Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Road Less Travelled: Malang-Ngadas-Cemoro Lawang. My Epic Adventure.



“Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled, and that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost”

The usual route from Yogyakarta to Mount Bromo is via Probolinggo, a bus terminal filled with touts. I read lots of horror stories about the drama in Probolinggo (I have one as well but that’s for a separate blog post). The other option is to get a package tour from your hostel or any travel agency and then endure a 15-16 hour minivan ride with other tourists. Two lousy options. Both not fun.

After some careful research, I stumbled across the Bromo backdoor route via the town of Ngadas. I read about the Malang-Ngadas-Cemoro Lawang route from these amazing bloggers. A good acquaintance, who also did this route, helped me out with the details.


So there are some adventurers who did this route. The thing is, they are all male. That made me a bit apprehensive about doing this route. Since you are reading my blog post about this, everything turned out pretty well.

Here we go.

I bid BFF Beth farewell and rode this pejak going to Tugu Railway station. The ride took less than 10 minutes from The Cabin Hotel to the station. I paid IDR 20,000. 

Fun short ride on a pejak

I exchanged my printed online reservation for a ticket at a booth near the entrance of the station. I booked the Yogyakarta-Malang train a month before my departure. I urge you to book the ticket earlier. I got my ticket for IDR 222,500 (more expensive than the IDR 172,000 that others got) and the 22:00 train was already sold out. I had to book the 20:35 train. Booooo. I could’ve spent more time with my bestie in Yogyakarta.




There were train “stewardesses” assisting the passengers of a train. They told me that I should wait for my train in another platform. I was early, 30 minutes early. I passed time swatting the mosquitoes away. I kept a watchful eye on my baggage. The whole place felt like Cubao.

Yogyakarta Tugu Station

I boarded the train 10 minutes before the departure time. There was no seat assignment so I picked a window seat near the toilet. The Eksekutif had enough room to stretch my legs even though I had a backpack. There’s an overheard compartment for luggage but I was feeling clingy about my stuff. I was travelling alone.

 

Enough space
I ordered Mi Goreng while on board for IDR 16,000. Yum!

Mi Goreng!
I passed time by reading a book by Harm de Blij – The Power of Place (This is a required reading material for my course. I am currently taking up my first semester of Masters in International Studies in UP Diliman. Now that’s for another blog post too.) Reading while in the train was a bit of a challenge. The ride wasn’t as smooth as the shinkansen in Japan. It was a bit shaky, but still felt safe. I guess it felt a couple of rungs steadier than the MRT. I was able to doze off for an hour or two. The train had multiple stops, and it waited for passengers in some. It arrived in Malang station at 3:40am. Please go to the restroom before going to Ngadas, especially if you are a female traveler.

Exit of Malang station

I wasn’t lucky enough to find possible travel buddies. So I had to do this myself.

I was high-strung with energy and some dose of fear when I exited Malang station. I passed all the noisy cab touts, I looked like a local so maybe that helped ward them off. I was lucky that there was a blue minivan (angkot) waiting outside the station at that ungodly hour. I said “Ajosari” to the driver. Just one word.

Blue angkot. At 4am.

The ride took around 30 minutes. It was cold. I shared the angkot with some locals with their vegetables. They went down in some market. Now it is just the driver and me. He was trying to make a conversation with me. Tough. No English at all. We had to stick with town names.

Him: Ajosari?
Me: Ajosari.
Him: Bali (I have no idea why or if Bali is even near)
Me: Tumpang
Him: *gestures at the whole van* Tumpang! Tumpang! *he pulled out a IDR 50,000 bill*
Me: *he wants me to charter the whole thing to Tumpang* No. Angkot from Ajosari to Tumpang.

He repeated his whole spiel of convincing me to hire the minivan all the way to Tumpang. He has no English so he cannot convince me. I have no Indonesian words so all I can say is “No”. Mas napagod sya kesa sakin, hehehe. I got a bit agitated at first when he started his whole campaign to Tumpang. I was a solo female traveller in a non-English speaking place and it wasn’t even dawn. Eventually, I calmed my nerves.

We reached Ajosari. Or what I think was Ajosari. I wasn’t sure really. He dropped me off  in front of a van and told the driver “Tumpang”. I handed IDR 5,000 and bid him “Terimah Kasih” and crossed to the other angkot. I just repeated the word “Tumpang”. The new driver replied “Tumpang”. We understood each other. I will get there!

