It’s time to make my way to Gunung Padang. My transport options in this area of the country are somewhat limited so I decide to take a bus. The advice from a local was ‘just show up at the bus station’. There are no schedules here, you’ll need to wait until the bus fills before they will depart.
Well ok then. I was asked if I wanted the bus with or without air conditioning. The AC bus seemed to be more full, so I opted for this and felt I got lucky as it filled to capacity within 20 minutes and we were on the road within 30.
I noticed a door at the back of the bus and thought it might be a toilet. After some time I noticed people going in and not coming out and realized it appeared to be a smoking section. This reminded me that Indonesia has a very large population that smokes, particularly men. It’s more unusual to see woman smoking.
I did a bit of research on how to get to Gunung Pagdang and where to stay. My options were limited to some not so great looking motel-like accommodation. This journey is not about 5-star accommodations, so generally this wouldn’t be a problem, except for the not so appealing reviews.
I found some accommodations which were resort-like, but even more remote; also with not such appealing reviews. Somewhere along the way, I found a ‘home-stay‘ on AirBNB in Cianjur which looked to be more central to the areas I wanted to visit, and within a couples hours drive in all directions. I tossed these options around and decided to go with the homestay and I’m happy to say, it was one of the best decisions so far.
Kuz bringing me back to the bus station
When I arrived in Ciajur, hoping I was getting off in the right place, Kuz, my homestay host, sent his brother, Yogi, to pick me up.
For two seconds, I was surprised for him to be on a motorbike, but of course in Indonesia and many SE Asian countries they are born on motorbikes and can carry their entire family and households on a bike!
In the afternoon, Kuz walked me around the local neighborhood and rice fields. He provided a nice history lesson on how rice is grown, and also for a type of rice called Pandan rice, specifically grown in this area. Pandan takes longer to grow and is much taller than the normal rice.
This rice tends to be more expensive and as a result exported, whereas the normal rice is primarily consumed within Indonesia.
Being up close and walking through the rice fields was also interesting. You’ve probably seen that rice fields are planted in tiers. Well, we’re walking through the paddy fields along the strip on land which separates the tiers, quite a balancing act for me, and one foot slips off into a lower tier.
So, my foot is now stuck in the mud and won’t come up with my shoe on. I really don’t want to lose the shoe buried in the mud; these shoes have been very good to me on this trip.
I chose the second option and somehow maneuvered myself out of the mud, saved my shoe, and climbed back up on the tier separating the fields.
There were a couple more close calls before we left the rice paddies. I can safely say, that from a distance, you don’t appreciate the steepness separating each paddy field.
Walking through the ‘neighborhood’ I had a chance to see what you never would driving from the road side. It seems the locals are so much more connected with nature the way they live. Every space around the home is utilized for planting fruits, vegetables, the basics, and they live around streams of water which pass through their homes where it not only feeds the rice paddies but allows them to collect it for necessities such as bathing, etc.
Again, I am a ‘strange’ being walking through their neighborhood. I did try to learn a few local words to at least make a small connection as most do not speak English. I can’t reiterate how far a smile goes. Some of the children were shy, and some were keen to come up and practice their English.
Oh did I mention, if you travel this part of the world, you should be prepared for students to stop you and ask if they can ‘interview’ you. They are generally practicing their English skills and usually have a set list of questions. Go with it!
enroute to Gunung Padang
Kuz also offered local tours and since one covered getting to Gunung Padang I chose this and a day of cycling.
We wouldn’t know which day we’d do either tour until the morning in order to gauge the weather conditions.
You might be wondering why on earth I chose to visit and what Gunung Padang is.
Gunung Padang is known as Southeast Asia’s largest and oldest megalithic complex. There’s a lot of controversy about it’s actual age.
Some claim it was created between 2500 – 1500 BC, others claim it dates back to 22,000 BC, which would make it the oldest built structure known in the world today.
Compare this to the estimated age of Egyptian pyramids from 2700 to 1500 BC. Compare this also to the estimated age of Stonehenge from 3100 to 1600 BC.
There seems to be consensus that the structure was man-made and built in a pyramid form. I’ve attached various articles below if you are interested in more detail.
I was keen to spend some quality time at Gunung Padang meditating. This idea was generally washed out when we got physically washed out. As soon as we climbed the steep stones to reach Gunung Padang, the skies open and never let up; so much for gauging the weather ;-).
We took cover under shelter for a while where I snuck in a little meditation there.
For some panoramic photos of Gunung Padang, click here or copy and past the URL into your browser. https://www.facebook.com/852670614876282/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1044528665690475
A visual of the weather conditions
Our next stop was to be a waterfall. I did question Kuz if it made sense to go, especially given the tremendous rain that set it.
He said the way was a bit bumpy and if I could handle that, there was no problem making it to the falls. Trusting his local knowledge, and driving skills, I said ok.
Well, bumpy was an understatement. The ‘roads’ were a bit more off-road, rocky and mountainous, than the ride to Gunung Padang.
Notwithstanding the rain, it was a lengthy journey and I just had to ask en-route, if the drive itself was not ‘the waterfall’, especially given how the water was constantly gushing down the steep ride up.
As we were driving I kept thinking, I hope this waterfall is worth it.
You probably already gathered, simply being a passenger in a car or bus in southeast Asia is a stressful experience.
You probably read how I reacted to driving as a passenger in the Chiang Mai mountains.
Well did I mention our journey today is on motorbike? Yes, can you imagine this scene?
On a motorbike in the pouring rain, in off-road conditions?
Quite surprising, I went the entire day in a relaxed state. Not once did I have a fear for my life. I think partially because Kuz and his partner drove with calm and not like a maniac weaving in and out of the cars, trucks and other object on the roads.
The waterfall was worth it, now it was time for a three plus hour journey home.
We began the following day by cycling through some of the same paddy fields we walked through a couples days prior. Yes, these were the same fields I could barely balance my two legs, now it’s time to attempt it on two wheels.
Hmm, now in my mind, I imagined the cycling to be casually strolling along flat rice paddy fields and through flat villages. They key word being ‘flat’. Let me tell you I was real grateful that Yogi decided to drive his motorbike alongside us as the terrain became steep and mostly uphill; and this was the ‘normal’ cycle tour.
I’m a bit out of shape physically on a normal day, and after working my leg muscles yesterday climbing the hill to Gunung Padang and hanging on to the motorcycle for several hours, my legs were almost putty-like. A short while through the ride, I’m thinking at what point did I forget Indonesia was formed from volcanic eruptions.
I didn’t feel so bad not cycling uphill in the end, especially after seeing that the locals also had to walk their bikes uphill through portions of the ride.
Along the way, we did get to observe a local wedding that was just finishing up. This was a sight to see, especially the local dress customs of the bride and groom.
Local pool in the middle of rice paddy fields
Later in the day we went to the ‘local’ pool. Imagine your public pool in the middle of rice paddies. Everyone at all ages were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Take a look at Kuz, Yogi and family.
Overall I had a wonderful time in Cianjur. Kuz and his family were wonderful hosts. It was great to get an inside view of how the locals live and enjoy local homecooked meals.
A big thanks to Kuz and his family.
Now, I decided it was time I needed to find a spot to settle again for a week or two in one place and decide to make my way to Bali.
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