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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Sunrises & Rainbows

Updated: Apr 7

So I finally got out of Jakarta.

This was a good thing.  I don't unnecessarily mean to be intentionally mean to the entire city. I just think it was a venomous concoction of my frame of mind, the recent weather, the preceding affairs mixed with the current going-ons... and it was best for me to get out.


And not go back.

I was still watching the numbers skyrocket from my viral mattress video. And I was still disgusted by the hotel.

I caught a local bus north into Surabaya and then flew directly to Malang.  I wasn’t sure what Malang had to offer, but I’d seen pictures of a colourful village near there and it was all I needed to lure me in.

My hotel seemed nice. They weren't condescending in the least and my 8th-floor mattress was pure white... through and through. The walls were slightly grubby, but nothing worth grumbling about. Once I had finished my thorough inspection, I lay down to have a little rest.

And then the earthquake hit.

I had no idea what was going on. Suddenly the bed began to sway and I couldn't tell if it was actually happening or if it was all in my imagination. Maybe this whirlwind travel had finally caught up with me.  I felt tipsy… and wobbly... although I was lying down and I hadn't had a sip of alcohol. Then the curtains started swinging.


Not a comforting feeling when you’re on the eighth floor.

Like lightning, I shot out of bed, grabbed my goods (computer, money, passport) and bolted.  I’ve heard you should never use the elevator during an earthquake, though I've never had occasion to put this advice to good use. In my panic to escape, I couldn’t find the stairs, so I had to pray that the elevator would deliver me safely to the ground floor.

It did.

When I was safely in the lobby, I asked the concierge if there really had been an earthquake or if I was just losing the plot. There had been.

6.5 on the Richter scale… off the coast of Surabaya

No possible tsunami warnings.

Well... so much for my rest.

I liked Malang. I did. I liked it so much more than I had Jakarta. Maybe because it was smaller, friendlier, and had cleaner mattresses... I don't know. Malang was much more welcoming. I wandered around the district of Jodipan and found the blue village (Kampung Biru Arema) and the rainbow village (Kampung Warna Warni.)

Of course, someone was there to collect money from me before entering the Rainbow Village. From what I could tell, there was a set price for entering... and then there was a slightly higher price for entering - but WITH a sticker. I wasn't given the option, so I got a lovely and useless sticker.

The Rainbow Village was fun... a definite tourist attraction in desperate need of some re-painting and restoration... but fun. For such an Instagrammably inspired spot, I was the only one there! My whole time wandering around, I didn't run into one single other tourist.

I had been interested in doing a couple of hikes, after seeing some stunning photos of Ijen and Mount Bromo... but after careful consideration of my time frame, my fitness level AND my defective knee, I decided that a three-day expedition would not be ideal for someone like me.

I did a little bit of research into one-day, group hikes and found the Mount Bromo sunriser! I realize that I do need to push myself to do things like this. As incredible as they sound, when you're traveling alone it's easy to fall prey to lazy days.

Once I had successfully paid and committed, I received a text confirming my 1 AM pick-up time.


That seemed a bit extreme...

When was I supposed to sleep?

Was I supposed to set my alarm for 12:45 AM and then just be expected to function as a normal, fit person for the next 8-10 hours? Dreadful…

Tough as it was, I managed to survive...

We were all picked up between 1 and 1:30 AM... and the late night/early morning wasn’t as devastating as I’d imagined. I’d managed to get myself a wee catnap, which somewhat prepared me for a full night of being awake. There were three other travellers in my group. A couple from Romania and a girl from Spain. Any preconceived notions of sleeping in the vehicle were quickly erased when we started to hit the mountainous bumps... and we all had to concentrate on keeping our bums on the seats and keep our heads from continuously bumping the roof.

Our guide did prepare us for the bumps, but I honestly thought we were already on the bumpy bits when was actually arrived at the true bumpy bumps. In the back without seatbelts or much to grasp onto, we were tossed around in the back of that contraption like Yahtzee dice. There was a convoy of jeeps and we climbed so high into the clouds. The mixture of fog and blackout did nothing for our sense of direction, but thank goodness the drivers didn't seem phased. After more bumps, more blackness and more clambering up, up up, we eventually arrived at a small roadside village of toilets, cafés, souvenir shops and a multitude of people wandering around with secondhand jackets for rent.

