Day 1 - Depart from KLIA2 (12/4/2018)
All the participants, with exception of Mr. Ah Chua who flew direct from Penang to Surabaya, gathered at KLIA2 at 4:30pm. Everybody has checked in and we settled the baggage drop process by 5:00pm. I gave a short briefing to the participants on the first day programme when we are in Bromo. After Maghrib, we proceeded to the gate for boarding. The flight departed at 8:20pm sharp.
Arrived at Juanda International Airport Surabaya at 9:35pm. Ahead by about 30min. We were greeted by Tugio and Agong (the driver). By 10:00pm, we’ve got all our bags. Ready to go. The coaster bus has been equipped with additional seats, complete with neck pillow and a blanket each. Great!
First pit stop at R&R area about 30min from the airport. Everybody had coffee and tea to prepare for the night. By 11:30pn we proceeded for another 2hr 30min to Cemoro Lawang village in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.
Day 2 - Arrive in Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park (13/4/2018)
By 12:30am, we’ve reached the town of Bangil. Clear traffic towards Pasuruan, but heavy traffic heading back to Surabaya.
By 12:45am, we’ve reached the city of Pasuruan. Traffic had already eased up a lot, both ways, except for occassional lorries. Another 62km to go, but will take about 2 hours. Everybody had fallen asleep. I can’t sleep though coz had a cup of coffee at the R&R. Next city will be Probolinggo where we will take right (south) toward Bromo. Had a toilet pitstop at 1:30am in Pasuruan. Some had cigarette break. Now we’re on our way south and uphill to Bromo. We’re almost reaching the hotel. Temperature already dips to 16C. Driver turned off the A/C for more power to climb up.
We arrived at Seruni Point (Penanjakan II) by 3:15am. Hop on the horse back (with a guide, of course) to ride up to the viewpoint from the vehicle parking area. At that time, the milkyway had already aligned vertically. Arrived at the viewpoint a bit late, but, managed to capture a few vertical shots of the milkyway with the volcanoes.
Sunrise was at 5:30am and we were blessed with such an awesome sunrise. Once the daylight starts to shine on the mountains, I took out the mavic pro and had about 15min of flight. Only tried to fly the drone to 1.5km distance before calling it back. I’ve got to get over this phobia when the drone is not in sight.
By 8:00am, we proceeded down from Seruni Point. Had a stop at the village plantation. Lots of subject to photograph. By 9:00am, we proceeded to Cemara Indah Hotel to check-in. Sadly, no rooms were available as the current tenants had not checked out yet.
At 12:00pm, the rest of the participants have yet to get their rooms. Bummer. So, they ended up shooting around the hotel. The tour guide dropped me off at musollah Nurul Jannah, the only place that offer Friday prayers in Ngadasari (Cemoro Lawang village), just behind the hotel. It’s just a small masjid, about 25’ x 25’ internally. After the Friday prayer, I walked back to the hotel. Alhamdulillah, everybody had their rooms already. We all rested in the afternoon to catch up on some sleep.
At around 3:30pm, we proceeded to an area close to the hotel to shoot some landscape of the volcanoes as well as human interest. Our guide had arranged for a horse and a Tengger horseman as model for us to shoot. We were there till about 6:00pm. Flown the drone close to the crater of Mount Bromo, however, due to the poor lighting conditions, I only manage to fly for about 20min before calling it back.
We went back to the hotel at 6:30pm to freshen up for dinner. We had earlier ordered some food for dinner. So, when we arrived at the restaurant by 7:30pm, the food was ready to be served. Almost everybody had Nasi Lalapan Ayam and corn soup. Delicious! Briefed all the participants on the programme for the next day. We finished dinner by about 9:00pm. The next photo shoot will be at Penanjakan view point at 12:30am. So, everybody retired early for the night.
Day 3 - Sunrise at Penanjakan, Sunset at Savanah and Whispering Sand (14/4/2018)
At 12:30am, we went up Penanjakan viewpoint and we were the first ones there, me, Dr. Shaharudin, Syed Radhi & Shaari. The temperature was less than 10C. Dr. Yahya and Din came around 3:30am. Although it’s a clear night, the wind was gusting at 30km/hr. We managed to get the best spots to shoot the milkyway and then sunrise. It was so cold that our guide rented 3 parkas to help us weather the cold temperature. The hand warmers helped out a little.
By 3:30am, the crowd started to build up and by subuh time at 4:15am, the place was already packed. It was tough to manouver myself to go to the musolla for solat subuh. it was even tougher to get back to the spot where my camera stood. By 5:00am, the eastern horizon was decorated with brilliant colours from yellow, orange and red. Alhamdulillah, everybody had great opportunity to capture the blue hour sunrise. To top it off, the light from the sun, shined on the volcanoes, providing us with the sight to remember. The crowds started to disperse by about 6:30am. We waited for a little bit longer to clear the hard top traffic going down from Penanjakan viewpoint. Our guide showed us another photo opportunity spot besides the viewing area where the view of the volcanoes is framed by the trees and vegetation. By 7:30am, we proceeded to the restaurant to have some hot drinks and cup noodles. By 8:00am, on the way to our jeeps, we stopped by another viewpoint to have our group photograph.
