Before long, our 4 day 3 night trip in Komodo was over! It was time to head on over to Surabaya for the second leg of our trip.
We had an 8.40 am flight to catch, but since the airport was just a 10 minute taxi ride away, we had time to wake up and have breakfast in the villa for the first and only time during our entire stay. The caretaker prepared our breakfast as per our request and served it at the common area.
I love the villa’s common area as it gives you an almost (strategically planted coconut tree right in the centre) unspoiled view of the islands that surround Labuan Bajo as well as its busy harbour. We were definitely going to miss this view and were sad that it was our last day in Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the land of dragons 😦
We did all our remaining packing, and I concurrently made some last-ditch attempts to find a camera store in Bali, our layover stop. On Google maps, we looked at one of the camera stores nearer to the airport and guess what – it had the right camera chargers in stock! The caveat was that it was still a 20-minute drive away from the airport. Would there even be enough time to get there and back in time for the flight?! We were going to have to try our luck!
With that, we handed the keys back to the caretaker and went on our way to Komodo Airport.
Enroute to Surabaya
First, we had to take a domestic flight to Denpasar International Airport, Bali followed by a layover and another domestic flight to Juanda International Airport, Surabaya.
LionAir doesn’t have the best reputation but it was the cheapest option.
Labuan Bajo airport was surprising – we expected something smaller and less modern, given that it’s a small town.
We boarded our little propeller plane (Dian’s first time!), and an hour or so later touched down in Bali!
The Pursuit of the Camera Charger
There was no time to waste! – we immediately headed to the domestic departures terminal to check in for our flight to Surabaya from Bali. Once that was done and we had our boarding passes, I rushed to look for a cab driver. (Dian: We figured it would make more sense for me to catch the flight even if he had to miss it, so I could receive our bags over there. I stayed behind with the boarding passes and had onion rings at BK. Hehe)
So the conversation with the driver I hired went like this:
“Can you get me to this place and back to the airport in 1 hour?” *Points to location on my phone*
Driver stares intently and looks at me
“I get you back in 45 minute boss!”
That was how I got one of the wildest car rides in my life. From ignition, the driver I hired weaved in and out of traffic, ran a red light and got flipped off!
If you somehow find yourself in a pickle and need any sort of camera equipment urgently, Sinar Photo is the closest and most well stocked camera store that is the closest to Dempasar Airport and your only hope.
The address of this store is Jl. Raya Kuta No.133, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali, Indonesia
Once I got there, I dashed into the store, told the staff I wanted the camera charger and paid the ~SGD 30 for the third party universal charger and dashed back to the car. A very sunburnt Caucasian tourist in the store looked at me in confusion.
With that, the driver rushed his way back to the airport and I made it in time to grab a BK meal before boarding time. SUCCESS! No more worries about a dead camera!
I got the driver’s number just in case I ever needed light speed travel around Bali or a getaway driver in the future.
LionAir and budget airlines in general tend to start boarding passengers only 10 minutes before takeoff, so we were good to go.
Making our way to Cemoro Lawang
When we landed in Surabaya, we had to find our way to Cemoro Lawang, a village located near the base of Mount Bromo.
We opted to take a shuttle to the local bus station (Purabaya / Bungurasih station) -> take a bus to a town called Probolinggo, and then -> make our way to our Mt Bromo accommodation, Cafe Lava Hostel.
(You can get to Bromo from the airport by car, the fastest but also most expensive way, but less expensive if you’re travelling in a group. We were quoted IDR 680,000 to 750,000!)
The local bus station was super packed with people waiting for buses to various towns.
The bus was very full by the time it left the bus station.
The ride itself… was not very pleasant. Throughout the four hours, a couple of people smoked on the bus, it was warm, and also very noisy. Basically you get what you pay for. But it was quite the experience indeed.
Getting to our hostel
Once we got to Probolinggo, it was already 7pm. We discovered that there were no more buses headed towards Cemoro Lawang 😦 If you’re looking to get to Bromo via bus, make sure to arrive at Probolinggo by mid-afternoon so you can catch the last bus. No idea WHEN the last bus is, however, because there doesn’t seem to be any info anywhere online, but Probolinggo bus station in general seems like a sketchy place (Google for more info) so you may want to avoid it altogether as there WILL be locals trying to rip you off in terms of transport over to Cemoro Lawang. However, if you’re on a budget, this is pretty much your only option.
We had to hire a couple of locals to drive us up on their motorbikes. Cue part 2 of our ~local travel experience~.
It was the eve of Hari Raya Haji (Eid ul-Adha) so we passed by groups of locals walking down the streets holding torches. Not something you see in Singapore!
Before getting on the bikes, we somehow forgot that Cemoro Lawang is located near the base of Bromo and is therefore C O L D. We were dressed for a tropical climate at this point in time (tees, winglets and berms). As a result, we endured wind and chilly air for the one hour of the 1.5-hour journey that it took us to ascend. However the view got increasingly better as we went higher and away from Probolinggo. The night skies opened up to us and we could see hundreds of stars!
After what felt like FOREVER, we finally arrived at Cafe Lava Hostel, shivering and all. It must have been below 10 degrees outside. Not surprising when you’re at an altitude of around 2,000 metres!
Unfortunately, as we were dismounting the bikes, I got a burn right calf thanks to the exhaust of the motorbike. It was bad. Like 2nd degree bad. Sheesh.
We picked Cafe Lava because it was convenient – you can walk from the hostel to the entrance of Bromo-Tengger National Park.
The room was just okay. We paid IDR 450,000 or around SGD 45 for a standard room at high season rates. Overpriced for what it offered. We wanted to book the cheaper rooms available but they were already taken (because of the Hari Raya long weekend). Pro tip: email them MONTHS in advance to secure a room. We emailed 3 months in advance and still we couldn’t secure a cheaper room.
After checking into our room, we were starving, so we headed for dinner at the hostel’s restaurant.
A couple of guys outside were selling scarves, beanies and gloves. Great for those ill-equipped for the cold.
We hurried back to our room to catch some shut-eye. We had to be up at 2:30am to begin our hike up to Seruni Point to catch the sunrise!
Our journey wasn’t the most smooth-sailing for sure, but it was definitely one to remember. We went from the nice tropical beaches in the Komodo Islands to a cold windy mountainous region that is Bromo National Park. That’s quite a change in environment!
Hey! I got myself a souvenir too! In the form of a big second degree burn wound on my right calf that hurt like hell.
Next up, our Bromo trek on day 5!