East Java : Conquering Bromo, Ijen & Waterfalls –SOLO! (part 1)

12.20 in the morning, Surabaya time. I was on my way to my first destination, Mount Bromo. I just arrived at Surabaya and I was contemplating whether to sleep outside the train station or find the nearest hostel to rest for a few hours.I sat at the bench outside Pasar Turi train station. 3 minutes, 5 minutes. “Ok, I’m out!” I said to myself. “Let’s find some place to sleep without blood suckers (read: mosquitoes ) around.

So there I was, on my way to the nearest hostel that I just found few minutes before leaving the train station. I never did this before; traveling without any detailed plans. I know where I’m going, I know how to get there. But place to sleep? I didn’t have much time to plan that. I booked my train ticket to Surabaya only 3 days prior to my departure. Almost all seats were fully booked. People were leaving the city to their provinces to celebrate the opening of Ramadhan season.

Bromo, Kawah Ijen, few waterfalls and Semeru.. are my destinations. The idea came across when I was browsing my Instagram and saw the-forever-picturesque sunrise of Bromo and Kawah Ijen. I want to go there. Bromo has been in my bucket list ever since I came back from Philippines but it just never happened. I should go there. So this time, I plan very lightly. I didn’t ask anyone to join me. I simply booked my ticket and go. Jakarta-Surabaya and Malang-Jakarta.

The owner welcomed me to his hostel, half-asleep. Apparently, I was the only guest who are staying that night at the 16 bed bunks room. The other guests who booked the rooms didn’t arrive as expected. The room was clean and the bed was really comfortable. I glad I made the right decision for choosing this over the train station. In the morning, the hostel owner and I talked a bit as I got ready to go. He couldn’t hide his disbelief when he found out that I’m an Indonesian, “I thought you are a foreigner!” I smiled politely, I got this reaction a lot. “It’s very rare to find an Indonesian backpacking solo and you are a GIRL. You are going to Bromo and Ijen alone? That’s crazy!” He said. I just laughed it off. “As crazy as it sounds, I’m going there anyway.” He wished me good luck and gave his number in case of emergency.

I went to the bus terminal Bungurasih in the morning to catch the bus going to terminal Bayuangga, Probolinggo. From Bayuangga Probolinggo bus terminal, I supposed to get a green elf bus to go to Desa Cemoro Lawang, the village near Bromo but the elf left 15 minutes before I arrived at the terminal. The elf doesn’t have a fix departure schedule. It needs to be filled up with passengers first and it will take around 2-3 hours before the seats got full. I don’t want to waste my time waiting. I found a travel tour at the terminal so I inquired about Bromo and Ijen trip. The travel agent advised me to take ojek (motorbike w/driver) to visit the Madekaripura waterfall first before going up to Cemoro Lawang since it’s still 1 in the afternoon. I followed her advice. After we agreed with the price of Rp 150,000, I jumped at the back of the motorbike to go to Madekaripura waterfall.

It took us around 20 minutes to get to waterfalls from terminal. Madekaripura waterfall consists of 2 waterfalls. The first one is 200+ meter high and the second one, is quite unique because it falls like a natural raindrops. Legend has it that the cave in in between the tallest Madekaripura waterfalls used to be the place where  Gadjah Mada, who was a prime minister of the largest Javanese empire Majapahit, meditates and according to the legend, the 60-year-old prime minister dissolved in the air near a waterfall. He has not been found by anyone since then. I paid a guide to explore the waterfalls and of course, to take some pictures. Prepare to get wet and watch out for the slippery trails. You will have to walk under the small waterfalls to get to the tallest one. The water looks welcoming but it was too cold to take a dip and I’m worried about my camera. You can actually buy a raincoat there before you start exploring the waterfalls. It will help you to stay dry.

After that, we started our journey going up to Cemoro Lawang. The view along the way was very beautiful.. and cold. Traveling with motorbike always give a thrill to the experience. I stayed overnight in one of the home stay at desa Cemoro Lawang. Again, I was the only guest who stayed there. I asked the friend of the home stay owner to find me a group of people who will go for sunrise and exploring Bromo so that I can share the 4×4 jeep cost. Apparently, if we go with the open trip regular tour, it cost Rp 125,000 per person to go to the 2 main spots; Penanjakan 1 for sunrise and Bromo. There are other tour which allow us to explore more locations like Pasir Berbisik and Gunung Teletubbies, but we need to book the whole jeep which cost around Rp 400-600,000. This option is good if you are traveling by group since you will have more hours and destinations to go to. He later, gave me the 4×4 jeep driver number and told me that I need to be ready by 4am to go up for the sunrise. Take note that I’m wearing triple layer ever since I arrived at Cemoro Lawang. haha It was really cold up there.

My jeep was packed with 6 people inside. I think people start their morning really early here at Cemoro Lawang. You can see the jeep went out as early as 2 and 3 in the morning to pick up passengers from different hotels. Some choose to walk to the view point or hire an ojek to drive them up there. Morning was unbelievably freezing but Penanjakan 1 is already packed with people, who were waiting for the sunrise. I choose my spot where I think will be the perfect spot to take picture and just sit there, waiting for the next 1 hours. As the dawn started to break and the sun light slowly touched the volcanic beauty, I can feel the chills down to my spine.

That morning, that sunrise and Bromo was the most magical sunrise I’ve ever seen in Indonesia.

Here are some of the photograph from my first leg trip to East Java






















 This was the first time I ever explored the mountainous region of Java by myself. Traveling from one point to another was quite a challenge. Despite Bromo being one of the world’s well-known destination in Indonesia, the transportation system is still lacking. The public transportation is limited, which benefits the private-owned travel tour agency to get travelers sign up for their travel packages. Even traveling as a local, I still got subject to false information and scams. Always do your research first. You have to bargain or you will end up paying so much more. Traveling solo was not easy. Being a girl out there alone, going in and out forest, exploring the waterfalls and the mountain, carrying 40 liters backpack and cameras was really a challenge for me.  Every time I jumped at the backseat of the motorbike, I was praying the driver or the guide will take me to my destination safely.

This trip is all about breaking boundaries and take on new challenges. I almost decided to cut my trip short and just go home after Bromo. But guess what? The adventure continues on my next post. Stay tune to find out how did I end up to staying for free in one of the hotel near Ijen and my experience on watching the famous blue fire of Ijen.
Live to the fullest,


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