I desperately want to go up a volcano, I want to peer over the edge into a crater. I want to see lava boiling, maybe even some smoke billowing. Alas, I have this $*?%& up knee, and I can’t manage all the UP and DOWN that its required to get a glimpse of something not too  touristed. So, I book a tour, I have to acknowledge that it’s the only way I’m getting up and close with a volcano.

This tour will take me (and about half the other tourists in Indonesia right now, or at least it feels that way) direct from Yogyakarta to Bromo (Cemoro Lawang actually), a full days drive, and then onwards to Denpasar on Bali, another full days drive, and a ferry thrown in for good measure.

In Cemoro Lawang  we will spend the night in a pre-arranged hotel of dubious cleanliness (though there is a promise of hot water), wake up at 3:00am, and be driven to a viewpoint to observe the volcano during sunrise. We drive in a 40-year-old jeep that would probably give us carbon monoxide poisoning if it was actually possibly to seal the windows shut.

After watching said sunrise with approximately 200 other people from a very crowded platform, everybody jostling trying to get the “perfect” photo,  we will then be driven back down the very bumpy road and across a dusty, ashy plain until we get as close as possible to the base of the volcano where we are given the option of paying for an ill-tempered pony or walking up the trail that leads to the steep 250 stairs that take you to the top. These stairs are practically invisible due to the build up of volcanic ash on them. The ash and the dust  billows wildly around us in the gusting wind as we climb single file up the “stairs” hands clutching at broken handrails and using shirts/scarves/whatever is handy to cover our mouths.

Once at the top we are greeted by a very smelly pile of rotting garbage and so many people milling about catching their breath that we are all in danger of being bumped over the (barrier free) edge, either back down the outside or, more terrifyingly, actually INTO the gaping black maw of this, still active, volcano.

You can follow a single file path in either direction away from the mob at the stairhead, though god help you if you meet up with someone who wants to pass you in the opposite direction. From the single file pathway you can gaze down into the deeply shadowed pit of the volcano, the steeply sloping sides covered in various corn husks, flower offerings, candy wrappers and the ubiquitous plastic bags. This litter may have something to do with offerings to “feed” the volcano so it doesn’t get hungry/angry (aka hangry) and erupt. Ok, that’s fine, I don’t want to insult anybodies religious beliefs but damn it looks really ugly.

Finally, due to the fact that it’s REALLY early in the morning, the sun is at such an angle that it’s not high enough yet to actually light up the inside of the gaping hole you came to see, it’s all in shadow.

After this you have to climb back down the precarious stairs, or you can do what I did and say screw it, to hell with my knees, suck up the pain, I’m hopping/running/bounding down this freaking volcano! So I did. And I got yelled at by my fellow tourists for “stirring up the ashes.” Oh um, I though it was the GALE FORCE WIND that was doing that?

After making it down off the volcano and trudging however many meters back to where the jeeps are parked, that’s right jeeps, about 100 of them. Who knows which one is yours? But find it you must, and while waiting for the rest of your group you empty about 2 kilos of the  sand, dust and ash combination out of your filthy socks and shoes.

Driven back to the hotel where buffet breakfast is included, and it’s not bad, especially since you’ve been up for about 5 hours without any food or coffee. So looking forward to that promised hot shower you head into your room and turn on the shower head. Nothing. Not even cold water. Oh. You go find the man who last night VOLUNTEERED the information about there being hot water available in the morning, something that you hadn’t been expecting but once you heard about it were pretty thrilled to hear as its COLD here. But no, no hot water, in fact see that bucket, and that scoop? There you go. Fine, at least it’ll get the dust off.

Back onto the bus for a full day with a lunch break, sleeping for most of it. Waking up about half an hour before you arrive in Denpasar (Bali, finally!) and feeling very ill. Vomitous in fact. Keeping your shit together as some nice people you met during the journey arrange the half hour taxi ride to Kuta and, once there, find you a hotel that has a decent bathroom so you can finally throw up, yay. You feel better after, thank goodness, and sleep for about 10 hours.

Sunrise View

The Approach

Almost at the stairs

View of the crater (note the garbage)

Looking back.

Alright, I admit it,that IS pretty!

Ok, so this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. I know, the sarcasm is dripping and my bitchy side has come out. It wasn’t THAT bad. Keeping in mind that everything I have said is true, if you could manage for a moment to block out the crowds, the garbage, the ice-cold mandi bath in 10 degree Celsius weather and the dust storm on the stairs it was actually really beautiful.

And normally I would be able to handle all that stuff  a whole lot better. But I’m really tired, burned out, travel-fatigued and, quite frankly, kinda homesick. I’ve been on the road for almost 4 months. Ive had this lingering ear infection, I feel tired constantly and honestly, I feel over it. This is not good. I’m supposed to spend upwards of another year on the road, how can I possibly get myself back into happy travel mode?  It’s time to stop and rest up for a bit. For real. So I have a plan. More on that soon.

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