Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mt Bromo and the bus ride from Hell

Amber:  Tim and I decided to book a bus tour to get us from Jokjakarta to Bali, with an evening at Mt Bromo, as the local train was fully booked until after the holidays.  We woke up early and scarfed down some street food before boarding our mini van at 8am.  The first stages of travelers tummy were starting to show, and I was not looking forward to the two days of travel we had ahead of us.  Thankfully, the first leg of our trip was fairly painless.  It is never fun to spend a day in a bus, but at least the mini van was empty enough for me to lay out on the bench seat, using Tim's lap as a pillow, make myself somewhat comfortable, and the air con worked.  I wouldn't have been  having much fun with the way my insides felt no matter where I was.  It was dark when we unloaded from our mini van into a little, cramped bus and made our way up the mountain to our hotel for the evening.  It was nine pm before we were settled into our room for the night, making it an eleven hour travel day.

The next morning we woke up at three am and were taken up the mountain even further by jeep.  Our driver had to wrestle with the steering wheel the whole drive, constantly correcting to make sure we drove in a straight line.  Not that fun in the dark as we wound up the steep, narrow path.  We drove up a rutted out single lane road, four wheel drive doing its job, and our driver let us out and told us to make our way up the mountain by foot from there.  It was dark out, and both Tim and I had neglected to get our head lamp from our bags in the morning, but there were probably eighty to a hundred people hiking up the path with us, lighting our way.  There were also a bunch of locals, providing horses for people not wanting to make the trek.  I considered it, but basically, you get thrown onto a pony, and Tim's legs very well may have drug.  We would have felt bad for the animal.  That, and they just walk in front of you, leading your horse.  We made it to the viewing point well before sunset, so climbed up onto a little cement structures roof and enjoyed the view as the locals crowed around and... took our picture.

Sunrise finally came, and the view down into the crater was beautiful.  Mt Bromo is actually a tiny blip in the middle of a huge, ancient volcanic crater.  One that was so huge it probably put the Earth into an ice age when it went off, we hypothesized.  We were sitting right on it's edge.  After getting several photos, we made our way back to our jeep and then drove down into the ash field that surrounded Mt Bromo.  The line to go up Mt Bromo was ridiculously long.  We hiked up the path, doing our best to avoid the horses that galloped past, their riders in search of more tourists to haul up the trail.

Once we made it to the top of Mt Bromo's crater, it was awesome.  Neither of us have ever been on the top of a volcano, let alone one that is still spewing ash.  It was scary, amazing and beautiful!  We hiked along the rim away from the crowd.  Tim is very brave.  I hate heights, even when falling off into a giant, vapor spewing pit isn't a possibility.  Tim compared it to the pit in Star Wars where Java the Hut throws his victoms.  I inched my way along the rim after Tim, assuring myself that I wouldln't just trip and fall normally, so why would I start, just because I was going to die if I did?

