I've asked many of my friends from Jakarta and those that have visited if there were any must-do's while I'm here for the summer, and there was one consistent recommendation that kept coming up: visit Mount Bromo in East Java. Mt Bromo is actually an active volcano which erupted most recently in 2016, and is a very popular for both tourists and locals to visit on the weekend and vacation. A typical Bromo day consists of hiking up to Love Hill to watch the sunrise, visiting Tellytubbies Hill (not where they actually film the show), drive across the Black Sands, and then hike to the actual volcano itself.
Now while Jakarta and Bromo are on the same Indonesian island (there are literally thousands that make up the country), it isn't an easy task to get to the opposite side, especially when having a 9-5pm Monday-Friday job. I would only have 2 days to make the trip over the weekend, which involves hours of driving between locations. I left work an hour early on Friday to try and beat the Jakarta rush hour traffic (unsuccessful), and made it to the airport with plenty of time to nap before my flight took off, but the mix of excitement and nervousness kept me wide awake. I would later pay for those precious lost hours of sleep.
In order to make it to the top before sunrise from the city of Surabaya where my hostel was, people leave by midnight at the latest. After taking an hour taxi ride from the airport and checking into my hostel, I got a text from my driver around 11:45pm that he was outside and ready to go. I quickly washed up and grabbed what I would need for the day. The drive to Probolinggo, the city closest to Bromo, was about 3 hours. The previous few hours of travelling had worn me out, so I was asleep for most of the drive. When we stopped to rent a Jeep for the rest of the day, it was still dark out, and significantly colder since we were higher in elevation. I shivered in my hoodie and couldn't understand why the boy filling the gas was wearing shorts. There was also a lot of activity going on in the town- people walking around, driving motorbikes, buying neon colored gas in plastic bottles, smoking cigarettes, and just hanging out on their front porches- not typical 3am behavior in my experience. I'm usually asleep at 3am, so staying awake became an Olympic sport. I slept on the Jeep ride to the bottom of Love Hill where we'd watch the sunrise. The hike up the stairs took about half an hour and woke me up a little bit, but once I sat down to catch my breath at the top, I struggled to keep my eyes open. It was so cold at the top of the hill, I put on every article of clothing I had brought with me including a hat and bandana around my face, but my hands were still losing feeling. Out of curiousity I checked the temperature on my phone. 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I had only been in Jakarta for two weeks before, when did I get so weak? Teeth chattering, hands numb, eyes heavy I waited impatiently for the sunrise. When the sun did come up, I didn't even notice because it was so cloudy- we were standing in a cloud so the air was white around everyone. Not the typical beautiful sunrise I had hoped for, but still an experience.
After the sunrise, I slept on the way to Tellytubbies Hill and the Black Sands. To be honest my memory of those two places are foggy, but climbing up the actual volcano had to be one of the most surreal moment of my life. I crossed over an expanse of grey sand- a mix of ash and sediment from the recent eruption, and climbed over 1000 stairs (yes I counted, the only way I knew how to push through the physical pain) to get to the rim of the volcano, where I was hit with the stench of sulphur. I became hyper aware of how high up I was, over 2000 meters above sea level. If I fell, would I die from hitting the craggy walls of the volcano or from the exposed molten earth bubbling underneath the smoke? Only one way to find out, but I didn't want to know. I carefully slid past families taking photos, and the trail thinned from 2 feet wide to 6 inches wide. Any trace of sleepiness was gone, all my senses were on heightened alert. My mom warns me not to do anything dangerous, which is why I haven't told her about this yet, I wouldn't want to freak her out. I think this is up there on Top 5 Near Death Experiences. I sat at the rim for a good half hour, taking in the beautifully grey scenery and thinking about how the volcano could explode at any second. It was extremely striking to realize how insignificant in the universe I am, an ant sitting on a volcano, but how lucky I was to be there in that moment.