Last night I took a last-minute Lion Air – they make people fly!!- For 410.000 IDR from Jakarta, where I’ve been living for two months- to Solo. I thought Solo would be a natural destination as its old mayor has just been elected president of the Republic of Indonesia. I haven’t met anyone so far who is not in love with Jokowi, “the man of the people”. From there my friend picked me up, and then I drove his car almost all the way to Pacitan. The old Land Rover, that never been driven by a Brit before, grumbled its way across the Javanese hills; on the dodgiest, craziest and worst-kept roads I’ve ever driven on. I have to say it was really fun, but I advise getting the minibus as it’s the cheapest and safest way. We are staying in Pacitan, in a beautiful guest house by the beach, with cute wooden cottages, free surfboards and hot surfers that live with a spirit of community. For a student friendly price, you can enjoy all this on the conditions that you clean up behind yourself and keep quiet after sunset to let the beautiful babies and tired surfers get their rest. Last touch of perfection: there is no wi-fi.
I tried surfing for the second time in my life, the first time being a struggled attempt to which I gave up too early. The homestay can organise a lesson for you, but you can also just make friends with a surfer and try to get some tips. We had Gepenk, a friend from Jakarta who spends half of his life helping out at the homestay in Pacitan and surfing. We drove to the south corner of the bay, the surfer’s spot. I was first in the ocean with Jompa, my good old friend from Venezuela (but actually northern Norway), who has come on holiday to Indo to live with me! We got tangled up and pushed around by the boards that couldn’t resist the force of the waves. My board chipped hers, with a wave that was a bit too strong. Left with one board, we took turns to paddle our arms off, and Gepenk suggested that we move even further south into the bay, at the mouth of a picturesque river, where the waves are perfect for beginners. While the fishermen threw their nets and the miners dug into the mountain, I successfully managed to stand up on a surf board, but scratched my knee against the thick sand when I fell. Still, it was an amazing feeling. I immediately ran back into the water and paddled harder.
We had lunch in a great seafood restaurant, Makana Jaya, that sold fresh juice and a vast selection of scrumptious Indonesian seas dishes. Back at the hostel we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere while the tide was coming in. At dusk, we returned to the beach to see the sun fall over the last waves of this wonderful day surfing.
Visiting amazing, beautiful places has an affect similar to getting drunk or high on the spirit. Yesterday I was pretty wasted. We visited Goa Gong, a cave just 30 km up and down from Pacitan. The stunning cave takes its name from the sound that you can hear inside, but as I discovered only later, you are supposed to smack the ancient minerals in a special way, and not stroke them as we did, to make them “GONG”.
We continued to Pantai Klayar, another natural wonder. Like most attractions in Jawa, we had to pay an entry fee for the natural park where beach is. This is usually between 100 and 300 thousand Indonesian Rupiah (6 to 18 euros) for bules (“white people”) and below 1 euro for locals. So if you have the chance to travel with Indonesians, they might be able to let you in for with local fee. For instance, our Indonesian friends simply said that us two bules where their wifes and that they would have to pay for us.
In any case, had it not worked, I would have not regretted paying the whole tourist fee for what I saw. We first walked out to the cliffs to admire the spectacular view, then down to the beach. I ran for the sea because I was really hot and wanted to swim. My Indonesian friends back in the car yelled at me to not go in: the reef comes all the way to the shore and the high waves can throw you against them and injure you. So we walked along the beach, behind the first rocky peninsula we found a little bay with massive waves breaking only a couple of meters before wetting our feet on the shore. We paid 2.000 each (this time non-discriminatory, 10 cents for all) to a man on the far left corner of the beach who led us around the rocks. Here I saw something I had never seen before. The slippery rock was cracked in many places, with some holes created by the eroding strength of the ocean. Through one of these, the bigger waves had the power of sending air, or even jets of water. It reminded me of the brilliant Indonesian technique of washing your behind after you poop. Against the recommendations of my paranoid Indonesian friends, I slipped my way to the other side of the rock, where the jet lands. Sun and rain= rainbows! There, I saw a massive rock. There, I looked at the massive rock in front of me and saw the profile of the Sphinx, and right below the deformed face of a man.
