Passage to Mount Bromo invokes a traipse on some long-forgotten moon. Craggy rock formations, gnarled and veined as of some ancient pulmonary system, stab at the ebbing mist as shadowy figures fade in and out of perception. This stark setting creates in the visitor a sense of discombobulation and befuddlement, but the effect is undeniable; it is here, in the cauldron of Java’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, that lies the greatest figurehead of Indonesia, the symbol of its atavistic, otherworldly power.
Awaiting across the Segara Wedi, the Sea of Sands, are the collapsed crater of Bromo itself, dormant Mount Batok and in the far distance Mount Semeru, a gigantic cone rearing over the entire landscape, the constant plume of grey smoke, ash and stones rising from its peak reminding visitors of its destructive, and most definitely active, force. The crags of the explosive triumvirate are cold and grey and alien: there exists no frame of reference for the eerie nothingness emanating from the rocks. Should they move and form shapes away from the support of their cousins would be of no surprise. As with the rest of Indonesia, the unspoken gaps between spaces imbue the country with power both obscure and mystifying.
These feelings cannot be put into words. Only physical symbols suggesting great might can adequately convey the intrinsic, unknowable force. Bromo – or Lake Toba, or Kelimutu, or the Ijen Crater, or… the reader can see this particular pattern forming – brood with the spectacular. They wield great elemental forces, proving, again and again, the unpredictability of nature. As the fog clears around the volcanic crags ghostly figures on horseback form through the murk, their gaits jilted, their pace unsure. In the distance, Semeru bilges forth great plumes of smoke, an ever-present symbol of the vanquishing power throbbing gently underneath Indonesia’s aged skin.