Nov 22:  Ngadas to Malang


Up 2am.  Slept surprisingly well.  Had dreams.

We left at 2:35am in jeeps, which were necessary because the dirt road to Mt. Bromo is extremely bumpy and pitted.  The opposite of flat.  I tried to take photos of the headlight-illuminated road in front of us but there was too much jerking motion.

This ride was so slow and bumpy that the Health app on my phone was counting it as thousands of steps walked!  I deleted them.  Just maintaining accuracy, even though I will almost definitely pretend November didn't happen and in December I'll just improve upon October.  LA is far too cold and rainy and dark in winter to get any serious hiking or walking in.

When we left my phone said it was 54F/12C in Ngadas, and of course it'll drop a few more degrees until the sun comes up, but I realized we're going higher into the mountains so it could drop into the 40s/single digits.  This is the only night/day I'm wearing jeans and a jacket (except for the arrival and departure days because LA is so cold).

Started to notice the lights of progressively more jeeps falling into line on the road ahead of us.  Nearing the lookout point, but still far from it, jeeps were already parking on the side of the road.  It was a madhouse (or, I suppose, a puzzle factory).  We got to the parking lot at the top and it was full.  This is why you wake up at the ridiculous hour of 2am, and even that was too late.  Reminded me of 1993 when a friend and I got the idea to go up to Mulholland Drive on the Fourth of July to watch fireworks, not anticipating that thousands of other people had the same idea.  The parking lot was full that time also.  This time, we just turned around and parked on the street at 3:36am, below the parking lot but above the trail to the lookout point (King Kong Hill), so actually a very solid parking spot.

Since this is a remote area, the sky was starry.  I was into astronomy as a kid (I had a book with a map of the northern constellations on the inside front cover, and southern on the back), and it blew my mind when I went to Brazil in 2006 and saw Orion upside down from its Northern Hemisphere orientation.  Here, since we're close to the equator, Orion is sideways.

I figured in the 50s with some walking, a jacket over a t-shirt would suffice.  Didn't want to pack anything heavier just for one day.  But once we got to King Kong Hill and stopped moving, DAMN it was cold.  We were sitting around a fire to stay warm at one of the many food and souvenir shops.  A reminder to people who claim to like cold weather, or maybe they really do because of cancer or a thyriod problem:  Normal people need fire to stay warm around 50F/10C to avoid death from hypothermia.  You're outvoted.

We waited at the lookout point in anticipation of sunrise.  Dawn was around 4am so we could start to make out the mountains.  Sunrise was a few minutes after 5am.  Some people were congregating to the left of here to take pics of the sun as it rose.  Meh.  I stayed in the same spot to see Bromo and the other mountains revealed.

In addition to the crowds up here, a couple assholes were flying drones, and twice a guy (two different guys, but not two sets of guys) stood next to me and smoked a cigarette, as if it was OK under any moral code and not assault.  It's an Asian thing.  For years working in Hollywood I encountered Chinese tourists who thought nothing of smoking upwind from where I was eating and dropping that gunk on my food and clothes and hair.  Maybe it's an education thing, because I learned in high school that any reaction with noxious or harmful products is to be performed under a fume hood.  Asian countries should legalize the teaching of chemistry in high school, and then people would know not to smoke in public.

A few minutes after sunrise (I discarded all the pre-sunrise pics).  Looking south.  This entire flat area surrounded by a rim is the crater of the ancient Tengger volcano.

In front (the mountain without its cone blown off) is Batok, which is no longer active.  Back and to the left is Bromo (the Javanese pronunciation of Brahma, so it's The Rock of volcanoes, or the The Rock), with steam rising.  The very wide mountain behind them with a distinct rim is Kursi, the successor to Tengger.  The tall mountain way in the distance is Semeru, the highest peak (3676 m) on Java.  It's active and I've seen photos with steam rising above it, but not today.

A bit zoomed, more light, iPhone.  Better glimpse of Bromo belching steam.  I'd read it was supposed to smell like sulfur up here, especially closer to Bromo later, but nothing.  I wish it smelled like bromine as suggested by the name.  Sulfur and bromine--two more elements I like better than carbon.  In freshman chemistry Tom Straub passed around a huge jar of sulfur and said we could eat it, and it goes through weird phase changes as you heat it.  Bromine is just so volatile and colorful, and one of two elements that are liquid at standard pressure and room temperature.  What's room temperature?  77F/25C/298 K.  If you think room temperature (i.e. what's considered the most comfortable ambient temperature for a clothed person in a room) is lower than that, it means you smoked too much weed in high school and didn't learn science.

Wider view of the crater and volcanoes.

Tighter view, still more light.

A lower lookout point that some (most?) people in the group went to.

The plan was to stay here taking photos till 6am, but we were back in the jeeps at 5:52am.  Drove down to the crater floor for breakfast.

