“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway


18 March 2015

Surfs Up in Pangandaran

4th - 7th February 2015

     It was another full day by bus to the coastal town of Pandandaran and once again the road was hard going and pot hole ridden. The bus was extremely cheap and basic. No A/C or W/C but there were tinted windows thanks to the dense cloud of cigarette smoke but a little discomfort was worth suffering to get to the beach.
Bamboo Beach Café

The J Dog
We quickly found lodgings at the “Bamboo House”. A small guesthouse run by locals with a range of rooms with fan or A/C and en-suite. The lady running the place was always keen to offer advice on local tours and the best local hangouts.
The last light of the day was dying and we hadn’t had a good meal all day so we decided to wander around. Pandandaran isn’t a large place and you can get around quite easily on foot although you will be pestered by the rickshaw drivers. As we strolled about the first thing we noticed was just how low lying the land was to the extent where many of the homes close to paddy fields lay submerged in a few foot of water. In fact the number of tsunami warning signs was enough to convince us that the local folk were well used to living with the scornful side of Mother Nature.
We grabbed a beer at the “Bamboo Beach Café” which unsurprisingly was established by the son of our guesthouse owner. With a prime viewpoint of the stunning coastline “Bamboo Café” is a popular spot for foreign travelers thanks to its friendly and chilled atmosphere and top notch cuisine. When we were told they provided the best food in town we thought that was just advertising spiel but it made the dishes we ate in Jakarta seem like a Little Chef meal.

Pangandaran Beach
     The draw of Pangandaran was mostly due to the town’s reputation for good surf and it didn’t take long for us to find a local instructor. Joe spends a lot of his time around the Bamboo Café and after showing us some past reviews we decided to arrange a surf lesson for the following morning. Jono had surfed before in New Zealand and the UK but it was my first time and I was a little nervous. Probably because I had not exercised in months other than lifting a pint to my mouth.
     We got up bright and early in preparation for our class. Joe was a pretty chilled out guy and took his time in ensuring we knew all the basics which as far as I could gather were line your board up straight, when you see a good wave paddle like hell and try to stand up. Now I have pissed about body boarding as a kid before and more recently been on a few snowboarding trips and any of my friends and family will confirm that I have piss poor balance, but after a few attempts with the long board even I managed to stand up be it for a whole two seconds. Jono opted for the hard board and naturally took to it like a pro. He says he joined our class to give me moral support but I think he really wanted to show me up. The setting on Pangandaran beach is a scene fit for a postcard, with the nearby national park peninsula blanketed in a jungle canopy to the east and the curved bay populated with ever growing breakers and the distinct distant silhouettes of nearby strato-volcanoes to the west.

We were quite content with spending a few days close to the beach, surfing in the morning and afternoon but there are other sights that draw people to the south west Java shore. The National Park located just outside town can be access by foot or by boat and is supposed to contain a few caves and enough jungle for a small trek. The downside is that according to the locals the wildlife is limited mostly monkeys that harass visitors for food. We have visited similar coastal spots in the past like Monkey Beach near Penang, Malaysia so this didn’t really offer enough to drag us away from the sand.
If you’re willing to venture further afield then most guesthouses and hotels in towns offer tours to “The Green Canyon” and “Green Valley” where visitor can trek, climb and tube their way along the turquoise river waters and steep cliffs and caves. Many people we met had opted for a day trip and considered it a highlight of Indonesia but for once we were quite content with giving the day tours a miss and soaking up the sun instead. No matter how long you travel sometimes you have to accept you cannot see or do everything.

A traditional fishing boat
In many ways we were sad to leave Pangandaran after three nights and could have quite happily stayed a week or two. Sadly we had wave Joe and the Bamboo House goodbye and head to Yogyakarta to sort out our visa extension. Boring I know but without it we have no chance of finding a boat in Bali. 

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