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Mt. Bromo – One Of The World’s Most Ethereal Landscapes

Posted by on 11 September 2009

Preface:

I wrote an article about Mt. Bromo in 2008 and had delusions of getting it published, so I sent it to AirAsia’s in-flight magazine, Travel3Sixty, and put off posting anything about my Surabaya trip in my blog in the hopes that AirAsia would like the article enough to publish it.  (I thought the article might be of interest to AirAsia because they have direct flights from KL to Surabaya.) Unfortunately, I never heard from AirAsia — not even a ‘thank you for your contribution’ sort of thing — and I ended up forgetting about the article.

Then a few days ago, I saw someone post this breath-taking photo of Mt. Bromo on Twitter

Bromo Tengger Semeru

Photo by @adriling

…which led to my scouring my harddrive for that long-forgotten post.

I thought of re-writing the article to make it short, like most of my travel posts in this blog, but I changed my mind and kept the article long, as I’d like to preserve the memories that I had from that trip. The article even ended up being longer than the original because as I kept adding more photos, I kept adding details, as well. So please bear with me, enjoy the pics, and do make it a point to visit Mt. Bromo if you get the chance.

P.S. This trip also marked my first encounter with a DSLR camera — a Nikon D80 — but some of the pics here were taken with a point-and-shoot camera. Can you tell which pics are which? :D

————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

When AirAsia announced that it was giving away free seats to several Asian destinations as an anniversary treat, I spent countless hours looking for free seats on dates that would match my children’s school holidays. I started with the obvious first choices: the more “exotic” destinations such as Bali, Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

When I told DH that I could not get any match, he suggested that I try Surabaya instead. He told me something about a volcano called Mt. Bromo, which we can reach by horseback.  The mere mention of the word “horses” got my kids all in a frenzy, so I grudgingly agreed.

Surabaya didn’t seem like a very popular tourist destination — I thought to myself — because I easily got the dates that I wanted. But then, I thought, since the fare was a mere RM175 ($51) per person for taxes and other fees, there wouldn’t be much to lose.

The months passed and finally, June came. We somehow survived the 2 1/2 hour flight to Surabaya, despite having to deal with 3 boisterous children under 10 and two equally active 15-month old twins with us. [NB: The twins are now 3 yrs, 7 months old. This is how long ago this post was!]

We slept for one night in a small hotel not far from Surabaya airport then departed very early the next morning to our primary destination — Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java.

visitor’s map - Bromo

The bus slowly inched its way through early morning Surabaya macet (traffic jam) and after close to 4 hours, we started going up into a more mountainous area. The bus gingerly wound its way through the gently sloping roads lined with trees on the sides. And before we knew it, we were surrounded by fog! Everyone grinned as the temperature dropped gradually and the fog thickened.

We all practically leapt out of the bus by the time we reached Bromo Cottages in the sleepy town of Tosari, 1,700 meters above sea level.  The children ran around, taking pictures of the huge flowers by the balcony overlooking mist-shrouded mountains, as DH checked us in.

hotel in Tosari

The hotel is not posh by any means but the gardens and the surroundings made me think that maybe, DH made the right choice after all.

I had a blast tinkering with my borrowed D80, taking pics of the flowers and spiders in the extensive garden, practicing how to focus manually with a 50mm lens, experimenting with various depths of field and marveling at the difference bokeh (a blurred background) makes.

flowers up close

spider on a web

red roses

 

beetle

Hydrangeas galore Spider on a web Roses of a deep red Giant beetle

I checked out the small gift shop for some fridge magnets but found only jackets, mittens, gloves, some toiletry items and postcards. One particular postcard caught my eye — an ethereal photograph of Mt. Batok and Mt. Semeru on a bed of thick, swirling clouds. I put it back on the shelf, telling myself that those things only look good in postcards.

Nevertheless, everyone slept early that night, to prepare for THE highlight of our trip — going up Mt. Bromo itself. The night air was very, very cold and everyone huddled under the polyester blankets, including the twins.

twins sleeping

Lola (my mum) was the first to leave at 3.30 am to join a pre-dawn trek across the area’s famous “sea of sand” to watch the sunrise from the rim of the crater of Mt. Bromo, 2,392 meters above sea level.  Unfortunately, not a single person in her group brought a camera along with them.

