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Across Java

Esther 0

Last updated on 1st December 2019


My time in Indonesia was very tight. As a tourist, I am allowed to stay in the country for 30 days. There are so many amazing things to see and so many experiences waiting . So I had to make a decision on what to see and what to skip. Unfortunately, with everything I saw, I got many new ideas of places worth visiting…. Again I was not lucky with the weather, but if time is tight it is not always possible to wait until the rain stops. Anyway, I decided to see at least one volcano in Java and chose Mt. Bromo, and I wanted to see the Tempuk Sewu Waterfalls. I found an organized tour that would bring me to both destinations and also include Mt. Ijen, the volcano with the famous acid lake and the blue sulphur flames at night.  All this in four days so that I could head to Bali afterwards and would still have enough time left to see Komodo Island with its famous dragons and go diving there. Shortly after I had booked the tour I was informed that Mt. Ijen was closed for tourist visits due to the forest fires. I could hardly believe it. But so it was, no Mt. Ijen for me. I felt so unlucky again. During the trip it turned out to be in favour of the Mt.Bromo excursion because I had more time there.

Strategically I thought the best is to start from Surabaya so I booked a flight from Medan and stayed there for one day before I was picked up from the hotel to set off to the waterfalls. The day was very hot and I could not persuade myself to have a lengthy sightseeing in the town. I just walked up to the big square with the Heroes Monument and back. Surabaya is a big city and has a lot in common with Medan, like the insane traffic situation or the pollution problem. And again, I was warned to be careful already by the bus driver who took me from the airport into town. But I have only met nice people, like the postman Bimo, who invited me to try a traditional Indonesian drink, and a police officer, who helped me with my choice for lunch. And Bimo was it who told me that it is unusual hot weather. He said they are waiting for the rain season to start and just before it starts the weather becomes really hot. It was the 31 October. I did not know that I don’t have to wait very long for the rain to start.

Rainbow Village, Malaka

I was picked up at the hotel in the morning of 1 November. Today the trip lead to a village nearby the Tumpak Sewu Waterfall. I would stay there one night and get up very early in the morning to see the waterfalls during sunrise. There is one road from Surabaya that leads to the waterfalls. It passes Malaka, a rather small town, that has an interesting attraction worth visiting: the rainbow village (Kampung Pelangi). Creative locals had decided to paint their village in bright colours trying to attract tourists who usually were only passing by on their way to waterfalls or volcanoes. And the plan worked! A former poor Indonesian neighbourhood is now attracting people to take pictures on its new unusual background. No part of the village was left untouched. Located on a hillside above a river the community has created quite a spectacular view that looks like a scene from a cartoon or a fairy-tale. 

Tumpak Sewu Waterfall

Tumpak Sewu waterfall is supposed to be one of the most impressive in Indonesia. The water falls in many little but strong streams down a cliff that looks like a huge hole into a deep canyon. My aim was to be at the waterfalls viewpoint at sunrise for the wonderful lightning at this time, and then climb down into the canyon and see both the Tumpak Sewu Waterfall and the Goa Tetes waterfall next to it.

A young Malaysian woman had joined me for the waterfall exploration. She had booked with the same tour operator. We stayed at a very nice homestay nearby that had beautiful bungalows built from Bamboo. Java time is one hour behind Malaysian time therefore sunrise is around 5 am in the morning. Consequently, I went to bed very early to be up on time. But it started to rain during the night: just on time with my arrival the wet season started. At five in the morning, rain was still heavy and we sat waiting. After breakfast the chance came at around 6:30 and we set off for the waterfalls viewpoint. But we did not see much. It was all misty, cold and still rainy. And it was cold: I was wearing my raincoat and a thin jumper underneath.

The trail down into the canyon is next to the viewpoint. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk down into the canyon and then about another 10 minutes to walk through the canyon to the waterfall. The trail down is pretty adventurous with bamboo ladders, sometimes only ropes for support, and sections where we were climbing through small streams. The entire path was very slippery and the rain made it worse. It was a good choice that I had put on my hiking shoes, even if they were completely soaked after short time.

Once we reached the canyon we turned to the right for Tumpak Sewu. On the left is a sign pointing the way to Goa Tetes waterfall. After crossing a tiny bridge and wading through the stream once more we turned around the final corner and stood in amazement at the foot of the incredible Tumpak Sewu Waterfall. Despite the mist and rain, we could get a sense of the magic of this place. Many small different waterfalls are plummeting from high above down into the cauldron where we were standing in awe. The rain had added a lot of water to the falls and it was impossible to say if it was rain or mist from the falls that filled the entire canyon and made us dripping with water. My rain jacket successfully withstood all the water and so did the rain protection for my backpack in which I had stored my camera.

We turned back and took the path to the Goa Tetes waterfalls. These falls are basically a collection of powerful streams that storm down the high rock walls. On its way, the water had washed out many pools and caves and filled them with water. Our guide knew them all, pools and caves. We put our bags at a safe and less wet place and jumped into the pools, stood under the falling water and climbed up streams into caves of all sizes. One particular cave was filled with water up to my shoulders but still, we could move into it and come out at another part directly under the falls. It was amazing and we had so much fun exploring the glory of this falls and enjoy the view from high up. But it is very slippery, and it needs very good attention when climbing. Despite my hiking shoes I once slipped and the guide, who tried to hold me, fell with me. Nothing serious happened. But it was the last hike for my trousers.

