Photo essay by Lucy Saunders
Travelling across Java from the heavily-populated, humid bird markets of Malang I reached what felt like the edge of civilisation. The road spiralled upwards, climbing through coffee plantations and rice fields. Houses thinned along the dusty roadside and transport-wise, horses replaced motorbikes. Tired but exhilarated, I arrived at an ash plane where Mount Bromo, a 2,329 metre active volcano, stood before me - beautiful and intimidating in equal measure. As a travel photographer and writer, I felt it was my mission to scale it; and oddly, the climb to its crater was surprisingly easy. The scorching sun made the ascent uncomfortable but, knowing that I was the one to suggest this off-the-beaten-track adventure, I had to stay motivated for those who followed me.
Reaching its summit in under an hour felt like an achievement, although the final push was yet to come. At the top of the volcano the ledge was small, with no barrier stopping you from falling into its mouth, and I found myself considering each footstep, constantly aware of my body and surrounds. All the while Mount Bromo remained vocal, its insides grumbling away should you peer over the edge. The ashy smoke which bellowed into the sky coated my clothing in an orange-grey fleck. That said, the view here is like nothing else; the cliff-edges behind us became apparent, the houses in the distance were almost indistinguishable, and the ground seemed rippled like a river. The solitude in such a vast space felt other-worldly.
As the evening settled, I slept for a few hours before waking and donning my walking boots once more. In the darkness I climbed the hillside opposite Mount Bromo, a head torch illuminating the path before me. Hiking at night the heat was kept to a minimum and reaching the summit the temperature dropped considerably. But I was almost too lost in the scenery to notice. I aimed to hit the summit for a front row seat of the sunrise illuminating Mount Bromo’s crater side and, arriving on time, the view was breathtaking as I'd imagined - dawn colours dancing across the golden terrain. Should you get the change to witness this spectacle know that it's a view sure to completely encompass you. Both spiritual and ethereal, it's not a sight I'll soon forget.