We had a family of four Indonesians in our jeep with us as well, so we went back after about forty five minutes on top of the rim so they wouldn't have to wait for us.  They weren't back yet, so we went and had some tea.  It was amazing.  The little street vendor we bought it from took some tea leaves in a strainer, poured boiling water over them, and it made the best tea.  It was very soothing for my stomach, so I was happy.  We enjoyed our tea, then wandered back to our jeep.  Still no family.  It was getting hot out, so we sat on the front bumper and waited for them, watching all the horses tied up.  They are all stallions, we had no idea where all the mares were.   It wasn't long before a group of local college students found us and asked if they could interview us for a project.  Tim was happy to oblige, so we spoke with them for about ten minutes, answering questions about how the US differed from Indonesia, what we liked, what we didn't like, etc.  They concluded with a group picture with us.  Finally, the Indonesian family got back from Mt Bromo, and we were on our way back to our hotel to grab our things and head on towards Bali. 
The rest of our trip from Mt Bromo to Bali was horrible.  Tim and I both may had our travel bug die just a little bit from how horrible it was.  The mini van we had payed for was gone.  We were herded onto a local bus that was so full that there wasn't enough seats for all of us to sit.  The pursur made a man get up so I could sit down, and Tim was put in the back of the bus somewhere.  Tim was starting to get some stomach pains as well.  It wasn't long before we switched busses.  Our driver was crazy.  He drove through the traffic, swerving the huge bus recklessly around corners.  He smashed his drivers side mirror off on another large bus passing by us and didn't even slow down.  He cut so close to a motor scooter that he actually did stop, fearing he had hit the driver. Thankfully, he had missed.  Tim's legs didn't even fit in the seat.  The air con was not working.  They played Indonesian music really loud.  They stopped constantly to drop off or cram on more people.  Or just to take a smoke break and give random men alongside the road money.  It was horrible. 
We finally arrived to the little port town we would take the ferry to Bali on.  The Indonesian family we had gone in the jeep with up Mt Bromo had adopted us and the other four Westerners on the trip with us and bought us fruit.  They let us know what was going on.  We probably won't arrive in Bali until three am.   They lead us to a little restaurant for a quick bite before we crossed to Bali.  The same bus would be going onto the ferry and our driver would be taking us all the way.  Lucky us.  We contemplated switching busses, but at that point we decided it wasn't worth it.
When we were done with our dinner, we hurried back to the bus.  We were met by two of the Western travelers in our 'group'.  They were almost to the point of tears.  The bus had left us.  What should we do?  Knowing that it took forever for anything to happen as far as loading a ferry in the States and ten times longer in Indonesia, apparently, we just went in search of the bus while they returned to the restaurant, panicked, to ask the family what they should do.  We found the bus, three slots further forwards than where it was.  I climbed back onto the bus while Tim went back to tell the girls it was all ok. 
The ferry ride was short.  It was nice to be on the ocean, and out of the bus.  Sadly, it was soon time to get back on the bus.  At that point, we were too tired and miserable to sleep so watched a movie on our computer.  The air con stopped working, completely. The bus got hotter.  I tried to sleep, but it was too awful.  Tim's stomach was worse.  Finally, we came to a stop.  The Indonesian family told us it was time to get out of the bus.  We were still 17km out of Dempasar. 
We  had no other option but to take a taxi.  The Indonesian lady that had been helping us got us a cab for $12.  We split it with a young couple we had shared the horrible bus ride with.  They were staying in Kuta, while we were staying in Nusa Dua.  Kuta was on the way, so we would drop them off, then carry on to our luxury hotel.  We couldn't wait for a hot shower and bed. 
The taxi driver must have been as tiered as we were.  We all saw the motor scooter with the two lady's on the road.  He didn't.  It was horrible as we crashed into the motor scooter, sending the two women and the bike flying.  The driver of the bike was fine, holding on and skidding away from the impact.  The passenger, however, was flung backwards, and hit her head very hard.  She wasn't wearing a helmet.  A crowd gathered around as we jumped out of the cab.  We were horrified that no one seemed to think she needed to go to the hospital.  She was moaning and clutching her head.  It was clear she had suffered a very hard blow to her scull.  We took all of our bags out of the cab and pointed at the driver.  "You need to take her to the hospital!"  He finally understood, and we helped put her in the back of the cab.  Her friend went with her, and they drove away.  We felt helpless.  Poor woman.  We have no way of knowing if she is ok.
We were again in need of a cab, but now we were in the middle of no where.  The four of us hiked to the nearest intersection and tried to flag down vehicles as they drove past.  We asked a restaurant if they could call us a cab.  They told us it was not possible.  Finally, a cab drove by.  He offered to take us to Kuta for $40.  We were able to talk him back down to $12, and got into his cab.  He dropped Kyle and Mel, the Canadian couple, off in Kuta, and then drove us out to our Marriott Hotel for an extra $10.  We were so happy to crawl into bed in our beautiful hotel room.  We had been up for 26 hours, with travelers stomach.  The worst part was, it took 26 hours to travel 225km. 

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