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Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park

19 April 2010 No Comment

Mount Bromo view from Mount Penanjakan

View of Mt. Bromo from Mt. Penanjakan

The first ever post in this site brings us to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java, Indonesia. Over a million years ago, a violent volcanic eruption tore up the area, blowing massive amount of soil into the air, resulting in the creation of a vast crater. In time, volcanic ash settled and forms what is known today as a ‘sand sea’. Today, the main attraction in this area is a collection of five peaks that has sprung up inside the ancient caldera. Four of the five (Bromo, Kursi, Watangan, and Widodaren) are active volcanoes, only Mount Batok is no longer active. Hundreds of tourists flock the area daily to see the famed sunrise view, as well as take a sneak peek into Bromo’s gaping jaws.

Inside the caldera, the environment is largely rocky and barren. The terrain is lined with deep gashes cut into the mountain slope. Neither large plants nor animal life seem to thrive in large numbers. Looking out from the peak of Bromo, the view is almost surreal. A travelling friend of mine commented that it is just as if we had suddenly been teleported into Mordor from Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings universe. It is thus surprising to know that the national park is home to hundreds of wildlife species, some of which are considered rare.

Surrounding view from Bromo crater

Surrounding view from Mt. Bromo

View inside the crater

Inside view of the crater

Mount Bromo crater view

The area surrounding the national park is inhabited by the Tengger ethnic group, who are characterized by their Hindu belief (with a mix of Buddhism and Animism), as well as their Tengger dialect, derived from archaic Javanese language. Much like the people in Bali, the Tengger people are descendants of the Majapahit Hindu community who held on to their traditions long after the empire collapsed during the 15th century. The steep slopes of the surrounding mountains mean that this group lived in close to isolation until recent times.

Old photo of the Tengger people. Credit: Tropen Museum

Black and white photo of Tengger priests.
Credit: Tropen Museum

The Tengger society is mainly agricultural. Despite the obviously difficult terrain, the slopes of Bromo are skilfully cultivated with vegetable crops. It is really a wonder how the farmers manage to work, when their farmland have elevation of up to 60 degrees or more.

Making offering to the volcanoes is part of the Tengger lifestyle. Legend has it that the Tengger people descended from Roro Anteng and Jaka Seger (If you take the last syllable of their names, you get teng-ger, hence the name of the tribe), a couple who were unable to have children. Their prayers were heard by the volcano deity; who promised that they can have 25 children, if they also promise to sacrifice their youngest offspring in return. The couple agreed, and soon had as many children as promised. However, as soon as their youngest child is born, they could not bear sacrificing him. This angered the deity, who threatened to take the child’s life by force. In the end, the child himself went down into the crater of Bromo in an act of self sacrifice. Soon after, his voice can be heard from inside the crater, telling his parents and siblings not to be saddened as this was his destiny. In his memory, the Tengger people held the Kasada ceremony every year (December / January) at full moon. The villagers bring annual offering of rice, flower, vegetable, fruits and livestock to appease the Mountain deity and ask for blessings.

Travel Info

Accomodation:
Cheap – Lava View Lodge, Cemara Indah
Moderate – Java Banana

Activities:
Sunrise View – Can be organized by hotel. Starts at 2 – 3 am daily.
Horse riding
Climbing up the crater rim of Mount Bromo. Horse ride from the caldera floor to mid-point up Bromo is available for Rp. 70,000 (updated Mar 2010. This is approximately USD 7), or alternatively take a gruelling 20 minutes hike. From mid-point, one need to climb a set of 250 steps before finally reaching the crater rim.
Hiking enthusiasts can also scale Mount Semeru (3,676m). Note that this volcano is in a state of almost constant eruption since 1967, and a number of hikers have perished on its slopes.

Other Info:
Best view of the volcanoes is from Mount Penanjakan, just outside the caldera rim. Rent a local vehicle to get to the viewing point.
Dress adequately. Average temperature is between 3° to 20° Celsius. It can get very cold and windy, especially at night. Most hotels rent out blankets to guests, but it may not be warm enough.
Best time to travel is June – October, and December – January.
Accommodation in Bromo is very basic, as most travellers stay only to wait for sunrise. Exception is Java Banana.

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