Pangandaran and the Green (Emerald) Canyon
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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I and two newly acquired Belgian sidekicks only went as far as downtown Banjar before alighting the Lodaya at 2.20am, then began to worry as this mid sized dot on the map turned out to be smaller than expected and had no hospitable looking hotel in sight. The locals hanging around the station weren't menacing but certainly weren't helpful either. Suddenly a bus to Pangandaran materialised and we were on our way to freedom. So long suckers. It would have been very uncomfortable indeed sleeping on backpacks in the station with one eye open all night.
You don't usually arrive at your typical beachside idyll at 4am, but we weren't your average visitors to Pangandaran either. Fortunately one of us had phoned ahead (not me) and made arrangements, so we got a bed and some sleep before shortly facing a new day. Somehow surfacing early, I took a look around the near neighbourhood. As attractive as Pangandaran is, I wanted something more than your average Indonesian tourist town (litter and vendor huts crowding out the nice view), so I left the few local holidayers to their paddling in the surf and headed further round the bay.
I went on a hunch to Cikembulan, 4km west of the main drag, to find a quirky little place called Delta Gecko Lodge. An old Lonely Planet had said nice things and it turned out to be an beach bungalowed artist retreat with little electricity but with three well cooked vegetarian meals a day, four dogs, a ramshackle demeanour and a lazy, laid-back vibe. You don't get to stay in places like this too often so I signed up for two nights and three full days. I wish I could have stayed more and I highly recommend it to the more adventurous of you.
Despite the nest of bees in my bungalow wall and a less than reliable water supply, I settled in fine. Those little things weren't important anyway. Agus the owner and his wife attended to every need and since Johan and Fin (the Belgians) followed me up there, we ended up eating and chilling whenever we weren't out and about trekking in the jungle countryside.
This is a beautiful part of the world where multitudes of wide, clear rivers wind their way through thick tropical jungle before emptying into the Indian Ocean - emerging out of rich delta wetlands that pierce the seemingly endless black sand beaches of the coastline.
Our first real adventure was to the Green Canyon - an unimaginatively named but extremely beautiful natural environment that we were fortunate to have to ourselves for an hour in the late morning. The boat ride there reminded me of a Dolong River expedition straight out of Apocalypse Now! but without the machine guns, psychotic Colonels or vivid hallucinations. We wound our way through some truly wondrous jungle - rich in massive teak trees, palms, various hanging vinery and the shrill sounds of extensive birdlife. Almost unbelievably there was no rubbish visible at all. Only the chug of the outrigger's engine and the a click of camera mechanisms reminded us that we hadn't stepped back in time to some prehistoric age.
Suddenly the river narrowed and the rising banks seemed to topple over on themselves. Moisture dripped relentlessly from overhanging greenery above. The boat cruised up to some convenient rocks and we hopped out, quickly changed into bathers and stowed our gear in plastic bags to protect them from the constantly falling moisture. Then we plunged in to the sweet, cool water. Oh yeah.
The canyon is apparently a couple of hundred metres long, but it is only safe for visitors to venture the first hundred, so that's as far as the guide takes the group. You are swimming against the current going in, so that and the fact that you're always wanting to stop and look up in wonder makes the going a little difficult. Still, you make it half way and have the opportunity to jump from a 5 metre high stalagmite formation rising from the canyon floor into a deep pool below. The rocks aren't sharp or slippery and there's a myriad of harmless critters around like frogs, dragonflies and miniature crabs to marvel at too. Keep going as far as you can and once you reach the end, float all the way back down to see it again at a leisurely pace. Nice!
I cannot say enough about this attraction - it pips Bromo as my favourite place visited in all my travels through Indonesia. Absolutely magnificent, so I think I'll rename it the Emerald Canyon to give it a touch of class. If you love nature and are ever anywhere even remotely nearby, get there and swim the canyon. You will not regret it. I just wish I had the waterproof camera I'm hoping to get in Singapore next week - there would have been some fantastic pictures from inside!
Around the area we also visited Batu Karas - a nice little surf beach with long breaking waves - for some follow up surfing self-improvement, and the nearby bamboo bridge. More substantial than the visage of Hollywood blockbusters, but then this one actually works and takes pedestrian and motorbike traffic, so we'll give it a break.
The national park at the southern end of the Pangandaran isthsmus is also well worth a visit for some hiking in the jungle. Once you get through the litter-strewn park and into the rainforest proper, there are some truly magnificent trees, plants and animals to be seen. Fauna-wise you can find black and grey monkeys (tree and ground based respectively), porcupines and bats (both cave dwelling), scorpions, deer, fruit bats, monitor lizards, toucans and some very cool butterflies that are particularly difficult to catch on camera.
We did a 10 kilometre round trip walk to an unusual but very pleasant river-fed bathing pool overlooking the sea. The hike down the river amongst an array of funky old trees and huge cable-like vines was well worth the perspiration and $5 for the guide. The only disappointment was on the march out, when our guide happily dispensed with his empty plastic drinking bottle into the jungle foliage beside the track - leaving another non-degradable item in this otherwise priceless environment. Such a shame...
Next entry -> don't know - somewhere between here and Singapore.
Speaking of trash, why not start up a new closing segment right know.
Great brands of the world
As a trained marketer I sit up and take notice of brands that liven our day and add more to life. So I figure as a travelling public service, I should be on the lookout to uncover that 'next big thing' in global adland. I'll try to bring you at least one from every country I visit.
Potentials from Indonesia would have to be:
Thanks to Hawaiian Mike and Swedes Frida and Helga (Sara and Tura) for introducing me to this concept. You wicked people you...
No it's not a gang bang, it's a Beng Beng - a crunchy chocolate treat getting huge airtime in Indonesia right now. And why wouldn't it? With such a catchy name and slick design for this high volume snack treat, I'm sure everyone is gagging for a Beng Beng every day. I should have sent a box home for later distribution.
Why do we in the west make everything so complicated? If you're going to make a laundry detergent that makes clothes clean, why not name it that? Or at least a pidgin English version of it anyway. Everyone knows that graphic designers can't spell so that's probably how this impact brand got the name that's seen in every waterway from Singapore to Kupang.
Where I stayed
Delta Gecko Lodge