Java is the world's most populous island, located in Indonesia. With a population of 135 million, it is home to 60 percent of the Indonesian population. It is about 650 miles (1,050 km) long and up to 130 miles (210 km) wide (so not much bigger than Ireland). Formed mostly as the result of volcanic eruptions, Java is the 13th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in Indonesia. The most active volcano in Java and also in Indonesia is Mount Merapi (2,968 m). Though probably the most well known one is Krakatau.
Fossilised remains of Homo Erectus, popularly known as the "Java Man", dating back 1.7 million years were found along the banks of the Solo River in 1891.
Having left Sulawesi we flew to Java and arrived in Surabaya on the western part of the country. We stayed in this city for a few days and took our first train journey of our trip to Probollingo. It was a nice comfy ride which gave us great views of the countryside. When we arrived there we were herded into a tiny bus where I was unable to sit erect. As my head was touching the roof I had to sit with my head bent forward staring at the floor. A 15 minute bus ride to the local "bus terminal" ensued. I use this term bus terminal very loosely as we could see a bus terminal in the distance which we later found out to be the largest bus terminal of Indonesia. When we alighted seeking out a bus to take us to Cemoro Lawang high up in the mountains we noticed 3 french people and 5 touring Indonesians hanging around. When we asked them if they were waiting for a bus to our destination they replied that the Indonesians had been waiting there since 4am. The 3 French people were waiting since 9am. It was now 1pm and I thought this is not a very good sign. I wandered off to another few bus drivers who were hanging around. I tried hard to convince them to take us to our destination but they either ignored me or pointed at the bus where the French and Indonesians were waiting. I went back over to the group and after some 5 minutes haggling a bus driver appeared and we leapt onto the bus for fear they would change their minds. Off we went, we were glad we had not been waiting as long as the others had or our nerves and temper would have been well and truly tested in the 40 degree heat. We headed up the mountains to the town of Sukapura to check in to the Yoschi Hotel. Nestled high up in the cool mountains, our perch gave us incredible views of the surrounding fog blanketed mountains, with agricultural plantations, meticulously tended, rising up on the surrounding hillsides.
sunset at Mount Bromo
sunset at Mount Bromo
Aine and I spent the evening walking around the small farming villages, As Aine was tired she went back to the hotel leaving me to walk all the way to Cemoro Lawang where I was just in time to see the sunset over Mount Bromo. It gave me a sense of what to expect the next day as we planned to take a 4 wheel drive tour to the area. I got a lift back down the hill to Yoschi which is about 5 km away on the back of a motor bike being driven by a 13 year old boy, and then had a quick dinner at the hotel before going to bed early. Another 3am wakeup, and we were off in our Toyota Land Cruiser (short wheel base) towards Bromo. Notably, the mountain guides in the area have maintained an absolutely enormous fleet of old school original Toyota Land Cruisers, circa 1980, which are almost exclusively used on Mt. Bromo. The vehicles are in good condition, despite their age, and have fresh paint jobs. We drove through high up into the mountains, finally arriving pre-dawn at Mount Penanjakan (2,770 m or 9,088 ft) overlooking Mt. Bromo . It was very cold at 4.30am as we waited for the sun to appear. Aine wasn't happy till she rented an oversized 'designer' coat for equivalent of 1 euro. The viewing platform area was packed with both tourists and Indonesians on holiday. Despite the crowds, I managed to work my way to the front for a perfect view of the valley below. As the sun started to rise, the beautiful valley was revealed, with the smoking Mt. Bromo crater in the distance. The changing colors as the sun rose were beautiful.
sunrise over mount bromo
enjoying the sunrise at mount bromo
sunrise over mount bromo
Aine's designer coat?
The volcano is actually one of many located within another extinct supercrater. The landscape looks nothing like Indonesia - more like a lunar landscape or the highlands of Tibet or Mongolia.
