So the New Year plan was that we drive up to a viewpoint on Mount Penanjakan mountain to watch dawn rise over Mount Bromo, the best known volcano in East Java.
“Best known.” That should have been my clue.
First of all, though we had to eat our New Year eve meal at 6pm with the paediatric guests at our hotel, and then we had to get some sleep. Our guide told us he’d be back to pick us up at midnight.
However, around midnight when we went downstairs, there were about 300,000 people in the streets – well on our street - in cars, on motorbikes and on foot; shouting, singing, waving those football noise things. Solid gridlock. The noise was unbelievable.
We’ll skip over the anxiety this induced. As midnight came and went, the crowds began to dissipate and eventually our van arrived and we set off. As I lay back on my reclining seat I imagined what an awe inspiring and momentous personal experience this was going to be.
I dozed. The main roads turned into snaking mountainside roads. I think it took three or so hours and then we got out of our van into a little mountainside village rather like the one we’d gone to to view Merapi. Just like Thailand, where there are visitors, there are food and drink vendors and we stopped for a cup of something warm.
And visitors. Oh yes. Gone were my imaginings that we would be one of two or three groups of people, come to experience the spiritual moments of dawn on a mountainside. There were something like 300,000 people here too!
Still, it was amazing. Here are some highlights:
|Outside our hotel at midnight. We weren't going anywhere...|
|Here are the silhouettes of some of the 300,000 people joining us for our big spiritual moment!|
|We fought our way to the front, and yes, it really was special.|
|A wider view...|
|The last bit of the journey: we drove across the caldera, trekked by pony (poor pony, I thought) and then climbed the steps you can see here, to peer into the smoking volcano. Unbelievable.|
|And here it is. I just had time to take this before being overcome with my first ever experience of vertigo.|