On A trip to Indonesia’s Java island recently, my friends and I hiked up Mount Merbabu in Yogyakarta.

We started our ascent at 10.30pm and were tired soon after but the prospect of catching the sunrise kept us going.

At 5.15am, we reached one of the checkpoints – Pos 5 – and we could see that the sun was already breaking through the horizon.

We had the choice of either continuing our 200m journey to the summit or enjoying the moment right there and then.

We decided to stay put and watch one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.


Enjoying the beautiful sunrise at Mount Merbabu.

We continued our hike after the short break as we knew that we could see a good view of the seven other mountains in Central Java from the summit.

Once at the top, we took in the breathtaking view … and ate our cereal – 3,142m above sea level!


The writer at the summit of Mount Merbabu.

The next day, we headed to Malang in East Java which was more than seven hours’ drive away. We met our guide there and headed straight to the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park to catch another sunrise. We were led to Mentigen Point, Penanjakan and Bukit Cinta, where we were able to view Mount Bromo, Semeru and Batok all at once.

Our guide dropped us at Pura Luhur Poten, a Hindu temple, and we dragged our feet through the Sea of Sands. We could have rented horses to take us across the dunes but we did not like the idea. After our trek, we climbed the 253 steps that took us to the crater’s edge. Those who have vertigo may find it quite challenging to walk on the edge as there are no railings or safety ropes to guide you. There’s also the overwhelming smell of sulphur that greets you everywhere…

Catching two sunrises was not enough for us so we headed to Ijen to see the gorgeous turquoise crater lake. The caldera rim is 4km from the base camp so we started our hike early at 2am. When we got there, we had to wear gas masks in order to breathe! We saw a few miners mining sulphur inside the caldera and we wondered how they could stand the stench.


Labourers with the harvested sulphur.

By then, we were very tired but still wanted to see more so we headed for Madakaripura Waterfall. Our guides took us on their bikes to the entrance where the statue of Gajah Mada can be seen in a sitting position.

From there, it took us approximately 15 minutes to reach the cascading waterfalls. It was a set of seven waterfalls, with the tallest being 200m tall. Surrounded by lush greenery, it was truly a sight to behold. We were tempted to jump into the cool water, but were advised against it because of the dangerous strong currents.

We ended our journey in Surabaya – we had covered more than 300km overall! – savouring all the delicious local food, and already planning for our next big adventure.

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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