Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Pramod Kanakath (the author) and his wife, Lina, from Jakarta, Indonesia.
Where, when, why: Pangandaran, West Java. We went in March and stayed for a week. We had heard about the caves situated in Pangandaran National Park and wanted to go spelunking and trekking.
Highlights and high points: There are at least five caves, including a man-made Japanese one in the park. Each one has its history and myths, Kramat being probably the most attractive and the deepest. A tour guide takes you through all these for a meager $15-$20 before dropping you at the white-sand beach.
We sunbathed before going to a “secret” beach (it’s hidden by hills) on the westernmost side of the park. The mile-plus trek involved walking on coral rocks, boulders and sandy patches where few others cared to trudge. The whole area — the beach, the coral waters and the cliffs — looked prehistoric. We were there for a long time with just two local fishermen.
Cultural connection or disconnect: On the second day, we traveled to a nearby village where shadow puppets are crafted. We have been to places such as Yogyakarta, in Central Java, to watch shadow-puppet performances depicting the characters from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, but we had never seen how those puppets were manufactured. We met an artist, who took time to explain and demonstrate steps they go through to make the characters.
Biggest laugh or cry: Inside Kramat Cave was pretty dark, and even with flashlights we were not that comfortable moving around. There were bats hanging from the cave’s ceilings and we didn’t know where they might be. Lina shrieked when she spotted one right behind my head.
The funniest moment was when the guide showed us how to draw porcupines out of their dens in the caves. He was carrying peanuts to attract them. He threw some pieces near their den, and there they were! Out in ones and twos. The sight was really amusing.
How unexpected: The monkeys were ubiquitous. We never felt threatened, especially with the guide accompanying us, but the monkeys were clever and found ways to chase us surreptitiously. Finally, by the beach, two of them got quite close to us and nearly snatched my small camera pouch.
Fondest memento or memory: The greatest souvenirs are the many pictures we took. Our favorite would probably be of an orphaned bat we came across in a village house about three miles from the park. We had never seen a bat up close like that; it was being docile around the family who took care of it. As it was hanging from a bamboo pole, we started taking its picture, and it was kind of posing for us! A bat? Like a pet? But its eyes betrayed a sense of wildness — we had never experienced that.
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