The Tengger Caldera
After a short post-lunch nap, I made my way down the Tengger caldera via one of the trails that was obviously frequently used by horses. Lying in between the town of Cemero Lawang and Mount Bromo lies 'Segara Wedi' (Sea of Sand in Javanese) or 'Laut Pasir' in Bahasa Indonesia which is a huge expanse of fine black volcanic sand that is barren and almost completely devoid of vegetation. Crossing this large expanse of sand left an eerie feeling that was all-encompassing, almost as if it permeated the air.
The caldera was originally a stratovolcano that had been built up by a succession of pyroclastic deposits and lava flows apparently to a height of about 4500m. The stratovolcano apparently collapsed after a massive eruption around 45,000 years ago, forming the current caldera. Mount Batok is the youngest of the six intra-caldera vents although Mount Bromo is the only one that is currently active.
As I made my way across the caldera, I came upon the austere Poten Hindu temple (Pura Luhur Poten), made more impressive with Mount Batok looming behind it, apparently only open at specific times of the year. The Tenggerese here worship Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa (Big Almighty Lord), along with the Trimurti gods (Siwa, Brahma and Visnu). I made my way past the temple and veered east towards Mount Bromo, passing by local Tenggerese who had either set up stalls selling food and drinks or bouquets of Edelweiss flowers. They shouted "Tradisi! Tradisi!" and hoped that you would purchase the flowers in order to throw them into the volcano. There were also horses ready for tourists who found the trek difficult. The only portion that the unfit may deem strenuous would be the yellow stairwell that lead up to the viewing platform on the rim of Mount Bromo, that consisted of about 250 steps. The horses would not have been able to go up the steps anyhow.
The roiling thunderclouds rumbled in the distance as I made my way up the stairs and upon reaching the top, I immediately noticed the pungent smell of sulphur that permeated the air. The miasmic sulphur was so potent that it ended up agitating one's throat and left some of the other tourists in coughing fits, somewhat akin to the effects of the organosulphur compounds that can be found in teargas.
As I was taking shots for 360 degree panoramas, two men approached me to strike up a conversation. I found the conversation somewhat amusing as one of the men ended up asking about the mountains in Malaysia and smiled proudly when he was told that there were no prominent volcanoes there but frowned disappointingly when he was told that Mount Kinabalu was higher than any of the mountains in Java.
Shortly after, I excused myself and began to make my way around the rim of Bromo in a clockwise direction. I risked the circumnavigation despite the obvious precarious nature of the fine volcanic sand (that just crumbled beneath your feet) as not doing so would have just left me with a sense of regret. The journey became more perilous the further I went but the obvious photo opportunities that lay in wait on the other side spurred me on.
I ended up going quite slowly at first as the slightest misstep would spell my demise but picked up pace the more comfortable I became and the further i progressed. I was pleasantly surprised upon reaching the other end of the rim as I was greeted by yet another crater that adjoined Bromo that had green vegetation lining its sides. This crater was home to the intra-caldera vent of Segarawedi Lor. There was a stone marker at the highest point that provided one of the best viewpoints so far and the fact that the place was completely devoid of other people also helped.