26 Nov 2005
|22 & 23 NOVEMBER - IN WHICH THE MOZZIES GET THE UPPER HAND AND MR T AGES A BIT
The Green Canyon Boat Trip is something of a misdescription as the amount of time spent either on the boat or indeed on the Green Canyon, is small. It is an excellent day nonetheless. Normally the operators run it by minibus, but today there are just four booked on the trip and for some reason this means they are going to use motorbikes. I have never been on a motor bike before, so this should be well-wicked (about time to put one of Richie's street-talk lessons into practice). They promise to drive slowly, although we have no idea what speed we are doing as none of the speedos works!
The other three joining the fun are Alana (met last night) and two German lads: Stefan and Basti (a diminution of Sebastian). The oldest of the three is 21.
OF NECTAR AND PUPPETS
We take the back routes, which have great scenery and which the minibus would not be able to take I am sure. It's great. We make two stops before the river. The first is to see coconut palm nectar being converted into brown sugar, something I have previously seen in Zanzibar. They cut a leaf stem and the nectar drains into a small plastic bottle. Fifty trees yield 60L of the very sweet-tasting substance. This gets boiled down to a brown solution which they make into a brown sugar 'cake' (like Kendal mint cake) by pouring into bamboo ramekin-like moulds. It tastes very treacly. And I get to climb a tree (yes there will be a picture).
Second stop is at the premises of a 'Maker of Woodden (sic) Puppets'. It is fascinating. They use a really lightweight wood from the Albasiah tree which grows extremely quickly (about 10 feet pa).
OF BOATS & BIKES & MOZZIES
The fibreglass boat takes us on a short river trip to the Green Canyon. It is strikingly atmospheric. The others take up the chance to swim but the water looks rather more brown that green and with my propensity to drink as much as possible when swimming I decide discretion is the better part of valour.
The bikes take us through more villages to a small beach for lunch. The sand, like on most of the beaches round here, is black - like iron filings. As I have my lunch I note I seem to have picked up no fewer than eight mozzie bites. The little buggers.
We take a different route back which involves crossing a bamboo suspension bridge. We walk and leave the drivers to take the bikes across.
STILL KEEPING FIT
I go for a short run (18 mins). I don't know if is the 30c temperature or the fact I am not doing enough aerobic exercise but it is pretty tough going. I get lots of encouragement from the locals though, despite the fact I am sure they think I am mad. I manage a reasonable pace, at least enough to overtake one becak!
ONE PLUS THREE MAKES...THREE
During the trip on the boat the two Germans ask where I plan to go next and ask if they can tag along as they have been in Pang for almost a week and need to move on. Alana agrees my itinerary sounds good and would also like to join. Unfortunately she finds her ATM card does not work here and informs us at dinner that as she has run out of money she will have to head back to Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogjakarta) where she is based and has her stash of cash and ATMs that work. Also at dinner we are joined by one of the locals who notes he saw me out running. It is very much a place with everyone knowing everyone else and what everyone else is doing.
HOW SLOW CAN YOU GO?
I thought I had better mail home to let the folks know I arrived in Pang safely. I can honestly say I have never experienced an Internet connection like it. It took 20 minutes just to log into my mail box and another 15 to compose a message and address it. Not only was it soooo slow but the cost was twice that of my evening meal. And do you know what the most riling part of the experience was? It was Wanadoo, my ISP, adding to the time it took to download their opening page by trumpeting the fact they are now offering 8mb broadband. A bit of effort tuning the home page might be a better investment of time from my perspective thanks very much guys. Typical computer industry - as costs decline they get lazy and write crap code. Not of course that happens in CFS!
23 NOVEMBER - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MR T
Notable date number two this week - it's my birthday! To celebrate I treat myself to a lie in until 07:30 and have banana pancake and fresh mango juice for breakfast.
