Thursday, 19 February 2015

Doing Mount Bromo by yourself has never been so easy

I must confess that I’m guilty (and a bit obsessed, too) of reading endless travel blogs prior my trips. I tend to use them to do research of the places that I want, wish or hope to visit and hopefully to learn something from more experienced travellers which I always do (soon I will create a list of my favourite travel blogs out there and hope to get you as inspired as I am when I read them.)Heck, I hope that mine WILL inspire you first! :)
 As it is the case now, I did my research prior deciding to do Mount Bromo by myself, which I knew I would as I always have this silly thing against taking tours which does, of course, not mean that I do not take one from time to time.
Doing things by yourself in a challenging country like Indonesia, implies a bit of an adventure factor here and there, add to that having lots of patience and not giving in to kill a few locals for their persistence at selling you something and voila, you have designed your own tour!
 So if you are now reading through blogs and yes, the info is there but no, not as detailed as you would like, then I hope that I can offer you a super honest detailed resume of my experience doing Bromo alone-ish  (because you’ll always meet people on the way that will want to join) including my mistakes that hopefully won’t be yours, too.

For me, everything started from Yogyakarta where I was staying prior making my way to do Bromo.

Let me start by saying that Yogyakarta has two train stations; the main one called Tugu, is literally 5 minutes away walking from the Yogya backpacker area around Malioboro Street and then, there is the other one called Lempuyangan Station (10-15 minutes by taxi, 25.000 IDR approx. from Malioboro Street) where you can buy tickets for Economy Class which you should, because so far I have always been travelling in Economy and is not bad, sort of comfortable and cheaper and if you are in a tight budget like me, then enough said, is good enough and it looks like the pic above (apologies for the bad quality)
 VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION! I bought a ticket to Surabaya for 140.000 rupees because I thought that from there I had to take a bus to Probbolingo as I read previously in other travel blogs. Luckily my boredom during the train journey made me start talking to the only westerner guys some seats ahead of me as I knew that they were heading to Bromo, too (just common sense, you develop a lot of it while travelling)
Yes, they were indeed going there, too  and as we got talking, they said that they were getting off in Probbolingo, which shocked me because I did not know that there are DIRECT TRAINS FROM YOGYA TO PROBBOLINGO. After the initial confusion and checking with the on board train staff, they confirmed that yes, the train was heading to Probbolingo.
 I felt so lucky I spoke to them (for your information these guys they paid each one 170.000 IDR for the ticket for an 8hr journey to Probbolingo from Yogya, too). Saving you the awful details, the kind train staff hold the train a bit longer in Surabaya and they got the Train Station Security to escort me to the ticket office so I could buy another ticket and jump on the same train again. Sooo stressful but I managed!
 Remember that to catch that train you must leave from Lempunyangan Station ONLY.
After a long eight hours train journey, we arrived at around 4pm to the Probbolingo Train Station. We were a bit unsure of what to expect as we all had read so much about the buses going to Cemara Lawang and how they try to scam/or convince you to take this or that transportation but for all was all very straight forward and it seemed that they had it all pretty well organised.
As we came out of the train station, just on the road outside, they were a couple of minivans and they knew right away that we were there to go up to Bromo.
One of the guys approached us and said that he would take us to where the main bus was leaving for Cemara Lawang for 5.000 IDR each, which seemed too easy and too cheap and made us suspicious, however there were no other cars or taxis around and the offer didn’t sound bad, so we went with him and shortly afterwards he dropped us outside an agency and we thought…here we go, they want us to sell us a tour.
Toto, the Manager, was nice anyway but he tried a few times to sell us a package, he was not that pushy and after we told him a few times that we wanted to hike, he stopped insisting, which was nice.
As I’m sure you have read about it before, we had to wait until the minivan going up to Cemoro Lawan was full. We were really lucky and waited less than an hour but some of the people who came with us, they waited for the minivan to fill up to five hours!
Normally the standard fixed price you pay is 35.000 IDR each way to go up and down from Cemoro Lawan, however we ended paying each 40.000 as it was not completely full. We were OK with paying more as we all just wanted to go.
It took about an hour and a half to reach Cemoro Lawang. The minivan dropped us all at the highest point, opposite the Lava Cafe, which is a hotel/restaurant. This Lava Cafe is also like a meeting point for travellers to hang out prior going up to Bromo and have dinner, which we did eventually.
Note that this Lava Cafe has expensive rooms and chances are that it will be full. Not to worry, there are plenty of basic home stays on the road and as matter of fact, the driver that took us up offered us his own home at 150.000 IDR each room, which we took.
At the end, we were a bunch of us that wanted to hike to the top but most of the people there were taking jeeps up. I suppose this is totally up to you; you can start walking and if it gets too tiring you can easily change your mind because both jeeps and motorbikes will pretty much harass you all the way up to go with them.
Near the Lava Cafe, there are a couple of basic shops where jackets and other stuff can be rented to go up the mountain as it gets chilly (note that they close early in the evening)
Now, do you know that you have to pay 220.000 IDR to get inside the Bromo National Park? Well, we didn't pay. HOW?
There is a way and is pretty simple; is just a little deviation of the way at the very beginning of it but I’m afraid it is now up to you to try your luck up there to get the info. We did ask to a local who gave us pretty bad directions but torch in hand, we searched at 3am when we started walking and succeed!
The first part of the walk was crossing the National Park but given that it's pitch black at 3am, you won’t see that you are walking right next to the volcano! (a torch  or headlamp to find your way is absolutely necessary).
Once you have crossed it, then you start walking up the road right until the end. I must say that the beginning is very steep and hard but eventually it gets better. It is an asphalted road all the way (see pic below)
  While you are walking, many jeeps and motorbikes will pass you and mostly the motorbikes will stop every single time and try to get you on for a fee. They will tell you that you have to walk twenty kilometres (not true!!) and that if you keep walking, you'll miss the sunrise (not true if you DO keep walking!). Ignore them completely and keep walking.
There are two view points; the main one were all the jeeps drop the people right at the top where the antennas are and the previous one, which is a nice stop. I found it almost empty and I could move around it very comfortably. It is near a little hill so If you walk up the hill, you can take pics from different perspectives.
This first view point if where the food/souvenir stalls are. I chose to stay there because I have read that the main view point gets incredibly crowded and to be honest, seeing the amount of jeeps that passed us, I have not doubts that it was crazy busy.
The view was wonderful as you can see from the pics below. You judge!

Once the sun was completely up, we started walking back the same way. It got extremely hot so I would advise you not to dress like if you are going skiing as I personally, didn’t find it that cold and the temperature  changes dramatically when the sun is up.

While you're walking down, and look  to the National Park, you realised that from the moment you left the village, you were walking all the way right next to the volcano without realising it. How crazy is that?

When you go down, you’ll see plenty of horse riders offering you a ride. Also, If you have any strength left,  you will be passing an hindu temple on your right hand side and also the crater with its little staircases to go up to see inside (you do not see flames but only the smoke coming out accompanied by a strong sulphur smell).
The National Park is STUNNING as you can see in the pic below.
  In my case, when I got back to the village, I had a quick shower, packed my backpack and left to search for the first minivan back to Probbolingo. They waited until they fit sixteen people inside (we couldn’t move a finger!!) and then made our way back.
 Below you can see how these vans look for you to recognise them when you see them. 
 I lost the first train to  Banyuwangi and had to wait HOURS at the station but that’s another chapter…

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