Appeasing the Gods

Once upon a time, on big island on a bigger ocean there were two lovers who wed. One’s name started with the letters T-E-N-G….  The other’s ended with the letters G-A-R. Their full names were lost to time or at least lost in the translation between my guide Benny and me.

The names are important in that these two came together to form the Tenggar clan in east Java. 

The two tried for years and years to have a child but they were unable. They prayed very hard to the god in Mt. Bromo and their prayers were answered with a son.  In fact, they were answered further with 24 more children in the span of their years.  

Sometime after the birth of their 25th child, the god came to them and asked them to give thanks by sacrificing one of their children to the volcano atop Mt. Bromo.  Though they were grateful for their answered prayers, people being people, they were unable to part with any of their children.  

Their refusal angered the mountain god greatly and the god being a god, went all Kaiser Sosei on them, laying waste to their settlement and killing all twenty-five of the kids.  

S.A.M returned to Surabaya and after the work was done took a trip to Mt. Bromo about 4 hours from Surabaya.  The goal was to see the sunrise which entailed leaving the hotel at midnight and enduring a rather uncomfortable car ride up to a base at Penanjakan. The roads are not made for smooth travel or sleeping in a car. There are lots of starts and stops and bobs and weaves. In Penanjakan we switched to a 4×4 for a trip across the lava sands and up the other side of the crater about 1500 meters above the lava field.

For a quasi-car geek, this is a great place to come because all the 4X4s are vintage Toyota Land Cruisers from the 70s.  This must be where they come to be put out to pasture. There are hundreds of them in varied states of repair. Some looked complete. Others like mine look good from the outside but the inside is lacking dashboard lights and working speedometers and working seat belts.  

Benny apologized for the deficiency, but reassured me that I was safe.  “You’ll be fine, because the driver is my friend!” And he gave him a big old hug.  And off we raced into the night along with hundreds of other motorcycles and 4wd trucks.

At the bottom of the mountain , I was encouraged because I saw clear skies and stars up above. We arrived at the top of the main crater at about 4 am.  In true, Indonesian fashion, because this is a major tourist destination, there are food vendors set up and doing a booming business even at 3:30 am  We stepped inside a stall and pulled up a bench and grabbed fried bananas and hot ginger tea, served family style to any takers.  It seemed nearly all the local tourists were feverishly smoking cigarettes in preparation for the big climb later.  Me, I just breathed when I could.  

45 minutes before sunrise we made our way a short distance to the sunrise viewing area.  As the day dawned, though it was clear that we were only going to see fog and mist.  5 hours of dozing in the back of a car for nothing.

Back down to the crater floor and across to the center where a new cone rises.  This is the active portion of the Mt Bromo.  There’s a 2 km hike and then 245 stairs that lead up to the crater rim. There is an option to skip the hike and hire one of the hundreds of ponies to take you up to the stairs.  I felt like a walk and the small ponies looked rather ridiculous carting around some of the larger people.  

The people and the horses use the same trail and it seemed heavily trafficked. It did make me wonder how a culture that dislikes dog partly out of concern that dogs poop everywhere, can hike through sand infused with horse dung in a pair of flip flops.  It don’t make no sense.

There is a Hindu temple near the base of the mountain. It is run by the Tenggar clan. Every year on the 1st of August they hold a sacrifice ritual. They’ve moved beyond humans, though.  Apparently the god is okay now with freshly killed animals and vegetables. They haul the whole buffet up the steps and hurl it into the crater.

There are some resourceful folks who climb down into the crater and catch all the bounty falling out of the sky. I suppose tourists aren’t going to want to look down into a crater full of decaying carcasses and rotting vegetation. But it makes me wonder if they don’t know about their god’s anger problem.  This taunting just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.  

Speaking of disasters that are slowly unfolding. Long time readers may recall the Lupindo mud eruption that I spoke about the last time I was here.  We stopped by on the way home. This is a video I took standing on 35 feet of mud that has been oozing out of the ground after a fracking accident in 2006.  The damage extends to square miles of toxic, stinking mud that oozing out of the ground at a rate of 10,000 cubic meters per day. It is projected to keep flowing for the next 50 years.

Most all the people in the buried settlements are gone.  My driver tells me this is a place where the lady boys hang out at night. During the day a few remaining folks hang on waiting for some sort of settlement.  It is such a depressing place.  

Talk about a group of people who could benefit from some ritual sacrifice.

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