Spur of the moment. No preparation. Vague idea of how to get there.
We’re going on an Indonesian road trip – to the jungle we go!
*dreamy-going-back-in-time harp sequence*
I wrote this before I left:
This is the first time I have planned to travel somewhere and have not prepared in the slightest. Underprepared is the adjective required, I think. Tomorrow, I may be going to Lampung. Lampung is a tiny island off the coast of South Sumatra. If I we do go, we will be driving to the coast of Java to then ferry across to Lampung. Nothing has been organised. No accommodation researched, no ferries booked, the distance has been purely guesstimated, and our knowledge of the place is probably insufficient. I don’t even know what time we‘re going. Or when we’ll be back.
* * * * *
Go pick up your copy of the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Indonesia again. Yeh, the big, fat one with the beautiful Balinese woman with the wonderfully symmetrical face on the cover. Have a skim through the index. See Ujung Genteng written anywhere? No, I didn’t think so.
I’d just come back from teaching a class. Before delving into an hour of grammatical brainteasers, I asked them each about their weekends. They asked me about mine. The intrepid explorers of Lonely Planet are not alone; all four Indonesian students sitting before me hadn’t heard of the place either. Where had I just been? I thought. Did the place really exist?
This thought was reinforced further after I finished the day of teaching. Only one student out of forty had heard of it, because he had made the rocky journey there too.
* * * * *
Samantha and Jack accompanied me on my trip to Ujung Genteng. Jack was the one responsible for sparking this spontaneous idea and kicking it into action. If you scroll back up right to the top, the original plan was to go to Lampung. This was still the idea until 6.30pm on Saturday night, the eve of our intended travels. Jack had done a little calling around, and apparently the weather conditions for ferrying across were looking a little sketchy.
‘Ah, ok,’ I said. ‘No adventure then?’
A mischievous smile appeared on his face, ‘Well…..’
I will condense what he said next into three words: waterfalls, turtles and beaches.
‘What are we waiting for?! Let’s go!’
We invited along Samantha, who I was sure would be up for some adventure and had so far only experienced the capital city of Jakarta . As much as I love the Big J, I thought a trip to a place like Ujung Genteng would give her a proper feel for what Indonesia really has to offer.
So the time was set; rendezvous at 1am. Jack would undertake the mammoth seven hour drive as Samantha and I would spur him on like a couple of cheerleaders… or maybe just attempt a few winks of sleep in the passenger seats.
Weekend bag packed with mosquito spray, bikini, towel and toilet paper, we (after some excited jumping about in the lift down) jumped into Jack’s car (aka the Black Mutant), and picked up Samantha from her apartment block. Despite the time, spirits were high, imaginations were ignited, and for now our tongues had plenty to speak about.
It is surprising how quickly you can get out of Jakarta when the roads are free of suffocating traffic. It didn’t take us long to pass through the map lines that bordered Jakarta from whatever was beyond. And in a very Judy Garland-esque way, I remember saying, ‘We’re not in Jakarta anymore?’
‘Yes, this isn’t Jakarta anymore,’ Jack replied.
I will be honest; I was the first one to zonk out. I stayed awake for an hour and a half or so, and then the motion of the car overcame me. It was too much to fight. To the land of Nod I go. Samantha remained a much more supportive cheerleader for Jack and stayed awake, making sure he would stay awake too.
I drifted in and out of sleep. However I do remember as we got closer to Sukabumi, the roads became narrower and windier, trucks and lorries became intimidatingly bigger, and the air became eerily mistier. We passed small warungs, a few mosques and churches and markets setting up their stalls at 2am ready for the morning rush. Jack did his best to weave through the cars that sometimes filled the narrow roads and it wasn’t long until we no longer saw much signs of civilisation. Instead of tiny shops lining the road, there were now tall, straight, spindly Jack Skellington like trees. We were surrounded by forest now, and the mist had intensified, so much so that it was only when you got close enough to go through it, that you saw where you had to turn next. I have no flippin idea how Jack coped with this. I would have used a bucket load more expletives to curse that flippin mist. But hey, it definitely added to the beaten off track vibe we were all hoping for.
The road also became a heck of lot bumpier than before. It hadn’t been paved well, and maintenance was zilch. The rocks and stones and dips and potholes took their toll on poor Black Mutant’s wheels, and jostled us about inside like the tiny beads inside a shaken maraca.
I feel rather redundant at this point in the story, as both Jack and Samantha would be able to give you a much more vivid account of the journey there, as I actually slept a considerable amount more than just forty winks. The same couldn’t have been said for my two poor fellow explorers. I am indeed a special case.
A jolt of the car and a bounce off a pothole, I stirred awake around a half an hour before getting to our destination. The dawn sky was lazily getting lighter; a pale blue with wisps of dusty pink slowly becoming more bold and primary. Samantha was awake and looking surprisingly fresh and perky. Our fearless leader, Jack, was sat in front of the driving wheel, showing a few small tells of lethargy but still possessing a surprising amount of energy.
‘Wow, you were really conked out there,’ said Samantha.
The road, despite still not being at all friendly towards Black Mutant’s poor wheels, looked a whole lot friendlier and welcoming in the daylight; a yellow, dusty dirt road, with leafy green vegetation running parallel to it. We soon passed under a banner saying in Bahasa Indonesia, ‘Selemat Datang di Ujung Genteng’ (Welcome to Ujung Genteng). We’re finally here!
A few minutes later, turning around the bend of the road, I caught a glimpse of some blue expanse in the not so distant distance.
‘Is that the sea?!’ I said excitedly, ‘Oh my god it’s the SEEEAAAA!’
It was only a few minutes before we arrived at our destination. Pondok Adi’s accommodation is a group of substantially sized, raised,wood woven bungalows. Basic but charming, it was the perfect place for our getaway. Especially with a view like this:
We pulled up in front of our bungalow. I looked at my phone. Time: 08:00 am. We had the whole day ahead of us.
Now, where to start?
*Tune in next time for some splashing about in giant waterfalls…
Go Go Go!
Where: Ujung Genteng, South West Java, Indonesia
Why: Waterfalls, turtles and pristine beaches. What more could you want?
How: With difficulty. There are no flights or trains to this area of Java. Car is the only option, and the 7hours on the treacherous roads are not easy. We stayed at Pondonk Adi’s accommodation – wooden beach cottages on stilts. Clean and spacious, no squatter toilet but a splash and bucket style shower for 160,000 Rp (approx £8) a night.