Oct 06, 2001
In my last journal entry I joked about heading from the frying pan into the fire. Well, at my first destination in Java "into the fire" took on a whole new meaning. I went to Mt. Bromo to see the view. It is supposed to be one of the most spectacular sights in Indonesia and is even pictured on the 10,000 rupiah bill. What I didn't know was that they Hindu celebration of Kasada, or as I call it Mt. Bromo day, was happening a few days after my arrival there. Here's where it gets interesting - as a part of the celebration they sacrifice a cow and toss it's head into the volcano. That should be wacky enough, but no. The cow sacrifice is happening midnight under a full moon. There's no way that I'm missing this party.
Everyone spends one night at Mt. Bromo. My one night stay turns into 5. There's not a lot to do in the village of Ngisidari but Yoschi's hotel is a good place to hang out and at 6000 feet the cool weather was a welcome change. I met Steven on the bus from Bali and he joined me for the 5 days. Zoe arrived a day later and we convinced her to join us.
A little about Bromo. Mt. Bromo itself isn't that impressive. Long, long ago there was another volcano that exploded leaving a crater 3 miles across. Inside this crater grew several new volcanos. Mt. Batok is a perfect volcanic cone. Mt. Bromo lies beside it. Mt. Bromo blew it's top off a while ago and is still smoking. And a hindu temple sits of the foot of the two volcanos. Together it's an amazing sight. Burningman could use a couple of volcanos.
In the end we never saw the cow being slaughtered or the head being thrown into the volcano, but it was still an interesting experience. We arrive at the crater rim just before midnight. Below us there are jeeps, motorcycles, encampments, bonfires and a huge dust cloud being kicked up by all the commotion. After we hike down we are engulfed by the dust cloud. Unable to see the volcano, get a bit lost and make our way forward by following car taillights or asking people "Dimana Bromo" (where is bromo). We very much seem to be the only tourists who have made it to this event. For a while we join a group of teenagers hanging out around a tire they set on fire. We drink some of their palm wine before continuing onward. Later we come across a Muslim dance party. The music is very middle eastern and only the men are dancing. We dance for a couple of minutes, dancing with some of the guys before giving everyone high-5's and escaping.
At some point we learn the the ceremony starts at midnight, but the cow isn't sacrificed until 5 or 6 in the morning. We're not prepared to spend the entire night but we're still going up the volcano. As we approach the volcano a mist starts to fall. The sulfur from the volcano is mixing with the mist and creating an acid mist that burns our eyes, skin and tongues. We reach the 249 stairs that lead the top of Mt. Bromo and start climbing. Half way up we're out of the mist, but the sulfur cloud is causing everyone to cough - I'm using my hat (once again) as a gas mask. The top is crowded full of people in tents or sleeping bags. They're staying for the night. We only stay for about ten minutes at the top of the volcano. Walking around the edge is very precarious. It would be easy to trip on someone or something and you can fall into the volcano or down the side. The temple sacrifices a cow, people make their own sacrifices to the volcano. A local might throw a chicken, some fruit or a small amount of money. The impoverished actually gather further down in the crater and try to catch money and food that is thrown. We three backpackers make their own sacrifices - Steven a flower, Zoe some whiskey and myself L. Peat O'Neil's book on travel writing before making the long hike back towards town.
I'm now in Yogyakarta in Central Java. My parent's are freaked out, but it's another tourist destination and there little likelihood of any problems here.
By the way... I'm traveling much slower than I had expected. This trip certainly looks like it's going to last more than 6 months. I could easily be gone for a year or more.