There are very few things in life I will get out of bed at 3am for. One of them, however, is sunrise over a smoking volcano. That shit you just don’t miss. Welcome to Mount Bromo.
Java is the most populous island in the world, with over 141 million people calling it home. This means it can feel quite crowded at times. But at the small village of Cemoro Lawang, just an hour from the very untouristy city of Probolinggo, you can find a bit of peace. Unless the aforementioned volcano is erupting of course. Luckily for me, Mount Bromo was pretty quiet during my visit.
So there I am, alarm ringing at 3am, dragging myself out of bed after less than four hours sleep, throwing on multiple layers against the high altitude temperatures (the only time I was cold in my whole visit to Indonesia). Boots on, I start walking out the road, phone in hand my only light. Jeeps and motorcycles start to pass me by, carrying passengers on a slightly bigger budget than me. The road steepens, but it’s a fairly easy walk. It’s a little nervy walking by myself in the pitch dark, but I try not to think about that too much.
The road bends back and forth, my breathing gets heavier. Damn, I’m so unfit. Driving around Australia did nothing for my fitness level. Tarmac turns to concrete, which in turn becomes stone steps as the road ends. I see ponies lining the side, and men appear from the darkness to offer a ride to the top (for a fee). I decline, and push on.
The walk doesn’t take as long as I expected, so it comes as a surprise when I reach the viewpoint. It’s still dark, but there are a few people milling around. I’m confused – where the hell is this volcano? I’m looking around, but see nothing. I sit on a very cold wall, camera and tripod at the ready, and wait for the sun.
As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I suddenly notice something strange in front of me. What looks like a plume of smoke, lighter than the dark sky, appears before me. Wait, is THAT the volcano?? I’m so excited by this first glimpse of Mount Bromo. The night begins to fade away, and the scenery in front of me starts to take shape. There, a perfect conical peak, and there, beside it, a gaping crater emitting the plume of smoke. It’s breathtaking, made even more so by the pinks and golds streaking across the sky.
If, unlike me, you arrive at Cemoro Lawang in daylight, you would know exactly where that volcano was. I, however, arrived at 11pm the night before, so the location and view of the volcanoes of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park was a complete mystery. I think I liked the surprise a lot more.
As the sun appears, I notice a few people sitting up on the hill above the viewpoint. This seems like an awesome idea, so I grab my tripod and clamber up the bank. The view is even more incredible from up here, and there are far less people competing for space. Clouds drift across the Sea of Sand below, first building up below the village on the ridge, then dissipating in the strengthening sunlight.
By about 6am, the sun is fully risen and I’ve taken about a million photos. If I leave now, I can make it back to my guesthouse in time for an hour’s nap before the shuttle back to Probolinggo. And that’s exactly what I do. The walk back down to the village gives you an incredible idea of just how close these people live to the smoking crater. And apart from the impressive volcano, the other scenery is just as beautiful. My only regret is that I didn’t spend one more day there to walk up to Mount Bromo’s crater, across the Sea of Sand.
What’s the most incredible hike you’ve ever done? Tell me all about it in the comments below!
Shuttles to Cemoro Lawang from Probolinggo leave whenever full, and should cost 30,000IDR. I however, arrived late in the evening and had to get a private car with a few others, costing 70,000IDR.
Even during low season, it’s best to book your accommodation in advance. I did not, and arrived at 11pm to find that my intended hostel was fully booked. Luckily, my driver was able to find me another place easily enough – a guesthouse in a great location at the top of the village that cost 150,000IDR. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep track of the name of this basic, but clean, lodge.
There are many tours available to see both the sunrise and the crater by jeep, motorbike or on horseback, but if you don’t mind stretching your legs a bit, I highly recommend going solo. You have a lot more freedom and you don’t have to leave when the tour bus does. Plus, the walk to the Mount Bromo viewpoint was nowhere near as strenuous as I’d expected.
When a love of travel meets a passion for wildlife…
I’m a zoologist who explores the world while working for conservation organisations. I write about my experiences in the hope of inspiring others to follow their dreams and see the beauty of this earth – in a responsible and ethical way.