View Asia 2008 on Wardsan's travel map.
OK, it's time for a new look.
Thick hair encrusted with sea salt defeated the clippers for half an hour, and it hurt a bit. But now I can catch any breeze on the top of my slightly ogival cranium.
From Malang we travelled to Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park in East Java. The park contains a huge caldera and a number of active volcanoes. We stayed at Cemara Walang, on the rim of the caldera at 2,300m. It was cool after sunset, and hawkers sold hats, scarves and gloves.
From the crater rim it is a gorgeous view, at least in the morning, after the mist has burnt off and before the clouds roll in. The two mountains in front of the hotel, Bromo and Batok, are the same height at 2,392 m. Batok is a steep cone, Bromo a kicked-in sandcastle, constantly smoking.
Fourteen kilometres away is Mt Semeru, at 3,676m the highest in Java, from which a smoky eructation issues every quarter of an hour.
We are up at 3.30 am and jeep to a point on the rim of the caldera at 2,700m, where Bromo and Batok line up with the more distant Semeru. It is chilly, but nothing like as cold or windy as Kinabalu. The view is breathtaking as the sun comes up. Some of the pictures look completely fake: has the sky been pinked and the smoke added? No.
There are thirty or forty people watching the dawn at the viewing point on the rim: the peak season has passed, and it is Ramadhan, so numbers have fallen sharply. In August there would be hundreds of people.
Later we walk from Cemara Walang across the caldera floor, the so-called Sea of Sand. Utterly arid, it is very dusty and difficult to walk on.
We walk past a Hindu temple – this is the last bastion of the original Hinduism on the island, the locals being descended from Hindus who fled the onrush of Islam in the 13th and 14th centuries – and up a couple of hundred steps to the rim of Bromo.
Smoke issues continuously from a vent in the floor. We had planned to walk around the rim, but the wind is blowing the sulphurous emission everywhere and it is too difficult.
In the afternoon we all sleep; I read The Tempest in an open hut on the rim. The clouds roll in, the view disappears, and I am plagued by flies.
This is Dick, retired opthalmologist and avid cameraman.
This is Alexi, tenuously affiliated to our tour group.