The alarm went off at 4.15 this past Saturday. That just seems inhumane, does it not? However, excitement turned out to be an effective method to getting out of bed and after a shower, I ordered my Grab-bike – the driver arrived surprisingly quickly – and went to the meeting point, from where the trip would start!
On this Saturday in November, I had planned to visit Kawah Putih, a lake located on a volcano. I went with an organized tour and the program also included some other sites. Needless to say, but I am going to anyway, I was psyched to finally get out of the city and see more of Indonesia.
While I sat and waited for my friend to arrive and join me, I enjoyed the relative silence that the morning in Jakarta brought, and was watching a girl next to me with fascination, who was slaying mosquitoes like a pro. Once we boarded the bus and took off, I was happily surprised to be able to doze off for at least an hour and a half. Even after that I was in a blissful state of half-unconsciousness, until we reached Bandung.
There I looked out the window and took in all the hustle and bustle of this city. The area where we drove was very different from Jakarta. From the main street you could see the lush green fields and there were no buildings higher than two stories, maybe three. After a while we ended up on the small mountain roads where honking before turning a corner is a must. The views were already incredible, but hard to photograph from a moving bus.
Once we arrived at Kawah Putih, we took a small shuttle bus to the main site. Before going here I read some information on the internet and there were also some signs around the area, all saying the same thing. The smell of sulfer will be insufferable and you cannot stay near the lake for longer than 15 minutes, in case the heavy smell effects you. While we were driving in the area, I kept waiting for the smell to hit. When we were on a small hill near the lake, I carefully sniffed the air and when I was standing next to the lake, I was simply confused about what the fuss was about. There was no sulfer smell, whatsoever. It almost distracted me from the natural beauty, but then I came to a conclusion. Being a touristic site like this, I am guessing they don’t want people crowding the place. So, if everyone can only stay for 15 minutes, they will leave quickly and the amount of people at the scene of the beauty will be minimized. It is either that, or for some reason the smell was just absent for the day. There were people selling masks to cover your nose and mouth, and I politely declined. Doing so in Indonesian resulted in a few gasps of surprise, which is always good for some giggles. I still don’t really understand the use of these masks, especially in this situation. It does not keep out smell. And breathing in the sulfer never killed anyone… right?
Even though people were around to take a picture of me, I could not help myself and took a selfie too.
After we walked around, took some pictures, watched a wedding couple get there pictures taken and sat around for half an hour because we did not need all of the allocated time, we continued our trip. The shuttle bus took us back, we had some lunch and waited for the bus to continue our journey. While I was sitting near the bus, some of the other participants of the trip turned out to speak English very well and struck up conversation. They had been to Amsterdam and they told me something about their trip to the Keukenhof, where I have never been myself. We discussed how strange it is that you don’t take the time to see the sights in your own country, but when you are abroad, you want to see everything. It strengthened my resolve to also start discovering more of The Netherlands. When I will be there for a longer time. In like, a year or so. So maybe it is more of a long term plan.
After Kawah Putih, we continued to another place called Situ Patenggan, a big lake. We needed to pay an extra entrance fee here, which turned out not so positive for me. First of all, it was a little strange for everyone that they had to pay an extra IDR 20.000, and that it was not included in the price for the organized trip. But my disadvantage was a bit bigger, because the price for foreigners was not IDR 20.000, but a whopping IDR 185.000. That set me back a bit, and when we got to the lake I was a tad disappointed. It was just a lake and really not that special after the amazing Kawah Putih. They wanted to go for a boat ride, but while we were walking that way, one of the locals started talking to me and telling me about a location nearby, where it was supposedly really special, called Kawah Rengganis. There were natural springs, and some of them were heated naturally up to 100 degrees Celsius. He showed me a few pictures, and though I was a bit hesitant, I really wanted to let him take me there. I was a bit worried about the price, but he told me the entrance fee was only IDR 30.000. Then I quickly discussed with my friend about what his fee would have to be, and he said I could give him whatever I wanted. My cash funds were running a little low, but I decided to go with him and see what I thought the private tour was worth.
Still took the time to take a picture at the lake though
So. I hopped on the back of his motorbike. This part was nothing new for me and even though maybe going off with a stranger should have caused some nervousness on my part, I was surprisingly calm. That is, until we hit the small mountain roads, varying from cobblestone roads to dirt-roads and there was a lot of wobbling involved. I told him ‘hati-hati’ (be careful) a few times, but he just smiled and gave a little more gas.
We arrived safe and sound, of course, and despite the nagging fear that took hold of me if I looked too closely at how close to the ledge we drove and how far we would fall were that that to happen, I took in the view and could only feel extremely satisfied that I took him up on his offer. We drove past some beautiful tea plantations and we hadn’t even arrived at our destination yet.
When we did, I finally got something I was waiting for all day. A sulfer smell. Now here was a place that is undiscovered by so many and there was nobody there, except for locals. It really gives you a kick when you go off the beaten path and see something new. There were a lot of different springs and the place was really humid. The fact that it started raining didn’t help, but also did nothing to spoil the adventure. Although, it did make walking a bit difficult. The guy hopped from stone to stone and was a few meters in front of me at all times. Sometimes he would wait and a couple of times he would just look back and laugh. Out loud. He grew up there, so of course he was used to the tricky paths, so I just smiled and told him I was nowhere near as fast as him. Although I am sure he already noticed and was thinking something along the lines of “really, Captain Obvious?”
Or at least that is what I was thinking when I saw this statue.
We walked around a bit, took some pictures and I even put a bunch of mud on my arms en rinsed it with the water from the spring. I had a small conversation with a few local guys who were hanging out there and I could not help myself from wondering about how different their lives must be from mine. After a while we went back, because I could not be late for the bus that would continue on. The way back was even scarier, because instead of uphill, we went downhill and because of the rain, now the stones were wet and slippery. HATI freaking HATI.
We made it down alive and he dropped me off at the place where we started, unharmed and a few experiences richer. I gave him IDR 50.000, which was all I could spare. I only had 14.000 rupiah left to get some dinner later on. I am still not sure if he was happy with the amount or not, but I guess that is his occupational hazard.
We were supposed to go strawberry picking afterwards, but because of the rain we all decided it would be better to head back to Jakarta. I really didn’t feel like I was missing out, because the strawberries here taste nothing like the strawberries in The Netherlands.
While driving to Jakarta, I looked back on a great day of exploring. And looking forward to many more.