It is 5am and I am at Gunung Penanjakan, a famous viewing point in Probolinggo in Java, Indonesia. At 2,770 metres, it is the closest to heaven I have been, and yet the only thought I have in my mind is, "God, that was a decent amount of calories I burned climbing up here".
Even as I take in the iconic postcard view of active volcanoes, part of me is dreading the eventual trek across the fogged savannah of Laotian Pasir and the second hike up Mount Bromo to look at the smoking volcano. That will be another thousand calories, I tell myself, and soon I will be able to enjoy a proper breakfast.
Already the thoughts of gado-gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce dressing), ayam penyet (mashed fried chicken) and rujak cingur (a mix of cow snouts, young mango, pineapple and tofu served in a sauce of fermented shrimp paste) spur me on to complete the itinerary of the day.
And I do.
After a three-hour drive, we arrive in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, armed with a to-eat list worthy of the best foodies.
There are many places in Surabaya where you can enjoy delicious soto ayam - yellow spicy chicken soup with rice cakes. I discover mine at the cafe attached to House of Sampoerna, a museum dedicated to the Indonesian tobacco company. For my first experience of rujak cingur, I take a cab to Plaza Surabaya, more commonly known as Delta, to hunt for the shop named after the local delicacy.
To truly appreciate the local culture, I always believe that one has to eat like a local, with the locals. We find ourselves making a pit stop at Mount Welirang on our way towards the Cangar Hot Spring. We joke with our tour guide that we would love some sate kelinchi (skewers of rabbit meat) and she promptly deposits us at a wooden stall by the mountainside.
It is, without a doubt, a truly local experience. All around us are mountain forests and teenagers smoking up a storm. Our entire lunch - including an amazing plate of nasi goreng (fried rice with sambal topped with a fried egg) - is cooked over a wood fire. While everyone else is sipping milk tea and coffee, we wear our tourist badge of honour proudly and drink Bintang, the locally produced beer, right from the bottle.
WHERE TO STAY
Lava View Lodge
+62 33554 1009
Garden Palace Hotel
+62 31532 1001
WHERE TO EAT
+62 31567 5531
Surabaya House of Sampoerna
+62 31353 9000
TOUR AGENT TO MOUNT BROMO
TOUR AGENT TO CANGAR