On my third visit to the still rustic yet touristy Pangandaran, I was able to go spelunking in the national park near the west beach. I wasn’t wise enough to postpone exploring these age-old, history-dripping caves during my previous visits. Part of it is to be blamed on the nonchalant tourism advertisement of Pangandaran. Pangandaran is a little known coastal area in the West Java province of Indonesia.
I checked into the Bamboo House for the second time and met Kurniasih, the first person you will normally meet with when stepping into the inn’s courtyard. The hotel has added a beach bar next to its existing beach café on the west beach. Undoubtedly this is a beautiful place to spend the evening dining and drinking.
Every visit to Pangandaran books an itinerary including Green canyon river, though it lies an hour away from the small town. Green Canyon is probably shared by both Pangandaran and Ciamis, the neighbouring district. The river’s crystal-clear green water is pretty much inviting. Boats are always ready for the 15-20 minute journey which takes you to the cave shelter with boulders in its mouth. Boats anchor there and you could swim the remaining part beyond the boulders in cold water. I remembered capturing the silhouette of a boatman at this point years ago. I ended up getting more pictures this time.
The sun, the sand and the surf! They are all there at Batukaras which is giving Pangandaran beaches a run for their money these days. The ticketing official at the Bandung (the third biggest city in Indonesia, 5-6 hours from Pangandaran by road) railway station even chatted to me about Batukaras on my way here – “You are going to Pangandaran? I will suggest a better place, Batukaras. It has a better beach”. Doesn’t it speak volumes on the rivalry? However, my own observation says that Batukaras beach itself is not enough to attract large numbers of visitors. It still has to depend on the Green Canyon glory which is 15 minute drive from here. At the same time, it is good to see some comfy hotels like Java Cove and the beachside restaurants here.
Spelunking near the west beach
There are at least 5 caves including a Japanese man-made one in the Pangandaran national park. The tour guide takes you through all these for a megre 15-20 USD before dropping you at the white sand beach. Every cave has its history and myths. The Kramat cave is probably the most attractive and the deepest. Out of the caves into fresh air, I sunbathed on the white sand beach before trekking to the secret beach on the other side. This trek involves walking on coral rocks, boulders and some sandy patches. It takes you to a dead-end where you could spot a sandy area where few care to trudge. The whole area, the beach, the coral waters and the cliffs look very prehistoric in appearance. Just two local fishermen and me.
In the Villages
On my last day, I took a motor cycle ride among the 2004 tsunami-affected villages. Many of them had lost their homes and relatives during that destructive day. However, the villagers have long retracted to their normal lifestyle and agriculture is the main calling for a majority. It is a treat to the eyes to view greenery all around, provided by rice fields, banana trees and other plants. The farmers’ houses are hidden in these sylvan surroundings. What stole the limelight of my visit was an orphaned bat, being taken care of by a farmer and his family. It was left hanging from a bamboo pole in front of the house. It was my first time to see a bat up close and in its animal figure rather than bird figure.