We all have our reasons why we travel on a holiday. The reasons vary with age. Nothing could be more horrific than having a group of people who travel together who don’t share the same reason. We were a family of four, including my husband, daughter and mother in law. My 14 year old daughter, Akanksha’s idea of a holiday is to wake late, hit the pool, play the piano, eat good food, take pictures for instagram and listen to music on her iPod. Our reason as a couple was to discover a new city, visit the sights, enjoy the road trip that throws you in a confined space for hours at stretch when you have no other option but talk to each other. Of course good food and photos are a given. My mother in law is enthusiastic about travelling. She does not let her age or health interfere in the enthusiasm. She wants to go anywhere we take her before ‘her day is near’. And if there are dilapidated ruins of a Hindu temple in the itinerary then she definitely wants in!
Day 2 of our holiday began early. Very early. Right there you have a reason why our daughter was not too happy. We were scheduled to be at the point of view to watch the sunrise at Mt.Bromo as early as 5 am. The drive from the hotel to the point of view was a little over an hour. We had to drive on a stretch of sandy caldera in the dark. Dark kind of described Akank’s mood as well since she had lost her protest about wanting to stay back and miss the grand event.
There were other 4 X 4 Toyotas and two wheelers that were on the road and everybody seemed to be heading the same way as us. The sunrise we witnessed from the point of view has to be experienced because no words can do justice to the description. The valley below glimmered. We saw the rays of the sun exactly the way a renowned artist would draw them in his masterpiece. Breathtaking. Everyone was going crazy with their cameras, iPads and iPhones. Thank fully the event was so dramatic that it cheered up Akank as well.
Our next stop was at the mouth of the crater on Mt.Bromo. This needed us to get back into the jeep and drive another 6 kms towards the foot of Mt. Bromo. The jeep took us to 3/4th distance to the foot of Mt. Bromo. From there we had to go on horseback. The horse ride was an adventure by itself. The black volcanic sandy ground that the horse had to tread on was uneven and that made it extra challenging, and not just for the horse. The local tribes who owned the horses walked the horse slowly and surely as we rode on them. My only thoughts were to stay on the horse all the time or risk being trampled upon by the other horses that were behind us.
Akank and GSR seemed to mount and dismount the horses like it was second nature to them. When I mounted the horse, I held on to the halter that made the poor horse rear up and neigh! (My imagination was unbridled – In my mind I was already galloping towards the crater with one of my foot in the stirrup and the rest of me being dragged on the black sand) Nonetheless, nothing dramatic happened and we soon found ourselves at the foot of the mountain from where we had 250 concrete steps to climb to reach the mouth of the crater.
My lungs were overworked and it was a test of cardio vascular fitness that when I reached the top, I had to stop and catch my breath before I let the crater take my breath away. What a sight. Who would have imagined that I would one day stand at the mouth of an active crater looking into it and clicking pictures of it, surviving it to write about it on my blog? Blessed are the ways of Lord Srinivasa.
We got back to the hotel hungry for a decent breakfast and shower before we left for our next leg of sightseeing for the day.
Our next stop was the old dilapidated remains of the temple of Singosari, the oldest Hindu kingdom in Java. No points for guessing whose day was made. Many damaged stone sculptures of Hindu Gods were still displayed in the complex. Sam told us that most of the damage was done by volcanic eruptions and not Hindu- Muslim enmity as you would like to imagine. So far, from what I observed, Javanese people seemed peace loving and not fanatic about their religion or practices.
We were on road the rest of the day, driving towards Malang, our next destination. Sam kept us engaged in small talk the entire time. He was a proud Javanese man and had only good things to talk about his country and his fellow countrymen. Java according to Sam has one of the most fertile lands on Earth (I double checked the claim and Google confirmed that land near volcanoes are considered to be the most fertile soils.) Java has over 40 mountains – 15 of which are in East Java – of which half of them volcanoes and half of those volcanic mountains are active.
According to Sam the people of Java are very industrious and get involved in anything that can make them money. Make a note Monster.com; you seem to have missed out Java in your survey. We passed a lot of small shops on wheels on the roadsides and many of them had “Kunci” written on them. Sam told us that the word meant keys and all those little kiosks made spare keys. If you counted the number of Kunci’s we passed, it would seem that there were many people losing keys in Java.
It was nearly evening when we reached Malang. Malang is the second largest city after Surabaya and has a reputation of being Indonesia’s center for higher education and learning. It has over 15 Universities and most of them along the prestigious Ijen Boulevard that is also lined with old colonial Dutch houses. Sam pointed out to a few students and called them mahasiswas (students of the university).
We checked into The Hotel Tugu late in the evening and were quite intrigued to find out why Tripadvisor that had given the hotel 4.5 stars. I have pictures of the hotel to share, so will make that a separate post.