Tag Archives: Cimaja

Cimaja – Pelabuhan Ratu – Sukabumi – Bandung – Pangandaran

I left at 5.30 in the morning to catch the first bus towards Sukabumi. As I left Leo’s little paradise I felt almost a little wistful about leaving Cimaja. This place really has grown close to my heart in only this short period. But I was also excited to see more of Java.

With the little ankot to Pelabuhan Ratu from there with the bus to Sukabumi. Change the bus in Sukabumi and go to Bandung, from there one more change and off to Pangandaran.

I had about a 12 hour journey in front of me. In Pelabuhan Ratu was my bus already waiting and it also left right away once I was on the bus. Strange, I thought, since when do these buses actually leave on time!? I said to my self, it must be the early hour. I was still very tired and felt safe enough to fall asleep in the bus. I read and heard everywhere that if you travel alone you shouldn’t sleep on the bus because your stuff will be gone. Also, my friend Walet told me the story that on this particular way people try to sell you rings in the bus and if you put it on your finger you will be falling asleep. Once you wake up all your stuff will be gone. I even saw the rings so I can assure that it isn’t a fake story. Never the less, I didn’t have any problems so far and I always fall asleep in these buses. Since the roads are so bad and it is extremely bumpy and wiggles you around like a baby in a crib. Just not as soft. But for me it works like a charm.

We arrived in Sukabumi and again there was my next Bus waiting for me and again left within the next five minutes.
This time I wasn’t as comfortable as before. The bus was so full that people had to stand. I was sitting with one buttcheek on the seat and with the other one in the air, because I squished my backpack on the same seat. I didn’t think that I was going to sit like this for the next 3 hours but I actually had to.

The bus stopped and a young woman came on and sat next to me. She looked like she was fifteen years old but as we started to talk later on, it turned out she is twenty. She also, like many others, works in a bigger city during the week and then goes back home on the weekends. Her mother was with her, and for almost everything she wanted, like for example food in the bus, she asked for permission. It made me think how I was with twenty or how the twenty something ones are in London. I don’t think any of them are asking for permission anymore.

We were getting closer to Bandung and I was expecting a huge city. As I was looking out the window and realised due to the traffic that we must be in the city, I couldn’t see that “huge” city that I was expecting. Shortly after we already stopped at the bus station and I realised I never really made it in the centre. I got out of the bus and stood in the middle of all these buses of which most of them were about to drive of. Everything around me was moving and I had trouble finding the name Pangandaran on any of the buses. After walking in a circle and asking people who seemed to keep pointing towards all the buses I decided to stand in the middle of the square and shout loud “Pangandaran”. A man in a bus on the left hand side already on the move, shouted back: “Here Miss, here Miss – Going to Pangandaran!!” I ran after the bus and while I was running I kept asking if he is going to Pangandaran. His answer was rather wage but I had to decide in a split second and jumped on the bus.

Once on the bus I realised that I was in an economic bus. Packed and full of men who were staring at me I tried to find a free seat. No luck! I had to stand for three hours straight and I definitely reached the moment where I left my comfort zone. Judged and stared at, I couldn’t help but think that every single person in this bus was thinking: “Ah god another traveler! Another Backpacker!” I tried to smile my way in to their approval but never ever did it take me so long.
I had to change bus again and finally I was on the one to Pangandaran.

After twelve hours of travel, I finally arrived in Pangandaran and made my way to find a hostel.

Pangadaran beach

Panorama guesthouse it was!
A little guesthouse more or less right at the beach run by Tika, a lovely local lady. It is a cute little guesthouse that is very simple but has a lot of charm and so far the best banana pancakes I had in my life!

Pangandaran is a village that has become a holiday resort for locals from Bandung or Jakarta. You can tell when walking through the village that tourism has taken over. Unlike Cimaja it is not rural anymore and the moment you arrive and step out of the bus you will be asked by plenty of men on their motorbikes if you need a ride. I was in the mood for walking after twelve hours of sitting on my bum, and it was quite a task to full fill, believe me!

The beach is a beautiful sand beach with great waves i the morning. If you get up early enough you will have the perfect break. After twelve noon it will be flat and you will have to wait till around five and if you are lucky you can have a late surf again. There are a lot of locals who have surf shops a long the beach and so I was fortunate to get again tips after tips. I had an amazing time with them and all I wanted to do was to get better. The feeling I had ever since the first moment I started surfing got stronger and stronger. There is only one place I can turn of my brain (which is kind of hard for me), be in the moment and feel that I am alive. I have absolutely no sorrows once I am in the water.

