When Life Happens in Bromo: Her Story

Milk of Thy Kindness
3:00 am

It must have been a little more than 2 hours when finally I was able to sleep. My eye lids are still tightly sealed, but my nose is the first to be awakened by the damp moisture in my blanket. It smells like a putrid gas of burnt incense, very vaguely though, accompanied by a cheap note of jasmine. Neither is a favourite. Last night was rough; I could hardly kept my eyes close, even though I have tried to kept my ears as far from the wall, it was useless. The ruckus from the thin bamboo wall of our neighbouring room continued throughout the night as far as I was awake and now. All sleepers in this little inn did not sign up for a peaceful sleep for sure, they are waiting,waiting to be elsewhere calm and serene.  I just wished I had a good night  sleep even for few hours.Ugh its time, I begrudgingly roll to the other side of the bed, and slipped into my comfiest pants and sweater. It’s better to dress warm than being sorry later, its 5 degree they said.

3:15am The parking area is full with jeeps, in arrays of colours. This is the only way other than walking, a passenger like us can get to the mountain. Vaguely I reconstruct the presence of Bromo and its clan from the dim lights in front of the lobby. I cant even contained the grandeur of it as it gives me goosebumps.  Our drivers waves at us in front of the pale yellow and blue jeep. I missed the introduction and snatched the front seat knowing that it would be a bumpy road and am not too good with excessive motion in the morning.  The rocky roads soon turned into seas of sands. Off-road, and unleveled, the journey ahead is promising if I can see something.

Setiawan our driver is very quiet and skilful. I kept on trying to  read his face expression, and have a mental picture of how he looks like. Its too pitch black, I cant tell . He rolled down his scarf every now and then, and often I catch a glimpse of a scary glow from passing lights making Setiawan shadows mimicking something straight out of a horror movie. Still I feel my imagination was a fun friend to accompany this morning ride. I feel safe though, knowing Setiwan should be one of the best. He is the nephew of  Pak To ( Mr.To), the driver ahead of us. Not only his name bears magic in this area Pak To is highly revered, a true descendant of local Tengger people, and the leader of the jeep coop, he knows every inches of his land, even right now as  the sun is asleep. 8 years on the road, he told me, No wonder he can overcome every unexpected steep turns with a single hand on the wheel. By this time I was so wide awake. The dancy, zig zag maneuver  makes it hard to see whats ahead of us.

A sturdy  presence of Mount Batok on my  left window gives me a sense of height. I look up to the front and behind the bushes of trees, I catch a glimpse of light travelling in groups progressing to the sky. I tell myself :this is how low we are now, that’s how high we are going to be. That thought really excites me.


 We are on the paved road once again, driving around the mountain to reach Pananjakan. At this point Mount Batok is disappearing from my view. As we go higher, the expectation is getting real because the area is getting brighter too. Soon, we see rows of jeeps being park on each side of the road.  The air is getting thinner,and my heart is beating faster not of excitement, maybe a little bit, more because I can’t breathe. This is it, from here on its you and your feet I said to myself.

I was wrong. To our surprise, it could have been thousands of people already, standing around the fenced wall, some even slipped through the border and mark their own territory, squatting on the other side of the wall. Purely dangerous, but I wouldn’t say stupid either because otherwise whats left is there to see?When I finally am able to take  a glimpse of the view, I know that I have to make it to the east wing of the wall for that gorgeous view. A spot finally opened up after a group of high school friends agreed to move to the other side, because according to one of their friend the sun rises on the other side.I  chuckled and quickly claim my spot.


5:30amVery close to the sky  in the background is The Semeru, towering above Mt. Widodaren in front of him. Stand erected proudly to caress the rest of his clan. I see Mount Batok and his woody legs shows off his brazen strength as if he is there to guard Mount Bromo with every intent.I almost feel I can touch the gritty texture of the mountain side. Bromo, the shortest among all,has got the fiercest character. Looking like someone has chopped its head, and still breathing,it stares at me with such a deep mystery.


For the first time I understood why we used the symbol of mountains in a lot of things. It is sacred, and peaceful, the place where Javanese believes their gods rest, but in the same time the force of nature, not to be reckoned with, these mountains could cough up its wrath any minute, and make everything else a history. It is breathing, and alive. So  hard to imagine that  it is, but the smoke of Bromo is blowing at ease. Ever so slowly, ever so elegantly, ever so still. Bromo looks like the icing on top of a very large cake with a creamy cotton candy , a size of my palm from where I stand, but yet I feel so small, so unworthy of this grandiose experience. Colors are opening up as the sun reveals herself to the mountains. Intense streaks of paints ,so surreal, straight out of a dream,one that is complex to digest dances slowly changing its mood. Unplugged, I savour the moment for myself, despite the unruly selfies stick everywhere.


6:30am“Darkness is the absence of light”. Truly, what a lively scene when the light is settling in. The light gave away those shadows its face, and those faces, the story. Some just a visitor, some more desperate than others, some relies on the benevolent helps from tou rists to make a living. I respond to the call, and gave a lady Rp 5000 to borrow her Edelweiss flower that she has been trying to sell.

As everyone is satisfied with their photo ops, our journey ahead to Mount Bromo continues through a plane of sand fields. Widi, has been waiting for me patiently on the other end of this desert. His guardian, a man in a mud boots with scarf and hat is squinting his eyes waiting. Widi will be my companion or more my saviour to take me up to Bromo. as the journey is not fit for all men. I finally was able to get on top of him after such struggle and causing Mas ( the guardian) stunned because I kicked him lightly,on his back.  I apologised profusely as I felt a great discomfort for the first few minutes for being a terrible horse rider. 2 feet taller above the sands, I was finally at ease with myself and Widi, pretending I am pretty good at this. 

“Please put your weight to the back when we are ascending Mas said.”

What do you… before I know it I felt my balance was teasing me and there was no saving it,Bruukkkk….

 I fell to the ground so epic, that my mom screamed in fear. In shock, I stood up quickly and told myself I am okay, I brushed off my pants and my shirt that were covered in sands. I kept telling myself how lucky I am for falling straight to the sands minus sharp rocks or  worst puddle of horse dumps.I got up to Widi again with a little fear, but seeing the road was uphill, I comforted myself that it will be ok.


“I will wait here, I said to my husband”. He looked hesitant to go up the stairs because he felt bad for me.  I see people are lining up to the stairs to see the caldera, they moved very slowly.  There was no way I would want to go up there. It was not even the 250 stairs, or the height, and the intense heat  from the sun.It was my mood and it has gone sour. Besides, the view from where I stood was arguably magnificent. I watched people trembling as they walked down the stairs. Their faces as pale as the moon, and sighs of relieve.  I saw Michael at the top of the ridge walking ever so freely, while the rest of the people were stiff.  I just walked around the side of the mountains observing lives of others happening before my eyes. What a view!

My brother and his wife went down first. I asked how it was. He said he couldn’t even bear to take a photo because it was so terrifying, they couldn’t breathe. So they bolted down as fast as they can. I felt satisfied I made a good decision. I have plenty to taste from where I stood.

Travelling is a series of choices, so is life. It  requires even more complicated ones. It is easy to follow the plot and keep asking someone where to go next? What is the best thing to do? What should I see? I learnt that information helps but you are walking the walk, not anyone else. So stop and think about what matters to you.What gives impact to you might do nothing to me, and what seems to be menial to you might be a life wonder to me.I am okay with the choices I make.  At the end the plot and the setting gives colour to our journey in life, while travelling,every time. But our character defines this journey. If there is any meaning, any value, anything to learn from at all for all that time you spent. I am still contemplating on this.This is my story, for his, click here



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