Background - Volcanoes of Eastern Java

I'm finally back at work on Journey's End, the third (and final) book in the Journeys series. I think the first draft will be completed in the next few days, unless I get really stalled again, but it will still probably be a few months before I'm ready to release it.

Journey’s End reunites Piero, along with is lover Plai, from Journey to Angkor with Henry and his partner Kung from Journey to Rai-Lay. Together, the four men set out from old Siam on a sort of quest that will take them to new places. Most of the action takes place on Java, which was under Dutch rule at the time. I've already talked about some of the other places that inspired scenes in this book, especially the Water Castle in Yogyakarta, but the final sequence takes place in the Tengger Caldera, more commonly known as Mount Bromo.

I've always been fascinated with volcanoes since I was quite young. I don't know why I'm so interested in them. I'm sure the sexual connotations don't explain it, entirely. It didn't help that I lived only a 100 miles or so from Mount St Helens when it blew its lid.

Mount Bromo
The early morning rays of the sun just starting to bathe the resurgent Mount Bromo

Whatever the reasons for the obsession, as a traveler, volcanoes and volcanic landscapes are sure to get my attention. This of course meant that when other business took me to Surabaya a few years ago, I had to take the time to visit Mount Bromo.

Mount Bromo sits in the vast Tengger Caldera. It rises from the ash-filled floor of the caldera, spewing steam and ash. Next to it is the now-dormant cone of Mount Betok. Watching the sun rise from the rim of the caldera is one of those standard tourist things to do, but it is indeed an impressive sight.

Hindu Temple
View of the Hindu temple on the floor of the caldera from the rim of the active vent.

Once the sun makes its appearance, you find your way down to the floor of the caldera, which is covered with a sand-like ash. As you approach the base of Mount Betok, you're greeted by a couple of incongruous sights: One is a Hindu temple, stretching due east near the base of the hill. The other is a veritable stampede of ‘cowboys’ racing at you. The jeeps that take you over the rim of the caldera and across the sand can't get too close to the active cone, and the slippery ash-sand is difficult to walk on, so the cowboys are there to offer the services of their sturdy little ponies to take part-way up the side of the cone, to where a stairway allows you to get all the way to the top.

I thought the place would make a fitting stage for the end of the Journeys books, where Henry and Piero get to confront the man who set them on the paths that ultimately brought them here.