Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Easter weekend. Friday is a bank holiday in Sg but Monday is not, we decided to take it off anyway and we are flying to Surabaya, island of Java, Indonesia. The objective is not the city itself but the national park of Brumo-Tengger-Semeru with its (very) active volcanoes.
We get to Surabaya early Friday afternoon and after a bit of negotiation, we start our 4h taxi journey! We are heading to Cemaro Lawang, the closest village to the park. It's only 130 km away but very soon we discover that roads in Java are mmmhh ... difficult.
Traffic is very busy in town, thousands of motorbikes, trucks, buses.
Additional lanes are being created to accommodate the most improbable over takes, signs are nonexistent and finally mountain roads are very very very steep! 1st gear didn't always look it was going to be enough.

The sun is up from 5.30 am to 5.30pm so we finish our journey on very uncertain roads (did I mention the massive holes all over the place?) in complete darkness. Around 8pm after having stopped for the taxi oil change, petrol, food, several phone conversations, we finally arrive at our hotel. It's raining, the room smells of damp and it is not Singapore temperature, more around 18C. I am not a happy bunny...

After a dinner of pineapple curry (weird) and nasi goreng (fried rice), we enjoy some pancakes and have an early night.

Saturday morning, 7am, time for breakfast. We arrange our tour for Sunday, a Jeep trip starting at 3.30am in time to catch the sun rise.
And someone explain us how to walk to the top of Bromo, today's objective. So, first 5km walk to the centre of Cemaro Lawang. This is steep! Very often we see motorbikes going up in S shape or getting rid of their second passenger! We pass several small villages, refuse rides on plenty of horses and admire the very colourful houses on the side of the roads. The mountains around us are incredible; there are cultures everywhere, fields of cabbage, leeks and potatoes. It's very green and the fog is slowly lifting. 1h30 later we are in Cemaro Lawang (ok I admit R was there a bit before me and had time to buy lunch, take away fried rice as a picnic). Now, we need to go up a tiny little bit more before entering the caldera. This is the old crater of an enormous volcano, it is now a very large flat area of 10km in diameter where a few volcanoes seat. So we go down in the caldera and walk on the sea of sand for a while. It is a bit unreal, looks slightly like the moon; it's made of fine black/grey volcanic sand.
First stop is the Hindu temple of Poten which is the only building in the caldera. It actually looks better from far away than close as it is quite austere and not used anymore. But the location is impressive, just at the feet of Mt Bromo, the collapsed but smoky volcano. It's only a short walk to the top using a path very much ravened by rain and then steep set of stairs. At the top the view of the smoky (and smelly H2S) crater is impressive, there is a narrow path going a third of the way round giving good views of the caldera. We have lunch at the top before going down for a walk on the sea of sand.
Unfortunately it is now 1pm and this is the time it starts raining (everyday at the same time!) we try to stick around for a while but it's getting bad so we catch a jeep with a Canadian met on location back to Cemoro Lawang. We spend some time enjoying Javanese cafe before deciding that the rain is light enough to allow the 5km walk down back to the hotel. It is now time for a hot shower as soon as the diesel generator starts... :-) We decide to have a Javanese massage to spend the rest of the afternoon but non-communication, aching and massive sun burnt don't make it the most pleasant experience...
Anyway it s time for a heavy German dinner (the hotel is supposed to be German run so the restaurant menu is heavy on potatoes...) and an early night, the alarm clock is set up for 3am!!!!
3.30am, Sunday morning, our driver is here to pick us up and drive us to the summit of Mt Penanjakan for dawn. It is an hour drive in a very bouncy Jeep (or Toyota to be exact). When we get there we realise we are not the only one with this idea... The viewpoint platform is packed, a lot of Indonesians and as many westerners than other Asian nationals. We stay there for nearly 2 hours looking at the sun, the caldera and the volcanoes at dawn. Mt Semeru (highest mountain in
Java) is there erupting every 20 minutes, either smoke or steam. At this time of the year we can't hike to the summit, which could be an activity for another time (2 days hike up to 3676m).
On the way down, our driver picks us up and we avoid the crowd by by- passing Mt Bromo (been yesterday) and driving us directly across the caldera. This is amazing, at a specific point the sea of sand gets transformed into the Savana, herbs and flowers of various colours are everywhere on both side of the piste. We approach the "Walls" of the caldera and get out by an amazing steep road. We are heading for the lakes at the feet of Mt Semeru. Passing trucks on the road is a pilot's job (really scary) but the views we are getting of the caldera are breath taking, all fog has now lifted it is amazing. We pass some very remote villages and get to the lakes, to be honest the lakes are not that great but the trip to get here was definitely the right think to do. We are now at the starting point of the trek to Mt Semeru and we can't see it... There is a reason why it's closed! It's not meant to open for another month. We take the same way down and enjoy some more photos stop as we are slightly more awake now! We return to Cemoro Lawang at 10.30 am and wonder a bit about our next activity. The park is really designed for early morning action; everything is closed during the afternoon as it rains most days. Early lunch, check in into our next hotel and a nap is as much as we can do for now.

At 2pm it's time to start planning for Monday. Plane is at 3pm from Surabaya and we know it takes 4h to get there! We have heard of waterfalls on the way down and we have been told they can only be visited on the morning as the afternoon rain makes the place dangerous, so we are trying to find a taxi which could take us first to the waterfalls and then to the airport. Our first 2 attempts are failures; people refuse to take us there saying it's too dangerous.
A bit down, we head to a bar to watch the rain fall and think our plan through. In the bar we meet a mountain guide who speaks very good English and even a bit of French! We discuss the waterfalls issue and he assures us as long as we go on the morning, we are fine and obviously, his brother has a car and will be our driver! Here we go, problem sorted! The rest of the afternoon is spent in the same bar discussing Indonesia with a Scottish family. We learn a lot about a place called Batu, Typical Indonesian food and also how bad drilling has transformed 25 km2 of Surabaya in a mud field.
At dinner, we put our new knowledge of Indonesian food in application and try Gado-Gado and Nasi campur. The first is a mix of boiled vegetable, tofu and eggs with a spicy peanut sauce; the second is rice with chicken satay and a sort of chicken in a juice. It's delicious and a nice change from German potatoes!
Monday morning 7am, time for packing and breakfast. Our driver is already here and the mountain guide has decided to join us. Spot on time we leave Cemaro Lawang and drive down the mountain for 1h before entering the waterfall zone. We change in water friendly clothes; we have been told that we'll get soaked! We even switch the hiking boots for flip-flops and indeed, that was a good move, the first thing our guide tells us to do in cross the river... Trousers wet, feet ... As well! We walk for about 30 minutes along the river or in the river to reach the first waterfalls, we are right in the middle of the rain forest, the vegetation is luxuriant it is incredibly green. We then pass below 1 waterfall and get completely wet to get to the final waterfall hidden in a sort of cave. It's about 200m tall with walls covered with greenery; R puts his new (Late Xmas) present into use, waterproof camera are brilliant! On the way back we meet some of Java
inhabitants: monkeys and some snake looking lizards that I have stayed as far away as possible and our friendly guide quickly picked up on my dislike of the thing and attempted to make me jump a few times (with success).
After getting change in dry clothes, we pursued our way to Surabaya airport avoiding accidents by a series of miracles...
Now back to Sg!

It was a great weekend in Java, a bit on the early morning side but the scenery was definitely worth it, I hope you appreciated the photos.

1 comment:

  1. Impressionnantes tes photos...surtout le 4x4 rose, j'adore!