A wise man once said, ‘Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination’.
Well, that was the case as we embarked onwards to Surabaya. From Surabaya we had to take a car to our hotel, called Java Banana, to see the famous Mount Bromo in East Java. I was very excited to see it because I have always been interested in volcanoes. I fell asleep during the car ride to the Yogyakarta train station. The train station was very clean and efficient. There were ramps for the handicapped and a safe way to go to the next platform. The signs were in English and Bahasa. There were massage chairs, which you could pay and use so that you didn’t get stiff legs. The train ride, too, was very comfortable and smooth. We passed many rice fields and small villages. I spotted farms with trees and plants laden with produce. The train ride was five hours long. As soon as we walked out of the gates at Surabaya station, we saw our driver waiting for us.
Mom had shortlisted a restaurant at the Surabaya museum, called A Café, for us to eat lunch in and see the beautiful museum before we started the four-hour car ride to our hotel. A Café had a variety of cuisines from different parts of the world besides, of course, excellent Indonesian food. The café had a very art déco vibe. The red walls went well with the bright-coloured sofas. The high ceilings helped keep it cool. I was starving, and gobbled down some lamb chops while Mom ordered Indonesian food.
After a filling lunch, we started the drive down to our hotel. I could see a volcano in the distance. When we started climbing up the mountainside, there were a lot of cabbage farms lining the edge of the road. Due to heavy rains the day before, there had been landslides and fallen trees littered the road. Still, the car ride was beautiful and all that lush green was very soothing to the eyes.
After a long day of travelling, we finally arrived at our hotel, Java Banana. The hotel staff greeted us with a warm glass of jasmine tea. The temperature wasn’t very cold, but we did need a sweater. We were informed that we could go to see the famous Mount Bromo the next morning. Since I had already eaten a heavy lunch, I ended the day with a delicious chocolate lava cake (clearly, volcanoes were on my mind!) and fell asleep.
We woke up at 8:00 am the next day and went to the restaurant for a quick breakfast of eggs, toast and baked beans before heading out to see Mount Bromo. Mount Bromo is an active volcano (last eruption in January, 2011), which spews sulphur fumes. It looked nothing like anything I had seen before! It was majestic, with fumes rising from the crater. I had the option of taking a horse up to the start of the stairs and climb up the 250 steps up to the top of the crater but I decided to walk up all the way. The walk was spectacular. Every fifty steps, I would stop and turn around to enjoy the view. There was a temple in the area, called Bromo temple, but it was closed. When we finally reached the top, everything looked tiny! The fumes engulfed us in a big cloud of smoke. I started coughing since the sulphur was making my throat very itchy. It helped to breathe in through you nose, though, and not through your mouth. We decided to turn around and go back down, but just then a strong gust of wind blew the fumes in the other direction. As soon as the fumes cleared, we took quick pictures of the inside of the crater before making our way back down.
The walk back down was much easier. I was really sad to see that people had littered on the side of the volcano. On my way down, I picked up a small rock that was coated with sulphur, as a souvenir.
We spent the rest of the day resting because we had to wake up at 3:30 in the morning to catch our morning flight back to Singapore. At night, we caught a strong whiff of sulphur. The local people say that the sulphur fumes come down all the way to the villages when there isn’t any rain or wind. People just choose to stay indoors on such days. What a strangely interesting way to end an extraordinary holiday!