When thinking about a vacation in Indonesia, Bali is often what first comes to mind. Consistently voted amongst the best island destinations in the world, the isle is a top contender for idyllic honeymoons and relaxing holidays in a year-round tropical climate. And while it is indeed a beautiful island, when travelling all that way it would be a waste to head back home without having crossed the Bali Strait to visit its larger brother: Java. Home to Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, Java is the most populated island in the world and is probably best known in the traveller's community for being the location of Yogyakarta and the Borobudur temple.
HOW TO CLIMB MOUNT PENANJAKAN AND BROMO
The night before, eat an early bird dinner and try to settle in for the night around 8 or 9pm, because you'll have to set a 2.30am alarm if you want to hike up the mountain.Dress warmly! Even though you're in the tropics, you're also on a mountain in the midst of the night, so the temperature will be just above freezing. While you'll be warm as you're hiking, the cold will seep through to your bones once you stop, so bring those mittens and that hat for the viewpoint at the top!
Ideally, you should leave your accommodation in time to be at the around 3am to start your hike up. You won't be the only one there, so if you're hiking solo like me (my elderly family members both wisely opted for the jeep), you'll definitely be able to find some company. Straight across from the hotel, there is a paved asphalt road that goes up the mountain. Start walking on the sides of that road and just keep following it until you reach a viewpoint with a little house and some lighting.
Rest if you want to, but keep on going. After about an hour of hiking in total, all still done on the same winding asphalt road, you'll reach the official #2 viewpoint. It will get pretty busy there later on, as it's directly accessible by car, so to avoid the crowds, double back a few meters and take the concrete stairs going up.
After a while the stairs will turn into a trail which can be pretty treacherous at times, as the volcanic ash makes the ground a bit slippery. If you keep using the torch on your phone and are wearing hiking boots you'll be fine though. Do take plenty of rest, once every few minutes ideally, just to catch your breath and to drink plenty of liquids while going up. At a certain point, you'll encounter side tracks off the path, or even a parting where you're no longer sure which path is the main one.
We just kept choosing the paths on instinct the entire time and made it to the top seemingly without detours. We were walking in the opposite direction of what we could make out to be the Bromo for a while, but I presume that was just the natural curve of the path around the mountain. I actually presume that all paths lead to the panorama point as it's the reason everyone hikes up Mount Penanjakan.
We finally reached our viewpoint, called King Kong Hill, after 1 hour and 45 minutes of hiking, and we were all just moderately experienced hikers. We could have actually left half an hour later and still have been there to grab a good spot before the crowds arrived, so if you're a real mountaineering fanatic, you could leave as late as 3.45 and still be on time. While you're shivering in the cold, waiting for the sun to rise, you can get a coffee or a snack from one of the locals selling it there.
The sound emanating from the crater rapidly increases the closer you get, and the minute you look into it you can't help but be amazed and scared at the same time. It is definitely a very, very active volcano: thick plumes of white smoke come out continuously and the intense, thunderous roar of Mother Nature is strong enough to make grown men weep.