I have to admit that in the past couple of days I was totally exhausted as I had fewer than 3 hours to sleep. After completing the Surabaya city tour at around 9pm, I still had to prepare the provisions for the tour. And by the time, I completed the preparation, it was already 10.30pm. Still less than 2 hours before I must prepare for Bromo tour.
Thankfully, there are 2 things that actually eased my burden. Firstly, I had hired my driver to do the driving for this Bromo tour. Normally, I would do the driving by myself. But for this one I decided to save energy and asked him to me some favor. Especially since we would have additional itinerary by going to Solo by train in the afternoon. Secondly, we depart to Bromo at 1am, instead of midnight, due to the advice from my local friend there.
At 12.30am, I woke and preparing myself to pick Waktong and Hafizul from the hotel. Upon arriving at the hotel, I greeted them in the lobby, and afterward we went straight to Sukapura. The trip went uneventful, and I spend time during the trip by trying to catch some sleep. Upon arriving at Sukapura, we arrived at my friend’s home where from there we swapped to his 4WD jeep to go to the top.
Unlike previous visits, the jeep doesn’t go all the way to caldera floor due to the eruption. So we are not just barred from visiting the famed savannah and Teletubby hills or whispering sand, we can’t even access Penanjakan point (the highest point at Tengger mountain) as in order to do so from Cemoro Lawang we must go down to the caldera and enter the access road on the other side of the caldera.
Instead, he took us to the Penanjakan II point. This place is actually accessible from Cemoro Lawang, but due to poor road, it is rather difficult to access by ordinary car. Although this place is lower than Penanjakan, but you could still see mount Semeru clearly from there, something that you wouldn’t see from Cemoro Lawang.
The trip from car park to the top is difficult. As soon as we exited the jeep, we were greeted by a strong and very cold wind. As if there is giant air conditioners right next to us, in maximum setting. And from car park we must hike a long walk all the way to the top. Considering the steep gradient, long distance, the weight that we carry, and thinner air that makes the hike very difficult for unseasonal climber.
If that’s not enough, there are many horse owners who kept bugging us by offering their horses for ride. The problem with this service is the fact that it is overpriced. It cost around 200-400 thousand rupiahs for a return short ride between car park and the bottom of the stair. Beyond that we must walk up the stair (which is very difficult under the condition mentioned in the previous paragraph). The horse doesn’t go all the way to the top. I felt that such thing is a rip off, so not worth paying. Sorry about that. Had the horse could take passenger all the way to the top; it might be worth paying such amount for their service.
While we walked, we could hear the rumbling of mount Bromo’s eruption. Yes, the volcano is currently on Alert 3, which means that it is unsafe to go near it, but it is not yet in major eruption. Although it was completely dark, we could vividly see the smoke in the distance.
After long climb, we eventually arrived at a spot right below the Penanjakan II which despite of its lower position, it is actually less crowded. It was still dark when we arrive, so all the photos taken before sunrise were just plain dark. Although mount Bromo is erupting, since the eruption is phreatic eruption instead of magmatic, there was no lava glow or molten rocks to be seen.
Waktong told me that he is thankful that I had informed him to bring jacket along, because he didn’t expect the place to be this cold. He said that even Cameron highland mountain resort in Malaysia is no cooler than this. Well, I also add that throughout my visits to Bromo, this is the first time that I experienced high wind situation, where strong and cold wind blew furiously.
We waited for some time, before the sun eventually appeared in eastern horizon, creating the legendary sunrise moment.
The rising sun allowed to take some photos of the volcano. Although I have to admit that it was still quite dark.
Mount Semeru, the highest point in Java Island, can be seen in far distance, covered in mist. Just like mount Bromo, it also show some sign of increasing activity.
But the funny thing is, it seemed that the wind in both volcanoes blew in different direction, as can be seen from the puff on from their craters.
Although it was already bright, the strong gale force kept blowing.
As the sun rose higher, it allows us to take spectacular photo of Tengger caldera complex, complete with erupting volcanoes.
Although in some way it possesses danger to the nearby farmland, the volcano does actually provide rich and fertile soil needed to grow crops. Some of the crops planted here are delivered to major cities like Surabaya, Malang, Semarang, and even Jakarta! Even McDonald burger outlets in Java island sourced a large number of their potatoes from here!
As the sun rose higher, we can clearly see that the ash clouds are falling to easterly direction, essentially showering the savannah and the B29 summit with ashes.
Some visitors decided to conclude their visit and began to descend back to the carpark.
But Waktong said that he wants to spend additional one hour in here as seeing such thing is rarity.
Well, seeing an erupting volcano from such close distance is also rarity for me too!
Since the access to the caldera floor have been closed, the scenery below looks much more natural as there are no jeeps or any vehicles flocked the caldera floor.
I have to admit that standing at the edge of cliff can be scary. Especially since there is a 50 meters drop below.
Upon finished taking pictures of the volcano, we decided to return back to the car park.
Along the way we enjoy the scenery around here.
We can even see the erupting volcano from the car park too.
From there, we hop onboard our jeep and heading back to Cemoro Lawang. Along the way we stopped by at one of the potato and cabbage plantation nearby. For Waktong and Hafizul, it is the first time that they see potato plantation, and it’s quite a unique experience. I didn’t follow them as I was too tired and decided to have a brief sleep inside the jeep.
Once they’re satisfied we head to Cemara Indah hotel to enjoy the scenery of mount Bromo from slightly closer distance.
