All I wanted to do when I got to Indonesia was surf. But I had to be patient for 3 weeks until the moment finally arrived! The Swiss guys we met in Yogyakarta recommended a beach town to go to- Pangandaran. It is situated in the south west of Java.
We choose to reside at a quaint little place called Mini Tiga. It is nicely decorated and has a hammock outside to catch some zzzz in the afternoon sun. There is also homemade yoghurt for sale- delicious! The rooms are big, so we were able to spread our belongings from corner to corner. Breakfast is included, and I continued my tradition of banana pancakes…
On arrival we were starving, so we ate at a Swiss- owned restaurant (Relax) and ate a delicious array of Indonesian food. (This restaurant also makes fresh, whole wheat bread (first time we’ve been able to buy proper bread), which went well with our avocado’s). While eating we started a conversation with a Finnish couple, who later turned out to be interesting and fun company for the forthcoming days. They had just been in Sumatra, so we heard some of their stories. Later in the afternoon we took a dip in the best ocean- Indian Ocean. Wow! It was like heaven- warm water, big waves; a radiant sunset… could not get any better!
The next morning I tried to take on the waves…well, they took on me. I underestimated the power of the waves and so I got dumped and tossed and turned and thrown back onto shore. I did manage to stand up a few times, to my delight!. In the afternoon I played “surfing instructor” to Honza and the Finnish couple... although I don’t think I was a very good instructor as Honza got stuck out beyond the breakers and only after some serious paddling did he manage to come back in (I didn’t tell him to stay close to the shore). I also got stuck out, and man is it scary! The waves just come at you (with a very strong undertow), and because I am no pro, I can’t catch them. So I just float over them, with no way of getting back in. The locals always keep a watchful eye on us, so a kind surfer towed me in to safety.
That night we (the foreigners, 7 of us) chipped in some money and bought some fish at the fish market. It’s a tradition for the travelers to pay for the food (for everyone, including some of the locals) and then the locals prepare and cook it for us (great deal!). So we had a fish braai on the beach, along with loads of rice, vegetables and spicy jambal (chilli pepper sauce), washed down with beer and arak (extremely potent locally made rice wine). Later on we all went and sat on the beach, around a bonfire, and some of the guys played local and international songs and we all sang along. It was one of my best nights so far- foreigner and Indonesians; united by song and a love for the sea! Most Indonesians are gifted on the guitar- “we have so much time”. I also had a go on the drum, and together with another guy on guitar we jammed some good tunes :-)
On Sunday we tried some boogie boarding, but no surfing - I was stupid and lay in the midday sun the day before; so I was burnt on my stomach and my back. Lying on a board felt like hot needles being injected into me.
But Honza and I did try a tandem bike, and surprisingly we got it right from the go. I sat in the back, so I could slack, and no one would know… except when we had a shadow, and then Honza could see whether I was helping or not. It was so much fun to ride around town, and because I didn’t have to watch where I was going, could have a look at the scenery we passed. On the way back I took the front seat- to Honza’s humiliation (a girl in front? the nerve! ;-)). It took a while to get used to it and to be able to steer straight (I think Honza was a little worried of my tandem –biking- skills). But I got it, accident- free! :-)
At Mini Tiga’s there was a local guide who provided tours to the surrounding areas. On one of the nights he was telling us about the tsunami that hit Pangandaran in 2006. He was surfing when the wave hit- he had time to get out and tell people to run uphill, but he ran out of time to save himself. The 4m wave tossed him like a “washing machine” and he landed on a roof. He broke his leg and got some bruises. To this day he is still afraid of the sea and hasn’t been surfing since. 5 of his friends died, and 2 friends didn’t realize it was a tsunami and actually rode the wave into town!
The guide (whose I just can’t remember) took us to the Green Canyon. The Finnish couple joined us for the outing. We went on scooters- so Honza and I were on one, and the Finnish on another. First we visited a small village where they make sugar from coconut tree flowers and afterwards we visited a local puppeteer, who told us about the traditions of puppetry in this area. Both were interesting to learn about.
Then we continued on our journey until we reached a dock, where we took a boat to the Green Canyon. We put life jackets on (“you are a foreigner…”) and jumped ship when we reached the entrance to the canyon. It was absolutely marvelous! The canyon is only 8-10m wide and the walls reach high to the sky. Coming off the overhangs were ancient- looking stalactites. The walls of the canyon only let a trickle of sunlight in, so it was mostly shadowy, yet rather magical.
The water was cool and refreshing. We swam upstream, so sometimes had to swim extra hard to advance. There was a tall rock where you could jump off (maybe 6m). The boys jumped, but I was overcautious (since I seem to be accident-prone lately) and didn’t want an excuse to experience an Indonesian hospital. After about 30 minutes of swimming and splashing we reached a powerful outpouring of water- and sitting under it was natures massage! The way back was so entertaining! The current just took us, and we didn’t have to do anything to help :-)
We then rode the scooters to Batu Karas- a tiny fishing village about 32km from Pangandaran. We had lunch- I had gado gado, which is vegetables, boiled eggs, tofu in a peanut sauce. It was tasty, but was not a very good idea to eat it, and then go surfing. The waves here are so perfect! I chose a long board and had so much fun riding the small, yet powerful waves. It was quite busy in the water; so many times I collided with another fellow surfer. Whoops!
On the ride back the moon was the biggest moon I had ever seen! It started by hanging out over the sea, and then rose to shine with all its glory. We made a quick stop at a turtle rehabilitation centre. I got to hold a baby turtle in my hands, but the little creature had ADHD or something and he squirmed off my hand and fell on his back on the ground! I felt so terrible!
Turtles that get caught in fishermen’s nets are sent here, rehabilitated and then sent back out into the wild. They also breed turtles here, to conserve the declining number of the species.
If it wasn’t for Honza I would spend all my time on the beach, but due to his mountain-madness we left Pangandaran for Gunung Gede National Park. I am thankful for his different interests though; because this way I see more of Java, besides the beaches, and experience some real mountain-living. This park and the forces of nature, I would come to both love and absolutely detest….