In the early morning haze of September 6, 2023, the serene landscape of Gunung Bromo, a cherished tourist spot in Indonesia, was abruptly transformed into a scene of chaos and destruction. A raging fire, born out of a prewedding photoshoot gone terribly wrong, devoured the grasslands around Gunung Bromo, reaching out to the lush forests of Bukit Telettubies and the Ngadas region. The fiery spectacle, ignited by a careless use of flares, took several days to be contained, finally bowing to the efforts of the Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park authorities and other concerned parties on September 15, 2023.
The repercussions of this calamity were staggering, with estimated losses soaring into the tens of billions. Yet, the monetary toll was only part of the story. The ecological damage inflicted upon Bromo demanded extensive recovery efforts that would stretch over a considerable span of time. This unfortunate incident underscored the urgent need for stricter enforcement of regulations and public education to prevent such mishaps in the future.
Looking back in history, Gunung Bromo has always been a magnet for travelers, both domestic and foreign. Even during the colonial era, when Indonesia was known as Hindia Belanda, Bromo held a special place in the hearts of tourists. Its allure lay not just in its mystic beauty but also in the arduous journey it took to reach the summit.
In the early 20th century, the trek to Bromo recommended by Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer via the colonial brochure “Java the Wonderland” (1900) was an adventurous odyssey. Travelers would begin their expedition in Surabaya, taking a two-hour train ride to Pasuruan. From there, they embarked on a five-hour uphill journey on horseback to Tosari, located at an altitude of approximately 1,700 meters above sea level. The route was challenging, requiring multiple horse changes along the steep terrain. Accommodations were available not only in Tosari but also in Puspo for those who found Tosari too cold or fully booked.
Bromo was also a highlight in the tour packages offered by Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM), the Dutch East Indies shipping company. Tourists on the 18-day itinerary would arrive in Tosari on the 11th day, where they would venture to witness the mesmerizing Bromo sunrise, a sight that never failed to captivate travelers. For those on the 25-day tour, the Bromo experience was scheduled on the 12th day, following a journey that took them through Surabaya and Bali.
Witnessing the sunrise at Bromo was not an easy feat in the early 20th century. Travelers had to contend with limited facilities and infrastructure. However, the effort was rewarded with an awe-inspiring spectacle. Thomas H. Reid, an American tourist who visited Bromo in 1907, described the experience of watching the sunrise from Bromo’s crater rim as the golden rays slowly illuminated the surrounding landscape. His account, captured in “Accros the Equator, A Holiday Trip in Java” (1908), spoke of the fulfillment derived from such a challenging journey.
This enduring allure of Bromo, as witnessed through the eyes of past travelers, continued to captivate the hearts of tourists. Even in the modern age, Bromo remained a testament to the harmonious blend of adventure, nature’s grandeur, and the enduring spirit of exploration. It stood not only as a symbol of Indonesia’s natural beauty but also as a reminder of the responsibility each visitor bore to protect and preserve this precious gem for generations to come.