Breakfast stop, 6:15am.  The food was part of the arrangement with the homestay:  hard-boiled egg, Nutella (or its regional equivalent) or bread, and a banana.  I hate bananas!  I saved mine and later out of spite I carried it all the way to the top of Mt. Bromo and dropped in a trashcan there so someone would have to carry it all the way back down.  I hate bananas!

Barry took a silly video of us after breakfast and instructed us to dance.  I think he was gonna dub music over it later.  It went out on WhatsApp so I didn't see it, but others did because they mentioned my dancing.  Again, I am a creator, leader and entertainer, and a Groundlings-trained improvisor, so when he said dance I envisioned a disco ball and went to work.  And hey, why didn't WWE pick up Disco Inferno when they bought WCW?  His is one of the few WCW-only entrance themes I've added to my collection.  Could have at least put him against Ernest "The Cat" Miller in a feud over who the better dancer was.

Drove 6:45am-6:56am to the parking lot near Mt. Bromo and began our walk to the top.

Batok, from previous pics.

Batok to the right, Bromo in the distance.  We're walking across the Sea of Sand on the crater floor.  The sand is volcanic dust, just like in the kraton in Yogya.  I didn't realize the Sea of Sand is also the Sea of Horse Poop and the Sea of Dust Clouds.  Can't stay clean here.

I suppose this is the seashore.  The ascent begins.

Slopes of Bromo.  Cooled magma.  Cool and cooled!

Looking back to the north and the crater floor.  Batok on the left.  Hindu temple on the floor at center.  King Kong Hill is somewhere in the distance along the rim.

Crater floor to the east.

Many times on the climb to the top (trail here, then 253 steps), a local person in front of me slammed on the brakes and turned around to talk to someone, seemingly oblivious to the surge of hikers behind him.  Kind of like the smokers earlier, oblivious to the person next to them.  I've travelled a lot and I live in LA so I've been around a lot of citizens/residents of Asian countries, and if my observations can be contradicted by a larger sample size then by all means contradict, but that obliviousness is a recurring theme.  I've encountered a disproportionate number of Asians around the world who stand on the left on escalators and moving walkways and act surprised when a normal walking person expects them to move the fuck out of the way.  I'm curious as to why this general behavior is a thing.  Genetic flaw, or cultural flaw?  Also, whenever I type "Asians" I read it in Eddie Murphy's voice.

Batok, from near the top of Bromo.

7:38am I reached the rim.  THIS IS AWESOME (clap clap clap-clap-clap).  It looked there's a lake in there from rain, and it's constantly boiling away.  Sometimes there's more than steam--in 2004 two tourists, possibly standing where I am, were killed when rocks were ejected.  This whole area is closed to tourists if there's any serious volcanic or seismic activity.  Elevation here according to my phone is 7490 ft.

Wider shot.  I took a 20-second video here and put it on FB.  Look for it there.

On the way back down, at the base of the stairs where you walk down the trail the rest of the way, guys were waiting with horses to give people rides.  Maybe these people paid for round trips, but I'm pretty sure I would still skip the downhill part.  I walked up this mountain limping on an arthritic toe.  Earlier this year my ankle was stiff, sore and badly swollen from either an arthritis attack or a sprain, and I walked 20,000 steps on it one day.  These people are riding horses to avoid walking downhill.  That is some Hall of Fame laziness right there.

On the way down my jeans were really falling down.  I had to hold up both legs to keep them from dragging in the dust too much.  I really have to eat those Doritos, and eat more meals when I get back to LA.  I gotta plump up.  All my pants fit me when I'm 5-10 lb chubbier.

Back down to the parking lot 8:21am.  Phone says 6990 ft, so that was a 500-ft climb in 42 min, much of which was flat across the Sea of Sand (which greatly slows down your walk).  One of my favorite hikes in LA (Fern Dell to the Observatory to Mt. Hollywood) climbs >1000 ft in an hour.  So this was half of a hike.

Jeeps 8:44am-9:19am, back to the homestay in Ngadas.  We did a walking tour of the village, led by one of the local girls from dinner last night.  Saw a Buddhist temple, a cemetery, and a school with kids out playing and hanging out.  They wore uniforms, but they were just kind of boldly-colored shirts.

Returned to our homestay house 9:55am.  No one seemed to be home, but it was open.  My nose felt runny so I wiped it and the tissue turned black.  My nostrils were coated with volcanic dust.  Oh God, it's everywhere.

We were supposed to leave Ngadas at noon, with lunch provided by our house at 11:30am or possibly as early as 11am.  I packed my bags and did stuff on my phone.  After 11am, no sign of the owners.  11:30am, no sign.  Then at 11:35am they showed up and we were summoned down to lunch.  Some of it was clearly leftovers from last night (not a bad thing, because those noodles were so good) but also there was yummy dry beef!  It was very dense and dry, vaguely reminiscent of sujuk, but not spicy and different consistency.  I'm guessing dehydrating beef was a way to preserve it in a remote location like this.  The food was included in the price of the tour, and perhaps Barry also paid them out of the tipping kitty, but the three of us agreed to tip our hosts additionally.  I figured good food, a single room, and a good night's sleep...that's worth something extra.