ANOTHER PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
I stroll along the beach (it is already a good 30c at 10:00) and go to the National Park. I get the usual 'you want guide mister?' but decline. One young lad offers to give me some information without charge. As he is doing so I am 'spotted' by a camera-toting father who yells 'Picture for memory' at me. With that all hell breaks loose as some 20 members of his family ranging from 3 year olds to grannies excitedly charge at me like kids let out of school early, to ensure they get a good position in the picture. The prospective guide advises they are from a small village and don't see too many tourists.
IWAN THE GREAT
I decide I am being ridiculously penny-pinching in not having a guide and ask 'berapa?' (how much). He charges 50,000 Rps ($5). I ask if this is a good price and he explains it is 50 for tourists and 35 for domestic. He will charge the domestic rate. There is pretty well no business here at present.
His name is Iwan (that's 'Ee-wan') and he is 25. He has good English and it paying to put himself through school but it takes time as money is tight. He is trying to improve his English and is also learning Arabic for some reason. Opting to take him on was an excellent decision: there would have been so much I would have missed otherwise. I expected 2-3 hours of his time but ended up with him for almost six.
TURNING GREEN TO RED, PORCUPINES AND A FREE ENGLISH LESSON
There are a number of Japanese bunkers in the Park which were pretty packed with mosquitos. More interesting was the Jati tree. The fresh young green leaves, when crushed, turn red and yield 'blood' which ws used as a cosmetic.
There are also several large caves carved naturally out of the limestone. Goa Lanang (Man Cave) is 80m long. Another houses a large bat colony and two porcupines which are resting in a corner and minding their own business.
As we exit the cave I give Iwan a free English lesson and he is a very good student. He was trying to find out the English names for the various parts of the body (no tittering at the back please) and did really well, from the hair on his head to the nails on the toes of his feet. I was surprised just how many words there are, even keeping to the basics i.e. no fancy medical terms.
THE PALANGI AT THE AIR TERJUN
Iwan asks if I want to go to the waterfall, which sounds interesting. We trek for about 40 minutes through the jungle. It is swelteringly hot and humid and even he is wilting. I have no idea how he can remember the route as for much of the time there is no path. Just before the fall there is a little cove called Karang Bolong which looks very picturesque.
The falls (air terjun - air = water, pronounced something like eye-ear) are not hugely spectacular but very pretty, with a bead curtain of water cascading down a sheer drop. The sun is strong (stronger than I thought at 15:00) and as a result we have a rainbow (palangi). Standing under the falling water you not only get a most bracing shower (very welcome on a day like this) but also can see a 360 degree rainbow in front of you. It is great. This water falls into a pool which itself drains down a sheer drop into the aforementioned cove.
We get back to the Park entry in double quick time so there is no chance of us getting caught out in the dark. It has been a really good day and I am very happy to pay Iwan the tourist rate despite agreeing a cut price. He has his school fees to pay after all. I also promise faithfully to send him a copy of the photo I took, although it might be a while before I can print one off.
PSSST - WANNA BUY A TRIP? SO LONG AS IT DOES NOT INVOLVE ANY BELGIANS
I get a massage and then go for dinner with Stefan and Basti. On the way to the restaurant I bump into the local Mr Fixit who seems to be everywhere. He knows we are planning to go to Dieng tomorrow and suggests he can do a good deal for travel to Yogyakarta (which you will recall is pronounced Jogjakarta - just testing) from where we can get to Dieng on a day trip. Yogya (as it is known to the locals) was next on our list so it would mean spending more time there and having fewer changes of hotel. After talking it over with the boys we agree it would be worth doing. That is just the start.
To cut a long story short there is a very lengthy negotiation over price, displaying the Indonesian's amazing capacity for 'elastic' time. The nub of the problem is there is a minimum number - 4 (or 5 if we want to do part of the trip by boat). He is trying to persuade a Belgian couple to go and they spend an age haggling over about $2.50 each. In the end we waste a good 1.5 hours of our time and to make the trip happen, effectively subsidise the Belgians. So well done you - another achievement in international relations which I am sure will enhance the standing of your country, especially as you appear far better able to carry the cost than the two German students. Okay, diatribe over.