For the way up and back to the viewpoint, we climbed the up the walls of the Goa Tetes falls on a wooden ladder. This way was as adventurous as the way we came, slippery and wobbly but holding our weights. We completed an absolutely amazing, thrilling and fun adventure at the most amazing falls I have seen until now. I would say that the falls are a MUST SEE in Java, and for the fun part, Eldy as a guide will be the best choice – he will show you where to put your feet to be safe and also he knows every rock and every hole, and how to backflip into the pools!

Sunrise at Mt. Bromo

Mount Bromo is an active volcano. It is relatively easy accessible and happens to be surrounded by several other volcanoes creating one of the most magnificent landscapes existing on the planet: It lies in the middle of a huge crater called the ‘Sea of Sand’, which is part of the protected Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. There are a total of five volcanoes inside the crater including Mount Bromo (2,329m). It made a perfect destination for me to see one of the active Indonesian volcanoes. I had booked a typical jeep tour to see the sunrise from one of the viewpoints around the crater revealing slowly that extraordinary landscape, and then drive into the Sea of Sand and summit Mount Bromo itself.

It took the entire afternoon to drive all the way from the Tumpak Sewu Waterfall to the little village Cemoro Lewang as the road is always very busy. We had accommodation in a friendly homestay. The rain was following me. In the late afternoon it started to rain, and again, mist and fog were so dense that the landscape around was hidden. And it was even colder here.

The wake up call was at 3am in the morning. The rain had not stopped yet. We drove up to the gates anyway, being one of many other jeeps, and stopped at Love Hill viewpoint. But as we did not know the area and we also did not see anything, we actually walked all the way from Love Hill to King Kong Hill viewpoint hoping for a better view. It was a 4km walk during which the sun must have risen because darkness faded. But mist and fog remained. When we eventually arrived the rain became even stronger so that we could not see anything. Like many other tourists, we sat in one of the shelters sipping a cup of hot coffee to warm up. Eventually, the rain faded and we could walk back. On the way, we were picked up by our guide who was not very happy that we had spent so much time walking.

We drove into the sea of sand and were given the direction in which we would find Mt. Bromo. There were horses available to take tourists up that mountain. But we did not take one as the way was easy walking. Only the final stairs up to the summit require some stamina. We had no luck, it was still misty and we did not even see the volcano standing next to us. We climbed Mt. Bromo to have a look into its crater but it was as foggy as the rest of the area. We could not distinguish between the steam from the volcano and the clouds from the rain. With disappointment we turned back to the homestay.

We were supposed to leave towards Bali Island this afternoon but I decided to change plan and stay another night to give Mt. Bromo a second chance. Luckily this was no problem for neither the agency nor the homestay. We utilized the afternoon to take a jeep again and drove into the sea of Sand and the Savana. Both areas are inside the big crater surrounding Mt. Bromo and the other volcanoes. Luckily the rain had stopped and occasionally some sunrays found their way through the clouds. The visibility was good enough to realise being inside a huge ancient crater with steep walls. It was an amazing place to be, and I felt so small inside this massive monument of nature. I climbed the rocks and volcano slopes here and there where it was not too steep and enjoyed the magnificent view.

At the next morning at 3am I was ready to go for the sunrise again and this time there was no rain. We drove to Seruni point, another viewpoint little below King Kong Hill which can be accessed by car, no jeep needed. I had to walk the final steps and stairs up the mountain until I reached the platform just in time to see the horizon changing colour.

The morning mist was hanging in the air and gave the entire scene a mysterious atmosphere. The sky changed from dark red to orange and finally the sun came out, first reddish but with time more and more yellow. It revealed a surreal landscape that looked like from another planet. There was a huge crater in front of me and in it I saw a few smaller craters. The small crater in the foreground with some smoke was Mt. Bromo. The rising sun changed the colour of the scene all the time and I was amazed looking at it. I could see the place in the Savana where I was the day before in the afternoon. I could see the sea of sand and the entire crater of Mt. Bromo with an even bigger volcano next to it which was hidden in the mist the day before. It was epic. With the rising sun the morning fog slowly disappeared. Two hours later no cloud was left and the volcanoes lay exposed in their full beauty in front of me. So beautiful! I realised that King Kong Hill viewpoint was just above me. I believe that is the best point to watch the sunrise.

Absolutely happy, amazed, excited and satisfied I left the little homestay two hours later towards Bali. We drove the road along the north coast towards the ferry harbour in Banyuwangi. We passed Probollingo on our way. As this was my drivers hometown we stopped because he wanted to show me the red church. Apart from this interruption the road drive was pretty boring. There was nothing to see and movement was slow as traffic is crazy. It is the only road in this part of the island going east. I arrived at the ferry at around 6-ish. It took the ferry another hour to cross. Now in Bali it was one hour later as this part of Indonesia has another time zone. Despite the late hour I managed to find a bus going in the direction of Denpasar, and from the bus terminal I took a Grab. Shortly after midnight I checked in my hotel in Kuta.

Red Church Probollingo
Red Church in Probollingo

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