Amy On The Road is a new fiction series I’m starting on the blog to share some travel stories in a journal format. You’ll get to know “Amy” and her travels quite well! Don’t worry, I’m not getting rid of my travel advice posts, this is just a new project I’m adding to the rotation. Please let me know what you think of this new series and as always, feel free to share the link to this blog with any friends you think might enjoy it.
Just a quick update from paradise. It’s my third week on the road by myself and I haven’t quite shaken the homesickness yet, so I thought I’d share some of my adventures with you folks back home. I spent the week in Pangandaran, Indonesia and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Unfortunately it didn’t start out so auspiciously.
Day 1: Earning two ice creams in one day
After four hours on the train, I shared a Bimo with a couple of other tourists heading towards Pangandaran, only to have the driver stop in the middle of nowhere and try to hold us up for more than our agreed upon price! Then, as the others were heading further down the coast, I hopped out to walk into Parngandaran proper, only to be followed by a guy on a motorcycle trying to get me to go to a hotel, no matter how many times I said no! This getting scammed for every cent you’ve got at every turn is getting really old! I have a little deal with myself, when I’m hot and tired and I feel like throttling people, I give them a big smile and walk away and then go buy myself an ice cream. The only problem is that at this rate I’m going to get fat!
Day 2: Domestic tourists and trust issues
The hotel is nice enough; it even has a pool, though as I only brought a bikini I’m going to have to sneak in during lunch time siesta so I don’t offend anybody. Woke up in good time this morning to "take sport” i.e. a run along the beach and do what you know every Indonesian tourist in the universe is doing: having a swim at 6:30am! I totally forgot that everyone gets up super early to do stuff before it gets too hot. I even had my photo taken with a couple of domestic tourists also out “taking sport”. I’m practically a celebrity.
Spent most of the day exploring, met a nice old guy named Illham who sells bits and pieces out of his hut on the beach. (Also the best place in town to get some tasty Mi Goreng). He speaks a bit of English and had a good laugh at my attempts at Indonesian. In the evening I stumbled across some backpackers and beach boys around a fire and hung out for a while. One local guy called Ari said he would take me to an internet cafe tomorrow, but I am now very suspicious that everyone is just trying to make a buck off me.
Day 3: Pleasant surprises and monkey business
What do you know, Ari was waiting when I got back from my run in the morning and he didn’t want money or anything! (Trust issues, who me?). It was nice to catch up with Mum and afterwards we went for a walk in the national park - the main reason I came all this way. We didn’t even have to pay entry fee as Ari sometimes works as a guide. It was a lovely walk through rich tropical jungle. Towards the end of our walk we rounded a corner to find the trees full of park rangers, like super exotic, grumpy fruit. Apparently a monkey had stolen the purse of a rich tourist, with all her money and passport inside and they were trying to retrieve it from the little thief who was inching away one tree at a time. It was one of the most surreal things I’d ever seen.
Evening came and I was back at Illham’s warung for dinner, which he refused to give me until I could recite the numbers 1-10 in Indonesian, to the hilarity of his friends. So, it turns out I’m learning Indonesian =P I was thoroughly glad that I put a little trust in people today!
Day 4: location broken and goldfish surprise
I was supposed to leave today but have been informed very seriously by Ari that I cannot go to the volcano, which was next on my itinerary because “location broken”, whatever that means. I later found out that there had been an eruption and the village I was intending to stay at had been completely wiped out.
Oh well, another day in paradise it seems. Spent the morning snorkelling off a white coral beach with some other backpackers and beach boys. It’s another world on the reef: at one point one of the boys brought up a starfish that was bigger than my head!
In a great feat of trust I went with Illham on his motorcycle this afternoon to visit his friend Mummy, a 75 year old Dutch woman in the next village. I say feat of trust because A) in my opinion motorcycles shouldn’t be ridden over swing bridges made of woven grass and B) let face it, I don’t know this guy at all! Once again my trust paid off in dividends. After leaving her husband Mummy has now lived 18 years in Indonesia building an amazing cross cultured house with her young, Indonesian musician husband. She was amazingly warm and generous, we gossiped for hours and I even taught her some dance moves. They had been making some new fish ponds out back and some of the goldfish had died so we had them for dinner. They were huge but we still had a good giggle trying to explain to the Indonesians why we thought eating the goldfish was weird!
Day 5: New friends and being out danced by a granny
I spent the morning hiking in the national park in search of the ever elusive waterfall. I may have, ahem, snuck in during a quiet moment. I trekked for two hours up through the jungle and along the cliffs at the end of the peninsular, carefully marking my turns like a good girl guide. I met two Indonesian men at a fork, and no amount of sign language would convince them I wasn’t going to fall off the cliffs. In the end I headed back in frustration.
The rest of the day however, was amazing. I went to the market with one of the warung girls to buy ingredients for a shared dinner. On the way back we stopped at her village so she could grab some things. I spent some time on the porch with her elderly father, quite proud at how much we could communicate with my limited Indonesian and sign language. I’m starting to get the hang of this! Back at the warang, I got a first class Indonesian cooking lesson and a lot of flak about my poor Indo accent. Lots of the locals I’ve met dropped by to try our fish. In the evening Mummy and her husband came into town and we all went to a discotec. It was crazy dancing to karaoke, with the local girls showing me some moves in these almost concert huts with lights flashing and music blaring. The boys got hilariously drunk and Mummy totally showed me up, she is 75 and she was the one dragging me back onto the dance floor at 3 in the morning. That’s a lady I can really admire!
Day 6: Beach party and sad goodbyes
A quiet day of recovery for me since it’s not every day you’re shown up by a grandmother on the dance floor! And I knew I had to move on soon and leave all my new friends. A morning of reading and Ari finally relented and took me to the waterfall, an amazing 4 story drop right at the tip of the peninsular. Ari is sweet but I think he suffers a little from the “all foreign girls are hussies” mind set, I think I will have to practice my “no” word before I leave! In the evening there was some kind of birthday party on the beach with a stage and chairs and it seemed like the whole of Pangandaran showed up. Boy do these guys like their karaoke! I flited between my new friends, with Mummy teasing me that Ari liked me and me practicing my new Indonesian flat out. It was a lovely end to my time there. We exchanged some small gifts, I gave Mummy a Maori bone necklace and her husband gave me a little wooden face necklace he had carved himself. Mummy and I chipped in together and brought Illam a new tarpaulin to roof his warung as the old one leaked horribly and he slept there most nights. I couldn’t believe how quickly I had gone from being horribly distrustful to being surrounded by generous friends. It really goes to show how much more you can get out of travel with a positive attitude and a bit of faith. I would have loved to stay longer. In fact it’s definitely on my list of places to return to but for now volcanoes are calling me and there’s much of Indonesia still to explore.