27 July 2013

Riding into the Javanese night

There was no motorbike rental place to be found – the guide books were wrong. Would I have to go with a travel agency or hire a car with a driver, either option costing more than a hundred dollars, giving away my desire for independent adventure?

I would not be so easily defeated. While hotel employees, shop vendors, even random people, did not necessarily speak English and were a bit startled with my jabbering of a strange request – renting their own scooter or a friend’s if they could think of anybody – I eventually got what I wanted.

Borrowed scooter, around Kampung Naga, Indonesia

Well, almost what I wanted, since the motorbike had manual gears. I had only ridden a twenty-year-old moped back in the days of my work at Dell, and automatic scooters in Thailand last December. Oh well, after more than an hour of walking and negotiating, I wouldn’t let go of that opportunity, tested the bike for a few seconds and thought it would be good enough for... riding up the completely potholed – but I didn’t know that then – road to Papandayan volcano, in West Java, which also included crossing water channels.

Gunung Papandayan, Indonesia
Dawn at Gunung Papandayan, Indonesia

A few minutes before five o’clock the following morning, I set forth for a ninety-minute ride into the night. Even the muezzin had not woken up yet to make the call for the first prayer. I arrived at the path leading up to the volcano just as the sun was rising behind the clouds, above the lush forest, the mist still gently covering the neighbouring mountains.

A strange, rotten smell was however making its way into my nose... but that’s a tale for another post... (part 2 is available here).

On the way to Gunung Papandayan, Indonesia