Indonesia has always held a very compelling draw for me – it always seemed to be such a beautiful and exotic country, heavily steeped in diversity. Often times when people think Indonesia their mind settles on thoughts of Bali and they fail to think further. So much so in fact that many people operate on the false belief that Bali is a country in its own right, when it’s actual just one of the over 17,000 tiny islands which makes up the Indonesian archipelago; a mere raindrop in the sea of incredible that the country has on offer.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not hating on Bali. I absolutely adore the place; the entire island is all breathtaking cliff sides, incredible beaches, lush jungle and smoldering volcanoes which all come together nicely to create one tropical paradise. The entire island is full of charming places like Ubud and its sacred monkey forest and speckled with a multitude of picturesque temples all while being basked in the incredible warmth and friendliness that I’ve learned to expect from Hindu people. But as a result it’s a very popular place and its filled to the brim with tourists and travelers alike.
For me, the real pull came from Bali’s neighbour – the mysterious and often overlooked island of Java – home to Mount Bromo, the most famous active volcano on the island. At a mere 2,329 meters high it doesn’t earn its fame for being one of the tallest peaks around but for being one of the top places in the country to watch the sunrise and I wanted to see it!
My journey started the day before with a long train ride from Yogyakarta to Surabaya where I met up with my driver and guide for an exhilarating 4 hour drive into the mountains. This drive was spectacular! We weaved our way through small villages, past impressive rice terraced fields and up steep and winding (and perilously narrow) roads into the mountains until I was so high up all of the clouds were resting in the valleys below me.
I arrived just before dinner in a little village where I’d spend the night. It was about as close to the sunrise viewpoint as I could get which was perfect. The area itself was pretty quite – a lot of little rural villages, picturesque hills and beautiful greenery sprinkled with guest houses/hotels catering to the sunrise seekers like myself.
That night I went to bed and took what I can only respectfully call a nap – what with my alarm screaming at me at 3 o’clock in the morning to get up.
It was time!
Sleepily, I climbed into the land rover with my guide and immediately became alert as we tore down the pitch black, narrow road at breakneck speeds to make it to the viewpoint in time. We carried along this way for about 45 minutes. At one point we left the road completely behind us and were driving across a vast desert valley. I saw people out doing the journey by horseback and though about how incredible that must have been!
Eventually, we pulled over leaving our jeep with the heap of others all piled at the side of the road and made the final leg of the journey by foot. The way was dotted with little, one man vendors on the side of the road selling tea and hot chocolate and they were making a killing – we were high enough up to escape the scorching South East Asian heat and the morning was frosty!
As I made my way to the edge of the viewing platform hushed excitement permeated the air from the other adventures that had gathered to watch what Mother Nature had in store for us – and we were not disappointed. It was a truly incredible and magical moment to watch the dawn break over the vast and barren mountains in the distance with Mt. Bromo right in the centre of it all, smoking away.