On the way back across the beach, a group of local school girls asked me repeatedly to take a picture with them. This is something you get used to when living in Indo. If you are Caucasian, you are automatically a V.I.P. Panji, who never tires of laughing, got all the girls together and told them they could take a picture with me if they sang a song for us in exchange. He proceeded in directing the young girls through a funny and loud performance, after which I honourably bent down on my knees as the excited, veiled school girls arranged themselves around me to fit in the picture.
Our next stop of the day was a deserted beach. We parked by a stream of clear water that dropped onto the shore in a beautiful waterfall: Banyu Tibu. Walking for a while along the path from the right side of the fall, you reach the beach of my dreams. Fine sand and very big waves that are super fun to jump in, if you are a good enough swimmer and strong enough to resist the current: you will just find yourself running inside the wave. Behind us, a bright green forest and no sign of humans for miles. We were super equipped, with ice box full of fresh drinks and a cooker to make mie soto –instant noodles with peanut sauce- so we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the virgin pantai, and watched the sunset over the laut.
By the time we got back to our Land Rover, it was quite dark, the ladder to descend to the beach for a natural shower had been removed, so I ducked into the stream to feel the dense, sweat water on my skin cleaning me from the salt.
Hanum is our beautiful and crazy, only Indonesian girl of team. She loves taking selfies and sings all day long soft romantic tunes. After breakfast, she and I got on a borrowed scooter to pay a visit to the traditional market. Many kind ladies offered their lovely fruits and veggies to us, so we filled two bags for only a couple of euros. We then got back on the boards and got sunburnt while we paddled in and out of the waves, at our beginners spot. I made a massive pot of soup for everyone, with all the veggies from the market. Then, back surfing until the sunset… the day flies too fast when you are having fun.
We got up before sunset, said good-bye to Gepenk, and drove to Solo, where Panji had a family wedding to attend. Us girls continued to Jogjakarta by bus, since no train was scheduled to run until after lunch. The trip costs 10.000 IDR (about 80 c) but it was overcrowded and long, Jompa had to stand all the way! We got off at the entrance of the city and proceeded with two local TransJogja buses to Taman Sari, the “water palace” where a sultan lived with his many wives 250 years ago. A local guide decided on his own initiative to show us around the wonderful royal district, from the palace to the mosque and the most beautiful of all, the princesses’ swimming pools. Here, we paid 12IDRK to admire the changing rooms and the bedroom that lay below the ladies chamber, were the sultan chose a different wife every night. I loved the walk around the district; full of little houses and shops selling batik and bamboo cloth. Its colours, exotic plants and ancient statues make a combination which is stunning to the eye.
We gave a 20.000 note to our kind guide and thanked him as he took us to the exit. From here, we negotiated with two “becak” (riscio bicycles) owners, who cycled us to Pasar Keraton. The market was very busy with batik clothes sellers, jelly drink warungs (streetfood sellers) and the many potential clients of that Sunday afternoon. We entered Mirota, a fantastic place for traditional souvenir shopping. For reasonable prices, the place sells good quality batik on the ground floor, Indonesian miscellaneous on first and good food in a traditional restaurant on the second floor. Here you can also visit the genius multicultural toilet. The shop is owned by an exceptional Javanese family of LGBT!
I had my favourite Indo dish for lunch, Gado Gado, a fresh mix of veggies, tofu and steamed rice in peanut sauce served with Krupuk crisps. After spending a few hours and hundred rupiahs in here, I chilled a bit outside, talking to the locals and drinking the typical Wedang Ronde, a sweet hot tea with ginger and rice balls with peanut filling. I made the mistake of photographing a group of teenagers eating on the other side of the road, after which they required to take pictures with me, triggering once again the bule-V.I.P. effect: a procession of Indonesians asking to take a photo with them. Some school girls even interviewed me as their homework.
Soon, time came to leave for Jakarta. 14 hours by car, travelling the whole night and most of the morning on our faithful Defender to get back to macet-and-smog-land.