Thursday 29 September 2016

How to Experience Mount Bromo Without a Tour

I woke up to a message from Jetstar saying that our flight which was scheduled to depart at 10:50 am was 3 hours delayed. That was ok, I said to myself, as I didn’t have a choice and I didn’t want to stress myself over something which was beyond my control too. I sent a message to my cousin to inform her about the delay and patiently waited until it was time to leave for the airport.

We booked the $84.00 (per person) return ticket online to Surabaya and it was indeed a pretty good deal. We departed Changi Airport at about 1:30 pm, for what we know was going to be another exciting adventure. Two hours later, we arrived at Juanda International Airport and then our adventure began.

The cost of the tours being offered online was really expensive so I decided to experience Mount Bromo without a tour. I basically relied on all the information I got from the internet.  From the airport, we took Damri Airport bus going to Bungurasih bus station (take the exit opposite Popeyes, Rp 25,000.00 per person, 20-30 minutes travel time). When the driver dropped us off at Bungurasih bus station, we followed the local people as they walked through the small alley and then took the first left which led us to the intercity buses. Touts swarmed around us, asking where we were heading to. We walked past them without even looking until we saw an AC bus going to Probolinggo (Rp 30,000.00 per person, 2 hours travel time). We climbed into the bus, looked for the most comfortable seats, and secured our bags while waiting for the bus to leave. The touts were finally gone. When you consistently ignore and show them you are not interested, they will eventually go away.

The bus arrived at Bayuangga Bus Terminal in Probolinggo at 6:30 pm. I was worried that there won’t be any minivans going to Cemara Lawang at that time anymore. From the station, (facing the terminal) we took the road on my right hand side and walked for about 200 metres until we got to the main road. Once we were already on the main road, we turned left, continued walking for another 100 metres and then crossed the street until we saw the line of parked green minivans. There was a sigh of relief. (And I realised that even after all the research and planning, things don’t always go to plan in Indonesia.) It was already dark and I was aware that the minivans do not leave until they are full. I was contemplating whether to wait (for no one knows how long) or just pay for the rest of the seats, when two young ladies from Spain who were also heading to Cemara Lawang came. A few rounds of haggling later, we agreed to pay Rp 500,000.00.

It was already 8:00 pm when we arrived at Cafe Lava Hostel and it was only then that we found out that the two ladies we were with didn’t have a place to stay at yet. (It was only then when I realised that we didn’t pay the Village Entrance Fee (Rp 10,000.00), perhaps because it was already late when got there.) They tried their luck and asked our hostel if there were any rooms available for the night, but there was none. We were exhausted after the 3-hour flight delay, 2-hour plane ride, and almost 6-hour road trip. After dinner, my cousin and I called it a night.

Equipped with torches, cameras, jackets and beanies to keep us warm, our journey up to see the sunrise over Mount Bromo started at 3:00 am. The best way to get to the trail is to walk towards Cemada Indah Hotel. From Cafe Lava Hostel (facing the main road), we crossed the street, took the right hand side of the road, and walked for about 50 metres. We turned left upon seeing the gateway signage leading to the viewpoint (Seruni Point). When we were almost at Cemara Indah Hotel, we took the last and only right and continued walking. The trail was easy to follow but it was extremely dark. My concern was that our two small torches might run out of batteries. After about an hour of walking, locals on horses approached and offered us rides to Mount Bromo. We politely turned them down and continued walking until we arrived at a viewing point. I wanted to walk through the narrow trail which leads to Mount Penanjakan but my cousin didn’t have the energy to do that anymore. There were less people at the viewpoint though and we were able to get a good spot to see the sunrise. We sat on the wall and watched one of the most magnificent sunrises we have ever seen while having a cup of coffee to warm us up.

After sunrise, we headed back down to Cemara Lawang and took as much photos as we can along the way while enjoying the cool breeze. The initial plan was to hike across the sea of sand towards Mount Bromo, but later realised that we may not make it on time to catch the first minivan going back to Probolinggo. We didn’t want to go through the haggling and the negotiation again. The minivans from Cemara Lawang don’t leave until they are full too, so we made sure we were at the terminal before 9:30 am (according to the man at the hostel, the first bus leaves at 9:30 am). There were two vacant seats available and the minivan left when we were seated. The two ladies from Spain were also on the bus - I wonder where they spent the night. We arrived at Probolinggo at about 11:00 am. A few minutes later we were sitting comfortably on the bus going to Surabaya.

Mount Bromo Without a Tour (Do it yourself)

  1. If you are arriving from the airport, take Damri Airport Bus going to Bungurasih bus station. The buses are parked outside the terminal, take the exit opposite Popeyes. Travel time is 20-30 minutes, Rp 25,000.00.
  2. From Bungurasih bus station, take AC bus going to Probolinggo (Bayuangga Bus Terminal). Travel time is 2 hours, Rp 30,000.00
  3. Bring a headlamp or a torch and jacket to keep you warm. Facing the terminal, take the road on your right hand side and walk for about 200 metres until you get to the main road. Once on the main road, turn left, continue walking for another 100 metres and then cross the street until you see the line of parked green minivans. Ask the driver to drop you off at the highest guesthouse. Travel time is 1.5 hours, Rp 35,000.00. It is advisable to arrive at the minivan terminal before 4:00 pm as it gets more difficult to fill up empty seats after that time.
  4. The best way to get to the trail is to walk towards Cemara Indah Hotel. Aim to start trekking at 3:00 in order to see the sunrise. If you will be staying at Cafe Lava Hostel, cross the street, take the right hand side of the road, and the walk for about 50 metres. Turn left upon seeing the gateway signage leading to the viewpoint (Seruni Point). When you are almost at Cemara Indah Hotel, take the last and only right and continue walking. The best view of the sunrise is the last wooden railing before the asphalt road.
  5. Head down after the sunrise and hike across the sea of sand.
  6. Take the minivans from Cemara Lawang to Probolinggo. The buses are parked along the street leading to Cemara Indah Hotel (behind the gateway signage). Bus leaves at 9:30 am (according to the man from our hostel) but it’s better to be at the terminal 15 minutes earlier as there are no actual timetables - the buses leave when they are full. Travel time is 1.5 hours, Rp 35,000.00.
  7. If you are heading to another destination by train, take the public transport (yellow angkot) and ask the driver to drop you off at the train station in Probolinggo (Stasiun Probolinggo). Rp 5,000.00, 10 minutes travel time. If you are taking a bus, just cross the street, take the road on your left and walk for a few metres. Take the first right and you will already see the terminal.

Happy travels! xx

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