By the way, Azizi, Ah Chua and Sukri did not make it to Penanjakan viewpoint, instead they had spent much time on the plains of Sea of Sand to capture some human interest, which include a single tree and a Tengger horseman, amidst the beautiful morning light. The silhouette of the Bromo horseman against the sunrise sun is a sight to remember.
By 8:30am we proceed back to the hotel for breakfast. When we get to the jeeps, we noticed that our 2 jeeps were the only vehicles there. Alhamdulillah, the traffic has cleared for us to go back to the hotel. After breakfast, everybody rested in their rooms to catch up on much needed sleep, after a long and cold night at the Penanjakan hill.
At 3:30pm we proceeded to the Savanah and Whispering Sand till about 6:00pm. Had the opportunity to fly the drone for about 30 mins here at the Savanah. Location is about 500m from Bukit Teletubies. After the Savanah, we proceeded to the Whispering Sand around 5:00pm. Only Shaari & Dr. Shaharudin with me for sunset at the Whispering Sand. We were there till about 6:00pm before our guide drove us back to the hotel.
Dinner at Cemara Indah Restaurant at 7:30pm. Tonight, we only get out food around 8:00pm. Probably because of many people eating there. Same menu Nasi Lalapan ayam with veggie and corn soup to fill our hungry stomachs. We shared the day’s experiences with each other during dinner. I briefed the participants on the plan for tomorrow’s trip to Madakaripura waterfall. As advised by the guide, in order to beat the crowd, we need to leave early from the hotel. So, we decided to leave the hotel for Madakaripura waterfall by 6:30am tomorrow morning.
After dinner, by 10:00pm, everybody went back to retire early, except for Din, Dr. Yahya and Ah Chua who went out till about 2:00am to shoot some milkyway around the vegetable plantation in Cemoro Lawang village. I was too tired to accompany them.
Day 4 - Madakaripura (15/4/2018)
Today, everybody shoot sunrise from the hotel grounds. We had breakfast at the hotel. We departed from Cemara Indah at 6:30am. The journey to Madakaripura takes about 1 hour, passing thru the small town of Sukapura. We arrived at the parking by 7:30am. Everybody has to hop on motorbikes for a 2km ride to the entry point i.e. the first checkpoint. From there, we have to walk for 1.2km (about 20min) on road to reach the second checkpoint. Upon reaching the checkpoint, we were greeted by a large status of legendary Gadjah Mada and behind is a lettering signage which says "Madakaripura" in large red lettering blocks. Then onward is a small trekking path about 3 feet wide along the river where we trekked for another 1km to reach the last checkpoint. Here, we put on our ponchos and raincoats (somebody even had an umbrella) as the last 500m we have to walk across the knee-deep Madakaripura river and under the cold waterfall before we reach to the first viewpoint of the waterfall for photography. We need proper wet shoes for this. Thankfully, there are toilets available at all checkpoints.
The view of the waterfall is simply breathtaking. Madakaripura is the tallest waterfall in East Java and the second tallest in Indonesia. No words can describe it. You just have to be there to experience the sheer power of the waterfall. Initially we planned for 2 hours shooting time. It ended up we spent about 4 hours at the waterfall. Azizi was the most unfortunate as he fell down on his back with his Nikon D3X submerged in the water. Poor him. Exit the chasm and find yourself in a huge natural hollow, open at the top, with moss-covered rock faces towering above you. Almost everybody went all the way till the last vertical waterfall, even though getting there was a bit treacherous as we have to climb along the mossy & rocky cliff by clinging on to the protruding rocks. I can't believe myself for doing that, but, thanks to the guide who showed how to climb to the last waterfall.
Madakaripura is not only a beautiful place, but also a historical one. A legend of this falls is connected with the name of Gadjah Mada, who was a prime minister of the largest Javanese empire Majapahit. In 1355 Vuruk Khayyam an emperor of Majapahit gave lands in the area to the prime minister. Gadjah Mada refused revenues from these lands until he unite all Indonesia lands under Majapahit flag. Madakaripura is also called as “the last residence of Gadjah Mada“. According to a legend, the 60-year-old prime minister dissolved in the air near a waterfall. He has not been found by the emperor or by anyone else. It’s believed that swimming in the Madakaripura falls give health, strength and youth. No wonder visitors even brought their babies and children to take a dip or being showered by the waterfall.
