The day I hiked around the crater of Mount Bromo volcano

On 16th June 2022, I paid Mount Bromo a visit. I got into the caldera free via this tip I got from this WikiVoyage article

You can hike down the jeep trail, but you will be charged the steep entrance fee. "Secret" hiking trails exist that bypass this entrance. The main path is well marked on and Gaia. At Cemera Indiah Hotel, find the narrow dirt alley along a fence that leads to the back of the hotel and the caldera rim. Go down a steep, muddy, switchbacked trail until you emerge on the caldera floor. You can then walk across the Sea of Sand to the Poten Temple and the Bromo crater. The walk from Cemoro Lawang to the crater will take about 60 minutes.

a trail surrounded with bushes while Mount bromo in the background
Savannah-like environment at the edge of caldera

There's a stair case to reach the top of Mount Bromo. That's the official and safest way. Parallel to it is a loose sandy trail to the top as well. Both were crowded and I took the sandy route. It was exhausting. Every step I made sets me back by one and half steps back. However, I was super exited to reach the top to finally witness and viscerally experience a live volcano for the first time in my life!

Trail of tourist going the same way to the top
Someone standing on top of a giant volcano lava rock
Ancient lava turned to rocks or something

And the top I reached I did! First thing that hit my senses was the relentless roaring hellish sound from the volcano! Second thing was the smoke and the sulfuric smell to it. Third thing was the heck people were throwing stuff towards the crater AND on the other side, which is the rugged slope towards the abyss, there were people trying to catch them with butterfly net. I was so confused and fascinated. I learned much later that it was actually a Hindu ritual sacrifice that went on on that day.

Mount bromo crater lined with people paying tributes in a festival
Totally didn't occur to me of the ominous clouds...
Yea the same sandals I'd use to hike ACT few months later

So now I started to walk clockwise around the crater. I didn't set out to do a round trip. I just wanted to walk away from the crowd to experience the volcano more deeply. Ahead of me I noticed one or two people. That gives me the confidence to walk further.

Going clockwise around the crater
Looking back
Always a relieve to know I'm not completely alone. And one of them wears slippers...
I wore this thin bandana to protect from the sulfuric smoke...

This is where it gets increasingly dodgy. I mean fuck! If I would have checked like I normally would, I would have seen this warning and wouldn't have gone further!


The trail gets increasingly rugged too. It's no longer a walk in the park. It involves some climbing, apparently - coz I sure as hell can't recall doing this bit!

notice the two figures above...what was i thinking...

Also increasingly, I had to be super - I repeat: SUPER - careful where I place each of my steps. The trail starts to get narrow to the width of as if two feets closed together with steep drop offs on both sides. And(fuck!) on top of that, likely due to foot traffic, tiny sandy pebbles had been swept till they cover half of the trail - the half away from the crater. That means...I'm walking one foot in front of another(fuck!)...directly on the edge to the crater...(FUCK!)...(btw I'm going literally "FUCK!" constantly over here as I write this.)

narrow ridge around crater of a living volcano...

It gets worse: it starts to...rain...drizzling with sparse droplets(FUCK!), not pouring rain just yet but its gonna come down hard soon.

And it gets even better: My foot starts to cramp a little....(FUCK!FUCK!).

So all this is happening while the crater is timelessly roaring like a biblical hell eager for me to join them; thick smoke blowing up and over me and the trail; the sulfurs from the smoke that gets me a little light-headed from inhaling it...(FUCK!)

At this point, I knew I had to keep moving and pick up my pace a little to finish this trail which ends where the stair case at. Then one group of local passed me by. I tried to follow closely behind them. Then -

I step on a loose trail and slide for like 4 feets...(FUCKKKKK!)

Luckily, it happens on the opposite side of the crater...

While I'm sliding, miraculously my extended right arm comes to wrap around a boulder. That stops the slide. And I was hanging there and I holler at the local group ahead of me "Tolong!!!"(help!!!). And they tell me to somehow fling myself to the trail below on my right side. And I did and landed well and I'm like "holy shit, yea fuck this, i'm done, gotta keep moving and get the fuck out of here". (Note: This incident wasn't captured with my phone.)

This was the broken part of the trail that's warned earlier.

Past this point, I am traversing tangentially on the loose slope opposite the crater. I felt much safer here coz it's not as steep, and since the surface is loose, you sink your feet into it and have a solid hold. Plus, if you do slide, it won't be into the fucking cooking crater.

looking back at loose slope opposite crater
See the cluster of people there? Yeah that's where you want to be - alive

The final stretch was dodgy as fuck too. The path was 2-feets narrow and its on the edge of a steep slope towards the crater. And the surface was slightly slated towards the crater(fuck...), so I slightly lean myself to the left side away from the crater coz I thought it'd add some safety. I don't fucking know.

Few minutes after I made it to the stair case, heavy rains and thunders came down in earnest.

Last words

This whole thing still gets to me to this date. Sometime I pinch myself to make sure I'm still alive. I shudder and let out a "FUCK" when I flash back to it.

I wonder what drove me ever deeper into the trail when at many points I could have decided to turn back and walk away. The few local people I encountered definitely gave me the confidence and comforts to forge on. I think these played a role too: hubris, adrenaline, sunk-cost fallacy, identity, up for challenge, curiosity, fun, and etc.

The visceral reaction to this experience has since served to remind me to be risk-adverse. It's enough to observe, experience, listen, learn, and be humbled so as not to take part in whatever my personal history up to that point has motivated me to do so. The handful of local people I met in the treacherous part of the trail probably had different nature of motivation and connection to the same reality. They were taking part in a sacrificial and tribunal exercise by doing a trip around the Mount Bromo crater on that festive day. I am not - To me, it was yet another stage on which to flex and from which to gain.

Be respectful to the mountains and be humbled by the local, if for no other reasons than your fucking live could be depended on it. ☘