THE fascination for rising to catch the sunrise has never appealed to me. What’s the big deal? It happens every day, anyway.
Nevertheless, I am up at 3:30 and stepping out into the dark, chilly air in the area around Mt Bromo. It’s a still morning, so the 7°C doesn’t bite in. Thick clothing helps. Coffee would certainly help more.
The smell of fresh air fills the lungs and the darkness of the morning. But that changes soon, as the quiet is disturbed by a series of engines firing to life. BMW DestinationX is ready to roll.
Soon, we are set to roll, and the convoy of BMW xDrive models is making the climb to Seruni Point, 2,310m above sea level. The cars inch along the narrow bumpy and potholed road lined by jeeps on either side. It’s all eye-of-the-needle driving as you wend your way up.
The X5 we are in unerringly picks its way through the crowd.
For this time of morning there is a lot of activity. The roar of jeeps and whine of motorbikes mix in with chattering — voices and teeth — and the occasional snort from a pony. The smell of petrol is in the air, along with the unmistakable aroma of wood burning as morning stoves are lit.
Catch The Rayzzz
The first stop is Seruni Point, which, through a special arrangement between BMW and the Tengger people of the area, the convoy has access to. This is a spot that is less trampled by tourists. It also offers a panoramic view of the tops of Mount Bromo, Mount Kursi, Mount Batok, and the active Mount Semeru as they pierce through the persistent layer of morning mist.
The Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park sits 10km from Surabaya, in East Java, a site of volcanic activity that last rumbled in 2016.
Mount Bromo is distinctive for its blown-off top. It sits in the Tengger caldera, occasionally releasing white sulphurous smoke. Surrounding it is the Sea of Sand (Laut Pasir), which is the next spot after the sunrise, to put the BMW xDrive models through the paces.
But for now, as we stand on the parapet overlooking the dark, a slight crack of light appears in the sky. The morning peeks upon an expectant audience, a half-awake stirring.
As light progressively filters through the slight mist blankets the mountains remains unruffled. Soon, the buzz of a drone adds to the noise. Not much time for quiet morning contemplation, as you would in Borobudur.
Another daybreak has been captured by the cameras. Today’s wasn’t spectacular, perhaps an off day for nature.
But now that the light is starting to warm up the air, and there is greater excitement for what lies ahead.
Into The Sandy Sea
It’s back into the xDrives as they wind their way through yet more traffic into the dusty, grey Sea Of Sand.
A corner of the stark, alien landscape is converted into a little oasis. White tents do their best to keep the fine volcanic sand out of the breakfast laid on by BMW.
Outside the xDrive cars are prepped for the various activities. Ramps and tilting platforms show how the four-wheel drives are able to give you purchase regardless of how many wheels you have on the ground.
The fine sand inevitably gets into every possible crevice. The cars making good progress blows up mini dust storms that hang in the air, gently floating upwards and hanging there like a dark cloud.
The soft terrain is ideal for a ride through cracks in the ground and over various shades of grey.
As we switch cars, the various traits of the xDrive models becomes evident. The X3 is nimble and fairly neutral in the way it handles the shifting sand. The X5 requires a bit more managing as it navigates the slippery surface. The X6 offers a big presence and its weight does take some getting used to, unlike travelling on roads. The X4 is a peach, whipping through the circuit of dips and turns with almost anticipatory reflexes.
The special arrangement that BMW has means this activity can be held once a year. In return, BMW performs community services such as building fences and trees to protect the terrain.
Those who are interested to participate in next year’s instalment of BMW DestinationX should get in touch with BMW Asia. Email: [email protected]