Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pangandaran, My Home in Java

Pangandaran, located on the west coast of central Java, is a VERY special place, and will forever remain in my heart. In July of 2006, Pangandaran was devastated by a 3 meter high Tsunami that tore the beach town and the hearts of it's inhabitants to pieces. An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale set off the Tsunami that came without ample time to escape. Many did manage to climb to the top of some local buildings or flee to the nearby hills, but still about 550 were killed and nearly 50,000 lost their homes and businesses (many of which were established literally ON the beach catering to tourists). While much of Pangandaran was rebuilt in just a few months, there are still visible signs of the havoc caused just 2 years ago.

The long stretch of beach with 3 excellent surf breaks seems eerily quiet during the week, which makes for an excellent tourist destination. The local economy has suffered tremendously due to the natural disasters and the Bali Bombings of 2004. Tourism is now merely a trickle of what it once was just 5 years ago in this beautiful resort town. As a result, the locals are incredibly helpful and friendly, and with that, we meet Yoga.

As soon as we checked into our amazing hotel room, we headed down to the beach, where we were followed by Yoga, a local surfer/Renaissance man. His intention (as requested by the owner of our hotel) was to inform Mick that the surf is quite dangerous due to the very heavy rip tides. Before Yoga had finished his shpeel, Mick was already paddling for the huge wave that locals had broken many-a-surfboard on. Most of the local don't even surf this spot anymore because they can't afford to repair or buy a new board if theirs breaks.

Mick came down hard as the wave closed out and crashed on him and his board. He came up unscathed, and Yoga and I breathed a sigh of relief. Yoga thought Mick was crazy, and then began our friendship. When Mick came in, he was greeted with a handshake and respect from Yoga for taking such a hard fall. Yoga told us that we needed to meet his Belgian friend David that also liked to surf this spot, but didn't like to go out alone. More on David in a bit.

As we were discussing the awesomeness of the crash, a body boarder came peddling down the beach on his bike with his board and fins in the basket. He immediately greeted Mick with a handshake and said that he too, saw the crash, and wanted to make sure that Mick knew that someone saw it...that it wasn't all for nothing. This fella's name was Darren...and then, there were four. David, Darren, Mick and I.

As i mentioned before, Yoga was quite well-rounded. A 28 year old native Javan, Yoga is very friendly and a pretty hard worker. When he's not surfing the local spots with his surf buddies, he's entertaining tourist by taking them on tours through the National Park, giving surf lessons, renting out his motorbike to pay for his loan, and organizing transportation to and from Pangandaran. Because he was so friendly and his English was so good, we became immediate friends. He really treated us like family the whole time we were there. He took care to make sure that we were happy and had everything that we needed. Yoga introduced us to all of his friends (foreign and local) and showed us all the surf spots. I think he really liked us too, because every day that we spent in P'daran, he was with us. He would come by in the mornings to see what we were up to, and keep in touch all day long to make sure that we could all hang out at night as well. Yoga and I got to have some pretty in-depth conversations about politics, religion and travel as well. I think our conversations got his mind turning as much as it did mine! Yoga became a really good friend, and he is the reason that we made friends with the other two guys, Darren and David.

Darren, or Daz is the Australian body border who we met on the beach the first day. What a special guy. As soon as we met Darren, we knew that we wanted to spend more time with him. His cool, collected and almost adolescent smile was so inviting. We knew immediately that we were on the same wavelength, and hoped that we would become friends. Sure enough, the next day, Darren and Mick went for a surf in the morning together, and had a blast. That evening, I really got to have a great conversation with Darren. He accompanied Mick, Yoga and I to the fish market and we laughed and talked the whole time. The next day, as we were sitting on the beach having a great spiritual conversation, Darren revealed that he studied as a monk for 2 1/2 years in Burma. I knew there was something special about him! He also told us that he had an 8 year old daughter named, brace yourself, Lily. Perfect. We had lots of good times and laughs with Darren, and hope to meet up with him again in Australia.

That leaves David, whom we spent a lot of good quality down time with. David, the one who liked to surf the big waves that Mick did, was very special as well. He was our age, and from Belgium, and had a certain quality about him that makes for and instant attraction. He was very smiley, carefree and patient in conversation. The kind of person who's company you can always welcome, and never get sick of. He taught us how to make hats out of coconut leaves, and did so with so much patience. He accompanied us on all of our adventures in Pangandaran and surfed with Mick and Darren every day as well. I think we may meet back up with him again soon.

I have some great pictures of all of these people, and will do my best to load them on as soon as I get a chance.

From P'daran, we took a bus to Jakarta, and flew straight out from Jakarta, the capital of Java (and also the most populated city in the world), to Padang, Sumatra where I sit now. Today we will take a 15 hour ferry to the Mentawai Islands where there is some of the best surf and trekking in the world. The islands are so remote, that finding accommodation is difficult. We basically have to find someone who looks friendly, and ask if we can stay at their house for the week. Should be interesting, and I should come back with tons of photos and stories. this will surely be the most adventurous part of our trip thus far. If you have a chance, Google the Mentawai Islands, Sumatra.

Ahhh, traveling!