The kids and I left Bromo Cottages with DH at 6 am, leaving the twins with the maids. The kids were in exceptionally high spirits, considering the early hour, chattering nonstop in the van. I muttered a prayer under my breath as the driver expertly maneuvered the van through the winding mountain road. I gazed, enthralled, at the rows and rows of vegetables neatly lined up on the steep mountain slopes — cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower, and the regions’s staple food, white corn.

vegetables growing on the steep mountainsides

We went higher and higher up the narrow trail and suddenly came upon what looked like a lookout point. The driver parked at the side of the road and everyone ran out of the van. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the view — it was exactly like the postcard that I saw the night before!

Bromo Tengger Semeru

The sky was pale blue, the clouds immaculate white, Mt. Batok emerald green, Mt. Semeru golden brown. The mountains were floating in a swirling sea of  clouds. Mt. Bromo was behind Mt. Batok and all we could see of it was a fluffy column of white smoke. There was smoke emanating from Mt. Semeru, as well, but it was a menacing dark grey colour, in a shape curiously resembling a leaping rabbit. The slopes of both Mt. Batok and Mt. Semeru looked like gentle folds of a lady’s velvet skirt. I pointed them out to the kids, explaining that they were actually formed by lava flow. I marvelled at how such beauty can emanate from what would have been great tragedy in past explosions.

breathtaking view

After snapping tons of pictures of the magnificent view and of ourselves (as though standing against a painted backdrop), we ran back to the van to proceed with the rest of our journey.  At this point, the van started to descend as the trail became more steep.  Before we knew it, we had plunged into the sea of clouds that we were admiring earlier.

driving into the mist

The hazy blanket cut our field of vision by less than a meter and the only way the driver could have found his way was through experience and memory. Everything was eerily still and nothing could have prepared us for the sudden appearance of a man on horseback.

 

lone horseman

Note how the horseman is only wearing a sarong tied around his head and shoulders to ward off the cold. And how he’s only wearing rubber slippers!

Then there were two, then more, maybe five. The driver slowed down and rolled down his window and he exchanged words with the first rider. The rider tried to slip a small white card to the driver, but the driver refused to take it.  He was apparently trying to convince our driver to hire him and his friends to take us to the foot of Mt. Bromo. The driver politely declined, saying that everything has been taken care of already, then rolled up his window. He resumed his driving at what I considered was a break-neck speed, considering the poor visibility.  To our amazement, the horsemen gave chase! The children cheered as two horsemen raced neck in neck with us, one horseman on each size of the van.  When a small pony overtook us, we all laughed at the comical sight of a big man riding such a small pony.

When the van finally came to a halt, a herd of horses and their horsemen gathered all around us, fighting their way among the crowd to get picked!

horsemen in a frenzy to get customers

Horsemen in a frenzy

portrait of a photographer

I love this shot! It’s got a National Geographic feel, don’t you think?

Luckily, as we had everything pre-arranged, the mob dispersed quickly, vanishing into the mist.

horses in the mist

Lola and her group arrived just to in time to join us for the final part of our ascent.

The kids were the first to get on their horses and I feared for their safety as their guides took them away. Lola and I followed behind. I spent the first few minutes getting used to the gait of my horse, which wasn’t easy because of the rocky terrain. My guide told me to lean forward when the trail is ascending and to  lean back and straighten my legs as we go down.  I relayed the message to my mom, as she had difficulty understanding the instructions in Indonesian language.

DH insisted on walking alongside our horses. But after a few meters of a rocky, dusty path, he changed his mind and got on a horse of his own.

horse trail leading to Mt Bromo

Our trek on horseback didn’t take very long, much to the children’s disappointment.

RoundBoy on horseback

But the sight of the concrete steps going up the side of Mt. Bromo immediately made them forget about the horses, and they wasted no time in commencing their ascent.

concrete stairs going up Mt Bromo

The steps were many but were quite small and manageable. The air did become a bit thinner as we went higher and higher, forcing us to pause every once in a while. It helped that the flight of stairs had two lanes — the left one for going up, the right one for going down. [NB: These photos were taken when the stairs were still under construction. The stairs and railing on the summit have long been completed since then.]

