush and moist. After a while, our guide told us to put on our raincoats, so we did, and moved on. What followed was us wearing sandals and rain coats, wading through the stream from the waterfall, walking under serious showers while hugging our cameras under the rain coat, and even climbing a stretch of rocks to get to the pool below the waterfall. The path ends in a tube-like valley, where the water falls from 200 m above and into the pool.
The sights were spellbinding, and we were taking it all in, while trying to catch the beauty of the place with our cameras (we can’t help it). A small group of people were meditating in one corner of the large, cave-like place – understandably so, because it had an out-of-this-world serene feel to it and is believed to be the final meditation place of Gajah Mada, a former military Commander-in-Chief with some significance.
High on the experience, we followed the same path back over rocks, through streams, and under showers. Different motorcycle drivers were ready to take us back, and once in the parking lot, we got in the car with Dendy to move on.
The grand, crazy experience of sunrise at Mt. Bromo
In the middle of the afternoon, we arrived at our next accomodation, Gubuk Ndéso Homestay. It was situated on a mountain side on the way to Mt. Bromo, the active volcano which we would be visiting the next morning. Our host, Aji, welcomed us at the car, and immediately showed us to our rooms. The homestay consisted of two buildings, each with three simple but nice rooms and a small terrace for relaxing outside. We carried our luggage to the rooms, and Aji briefed us on our trip to Mt. Bromo the next morning, which he helped us arrange.
We went to bed early, because we were leaving for Mt. Bromo at 2 am in the morning (if you can even call that morning). Mads and I almost didn’t sleep, due to what proved to be a volleyball commentator nearby, shouting through a megaphone all night.
At 2.30 am we were picked up. It was chilly – really cold, in fact – due to the heights, and we were all prepared with several layers of clothes, buffs, and shoes that had been dug out from the bottom of the backpack. Our transportation for the morning was a 50 years old Toyota Land Cruiser (which the locals call a jeep) and its driver, and this marked the beginning of the frenzy. We had been told that if we were expecting a quiet sunrise experience with a few people, we would be disappointed. NO shit!
There were literally hundreds of jeeps blocking the few roads to the best viewpoints for the sunrise. It was pitch black, but there were lots of homestays and snack shops along the road, and most of them were open – at 3 o’clock in the morning. After 2 hours our driver stopped and told us to go on by foot, and look for stairs to Love Hill. We quickly found the place, that was packed with people, and sought out an available space in one side of the stairway. All we had to do now was wait – together with the hundreds of others that had found their way up there at 4.30 in the morning.
At first, the only light came from the many stars in the sky – and from people using flash lights for finding their way. But soon, the rising sun started to cast its spell on the scenery, and the sight in front of us was mesmerizing.
First the green Mt. Balok, then Mt. Bromo behind it – a ridge leading to the right, and then further away Mt. Semeru. To the left the large, dusty plain called the Sea of Sand had a haze laying over it. In the early light, the mountains just seemed to emerge out of nowhere, and we hadn’t even noticed them – remember, it was pitch black when we got there, and we didn’t know which way to look. And then, there the whole lunar-like landscape was. It was quite extraordinary.
When the sun was all up, we started walking back towards the jeep. We had memorised the colour and number plate of the car, and furthermore it was labelled with a sign saying ‘Thusgaard-Madsen family’, so it was easy to find.
Our driver took us to the ‘Sea of Sand’ below the crater, and told us which way to go to get up there. There wasn’t much need of directions, though, because we were going the same way as everyone else. A half hour walk over the plain, with sooo much dust we could hardly breathe.
A long staircase led to the top of the volcano, and we were pretty much standing in line all the way – there were that many people. Walking along the edge of the crater was awesome, and a little scary as well. Mt. Bromo is an active volcano, which erupted the last time just 4 months ago.
Well back in the jeep, our driver took us back to our homestay, where we had a nice breakfast, packed our stuff and got in the car with Dendy to move on to the next place.