Volcano!

Trip Start Aug 24, 2008
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Trip End Jul 07, 2009


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Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Saturday, April 25, 2009

We took the bus for an entire day (about 10 hours) to Gunung Bromo. We arrived at about 8pm after driving in the dark up lots of wiggly mountain roads for about an hour and a half. We had some amazing views of the stars. Because it was dark, we couldn't see, but we knew we must be pretty high up because it was cold, so on arrival we put on all our jackets and jumpers that we hardly wear these days. We went for dinner and actually saw Mulled Wine on the menu. I ordered it, expecting it to be a horrible Asian version, but it was actually quite good, and for a couple of minutes I felt like I was in Switzerland again. We went to bed early because we had an early start the next day.

We woke up at 3.15am and took a jeep through the darkness and fog for an hour, driving upwards. I don't know how the driver navigated because the visibility in the fog was about 10cm, but we reached the top of a mountain and sat at the viewpoint, waiting for sunrise. As the light began to appear we could see that we were looking into a huge caldera, with a flat bottom and 3 volcanoes sitting in the middle. One of the volcanoes was very tall, and one was smoking (Gunung Bromo). The cloud was sitting in the caldera and seemed to be overflowing over the edges in some places. It was a very impressive view, especially the smoke billowing out of Bromo and being carried away by the wind. As it got lighter we could see further and I took loads of photos. We headed back down from the viewpoint in our jeep, stopping to look at another volcano on the other side and also stopping to get a closer look at Mount Bromo. Then we drove down into the caldera, back into the fog. We stopped and got out, not having any idea where we were. We were immediately besieged with men trying to sell us horse rides (why?) and started walking across the ash. We climbed up a reasonably steep slope covered in ash and solidified lava flows until we reached a long staircase with about 250 steps. We went up the stairs, which was very hard work, because by now the fog had cleared and it was hot and sunny. At the top we found ourselves on the rim of the crater of Gunung Bromo. We could see right into the crater with the white gases emerging from it, and in the other direction we could see all around the caldera and the surrounding mountains. It was a very impressive sight, which we stood to admire for a while before heading back down to our jeep.

Back at our guesthouse we had breakfast and noticed that our guesthouse was actually built on the edge of the caldera, and so had great views of the volcanoes. We noticed none of this when we arrived because it was dark. After breakfast we drove back down along the wiggly mountain roads, and this time could see that they were covered in growing crops due to the fertile soil. It was very pretty and green on the slopes of the volcanoes and we passed through lots of little villages with people carrying vegetables in horse-drawn carts.

We took the bus across Java to the Ijen Plateau. This took most of the day with a stop for lunch, and I slept for a lot of it due to the early morning. We arrived in more mountains and more cool air and checked in to a guesthouse. We had a couple of hours before sunset so David and I decided to go for a walk. We walked down to a strawberry farm just the other side of the hill. To do this we walked through a village full of beautifully manicured lawns full of flowers. The villagers stared at us and the children asked for pens. We couldn't get in to the farm so we just looked at it and then walked back. On the way we passed a motorbike with two men and and upside down goat on it, bleating with its tongue out. A totally normal occurrence! Back at the guesthouse we were given free strawberry juice with our dinner, which was lovely, and we saw an enormous grasshopper the size of my hand and a rhinoceros beetle with a huge horn.

The next day we woke up at 3.45am (nooo!) and had some breakfast. The cook seemed to think that chocolate sprinkles on cotton-wool bread was a western breakfast. Hmmm. We drove to the bottom of another volcano and walked to the top. It took about 45 minutes and it was light by the time we got there. It was a steep climb, and we kept passing men climbing down with baskets of sulphur and there was loads of yellow powder all over the ground. As we neared the top we had a great view over the green valley and surrounding volcanoes, with a few wisps of cloud. At the top we found  ourselves on the rim of another volcanic crater. This one had a bright blue lake with a layer of bright yellow sulphur floating on it. The lake was steaming and there were large amounts if yellow gas billowing out of some bright yellow deposits. We admired the view for a while and then walked down into the crater. It got yellower and hotter the further in to the crater we went. Eventually we were stopped by a man wearing a gas mask who showed us the sulphur emerging from the rock, in solid, liquid and gas form. It was very hot and the gas made it difficult to breathe. We walked around a bit further, down to the lake. The water was very hot, but not too hot to touch. It was bright blue and steaming. We thought it was all very interesting, and very different to anything else we have done on this trip. After taking lots of photos and trying not to melt we headed back up the side to the top of the rim. We walked back with another lovely view over the hills and valleys and then our driver took us away from the plateau to the ferry port, where we caught the ferry to Bali.
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