Well, our new posse of friends all went their separate ways so Erin and I decided to go ours too. We took a horribly cramped nine hour mini bus ride to Probolinggo which is close to where Mt. Bromo is situated. Mt. Bromo is renowned as being one of the most scenic volcanic landscapes in all of Indonesia. I haven't seen too many, but I would have to agree. It is breathtaking! Unfortunately, it is probably also one of the most 'touristy' destinations in all of Indonesia too, but with a strange twist. Everybody we saw came in from either Bali, or Yogyja from an extremely long journey like we did. They get to the hotel around 8pm, eat dinner, then off to bed. At 3am they get woken up to take a jeep ride up to a viewing point to see the sun rise over Mt. Bromo. Then back to their hotel by 8am, eat breakfast, then get on another bus to go another 8 hours, or so, in the opposite direction. In and out! It absolutely boggled our minds
. I know Erin and I are lucky and have more time to stop and smell the roses, but that just doesn't sound like fun to me?? Erin and I ended up staying for 3 nights. There are so many other good hikes around the area. We walked up to Mt. Bromo by ourselves the first day. It was around a 7 hour hike. We left at 9am. All the tourist hordes had cleared out by then and we had the place to ourselves. It was great! We walked around the entire volcano crater. Plus, walking up to the volcano passing through all of the small mountain villages was also really good. Because most people seem to take the jeep tours up to the volcano, the locals don't get to see many tourists actually hiking it. So we were quit a novelty. Everyone went out of their way to talk to us as we passed by. There were also a couple of schools filled with kids that all ran up shouting "Hello Mister" to both Erin and I. I guess they were about to learn how to say "Miss" in their afternoon class...... LoL! On the way back from Bromo just along one stretch of desert, Erin wanted to ride horses back. I'm not a big "Horsy" kind of person, but I went along to make Erin happy. Well, my poor horse. He looked about half the size of a horse from back home. When I mounted him, I'm sure his legs buckled! And this poor thing had to carry me a good kilometre or so. I was very apologetic to the horse when I got off..... LoL. I'm not sure what Erin liked more? Riding the horse, or watching me scream in pain every time the horse tried to start to trot
. We also did another great hike through all of the farms in the mountains. Along the way we saw a bat cave with literally thousands of bats living there. It was quite something to see. Of course I couldn't be content with just looking at them from the nice clean viewing point, no, I had to climb right down in there to get some video footage. Getting down, not a problem, getting back out.......big problem! Everywhere I tried to put my hands to climb back out of the cave was covered in Bat poo! And I mean lots of it! Mmmm, Guano! Of course, Erin wouldn't give me a hand back out as my hand were covered in it.... LoL! I ended up having to walk quite a ways down river to find an easier spot to get back out, but man did I get some good video...... LoL! We intended on hiking up Mt. Ringit when we set out that day, but got completely lost along the way and just ended up doing a big circle around our hotel. A big four hour circle! It was still a great hike though. Beautiful scenery. We did the sunrise viewing on our last day, which was amazing! We were really surprised how many tourists were actually there. Where had they been hiding? We didn't see another soul in the last three days?? But, when the sun rose you could see why so many people wanted to see it. The entire area seems to be referred to as Mt. Bromo, but that is actually only one of four volcanoes. The two to either side are Batok (2440m) and Kursi (2581m). In the background you can also see Gunung Semeru (3676m) which is still very active and has "mini" eruptions every 15 minutes
. We saw it spew out smoke twice, but I guess if we were close and it was dark enough you could actually see lava spurting out of the top as well. After the sunrise viewing the jeeps drove everyone to the base of Mt. Bromo to walk up to the crater. It was interesting to see the volcano area filled with so many people. All of the locals had horses to give the tourists a ride up to the steps leading up to the crater. Erin and I chose to walk it. Another horse riding experience that early in the morning was not sounding to appealing to me. When we got to the crater there was a lot of people around. Indonesian tourists as well! Everyone was very click-happy with their cameras, including Erin and I. We went to a nice out-cropping to take a picture when five Indonesian guys (in their 20's..... I think?) came up and asked us to take a picture of them with their camera. Then they wanted us to be in the picture with them. Then they just wanted Erin in the picture. Then each one wanted their picture individually taken with Erin. They each had a camera so we were passing cameras around like they were going out of style. It was hilarious! Each time a new guy stepped up to take a picture with Erin they would ask me if it was ok, as if I were Erin's photo pimp or something? And Erin was loving every second of it with all of the attention. After a good 10 minutes of pictures I thought I'd better get one with our camera with Erin and all of her admirers. After that we took the jeep back to our hotel and packed up for the bus coming to pick us up at 9am
. The bus came and was absolutely jam-packed. I ended up sitting on a wooden stool in the middle of the isle. It was only a 1 hour drive to Probolinggo, so it wasn't too bad. We were dreading our 8 hour bus ride back to Yogyja though thinking all of those people were going to be on our bus. When we got to the bus station and absolutely lucked out. There were only three of us on the mini bus ride back to Yogyja. We felt so privileged. So there we were on an air-con bus with the seats reclined and our feet up on the seat in front of us, loving every minute of it! I was fast asleep at about 6 hours into the journey when I got a rude awakening of steaming hot water scolding me from the air vents. The driver quickly pulled over and we all dove out of the van, which by this time was full of steam. The fan belt had snapped for the radiator heat exchanger, so the whole thing just over heated. If that wasn't bad enough we were literally in the middle of nowhere. We were stuck there for 5 hours while the driver and a local farmer were trying to fix the problem with two chickens, a spoon and a half eaten cob of corn...... LoL! Finally the driver gave up and realized that he had to call in for back-up......... FIVE HOURS AFTER THE FACT! He had told me, or lied to me, that he had called someone already 4 hours before that point. Anyway, we flagged down a local bus (which was really lucky) and got back to Yogyja at around 1:30am. We luckily found a hotel as most were full or locked up for the night
. The funniest part of the story for me was telling some of our local friends who worked at the hotel our crazy
story and watching the expressionless look on their faces before they completely changed the subject. I guess an air-con scolding and five hour breakdown on the side of the road in Indonesian doesn't constitute as a good enough story? That would be like saying "today I woke up and ate breakfast" over here! Oh well.
Well, today is my 30th birthday which is a little bit weird not being home with family and friends, but apart from that it's going pretty good. We've met a couple of travellers that we are going out for some drinks with tonight, so it should be fun! I'm also booked in to get a tattoo to commemorate my 30th and our year away. Erin was cute in the morning. I had gone out the night before and had a few drinks with friends, so I was feeling a little spongy at 8am when Erin woke me up singing happy birthday with two Dunkin Doughnuts with candles in them. They sure helped to bring me around though. We got a Bitchuck (bicycle taxi) down to the bird market. It was great! Tonnes of different species of birds, snakes, bats, monkeys, cats, dogs, squirrels, etc. You name it, they had it for sale as a pet. Usually I would not be too into seeing caged up animals, but it was actually really nice. Seen as these animals are meal tickets for the people selling them they are actually well taken care of. I bought a bird to release at the old temple ruins as my good deed for the day. Kind of sad, but the bird (it was some kind of Finch, I think?) only cost 40 cents. Ok, now I'm just rambling on! So, to make a long story short, we have 1 more day in Yogja then we off back to Bali for 3 nights, then on to Australia. We're really looking forward to some "Western" culture for a while now. It's going to be a refreshing change I think. Although, Erin and I are both in agreement that we may come back to Indonesia after Oz and New Zealand to see some other places here. We've met a few people now that have told us that Borneo is amazing and also Banda Aceh in the north of Sumatra. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.