We leave Solo by overnight train for Malang. Looks like we’re crossing Java entirely by rail. Indonesian trains aren’t quite as modern and sleek as in Malaysia, but they beat the pants off of Myanmar Railways.
Malang is a pleasant, spread-out town. A lot of the centre is made up of orderly neighbourhoods of military cantonments that look like they date from the Dutch period. In between these are tidy, cozy alley communities like we see elsewhere in Java.
Parts of Malang look like Los Angeles. (Or at least what we picture LA to look like.)
We go for a sundowner daily in the elegant Tugu Hotel.
We hear of Mount Bromo from several sources, including our friend Ulf. People come here to watch the sunrise. We remember Ulf talking about a strenuous and lengthy trek in the dark to view this. We take the easy way out and hire a jeep and driver. (There are more Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps here than there are Land Rovers in the Cameron Highlands.)
After freezing in the dark with several hundred selfie-taking locals for company, we enjoy the primordial landscape gradually revealed below us at dawn.
Afterwards, we drive down to the Sea of Sand.
We arrive at Bromo itself. The volcano is kilometres away from the Land Cruiser parking lot. We set out on foot, like hundreds of other visitors.
There’s something vaguely, anciently, pilgrim-like about the way we trudge across the black sand, gradually getting closer and closer.
It looks like a steep climb, but we’re determined. How often can you get this close to the caldera of a live volcano?
One of the pluses of traveling in the developing world is the absence of any concept of safety or possible liability for death or disability due to negligence.
The rim of this active volcano has a trail about 2 metres wide at the top that scores of visitors have to negotiate. There is a short, metre-high barrier for the length of a dozen meters or so. You can continue beyond the barrier and walk about halfway around the caldera with a steep drop one one side and a slide into the smoking maw of the volcano on the other. (I couldn’t convince Maria to do this.)
There is apparently a ceremony in which locals throw sacrificial offerings into the volcano.
We make our way down. Feels like we’re in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. (Disclaimer – never been there.)
Bromo impresses us so much, we instruct our driver, Hari, to skip the remaining sights – a waterfall, a ho-hum temple – and whisk us home.
Why the heavy clothing? Because it’s friggin’ cold out here at this time of the day.
Sight or Insight of the Day – Malang
On arrival in Malang by train is this eye-catching sight.
As a sort of slum-renewal project, this part of town has been given a pastel-coloured makeover.
The blue part is named ‘Arema ‘- we think. It might be the name of a local football team.
The idea is to attract visitors and to encourage the residents to be more civic-minded. (That is, don’t throw garbage out your door or into the river.)