As we to be here in Pangandaran for only a very short while we decided that a tour would be the best way to make the best of the area. We had originally looked into trekking round the national park which the Lonely Planet told us would cost a nominal fee but this had gone up extortionately in the last year so the tour actually worked out better value. There were only six of us including the guide – a Canadian couple from our hotel, a young Dutchman from another hotel and me and Liz – so a nice small group.
The tour began with a visit to what I can only describe as a Prawn Cracker factory – now this was production Indonesian style so very little in the way of hygiene but the crackers were great … lol. They dry them out in the sun but I cannot really say that they were doing too much to keep the insects at bay. The end process, the bagging operation involved a small boy in a box, not sure what he did but everything seemed to be running very smoothly.
Next stop was a village that our guide seemed to know very well and first stop here was the Puppet Maker. He was quite a guy and took great pride in explaining about how he not only made the puppets but also performed with them at puppet shows. I say shows but these are extravaganzas that last whole nights and he showed us not only how to operate the puppets but also how when operating them he actually ‘became’ the puppet he was using. Talk about De Niro and ‘method acting’! Some of the puppets actually looked quite spooky really and even ones that looked the same were not, very slight differences were made to exaggerate certain characteristics the puppet would have.
On the way to the brown sugar making our guide stopped at one of the village’s little girl’s pet – a bloody big Fruit Bat in a huge cage. Now this thing was quite big so he took it out the cage and asked people if they fancied holding it so it seemed easy enough so I volunteered. Although it had claws they did not break my skin even though he was quite a weight. Not sure who was the most traumatised after the event.
Onwards to the brown palm sugar making and this was the same process we had seen in Cianjur and again the sugar itself was delicious. While we were leaving I saw this old guy simply sat there weaving his own basket and round the corner a great big satellite dish – strange but somehow fitting I suppose, why should we have all the ‘fun’.
Next up was the Green Valley itself and on the way the weather was starting to look a bit grim but we got there without a hitch. The idea at the Valley – which has green/blue water – was simply to let the water carry you down the river. We started at a big cave where at the entrance there was a high point you could climb up to and jump in – the guide and the Dutchman made the leap but I was having enough problems with my shoes to give them a go at climbing, okay my fear of heights got the better of me – satisfied … lol. We went into the cave which was pitch black and then on the way out jumped from the top of a waterfall before swimming under it – really cool – well the water was actually quite warm but the action was cool.
It was quite strange as some of the ladies there being muslim were just about fully dressed and as a lot of Indonesians cannot swim most had life vests on. Next up, a Tarzan swing – the locals had quite a laugh watching Liz screaming on her descent into the water. We all had a great time until we neared the end of the valley when a snake decided to cross the water, I think it was the young Dutchman who pointed this out and Liz, being Liz started screaming and trying to throw the Dutchman at the snake, or pushing him under to make her escape I cannot think which it looked more like but the snake carried on undeterred and although no snakes were harmed in our Green Valley Tour I am not so sure about Dutchmen!
After all this excitement we needed some food and it duly arrived and once again the food was delicious – even the vegetarian foods, that is until the Durian arrived. Me and Liz both tried it and both of us thought it was horrible and I gave it a good trying. It had a nasty taste and texture and it smelt quite sickly too – horrible!
Dinner over, we were off to the Green Canyon for the boat ride part of the tour it was during the journey that the heavens first decided to open and this is professional rain i.e. comes down in proper extra-large sized buckets! However, the Indonesians are used to this kind of thing and simply carry on, so we were put onto a covered boat – well part-covered boat, the driver was left open to the elements and had the boat trip. Fortunately the rains stopped for the outward journey but homeward bound we were not so lucky, the irony being that we went down the river to get to a waterfall to ultimately get wet – go figure! Our boat which had proved seaworthy travelling down to the waterfall failed us on the return journey whilst the rains fell but luckily we were close enough to the jetty for our drenched ‘Captain’ to row us in to land – poor fellow.
Back into our mini van we were off to the final leg of the tour and that was the Turtle Conservation Centre. Now this was not the most professional outfit but the idea was right and they were having results so what the hell! There were four tanks for different ages of turtles from the tiny turtlets to the juveniles to the bigger turtles and we got to hold all but the biggest as they were huge and heavy! Every once in a while the turtles are released into the sea which is just across the road – now this was the first place we actually left a donation at, mostly because they really seemed to need it.
Tour over we went for more food and music and in a big group was the young Dutchman from the day’s trip as well as Elsa who we had first met at Cianjur – strange world really. Whilst in the bar we were targeted by an old boring Aussie who was intent on telling us about himself but not such a keen listener – but older boring fellas (and ladies) can be exported from any nation, so we did not hold it against Australia.