As a tip, It’s better to visit Madakaripura falls in the morning, because in the afternoon rains passed in the mountains can turn the small mountain river into a roaring stream, and trees can fall down from the 200-meters height to the pool of the main waterfall. You can see stumps of fallen trees all around. Furthermore, the earlier you go, you will be able to photograph the waterfall, less the people, as well as the sun that shines through the waterfall creating a magical scene with the ray of light. One can swim at the base of the waterfall, but the strong flow of a very cold water, water spray pierced into the skin like thousands of needles. The cold temperature of the water can also make the hands numb after prolonged exposure to the waterfall.
Our next stop is to pick up some local durians along the way back to Sukapura. Our tour guide managed to get some good durians, better than the ones I got during my last trip in end December last year. He hanged the durians on the jeep’s front bumper.
Then we proceed on to stop at Pondok 78, a small warong which serves local food. Among the delicacies are Nasi Bebek (served with fried duck). Most of us ordered Es Jeruk to complete the meal. I was glad that everybody enjoyed their meals. Everyone enjoyed the food without bothering the fact that there was no electricity at the restaurant that afternoon. After lunch, we proceeded back to the hotel to rest. We shoot sunset just by the hotel to those who were up to it. Mostly resting in their rooms.
At 7:30pm, we proceeded to Bawangan Restaurant for our farewell dinner. The restaurant is about 10min drive from the hotel. Again, the food never disappoints. I had fried gourami fish with rice. Delicious. At the end of the dinner, I took the opportunity to thank all participants for joining this trip. Received applause in return. That really made the trip and all the hard work preparing for it, really worth it!
After the farewell dinner, at around 9:30pm, we proceeded back to Cemoro Lawang village to shoot some milkyway. At this time, the milkyway rises horizontally against the horizon. We shoot for a while until about 10:30pm when the lightning and rain clouds start coming in. Our guide told us that if the conditions stays like this, we stand a good chance to capture the blanketing white clouds. We arrived at the hotel around 11:00pm and right in front of our eyes, the thick white clouds blankets the sea of sand area around the mountains. Alhamdulillah. Spend about 30min shooting the beautiful glowing lights from vehicles moving under the clouds. Went to bed around 12:00am.
Day 5 - Sunrise at Seruni Point and Prepare to Go Home (16/4/2018)
Woke up at 3:00am and at around 3:30am, we all, except for Shaari, proceeded up to Seruni Point to shoot the last sunrise. Alhamdulillah, upon reaching there, we noticed that the white blanket of low clouds still lingering on the sea of sand. After three attempts, finally we managed to capture the elusive low clouds. Alhamdulillah. We prayed Subuh at Seruni Point. That’s where I lost my glasses due to my own carelessness.
When the lighting was better, I took the opportunity to fly the drone close to Mount Bromo crater. There were 3 others, including Syed Radhi who also flew their drones. We decided to fly at different levels to avoid collision in air space. Alhamdulillah, managed to capture some awesome shots of the volcanoes. I’m still learning to fly and maneuver the drone. Mission accomplished for everybody. Thanks to Allah for granting us such a great moment. I also met my photography friend Chow Chin Wee who leads another photography group, under YL Camera banner.
Feeling relieved, by 6:30am, we proceeded down back to the hotel for breakfast and final packing. The coaster bus arrived around 7:00am. Agung was ready to drive us back to Surabaya. By 9:00am, everybody got into the coaster bus for our 3hr 30min drive back to Surabaya. Tn Syed was the last to get in since he had some flying time done to discharge his drone's battery. On the way out, we stopped by at the local souvenir shop to buy some souvenirs. By 9:30am, we’re on our way to the airport.
Almost everybody dozed off to catch some sleep after a few days of less sleep. Traffic was a bit heavy as expected since it was a working day. We arrived at Juanda International Airport Terminal 2 at 1:30pm. We unloaded all our baggages (except for Ah Chua's) and bid Tugio and friends farewell. Everybody chipped in to give some tips to them. Chua stayed for another night to catch his morning direct flight back to Penang.
We had lunch at Old Town White Coffee there and by 2:15pm, we proceeded to drop-off all out baggage at the AirAsiaX counter. After that we performed the Jama’ solat for Zohur & Asar. After wrapping our bags, we proceeded to the baggage drop counter by 2:30pm. After that, we cleared customs and proceeded to the departure hall. At the departure gates, we bumped into Aman Pix and my Iceland trip’s participant, Mr. Arman Haron.
We boarded the flight at 3:15pm and the plane took off at 4:15pm sharp. I managed to catch some sleep during the flight, after dinner.
Alhamdulillah, we arrived safely at KLIA2 at 7:50pm. By 8:20pm, everyone had collected their baggage. I’ve booked Arief to pick me & Syed Radhi up at the airport. Arrived home about 10:00pm.
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This is the photography journey of Nur Ismail Photography where all the experiences from this year onwards will be shared with the audience. In collaboration with NiSi Malaysia, Leofoto, SONY Malaysia and Skylum Software. Thanks for viewing!