We left Bali about 9am with the intention of heading back to Java and inland to Probolinggo which sits on the North East coast of Java about 5 hours in. The reason for heading toward Probolinggo was simple – Gunung Bromo. It is basically an active Volcano that last shot its load only a few years ago, surrounded by a few other volcano’s which apparently give way to one of Indonesia’s best sights all of which are a few thousand metres high.
The first leg of the journey was to get to the Ubung Terminal which is where all the buses for Java or Western Bali leave from. There are loads of bus terminals in Denpasar so find out where you need to get from before heading there. Once at Ubung Terminal we were of course hounded by Balinese trying to help us get our cash out and liberally feed the five thousand. I ignored them all including the ridiculous prices we were quoted from all the travel offices. Also, ignore the police who tell you have to buy a ticket to get into the station – you don’t. Just walk past and ignore them moaning at you to come back.
We were getting stupid prices quoted for Gillimanuk, which is the ferry port at the Western point of Bali. Finally I spotted a local bus and was told 25,0000IDR (£1.70) for 1 person. You will be charged for kids too so it’s best to negotiate.
Now, you have to understand, Indonesian buses are designed to be as uncomfortable, awkward and hot as possible. Don’t even think of air con, you are lucky if you get one of those blower things. Air con is basically the window open, which in Bali means nothing due to the almost constant traffic jam. Then there is the seats, you get about an inch leg room and half an inch for your arse to perch on, genuinely, the 3hr journey to Gillimanuk was a grizz and half. Oh, then add in the fact the bus won’t go until it is full. Eventually we pulled into Gillimanuk, there is a few stops so tell the driver you need the ferry for Banyuwangi, which is the Eastern tip of Java.
The ferry costs 5,700IDR each (40 pence) again they don’t care about kids, just give a number and pay for that amount. I have yet to be questioned.
The ferry takes an hour and when you get off prepare to be hounded by ‘government officials’ who need you in their tourist office for purposes of statistics. Ignore them and head for the road.
Once at the road I found out that there wasn’t a train until 10pm that night, given it was only 1pm we headed for the bus station. Public transport is basically yellow Scooby Doo Vans for a fee of about 2,000 per person – Again negotiable. The Bust station is 2km North.
Again ignore the police telling you to pay and jump on the bus. The fee for the 5 hour journey to Probolinggo is 30,000IDR each.
As the bus pulled into Probollingo at about 9pm it was raining heavy, monsoon style. We were told to come under cover – then as we started to we were asked for money! I told him what scum he was and we put the Gore-Tex on, pulled overwater proof covers on the bags and set about walking. Pissed right off we ignored everyone and we got to the main road and started to wade through the flooded road about a foot deep. About 20 minutes later and after going through some hefty rain we found a hotel, got a good price and were sorted.
I just want to explain about Gore-Tex, most jackets these days talk about being waterproof. I have yet to find one as good as Gore-Tex, seriously. From my days as a young Paratrooper in the Brecon Beacons, to scaling Scafel Pike only last year to walking in rain last night so heavy it was like nothing I’ve ever known. Gore-Tex has always held out for me. I was completely dry underneath, 100%, my phone and cash perfectly dry.
Once at the hotel I sorted us a car and driver for the following mornings mission to Gunning Bromo. But not before some good wholesome local ‘Nasi’ (funky tasting rice) and a few drinks. The driver was booked for 4am and when my alarm said ‘5hrs 20 until alarm’ I was glad to be in bed, but even more glad to be off that bus. It really was shocking. But it was great to be back in Java, where although you might get the odd scam at least it was nothing like Bali where they would have bottled the air and sold it for a premium if they could have.
Here is a price comparison for Java/Bali – Firstly, in Java there is no tourism tax, so instantly up to 40% is wiped off your receipt.
The costs are Java/Bali and are average costs what we encountered:
Meal – 17,500/60,000(+tax)
Drinks – 2,000/6,000
Taxi – 3,000/20,000
Entrance ticket – 25,000/150,000
Motorbike hire – 20,000/80,000
Internet – 2,000 per hr/4000 Per 10 mins
It’s easy to see just how expensive Bali is compared to Java.