The bus took a huge detour without any obvious reason before arriving at the bus station of Solo. Half an hour after walking out of the bus station, we discovered we were walking the wrong way, the detour seems to have disturbed our orientation. We have to ask for directions a few times and eventually walk for more than an hour towards our intended place to sleep. And it is definitely worth the walk, because for less than ten euros we sleep in a decent bed at a beautiful courtyard with swimming pool.
Solo is known for the batik fabrics, most of which do not really appeal to us. But spending an hour roaming the batik market and the covered fruit and vegetable market is nice. We stumble on a big antiques market and lose ourselves hunting for some nice deals but abort our mission the moment we realise the stuff would not fit in our backpacks anyway. Solo’s best-known dish is nasi liwet, rice cooked in coconut milk we try in two different warungs, with tasty success. Three days gave us quite enough time to see the town and we book tickets for the night train to Malang. The same ritual in the Indomarket as in Pagandaran follows, but in the end we get our vouchers and we can print the tickets.
The train stops at four o’clock in the morning at the station of Malang. We move into the station hall and sleep for another hour or two. When day breaks we go looking for a room that – as turns out – we will only enjoy for a couple of hours. We arrange a tour to the volcano Bromo that same afternoon and will be picked up at one o’clock at night. We don’t catch much sleep, especially because we want to have a beer that evening to celebrate our six-month trip anniversary. We do take a quick nap and after a short while we crawl into a small Toyota Landcruiser heading for Gunung Bromo.
The trip to the famous volcano takes four hours. We wriggle and bump over narrow sandy roads to an altitude of 2700 meters. At the sunrise viewpoint it is already busy the moment we arrive, so we decide to find a quieter place. The valley beneath us is covered with a graceful cloud blanket where only a few volcanoes, including Bromo and Semeru, peek through. The big cloud of vapour spitting out Gunung Bromo is clearly visible and every five minutes a cloud of ash rises from a crater on Gunung Semeru, the highest peak in Java. The sunrise is breath-taking and when we have breakfast on the vast expanse of sand at the foot of Gunung Bromo as the mist from the valley slowly disapears.
A nice but exhausting climb brings us to the edge of Gunung Bromos massive crater. The heat of the earth warms the water deep in the crater so large clouds are rising op from the bottom of the crater. During the ride over the sand plain – actually no sand but ashes from the volcanoes – we stop a few times for a photo moment. Now that the sun is shining and the fog has disappeared, we are slowly getting aware of the terrain we have been driving through last night. Few moments later we end up in a traffic jam of Landcruisers. Further op the dusty track a vehicle is not able to tackle a steep slope. After the umpteenth attempt the jeep starts to slide away and rolls on its roof. The drivers of the Landcruisers start to laugh and cheer, because the jeep does not belong to the group of ‘professional drivers’. After they have taken time for an extensive photo shoot of the crashed jeep, men are gathered to slide the vehicle into the bushes at the side of the track. Half an hour later there is just enough space for the Landcruisers to pass through and we continue our journey back to Malang.
We can still use our room to shower and then head on, on our long journey towards Flores, but the first stopover is planned in Denpasar, Bali.