Our Journey in Java

The plan was to travel quickly through Java and treat it as a stepping-stone to Sumatra, but boy were we wrong. We decided to extend our stay in Java as we fell in love with the island! Our journey from Bali was on a public bus from Ubung to Mengwi and we were the only foreigners on the bus and was the first time we had a lot of people stare at us in a curious way. We then caught an overnight bus to Probolinggo, which also boarded the ferry across from Bali to Java and symbolized the beginning of the real adventure. There were plenty of stares and at one point Jonny had gone to find the toilet he was then surprised to come back and find me surrounded by a crowd of Javanese teenagers wanting a photo with me! We then got back on the bus to Probolinggo, on the way it stopped and everyone got off and one man realized we didn’t know what was going on and he signalled ‘eat’ to us and we all got off and had some food and had a toilet break as it was well overdue on the 10 hour ride.  The bus driver was a bit crazy and was overtaking in the dark. Finally, we arrived late at night in Probolinggo about 11pm and found somewhere to stay in the city. We slept in the shadow of the majestic Mount Bromo.

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The next day was probably one of our first travel lows. We caught the local bus from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang and had to wait a while till the bus was full. It was about an hour journey winding our way to the top of the hill very close to Mount Bromo. We showed the bus driver where we were staying and he explained that it was 3km back down the hill and refused to take us there! Another old man got involved and said he would not drive and was just laughing at us, a bit frustrated we got off the bus and decided to walk back down the hill to the place on the map where the hotel was located. We walked for about 20 minutes down the hill, being brushed past by motorbikes and trucks and got to the point it was supposed to be…no hotel in sight. The only thing was a small shrine and not a building in site, we sat down and didn’t know what to do. Our bags were so heavy and our shoulders were sore (they weigh around 20kg each and we have smaller rucksacks on our front). We tried to find a number to call the hotel and they didn’t pick up. I suggested we go back up the hill as that was where most of the others got dropped off there and we wanted to get up for sunrise to hike for a view of Mount Bromo and hiking back up this hill at 2am was not looking like a good idea! We braved walking up the hill with our massive banana boat bags and took plenty of rests along the way, one very kind man stopped and realized our pain and he said let me help you with your bags but our bags would not fit on his bike. Jonny then received a phone call from the hotel explaining that they would come and pick us up. We carried on walking to the top of the hill and found a nice place to stay close to the start of our morning hike. The men from the hotel turned up in two scooters and we explained we could not put the bags on the bike as they were too heavy. Lesson learnt: don’t walk down the hill unless you are sure you HAVE to.  We then treated ourselves to a tasty Mie Goreng (fried noodles) and went to bed early for tomorrow’s adventure. 

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We starting hiking uphill at 2:30am in the darkness up the hill to a sunrise viewpoint of Mount Bromo, along the way we met up with some of the friends we met on the bus and decided to stick with them for sunrise. We were lucky as we got a clear morning with not a cloud in sight and it even seemed that Mount Serabu was letting off some steam. Then we ventured on to the crater of Mount Bromo to look into the eye of the volcano.  The smell of sulphur was so strong and edges into the volcano were steep and rugged. It was surreal standing on the edge of an active volcano capable of singeing more than your eyebrows.

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The morning after we caught the bus back with our friends and realized we had booked the same homestay in Probolinggo and planned to get the train together to Jogyakarta for New Years.  We caught a local bus to our homestay and met a very sweet family who asked for photos with us and we also were asked for photos of us holding bananas at the local shop – the celebrity status was just never ending! I’ve never sweated so much having to walk to where were staying and funnily enough when we arrived we met the same man who took us to our hotel on our first night in Probolinggo! That evening we went out for dinner together and around the park square everyone was out in neon lit peddle cars, markets selling food, jewellery, and fun fair rides for kids. The train station exceeded our expectation and was very modern and the train was in a good condition. We then had the challenge of finding somewhere for the night as New Years in Jogyakarta  (also known as Jogja) which we found out is very popular spot among Indonesian’s to come and welcome in the New Year. It is well known for it’s culture and arts and we found somewhere a bit closer to the airport but ventured into the town for the New Years which was fun, everyone was lined up on the streets letting off fireworks and enjoying themselves. What we loved most about Jogja was the people, we were constantly smiled  at and made so many friends which made us feel right at home. We didn’t want to leave which is why extended our stay a little longer. 

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We also explored the local food market one morning for a real experience of the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a large covered building with everything you could think of - peppers, garlic, coconuts and lots of different spices. It was a real assault to your senses and will never forget the sweet people we met there. 

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Arriving in Borobudur was beautiful. The villages surrounding the area were just paradise with rice paddies, rolling hills and palm trees what more could you want?! We could see the majestic Mount Merapi and spent a day learning about the geography in the area and the destruction it caused to the locals in November 2010. We learnt about how they monitor the volcano for inflation of the dome and how they measure this. You could still see damaged buildings and most of the homes we saw had all been newly built. We climbed up as close as we dared for a better view of Indonesia's most violent and active volcano. We stayed at the Plataran resort (blog to follow) with the most spectacular view of Borobudur and surrounded by sweeping green vistas and views of Mount Merapi and Mount Merabu. Java exceeded our expectations and there was much more to it than we realised, the kindness of the people, the richness of the culture and scenery was just perfect, we couldn’t recommend this island enough. 

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Hannah VermanComment