Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Long Road from Bali to Mount Bromo

Ferry ride waiting area as we crossed Bali Strait towards Java.

In the morning, Ubud's Monkey Forest Road looked sedate. After a breakfast of "jaffles" with egg inside, I asked Ketut to drive me to Perama's shuttle bus station (for 20,000 Rp). By 8:30AM, I was on my bus heading back to Kuta, but the streaming scenery of art shops were largely ignored. The next 1 hour or so was the longest, most excruciating ride I've ever had as I needed to pee so bad, and it was embarrassing to stop the huge "van" filled with Caucasians mostly. I heard an Asian guy who was regaling an American with his travels all over the globe. It turns out he is a Filipino web designer who now resides in Vancouver. Funny thing is, he didn't sound like someone who grew up in Vancouver at a young age - more like a Chinese guy speaking English. I didn't butt into their conversation as I was in morbid agony, trying to control my bladder from bursting.

By the time our "bus" parked outside Legian Street's Perama office in Kuta, my knees were weak. I jumped off the bus, gathered my luggage, then braved the street without taking notice to the oncoming motorcycles coming my way. The next succeeding few minutes were the sweetest moments of relief, but the experience left me drained! As I realized later along the way, these darn drivers who do point-to-point trips for foreigners seldom make toilet stops just to get to their destination the fastest possible time. It's just not physiologic - so if you're ever in Indonesia doing these point-to-point shuttle trips, you'd be wiser than consuming and "hydrating" yourself as the books would frequently recommend. Not in Indonesia!

By 10AM, I hopped into a smaller van whose AC wasn't working so we opted to use real-time air, aka wind! There were just 4 of us in the van. I was seated beside a friendly British guy named Tom, from London, who's been traveling for the last 16 months of his life. Fancy a holiday, anyone? He's bound for the Philippines this February 2011 - for a month! The other passengers were a Dutch couple (yes, from Holland, folks) who were lost in their own dreamworld, they had the social quotient of a turnip! They were with me in my Ubud "bus" too, now they are with me on a 9-10 hour journey crossing the Bali Straits and onward to Mount Bromo (which is an active volcano).

Now if you were too lucky - like me - you'd get stuck with these easily "stuck-up" Dutch couple who at any moment would suddenly lurch into a Dutch duet, I somehow suspected they were under the influence of that medical condition called out of tune. LOL. Now, wait up. I am not done. If you think I'd get rid of them after Bromo, the Gods are actually making follies this time to amuse me. Perhaps to send a message? My Ubud tour was with a shy British and a friendly Dutch. This leg of trip is with a friendly Brit (Tom) - a huge Manny Pacquiao fan, he swore he'd buy Manny's CD and a shirt - and a charmless, albeit Barbie-and-Ken isolationist Dutch couple. But just read further cause I would have several laughs along the way.

From 10AM, we headed northwest to get to Gilimanuk where the ferries are to cross the Bali channel to Java's Banyuwangi Pier. The ferry ride was scenic and pleasant - and took 1 hour. I've met several Indonesians who engaged me in pleasant conversations. I was told I'd be crossing through several towns/cities: Banyuwangi, Situ Bondo, Probolinggo, then Cemora Lawang.

Upon reaching the Javan port at Banyuwangi, time moved 1 hour earlier (3PM became 2PM), and off we headed north. This time around, it wasn't our need for the use of a toilet that's troubling us but starvation. The driver informed us upon reaching Gilimanuk in Bali that we were to have our lunch in Java, so I didn't get lunch from the ferry which looked delicious - and, more importantly, very cheap! I was close to prostrating in my seat from hunger. Do you know what time we were taken to a roadside restaurant? Lunch at 5PM! In a restaurant in the middle of nowhere - so us stupid foreigners - hungry as a lion - could eat a horse, would pay for the exorbitant rates this "savior" of a restaurant is offering. It was an interesting experience.

After the "hearty meal", we left Situ Bondo. We were told we'd be in Probolinggo at around 7-7:30PM where we were gonna change vehicles that would take us further up the mountains, at the slope of Mount Bromo.

I wasn't even sure if we'd get a cheap hotel, since I didn't wanna pay an exorbitant amount for a place I'd stay in for only 8-10 hours. But after a harrowing snaky tortuous course with a mad driver running 70kph (he would shut his headlights along the way without even stopping or slowing the car down) and we all would stop breathing for a few precious seconds of our precious lives.

We finally reached Cemora Lawang, this small mountain community that's closest to Mount Bromo! I was earlier warned by some of my Indonesian friends at the boat - "It's so cold there it cuts like a knife!" But I was ready. This couldn't be colder than Kathmandu which I visited same time last year.

We were taken to this hotel - Yoschi Hotel, which I've actually read about, but isn't among Lonely Planet's anointed ones. Yoschi, quaint and homey (if a little too basic - you could hear someone farting next door, or the salient moans of a distressed traveler), is run by an Indonesian-German couple, and the place is a little Indonesian paradise up the slopes. Trouble is, if you don't have a vehicle, it's a 5 kilometer walk up to the turn where you start trekking towards the viewpoint of Bromo!

And wait, there's another minor news - Mount Bromo exploded yesterday! And it is actively spewing sulfur!

This is the Eye in the Sky!


pamatayhomesick said...

nice capture pards.. elib ako sa photo.:)

eye in the sky said...

salamat po.