In September 2015, a friend and I decided to take some time off work and explore the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, home of the famous Mt. Bromo in Indonesia.
Many people would take a day tour in the national park, going around in a jeep. Or staying a night in one of the many hotels in the park, still going around in a jeep. We decided to take the road less traveled however, staying 2 nights and hiking to the viewpoint and the caldera. This had the benefit of avoiding crowds, so we found it a more comfortable way to enjoy what the park had to offer. I found that the park had so much more than the typical pictures of the volcanoes we usually see.
Coming from Yogyakarta by local train, it was 10pm by the time we got to the hotel. We set off for a sunrise hike after napping for a few hours, came back down after sunrise for breakfast, continued our nap, then hiked down to the caldera after lunch. We stayed in the caldera till sunset. Most people on the jeeps would visit the caldera after sunrise viewing from the same jeeps, so being at the caldera in the afternoon means you'll probably have less chances of encountering a crowd.
For viewing the famous landscape of Mt Bromo you often see in articles and magazines, the Seruni viewpoint is only accessible by foot and was significantly less crowded than the main one (Penanjakan Viewpoint 1) everyone goes to by jeep. "Significantly" is probably an understatement...I counted 10 people at the most, including us. We took about 1.5 hours from the hotel to the viewpoint. It is a relatively manageable hike on well paved roads and steps, only made challenging by it being on a continuous incline. Having less-than-average cardiovascular fitness at the time, I would say I almost died but it was worth it :P I don't think you'll have a problem!
But then again, I found the following image on Google Maps at the same viewpoint with quite a number more people, so your mileage may vary if your main intention is to avoid crowds. Still, this pales in comparison to the crowds Viewpoint 1 is known for :)
We made the hike up in the darkness at 3.30am, armed only with a torch. This was sufficient, and the only thing I was worried about, since it was so dark, was seeing things I should not be seeing LOL.
From friends' anecdotes, there are some tour operators which may bring you to alternative, less crowded viewpoints like King Kong Hill rather than Penanjakan 2, but I do not have any personal experience with them. Your comments are very much appreciated if you have been to any of the other viewpoints! :)
The national park offered some of the best sunrise landscapes I have in my collection:
You'll come across a few huts like this on your way up...Makciks (middle-aged Indonesian ladies) setting up a stall in the middle of the night, so they can offer you snacks, a cup of hot drink, and a small bonfire by which you can warm yourselves. I can't emphasize how comforting the hot Milo drink was in the cold of the night! I had a decent mug for 5000 rupiah :) If your cardiovascular fitness is less-than-average like me and you decide to give up hiking, you can also view the sunrise from the fences near the hut. Not the best viewpoint but a decent one if you're too tired!
The hike up, though challenging (for me), is also filled with lovely views you'll have the chance of admiring on your way back down when the sun is up:
Enough of views from above - down to the caldera we go!
Welcome to the Sea of Sand :)
You could almost film a mini Mad Max series here:
You can walk along the safety barricades built at the crater:
If you're going to be at the crater at sunset, you'll definitely not be able to make it back to your hotel (or out of the caldera) on your own before dark. There are no lights in the vast, empty moonscape after dusk, and you'd likely have major problems finding the trail. So you could do what we did - making a deal with a ojek (motorbike taxi) to fetch us at 6.30pm near the crater. We paid 50,000 rupiah for 2 people (sharing one bike, making it 3 of us on the bike with the ojek). Make sure you fix a proper meeting point both parties could get to though (like the Pura Luhur Poten perhaps), we almost missed him because there was some miscommunication about the meeting point and it was almost dark by the time we spotted the little bonfire he had set up to keep himself warm. We could have ended up spending a night in the outdoors...
The caldera is occasionally closed in times of increased volcanic activity, so if you're planning a trip, make sure you check before you go! I found the Wikitravel page for the park to be a great source of information. They also put up notices on the page in the event that access is restricted.
As a parting note, I would also like to highlight that fortunately, there was a public toilet available on our hike up. However, it was nothing more than a wooden stall with a hole in the ground (sufficient though), and we had to cross a rickety wooden bridge shown below. Seems like they are building new, shinier cubicles you don't need a bridge to access though, so maybe you'd be in better luck than us.
The average human has a short term memory duration of 15-30 seconds. Because the author may have a below-average short term memory duration, she prefers to capture the things she sees with her camera.