Climbing our first volcano - Mount Bromo!

After our awesome diving course in Koh Tao which you can read about here, we travelled back to Bangkok to grab our flight to Jakarta. We’d already pre-booked this flight as we’d been told in England at the check-in counter that we wouldn't be allowed to fly unless we had a flight out of the Thailand before we went. I know this is the case for some countries like Indonesia but I'm not sure it is for Thailand.

Then I completely screwed up. We had taken the ferry to Surat Thani and a flight to Bangkok’s Dom Mueang airport. I was under the impression that we had to travel almost 2 hours to the other airport: Suvarnabhumi. So we took the bus, train and railway link and arrived there 2 hours before our flight.. Only to discover our flight was actually meant to leave from the airport we’d just been in. 

I couldn’t believe it. What an absolute twat. Anyway because of this we decided we’d go straight to Bromo instead of Jakarta. 

The closest airport to Mount Bromo is Surabaya. Flights for the next day were probably a lot more expensive than if you pay in advance (£70) but we didn’t want to spend more time waiting around near Bangkok airport. 

The flight was from Don Mueang airport to Kuala Lumpur and then Kuala Lumpur to Surabaya. It probably took about 5/6 hours in total with a short stop over. 

Surabaya

Getting our visas in Indonesia was easy - I’d previously thought this might be more difficult after reading other people's posts. We’d already bought our return ticket to Kuala Lumpur and opted for the free visa. It was really straight forward. The free visa gives you 30 days in Indonesia. The 30 days includes the day you arrive and the day you leave. You need to have a flight booked out of the country. You can pay around $30 for a visa that can be extended if you want. You need to organise for the extension once out the airport and I think you can extend for another 30 days. 

Once you get out of the airport at Surabaya everything became very intense! Suddenly there were about 50 people surrounding us asking us if we wanted a taxi and following us around. Some of them really wouldn’t take no for an answer. We didn’t have any Indonesian money but there were ATMs right outside. 

The airport has free Wi-Fi and we didn’t have our Indonesian sim yet so I tried to get an Uber - that didn’t work. Apparently there’s an exclusion zone for Uber within the airport grounds. 

We spoke to a couple of taxis, most people quoted between 130-150,000 Ruppiah but we managed to haggle one down to 100,000. We later found out 150,000 is the usual price.

We probably only saw about 2 other travellers in Surabaya, It seems to be more of a stop on the way to Bromo. We even had 2 different Indonesians want to take photos with us!

We spent a couple of days in Surabaya thinking there might be more to do but there’s really not much there. We visited the House of Sapoerna - a tobacco museum about a family that basically came from nothing and started their own tobacco business. It was a pretty cool museum and completely free. During the week and Saturdays they usually have all the workers making the cigarettes by hand in the workshop before 11am but unfortunately we were there on a Sunday. 

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There’s also a free bus tour around the city leaving at 9am, 1pm and 3pm, but make sure to get there really early to book. We tried to book at 1.30pm for the 3pm tour and the bus was already full. 

We visited the Submarine Monument in the centre of Surabaya. This was really interesting as there's lots of history behind it. You can go inside too and see the control room, the torpedoes and living areas.

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Traffic is interesting in Indonesia- sometimes I wonder if there are any actual driving rules! Also crossing the road isn’t easy, you basically have to walk out into the middle of the road and put your hand up in a stop motion to get across. You have to be brave (but also safe)!

Surabaya to Bromo

There are a couple of ways to get to Bromo from Surabaya - train, bus and private car. A private car would probably set you back quite a lot of money, and taking one of the other options is pretty easy and a fraction of the cost.

If you’re travelling by car you would go direct to Bromo, but otherwise you’re most likely going to be travelling via Probolinggo, a fishing town.

The main bus station was a half hour away and I’d heard that it’s about 30,000 Ruppiah to get to Probolinggo. I wasn’t sure if you could get tickets in advance but I know you can definitely just turn up and buy them. Just make sure you leave plenty of time so that it’s not sold out by the time you get there.

We opted for getting a train in the end. We had been quoted 100,000 each at first which was a lot more than the bus so were considering taking the bus instead when the lady at the counter told us if we came back at 7am the next day (2 hours before the train at 9am) we would be able to buy a business class ticket for 45,000.  So that’s what we did! We left our stuff in the hostel, went to buy the tickets and came back for a bit before heading off. First class was 65,000 but we thought business would be good enough.

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The train was fine. Air conditioning, lots of space, a plug socket and space for your backpack above your seat. 

The journey took about 2 hours and there are people selling snacks and drinks and also a pillow if you want one - all probably hugely overpriced.

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When we arrived at Probolinggo there was a guy in the train station who was offering taxis priced at 400,000 to get to Bromo (total, not per person). I had read that this was the normal price previously so that was good. I had thought we might need to get to the bus station in order to find other travellers but fortunately there were 2 others on our train - Javi and Bea.

