Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Mount Bromo-other worldly

July 4, 2009

Pounding headache. Lack of caffeine, water, food, sleep--it could be due to any of these factors. I'm at Toto in Probolingo and doing what I do best, waiting. I just got back from the internet cafe. It was a 2km walk from the bus terminal. During my walk I was repeatedly screamed at, mostly by children, "Hello, Miss!" they called. One 3-year-old even yelled, "Hello, tourist!" I saw some baby goats and got calls from men in passing trucks and buses. It was 5:15pm and the sun was already setting. I was a little relieved to make it back to the skeezy bus terminal. So here I wait.

But I'm leaving out the best part of the day--Mount Bromo. I woke up at 3:45am to catch my jeep at 4am. A guy on a motorbike came to pick me up as I sat waiting, freezing, outside my guesthouse. I was bundled up in my new hat and scarf, as well as a blanket I snatched off my bed. The guy took me over to a jeep that was filled with a group of friendly Spainards who, apparently, all lived in Singapore. Together we endured the bumpiest ride of my life. I should have worn a helmet.

We arrived at the viewpoint before 5am. Our driver parked the jeep on the mountainside, a ways down from the viewpoint. We hiked up, surrounded by hoards of Indonesians. I felt like I was part of a religious pilgrimage. Once I made it to the viewpoint, I realized there was no way to actually view anything through the masses, not to mention it was still dark out.

I managed to find a bench to sit on where me and my blanket could wait. The sun began to rise, but I refused to move. After about half an hour, I saw a small break in the crowd. I maneuvered through the people and made it to the viewpoint. The sight was spectacular--definitely worth all the trouble and completely unlike anything I've ever seen before. There, in front of me, was a smoke-belching active volcano. After 20 minutes of staring mesmerized at the thing, I decided I'd better make way for other people to look.

As I began walking down the mountain towards the jeep, I realized I had no idea what jeep I took--I didn't even know the color. It seemed like everyone was returning to the jeep they originally came with. There had to be a couple hundred jeeps parked down the mountain. How was I going to figure this out?

I continued my descent, hoping I'd spot the Smiling Spainards. I saw that I was nearing the end of parked jeeps and still nothing or no one looked familiar. It had been pitch black when I had gotten out of the car. As panic started to creep in, a guy ran over to me. "Are you in a jeep with Spanish people?" the man said with a European accent.

"Yes!" I exclaimed and followed him to the car. The Smiling Spainards had recognized my blanket when I had walked passed them and our jeep. What a relief! I wasn't going to have to beg a ride off someone else, or worse, walk back.

Next on the agenda was to go to Bromo and look the beast in the mouth. After 20 minutes of hitting my head on the roof of the jeep and falling all over this poor Spanish woman, we made it to the base of the volcano. Now all we had to do was climb it. There were horses available for hire, but the S.S. weren't interested--they'd hike it. I didn't want to appear to be the lazy, weak-willed American that I usually am, so I decided to climb on my own too.l

With the volcanic sand swirling in the air, I felt like I was in the desert. The sand went into my eys, nose, and shoes. Horses trotted past me and a steep climb loomed ahead. The last part of the ascent included stairs. I huffed and puffed my way to the top until I finally made it. I tiptoed over to the crater's edge and looked down into the smoking volcano, Wow. My reveried was soon interupted.

"Excuse me, Miss? Can we ask you a few questions?" a sweet faced, young Indonesian girl asked me, her two young male counterparts gazing up at me. They were all wearing matching blue polos with the name of their English school written across the breast. I eyed them suspiciously.

"Um, okay."

"We are from _____ English College and we are here to practice our English with tourists," the girl explained as one of the boys took out a camera phone to record this momentous event.

She asked me The Six Questions, plus a few more for good measure. We then posed for pictures and they went on their way, hunting down their next English speaking victim.

I made my way down from Bromo but not before being questioned by three more groups from _____ English College. I managed to find the jeep and S.S. with no trouble. After a 10 minute ride we were back into town. Now on to Yogyakart, Java's cultural center.

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