21-Feb-2005 -- Having spent nearly five years in Balikpapan, Indonesia, I had not yet visited one of its most famous volcanoes, Mount Bromo. When my cousin Guy called me Thursday evening, inviting me to spend the next weekend there, I only hesitated a few seconds. Guy worked in Balikpapan thirty years ago, where he met his wife. He is now retired and they spend a month each year in his wife's home town. On Friday I got the tickets while Guy arranged for accomodation and ground transportation and on Saturday morning we were off to Surabaya. In the meantime, I had checked that there is an unreported confluence in the area, which we might be able to visit with a bit of luck.
Guy had already visited Mount Bromo 25 years earlier from the north-east (Cemoro Lawang) and wanted to try something different this time. So we had booked a hotel in Tosari, on the north-west side. We arrived there around 12:30. After lunch, we drove to the top of Mount Penanjakan, on the north rim of the caldera for a view. No view at all, but clouds all around us. We then drove down to the bottom of the caldera, to the foot of Bromo. On the way up to the crater we bought bouquets of flowers, which we then threw into the crater to propitiate the local gods (pictures 3 and 4).
Sunday morning, we got up at 4 and drove to the top of Mount Penanjakan for a sunrise view of the caldera. The place, which was deserted on Saturday afternoon, was rather crowded, mostly with high school and university students on a day-trip from the coast. After a breakfast of instant noodles at a local shop, we walked down to Cemoro Lawang on the east rim of the caldera, then down to the bottom of the caldera, up to and around the crater of Mount Bromo, and back to the parking area near the temple where transportation had been arranged.
Picture 1 was taken on the way down from Penanjakan and shows the center of the caldera from the north. The inactive cone in the foreground is Gunung Batok. The active crater to left is Gunung Bromo. Behind them is a very large, inactive crater, which marks the center of the caldera and in the background, twenty kilometers away, is Mount Semeru, another active volcano. The south rim of the caldera is visible on the left.
Picture 2 shows the bottom of the caldera, on the east side of Bromo. Cemoro Lawang is on the east rim, on the left side. The south rim, nearly ten kilometers away, marks the horizon. The confluence is straight ahead, about four kilometers beyond the rim.
Early Monday morning, we were driven to the bottom of the caldera once more. The plan was to walk all the way around the rim of the caldera, to Gubuk Klakah on the west side of the Bromo Tengger Semeru national park, where we had arranged for a taxi to pick us up. We walked back up to Cemoro Lawang and followed the east rim. Before reaching the south rim the trail went down a bit and then up very steeply. It was not easy going as this section of trail going up to the south rim is obviously not used much and somtimes disappears altogether. At the top of the south rim, we found a good trail, which soon led us to the small shrine shown on picture 5. The ridge we just climbed is visible in the background.
At that point we were about 4.5 kilometers as the crow flies from the confluence. Picture 6 shows the outside of the rim in a southerly direction. The confluence is there somewhere, and the ground is very steep. A local we met at that point told us that there is a village named Arkosari, about one hour's walk away, which can be reached by motor vehicle. The confluence might be accessible from there. At that stage, we still had about twenty kilometers to go, so there was no time to attempt a visit to the confluence.
We continued on the south rim, and got as close as about 3.5 kilometers from the confluence. Seven or eight kilometers onwards, we reached the end of the caldera and a narrow paved road that is used to reach Mount Semeru. Picture 7 is a view of the caldera and the south rim from the west. From the bottom of the caldera (called sea of sand, or laut pasir), it is nearly 500 meters up to the top of the rim. A few kilometers further on the paved the road, we hitched a ride on a pick-up truck, which took us all the way to Gubuk Klakah, saving us 10 kilometers walk with nearly 1000 meters elevation drop (the GPS receiver was still on). I guess that the 20 thousand rupiahs we spent on flowers to throw into the crater was a good investment.
Recommendations for future attempts.
Picture 8 shows the roads we drove on an the trails we walked. The perimeter of the caldera is cleary seen on this plot. The confluence is at bottom right.
Starting from Cemoro Lawang is probably not the best option. It would be better to obtain a good map of the south side of the caldera and get as close as possible to the confluence point by car.
If attempting from Cemoro Lawang anyway, do not follow the east ridge as we did. Go down to the bottom of the caldera to the south rim. There is a well-traveled path that goes up from there to the shrine. It is still a 500-meter climb, but it is probably a lot easier than the way we went. South of the rim, it looks very steep. Counting the contour lines on a good map of the Bromo area we had, I would guess the confluence is about 1000 meters down from the top. Good luck!