Drive of Hell From yogyakarta to Bromo

We were picked up from our hotel in Yogyakarta at 07:30am on the dot. From that moment our driver’s foot never left the accelerator…

Death-ride from yogyakarta to Probolinggo

The first leg of our journey was an 11-hour death-ride from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo.

I have been on some pretty questionable transport during my travels, but this could quite possibly qualify for the “worst journey of my life” award.

The driver – let’s call him Zippy (though I could think of many more names) – charged ahead regardless of what was in front of him, what was coming towards him or who was crossing the road, zipping in and out of the cars, buses and motorbikes, hand on the horn and foot to the floor. Over-taking, under-taking and swerving manically from one side of the road to the other.

For ELEVEN hours.

The French guy next to me seemed to have a master’s degree in sleeping and every time we lurched to the right his nodding head would smack me on the shoulder, leaving me with a nice black bruise by the end of the trip. Each time, I’d have to push him back across to his side.

drive of hell from yogyakarta to bromo

Chaos on Indonesia’s roads

One motorbike less on the road

During the journey, apart from being very frivolous with other people’s lives, and apart from nearly colliding head-on with many oncoming trucks and other minibuses, our driver actually knocked someone off a motorbike.

We were under-taking another vehicle and a motorbike was driving close to the edge of the road at the side of us. We were already trying to squeeze through the tiniest impossible gap and Zippy just pushed and pushed, forcing the motorbike rider closer and closer to the edge.

In the end, we clipped the bike, sending it and its driver falling to the ground.

As we sped away, we could see the poor man picking his motorbike up off the ground. Zippy didn’t even bat an eyelid; he just kept on going.

One wing mirror less

Next thing that happened: we were driving down the wrong side of the road, terrifying oncoming motorbike drivers who were just managing to stay on the road, when the passenger of an oncoming motorbike put up his arm in a strong fisted salute and at the very moment we passed them, punched hard, making our wing mirror fly off and clatter down the road.

Funny thing was, the driver of the other minibus (we were two, and apparently the other driver was even worse than Zippy) had a spare, which they fixed on at a rest stop. They even had spray paint to cover up the scratches that the flying wing mirror had left down the side of the minibus.

Nearly a pedestrian less on the road

Later on we narrowly missed a young woman who was walking down the side of the road. I mean, we narrowly missed many pedestrians and cyclists but in this case we brushed her clothing.

We were under-taking a coach and it was drifting closer to us, making the gap between the coach and the pavement (well, edge of the road; there was no pavement) narrower and narrower and harder for us to fit through.

There was a woman walking down the road with her back to us, completely ignoring the blasts of the horn. Instead of slowing down or stopping, Zippy put his foot to the floor and tried to speed through this ever-closing gap. Everyone in the minibus screamed and cringed when we nearly took the woman’s head off with the wing mirror.

Nearly a minibus full of tourists less on the road

When we were only 80km from Probolinggo, we reached a stretch of road where there were many articulated lorries and also where the road kept narrowing due to bridges.

There was a big lorry with a double trailer that had warning disks on the back: on the left side, a no entry sign and on the right side an arrow, pointing that it was okay to overtake. So, of course, we were trying to under-take on the left as usual.

You could see that our driver was really pissing off the driver of the HGV by lurching in and out and trying to cut him off. It was obvious what would happen but Zippy either couldn’t see it or didn’t care.

We were halfway down the length of the lorry on the left side when it started moving over to the left towards us. Zippy tried to accelerate to get past it but the road ahead of us was getting narrower as we were approaching a bridge, and all the time the lorry was drifting menacingly closer to us.

We ended up off the road and on the embankment.

When Zippy finally realised that he couldn’t get enough speed to pass the lorry before it knocked us off the road, it was also too late to slow down and go back behind the lorry. The only option was to swerve off the road and come to a standstill on the embankment, right before the bridge. How we didn’t land in the river below, I’ll never know.

State of the roads in Indonesia

In Indonesia there are no motorways, so this whole journey took place on major dual carriageways, single carriageways and minor country lanes and tracks.

Often the roads have a very narrow lane, big enough for a small car, which I think is supposed to be for motorbikes, and then a normal-sized lane for cars and other vehicles. So effectively this is a single carriageway.

But most of the time the motorists completely ignore any lane markings and often there are three vehicles abreast: one in the tiny lane, one in the normal lane and one going straight down the middle, straddled across both lanes. Of course, on these small roads it is impossible to fit three abreast so they are staggered and just swerve in and out of each other like racing car drivers.

From Probolinggo to Bromo

Somehow, we made it alive to Probolinggo and the second leg of our journey was in the same minibus but up, into the mountains.

I’m very pleased to say that we had a different driver for this part. He was a big, butch, military type and we felt in safe hands as he drove us the one hour climb up the vertical, windy roads to our hotel.

The slopes and bends he had to negotiate were phenomenal and there were times when he couldn’t get out of first gear.

We climbed and climbed, stopped and started, heaving our way painfully up the mountain.

This was a white-knuckle ride for a different reason to the first death-ride, but it was heart-stoppingly scary nonetheless.

We finally arrived at our hotel after 7pm. We had set off at 7am from Yogyakarta and we had stopped very little along the way. It had taken us all this time to travel less than 400km.

We were so happy to see the bar!

I would like to remind you that all the photos used on are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.

For more information about this 3-day tour of the East Java volcanoes, read the following:

Where to Book Your Tour to Bromo and Ijen
Itinerary 3D / 2N Bromo-Ijen Tour
Bromo and Ijen Volcanoes Tour
Mount Bromo Sunrise: In Photos
Climbing Mount Bromo: In Photos
Sulphur Miners at Ijen Volcano
Visit East Java’s Volcanoes From Yogyakarta, NOT From Bali

Filed Under: asiafeaturedIndonesiaJavaVolcanoes East JavaYogyakarta

About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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  1. susan sykes says:

    What an awful journey!!! I thought it was bad enough when we rolled back down a hill that the hire car we had couldn’t manage to get up, but this must have been a nightmare and for such a long journey too.

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