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Full Circle

Day 120: Mount Bromo to Surabaya

Michael Palin - Full CircleWe leave our horses and climb two hundred steps to the rim of the cone. The scene behind us is biblical. A column lit by lamps and torches is crossing the dusty plain and heading for Bromo, occasionally lost to sight behind the dunes of freshly-spewed lava.

I pick my way cautiously along the narrow lip of the volcano and, when I have found a secure footing, peer down inside for the first time. Five hundred feet below me at the bottom of a great blasted bowl of earth is a dark hole from which rises, slowly and steadily, a hissing plume of white steam, soft as a sigh at the moment but brooding and threatening, like a fuse attached to explosive.

This is for me as great a manifestation of the earth's natural power as was looking over into the Victoria Falls. But there everything was falling in. Here on the edge of Mount Bromo, I'm looking at what has been blasted out.

A hazy pale lemon sunrise reveals something even more fantastical than I had imagined. Brand new landscape, oven-fresh and still steaming. Rock so new that you could write your name in it.

I stay as long as I can, until the crowds of gabbling visitors have gone and apart from myself there's only Fraser left on the rim of the volcano, microphone boom pointed downwards, recording the sinister wheezing of the earth..

We leave Bromo and the Tengger highlands in mid-morning. In my case, reluctantly. It is not only the spectacular landscape I shall miss. The weather I was so rude about early this morning is now almost perfect. The sun shines from a sky skimmed with high cirrus cloud, the air is dry and fresh, the temperature 70° Fahrenheit with a gentle breeze that comes and goes.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 120
  • Country/sea: Indonesia
  • Place: Mount Bromo
  • Book page no: 175

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