There were three other passengers so we headed off. I read in the blog posts that the driver will wait for other passengers and he will ask the passengers for a higher fee if they want to get moving. I tried to communicate with my fellow passengers to ask for the fare to Tumpang. I failed. They just smiled at me. Luckily, I noticed this sign at the window. The fare costs IDR 6,000.


It was cold. I had to fish for my sarong as a blanket. The driver stopped in a lot of spots. It took us 45 minutes to reach Tumpang. It looked like Tumpang. It looked like a place where you can hire some vehicles. But it was just 5:00 am and everything was still closed. I walked around a bit and the angkot lingered from afar. I think the driver wanted to help me but he had no idea how. Feeling ko lang ha.

Tumpang. I think.

So I walked to a lit establishment a couple of meters away. There’s a table of locals eating their morning soup. I hovered over them. They looked at me. I said “Hello, ojek to Ngadas?”. A guy put down the thermos he was holding and raised his hand. Communication success. I asked for the price but I think he can’t say the price in English so a girl had to translate. He pegged his price at IDR 100,000. I haggled down to IDR 80,000 (because you can). He stood his ground. I had to agree, I didn’t really have other choices at 5:00am. We walked across the street to a bunch of parked motorcycles. I DEMANDED for a helmet. He grabbed one and handed it to me. We were ready.

The ojek ride lasted for an hour. Good thing I had practice with long motorcycle rides in Romblon. The first part of the ride was pretty smooth. The driver drove pretty safely, in my opinion. In the next half, the ride got bumpy. I was warned by my friend who did this route that this can be done, but female travelers should think twice. I understood why. Haggard!
  


During the bumpy part of the ride, my driver tried to talk to me. He had no English as well. So we stuck to places and hand gestures. I told him “Ngadas-Bromo”. He was talking and talking I didn’t understand. I finally understood that he is offering a ride all the way to Cemoro Lawang from Ngadas, for IDR 100,000. That wasn’t my plan.



My plan was to stay a night in Ngadas, catch an ojek to Bromo (or a jeep if I find friends in Ngadas) then go all the way back to Malang and ride a shuttle from Malang to Surabaya airport. My plan was to avoid Probolinggo as much as possible. But when we reached Ngadas, I hauled my weary butt off the ojek and decided I didn’t want to do that ride again. So I agreed that he should take me to Cemoro Lawang after going around the town of Ngadas.
 
The beautiful town of Ngadas

I was freezing when we arrived in this ranger station. I had to pull out another pair of socks and leggings. It was cold.

Price list from Ngadas
The fun part begins! I wasn’t really expecting that my ojek driver would tour me. I had no sleep, I didn’t take a shower, I didn’t brush my teeth, I was hungry. I was in no mood to do some poses for the camera. But he was excited to show me around so he stopped (even if I didn’t tell him to) at various spots and offered to take my photo. Kelangan magpaka-showbiz at wag magmukhang pagod for the photos.

The sunrise viewing spot.



Telletubby land, according to my ojek driver. Because of the small hills. The scene was gorgeous. The early morning fog adds to the grandiose drama of the place. 



I was too excited to explore some of the spots that I didn't bother dropping off my backpack. I just handed my camera to my ojek driver and he was very happy to direct me and take my shots.

May backpack pa.

The Savannah.


Shadow shot while in the motorcyle.

Volcano view.The ride during this part started to become dusty.

Standard shoe shot.

Malamig. Walang tulog. Gutom. Pagod. Pero pose pa rin!

He dropped me off in a homestay in Cemoro Lawang. I arrived in one piece. I was hungry, tired, sleepy, dusty and HAPPY. I was glad I did this less-travelled route.



Whew! To summarize everything:

Day 2: 20:35 H - Depart Yogyakarta via Malioboro Express   (booked a month ahead, IDR 225,000)
Day 3: 3:50H  - Arrive in Malang Station                            
Angkot (minivan) from Malang station to Ajosari (30 minutes)- IDR 5,000.00
Angkot (minivan) from Ajosari to Tumpang  (45 minutes) - IDR 6,000.00      
Ojek (motorcycle) from Tumpang to Ngadas (1 hour) - IDR 100,000.00        
Ojek (motorcycle) from Ngadas to Cemoro Lawang (1 hour or more, depending on your photo-taking session) – IDR 100,000.00                             

I took the less travelled route.
And that made all the difference.

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