As I stood on the lip of a volcano and stared down into its steaming crater I imagined Jules Verne’s adventurers from Journey to the Centre of the Earth sliding down the steep sides and tumbling over the edge deep into the belly of our earth.
Gunung Bromo in east Java is Indonesia’s iconic volcano. The puffing Bromo rises out of the Sea of Sand in an older volcanic crater and looks out towards Gunung Sermeru, Java’s highest peak and one of its most active volcanoes. The sunrise view of Bromo is famed and the nearby villages come alive at 4am as tourists and touts make their way up to the viewpoint at Gunung Penanjakan by foot or jeep. However commercial this experience has become, walking up a steep, rocky path under a jet black sky decorated with stars I do not recognise and watching the sky lighten and mist swirl up out of the valley and over the twinkling lights of Cemoro Lawang village was magical.
It being the rainy season us early risers were not rewarded with much of a sunrise, but later, as I strolled through the flat expanse of the Sea of Sand, the mist lifted and the sky glowed a shining blue against the deep brown of the plain.
A mysterious temple stands in the Sea of Sand, alone in the crater with intricately carved sentries guarding each locked gateway.
From there the path becomes steeper as it winds its way between muddy canyons. The last stretch to Bromo’s crater is up a sheer set of steps. Huffing and panting, it takes a moment or two before you can fully appreciate the view into the crater and down across the plain.
From late-night arrival and early start you can tick Bromo off your list in less than 12 hours – and getting far away from the touts pressing you to buy horse or motorbike rides is attractive. But as tourist traps go, this one holds power. And makes some great pictures!