There have been quite a few moments where I’ve seen things that made me hold my breath. This moment is one of them.
If I wanted to know what the end of the world looked like — or at least the surface of the moon — I would think of Gunung Bromo.
Getting to Gunung Bromo
Hire a guy and take the 3 hour drive from the city of Surabaya, and you’ll come upon a village/security checkpoint:
After registration and paying an entrance fee, we booked a jeep that agreed to take us to two of the main mountains.
After coming upon the foot of Gunung Penanjakan, we fumble with our flashlights up a flight of stairs.
After climbing the stairs, we found the viewpoint of Mount Penanjakan:
We then waited 3 hours for the sunrise.
The pictures speak for themselves.
After taking it all in, we drove our jeep down to the foot of Mount Bromo (a bone-jarring ride on a pothole-infested road almost worse than that of our drive up to the Batad saddle back in the Philippines).
There we not only saw what the end of the world could look like — we experienced it.
Getting out the jeep, we get hit by the smell of sulfur.
Ladies and Gentlemen…the end of the world.
So a summary of our plan to Gunung Bromo:
- Start our drive from Surabaya at 11pm,
- Arrive at a security checkpoint/village at 2am
- Booked a jeep and reached Mount Penanjakan at 3am
- Waited for sunrise until 5am
- Drove to the foot of Gunung Bromo at 7am
- Cclimbed up and stayed at the volcano until 8am
- Returned to the village at 9am
- Drove back to Surabaya in a huge rainstorm and arrived there at 1pm
Upon returning to Surabaya, I decided to take a side detour to visit Little Arabia and the Mesjid Ampel mosque:
After that detour, we then hopped on a 5 hour train to Yogyakarta. This is where things got a little weird.
After disembarking our train from Surabaya, I followed up on a Facebook message from Naomi Bishop, a high school classmate of mine whom I haven’t talked to in over 5 years — she saw on this blog that I was headed to Yogyakarta and excitedly informed me that I was heading to the town where she was born and raised (I had no idea until she told me). She then encouraged me to stay at her former residence and gave the contact information of the guy she sold her place to — a Mr. Rudy Pesik — and said that he would be more than accommodating to let us crash.
After a confusing strings of being lost-in-translation with some of the locals around the train station, we managed to borrow a cell phone from a random bystander named Sebastien and dialed up Mr. Pesik. When he picked up his phone (luckily for us since it was in the middle of the night), he told us he sadly wasn’t in the area and was instead on a business trip in Jakarta. However, after a bit of consideration he invited us to stay if we were friends with Naomi and then told our new friend Sebastien the directions to his place. Sebastien then graciously redirected us to his friend waiting nearby with a car (sounds sketchy I know) and we then drove out way there.
We arrived after 45 min of driving and we suddenly realized that this was no ordinary residence and that Mr. Rudy Pesik was no ordinary man. Apparently the residence is nicknamed by Indonesians as the “The Palace” and Mr. Rudy Pesik is kind of a big deal. For those of you too lazy to Google his name, Mr. Pesik is an owner of over 70 companies in over 15 countries and most prominently the CEO of PT Birotika Semesta, the Indonesian partner of DHL International. He’s a worldwide figure. There are pretty much pictures of him with Bill and Hillary Clinton in his bathroom. To think us mortal backpackers would be associated with his name by sheer dumb luck was too much to comprehend.
Oh, and his place is absolutely — for a lack of a better word — majestic.
This has to be one of the most sleepless experiences of our trip; not only did we get no sleep in reaching Gunung Bromo, but we’re also not going to get any sleep in hitting up Borobudur and Prambanan…our taxi picks us up in 2 hours at 3:30am. SWEET. Sleep is for the weak.
— Update 06/22/16 —
This is stuff travel dreams are made of — The story behind this place has now been beautifully penned by Naomi, that very high school friend I had mentioned earlier in this entry who got me to stay here.
You can read an excerpt published on VICE: My Father’s Journey Around the World with Stolen Plane Tickets Is The Reason Why I Exist.
“…There’s magic there,” said Salvador Dalí to Naomi’s father before he departed. There certainly was.
- At time of posting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, it was 29 °C - Humidity: 89% | Wind Speed: 1km/hr | Cloud Cover: chance of thunderstorms