Official site of Christian Van deer Valke the traveller


The legend of Mount Bromo.

It was a warm evening. I stopped a small truck and asked:

— Where are you going, man?

— To Bromo. Get into the car. I’ll give you a ride.

Together with my companion Olya, we got into the truck bed. Not long after the car stopped in some vilage, our driver got out and locked the truck.

— Welcome to Cemoro Lawang, my friends! This is my home.

— Terema kasih [1] !

We wished him well and went to seek shelter for the night. The town was shrouded in a thick haze and air smelt like brimstone — Bromo was smoking. Suddenly the fog turned yellow and we saw shining windows of Cemara Indah flophouse. A sneezing receptionist, who by the way looked quite sick, gave us a key to a double room.

— You are lucky. Bromo doesn’t always breath at Cemoro Lawang. If the soul of Bromo breathes at you, it means you attracted its attention.

In the crater. Nothing will tear us apart.

In the morning I found out that our bungalow set at the edge of a huge crater of an extinct volcano! Below I saw two more volcanoes, they were rather small – about 100 meters high. One of them zealously belched clouds of smoke.

— This is Bromo, the active volcano, and that is Batok. It is dead now and not dangerous, — Olya said.

We headed down a path leading to a big crater.

Waste ground covered with black volcanic grits lay before us, as large as life. Unearthly tranquility reigned in the air. We saw stairs leading upwards. a breach showed black in the center of the crater, out of the breach a thick white smoke was belching skyward.

Brimstone smell seemed to eat into every rock here. Suddenly someone touched my shoulder making me glance back. A guy was holding out to me a digital camera, his hand around a girl’s waist. The girl was smiling.

— we came from Probolingo to climb Bromo together. In our country we have an ancient legend: if a man and a woman climb Bromo together, the soul of the volcano will protect them forever and nothing will tear them apart. Would you take a picture of us, mister? Just to remember the moment. It would be good for us.

I did what they wanted, and then we sat down on stones with our legs dangling. Our new Indonesian friends gave us patties, baked according to the local recipe. And Olya said:

— You know, Kris, we also climbed the mount together.

Falling. Even death cannot do us apart.

In the evening we asked the receptionist where the best view of volcanoes was. He said that Mount Penanjakan is the best viewpoint. Thus, we decided to meet the next sunrise on Penanjakan. Two roads led to the Penanjakan peak: the first one was a loop road allowing for a jeep to pass, the second one was the shortest route and turned out to be a narrow path used by the locals. Olya suggested going on foot.

The narrow path winded along the slopes up to the top of the mountain. Some plants clutched its thorny paws at us. At night, our almost invisible path hit a sheer mountain slope – there we were, cut off from the next path by a ten-meter wall. There were a lot of juts and roots on the mountain wall, so I went first. I was half meter from the top – just to pull up at the jut and to seize the root of a big tree which grew on the top. But the treacherous jut crumbled in my hand and I started to fall down. I saw my whole life in one glimpse. All of a sudden, the voice of my wonderful companion burst into my thoughts:

— Root on the left! Grasp it!

The voice brought me to life and I hung by the strong root. It was over. Everything was all right. Olya hugged me and we stood in silence for a moment, happy that we were together.

Ascent to penanjakan. Happy ending.

We reached the viewpoint. Penanjakan commanded a magnificent view of volcanoes. Far below Bromo kept belching smoke, and farther, beyond the crater a huge Semeru volcano dithered, erupting thick clouds of smoke every ten minutes.

In the blue sky Olya’s words flew over the earth, over all volcanoes and clouds:

— Kris, I feared for you so much. Please, never fall again!

— Have no doubt!


Chris Van der Valke, Indonesia 2008.

Published in «Traveler’s Diary» of Summer-Autumn 2010, and other magazines and newspapers.

Translated from Russian to English by «Traveler’s Diary» magazine. The original full Russian text is here.


Notes of author:

[1] Terima kasih — thank you (Indonesian).

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