Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Cool things I did this week
Recognize this photo? (If not, look up to the blog header.) I took that yesterday. This week's mandatory fun was a trip to Bromo-Tengger-Semuru National Park and Mt Bromo, about 2 ½ hours east of Malang. Bromo is actually a small but active volcano inside the crater of a massive ancient volcano, the Tengger Caldera. Next to Bromo (the gaping hole with sulfurous steam coming out in the photos) is Mt. Batok. The area inside the ancient crater is filled with sand and known as Laut Pasir Tengger (the Tengger Sand Sea); aside from Bromo and Batok there are three other volcanoes in the caldera. The tall one in the back is Mt. Semeru, the tallest mountain in East Java and outside the caldera but still in the park.
We left on Friday, but luckily didn't have anything really planned for the day outside of dinner. Our hotel was perched right on the rim of the caldera overlooking the sand sea – hell of a view. The 'observe local Tengger people' (who brought their binoculars!) section of the schedule turned out to mean 'free time, but we can't officially say that', so a few of us hiked out along the ridge for a better view of the mountains inside. It was misty all afternoon, but right at sunset the clouds started to clear and we got a beautiful view of the peaks with orange sky behind them.
Saturday morning we woke up at quarter to three and took jeeps out to Mt. Pananjakan, one of the mountains in the Tengger Massif but outside the caldera, to watch the sun rise over Bromo.Waking up wasn't easy – despite our best efforts to get to bed at 8, the room next to us stayed up late talking, and through the thin bamboo walls we could hear just enough of the conversation for it to be tantalizing but, aside from a few choice bits, not enough to actually know what was being said – though that was plenty to make falling asleep a challenge. Plus they hadn't booked enough rooms for everyone who ended up wanting to come, so we were four to a room with just-larger-than-twin-sized beds, a little on the cramped side if you're not looking to cuddle. (Though I can't complain; apparently the peer tutors were four to a room with only one bed.) When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed it was freezing – okay probably in the forties, but when you're used to 80 and packed for maybe 65, that's pretty cold. Most of us had bought hats from the hawkers the night before – roughly $1 for a hand-knitted hat ain't bad – but my longest pants were capris, and some people (I guess they missed the 'climbing a mountain' part of the schedule) were stuck in flip-flops. The Indonesians had told us it would be cold, but Indonesians think a cool breeze on a summer afternoon is practically Antarctica, so nobody really took them seriously. I had my thick Yale sweatshirt, and luckily had decided to humor my ibu when she suggested I bring a scarf. Between that, some layered t-shirts, and my new hat I was mostly okay, aside from my exposed calves; the Indonesians were bundled up like Eskimos and still shivering.
The view from Mt. Pananjakan was spectacular, though from my vantage point I missed the best part; I stole some photos from facebook from those with better seats. The pic above was taken from an overlook a little down the mountain on our way out. After the sunrise we took the jeep across the sand sea out to Bromo. I wrote before that the roads through East Java to the Bali ferry were the worst I've ever seen; I take that back. From the parking lot it was a short hike partway up the crater, followed by stairs to the top. I started out walking but started getting winded in the thin air – love that high altitude; I got a sunburn too – and opted for a horse ride the rest of the way. At the top you could go right up to the edge of the crater and look in at the steam rising out of it. The locals still harvest sulfur from inside. I recommend not standing downwind.
The other cool thing I did was on Thursday. My class had planned to go out for coffee with Pak Gatut – not everyone had tried the kopi luwak yet – but during our 10am break he mentioned that a relative of his was getting married that afternoon, and would we like to come. It's wedding season in Indonesia, and I'm probably one of the last in my program who hadn't been to one yet (though my host family flew to Jakarta a few weeks ago for the wedding of one of my host dad's 10 younger siblings), and Indonesian weddings, or at least the receptions, are pretty laid-back affairs, and everyone there would probably really enjoy seeing a pack of Americans show up. Plus, as it turned out, Pak Gatut was the uncle (?) of one of the people getting married (I think the word used was 'keponakan', which means non-gender-specific 'child of my sibling'), and an important enough guest to be making a speech, so really he could bring whomever he wanted. The actual ceremony had already taken place that morning – usually it's a small gathering for family only – so what we saw was the reception. Arrive, eat, leave is the general pattern, which is what happened here. Lots of great batik shirts; we stood out a bit in our jeans and t-shirts, though this being Indonesia we weren't the only ones in flip-flops. The bride and groom wore beautiful, ornate traditional Javanese dress, lots of gold and wrapped cloth. There were speeches and singing, and after the family photos someone decided it'd be awesome to take a shot with all the bules. Good to know I'll be part of someone's wedding memories forever.