As the sun had finally settled in the morning sky everyone made a mad dash back down the hill to get to Mount Bromo where one can climb a series of steep steps to the crater lip. As we drove in a line of never ending Toyota jeeps we eventually arrived at the base of Bromo. When we alighted from the jeep Aine counted about 150 jeeps lined up in 2 rows. We were quickly approached by a number of locals on horseback inquiring if we cared to hire their ponies to ride up to where some 200 steep steps ascend to the crater. Definitely looked like both inner and outer mongolia. We declined their offer and trudged wearily (as we had not yet eaten since our early departure from the hotel) in the cloud of dust put up by the hundred or so ponies rushing by with their unstable tourist mounts clinging on for dear life.
pony for hire
Toyota Landcruiser Jeeps
The view from the volcano edge gave a different view across the caldera with the jeeps and rushing ponies looking like little ants going about their daily chores. While Aine stayed to look into the crater, I wandered up along the very loose scree and dust on the shoulder of the volcano. The odour of the sulphur fumes wafting up out of the crater was at times eye stinging and overwhelming. Having taken the obligatory photos we retraced our steps back down to our awaiting jeep. As I had not got my fill of adventure I stayed put while Aine and the Toyota fleet made their way for a well deserving breakfast. I decided to do some trekking in and around the caldera. I walked and climbed for another 5 hours and was in awe at the vastness of the place. I climbed another extinct volcano and happened on a cave near the summit where locals obviously trek as some kind of pilgrimage. For I discovered a place with statues and altars where recently some worshiping had occurred. I rested and took in the all encompassing view. I trekked back to the hotel fully content and ate heartily.
looking into mount bromo crater
Caldera surrounding mount bromo
cave at top of volcano
swirling winds in caldera
- The last eruption was 26th November 2010
- The eruption in 2004 killed 2 tourists and injured 17 whilst visiting the Bromo crater.
On the fourteenth day of the Hindu festival of Yadnya Kasada, the Tenggerese people of Probolinggo, East Java, travel up the mountain in order to make offerings of fruit, rice, vegetables, flowers and sacrifices of livestock to the mountain gods by throwing them into the caldera of the volcano.
We spent a total of 3 days in this beautiful mountainside retreat relaxing. Again trying to get a bus back to Probollingo proved to be rather difficult and having booked 3 different buses, each in turn cancelled on us. We were getting slightly anxty as we had booked our return train ride and with a little more coaxing we managed to get a local bus to convey us. Phew.... crisis averted and caught our train with minutes to spare.
We had to book the 'super' executive carriage to Yogyakarta as it was the only one left. So after reducing the thickness of our wallets we arrived in Yogyakarta at 11pm at night. Yogyakarta is well known as home of Java's universities. It is definitely a happening place and totally different to what we had experienced thus far in our Indonesian travels. Up bright and early the next day ( not) we had a lazy breakfast and took to wandering the neighborhood. The main shopping street is about 2km in length, with stalls out on the pavement the entire length on both sides. This took us a full day to complete as you can imagine.......
We visited Prambanan Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia, and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. It has a towering 47-metre-high central building inside a large complex of individual temples. We got there just before sundown and it was a really spiritual place. An eruption of Mount Merapi volcano, located some 20 km north of Prambanan probably contributed to its downfall. This marked the beginning of the decline of the temple. It was soon abandoned and began to deteriorate. Originally there were a total of 240 temples standing in Prambanan. The temples themselves collapsed during a major earthquake in the 16th century. Today, all of 8 main temples and 8 small shrines are reconstructed, but only 2 out of the original 224 pervara temples are renovated. The majority of them have deteriorated; what is left are only scattered stones. Whilst there we went to see the Trimurti open-air stage which hosts the Ramayana ballet. This traditional Javanese dance is the centuries old dance of the Javanese court, performed every full moon night in the Prambanan temple since the 1960s.
looking for devine inspiration
some intricate carvings
sunset at Parambanan
The next day we went on a tour to Borobudur, which is a 9th-century Buddhist Temple. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is constructed of andesite (volcanic) stones whixh were taken from neighbouring stone quarries to build the monument. The stone was cut to size, transported to the site and laid without mortar. Knobs, indentations and dovetails were used to form joints between stones. Reliefs were created in situ after the building had been completed. Again this was a very beautiful and spiritual place.
On a final note (AIne here). I had been complaining about our host in our hotel in Yogyakarta. Ray was a little bit too cool for school. Ex TV executive in his 30s. All he wanted to do was talk about 'me, me, me'. When he asked us something and we attempted to answer he would start talking over us about himself etc etc. I was very irritated by him and avoided him like the plague. Meanwhile Seamus continued to make an effort and seemed happy to put up with his ego. On our last morning, there was a knock on our door and there was Ray with a batik painting in his hand which he presented to me. I was absolutely stunned. He said to Seamus that he had seen me admiring it (I wasn't!) so he asked his wife if he could give it to me. It was of a local scene with boats and volcanoes and finished in gold. So, the moral of the story is 'Don't judge the book by the cover'. Sorry Ray and Terima Kashih (thank you). Aine.