Volcanoes and more Volcanoes – Atop Mt Bromo

Wednesday June 29th

Rather than take a rest day today we decide to save it up as there’s not much here apart from the one—visit-worth temple, so we decide to make it a transition day instead and we make our way further east from Boribudur. But it’s a late (8.30am) start because a dawn walk around the temple we’re hoping will give us better visibility of the surrounding landscape – in particular of the ring of volcanoes that dot the horizon. And so it turns out – the light as always, is better at the start of the day – and the photos benefit from that. The haze persists though and while we can make out conical shapes in the distance, it is an effort.

By the time we depart it’s pretty hot but the idea is to get at least some kms under our belt so as to break the length of the journey to Mt Bromo. And that works quite well ending up in the mountain town of Tawangmangu and a nice enough hotel that arranges an import of illicit Bintang for our drinking pleasure. Stomachs seem to be well settled now and the only real vulnerability is to dehydration which we detect by the end of each day as everyone’s pee is yellow syrup. So while drinking from Camelbaks or bottled en route does keep the loss of liquid down, it certainly doesn’t prevent it and we travel mainly in a sea of sweat from about 10 am onward.

Thursday June 30th

The plan was to ride to Malang on this, the south west side of the mountain and then tomorrow ride up to the caldera of Tenggar National Park and ride effectively around the whole crater. But we’re concerned about rain and lost time if we take that option and the track turns out to be impassable. So instead we strike north to the coast and ride around to the north east before riding up the mountain to the village of Cemoro Lawang that sits atop the escarpment that surrounds the larger Tenggar caldera. It’s a long ride and was certainly not the intention but thankfully an early start means we get a couple of hours in before the heat and the traffic start to stifle enthusiasm and blunt the ability to stay alive.

Then a second change of plan comes about when we hit a massive traffic snarl up brought on by flooding just prior to the city of Probolinggo which calls for us to take a detour and work our way away from the coastal flats and towards the foothills of Mt Bromo. May as well keep going and head up to the Tengirra caldera. It’s a rather circuitous route compared to what we’d intended to take but as we ascend at least the heat dissipates making riding this far into the afternoon, more comfortable.

By the time we’ve climbed the 2500 metres from the cost to the caldera we’ve ridden from searing heat through rain and cloud and then above the cloud to a alternating scene of mist and clear sunshine that brings Bromo into and out of visibility. It’s enchanting and we’ve made a good choice to get here for sunset. The Lava View hotel gives us a suite with great views across the crater, plus beer and a reasonable dinner menu. A great end to a 308 km day – 8 hours of riding and staying alive is worth a celebration.

Friday July 1st

We need to get part way around the north east corner of Java today if we’re going to make a run all the way to Denpasar in Bali tomorrow. But firstly it’s time to ride around the “sea of sand” crater of the Tenggar massif and then walk up to the crater rim of Mt Bromo and see the rumbles close up. Last time we did a climb to a crater’s edge was at Mt Yasur on Tanna Island, Vanuatu last year – and that was throwing up molten rock at the time. From here Bromo looks like it’s just hurling ash – although over in the background there’s another volcano really going off which we capture on camera. But it’s well away.

Saturday July 2nd

A 230km run all the way to Denpasar today, starting with an 87 km run to the ferry at Ketapang. Straight onto the ferry for the 1 hour crossing to Bali at Gillimanuk and then the 130km run to the holiday destination. The queue of traffic snarled up on the Bali side trying to get to the ferry to Java is at least 8 kms long – everyone wants to get back to their villages for the end of Ramadan celebrations. Thank goodness we’re going the other way.

The crazy motor-scooter intensity of Bali begins at least 12kms from Kuta beach and it’s a real battle getting to the beach. We now not only have to contend with the locals and their, by now predictable, patterns of riding – but we now have bikini and cozzy-clad Australian holidaymakers taking their chances on scooters in the Bali traffic. No wonder so many of them return home with the traditional Bali tattoo – aka “gravel rash”. Western driving habits simply don’t work amidst the intense road traffic of Indonesia.

Anyway we make it to the beach and a well deserved R&R day.

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