Sunday, September 27, 2009

An Ode to Adventure

I arrived yesterday afternoon back in Depok after almost a week of holiday bliss in and around the coastal town of Pangandaran, and took a moment to thank the universe for it's unwavering generosity. The trip started off a little bit ominously; what was meant to be a 9 hour bus ride turned into 16 excruciating hours of inching along through bumper to bumper traffic along winding rural roads, and as our swelteringly hot and overcrowded bus (there was a family of 6 occupying a seat intended for 3 people sitting ahead of me) made marginal progress I questioned my choice of holiday destination. After arriving quite late in Pangandaran, my friend Kam and I hopped into two awaiting becaks, little carts attached to bicycles, and asked to be taken to a hotel. We quickly found accommodation and collapsed into bed absolutely exhausted from the journey. My internal alarm woke me up about 6 the next morning, so I sat on the balcony with a coffee and enjoyed the fresh sea air, and then went for a stroll along the winding beach. On the way back to the hotel I came across a sign advertising surf lessons, and as I checked out the info and photos that were posted, I was approached by one of the instructors. We talked a moment and I told him I would come back with my friend, and that I was DEFINITELY interested in a lesson. Upon returning to the hotel, I found Kam awake and puttering around the apartment and soon enough, I twisted her arm and convinced her to come along for a surfing adventure. We made our way back to the Bamboo Cafe and met up with Gopang and Jaja who were to be our instructors. We geared up, borrowing boardshorts from the boys, and surf shirts to protect our bellies from chafing on the boards, and trekked across the hot sand to have some quick instruction before we got in the water. Before I knew it, we were in the water, and with a few quick pointers, I was standing up on my board, gliding momentarily across the water with a giant grin on my face. Jaja set me up time after time and eventually got me ready to catch a wave without his help. After about 3 hours of getting tumbled off the board, scraped, exhausted and deliriously happy, we cruised back up to the beach to rest. I was quickly dubbed "the real Canadian lobster," as I managed to get the worst sunburn of my life on my face, hands and the backs of my legs, even while wearing a generous layer of spf 60 sunscreen. Jaja proceeded to rub cucumbers and aloe vera all over my burn, and you know, I don't think I ever expected to have an Indonesian man rubbing vegetables on my face, but it seemed to take a lot of the heat out of the burn, so who am I to complain? The boys offered to take us sightseeing, and as much as it meant taking a leap of faith, we accepted the offer with a great deal of excitement. It isn't very often that I would hop on the back of some random guy's motorcycle, who I have known for all of 3 hours, and say "sure, take me into the countryside and through the jungle to a remote location where most tourists don't get to go, no problem!" Kam and I both got a good vibe from these guys and it turned out to be the best decision we made, because we didn't only get set up with tour guides for the entire trip, but we made some incredibly genuine friends. They took us everywhere, and hung out with us in the evenings, making sure we got the best food in town and had everything we needed. We got to see waterfalls (I even jumped off one, into a deep pool below!!!), a sea turtle conservatory, a lagoon, a canyon, a fishing/surfing village, and endless miles of countryside, all from the back of the bikes of our new friends. There is no way to describe how much our holiday would have been lacking if we had been in different company, but here's an example of how great these guys are: Gopang picked us up at 5:30 yesterday morning, just to take Kam and I to the bus station, where he waited until our bus pulled out, leaving us with the instructions to call him when we come back to Pangandaran, so he can pick us up at the station. Several hours into the bus journey home, Kam received a phone call from him, just checking on us, making sure we were hanging in there, and asking for us to let him know when we arrived back in Depok. The funny thing is, when I called saying I was home safely, Gopang couldn't stop saying thank you to me... isn't it me who owes him endless gratitude??? I have every intention of going back to this place, not only because it is a beautiful location, but the people will undoubtedly bring me back. I need to see my Indonesian brothers again! My next long weekend falls in November I think...

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