While we relaxing over there, an elderly man offered his massage service to us. I politely refused, but Hafizul and Waktong accepted, so they decided to have massage while enjoying the scenery.
After they finished with the massage, we returned back to Sukapura to have lunch, and also to return back to Surabaya to prepare ourselves for journey to Surakarta (Solo).
TRAIN TRIP TO SOLO
Again, my rest time felt rather insufficient. I initially thought that we would return back home by midday. But due to the traffic jams on our way back we only made it back to home by 2’o clock! Although I have packed most of my belongings, I still haven’t prepared my cameras yet since I brought them to Bromo, and having had to repackaging them once again.
This only left me with around 30 minutes to sleep! Under such physical condition, I should have at least 2 hours of sleep. So I decided to make do with whatever the available time. Generally, I cannot sleep in such short space of time, and there is a fear that I might overslept and missed the train! So I decided to just lie in bed and do whatever I could to make myself relaxed.
At 3’o clock the alarm ring and I took shower and pack the remainder of my belongings before bade farewell to my parents. My driver took me to the hotel where I pick up Waktong and Hafizul, before we go to the Surabaya Gubeng railway station.
The station was rather quiet, and it seemed that not much people boarding the Turangga express train that we took this evening.
We waited at the platform of the station.
Judging be the number of people on the bench, our train would obviously be empty.
Hafizul asked me whether if we can take picture? Considering that back home in Malaysia, taking pictures of the train is generally forbidden due to political reason. I said that it is fine, as long as we’re train passenger.
Eventually our train arrived on time.
Since our coach is located at the back of the train, we had to walk a bit to reach our coach.
Upon entering, we were greeted by the sight of a rather empty coach.
Seating is no problem, in fact I even get two foot rests!
Our train departing right on time at 4.30pm. For me this is the first time I board Turangga express train since 2011. I have to admit that I never become a big fans of this train service, compounded by the fact that the interior design doesn’t look as nice as it used to be. Even the reclining lever is located inside the seat, which means that whenever you wants to adjust your seat, you must stand up do some adjusting. The most ridiculous and un-ergonomic reclining seat I’ve ever seen.
But since the train depart before sunset, we could see the scenery clearly. The sight of scenic countryside with the backdrop of volcanoes are just amazing sight to see.
Beyond Kertosono, it became too dark for us to see the scenery, so we moved into the dining car nearby. Hafizul marveled on how neatly designed the dining car is. He said that dining car has become a history in most passenger trains in Malaysia, in fact there is a talk that loco hauled passenger trains in Malaysia might be on their way out.
They also lament on how bad the railway scenery has become these days. The deal between Malaysian state railway and Chinese company cost the company a lot, yet it was retained due to political reason. In addition, at one point Malaysian state railway was headed by a rather unpleasant person who had a habit of sending good rolling stocks into scrapyard purely for political reason. And also during his tenure, train photography in the station was outlawed. But since his removal from the office, things might have improved these days, but Malaysian railway will never be the same again.
At Wilangan our train stopped to give way to Argo Wilis express train from Bandung, bound to Surabaya.
Once the train passes, our train resumed its journey to Solo. The trip went uneventful, and as we near Solo we returning back to our seats.
I tried to catch some sleep, but felt rather worried if I might overslept and overshoot my destination.
Near our seats there was one lady who sits solemnly. She asked us on where we are going. I replied that we will disembark in Solo. She smiled, and said that she will travel with this train all the way to Bandung. Waktong asked how far is that from Solo? I told him that it would be another 7 hours to go. Waktong was totally surprised upon hearing that as he felt that our journey from Surabaya to Solo itself felt lengthy for him.
At around 9’o clock in the evening our train finally arrived at Solo Balapan station in Surakarta.
We disembark on the right hand side of the train.
Such move is actually incorrect as the exit way is located to the left of the train.
But we did it on purpose, as we want to explore a bit more of the station, as well as avoiding the hassle of having had to deal with the shady taxi drivers who preying on incoming passengers.
Once the train departed, we exited the station.
As I have predicted earlier, we get bugged by taxi and becak drivers who kept offering their service. I took out all of the tricks possible to put them away, ranging from saying false distant destination such as Karanganyar (works for the becak drivers) all the way until saying that we stayed in the nearby hotel that is within walking distance.
Well, admittedly since our hotel is actually far from station we STILL need a taxi nevertheless. I eventually hail one cab with reputable service on the main road ahead.
Once we boarded the taxi, I asked him to took us to our hotel: Swiss Bel Inn Saripetojo.
This hotel is still brand new (opened in mid-December 2015), and still looks in mint condition.
After paying the taxi fare, we head to the receptionist where we checked in into our rooms.
I have to admit that although the lobby is rather small and lacking with gimmicks, it is still a stylish one.
We went up to our rooms which is located on 9th floor.
The corridor’s design just looks stylish and amazing.
I entered my room which is located right next door to Waktong and Hafizul’s room. And I have to say that it is an amazing room.
The shower room also looks equally nice too.
Once I had shower and cleaned ourselves, we went out to have supper. We look around and although there are many choices, we eventually settled for Nasi Goreng stall nearby (note the picture was actually taken in another restaurant, and used for illustration).
The taste is just fine, at least it is enough to quench our hunger. Once we settled the bill we returning back to our room for rest and relax.
Here you can see the excerpt of our journey in the video below.
TO BE CONTINUED