11th and 12th October

Today, we leave Banyuwangui for Malang. Since we could not put the bicycle in the train for Malang directly, we’ll take another train, for Bangil, and then cycle 40km more to Malang. The train leaves at 8h30, so we arrive one hour earlier at the station, in order to have time to put our bikes. At the station, we are told that it is not possible to take the bikes inside the train. In fact, the cargo wagon where we should have put the bikes is not available today because it is in reparation. But we can go today, and the bikes will travel tomorrow. After much talking, we finally can take our bikes inside this train. We pay the extra fee, and load our bikes in the last wagon of the train. Surprisingly, this wagon seems to be pretty old, not maintained, and empty. Why is it on the train? And we are not allowed to put the bikes between the seats, but in the corridor, at the entrance and exit of the wagon. I don’t understand, but the most important is done. It’s 8h30, and we leave in the train for Bangil, with the company of our bikes.

The travel to Bangil is quite long. Despite it’s only 250km from Banyuwangi, the train takes 5h30. It’s very nice to observe the life of inside Java from the train. All the landscape we see has been modified and organized for the humans. We see many cultures, of rice, wheat, corn and other cereals, vegetables, fruits. And also many villages that are like stretching along the train rails. Everytime that we cross an important road in a big city, we see a huge crowd of several dozens of motorbikes waiting for the train to pass, with their colourful passengers.

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We arrive in Bangil at 14h. It’s quite funny to take the bikes out from the train, when the step is around 1m high. Once again, we are helped by the local people to take out our things.

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Our first idea is to get a bemo to go to Malang, since we don’t have that much time before sunset and we’ll have to cycle 20km more after Malang to reach Rani’s place, our couchsurfer. At the station, the bemo drivers want to charge us at least 500 000 RP for the 40km instead of the 40 000 RP we were advised to pay for such a distance. So we’ll go by bike to Malang. After some time on a smaller road, we join the main road that joins Surabaya and Malang. It’s full of cars, scooters, trucs, and also long traffic jam for the intersections. The road between Denpasar and Padang Bai that we really hated in Bali now seems quite calm compared to this one.

It’s now 16h30, we are very slow on this hell of a road, and the light is starting to diminish strongly. We are still 15km before Malang, where we hope to take a smaller road for our last 20km to destination. So we cannot make it before night, and, what’s more, we’ll have to drive at least one hour on the big road after sunset, with our poor lighting. What do we do? Is there a bemo around here that would drive us to Rani’s. Here too, they want to charge us way too much for the travel. Another option is to find accommodation not very far from here, and finish the route to Rani’s place tomorrow morning at dawn. We are lucky to find another couchsurfer, Pras, living in Singorani, a few kilometres before Malang. And he is very reactive, in half an hour, everything is settled down. In addition, we manage to get a free lift from where we are to the next village in the back of a truck. So in the end, we only have 5km to cycle on the big road to reach a roof. And we do not feel we are risking our life during these 5 kilometres: they don’t drive very fast, and when they pass us, they leave a correct space with us.

Our host, Pras, is an enthusiastic couchsurfer. He very often hosts couchsurfers (mostly French and German on the way for Bromo). He proposes us to go to Malang tonight, for a gathering of his friends couchsurfers. So we go for the city, as passenger on his and his friend’s scooters. It feels so good to go so fast in the traffic, passing the cars without any effort. We go to the Kong Kow bar, quite trendy among the youngsters of Malang. The food is good and cheap. Pras’ friends are very open and eager to know foreigners.

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After the bar, we finally go to sleep at the house of one of his friends, since it’s already late and Pras’ room is quite small.

After a short night of sleep, we get up at 5, to go to pick up our bikes at Pras’ place, and leave for Rani’s house. We have to be at her place at 7h30, so that her father can take us by car to the Bromo. We take breakfast in a small shop on the way to her house. This morning, traffic conditions are better. And quite quickly, we exit the big road to take smaller ones. We take a wonderful road, very similar to the old via romana we have in Europe. The good point is that we avoid all the traffic, and can observe the people harvesting the fields on the sides of the road. But we cannot enjoy the road too much, since we have to keep concentrated to avoid as much as possible the shocks that would damage our paniers.

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We arrive at Rani’s place nearly on time. In fact, it’s not a house but a homestay (like an hostel). We are given a room as we arrived and treated like normal customer. We leave soon for the Bromo. Rani’s father is the responsible for the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, and has his office inside, that’s why he can drive us for free there. And we are lucky to have Rani as our personal guide, who in addition speaks fluently French.

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The Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is formed by an old giant caldeira, the Tengger. It has a diameter of 13 km. Inside, you are like on another planet. There are ravines, lakes, a sandy area called the Sea of Sand, and even a village and a temple. The inhabitants of the village are Hindus, that were forced to find refugee in the Tengger caldeira after the Islamic conquest of Java. Also inside the caldeira, smaller cones have emerged. Among them are the Patok and the Bromo. The Patok is a wonderful cone with some vegetation on its slopes, probably in competition to be Miss Volcano. Next to it, the Bromo is a dusty, ashy, grey cone. It is a sacred mountain for the Hindu population of the village, who every year have a ceremony to thank the Gods by sending animals and other goods into the crater. The crater of Bromo contains a small lake of acid that is boiling, and thus producing a big amount of steam.

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The third companion of the National Park, the Semeru mountain is probably the most researched volcano among Javanese trekkers. With its altitude of more than 3600m, it is the highest summit of the island, and thus attracts many trekkers, not only from Java but from many other countries. This volcano has periodically small explosions. It’s a pity we cannot stay a few days more here, because the Semeru and its activity looks very temptating. Both the Bromo and the Semeru crater had recent eruptions (2010 for Bromo and 2007 for Semeru) and so could awake soon.

After climbing to Bromo, we go to eat in the small village.

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It looks like a basecamp for trekking, with so many people with big backpacks. Then, we head back to the homestay, with also some trekkers that climbed Semeru today. We have a very nice dinner in the homestay. The table is beautifull, in massive teck wood, and so are the chairs. They weigh at least 40kg each. The food is delicious tonight, and we have a very nice chat with Rani about travelling and mountaineering.

And as expected, here is a video we prepared on the Bromo: