A Sundanese adventure

Sawarna Travel Blog

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The power of a motor across a horribly rickety bridge.

I was dead set on not being stuck in the city for another long weekend. This was due to my just being employed part time. Making my budget terribly tight. Another thing that I am being stretched at.

After minimal research I decided to take an adventure to the beaches of West Java, specifically the virgin beach of Sawarna. My local friends barely had an idea of this area and using basic but nonetheless a tad helpful thread on a blog I started off.

I thought this was closer than Yogyakarta, I was mistaken. Leaving at 8am, finding the first bus which was the one going to Bogor was already a tiring adventure of 2 hrs.

Starting the supposedly 10min treck to the beach
I had to go through Jakarta busways that I was unfamiliar with, again with the minimal Bahasa I know things get more challenging than they should be. And I have also generally noticed that Indonesians are usually needing to listen more before responding, this makes everything twice as difficult.

After 2 long bus trips, the first for an hour to Bogor, the second, 4 hours to Palabuhan Ratu, a wacky 2 hour ride on an overflowing non airconditioned van to Pasar Bayah town proper, and a 40 min scarily fun motor/ojek ride, I arrived barely in one piece after over 9 hrs of travelling at the Sawarna homestay.

The bus rides were crazily around worm winding hills,without concave mirrors, steep open ravines, narrow two way roads meant for smaller vehicles, tons of forests and rubber tree plantations.

Surfing waves! Could not risk it!
This was facilitated by skilled bus drivers that seemed to have a passion for speed and overtaking other vehicles.

The motor driver on the other hand seemed to be on the same wavelength but in the area, helmets are foreign. I was literally close to flying off into the forest as we drove through up and down hills.

Without sustenance the whole day I was welcomed by a huge homecooked meal of fish, veggies and rice at the homestay we found on the thread. It was conveniently situated on the main road for easy access. Wanting to walk around a bit, I only managed about 5 minutes of it after an early dinner as there were no lamp posts on the streets. The area does not have signal for my provider either.

I got to know my host's family a bit. They were mainly composed of musicians and English teachers in public schools.

All by myself!!!! Don't wanna be...
But were speaking in Bahasa 99% of the time, this forced me to sharpen mine.

Saturday I endeavored to enjoy Sawarna beach the entire day. The area supposedly has rain most of the time but during my stay, all I had to wait out was 2 hours on Saturday morning. To see the beach I had to take around a 10 min walk through farms and Sundanese villages. I first had to cross a rickety bridge that had missing and loose wooden planks, and wires that have partly given way making the bridge tilt to one side. It can actually still manage people and motorbikes on a regular basis. Everything amazes me.

The houses have the typical floor to ceiling windows, marbled floors and brick roofs. People love sitting outside and on their house floors, living room chairs are not maximized. They all know who's new or not and were definitely either staring or asking me polite Bahasa questions on where I was from, where I was heading to and who I was staying with.

Tanjung Lajar rock formation

It was all so rural yet pleasantly simple. I had to go through winding muddy paths, grassy shortcuts, and farm animals.

The weather it turns out was too windy at this time of the year, meaning waves are surfing high. This was terribly dissappointing for me. Time and again I tried braving the shores a bit but the pull and toss of the waves were scary for not such a strong swimmer as me. Not to mention that the beach only had humans once every hour. This was my first time ever to be so autistic at a beach.

On my second full day I enjoyed the company of Andi, one of Pak Hudaya's son's who drove me to Pulau Manu beach and the famous Tanjung Lajar rock formation which was not free of course. As I walked through the corals around Tanjung Lajar to get shell souvenirs, my thongs broke (which was amazingly stitched back by Aceh and hence is still in use till now), which made me fashionably limp back to Andi's motor.

None of us were physically prepared. One lamp for all in the Gualalai cave.

The brief conversations with Andi were fun. He was a very lighthearted guy who made me feel at ease real quick. Unfortunately the waves at the Pulau Manu beach were also as high as the ones in Sawarna. We retreated back dissappointingly to the homestay.

This was where I was amusingly ambushed by a principal, teacher, and 7 students from the public school in Pasar Bayah who wanted to practice their basic English conversation skills with me. It was a bit awkward as they kept on repeating their questions and were silent most of the time for lack of a properly formulated english question.

They brought up a tourist spot, Gualalai caves (Gua meaning bat) and decided to join discovering it with me. Our guide, was another of Pak's son's Aceh. With one lamp in hand, we excitedly went on through another rickety bridge and a bit of farm land.

None of us were prepared physically for the spellunking. The students were all still in their casual clothes and I was holding on to my bag for dear life.

Gualalai cave is a combination of knee length mud, bat poop, river water amidst stalactites and stalagmites. The challenge was we only had one lamp light for the 10 of us and I was usually left behind. We had to endure this for an hour to and fro on barefoot. That altogether was dangerous but the adrenaline kept us all going. At anytime so many things could have seriously killed us.

After all this I was just itching to swim in the waters of Pulau Manu. As usual, the waves were too scary for me so Andi and I opted to just walk through the scenic coral formations.

The principal from lunch, Pak Bapa got me cornered here and pushed for a school appearance in their afternoon classes, a task that I was planning to skip.

