Our 1st volcano and a walk in the park…

Our 1st volcano and a walk in the park…

Our journey to Java began at 6am when we departed for the ferry port in South Sumatra. It took just 3.5 hours to get there, despite a detour due to a collapsed road. At around 9.30am we ‘set sail’ for the Indonesian island that we were most looking forward to.

The crossing was about two hours long and took us over some of the bluest sea we had ever seen, but the highlight of our trip was getting a glimpse of the infamous Krakatoa on the horizon. We were lucky enough to witness three eruptions from Anak Krakatoa (aka ‘Krakatoa’s Child) – a relatively new volcano born out of it’s mother’s violent underwater eruptions which began in 1927. Now, we were quite a distance away when we took this pic, but there really is smoke bellowing from the volcano – promise!

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Our first stop in Java, the world’s most populated island, was Bandung – a relatively non-descript city 180kms south of Jakarta. Whilst we didn’t get up to much on arrival, the scenic drive there allowed us to make a few key observations about the difference between Java and it’s sister Sumatra. The Sumatran landscape sometimes resembled a production line of palm oil, sugar cane, rice and rubber but Java is much more diverse and we were treated to a mixture of views. Mountains, coconut trees, teak trees and paddy fields all seem to grow haphazardly in a beautifully natural kind of way, which was much more interesting to look at.

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After a good night’s sleep we headed off to the coastal town of Pangandaran where we were due to stay for two nights (hurray – no more one-night stopovers!). Getting there was quite eventful as the road took us up over 1000 metres, through villages and more incredibly diverse landscape. The backdrop of mountains, towering over rice terraces quickly promoted Java to one of the prettiest places we’ve visited.

We arrived in Pangandaran much earlier than expected thanks to the heavy right foot of our driver Harris and checked in to our hotel opposite the West Beach. The first thing we did was go out for a walk to get our bearings and look for a local restaurant for lunch. The town was pretty empty, which is understandable for the rainy season, with the many clothes and souvenir stalls being manned by bored looking locals who all shouted “hello” excitedly as we walked past.

We opted to have lunch in ‘Chez Mama’ – a lovely looking restaurant with a nice, wide ranging menu. Our tour leader Michelle was also in there so we sat with her and ordered some gorgeous rice and chicken cooked in onions, chilli and a ‘special soy sauce’. Soon, a few of the other Oz-busers joined us, followed by a few more and the beers began to flow. It began to rain – a lot – and not being prepared with rain macs or brollys, most of us decided to ‘wait it out’ with a couple more drinks. This didn’t really work as the rain continued to pour relentlessly so we gave in and made a dash for the nearest karaoke bar!

Now when I say ‘karokee bar’, what I actually mean is a restaurant with a separate side room in which the owner keeps his supply of Westlife DVDs, a TV and stereo with a couple of microphones attached to it! A few of us being quite merry, we didn’t mind belting out a few of the cheesiest boy band tunes and had a great laugh, before finally giving it a rest and heading back to the hotel.

Later that evening, Rich and I went to an internet cafe and were surprised to come across a herd of deer just meandering down the main street! They were so tame and didn’t mind the cars or the people. We suspected that they must have come from the nearby National Park that we were due to visit the next day.

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The next morning, our local guide Anto took a group of us to the National Park, just a few minutes walk from the hotel. It’s 7,000 Rupiah to get in and as soon as we crossed the boundary we were confronted with loads of monkeys, all running around freely (eye-ing up tourist’s backpacks no doubt). We walked for around two hours in the lush park, encountering more monkeys, lizards and deer along the way.

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One of our park highlights was a visit to a bat cave, where I think we all woke them up with our camera flashes and torches!

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The end of the walk brought us across a river and out to one of Pangandaran’s white beaches. It was bustling with people snorkeling, swimming and boating (and just as many monkeys trying to grab cameras and drinks from people!). We decided to take a boat back across the bay to our hotel which cost 100,000 Rupiahs, split between about nine of us. It was certainly a refreshing alternative to a walk back through the Park.

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As soon as we got back to the hotel we cooled down with a swim in the pool, before going out for a more in-depth exploration of the resort. Lunch was again enjoyed at ‘Chez Mama’, before we returned to the pool then stocked up on supplies for our bus journey the next day. That evening we caught up on a few things at the internet cafe and headed to bed, looking forward to what Java would bring us the following day…

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