Thursday, November 24, 2011

East Java highlights

29.-31.10.: Probolinggo and Ceromo Lawang

The train ride to Probollinggo from Banyuwangi took 7 hours, and we saw a lot of pretty countryside pass by. It would probably have been nice to spend a few days there, but this region is an empty, white speck in Footprints Southeast Asia. The food we packed before getting onto the train - mystery rice from the same people we drank coffee with, before - was an unnecessary precaution, because the train was regularly visited by hawkers, whose prices generally aren't above the usual street level, and who pack a variety of interesting snacks, which should cost no more than Rp3000 a bag. The hawkers navigated the already full train. It seems school's out by 12 here, as there were a lot of school girls I'd put into medium to late secondary school, age wise.

In Probolinggo, 7pm is too late for bemos, and we took a becak (bicycle rickshaw, Rp15k for the both of us, haggle hard) to get to a hotel 3km from the station, Hotel Ratna. Rp100k got us a room with fan, shower, western toilet with its toilet seat (the absence of which usually makes "western toilets" in Indonesia more unhygienic and uncomfortable than the local crouching mandis), TV (one program, Indonesian) and breakfast (kopi, almost raw toast with butter and badly made jam, hard boiled egg and a fork and soup spoon that was too large for the egg, no knife. I guess the thought counts, but I usually prefer Nasi Goreng for breakfast here, they can handle that).

Met a couple of Indonesians and two Saudis at a public viewing of the Arsenal-Chelsea game that evening, and ended up having a drink with the Indonesians. Coffee, of course, as everyone here but a small smattering around old Hindu holy places is Muslim. Their English was far better than my bahasa indonesia, so we could talk about a fairly diverse range of topics, but once again, as with Rica and Waia, the fact that Germany only has one language with dialects was a difficult concept. Indonesia has at least a dozen more common ones.

The next day we caught a bemo to the bus station of Probolinggo, a place known for inflating it's prices and the thieves on busses frequented by tourists. We wanted to get to Cemoro Lawang, a village at the edge of a giant volcanic crater turned plain in which a couple of volcanoes stand around, including the famous Gunung Bromo, a Hindu holy place (Cemoro Lawang is populated almost entirely by Hindus).

We arrived at the station around 9:30am, let us be guided into a bemo, our backpacks put on top, for the price of Rp25k. Then we waited. An waited. After half an hour, another passenger, Indonesian. Then the driver shoes us into the bus. Joy! We're finally leaving! Alas, it was a false alarm: For a reason I cannot fathom, the driver wanted us on board for picking up another tourist from a hotel a whopping 500m away, then turned around and drove back to the station. Waiting again. Met a German family (kids grown up) who had met up for Java with their daughter and her British boyfriend, who had been traveling Indonesia for two months. They also wanted to go to Cemoro Lawang, thus filling up the bus nicely, but wanted a price of Rp15k, which the driver was unwilling to give. After dithering and insisting forever, they told him they'd pay Rp25k only if he did not stop along the way to pick up passengers, effectively chartering the bus. Otherwise, they said, they'd only pay Rp20k a person. Thanks to that, we left only around 12 o'clock, although the crowd of locals that suddenly appeared out of nowhere may have meat there was enough people all along, or that the bus only goes at 12. On leaving, we had around 17 people aboard a Mitsubishi Colt, a minivan the size of a VW bus. Of course, the driver stopped, which was commented with a contented "Jetzt gibt's nur noch 20." from the Germans. The muttered "Das macht er extra!" (That's on purpose) when the bus stopped to fill up petrol was a little bit over the top though. The ride itself took 1.5hours, past hillsides continuously terraced not with rice, but with onions and cabbages.

Booked the cheapest place we could find, a 3-bed, two bedroom building with a sitting room up front, and an external bathroom, for Rp80k, a definite rise. No service, of course, but for some reason it was cheaper than single rooms, external bathroom, belonging to the same person.

Just afterwards we met two Germans, Vic and Hendrik, who had come up with the next bus (for Rp25k, must be the correct price) and just had booked another place to stay. Too late to move in with us, but we nevertheless set a date for the evening meal at the warung next to our place - right at the start of the right hand of the only branching of roads in Cemoro Lawang, when going up - the food's good.

To see the sun rise over the volcanic valley (not over Gunung Bromo itself, that point lies far afield) you get up at 3:30 to 4am, depending on your walking speed, and head up the road, ever along, past two gaggles of coffee- and snacks stands, and countless offers of ojek- and horse rides, until you reach a third group of stands, which signifies the second (and definitely better) lookout point

After the sunrise (partly hidden by clouds, but the part where the sun beams hit Bromo was pretty neat, with our coffee in our hands), we headed further up the hill - quite a climb, don't try this in thongs - and started walking around the edge of the crater, which also happened to be the ridge of a string of mountains on this side (while Cemoro Lawang lies on a plateau that falls off into the great crater). Sometimes, we even had enough of a path so we could walk instead of climb! Lots of fun, and pretty sights in both directions, into the crater and to the fertile and densely populated plain on the other, northern side. Just when the view started t get boring, we found a road heading down into the crater, and took it, passing another slew of buses and jeeps ferrying tourists back, doubtless from other sunrise-viewpoints.

After a brunch at the warung next door, we took the 12 o'clock bus down to Probolinggo, with Vic and Hendrik. Down there, we got bus tickets for a night bus to Solo (Surakarta), a big hassle, with shopping around, and bargaining hard, we got a price of Rp80k instead of Rp120k, but, unlike we were told, no a/c. The bus did drop us off at the hotel, though, a nice touch. Vic and Hendrik went east, practically skipping Bali for Lombok, Flores and so on. Since the night bus would go at 8, we started looking for supper around the terminal, where basic meals cost Rp15k - the reputation for gouging travelers is well deserved, it seems, because we got the same kind of meal for Rp5k about 500m down the road, at a tiny warung with friendly people, where the 7 year old daughter enlisted Doro for her English homework. The baby always started crying when I tried to play with her, though.

A post about Solo's next, whenever I can get it finished. No p[ics this time, although I've got them here, but this pc is infested

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Andy! This trip is truly THE adventure. I'm so proud of you both and happy for you that you are doing this.