Abducted for a school appearance. Kids at SD Pasar Bayah
 So I unwillingly obliged despite my horrible attire of swimwear underneath shorts, a sando, and slippers. My only coverup was my colorful malong.

With sand all over me and mudstained shorts and top from the cave trek, I said hello to all the kids who saw an English speaking foreigner for the first time, it broke my heart. It was not a great impression but again I had no choice. The kids were all worth it though.

After this I was still requested to grace the house of another teacher as they continued to practice their english with me over humble snacks.

I was crawling to bed that night.

The next morning I could barely get up, I spent a restless, feverish night, with my 2nd bout of diarrhea since coming to Indonesia. It did not help that the toilet on  my floor was broken and I had to go to the 1st floor to use the squat toilet everytime I needed to relieve myself.

Busy fishermen around Pulau Manu beach.

I forced myself to get up because Pak's daughter in law, Ayi, was requesting me to make another appearance at her public school in Sawarna. Over an hour of awkwardly smiling at kids in several classrooms, saying basic statements in English about where I came from, what I was doing, etc., consistently answering their repetitive questions, and taking pictures, I was finally brought home in a fellow teacher's motor. Amusingly, top of the list questions were 'How old are you?',and 'Are you still single?', my, my, what are kids taught in school these days?

I now had to decline Aceh and his wife's request for yet another school appearance as my body was not up to it. I dragged myself for a last solitude moment at Sawarna beach only to discover that the waves were more violent than before and was faced with a bit of a sandstorm.

Bird's eye view of Palabuhan Ratu beach.

The entire experience softened my heart so badly. Being humbled by the way of life, by the caring family of Pak Hudaya who I shared countless unwinding moments of chats while listening to their family band play strings, by the school kids who were visited by a foreigner for the first time.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet another caring tourist, Victor, an Austrian documentaries cameraman, and other passing tourists who always seemed to use Pak's homestay toilets.

There were also tons of foreigners who have built their lives around the area with their families and surfing establishments as I observed.

God brought me into another influential home. Heavy hearted, I promised to come back this summer, with better Bahasa, and a longer time to discover the beauty of the area.

My Sundanese hosts-family.

planisphere says:
ingat palagi...:) missing you already..
Posted on: Mar 07, 2009
blurbmoi says:
Thanks Sylvia and Dave! This was a huge crazy adventure. It's been a quite a journey so far. I know the blog tends to be too long but I just love to put in all the details. Glad you enjoyed it. How is everything?
Posted on: Mar 05, 2009
kateeyah says:
aaaaw friendship...I love the life you're livin! Good job! And I'm soo happy for you! I miss you! Mwah
Posted on: Mar 04, 2009
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The power of a motor across a horr…
The power of a motor across a hor…
Starting the supposedly 10min trec…
Starting the supposedly 10min tre…
Surfing waves! Could not risk it!
Surfing waves! Could not risk it!
All by myself!!!! Dont wanna be...
All by myself!!!! Don't wanna be...
Tanjung Lajar rock formation
Tanjung Lajar rock formation
None of us were physically prepare…
None of us were physically prepar…
Abducted for a school appearance. …
Abducted for a school appearance.…
Busy fishermen around Pulau Manu b…
Busy fishermen around Pulau Manu …
Birds eye  view of Palabuhan Ratu…
Bird's eye view of Palabuhan Rat…
My Sundanese hosts-family.
My Sundanese hosts-family.
Make way!!!
Make way!!!
Up close with farmlands
Up close with farmlands
Uh oh, this was a huge barrier
Uh oh, this was a huge barrier
Am starting to see the beach!!!
Am starting to see the beach!!!
Solitude
Solitude
Resting a bit, wish somebody could…
Resting a bit, wish somebody coul…
What is solitude?
What is solitude?
Scary! the waves eat up tons of th…
Scary! the waves eat up tons of t…
Still in solitude in the afternoon.
Still in solitude in the afternoon.
Still my own tracks after lunch. W…
Still my own tracks after lunch. …
Finally! teenagers disturb my peac…
Finally! teenagers disturb my pea…
Beautiful rocks at Pulau Manu beach
Beautiful rocks at Pulau Manu beach
Nope. My guide was wrong, those wa…
Nope. My guide was wrong, those w…
Woohoo!! sexy?! My guide Andi
Woohoo!! sexy?! My guide Andi
I love purple! Lookind divine amid…
I love purple! Lookind divine ami…
Ibu Penti is cautious with the mov…
Ibu Penti is cautious with the mo…
A supposed English training class …
A supposed English training class…
Going back to Pulau Manu. Still su…
Going back to Pulau Manu. Still s…
He doesnt love to pose does he? M…
He doesn't love to pose does he? …
I didnt say this far!!!
I didn't say this far!!!
Look at that horrible outfit!! Not…
Look at that horrible outfit!! No…
Wonderful sunset
Wonderful sunset
They insisted. Ojek drivers gettin…
They insisted. Ojek drivers getti…
Reading lessons.
Reading lessons.
Students of SD Sawarna. Another sc…
Students of SD Sawarna. Another s…
Waves the next day at Sawarna, big…
Waves the next day at Sawarna, bi…
Sawarna
photo by: yuness