Monday, March 11, 2013

Bromo Birthday

We woke at 3am under a blanket of brilliant stars, to watch the sun rise over Mount Bromo and the neighbouring volcanoes. Other than the stars, the only lights in this dark and chilly pre-dawn landscape were the string of lights snaking across the crater floor—the procession of jeeps we were about to join. From a distance the plateau had looked smooth and flat, but we bounced and bumped across sand ridges and dried riverbeds to the crater wall rising sharply from the floor, where we whipped around steep and sharp hairpin turns to the rim. Here the land dropped away on both sides revealing the string of jeep lights below on one side, and the blanket of city lights far below on the other, adding shape to the mysterious landscape.

We wound higher and higher until we hit the wall of parked jeeps, and had to walk the last kilometer to the viewpoint, through entrepreneurial men offering moto rides to the top and selling hats, scarves, and coats to the shivering Indonesians. Finding a spot along the wall, we waited until the first hints of colour began to appear on the horizon, and slowly, the landscape before us formed itself out of the blackness.

The stars fells away to brightening purples and golds, and as the sun crested over the volcanic peaks to the east, pink light began to illuminate first the imposing figure of Semeru, then the sculptural ridges of Batok’s symmetrical dome in the foreground, then illuminating the billowing plumes rising out of Bromo’s wide crater, until all the shadows had been chased away and a new day begun.

From here the procession wound back to the crater floor to the base of Bromo, and the magic and slowness of the dawn gave way to the hustle and bustle of day. Horses whinnied and stomped at their posts, or galloped up the trail among the crowds carrying sleepy tourists to the staircase leading to the rim. The unexpected fumes from the sulphur clouds rising from Bromo’s pit sent us into coughing fits, and between gasps of fresh air we tried to take in the depth and size of the crater.

Our celebrity status preceeded us from Probolinggo, and strangers asked to have their photos taken with us; one mother came up to us and wanted to take our picture with her daughter. We obliged, with a smile, wondering where all these photos are going. This must be how Will and Kate feel.

Later, after a nap and some lunch, we hiked back down to the crater floor under fickle clouds and found a patch of quiet, where we sat on the black, volcanic sands to admire this incredible landscape. In parts it’s like a strange, desolate, lunar sandscape, and others a lush, rich meadow, ringed by protective green walls.

Yes, I think 33 is off to a fantastic start.

Vibrant dawn colours

Scarlet light hitting Batok.

The first rays of sun falling on Cemoro Lewang.

Clouds crawling up the valley. We're so lucky to have had a clear morning!

A crowded morning hiking up to the rim of Bromo.

The temple at the base of Bromo.

Trying not to breathe in the sulphur fumes.

Bromo puffing sulphuric gases from it's pit.


  1. I hope you had the most magnificent birthday!! You deserve it. That looks like a wonderful way to celebrate.


    1. Thanks Katelin! It was pretty phenomenal; and I'm so glad I got to spent it here, rather than on a bus! I was also thinking of it as the first birthday of my tattoo from you guys! :)

  2. Happy belated birthday Amberlea!
    I am so blown away by all that you have been seeing and doing.

  3. The birdies turn 1!? So young to be seeing the world;)

    katelin xo

  4. AH - happy belated birthday. What an amazing place to experience. Just beautiful!!!!

    chey xo

  5. What an absolutely magical way to start off your 34th orbit around the sun! Yay!