28-Mar-2004 -- IT'S JUST ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT UMM …… SMOKING VOLCANO !
When you come from Sweden and Tasmania, and live on the exotic tropical island of Java, you already have an established sense of travel and adventure. Combine that with a love of sailing and navigation, and it’s an automatic reaction to want to visit a confluence after seeing a BBC television documentary on the Confluence Project.
John Lundin from Sweden has a company building teak furniture and fibreglass powerboats and Allan Boon from Tasmania, Australia is the Production Manager. The company is based in the regency of Banyuwangi, which lies on the eastern tip of Java and looks across a narrow strait to the beautiful island of Bali. It seemed like a good idea to get out and enjoy nature and also check out some places for a future long weekend away. They were readily accompanied by John’s wife Lizza and Allan’s fiancé Devi Andriyanti. The factory is situated at 8 degrees 18.4’ South and 114 degrees 14.4’ East. It lies 23.4 nautical miles to the south-east of the confluence.
Banyuwangi is set against a stunning backdrop of 6 volcanoes ranging in height from 1,625 – 3,332 m. One of which is still active ! It supports a backbreaking local industry where raw sulphur is dug with hand –tools and carried up and out of the crater on foot. Typical loads are around 75 kg. and the walk takes around 75 minutes.
After tracking down some less than detailed local maps and preparing for a lunch in the jungle we set off on the morning of Sunday the 28 th March 2004. Not too early mind you, it was Sunday after all, and we knew there was a road through a pass on the mountain. Our side of the mountains has extensive clove plantations, which interestingly enough, aren’t for cooking …… but are added to the clove cigarettes that are so popular in Indonesia. The western side has extensive coffee and pine plantations. The coastal plains and lower terraced slopes are literally covered with rice paddies.
We decided to take 2 cars and leave the new one below the steepest part of the road, at a plantation. Alas, the poor old Feroza didn’t have enough compression to make the gradient even without the passengers, who unfortunately had already walked up the slope. After back-tracking and loosing 45 minutes we changed cars and carried on over and through the pass to a small village and indulged in noodles (mie) and meatballs (bakso). Winding down the western side of the mountain and then back up again on a parallel local lane, we ended up with a pine plantation on one side of the road and a forestry reserve on the other. Our maps had led us to expect a hike of around 1.5 kilometres up and away from the road. Once correctly oriented (see photo “Oops wrong direction”) it was a pleasant surprise to know that the point was actually only 0.17 of a mile from our position and downhill. With the added bonus of yet another road running roughly the way we wanted. At this point it was looking too easy, so to increase our sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, plus get some exercise we decided to complete the trip on foot.
At this point and unknown to us, we were joined by another car. To our surprise, it turned out to be Imam Teguh P. our company draughtsman and Ribut Jaka LN a friend of his. They had planned their own little adventure after hearing of our plans and were armed with a better map but no GPS. They had come from his family home quite near the confluence but to the west. By this stage it was mid afternoon and as is normal for the tropics in the wet season, the sky was looking decidedly grey. After walking for 5 minutes the GPS was telling us to head away from the road and into a crop of what is the local version of spinach (kangkung). It’s best described as a woody shrub that is 5–6 ft. high !
If you hadn’t guessed yet, it was now raining. Moving out of the kangkung we followed a soggy trench for 150m that delineated a field of chilli bushes and a field of mature 7 ft. high sugar cane. Hey we’re close now, only 120 ft. …….. Now it was really RAINING, as it only can in the tropics and it wasn’t warm any more. (see photo # 1 - “ 100 m from ground zero “)
Your not serious ……. you mean we have to go in there ? We were confronted by a solid wall of vegetation and the GPS was blithely pointing us right at it. Forcing our way through the closely planted cane, numerous vines, weeds etc, I was comforted by the thought that at least we weren’t going to be bothered by snakes. Any reptile with half a brain wouldn’t dream of coming out in this weather. If you can get any wetter than saturated then we were it !
It’s 40 ft this way, no this way, hell it says 26 ft, the satellite signal keeps altering, must be the rain and the sugar cane overhead. Reckon this is as close as we are going to get. Cut some of those elephant’s ear leaves and use them as an umbrella and grab the photo’s before the digital camera drowns.
SUCCESS ……. followed by an elated walk back to the car, who cares if it’s still raining ?
I’m not sure what they thought of a bunch of foreign and local idiots coming into their place, but a local family invited us to get cleaned up and change clothes. Poor Teguh’s car had developed a flat tyre and it had to be changed in the downpour on what was a very red and sloshy driveway.
To stop our teeth from chattering, on the return trip we couldn’t resist the chance to celebrate with a cup of Java Jive at a coffee plantation. When safely back in Banyuwangi we celebrated by trying out the brand new and first in town PIZZA SHOP………. BLISS !
All in all, a very worthwhile experience and one I would recommend to anyone. Get out there and enjoy yourselves. Thanks CONFLUENCE.ORG
Written by ………. ALLAN BOON