I rented one. I had to.

It was freezing... and although we had all been advised to bring a coat, after five months in Southeast Asia, I was only in possession of a light rain jacket. There was no way it would be able to comfort me during the early morning temperatures atop an active volcano.

My rental jacket was long, puffy and designed with an off-white velvet material... and nothing you would ever choose for a strenuous hike, but it managed to keep me warm until the sun came up.

I must add something a little more about my outfit in here...

We've established that I didn't own a jacket. Nope. Because it would be chilly, all participants had been advised to wear long pants. Well... I didn't have long pants either. Nothing. Only shorts and skirts.

So I didn't have a winter jacket... nor did I have long pants...

I also didn't have any other footwear apart from my Birkenstock sandals. My preparation for this chilly sunrise hike was not shaping up to be too rewarding. was

So the day prior, I headed out into the streets to try and suit up.

I did end up buying a new pair of white sneakers... and a pair of what I thought were black, stretchy yoga-style pants. Turns out they were more on the small size... and less on the stretchy size. I had to rip apart the top hem to squeeze them over my gut... heave-ho each pant leg to stretch them wide enough to force them over my calves and hips... and then cover them up with a pair of my shorts so no one could see my material massacre.

It was hideous.

They managed to successfully cut off my circulation and it was difficult to breathe... let alone sit comfortably in the back of a jeep, on a bumpy road and then hike to see a sunrise... with strangers.

The sunrise was spectacular, despite my tiny, tight pants.

It was too surreal to believe it to be true. The entire landscape looked like AI. Fabricated. It was like a fantastical scene from a dinosaur movie. Of course, the entire lookout was an Instagrammable nightmare and as the sun gained momentum, it became more and more difficult to get a good photo. People were everywhere and in every pose, seeking that perfect photo of themselves with the golden backdrop.

We tried to get a few of ourselves, naturally... and even the guide offered to take a few photos for us... but despite his best efforts, his photo-taking ability was the worst and eventually, we all kindly refused his photography offers.

When the sun had finally taken its spot in the sky and daylight was upon us, we made our way from the valley vantage point down into the valley of the dragons. This was the 'blackout and bumpy' part of the journey up above the clouds. In daylight, the area seemed much less daunting... and was quite magical. I think the name may have been made up for the tourists, as I tried to find it online later and my searches all resulted in nothing.

Naming something 'the Valley of the Dragons' is much more fascinating than just referring to it as the 'bumpy part.'

To be sure.

Then it came time to hike up Mount Bromo, which is still an active volcano.

to the edge of the mountain and hiked up to the active volcano of Mount Bromo. At 2,329 metres, it is probably Indonesia's most famous and most photographed volcano. To reach it, there was a bit of a hike (more like a long path of steady inclination) up to a certain height and then another 250 steps to reach the crater view.

At the top, it was every man for himself. Rules and regulations be damned. Sure there was a decrepit fence at the top, meant to deter visitors from venturing (or falling) into the crater... but by no means was it a secure or protective barricade.

Survival of the fittest, I guess.

Meh - who cares about safety anyway?

Not us.

We were all supposed to go for breakfast after the volcano... but that didn't happen as planned. Not quite sure what happened, but apparently we were all running quite late. The Romanian couple needed to be dropped off to another driver, as they were continuing to another tour... and while this was happening, the Spanish girl and myself got dumped at a scenic waterfall trailhead.

The guy pointed at the kiosk and the road leading down from it.

"Go pay and go down road."

It was more of an order than a suggestion.

We had no choice... "We come back ONE hour. You wait here!" were the last words from the guide before we watched them all drive away.


Thank goodness they'd given us all a granola bar and a muffin when we'd first been picked up.

As odd as it was that we'd just been dropped off in the middle of nowhere, the waterfall was exquisite and powerful. Due to it being so remote, we almost had the entire place to ourselves as well.

