Friday, April 16, 2010

Bromo, I will return!

It's really a piece of cake to get to Ranu Pani from Malang, though it does require a little patience and the ability to be squashed into a microlet with 20 other people and their possessions for a hot sweaty ride uphill. Not to mention the poor lady chucking her guts up...There's a bit of a transport mafia at Tumpang, I suspect led by the dwarf (should have asked him if he had any sisters looking for jobs as I know a midget bar in Bangkok looking for dancers!!) who try to convince me to hire an entire microlet for 200,000Rp as the others are full. I tell him I'll simply wait for the next one to be ready and go and have some lunch at a nearby warung. It is afterall the middle of the day and there is a lively market going on, so it is almost no time before I am being called over to be packed in like sardines with the locals for the drive up to Gubug Klakah. From here my options are limited to walking, hitching, or taking an ojek. I opt for the latter, after a little negotiation over price, and away we go. The road is sealed all the way to the crater rim, travelling through beautiful pine forests until we near the village of Ngadas. Here the hills are completely clad in a patchwork quilt of vegetable plots, and the locals are busily weighing and loading cabbages (thanks Neen!!) onto trucks. At the crater rim the road deteriorates a little as it winds around the top, with views down the caldera to Bromo ruined by low cloud, then descends on a good asphalt road to Ranu Pani. I left my hotel in Malang at 10 am, I am at Ranu Pani by 1pm.Ranu Pani is gorgeous, a quiet town beside a tranquil lake, with vege plots as far as the eye can see. The people are incredibly friendly, all very eager to greet me and some to stop and chat. The climb up Mt Semeru is unfortunately closed due to the bad weather, and even the walk to Ranu Kumbolo is closed. I have no choice but to continue my travels across to Bromo, but I'll chill out in Ranu Pani for an evening and tackle that tomorrow on foot.Up early to clear skies and a view of the mighty Semeru before I breakfast, pack my bag and head uphill. It takes me a good one and a half hours to reach the crater rim again, to find the view even worse than yesterday. The clouds engulf the entire caldera, I am not in luck. But the upside is overcast conditions definitely make walking alot more pleasant.The descent into the caldera feels like I am Dorothy following the yellow brick road, as the caldera is covered with heather and an assortment of purple, yellow and white flowers. I meet a sole horseman who offers me a lift, as well as a small but steady stream of motorcyclists, and the occasional truck or jeep. I am the only walker! Soon my yellow brick road disappears and the track continues as a black dirt track interspersed with large puddles. I'm really enjoying myself pottering along but am noticing that those clouds are getting lower and it looks like rain. No sooner do I hit the sand sea than the rain descends. I must really look a sight with my white poncho trudging across a black lunarscape!It's time for lunch, but there's nowhere dry to eat before I begin the ascent to Cemoro Lawang. I have to admit to being a little tired so decide not to climb up to Bromo but leave that for tomorrow. I find a tree to give me some shelter and devour my rice and tempeh before finishing the climb. It's actually not much of a hill, but I definitely needed that carb injection to get up it. I find a damp but cheap room with some pretty dire toilets and have a rest before checking out one of the more salubrious establishments in town for a beer. I also opt out of serious physical activity tomorrow and book a jeep seat for the Bromo sunrise spectacular!

So much for spectacular! Cemoro Lawang reminds me very much of Sapa in Vietnam, with cold misty weather but without a bunch of decent pubs, no market and no colourful ladies trying to sell me handicrafts. Come to think of it it's nothing like Sapa actually, except for the crap weather! And my sunrise spectacular? Well it wasn't that far removed from the view from the top of Fansipan, but minus the rain! Yep, total whiteout, nary a thing to be seen.The jeep tour continues with a convoy down the mountain to the Bromo carpark where a couple of hundred horsemen try to cajole you into purchasing a ride up the mountain. The price drops from 150,000Rp to 100,000Rp within 5 steps of my jeep, drops a further 50,000Rp within a further two steps, and if I walk a hundred metres to the Hindu temple the price is now 20,000Rp. These boys really are desperate for business, as they only get one chance a day as all the jeeps pretty well arrive at once. By 8:30am almost everyone has returned to their hotels and the place is deserted. Certainly was the case when I passed through at lunchtime yesterday.

The climb up Bromo is easy, as the final part is a flight of steps (the horses leave you at the bottom of them so you still need to climb yourself), and the view down into the steamy crater is pretty impressive. But the clouds keep obscuring the view, and entrepreneurial chaps circulate attempting to sell pictures of Bromo when it's sunny!I see no reason to dally in Bromo with it's misty weather and no fun pubs or colourful characters (I don't think the occasional man selling scarves and hats really compares with my adorable Sapa ladies) so I jump on the overpriced Colt to Probolingo. I am definitely going to return to Bromo, not just to see the sunrise for real, but because the sunrise is the main attraction, the park is very poorly utilised the rest of the day. There's some great landscape and trekking opportunities here and I do want to visit Semeru afterall. Yep, Bromo, I will return.

Here's the rest of the pictures.

I'm way ahead of my original schedule, and I'm not ready yet to hit Bali, so from Probolingo I'm off to explore a little bit off the beaten track. You could have heard a pin drop when I told the bus touts at the bus station my intended destination....


  1. Hi,

    I'm following your blog closely as I'm leaving next friday for Java (that is if the volcano in Island cools down a bit and allow planes to leave Europe).
    Ok, to the point my few questions :
    How much was the bus and ojek to go there ?
    Did you easily find accommodation in Ranu Pani ?
    The path is clear from there to Cemoro Lawang or did you have a good map ? I understood you didn't take any guide...How long did that take you ?

    Thanks a lot for your blog and all info.

  2. I paid 5000Rp to Lumpang, 5000Rp to Gubug Klakah. I got the ojek for 75,000Rp after bargaining. There is only one homestay in Ranu Pani, though it may also be possible to stay at the mountain rescue huts. It cost 65,000Rp at the homestay and that included hot water shower (shared) and possibly breakfast (unsure from my bill whether breakfast was extra or not). I got them to pack me lunch (nasi bungkus) for my walk, which took about 5 hours. you don't need a map, there is only one track and a steady stream of motorcyclists to ask anyway.