Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is the home of many world famous volcanoes such as Mount Tambora and Mount Krakatau. These two mountains are infamous worldwide, gaining their reputation because their massive eruptions on the 1800s are two of the largest eruptions in recent manking history. And they are just two out of Indonesia’s many – many volcanoes. Crazy right? With more than a hundred mountains and volcanoes in Indonesia, there are definitely many popular spots to hike here in Indonesia. Yet, if we are to ask Indonesian people about what they would consider as Indonesia’s most popular mountain then many would surely pick Mount Bromo which is located in the East Java province.
When I first heard of that reaction I was actually quite puzzled about why people would choose Mount Bromo as Indonesia’s most popular mountain. Why it is not Indonesia’s tallest mountain. In fact with its height of ‘just‘ 2329 meters above sea level, Mount Bromo isn’t even one of Indonesia’s top 30 mountain. Then why would it become Indonesia’s most famous mountain / volcano? Is it because of its accessibility? Is it because Mount Bromo is so different from Indonesia’s other volcanoes?
Listen to my story…
Although I have lived in Indonesia for almost 30 years, I have actually never gotten the chance to visit Mount Bromo myself. Yes, I know that is quite shameful. I have seen numerous pictures of Mount Bromo and have also heard numerous stories about how beautiful the mountain is, yet from all the years I spent traveling, I have never gotten the chance to actually hike the legendary mountain. I wanted to see for myself what made Mount Bromo so special and decided that 2018 should be the year I cross “Hiking Mount Bromo” out of my traveling bucket list.
Now if you want to tour the whole Mount Bromo area (as well as view the beautiful Milky Way stars and Sunrise) then the best time to come to Bromo is on early May to late August when it is the peak of the dry season in Indonesia. During these days the weather in Mount Bromo is nice and there are less chance of rain that might ruin your experience. While it is not a must, I would suggest you to rest the night before in a hotel near Mount Bromo. Of course if your time is limited then you can also start your trip early at around 9 or 10 PM the previous night from one of the two major cities near Mount Bromo: Surabaya or Malang. Me and my two friends decided to stay in a new Capsule Hotel: Whiz Capsule Hotel Bromo. This hotel is located in Ngadisari, one of the village near Mount Bromo. There are several benefits of staying in a hotel near Mount Bromo. It gives you the opportunity to rest longer and have enough sleep before a packed activity the next day. It also allows you clean yourself up once you’re done traveling around the Mount Bromo area. The hotel itself was a remodeling of a classic but old Grand Bromo Hotel. As you might know Capsule Hotel is the new trend now for many backpackers and Whiz Capsule Hotel Bromo is really new and fully packed with amenities that allows you to pamper yourself inside that capsule cocoon of yours, waiting for that time for your guide to pick you up to Mount Penanjakan.
Wait. What? Mount Penanjakan? You must thought that the previous sentence was a typo but no, it is not. My first stop for the day is not Mount Bromo but Mount Penanjakan.
What is Mount Penanjakan and where is it located, you might wonder. Mount Penanjakan is actually a mountain located near Mount Bromo. Its close proximity to Mount Bromo as well as its higher altitude (2770 meters) means that when the 4×4 took me to the top of the mountain, I will be able to see the whole Mount Bromo, Mount Kursi, Mount Batok, and Mount Semeru scenery. I arrived at the peak of the mountain around 3 AM in the morning and the weather was really chilly with the temperature hovering around 7 to 8 degrees Celcius. Since we came in summer this temperature was actually considered ‘warm‘ for the Mount Bromo area standard! Even though we came during the fasting month of Ramadan, most of the food and drink stalls or ‘warung‘ are already open so I have the option to actually warm myself here with a nice cup of hot coffee or tea. I can even order a super yummy instant noodle Indomie to fill up my stomach. However, I decided to do that later and brave my way up to the Penanjakan 1 Viewing Platform. Mount Penanjakan itself has several viewing spot of Mount Bromo and its most popular one is the Penanjakan 1 point.
As I said, me and my friends came during the fasting month of Ramadan so most local Indonesian tourists are absent, leaving the area with less people and most of them are foreign tourists who aren’t as noisy as the local ones (and thank God that on the day we came there are very few Chinese tourists whom I believe are the worst bunch of the foreign tourists). We took our time taking pictures of the beautiful sky above the mountain. It is still very dark at 3.30 AM so we are able to clearly see a sea of stars on the sky. Sadly we couldn’t clearly get the view of the Milky Way – “Wrong timing” our local guide told us. We should have came two weeks earlier in order to have the best chance of viewing the Milky Way.
The dawn started to break at around 4.30 AM and from the darkness I was able to start seeing the silhouette of the mountains. The first that came into view is the gigantic Mount Semeru. With its height of over 3600 meters (3676 meters in exact) Mount Semeru stood tall, dwarfing the other mountains like the big brother. Then slowly the other mountains such as Mount Kursi, Mount Batok, and yes, Mount Bromo came into view. While the sunrise shines more and more I can see the sea of clouds that appear under those mountains, creating such a beautiful scenery that I would never forget my whole life. Even typing this post several days later, I can still remember clearly my feeling back that day. It was a feeling of awe of the striking imagery unfolding before my eyes. I was fighting back the tears that started forming because I was suddenly so overwhelmed with emotion. There is something truly, truly majestic seeing those great mountains appear and tower on the horizon like a specter appearing in the darkness. I soaked up the view for several minutes while other tourists started snapping pictures on their digital camera or their cellphone. I also heard some whispers in English and Chinese – the two language I actually understand – of tourists being astonished by the view. I too heard the word “Kirei” by a young Japanese lady which I believed (pardon if I am mistaken, my Japanese language knowledge is limited to my hobby of watching animes) means “Pretty“. For those of you who wanted to take an aerial shot of Mount Bromo from Mount Penanjakan might have to confirm with the security guard first. As far as I know during my trip there no one actually flew their drones, prompting me to wonder if there’s actually a restriction issued by local authorities.
An hour later the morning sunshine have dissipated most of the cold and the sea of clouds so we didn’t feel as chilly. The temperature still hovers around 10 to 11 degrees Celcius but the cold is definitely more manageable. Me and my friends were able to to take some really beautiful shots of Mount Bromo from many different angles and decided to descend Mount Penanjakan since we are a bit short on time. For those of you who wanted to explore Mount Penanjakan, this place offers several panoramic views not only of Mount Bromo but also Cemoro Lawang which is another beautiful and serene village located on the other side of Mount Bromo. So down we went back to the food stalls, ordered some delicious hot Indomie with egg and off we go. After viewing Mount Bromo from afar, our next destination now is to hike the legendary mountain itself.