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Java’s Mount Bromo

By Ina St. Croix

The village of Ranupani seems to float on clouds on the slopes of Mount Bromo, an active volcano in Indonesia’s Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. Tourists flock to its north rim but almost never visit the spectacular, remote south slopes near Ranupani. If they did, they would find a breathtaking approach to Bromo’s crater and an opportunity to experience Java’s rich Tengger culture. Batik-clad farmers dot the slopes like flowers.

Only one type of public transport serves Bromo from the south—4x4 jeeps built back when the term “all-terrain” meant business. Villagers in nearby towns rent out the jeeps, driver included. Ask the driver to take you to the crater and he sets off on a muddy, pot-holed track through misty mountains. A steep staircase to the volcano’s rim offers a dizzying view into it’s core.

After the volcano, go to Ranupani, a hamlet of whitewashed houses veiled in perpetual mists. When the hills around Ranupani emerge from the clouds they reveal a patchwork of gardens. The Tengger people descend from Java’s ancient Majapahit kingdom and still practice their unique Hindu-Buddhist religion. Every 272 days they hold the Kasada ceremony in which they throw religious offerings into the volcano. More regularly they hold horse-trance dances, in which men fall into trance and perform stunning feats like eating hot coals.

Pak Tasrip runs the only guest house in town. The establishment is simple but his family is delightful and welcoming. Typical guests are mountain climbers bound for Bromo’s neighbor, Mount Semeru. Pak Tasrip’s wife serves nourishing Javanese fare; some say her fried bananas are the best on Java. In the evening guests swap stories around a cozy barrel fire.

For More Info

In the U.S. contact the Indonesia Tourist Office: 1-866-INDONESIA; in Indonesia contact park headquarters: 0341-491828.

Jeeps to Bromo and Ranupani leave from Tumpang, Gubuk Klakah, and Ngadas. Reach these towns from Malang by taxi or mikrolet (minibus) and ask locals for available jeeps. All rentals include driver.

Pak Tasrip’s PHPA Homestay (Ranupani): 0334-884887; mailing address P. Tasrip, C/D, Sukirno, RT. 16 RW,03, Besuk.

INA ST. CROIX has a BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has studied in Indonesia and Australia.

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