Before we left Kuta in Lombok, there was the small matter of the last game of the premiership season to take care of. Even in this tiny little village in the middle of nowhere, we managed to find somewhere with the game on. We were the only customers in the bar, but were joined by a small group of Indonesians who tended to cheer whichever team was winning. It was an interesting night, but ended on a negative note. Bolton were relegated, and $amir Na$ri lifted the premiership trophy.
We had a day to recover from the football before leaving Lombok for Java. We had found a flight that was as cheap as doing the trip by bus and boat, so after a short and painless trip we landed in Surabaya. This was just a brief stopping off point before we made our way to Cemoro Lawang, and Mount Bromo. Bromo is an active volcano, and one of three peaks rising from the Tengger caldera, a crater stretching 10km across. Bromo’s last major eruption was in January 2011, where huge ash clouds caused a 5km exclusion zone to be introduced in the area.
We were making our way towards the bus, before being accosted by a local tout. He offered to drive us to Cemoro Lawang, find us a cheap hotel and then take us to Bromo; all for a low price that we couldn’t quite believe. But we double checked and he assured us that the price was correct.
So we had been expecting a long uncomfortable journey on a hot, crowded bus and instead were treated to a private air-conditioned 4×4 with half of the journey time. He even took a detour so that he could take us somewhere nice to eat. Apparently the food at the airport isn’t good enough or cheap enough. The journey there took us through some spectacular sights while twisting around mountains. But as we climbed higher and higher up the mountain, our driver became stranger and stranger. I’m not sure if this was due to altitude sickness or whether he just had mental problems. He started to make racing car noises when going around corners, he tended to stick his hand out of the window every minute or so and most worryingly he started to speed up.
We did however manage to arrive in one piece, and as promised our driver found us a cheap homestay guesthouse with hot water and a great view of the mountains. But when we started to ask him about our trip to Bromo, he told us that we would need to book that through our hotel. So even though we had double checked and he’d assured us that this would be included, we then had to go and book another vehicle to take us to Bromo the next day (Note to self: If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is).
Cemoro Lawang is a sleepy little town with a few places to eat and drink, but with great views over the crater and the three peaks of Bromo, Kursi and Batok. One thing that was different here to the rest of Indonesia is the climate; it was very cold here, especially at night. We were prepared though, and we soon sat in the restaurant with five layers of clothing on eating Rawan, which is a thick beef soup; perfect for the occasion. As we had hot water in the room I was looking forward to a shower, but I was disappointed to find that we actually had no water at all. So after another night of brushing our teeth over a squat toilet we had an early night, as the next morning (if you can call it that) we had a 3am start.
After managing to drag ourselves out of bed, we made our way in the pitch black to our jeep. We were accompanied by two Indonesians and two Koreans for the bumpy journey across the crater towards a viewing platform on Gunung Penanjakan, a higher peak nearby. It was a steep climb up the mountain, and after 30 minutes or so we arrived at the top. Sipping some local Javanese coffee was perfect to both warm and wake us up, while we waited for the sun to rise. It was surprisingly busy at the viewing platform, but people soon started to file out after the sun was up.
Our jeep then took us to the base of Mount Bromo, back across the crater next to a Hindu temple. There are loads of people offering ponies to take you towards the top of Bromo, but somehow I managed to get Katy to walk it. So we started the climb up, and the higher it got the hotter it got. We had soon stripped off some of the five layers we had on before arriving at the top. It’s quite a short walk to be honest, but at that time of the morning it seemed longer.
The views from the top of Bromo were stunning with clouds covering some of the crater below and clear blue skies above. Big plumes of steam were rising from the bubbling volcano, while people threw in flowers as an offering to the volcano God. It was just nice to take a seat and take in the amazing views. This trip was quite expensive, but the scenery and views from the top definitely make it worth it.
After the short walk back down to the base of Bromo, our jeep took us back to our hotel for some breakfast. By 09:30 we were back on the road to Surabaya, where we spent most of the journey sleeping. Surabaya isn’t a very nice place, with very polluted and dirty streets and very little else. It’s a hard place to walk around as all of the roads in the city are four-lane carriageways. But walk around is what we did.
We had found out that it was a national holiday that weekend in Indonesia, and as usual that ruined our plans. We tend to make a habit of this, but this holiday wasn’t mentioned on any website or guidebook so it wasn’t entirely our fault. This did mean that our planned trip to Yogykarta had to be changed as every bus, train, flight and hotel we could find were fully booked. We only found this out after walking to every station, travel agent and internet café in the city. By the end of the day we had managed to book a cheap flight the following evening to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.
Katy’s brother Dave had put us in touch with an old friend of his who lived in Jakarta, and he kindly offered to let us stay at his home. So after a long day waiting for our flight in Surabaya (as there was very little else to do) we arrived in Jakarta. This is one big city. It’s very busy streets of shopping malls, fast food restaurant and endless traffic remind me of Kuala Lumpur, but just on a much bigger scale. That evening we settled into our luxury room with a great view overlooking the city, and got some tips of where to go and see.
We got up early and got a bus into the city and just walked around to see what we could find. Like many of the big cities in South East Asia, it’s not easy to walk around. Pavements don’t really exist, and those that do have huge cracks and holes in them. After a long day walking around, we headed back to the apartment for a night sat on the sofa watching TV; something you miss on your travels.
Yesterday we were treated to lunch and a guided tour of the city’s old quarter, Kota, by our host Andy. This area has loads of old Dutch colonial buildings left over from the 1600s. It’s very different from other areas of the city, and quite relaxing. We ended the tour with cocktails in the famous Café Batavia before heading back to the apartment for an afternoon nap. We had a big night ahead of us, with the Championship playoff final and the Champions League final.
We went out to a different area of Jakarta that was full of bars and clubs…and West Ham fans. It was very strange to see so many Indonesians supporting them, almost more than you would find in an East London pub. It was a great night where we met other expats and exchanged football banter. It was a late night as the football didn’t finish until about 04:30, so I’m writing this with a sore head and a cup of tea. This afternoon lazing by the pool seems like a good idea.
Until the next time…