The view from the top of Mt. Bromo was absolutely breathtaking. From the summit, we could see the sea of clouds slowly thinning in sections.

view from Mt Bromo

 Mt. Bromo’s crater was huge and, although it did not have a visible bubbling cauldron of lava, there was a thick plume of white smoke emanating from its depths.

crater of Mt Bromo

Here is the summit of Mt. Batok in full majestic splendour.

Mt Batok

Finally, after countless poses from all possible angles in the limited space on the summit, we began the slow descent back into the waiting pack of horses.

horses in the mist

The children gleefully reunited with their respective horses and guides.

Bromo horses

Before getting back into the van, we all made a quick toilet stop in the lone toilet facilities in the area. We paid something like Rp5,000 per person, which is around USD0.50 — not a huge sum per se, but exhorbitant by Indonesian standards.

toilet

On our way back to our hotel, we passed by the same spot where we took pics of the ‘Sea of Clouds’. By then, the mist has cleared away, showing us the path that we took earlier. The view, although beautiful, has lost its magic without the swirling clouds in the valley surrounding the majestic volcanoes.

valley

Nevertheless, the Mt. Bromo that shall always remain my memory is the Mt. Bromo that is mysteriously swathed in a sea of clouds.

Mt Bromo in my memory

I went to Surabaya with grossly erroneous preconceptions and disdain. I left Surabaya with memories of a landscape so ethereal.

44 Responses to Mt. Bromo – One Of The World’s Most Ethereal Landscapes

  1. odette

    beautiful pictures!!!
    kj was in surabaya in 2005, but he didn’t know about mt. bromo. i’ve just shown him the pics, we’re both sooooo amazed!

  2. kg

    i don;t have the time yet to read the post [read: i am at work! :)]. but the photos were sooooo great! grabe! such a beautiful place! i honestly haven’t heard of surabaya until now. grabe! so many wonderful places in the world!

  3. linda

    amazing photos. never knew i wanted to go to Mt Bromo!

  4. Lola

    I wish we could go back there again! I had lovely memories of the trip.

  5. MXV

    Wow… simply amazing… great pics sleeplessinkl!

  6. nurulhusna

    awesome picture..feel like to go there~~

  7. grace

    this is awesome! i feel like going there… and you got magnificent pictures! breathtaking! I enjoyed reading ur post!

  8. a-moms-diary

    The place is beaaaaauuuuutiful. Makes me wanna take a trip there someday. If not because of baby, I’ll probably check out the fares for the upcoming long Raya break :-)

  9. The Nomadic Pinoy

    You’re right, it’s the swirling clouds that truly give Mt. Bromo a very dreamy look with a hint of menace ha ha! I’m impressed with a family that takes adventure together – your kids are going to grow up loving the outdoors!

  10. Mimi

    we went to mt bromo in june. another group went in january and they told us it was too cold and there was too much mist, they could hardly see anything. so if you all plan on going there, perhaps you should go june/july.

    reading & re-reading this post makes me want to go there again!

  11. Mimi

    grace: ‘welcome back!’ dugay-dugay man ka nahilum, day ;)

  12. YeinJee

    Great photos. I’m going next month, hope that the weather would be just at nice :)

  13. tempo dulu@alterity

    A great place – I love it!

  14. Mimi

    Most definitely. Looking at the pics makes me want to go there again!

  15. Julie Lim

    Lovely pics! I’ll be climbing Mount Bromo in February 2010 and this entry is certainly informative. Thank you!

  16. Mimi

    Hi Julie. Glad you liked my post on Mt Bromo. I can’t wait to see the pics fr *your* trip!

  17. Hui

    Hi, do you mind to share the tour agent info with me?

  18. Sihan

    Hi there! i must say that these are some wonderful pictures you have here! Completely blown away by the magnificance of Mt. Bromo.. May I know what lens did you use for the shoot?

  19. Mimi

    Sihan: Mt. Bromo is a must-see. Go see it before worldwide climate change spoils it. Lens: The inexpensive but very, very good Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D.

  20. Sihan

    Thank you Mimi for the reply. I’m sold after seeing your gorgeous photos and I’m already planning a trip down to Mt Bromo myself.

