Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 2 November 2009 • Itinerary
Like all young hopefuls in Jakarta, I needed a vacation. It’s not so about the load of my work, but it’s the atmosphere of the city itself that detaches you from everything else that matters such as nature and the sight of no skyscrapers around.
And like most human beings, I have a calling for the sea. So me and my bud Bondy, went out in a semi-spontaneous trip to Pangandaran, south of West Java. I know Jakarta is a coastal city, but what is a trip without a journey. So rather going north, we went to wild south. The beaches, especially the ocean, is most famous for its wild waves. Pangandaran therefore is one destination for the sports of waves… surfing.
On this beach, people could get Surfing 101. Bondy’s old mates turns out to have these services with a guarantee you will stand on a board. It is between fortunate and unfortunate that the area is occupied by the Rip Curl surfing competition. Fortunately, we could see real action before we actually learned the moves. Being a destination for surfing, waves are constant yet moderately big so surfers love coming here to practice. Bondy’s friends, the beach boys, also serve as local lifeguards. For a single girl like me, that beach suddenly became extremely HOT. These guys had the perfect bodies: not too bulky, muscles, tattooed, tanned and definitely can save you from the hard and treacherous waves of Pangandaran. Slurp!
Unfortunately everyone was occupied, and we couldn’t get any action for ourselves. We met Douglas, who also trains local kids to surf, and he was giving out last tips before the kiddies hit the waves. Man I wish I had that extracurricular back in school.
I just loved one of the kids. His nickname is Butut, which means “ugly or broken” in terms of objects. He is named so because he surfs like a certain professional surfer, but the ugly version hahahaha…. He had fire in his eyes to compete and his pants were too big. But once he hit the waves, nothing stopped him. Him and about 10 others. It was great. Well the competition took all of the areas attention including the locals, so we decided to head out to Batu Karas to get some lessons there and really get the grasp of surfing
On the way to the Batu Karas, we stopped at the, also locally famous, Green Canyon. This venue is a nothing compared, or may I say opposite, to the Grand Canyon. It was smaller, filled with water, and of course green and not dry orange. Lucky for us, there were two buses filled with old ladies all up for the trip in to the canyon. So we didn’t have to rent a whole boat for ourselves because one whole boat cost Rp. 70.000 and it could be filled up to 6 people. A bit too much for our budget this time.
The boat will take you to the mouth of the canyon where you can continue on foot. YOU HAVE TO WEAR SOMETHING TO SWIM IN! Not necessary a bathing suit, but definitely something to dip in the clear water. You can be prepared with bathing suit underneath or just any simple clothing. So we took the boat ride up stream. It was BEAUTIFUL!!! The water was green and so clear. You could see the huge white jellyfish; the water in this leg of the trip is still half saline. This time of the year (summer) was also the best time to travel because the water is green and it can be bluish green. In rainy season, the water will be grey or brown and higher than the level of the water we experienced. Thank God for great timing. Low cliffs plants escorts you all the way to the canyon.
Reaching the edge of the fresh water pool, we stripped and swam in. The guide can take you up streams cause he knows every single turn and rock in there. For those that can not swim, DON’T WORRY! The boat provides vests you can use as part as the service a.k.a FREE. We passed amazing canyons, clear water, and rocks underneath the water that you could sit on once in while.
We swam for about 30 minutes or so to the water fall. We could go a little further but we chose not to. It was beautiful. Sunlight poured in shining on the water fall inviting us to enjoy the area and the natural message. The way back was sooo much faster because we followed the streams flow. The women turned out to be pissed off because we took such a long time, but hey, let’s not go in to details on that.
If you took the time to go swimming, you should provide tip for the guides should you use one. A good Rp 30.000,00 per person will be the least and will satisfy the locals.
So, hopped on the bike again and continued the trip to Batu Karas. There are a lot of tourist destinations on the way, like shark rock etc, but we weren’t too excited to see because, again, we didn’t have time.
Batu Karas is very well known for providing some dangerous waves (but not according to the Pangandaran surfers. There is definitely some competition and tension for that matter for surfers from both areas).
We arrived at Batu Karas about almost an hour later. We had a small lunch on the way only costing about Rp 5.000,00 per person in some random shop. We got to the beach and you instantly can see these long waves rolls that are perfect for surfing in. They were extremely long and constant and you could ride it for sometime before you dive in. Bondy and I decided to chill out a bit since it was way too hot to go out. The sun was screaching and perfect for a tan. We hung out for an hour or so, smelling the sea air. We then decided to hit the water.