Javi and Bea were happy to share the taxi with us which was great. The journey took about 1.5 hours and the latter section is up vey windy, narrow roads with sheer drops at times! 

Mount Bromo

We arrived at Cafe Lava Hostel, quite a popular hostel for people travelling to Bromo. We didn’t have a reservation but fortunately we were able to get a standard room for 200,000 Ruppiah. The room is basic. Very small with only one plug socket and there is a shared bathroom with a shower. This was all we needed though. 

I think we were quite lucky to get a room because on arrival we were told it was “peak season”, so if you can book in advance do so. There are other homestays and hotels nearby too.

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There’s not much in the way of food in the area. I would probably recommend sticking to Cafe Lava if you can. Although it’s quite expensive for some of the options, we had gone to another hotel for food (all the other food places were closed) and the food was awful. There were flies everywhere and the service was terrible.

One of the best things about Cafe Lava is that it is so close to Bromo and the sunrise viewpoints. Most of the people are on tours or book a car up the to the viewpoint and then to the crater, but don’t feel you need to do this if you're prepared to walk. Walking up is really straight forward, just download maps.me and you will see the paths and where the viewpoints are. 

We woke up at around 3am to set off at 3.30am up the mountain with Javi and Bea. Sunset was going to be at 5.08am. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get up there. You don’t want to miss it. Also ensure you wear layers as it does get cold up at the viewpoints once you stop walking. We hadn’t brought any specifically warm clothes like coats or trousers or anything. There is a little shop where you can buy stuff though, but there’s not much choice. Kieron bought some trousers but I just decided I’d wear everything I’d brought with me.

I ended up in 2 pairs of leggings with baggy yoga trousers over the top, leg warmers, a vest top, 2 t-shirts and a thin hoody, normal hoody, a lights shawl and a woollen hat that said “Bromo” that I’d bought there.

Within 2 minutes of walking I’d stripped most of it off! It might be cold out but walking gets you hot! 

The walk is not an easy one. If i’d had it my way I would have left earlier (3am) so that we could take a more leisurely pace. The road is smooth but the incline is huge in places. Bring lots of water and snacks and definitely eat something before you set out if you can (but not too much). I’m not the fittest of people since my desk job, so I struggled a bit, but it’s very doable.

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Javi is quite a strong walker so he was way ahead of us. I definitely burned myself out a bit by trying to keep up. It would have been better to go at my own pace.

The final part of the climb towards Sunrise Viewpoint 2 (as it’s called on the app) is a whole load of stairs. It’s definitely easier than the road, but there are a lot of them. 

Along the way there are people selling food and water and at the viewpoint you can buy tea and coffee.

We were going to continue climbing to King Kong Hill as it’s meant to be less crowded with less tourists, but the next section looked quite dangerous and was slippy. Also there were only about 15 other people there so there was plenty of space for everyone. It didn’t feel like peak season! Also we were up on a Monday, which is quieter than at the weekends or over holidays.

The sunrise was stunning. It was incredible watching the sun come up next to Mount Bromo with its white clouds of gas billowing out. You could also see the clouds resting low on the ground below with the trees and buildings only just poking through. It was beautiful.

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After the sunrise we headed down the mountain to a little path we’d passed on the way up. This would give us a short cut to the actual crater. It was definitely easier on the way down!

At the bottom of the path there’s a huge sea of sand that you need to cross. It’s a little way a way but completely flat which makes a change.

Once you get towards the bottom of Mount Bromo there are loads of people trying to get you to pay for a horse to ride you up. I don’t really like how a lot of the animals are treated in these areas and I was happy to walk anyway so we didn’t even think about it. 

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The final climb up to the crater is also pretty steep. Having already walked pretty fast that morning I was a bit burned out by this point, but it’s not too far. Its rock and sand up until a set of steps that take you to the crater. 

The crater is breathtaking. It’s absolutely huge and the clouds coming off it are mesmerising. You can see yellow stained rocks at the bottom where the sulphur has attached itself.

The walkways around the crater are a bit treacherous - one wrong move and you could easily fall. There’s a small wall around some parts that you can sit on to take photos and there are people selling flowers to throw in as an offering. 

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The journey up there is completely worth it. You feel humbled knowing that beneath the surface of this active volcano is hot liquid that could lead to your demise if it decided to go!

After many shameless selfies and videos we walked back down the the base of the volcano. From here we got 4 motorbike taxis for 100,000 Ruppiah back up to the hostel. Quite a relief after all that walking!

It was about 7.30am by the time we got back. We had just enough time for a shower, to pack and to have some breakfast before we set out to Mount Ijen at 9.30am.

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