It was no simple trip getting to the volcano.
Access to Indonesia’s Mount Bromo was blocked off in December after ash clouds began rising from its crater and the ground shook intermittently with tremors. The 2,392-metre active volcano, which has erupted every few years since records started being kept in the early 19th century, was in no mood for visitors.
Kurt Sorge was undeterred. Nelson’s star mountain bike rider, who previously won his second Red Bull Rampage in October, was set on seeing the volcano during a January trip to visit his sponsor, Polygon Bikes. So up he went, with a photographer and cinematographer in tow, for three days of filming around a volcano that has killed people as recently as 2004.
“It actually takes quite a while to get up to that elevation,” said Sorge. “It blew my mind because I haven’t really spent too much time around volcanos and they are pretty much down at sea level. I think it was a three or four hour drive to get all the way up there. You go from really hot and humid down low to actually pretty cool temperatures up there.”
The party made camp on a peak that overlooked Bromo. Below, the Segara Wedi, or Sea of Sands, surrounded the rumbling volcano. The site is a nature preserve and holds religious significance for the Tengger people.
One legend recounts the tale of a prince and princess who, unable to conceive children, prayed at Bromo for the gods’ help. Their prayers worked, but only on the condition the last child born be sacrificed to the volcano. When it came time for the couple to take their 25th child, they relented and the volcano erupted. To save their land, the prince and princess tossed the child into the crater. Ever since the annual Kasada festival has been held, in which crowds gather to appease the gods by throwing food, money and even chickens into the mouth of the volcano.
Sorge didn’t need to make a sacrifice to stay safe, although he joked he would have tossed his bike into the crater if need be.
“We kind of lucked out for most of the days we were there,” said Sorge. “The wind was taking the cloud plume away from where we were. But everything pretty much we were riding on was covered in a layer of ash and killed a lot of the farmers’ crops.”
Sorge never made it to the crater. His team couldn’t find a route past security — a feat snowboarder Keow Wee Loong accomplished in February — so they settled for a video of Sorge riding around Bromo instead.
Video has always been an important part of mountain biking and other action sports such as skateboarding or surfing. Sorge, who attended a GoPro event in Australia earlier this month to learn about filming, remembers making his own videos as a teenager before they were easily distributed on websites like YouTube.
“Capturing video is kind of my favourite,” said Sorge, who explored another volcano in Bali after his trip to Bromo. “You get to go to new places and build unique and creative stunts and trails. You get to spend time with the filmer and photographer to collaborate on something cool to hopefully get people stoked.”
Now that he’s back home, Sorge is now preparing to leave the Kootenays again. There are more sponsor events, a return to the freeride FEST Series and a trip to Utah where he’ll help plan the next Red Bull Rampage event.
His volcano trips, however, will be hard to top.
“It was a really wild experience. It was really cool.”
Photos and video courtesy of Kurt Sorge.