There is something about Pangandaran that is capturing even though it is not as beautiful as Cimaja in my opinion.
You can take day trips to the green canyon and green valley. Or you can go to paradise island and see amazing animals and a beautiful white beach. But right here is the thing about Pangandaran. All those places lose their appeal, in my opinion, because all the local tour guides ruin them with their trips. It is all about money! Of course I understand that this is the way they are making their living but it is also them who don’t take care of their own land. The amount of trash that they are throwing on the ground is shocking!

I wanted to go by my self but it is not so easy to do, because faster than you can blink you have one of them on your side and they wont leave till you paid them. I still went for one trip and decided I wanted to go see the waterfalls in green valley. I expected a hike and huge waterfalls, but as we got there the way was plastered with stones so that every one, no matter how out of shape, will eventually get there. When I wanted to walk to the second waterfall a bit further away, it was more of a hike and my tour guide was the one who was out of breath.
Even though I was a bit disappointed, it was still very beautiful and worth my trip!

One thing that impressed me in Pangandaran was how much the locals love their village. The ones I met and surfed with all worked in Bali for sometime or still do. But all of them every single one, said they want to come back and live here in Pangadaran. For them it is the best place to be.

All my live it impresses me when I meet people who love their home town so much that no matter where they go in the world, they know they will eventually come back home. I never had that feeling to the place I spent my childhood. It was beautiful for sure, but I know for a fact that I will never go back there. On the other hand I have learned that home can also be in one self. If you are happy and content with yourself and you know who you are, you are basically home everywhere you go.
Nevertheless, I think we all search for that place and person that we can call home. For some it is where they grew up for some it is a new place and for some it is a person. More importantly it is the ride that counts and that makes us appreciate “home”. Without the ride we wouldn’t know what we miss, love or want.

The stories of those guys reminded me on my ride and how grateful I am for being able to do this. Little by little I know more what it is I want for my home!

I spent a memorable time there. Meet amazing people, learned a lot about my self and surfed for the first time a 6ft short bord.
Thank you Pangandaran!

Beautiful wave in Pangandaran

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Little Cimaja

Cimaja is a little village 30 minutes outside of Pelabuhan Ratu right at the beach. It is quite small and the people are very friendly. They welcome you with everything they have. Almost the whole village felt like it was a big family. Everyone knows everyone and of course everything about everyone!

The first morning I went straight to the food market in Pelabuhan Ratu with Ben, whom I met at Leo’s little paradise. It was raining so once we arrived there at the market we walked ankle-deep through mud along all sort of things. From clothes to shoes and finally to my fruits. I was longing for this the whole time ever since I arrived. I have heard so many of my friends talk about the fruits in Asia and how different they are. I wanted to walk through the whole market and we came across the most interesting food I have ever seen. The way they preserve the fish was incredible. They put it in a lot of salt to preserve it and never before have I seen so much tofu. There were these chillies everywhere and I was allowed to try one. Knowing a little bit that they are very spicy I thought I just go for it and took a bite. Wow, not only did I think my mouth was burning but I couldn’t stop crying. So there I was laughing at crying at the same time. Of course all the locals at the market had a good laugh about the whole situation.

I wanted to buy so many different fruits just to try them, but I could never eat all of them, so I thought I bring some to the people at the hostel and share them. Who doesn’t like fruit, right? After bargaining down the prizes with Ben who speaks Indonesian we enjoyed our fruity breakfast back at the hostel. My friends were right, I have never tasted such a good mango and pineapple before. We enjoyed fresh coconut and dragon fruit, watermelon and matakucing – it was wonderful.

Ready and energized, we went to the beach and I had my first try at surfing. Since I windsurf and snowboard I thought I must get the hang of this pretty quickly, but once in the water I realized it is quite different. I am really ambitious when it comes to sports I won’t stop until I can do it. The feeling I had when I stood up on my first wave that day was incredible. There are no words to describe this feeling! I was hocked immediately. From that moment on I knew this is what I want to do everyday and become better and better. So the next day I was up at six am, ready to go see how the surf was. The locals were amazing, giving me tips and kept shouting: “Now, this one – go, go, go!” So, day by day, I could tell I was improving and the feeling kept getting better. But I wanted more. I didn’t care how much my board rashes that I meanwhile got on my legs and chest, were hurting. The bare feeling of freedom on that board and the absolute peace I felt in the water, were much stronger than the pain.

I believe I never had a feeling like this before in a sport and I was always very sporty. Already back in high school, I went to a sports school and the passion for sports is not new to me at all. Still, I reached a totally different level with surfing. I want to get up at 5.30 in the morning for it and I already missed the feeling that one day I was back in the bus to continue my travels.