Taxis were slow in arriving because it was Friday and the taxi company was struggling to find drivers who weren't at prayer.  Left 12:15pm to go back to Malang.

Due to check-in time we couldn't go to the hotel right away, so Barry had the taxis stop 1:45pm at that bridge with the colorful houses we saw yesterday.

Kampung Warna Warni Jodipan is the name of this area/project.  The painting just started in 2016.

Again, that second bridge with the colorful pylons is the one went went over on the train yesterday.

Still from the bridge.

We walked down into the village.  Weird, when I took this I totally forgot that bridge on the left is the one we were just on.

I was walking down steps here one step at a time because my right knee was acting up.  I assume I overcompensated for my left toe limp up to Bromo and strained it.  It's the LCL on the outside.  Always happens.  So many sore joints on this trip, but all could have been avoided if I had access to propofol and could sleep properly before and at the beginning of the tour.  Also if I wasn't 50.

One web site said this project was inspired by the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.  That's not a good inspiration.  Nyhavn in Copenhagen maybe?  Yeah, cite that one instead.

I meant to get a close-up of that Hulk mural but I didn't.

Left the colorful houses 2:10pm in the same taxis.  Arrived at the Balava Hotel 2:20pm.  There's a pool, but tomorrow there's a pool and a beach.

View from our room.  That sort-of infinity pool looks right over the train station from yesterday.  I didn't go to the pool but Toomas went down to read.  Back to normal temperatures in Malang (90s/30s).

Between 3:02pm and 3:05pm I FINALLY POOPED!  Seven days' worth.  One anaconda after another emerged from its slumber, each one longer and more menacing than the previous.  This childbirth was probably prompted by my hydration returning to near-normal and the potpourri of food in the last day that wasn't fried rice.  Travel does weird things to the human body.

Hotels on this trip have been stingy in  providing travel-size toiletries.  A roommate always complicates things because I can't just take things for later that he might want to use today, but they're just not giving us enough freebies.  So far I've snagged only one soap and one shampoo, but oddly 4 dental kits (toothbrush & toothpaste combo).  Coincidentally, I think the toothbrush I currently use at home is from China Air 2010.  I've gone through others since then.  I just recently found the 2010 brush unopened.

These roasted corn Doritos taste just like sweet corn!  Like a bowl of corn, or corn on the cob that you forgot to coat with butter and salt.  The ingredients list said it was something like 70% corn, but lots of chips are corn-based yet don't taste like corn.  These Doritos should be available in the US.

Checked in for my flights on Sunday (China Air allows it within 48 hours).  Assigned 11E for the flight to Taipei.  Nope.  Changed that to 10K.  And then for TPE-LAX I was assigned 69K.  Last row, window, no kicking child behind me.  The Leave Me the Fuck Alone Seat.

I chilled in the room for 4+ hours.  Shaved, showered off that volcanic dust, phone/Internet stuff, transcribed the travelogue.

I was worried the noise from the trains would be a problem in the room, but it was actually the announcements.  They were louder than the trains, and the call to prayer.

Met for dinner 6:45pm and packed into a minibus far above legal capacity.  Arrived at Malibu Steak 'n' Pizza.  I got crab fried rice and a beer.  Everyone else got steak or pizza, but I was skeptical of buzzwords on the menu like "imported" and "Malibu", plus I ate those Doritos earlier so I wasn't ready for a huge meal, plus after the burger I wasn't confident about an Indonesian steak, plus I can get a steak at Ralphs and broil and eat it at home along with corn on the cob coated with butter and salt and dip the steak pieces in the excess butter and salt that doesn't stick to the cob.

This restaurant was the first on this trip with table salt!  Also my crab fried rice came with a stray piece of fish with bones in it.  Net negative.  I wasn't regretting not getting a steak, but Missy's onion rings were tantalizing me.  I ate the last two.  They were too sweet.  See, I knew this place couldn't do non-Asian food right.

Every night of this trip, Barry asked us after dinner if anyone wanted to stay out for more drinks.  I was always the only person who said yes.  I get that we have early departures and we've been up since 2am today, but come on, I came to Indonesia to be awake and drunk, not asleep and sober.  There's a buzz about the last night of the tour in Bali tomorrow.

Back to the hotel 9pm.  Threw my contacts in the trash.  They're good for 14 days, after which I have to use a new pair.  I wish I could have done something cooler like when I pulled them out of my eyes and tossed them overboard into the Mediterranean in Turkey.  Bed 9:52pm


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