Before doing so, Bondy went out and rented a long board. He has done this before. A long board cost about Rp 50.000,- for the whole day.
I, on the other hand, had to spend Rp 100.000,- for lessons including the long board. My tutor, San, was a bit too bulky for me, but hey, anyone that can save me from death in the sea is more than enough. He’s sooo friendly and looks out for your back.
The First Surfing Lesson
These months (July-September) were actually not the best times to go surfing. You really need to know exactly when the waves are good. And this is some kind of local knowledge. We weren’t so fortunate. The currents were treacherous. It was hard enough to carry my own board, I had to hold on San just to stand up. I kept on being tossed every time the wave came in. And the undercurrent was scary. But we didn’t give up.
Best Time to Surf
It was exhausting because it was such a struggle getting back to shore. The current sometimes took malicious turn by taking you up to a certain rocky areas around the beach which can really really hurt (and deadly). So everyone was extra careful. But it was still soo much fun. Having arms almost like Madonna’s because of the paddeling, I quit. I’ll definitely have to try it again one day when the weather is better which is around January-February. We left around 4 p.m., we could see the huge waves coming in that the pros would drool over. Big and long. Hmmm… sounds dirty hahaha…
Anyway, the pros came out and started surfing on that. I can tell you this, after this lesson, I have soooo much appreciation for this extreme sport. This is nothing compared to the pipes in the surfing comps around the world. And I still wanna be able to stand up at least.
So we headed home, with bikey. It was about 5.30 p.m at Pangandaran and deers came out to shop at the local market. They didn’t seem to be frightened by the existing humans. The market also provided souvenirs made from shells. They were pretty awesome. Just not on the budget. Then we had our dinner and headed home.
I was too tired to do anything else. Paddling is tough work, dude. So after a shower I hit the sack. Bondy could still go out and meet his buddy Yoga. Next time I’m gonna learn with him.
Taman Wisata Alam – The Natural Park
White Sandy Beach, Snorkeling, and Monkey Kingdom
Sally joined us that morning, and she bought these -so help me God the fashion police will arrest her- long pants. It was for Rp 18.000,- and had the writing “Pangandaran – West Java” all around it. Exactly what we tourists were looking for.
Then, we decided to go snorkeling on the white sandy beaches just 15 minutes out to the small spit (island) near the comp. You could actually walk there. We didn’t know this until we walked around the spit. This area was part of the Natural Park. The trip took Rp 10.000,- which already included the fee to get in the park and life jackets for snorkeling. Snorkels were rented in the area for Rp 10.000,- for the whole day.
Snorkeling wasn’t the best idea for this area. Locals say there are better places in Batu Karas, but we’ll save that for the next time we drop by. So we took a stroll through the park. The first cave was called the… umm… Mak Lampir (Witch Ghost) cave which was the local name. Can’t really remember the official name though. On the way, we met the monkey kingdom, walking down the stairs that we were heading up. The alpha male was upfront followed by everyone else. There were about 50 monkeys there, and they were wild.
To avoid any conflict, -unlike my monkey warrior Bondy that had to pick a fight with them causing one of the males to do a 360 turn (which was awesome by the way, thanks bond!) – here are some simple tips (and this applies to all monkeys anywhere):
– don’t stare at them, especially the male. It’s a threatening sign to them. If you stare long enough, they will definitely attack you.
– don’t bring anything that dangles, such as a plastic bag, a small handbag, or anything crumpled in your hand. They instinctly think that it’s food they can take from you.
– just walk peacefully pass them, or wait until they pass.
– if anything happens, take a rock in your hand, and just do threatening gesture. Fire at the utmost urgency.
Walking back to the snorkeling area, the water had withdrawn and you could see the rocks that are filled with small crustaceans, called kumang. You could race them for fun, but don’t take them home cause they probably die useless. But the water was crystal clear and tempting for a last dip. We hung out with the locals that rented the boat and cooking some sea snails called mata kerbau. It was sooo good and free. Yum! We headed back to shore and took a shower.
That night we decided to head home.