A few days later a French couple joined us in the hostel and Vincent, what a coincidence, happened to be a surf instructor in France. I took my chance and asked him if he could give me later a few tips and therefore could improve my surfing. He wanted to go in first him self and then he would give me some tips. I wasn’t going to wait and went in with him straight to the big waves. He was quite surprised after I told him that it was my third day and said: “One thing is very good, you are not scared of going in to the big waves.”
I didn’t even realize it, all I did was I followed the locals. I kept watching them how they did everything, started to talk to them and simply believed they must know where it is good. Was my thinking naive? Was I without caution? No, I don’t believe so. I gave them my trust and they felt it. They always watched if I was doing O.K. and I felt safe.
That day I had a few acid drops (When you take off on a wave and have the bottom suddenly fall out as you free fall down the face), but I went back out every time. Vincent gave me the tip to go practice in the white swell. If I can manage to get up there, it would help me to get a better balance and control in the wave.
Immediately I went closer to the beach and I literally wouldn’t leave the water until I had it down! I just kept doing it over and over and wouldn’t give up. Eventually I got the hang of it and started to feel the movement.

That day a wind suddenly came up and the waves started to be flat. No chance you could surf. I found my self at the beach with no book no paper to write on – nothing! And for the first time I realized that I had a big problem with just being there and doing nothing. I was talking about this in my first post, that I wanted to go to Bali, learn how to surf, meditate and do nothing – just be. Well it turned out I wasn’t so good at the “just be” part!

I sat at the beach looked out in to the sea and could feel how my brain started to run in high motion. What was that? Why could I meditate and get to a state of not thinking and being absolutely in the moment but not while sitting at the beach? Did it have something to do with the fact that meditating is also doing something?
I believe that it is a something very healthy when you can manage to come down and just be in the moment. It is important to give your brain and body a break so you can recapture your energy.
The reason I think many people struggle with this is, because if you keep being in action and doing something you don’t have to confront yourself with certain feelings and thoughts.
I also found out that many of these backpackers don’t have that tranquillity. Even if you put in a day of relaxation and you “chill” there are always other people around. It is harder that one can imagine to end up alone and really be with yourself. There is always something happening and you always meet someone new. Plus most of them don’t travel alone. But may be not all of them have that desire like me to come closer to your self and really get to know who you are. Which is absolutely reasonable too.

I was still looking out in the sea and thought about my journey. I am extremely thankful for what I have been able to experience so far. It was full of excitement and new things that I forgot a little about what was missing in my life in London and why I went on this journey. On the right hand side was a couple in the water taking a swim. They were adorable how they forgot everything around them. The share amount of love between them was blowing in my direction and therefore evoke the feeling of love inside of me. It has been a long time that I felt that way and was able to share it with a special someone. I had to smile and while watching them and it made me think of one of my favourite quotes:

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you desire, and at last you create what you will.”
George Bernard Shaw – Playwright

I absolutely live after this and I believe it works. I imagined my self on this trip far before I thought that I actually will be able to do it. But every day while meditating, at work, in the tube or in the shower, I would imagine my self in Bali. Sometimes still can’t believe that I am actually on my way there right now.

Suddenly a voice behind me took me out of my thoughts. Rudi, or Walet as the locals call him, asked me if I am interested in going to the hot springs. Of course I was! I read about them before and wanted to go see them anyway. Quickly I hoped on the back of his motorbike and off we drove up the hill to the hot springs.
Directly from the lava underneath the ground comes hot water up in the air and drizzles down in the little river that is cold. The perfect spa session in pure nature right in front of me! Amazed by what I saw I walked behind Walet in the river and stood underneath the hot water. That was perfect after the surf this morning. I could feel how my skin and my muscles enjoyed the hot water. The locals take a lava stone from the river and rub their skin with it. Your dead skin gets rubbed off and it becomes super soft.
We laughed and talked with a mixture of English and Indonesian till our hands and feet looked like “grandma-skin”. It was the perfect day.

