Day 211: Change Of Gear

Tues. 12th Mar 2013

Gunung Semeru at dawnWhy is sunrise so early, I ponder as I talk to the automatic alarm call at 3am (not much thinking so early in the morning). A quick coffee helps as we head out to find our 4×4 to take us up to the viewpoint. We take a moment to look up and admire the bright stars in the clear sky, (sorry Sheila no idea which ones or which hemisphere we are in!) The cold air as well as the waiting salesmen, reminds us that a change of gear is required and to take our fleeces, hat and gloves. We clamber into the back of our jeep and off it crawls up the hill for a few hundred yards before stopping outside what looks like private house. Our driver and the one in the jeep behind grab two large plastic containers of fuel and pour them into the fuel tank.

We drove up that ledgeOff we head again only to stop at the next steep incline while the driver fights with the gearbox to get the right gear. This is repeated at each steep incline. Not to mention the rickety seats and that the rear door flies open every so often from the bouncing on the rough tracks – all part of the excitement. It is still dark and at times we can see the procession of headlights in front winding up the mountain. At one point we head across an expansive flat area of volcanic sand rutted with channels, presumably rain created.

The crowds waiting for sunriseAfter about 40 minutes the truck pulls onto the verge behind the parked vehicle in front and we continue on foot. As we join the throng of people we hear a cheery “Hello” and see Maclean and Taylor, who had spent the last hour and a half hiking up on foot. We pass shops, stalls and advertised toilets for R2000. The path ends in a large viewing area already filling up and we manage to find a space on the railing, although we are not sure where is best, but Maclean’s research said to the right. It is just after 4:30am and after a while we catch glimpses of red sky in gaps between the clouds that have appeared in the sky at this higher altitude. We have no idea really of what to expect except not as clear a view as the summertime pictures we saw in the gallery yesterday.

Early morning view across the mountainsAll the jeeps lined upSuddenly a mountain peak (Semeru, Java’s highest peak and still quite an active volcano) appears to our right in the pale light and an “oooh!” comes from the crowd behind. We never really get a clear view of the mountain peaks through the clouds but it is all very worthwhile. Eventually we say goodbye to Maclean (who is sure it will clear) and Taylor as they linger a while longer and we head down to find our jeep and muse that time is marching on and we need to have breakfast and finish packing before our transfer to the bus station at 9:30am.

The three volcanoes in the craterThe procession of 4x4s heads back to the volcano floor which I have read is 10km across and the home of three volcanic peaks formed in the volcanic floor of the ancient Tengger caldera, as well as a temple. Our driver says be back by 8am which gives us 1 ½ hours to explore. We decline the many offers of a horse to take us to the 253 man-made steps up to the rim.

Steps to the topThere is a constant traffic jam on the steps up to the rim and little space once there to stand and admire the view. I find a spot to sit and watch the steam swirl around, clearing then accumulating again to obscure seeing into the crater and Dave heads off past the end of the barriers on the side of the path and up along the track around the rim to get a potentially better view. Only a few adventurous tourists take that path.

Which is older?Back to hotel for breakfast and luckily they have an egg station so I can have an omelette instead of Indonesian food as I cannot cope with that for my first meal of the day. Our transfer back to Probolinggo bus station  is a minibus along with a German couple and a Dutch couple who are heading in the opposite direction to us and are going to Ijen. Again, we swap tips on what to do as well as recant details our trip to date, which filled the 40 minute trip and was a reminder just how many fantastic places we have been lucky enough to visit in our travels so far.

Crossing the river in SurabayaThe transfer to Surabaya went smoothly, firstly on an “Executive class” bus, which means proper air conditioning, comfy seats and fewer stops on the way. This was followed by a local bus to the train station, as our hotel was deliberately booked close to there, ready for our reasonably early start tomorrow. We had really splashed out at £20 for the room and breakfast!

Whilst we sat having coffee and cake for lunch the rain started again, but we were prepared with our very sexy clear plastic ponchos that we were given in Rangiroa, much to the amusement of the locals who were standing in the doorway waiting patiently for the rain to stop (they had a long wait).

Submarine PasopatiWe headed off for the train station to buy our tickets and find the lay of the land but I will leave Dave to tell that saga in tomorrow’s post. Once sorted we wanted to get close up to the submarine we had spotted on our walk to the hotel. This is now a museum so having failed to do a submarine museum visit in Cherbourg a few years ago and also when we were in Valdivia, Chile a few months ago we just had to go in.

A hazard of being tallThe submarine, Pasopati, is Russian and was commissioned by the Indonesian Navy in 1952 until decommissioned in 1962. The entrance is at the front next to the torpedo launchers, from there it is possible to walk through to the back squeezing through three small round doors/sealable hatches (is there a technical name?). Not much room at all for the crew of 60 odd but the bunk bed seemed comfy enough when I tried it, given my lack of sleep recently.

Olly and the torpedoWe returned to the hotel for a short rest before heading out in our lovely ponchos to find food, (we had checked the hotel had Wi-Fi but did not check it had a restaurant!). The Thai place down the street had a promotion of 50% off food and was very tasty for a fiver all in. Early night ready for yet another early start tomorrow. I am certainly ready to change down a gear and go slower for a few days, maybe soon……….


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