Christmas on a Volcano, in a ‘Desert’ and Under a Waterfall
My father told me that my grandfather once said something along the lines of “you are closest to God on a mountain.” Literally, figuratively, or both, I’ve always loved that phrase. So since I’m far from home, and won’t be celebrating Christmas with my family until I’m back in the States on January 6th (Ukrainian Christmas on the old Julian calendar), I thought I should make Christmas on the 25th in Indonesia a memorable one. Mount Bromo in eastern Java always makes the list of “most beautiful, awe-inspiring” sights in Indonesia, so I thought I’d get on a mountain, be in nature, and perhaps be closer to God.
Chloe and I based ourselves out of the second largest city on Java, Surabaya. We paid Rp 600,000 (about $32 each, find them here, according to our receipt: http://www.persewaanmobil.com) for a driver to take us to Bromo and wherever else we wanted for the day. We left Surabaya at 11 p.m. and reached the final parking lot near Mount Bromo at 2:30 a.m. The pitch black, winding drive was a bit scary, but I was too busy looking at the stars, you can’t see stars in Jakarta, it is too polluted. It is important to tell your driver to go all the way to the final lot because hotels along the way try to lure customers with Jeep and room combos. You can either get into a Jeep near the mountain with a driver and be driven to many places or get on a motorcycle with a driver and hike from wherever you want them to drop you. For $10 Chloe and I decided to get on motorcycles. At around 3:30 a.m. we got on the bikes and they dropped us at the base of Mount Pananjakan from where our hike began. And this is what the sunrise “on Christmas day in the morning” was like:
We had flashlights and hiked for about two hours all the way to the viewpoint. “Awe-inspiring” is an apt description. From Mount Pananjakan you see Mount Bromo, the active and smoking Mount Semeru, and Mount Batok.
The clouds looked like water — moving, drifting, swirling and overflowing onto the terraced onion field plots around the mountains.
At the viewpoint many people wanted to take photos with Chloe and I. All I wanted to say was, “there is a beautiful volcano behind us!” The Bromo area is Hindu, and this boy in his beautiful batik wrap was selling flower offerings:
Our hike down was much faster because it was now light out. So we took some photos. A face only a mother could love, what can I say? I was excited to be on a volcano. This is for you mom:
The hike down Mount Pananjakan was really pleasant and there are many viewpoints along the way.
The fields all around Bromo, and for a few hours drive towards Surabaya, are so lush it is hard to believe that Jakarta is in the same country.
From Mount Pananjakan we rode to the Sea of Sand. It is other-worldly and for some reason what I imagine Mongolia looks like:
The winds blow up dust and visibility can be very low at moments.
The route up Mount Bromo is reached from the Sea of Sand. We decided that the crowds would make it a fairly unpleasant hike so we walked around the “sea” and went to the Poten Hindu Temple.
Although the temple itself wasn’t as impressive as ones I saw in Bali, the location can’t be beat.
Our friend Fajar, who arranged our car, told us we had to stop at the Madakaripura Waterfall on our way back to Surabaya. The waterfalls are about an hour drive from Bromo and they are breathtaking.
Our driver, Efendi, told us we would be able to walk to the falls on our own. So when two men approached us and said they would guide us we said no thanks. Well, turns out the path was washed away some time ago. So two lovely Javanese men gripped our hands and pointed at specific rocks for us to step on as we criss-crossed the river six times or so before we reached the waterfalls. They were very nice and told us they just wanted us to have a good time and wouldn’t charge us anything — of course we tipped.
From far away and up close, it appears as if the water just comes out of the rock faces.
The area around the falls was so lush and green it reminded me of Jurassic Park:
Looking up was a bit dizzying, but beautiful.
We were exhausted after staying up all night and hiking, and an alarm may not have been set correctly, so after 15 hours of sleep, I was very rested the next day. It was an unforgettable Christmas.