This ‘Sunrise over Mt Bromo in Java, Indonesia’ travel story is part of my Journal Extracts series. These are stories taken from my travel journals that span across 14 years of travel. Bear in mind that I do edit and clean up each post a little.
The alarm burst into its ear-piercing screech at 2:30am. Irritated, I groaned and turned to go back to sleep before remembering where we were and why we were getting up at a ridiculous hour fit only for the owls.
Sunrise over Mt Bromo in Java, Indonesia.
We were very tired and it was freezing cold at 5°C. It never crossed our minds to pack warm clothes to bring with us to Indonesia -we had only just crossed the center of the Earth yesterday. The last two months we had spent suffering under the extreme heat and humidity of the islands situated on the Equator, and now here we were in close to zero temperatures.
I wiped the crust from my eyes, sat up, and was instantly snapped awake by the freeze that iced my whole body. Teeth chattering and body shaking, I now had to fumble around in the dark mountain cabin to find clothes in an effort to bring me some semblance of warmth. Three lightweight pants, 2 singlets, 2 shirts, 2 long sleeved cheese cloth shirts, a sarong and a beanie later, the shivering subsided but not without making me looked like I had just chewed blueberry bubblegum from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
We chipped the ice off the door and scrambled outside into the dark freeze of the night, expecting to join the throngs of other people climbing up to the viewpoint. But when we walked outside the village was quiet and there was not a soul in sight. We shrugged the strangeness of it off thinking that we were just the early birds catching the worms. With flashlights on, fits of giggles, and heads down Bec, Shannon, and I marched forward to the start of our mountain trail, determined to be the first to catch the sun’s rays over Mt Bromo.
A local man appeared from the base of the mountain gesturing to guide us up the treacherous path. Thinking it might be a smart move, we nodded back “Sure thing,” granting him permission to lead the way and pick us up when we continued to lose our fight with the loose stones and mud. The fresh air, so invigorating on my skin helped to keep moving me up the steep and slippery track.
We knew how popular the sunrise over Mt Bromo was so were really surprised that we did not hear or see another person nearby. If we didn’t have our local guide confirming to us with a nod of his head that we were walking the right path, we would have turned back fearing we had come the wrong way. I was convinced that everyone else must have ridden donkeys or driven and that we were the only harebrained chicks to attempt this mission. It was then that I looked up above and realized that we were the smart ones for taking the road less travelled and the rest had missed out.
Thousands upon thousands of stars lay scattered, twinkling across the night sky, each a Star of David in their own right, leading us to the Promised Land and daring us to go where no other had been before. As I continued to walk up and up, it seemed as if I was stepping into the heavens and at any moment I could reach out and choose whatever star I wanted to guide me through the rest of my life.
We stopped to catch our breath. As our eyes sat drinking in the astral wonder, stars began raining down on us. They had waited until we had paused momentarily so they could thank us for taking an early morning walk with them. I was overcome with such an intense feeling of aliveness. A feeling that paralyzed me from moving forward until the shower of stars finally passed.
We arrived at the top of Mt Pananjakan, the viewing point and were surprised to see hundreds of tourists and locals standing around ready to see the rising sun and the volcanic peaks it was about to light up. We asked around to find out why there was not another soul present on our 2-hour climb and discovered that they had all driven up to the top. I couldn’t help but feel sad for the journey they missed getting to know the moon and the stars and the quiet stillness of the mountain.
As we began to cool down from our walk, the freeze of the high altitude air snapped us back to reality and we layered ourselves back. We pushed our way into the crowds of people waiting in anticipation for the sun’s arrival and huddled close together to keep warm. Quiet conversations were had, jokes were passed around, and photos were taken as we waited in anticipation. Eyes constantly darted from watches to the horizon to Mt Bromo and the surrounding craters, which could just be made out by the silvery light of the moon.
The designated time of arrival was 5:30 and our closest-guiding-light did not let us down. The brilliant red and orange hues of the rising sun mixed in with the pale blue of the dawning day. As night began to fade, the sun’s casting light slowly unveiled to us the most beautiful sight my eyes have ever seen.
The family of mountains and volcanoes appeared from out of the sky in front of us sitting on a shrouded bed of clouds. Mt Semera, the highest Indonesian volcano and smaller Mt Bromo both puffed out smoke from their cones as they greeted us and the craters surrounded them on either side. The moon just as bright on the West of the Mountains was facing the sun on the East as if some great battle was to take place as to who was the strongest and more powerful.
Oohs and aahs rang out from the mountaintop as cameras began clicking in desperate attempt to capture the magical moment. The pop of a champagne bottle could be heard with cheers of congratulations as a young man chose the most romantic place and time on Earth to propose to his future bride.
I sat and I drank mesmerized and astonished with the truth that had just been revealed to me. Mother Nature is powerful and so divinely beautiful. How could I never have known this before? How could so many people sitting in their living rooms right now watching death and destruction on the news never be aware of what really exists in this world of ours?
Sunrise over Mt Bromo was the most breathtakingly beautiful act of Mother Nature that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The picture of that morning still remains so vividly clear in my mind now even 13 years later. It was a surreal experience which allowed me to realize for the first time the Earth’s magnificence and how small and insignificant we really are.
This was a true wonder of the world and I could not believe how fortunate I was to be a part of it. Sunrise over Mt Bromo was far too magical for even my big dreams. I had finally become the explorer whose eyes were the first to gaze upon untold beauty and splendour.