Ever fancied a holiday in a crater? – Tales from Indonesia circa 2012

My memory is a tad-rusty, writing this almost three years, (three years?!) on but I’ll give it a whirl…

During my six month South East Asian backpacking trip I stumbled across many eye-opening and mind-freeing sights. The family holidaying in a crater was no different.

We were visiting the Javanese town of Bandung.

Indonesia map
(Tablet) Hand-drawn map of Indonesia, Bandung is the red blobby star

We comprised itself of; Nick – my boyfriend at the time and trip partner, Jake – a proud Seattle-tonian and Lee, a fellow wandering Brit. We formed a travel pack at Six Degrees Hostel, Jakarta about a week before.

Having exhausted Bandung city’s top sight – jean street (‘guys let’s try in here?’ ‘Hmm, it seems to be the same Angry Birds and Whitney Houston printed tees we didn’t buy in the last 50 shops’), and eaten what our accomm’ proprietor at Hunny Hostel convinced Jake and I was snake, we had booked for a day out in the countryside. With the guys set to bust open their seat-belts  and get exploring, we were off…

Sleeping explorers Jake, Lee and Nick (from the left)

The tour was made up of as much sight-seeing and local-experiences as could be physically squeezed into one day, the guys’ energy conservation was smart. We saw local craftsmen weaving floor mats, the smiliest tea-pickers in the world and filled baskets with strawberries fresh from the stem. But the memory etched in my mind was visiting the unnamed crater. (Our guide steered us away from the bustling lonely planet recommended Kawah Ratu).

After hiking a good twenty minutes from the car park we came across the heart-melting smile of the gatekeeper.

(Note how much perkier the corners of both of our mouths were when she had the height-edge. Playground calls of ‘Lanky Larry’ came screaming back to me).

The gatekeeper and I
Feeling uncomfortably giant-like

Clad in a knitted, flame coloured beanie and a long, neutrally toned batik; she greeted us, smiled and encouragingly uttered some Bahasa Indonesian as she ushered us through.

As we turned the corner, an almost burnt forest sight appeared…

1 and 2 Bubbling Crater Road, Crater

This was the unnamed crater. The front two houses are those of permanent crater residents, wow imagine living in a crater. You’d never have to suffer a cold shower. And I wonder what their address is – 1 Bubbling Crater Road, Crater?

Looking past the houses one can see the steam rising up, breezing through the trees, warming the air. Proof of how scorching the geo-thermally heated water emanating from the Earth’s crust really was. The only proof too: there was no temperature gauge to be found.

Danni, our guide for the day, was testing the temp’, and making the most of it. Warming his cockles (and flip-flops).

Our guide Danni, warming his cockles

It was here we chanced upon a family. Not one permanently residing amongst this landscape of naturally heated beauty, that wouldn’t be much of a chance, but a holidaying family. This crater was their destination choice for a short-break, this weekend being particularly special as a Javanese National Holiday. Unfortunately I can’t recall, or locate online, the reason for the celebration – but I remember there was crowding in the subsequent days. And below is there humble abode. They were to squeeze all 14 of themselves into this small wooden/corrugated metal lined shed for the night… (Fingers crossed for no family feuds).

One family member, introducing their humble abode. With walls for a guestbook…

Indonesian familial trends are converging towards those of the West – the past saw two or more generations under one roof but now it’s becoming more common for the nuclear family to reside alone. Yet this holiday is exploding way past the nuclear, assuming they’re all related. It could have been a village outing? Danni’s English was limited – the language barriers make your guess as good as mine. And the same for them. They could have woven all sorts of fantastical tales about meeting us, Lee did have a little DiCaprio about him, assuming they knew who he was. Either way I reckon meeting three handsome ‘bules*’ would be sure to give their holiday story extra spice back at home.

We hung about, posed for photos – both for our mementos, and their experience of being caught on camera. The eldest constantly encouraging our trigger happy fingers.

5/14 of the Crater-holidaying family plus 4 bules*
Checking out Lee’s sexy DSLR shots

(Whilst we kept our eyes off the three in the corner; unabashedly cleansing in the naturally hot springs).

Really hitting the dirt spot

I was particularly smitten with the daughter and son, who were incredibly shy and polite. They only agreed to a photo after much encouragement from the trigger-finger encouraging eldest. (Although maybe it was a front, it looks like the girl had been practicing – what a pro.)

Definite naturals

And the final, my personal favourite shot, which really took some convincing, was officially making the acquaintance of the daughter. There wasn’t much shaking, and the enthusiasm is almost non-existant, but a mini up and down motion we made, and in my mind we would be forever friends!

Making friends with the daughter of the crater holiday makers. She isn’t so sure about the situation… (Photo credit: Nick Edis)

I find there’s so much beauty in the unexpected nature of travelling, resulting in the humbling people you meet, and the different ways in which they carry out their lives. With this trip converging to the same outcome of what I assume Brits would hope for from a weekend away – a good time and family bonding. (Unfortunately the only steam we’re likely to see is coming from a travel kettle, or a family bust-up). The downside of these situations being that language barriers often prevent you from really meeting those you come across, and vice-versa. Your imagination could run wild with who they are and where they come from and what their story is, and maybe the same for them. But I also think that’s the special ingredient of these mysterious encounters – we probably make things out to be more fantastical than they really are, just because it’s more fun that way.

Have you got any stories of unexpectedly meeting locals on your travels? Please share them in the comments below!

*Indonesian words that just means white people. It is by no means derogative term. People who thinks it is an insult clearly don’t know what they are talking about. – http://www.urbandictionary.com

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