Seafood is of course what you can expect to find and eat there. Fishes, shrimps, lobsters, squids, you name it. There are a lot of seafood eateries in the beach area. You can just pick your fresh seafood then they’ll weigh and cook ’em for you, up to your liking. A Rp 50.000 meal is enough for two or three (depends on how big of an eater each of you is), consisted of baked fish, veggies, squids, and rice. Eating the meal at the beach (bring your own eating utensils or nicely borrow them to the eatery’s staff) would be a great alternative way of enjoying the seafood and sunset at the same time, for an early dinner, that is. Make sure you throw the thrash where it belongs and return the eating utensils right away! Keep our beaches clean, dude!
To sleep or not to sleep?
Since we are middle class workers, we looked for a low budget accommodation. Luckily Bondy knew some people and we could get a great accommodation for a really cheap price as long as we don’t use the aircon.
We stayed at the Nyiur Melati 2 for about Rp. 50.000.
But this is a friend’s price, and the room included a 2 double bed and a bathroom with TV and drinking water. If you’re a stranger in town, just ask around and you could get it for Rp 70.000 – Rp 100.000 for similar accommodation. But you gotta bargain hard.
Don’t be fooled by the exterior look of the hotels. They may look clean and new from the outside, but when you check out the interior of the rooms, they’re not really worth the charge of Rp 200.000 per night or even higher. Hotels like these you can find quite many facing the beach of Pangandaran.
In the Batukaras area, you can also find hotels facing the beach. Don’t forget to check the rooms first before signing up. Prices and conditions are more or less like what we’d find at Pangandaran area.
Ready? Not really. Set! Go!
One weekend is all you need for this fun trip. There are many ways to get there, from the most luxurious -take the chauffeur and 4 wheel-drive all the way down south through Bandung-Ciamis-Tasikmalaya-Banjar and Pangandaran. Or, take the cheap yet lovely type journey on the public bus.
There is one bus operator that head straight out to Pangandaran from Jakarta. It’s named Perkasa Jaya. This bus has 3 schedules out to Pangandaran, and each schedule has 2 types of accommodation. It starts at Kampung Rambutan bus station, but there are other busses from other stations such as Tangerang and Bekasi, which is the Budiman bus.
Air-conditioned Perkasa Jaya bus costs a merely Rp. 57.000,- or abour US$6 (Geez that’s cheap!) while the non-AC costs Rp.50.000,-. It’s a slight difference, but if you’re going to travel night, I recommend the AC because the bus goes through cold cities at night with a more constant temperature for the body. If you don’t have the extra Rp. 7000 then head for a little breeze on your night trip. But beware, these winds are not friendly, so better bring a warm jacket and Counterpain, for your sore butt from the non-reclining seat hehehehehe…
You’ll get there by 4 a.m.
The latest departure of this bus is at 9 p.m. daily. Now, if you are like me and my buddy happen to fall our exact path, that is by taking public transportation to Kampung Rambutan bus station, you might be late after a days work. If you miss this bus, take the bus to Banjar instead. This would cost about Rp 45.000,- but less if you hop on outside of the station. This bus arrives at Banjar about 4.30 a.m. Then hop on any minibus straight to Pangandaran. This bus will get you there by 8 a.m. and costs Rp 15.000.
And to get home…
We strolled of to the bus-station and we just talked while waiting for the right bus. By 8 pm, the bus came and we had to end the trip then. It was a blast and I’d definitely do it again. We arrived at Jakarta on Monday morning, about 2 a.m., and grabbed a taxi around there. So the last money I had went to the aircon’d bus and the taxi back home. It was a great trip! And very much affordable for those less budgeted crowd. So if you need a some fun with about Rp 350.000,-, this is definitely the trip for you.
Till our next trip.
Note: gasoline prices was Rp 4500 per litre.
The trip in short sucked our pockets as much as Rp 527,000 for the three of us, not including all the small misceleneous goodies along the trip:
Boat trip at green canyon: Rp 70,000
Swimming at green canyon: Rp 30,000
Rent a long board and surfing lessons: Rp 100,000
Rent a long board: Rp 50,000
Trip to park: Rp 10,000/person
Rent snorkels: Rp 10,000/person
Bus trip home: Rp 57,000/pax
Bus trip to Pangandaran: Rp 60,000/person
Rent a bikey: Rp 50,000 with petrol
Hotel room: Rp 50,000
As I calculated for myself, the whole trip cost about Rp 350,000.