  21. Mimi

    Sihan: I can’t wait for yr blog post on it :) What month are you going? Now’s just about right. Dec/Jan might be too cold and foggy.

  22. Jimmy

    My son sent this link to your post this morning and am I glad to know what I’m getting into. He arranged a trip for us this Thursday and now telling us – “this is the place you’ll be going to”. Hey, I’m luving it already! It is going to be great! Thanks for the info and great pictures.

    Since you like languages, check out my blog on my desperate attempt to learn a new language – http://lostinchinese.blogspot.com/ :) and may I use your pictures in my facebook until I get my own (with proper credits of course).

  23. Mimi

    Hi Jimmy! You’re going to Bromo? Wow! I’m jealous. I sorely miss the place. Make sure you bring jackets bec evenings and early mornings can be quite cold. (But you have to endure the traffic jam from Surabaya first…)

    Sure, you can borrow my pics til you have your own.

    I’ve seen your blog and am feeling quite jealous. Somehow I have difficulty with languages that use characters :(

  24. Ching

    THIS IS ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING.

    I AM EVEN MORE DETERMINED TO GO THERE :D

    Planning this trip for my whole family ! Yay, I shall MAKE it happen !

    Thanks for sharing

  25. Mimi

    Ching: Many of the roads going to Mt Bromo were affected by the recent earthquake. I’m not sure if they’re done rebuilding most of it.

  26. Juliana Phang

    I just came back from climbing Mount Papandayan in Garut, 3 hours from Bandung. I would like to share my experience with your readers. 3 days after the climb, (by that time, i had flown back to KL), I came down with flu like symptoms and an excruciating sore throat. I thought it was a normal flu. Then I remembered my friends who climbed mount Bromo and Mount Ijen earlier and also fell sick after they returned. I did some research and found that the sulphur we have encountered had poisoned us all. I know no guides will tell you this as it will affect their livelihood. Later on, another friend told me his father was hospitalized for 1 week for sulphuric poisoning after spending a few days on Mount Bromo on a photographic assignment. Please think twice before you climb any active volcanoes. God bless.

    Juliana Phang

  27. Mimi

    Thanks for sharing, Juliana. What are the symptoms like??

  28. Nora

    Dear, thanks for sharing ur wonderful experience and pictures. Am going to Surabaya tomorrow and hv a plan to go to Mt. Bromo. I am going with 2 friends of mine and my lovely daughter Alya (6 yrs old). However, upon reading ur post, I am curious to know how much they charge per head for the horse riding? Is it safe for a little girl like Alya? And is it really necessary to climb on a horse (is it far)? Appreciate if you could share…

  29. Mimi

    So sorry for the late reply. How did yr trip go? Horse ride was safe for my small kids because the horses were small and each horse had a man to guide both horse and rider. The distance was not that far but the path was rocky and uneven.

  30. Avinash

    Thanks for Mimi. :)

  31. nael

    awesome!!!! i’ve fallen in love wif mount bromo!! dear mimi, ur blog is sooo interesting.. :-)

  32. nael

    i’m planning to go to mt bromo this coming january..could u plez suggest a good package for mt bromo tour..thanx! :-)

  33. Mimi

    Sorry Nael. I don’t have such info with me.

  34. desiree

    thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Planning a trip to Bromo in june. This post just added to the excitment!

  35. Mimi

    The weather should be just nice in June, Desiree. Hope you guys have fun!

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  37. Anne

    Hi Mimi,

    I came across your blog while i was searching for the info about this magnificent place. I’m truly impressed with the beautiful pictures taken by you and being shared in your blog which makes me fell in love with Mt. Bromo. Do you still have the tour guide contacts with you? If you don’t mind, can I get it from you please? Tq :)

  38. Mimi

    sorry, anne. i don’t have it anymore :(

  39. renby

    please contact us if u will go to bromo.. :)

  40. diana

    pls furnish us with details of bromo for 3 days 2 nites and the price

  41. Hidayah

    Hi Mimi, love your post about taking the kids to Mount Bromo! Would you say it is recommended to bring a 3 year old? We are thinking of visiting the volcano with two of our kids (3 and 6 years). From your post, it sounds very manageable, since there doesnt seem to be much hiking or climbing, other than the climb up the long flight of stairs….

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