I spent an exhausting and discouraging 24 hours in Probolinggo, East Java in order to hike Mt. Bromo. I’ll give you my cost breakdown first then describe my experience and offer an alternative viewing point.
My Bromo Viewing Cost:
8 hour train ticket from Yogyakarta to Probolingo – 80,000 IDR
1.5 hour semi-private bus from Probolingo train station to my home stay in Cemoro Lewang at the foot of the mountain – 150,000 IDR.
Home stay in a musty but private room – 200,000 IDR
Breakfast – included with homestay
Entrance to Bromo – bypassed
Total: 430,000 IDR ($31.00 USD)
Now for all of the ugly details.
I arrived in Probolinggo feeling ill and knowing it was going to affect my perception of this iconic East Java attraction. “You’re already in this far” I told myself “just make the best of it and don’t let expectations ruin your day.” I’d booked a home stay during my train ride and read about the overwhelming number of scam bus offers waiting for me outside.
The sun was setting, and mosquitos swarmed inside the station, fleeing the heavy rain outside. A Russian couple and I tried to share a Go-jek, but the driver wouldn’t come to the station (mafia situation.) It was late in the evening and local public transportation would be tricky.
After fifteen minutes of trying to negotiate with three different mini-bus drivers we settled on a 60,000 each ride direct to Cemoro Lewang. I felt pretty good about this after asking numerous times “Direct to Cemoro Lewang, right?! No tour agencies! You will not drop us at a tour agency, right?!” Yes, yes, yes.
We got in the bus and within ten minutes were told we needed to change cars. Before we realized what was happening we were shuffled out into the darkness, our bags tossed inside an open store front door with the driver speeding away. I looked up at the shop sign, tour agency. We had been scammed.
The next forty five minutes involved trying to walk to the local bus station, not finding it, trying to get another Go-Jek or Grab ride to no avail and haggling with three different tour operators. I said a prayer for safe passage when we agreed to 150,000 IDR each and hopped in an almost identical mini-bus.
The Russian girl pulled up google maps on her phone and verified that we were indeed headed for our small mountain town destination.
I was dropped off at Homestay Deddy and while the room was less than pleasant, the man who helped me get situated was very nice. He gave me a large water bottle and informed me of the free breakfast the following morning.
The time was approaching 10 PM and I needed to go to sleep soon. With my alarm set for 3:00 AM I showered and curled up in my sleeping bag. I’d had traveler’s diarrhea since the previous night and felt generally poorly when I awoke for my nocturnal adventure.
A quick two minute walk up the road carried me to the official entrance. Then things got tricky for a bit. I’d read about a foot path near Café Lava Restaurant and wandered around looking for it. I was yelled at a few times and told I needed to pay the park fee and/or take a motorbike or jeep ride. “No, no thank you. I will walk with my legs not drive. I only want to see the first viewpoint.”
I wandered around in the dark for a few more minutes and eventually an older man hanging around the entrance motioned for me to follow him. He led me between the fork of the two main entrances and pointed down a dark steep path. “Viewpoint down” he said, keeping his eye on a barking dog which stood at the beginning of what appeared to be a better oriented inclining path.
“Ok thank you, Terima Kasi!” I smiled and began my hazardous descent of the washed out trail. After ten minutes of careening about, trekking poles tightly clenched, I heeded the nagging in my gut and turned around. I had been misdirected yet again.
I clambered to my starting point and with the guard dog nowhere in sight immediately veered left, up the mountain path. I felt hopeful that I was on the right track and had only lost about thirty minutes of hike time. I’d still make the top view point by sunrise.
Winded, hungry and tired I marched ever higher through a steady pelting of chilly mountain rain. The trail skirted around countless patches of cabbage, green onion and cauliflower.
Trail marker’s gleamed white in the beam of my headlamp. I was alone aside from a few glowing eyes in the distance and then… WHAM! Something struck me on the left side at elbow height. “Ahhh!” I screamed, turning to see my assailant, a HUGE furry bat flapping about on the ground. “Ee-uu-www” escaped my mouth as I took off running along the edge of the cabbage patch. I had found my second wind as it were.
Have you seen the Ace Ventura movie, When Nature Calls? Ya, that was me. Arms and legs flailing like an idiot. Allll Righty then!
The trail hung a right and joined the main road. Within about twenty uneventful minutes I was at the viewpoint. I bought a cup of coffee and stared into the endless sea of fog and drizzle, fantastic.
Over the next two hours the sun came up, gaps in the shifting clouds eluded to a majestic view and the silhouetted mountains demanded awe despite my bad attitude. I was fortunate enough to catch a ride to the bottom, thank you Ines and friends! I showered, ate breakfast and rode into Probolinggo for an afternoon train ride to my next adventure, Kawa Ijen, a few hours to the East.
I later learned of another viewing point, peak B29 in Lumajang, a little town to the East of Cemoro Lawang. Along with a less crowded / more local experience, camping at the top is an option and the view looks really nice.
I plan to visit B29 on my next trip to Java, and will ask my local friends to come along, hopefully avoiding as much of Probolinggo as possible!