True to his word, the guide was waiting for us when our hour was up and we made our way back to the parking lot. There was no more talk of breakfast and by this time, our exhaustion had surpassed our hunger, so we weren't as bothered.

I must have crawled back into my hotel room at around 2 pm... and passed right out.

From Malang, I caught a bus up to Surabaya and then a flight back to Bali. I figured I would spend my last couple days, relaxing by the pool, there before heading into Australia.

The weather was slightly better than it had been when I'd been before... but only slightly.

My resort was nice... but as it was cheaper than a lot of beachside resorts, there was a definite influx of young kids that didn't ever veer far from the pool or the bar... and a lot of loud music. It was more of a frat party vibe than an oasis of peace & relaxation.

My plan had originally been for me to just lounge around by the pool too... but curiously and exploration won again and within hours, I was checking into nearby things I could do.

Glutton for punishment, I found another sunrise hike... and another 1 AM hotel pick-up.

This one was Mount Batur, another one of Indonesia's active volcanos.

It was a smaller group, just myself and two brothers from Germany.

Again, with the forecast of being 'chilly' at the top, there were jackets to rent. I managed to grab the heaviest and bulkiest of the lot... and although it did come in handy for warmth and comfort at the top, it was a real bitch hauling it up and down the mountain.

The trek was labelled as 'easy' and 'designed for beginners'... but after making the treacherous trek, I don't tend to agree. It was a LOT of up, a lot of switchbacks and a lot of loose dirt, which made securing your footing difficult... especially coming down. a lot of uphill. I would say it was 'moderate to difficult' and a good level of fitness was needed. Not that I possess an acceptable level of fitness, at any time or by any means...

Again... stunning scenery.

Well worth the strain of the laborious trail.

While watching the sun take over the sky, we were treated to a hard-boiled egg, a boiled banana sandwich and an orange. There were dozens of locals mulling around, trying desperately to sell necklaces, bracelets, coca-cola and hot chocolate... but prices were beyond reasonable, so most of our efforts went into either ignoring them or kindly refusing their incessant offers.

On the day that I was set to leave Bali, I wandered into town to run a few errands before I left the inexpensiveness of Indonesia. I had to take advantage of absolutely everything before I flew to Australia and prices turned astronomical. I was in desperate need of a manicure, a pedicure and, of course, a massage. Always a massage. I'd also pinpointed a sushi place on my map for lunch. Always sushi.

It turned out that none of my errands got ticked off my life except for my nails and toes... and even that, hardly. I'd found a salon that wasn't busy at all and the girls got to work on me right away. Because they were both working on me, simultaneously, one on nails and one on toes, I figured I would be out lickety-split.

I was wrong.

So very wrong.

I would like to say that they were both very diligent, with great attention to detail... but unfortunately, it was not true.  I sat there for the better part of two hours, while they filed and buffed... and painted... and then filed... and painted more... and then filed and buffed and painted again. It was gruelling to watch. I knew my other hopes and plans for the day were dwindling away with each tik tok of the clock. The pedicure didn’t even involve a foot scrub, exfoliation or a leg massage... so we can't even blame luxury or indulgence for the lingering.

When push came to shove and I knew I had to either bolt or risk missing my airporter taxi, I was literally throwing them money and running out the door with wet toes and nails. 

It was lucky I called my Grab driver when I did because he got caught in traffic, which managed to put us even further behind than my salon service had.

Turns out... it all didn't matter anyway.

My flight was cancelled.

This information would have been handy earlier in the day. Had I known, I could have saved myself a lot of stress and even splurged on one more massage...

But no... the airline waited until we were all waiting at check-in... and flashed an intrusive and bright "FLIGHT CANCELLATION" message on all the JetStar screens. We all stood there, like deers in the headlights... not knowing how to process the information. We were in a daze.


Was it true?


It can't be...


Now what?

They cattled us all into a bus and dumped us at the nearest airport hotel with the promise of a good night's sleep, a buffet dinner and a ride back to the airport... at 2 AM... to catch our 5:30 AM flight...


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