Journey to France: Day 37 (6th March 2016)

Our couchsurfing host picked us up and completely spoilt us with delicious Indonesian food.

Clem had looked up natural attractions along the Bandung area and found one that particularly stood out. It was called Kawah Putih (white crater). It was a sulphur lake, with natural waters streaming into the suplhur pool emitted by the volcanoes. Clem has seen a couple of volcanoes in his time, ive yet to at least be in a 10km radius to one. So we decided to head there.

Our host, Reyner, was gracious enough to drop us at a bus station where we could take a bus to Ciwidek and from there change buses to the Kawah Putih entrance. The minibus was 12000IDR per person so it was about $1.40 AUD. We could afford that, plus the driver was honest with the price and didnt try to ask for more from us. Being seen with a Caucasian in Asia means you get a lot of attention, both good and bad. Most of the time ill begin speaking Indonesian with a us driver or shop owner and the moment they see my fiancé they immediately swap to terrible, terrible broken English and heir attitude changes to a very fake, hospitality attitude. And they also gve outrageous prices for the service, thinking we must have money due to the power of a western country currency.

But this bus driver was honest. The minibus had 10 seats including the driver seats, we somehow had 15 people in the van, including the driver. We had 14 when we left the bus station and i thought, cool its Indonesia , they wont leave till the bus is full. But then along the way the bus stopped for another lady and her big bag. Asia is remarkable! It honestly makes me proud in a way as its so comical of asian culture to sacrifice comfort for efficiency first. Unless you’re wealthy of course, then you can afford both.

When we arrived at the bus terminal in Ciwidey, we were swarmed with “taxis” and “bus drivers” even before our minibus stopped. They all knew right away that we were probably going to Kawah putih. We ignored the flock of harrassing drivers and made it to the actual bus stop where a minibus was waiting to fill up it’s last remaining seats. There were a mix of Indonesians and Caucasians in the bus.

Travelling in Indonesia has taught us to always ask the price first before getting into any vehicle or accepting any food/service. Clement asked them repeatedly what the price was, but the men (we didnt know who they were as the driver was already in the van) kept trying to get him to get in the van. He asked for the 5th time before I raised my voice in Indonesian, “berapa harganya?”. He again tried to push us in the van and i asked again. He at first said 14,000IDR per person and his friend spoke Sundanese really quickly to him and he then said 20,000IDR each. I asked the Indonesians taking the minibus if that was the price they paid and they refused to reply. I knew they understood me as they were having a conversation with me prior to my question.

Yeap, we were pissed off and just walked off. They yelled back at us to come back but we kept walking. We had hitchhiked enough times in the past 2 weeks to know that we could easily get a ride to where we needed to be. So for the firsttime in our trip, Clem and I looked at each other and both agreed without doubt that hitchhiking was how we would do this. We would definitely not be taking any of these minibuses, unless we met a driver just as honest as the last.

On our way out to the main road, an informal yellow minibus (only the green and yellow ones were actually on route to Kawah Putih and Lake Patenggang) stopped us and offered to take us for 20,000IDR too and we said no, he then quickly dropped his price to 15,000IDR.

We kept walking. I asked for an old box so we could write our sign on. There was a man in uniform, i believe he was directing traffic in that intersection, who we started chatting with. He saw we wrote “numpang gratis” and realised we were hitchhiking. He asked why didnt we just take the bus? I said it was because the drivers were dishonest. They refused to disclose their prices and then said it was 20,000IDR each. The man in uniform said it was 8000IDR on weekdays and 10000IDR on weekends. The prices the driver gave us were way wrong.

The man in uniform must have also felt sorry for us because he also helped us to wave vehicles down to stop for us. He waved down a large ute and asked the family in it if they could take us up the hill towards Kawah Putih and they said yes!

We happily hopped in the back. I hoped the bus driver from earlier saw us and that he would be greening with envy for he lost two customers.

The man who gave us a lift went the extra mile for us. It seemed all Indonesians that we hitchhiked with were doing as such. They really went out of their way to look after us and to make sure we were safe. This is our experience in Java anyways. For a country with 300 million people or so, they seem to value the life of another. Well these are the ones that helped us anyways.

This man took us 15 minutes further than his destination to drop us right at the entrance of Kawah Putih. We took a photograph with his family. (Im sure it was because of Clement). Next we had about a 10km hike up the mountain to the crater itself. We had been fed so much deliciouz food yesterday, the hike was happily welcomed. On the way up however, we had a car stop for us to give us a lift up as they said it was far and tiring to walk. The lift was happily welcomed too!

Being at Kawah Putih was amusing, it seemed my fiance was more of the main attraction than the actual crater. Locals kept coming up to him to take a photograph with him. The crater’s lake itself was an amazing light aquamarine blue. The smell of sulphur wasnt that strong but every now and then the winds would push a cloud of smoke towards us and you inhale a significant amount of gas that irritates your throat enough to cough. We didn’t need masks though and we spent about an hour or more there.

It wasnt quite the strenuous hike i had in mind, but it was beautiful especially sharing the experience with the love of my life.

It’s amazing how quickly humans can adapt to their situations and surroundings. When we left the crater, i had no doubt in my mind that we would be able to hitchhike our way to our host’s home, or to a landmark anyway.

It took us only 3 cars to get back home. Everyone was friendly and again tried to gaive us money and offered to take us around the area. I was so exhausted i just wanted to head home, also the other attraction in the area didn’t really fascinate us.

I had broken sleep the night before, we woke up at 7am that morning, and speaking a second language after not using it for 8 years was draining me so much. On top of that verbally fighting off the flocks of “taxi” drivers and speaking loudly over the sound of traffic took the energy out of me.

Even after our 7000IDR delicious and generous portioned lunch wasnt enough to regain my energy.

When we got back our host took us to the top of a hill over looking Bandung city for some Sundanese food.

I’m not sure when we will be able to sleep well, shower, and eat this well again. It has only been about a month since we had stayed somewhere long enough to become vegetables, but I am starting to miss it very much.

Today we are hitchhiking to Merak from Bandung to catch a ferry to Sumatera. Everyone has been telling us what a dangerous place provinces in Sumatera can be, especially Lampung (where the ferry port is) and Riau. I was so nervous i tired myself to sleep last night.

We had two options, to either take the highway which joins to cities like Palembang, Pekanbaru and Medan, or to take the west roads which meant going through mountains and little towns or villages. We have another couch surfing host in Lampung so we will just ask him for his advice when we get there. Sumatera is over twice the size of Java! We wouldn’t want to stay in a dangerous province for too long.

I was told to keep my necklace and ring away when we get the re to not tempt thieves who can and may stop you at knifepoint/gunpoint. This isnt me being dramatic, this was words we received from nearly every Javanese we spoke to when we asked about Sumatera. One Javanese who gave us a lift and fed us bread and juice advised us to take the western route. Even if they are small roads, it would be safer to go through villages as the western population have Javanese residents who have purchased land there to become farmers.

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