Another moment that I will keep dearly in my heart from Ciamja was, when I was on my way with Ben and Peter to sunset beach. They wanted to stop to have some soup. At a small place right next to the road we made a quick stop. Suddenly there were all these school girls around the age of 16 on motorbikes giggling and looking at us. Finally they came over and with all their courage they asked us if they could interview us for a school project. We were happy to help them in any way.
The group leader (at least that is what I sensed) kept apologizing for her English. And when I told her that her English perfect and she is doing a fabulous job she blushed and hid with a big smile behind her hand.
They asked us all sorts of questions about where we were from, what we are doing here and what we think of Cimaja and Indonesia. They also asked us what our profession is and Peter responded and said: “ I am a medical student.” They only understood student and nodded with their heads, so I quickly jumped in and said that he is a doctor. And there they was their big “Awww’s” and impressed eyes.
It was my turn and I told them that I am an actress and a writer. Risa, the leader, couldn’t believe what she heard and kept asking me if I am an actress and I kept saying yes. Once she translated it to her friends, they all started to laugh, jump around and scream as if I was someone known. For them this was a big deal and the girl immediately wanted to know everything about me. Moved by their reaction I asked Risa what she wants to become one day and she told us that she wants to be a teacher. I told her that this is a very good and important profession and she was thrilled to hear that. The last question was what is you most memorable moment in Cimaja and we all said: “This interview!”
After our short photo session we hoped in the next ankot to sunset beach. We were talking in the bus about the girls and how wonderful it is to see that a teacher here encourages their students to practise English and be courageous and interact with other people.
I only learned later that it is not obvious that every child can go to school here. The government won’t change that on purpose and I think it is so sad to see that a change in that matter will still take many years!

I had such an amazing time in Cimaja that I decided to stay one more night and will enjoy the surf the next day.
For my last evening I went with young Mr. E (That is how he calls him self because it is more simple, he said.), a local from Cimaja, to get some traditional food. I was in the mood for fish and he took me to a cute little place where they literally fished the fish out of the water killed it and grilled it! I would say it doesn’t get much fresher than that!

Cimaja is a must in my opinion if you travel through West Java. It’s charm will take you in immediately.
A place of tranquility and fun with locals – a place that I can only recommend!

School girls who interviewed Peter, Ben and me


Jakarta – Bogor – Pelbuhan Ratu – Cimaja

It was a bit before noon when I finally left the hostel and made my way to the train station. It was warm, humid and all the motorbikes on the street gave the city a sound to it as if it was a huge “honeybee farm”.

At the train station I decided to buy an economic train ticket not because I wanted to spend less money but because I wanted to travel like everyone else. So I thought! As I was waiting on the platform I quickly had to realize that there is no chance I could understand which train is the one I am supposed to take. I turned around and asked the women next to me if she speaks English. With a very big smile she answered with a no! I took out my Lonely Planet and went all the way in the back to the very small phrasebook part. I mumbled a few broken Indonesian words: “Di mana kereta api Bogor? Jam berapa berangat?” The face of that woman lid up and she started to talk as if I understood every word. Not only Mary did, but also the man sitting next to her started to jump in and took great pleasure in talking to me. I tried to follow and flipped through the book as quickly as I could. Finally I got at least that the trains here don’t have different wagons with the different class it is an entire train that defines the class separation. Business class is faster and has air condition, plus the doors close. While on the other hand an economic class train has no air condition and the people sit and stand everywhere plus on top of each other and there are no doors.
Mary pointed to the train that was like mine for another direction and said: This is you, you bought an economic class thicket. Are you sure you want to go on this train?
I looked at the train, then back at her and then back at the train and mumbled out a very vague, yeah!
Another business class train to Bogor arrived, by now it was the second and I couldn’t go on it. Mary got up because she had a Business class thicket, waved me goodbye and left with the train. As I watched the train disappear I realized that Mary is like everyone else here and despite me on the train to Bogor. I ran downstairs back to the thicket office and asked if I can change my thicket back. The man behind the window started to laugh when he saw me and handed me quickly the money back I spent and gave me a business class thicket, which I gladly paid. I ran back up and there it was my train to Bogor. I was finally after one hour and a half on the train.

