We left Yogyakarta on a local train known as a Prameks which run a little like commuter trains and are very cheap. We paid just 8000 rupiah (40p) for the hour long journey to our next destination, Solo. Solo was going to be a very brief stop as we had another train booked onwards to Surabaya that evening. The main reason for our stop was to visit the famous House of Danar Hadi museum. House of Danar Hadi is a family owned batik company who make batik for the Sultans of Solo and Yogyakarta. The owner has not only built a successful brand but also collected thousands of examples of batik. We didn’t know very much about batik before we visited the museum, but during touring the eleven rooms with an excellent guide we discovered a lot. The musuem has examples of traditional batik all the way through the influences of the Chinese, Dutch and onto modern examples. The best part of the musuem for us was actually watching some of the batik artists at work. The ladies working had over twenty years experience each and you could definitely tell. They were drawing the wax onto fabric following lines that were penciled in at such a speed that we could only watch in awe. We knew that drawing with wax was the first process of batik, but we were surprised to learn how the dyeing and rewaxing are done and that each piece of cloth can take around 4 months to be completed. The most intricate patterned fabrics can take up to 2 years to finish. Unsurprisingly, the handmade and naturally dyed batik pieces are very expensive but cheaper chemically dyed and stamped batik is also available. The cheapest ‘batik’ available is just printed in the same style. Most Indonesians own one of two pieces of batik, which they wear to special occassions.
Having learnt all about batik we had some time to spare before our train, so naturally we went in search of food. We found a restuarant offering an Indonesian sweet snack called martabak which we wanted to try. We had our curry and rice and then happily tucked into the delicious chocolate and peanut martabak. The best way we can describe it is like a crumpet sandwich. Full we went back to the station to catch our train to Surabaya where we spent the night.
The next day we had just one mission, get to Cemoro Lawang. As far as we know, the only reason to visit the tiny mountain village is to see Mount Bromo. Our mission started well as we got a train through to Probbolinggo, but then we made a slight error. We needed some more cash, so we went in search of an ATM before catching a bemo and bus up the road to Cemoro Lawang. This didn’t seem like such a bad idea at the time but it meant we missed the group of tourists from our train and had to wait ages for the bus to fill up enough. If you have a full bus of 15 then the tourist mafia drivers are happy to leave and charge 35000 rupiah per person. If you don’t have 14 friends, then you can either wait a long time or pay a lot more money. We ended up waiting 3 hours and eventually gave in and paid 55000 rupiah per person with a total of 9 passengers. Having left Surabaya at 9am, we eventually arrived in Cemoro Lawang at 4pm and ended up in the driver’s uncles homestay because it was decent and we couldn’t be bothered to trapse around the village.
Before dinner we went for a little walk and ended up chatting to an English couple at a viewpoint while the sun set. It wasn’t a fantastic sunset but it gave us a good view over mount Bromo and the so called ‘Sea of sand’ around it. We were finally excited to hike at 2:30am and see sunrise over Mount Bromo. With the enthusiasm regained we had a good dinner, a cup of tea and settled down for the night at 8pm.
Our early alarm wasn’t too awful and our plan to walk up to the viewpoint for sunrise was greatly helped by the almost full moon which lit the way. To begin with the road was easy and it was even a little chilly. Then we started climbing, which warmed us up and made us realise that we were at altitude, with thinner cold air to breathe. We stopped off for a coffee at one of the stalls run by local women and she blessed her stall with her first earnings of the day. There are numerous stalls lining the way and we were wondering how on earth they make any money selling drinks to tourists. The way we went up was certainly not the most popular and it quickly became apparent that most people take a Jeep tour. The temporary highway crosses the sea of sand caldera beneath Mount Bromo and it seemed there were Jeeps coming from everywhere. There were easily hundreds of 4x4s from every place within a 20km radius. We were quite happy to be in the fresh air with the night sky and shooting stars, rather than cramped in the back of a jeep on a bumpy road.
Walking up to Gunung Pananjakan we also skipped paying the 300,000 rupiah national park entrance fee. This is all legal, because the mountain is just on the edge of the park and unless you walk down into the caldera and up Bromo you don’t need to pay. We continued upwards and the concrete road became a muddy path through the bushes, but it was still surprisingly easy going even in the dark. We reached the King Kong viewpoint only 75 minutes after we started and nabbed a spot on the railing. There weren’t too many people around but as we waited for sunrise more people arrived. After our waiting training the day before the two hours till sunrise were not too long, but a little chilly. If you walk there and find King Kong too crowded or don’t want to walk that far there are 6 or 7 other viewpoints dotted along the way. Some are actually set up, others just open areas between bushes. At King Kong you have to make a decision what you are most interested in. For the sunrise, stay more to the left (mountain behind you). For Bromo turn to the right.
The sky behind us finally started to lighten and change from blue to red and orange. It was beautiful. Mount Bromo also started to be bathed in the morning light and the shutters of cameras started clicking. We had a great view of Bromo smoking away in the dawn light and the crowds of people taking selfies were mostly spread about and not too near us. As the light became less photogenic, we made our way back down the hill away from the rabble. We opted not to rush down across the sea of sand and up to Bromo’s crater as we had another volcano planned for the next day. We felt it was wise to go to the minbus early and it turned out to be a great decision. We still had to wait a while for the bus to fill up, but we were number 9 and 10 so it did not talk too lang and we only paid 35000 rupiah each. We made it down to Probbolinggo and managed to switch our tickets and catch the 11am train to Banyuwangi. This was much better as we arrived at 3pm rather than 8pm and could catch some sleep before our next volcano adventure.