Sunday, 11 July 2010

Cibodas: Kebun Raya and Gede Pangrango National Park

This weekend was a bank holiday here and I decided that I was going to visit a place called Cibodas. I previously had ambitions of climbing Gunung Gede a mountain there but after trekking in Gunung Halimun I realised that maybe it isn't such a good idea until I have some experience.

Being a public holiday lots of Javanese and Sundanese tourists from the surrounding areas flock to local attractions. This meant that I had arrived in Cibodas - after a 6 hour mission from Jakarta, through traffic - into a would be bustling resort town for the day. After visiting Gunung Halimun I was looking forward to a couple of relaxing walks and then a return to the city... This was not to be! I decided as I had arrived in Cibodas about 2-3 hours later than I anticipated to visit the botanical gardens there. They were very pretty and had two attractive waterfalls as well as a 3-4km walk which was quite nice. What wasn't so ideal was the volume of locals clambering over rocks at each of them and the incessant rumbling of a party tent, accompanied by the litter that the locals happily leave behind without a care in the world and of course the routine photo opportunites that arise for them to have their photo taken with a genuine bule (honkey). I make it sound all bad but actually it was very pleasant it just seems that Indonesians in general miss the point of a botanical garden... to chill out and pass time in the surroundings of a beautiful garden, not sing English songs badly in a tent through speakers with intermittant explosions of "Hello mister take photo?"... I really don't want to sound too negative because Indonesians - at least in my experiences so far - are wonderfully friendly people. After snapping my photos of the waterfalls and making a quick escape into a longer more secluded route back to the exit I was finally able to chill out and escape the photo opportunites... They seem to love bule people because the only time they really see honkeys is on TV. I mean what rational person back home would want their photo taken with a complete stranger?! Unless there was some comedy value??!?!?!... May be I just answered my own question!...

After the gardens I went back to the homestay and had an early night. I got up early and decided that I was going to head to the national park before the hordes of Indonesian tourists and "hello misters" surfaced. It proved moderately successful and the town was noticeably quieter than the day before. I headed to the park with the grandson of Freddy who owned the homestay where I had spent the night. I was also a little dissapointed with the national park because of a few problems that arose. Due to the traffic problems that slowed my journey to Cibodas I decided that I would try and make haste in my return to Jakarta and head directly to Bogor where I catch a commuter train to Jakarta, which I did and ended up saving me about 2 hours of travel time.  After putting a curb on my ambitions to attempt the summit of Mt. Gede, I was satisfied with making an attempt at the hotspring which is around half way up the mountain. As with everything in Java there is an endless stream of bullshit bureacracy whenever you want to visit a remotely popular attraction. Without paying paying an extra 500,000 Rp (35 quid), which in Indonesia is a lot of cash on top of the £2 or so permit to the waterfall I couldn't get permission to walk to the hotspring. There are plenty of them in Indonesia and I guess I should be satisfied that I have visited it. The waterfalls in the national park were all beautiful but there was nothing remotely adventurous about the ascent to get to them. The trail was marked with a stone path and wooden bridges which left little to the imagination and eased the access to an abundance of tourists which again I guess maximises profit margins. According to the Rough Guide to Indonesia there is a prevalent primate population in the national park... unfortunately I didn't get to see one of the three different species as the walk was more like a nature trail than a hike. There was a really nice lake en route to the waterfall and is definitely worth a mention. So without spotting any monkeys and making it through any real jungle - which I would have if I attempted the hot springs or the summit - I made do with a local who persistently made Monkey noises and introduced himself as monyet (monkey). I got to see some cool stuff and I may well head there again to ascent the summits of Mounts Gede and Pangrango once I have a little more experience. As I think they may prove the park worthy of its name... Plus I'd get spectacular views of the Puncak Pass, Gede crater and hotsprings on top of Suryakencana meadow... my advice to anybody visiting the park is plan ahead and allow enough time to take in all of the attractions there and exit via the Gunung Putri gate as was suggested to me. I visited Cibodas despite the invite to visit a traditional animist tribe called the Badui people...

Peace xxx

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