In the train I met Buriman, a cook who works 3 days a week in Bogor. So far I recognized that Indonesian people are very open and want to get to know you. He asked me the same questions I get asked all the time when I meet somebody here. Where are you from? Are you traveling alone? Are you married? I told him I am traveling alone and because I didn’t want to get back in to the conversation of why I am not married I invented a husband. I came up with a whole story. Where he is and what he works and why we are not together on this journey. I did feel a bit bad but I couldn’t bare that look again as if I am damaged goods or something. After that story he was pleased and told me he would make sure I would get to the bus station in Bogor so no one would rip me off with the ticket. I was really happy for his help and I quickly followed his lead once we arrived. We jumped in one of these ankot buses. They are quite small and always have one direction. So you can hop on and then once you want to get off you just tell the driver, pay him and jump out. I really like that system, how practical is that!
In the ankot Buriman asked me if I had lunch or if I was thirsty. I could use something to drink, I thought. A bit worried to say yes I trusted my cut and said: “Yes why not. I am very thirsty!” He smiled stopped and paid the bus and we jumped out. At the restaurant he offered me a coke and I drunk it as if I passed the Sahara. Soon we went our way, with his friend joining us because apparently he knew more about the buses to Pelabuhan Ratu. Once we left to the next ankot we walked towards a bus station that looked rather shady. I saw nowhere even one backpacker or tourist. But I wanted to get to Cimaja and so I went along with my two new friends. Finally we found the Bus and there was also Andrew who was in charge of the bus. A very skinny local who had an extremely long and strange nail on his left pinkie. Buriman made sure I had not to pay too much and that Andrew would make sure I get to the right bus to get to Cimaja in Pelabuhan Ratu. I thought it was so adorable how they took care of me I couldn’t believe it. After a quick photo session, they left and I went on the bus. Turned out I was the only person on that bus so far. So I waited a while to see if there are more people coming or if we would leave soon. After a while finally some people came and I asked someone when the bus would leave. They answered with the head tipping to the side: “In have an hour.” OK, I thought, that is perfect. After a have an hour we didn’t leave and so I asked again. “In have an hour”, said Andrew. I didn’t say anything and thought you can’t change it Sarah you might as well go with the flow. Another have an hour later we still haven’t left and once I asked again he said: “We are just waiting till the bus is full!” Fantastic! I feared to be sitting at this bus station till the next day. But out of the blue suddenly people ran in that bus and we were ready to leave!

The drive was nothing like I expected. The roads were so small and so terrible. Sometimes the wholes were so deep I flew through the whole bus. But here and there suddenly someone jumped on the bus and sold fruits or something to drink and then jumped back out. That was so great even the food was coming to you! It started to rain and the ride was long and slow due to traffic.

I had enough time to look out the window and let my thoughts go. Suddenly I had to think of John and how crazy this whole thing was. I realized that I literally took a plane and a train to go see a man I barely know to spend with him an evening!! That is not nothing I would say!
It was getting dark outside and I started to feel a bit lost in the middle of nowhere in West Java in that bus, in which no one really spoke my language.
What was I actually expecting from John? Was I fooling my self by pure romanticism that this was supposed to evoke a reaction out of him?

There it was my first movie moment that I was talking about in the beginning and not like in a big picture but rather very much like ordinary life it is not as romantic or dramatic. There is no one running across the big screen because he just had an epiphany moment when he realised that he actually does like you.
Fact is when I met John I was attracted to his energy. It was so positive and full of life. The way he talked about his travels and surfing involved so much passion, that I wanted to find more out about it my self. In a way I guess, I should thank him. Because I could have also been jealous and negative about the whole thing since I was working almost everyday in rainy London. It pushed me in a way and here I am today traveling alone through Indonesia, getting to know an entire new culture, country and beautiful people. I am finally surfing and writing. Happier than ever I’m doing everything I love.
So I guess I don’t have to expect anything from John. I want to thank him. Even if I will never see him again, and I hope that wont happen, I will never forget him.

Two month before I left London I changed something essential in my life. My attitude! I decided to be happy. This may sound silly and strange but it literally was that simple. The grey, cold and rainy London made me see the things more deconstructing than they were. Finally I got so sick of my own feelings, that I decided: “Enough with this I want to be happy!I want to do what makes me happy. I want to be with people who inspire me, who think positive like me. I want to earn my money through work that I love.”
I started to listen to upbeat music that put me in a sunny, shiny and happy mood. And it worked!
If you would have asked me 5 month ago if I think I would be here in Indonesia, I would have probably said no. Everyday I learn new things about my self. Like for example that I can be patient. I learned that through the bus rides here in Indo. You never really know how long they are going to be and take once you are on them and since I don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time I learned to just – sit!
It can happen that your thoughts wander off in to the negative when you sit in a bus for 12 hours.And I think that is absolutely O.K. The one thing I learned in these moment was, do I want them or not!

No, I don’t know what John feels and if it evoked anything. In the end if we are meant to meet again we will. It would be absolutely fantastic, but until then all I can do is trust, believe and be patient!

Those three words: Trust, believe and patience, are big words that we sometimes underestimate. I think if you can manage to really truly live them in everything in your life, you will eventually get what you want. You must only know what you want!

Finally in Pelbuhan Ratu I was lucky enough that Andrew told his driver that they were going to drop me off directly at my hostel in Cimaja. Thankful that he held his word I sat in the front with them and they started to smoke. Never in my life have I seen people smoke so much like the Indonesian men.
Twenty minutes later we reached Leo’s little paradise and I was finally in Cimaja.

Sunset at Sunset Beach in Cimaja


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