Saturday, 29 April 2017

Java: The Beach Crawl

To read about the beginning of this trip, check out my post, Java: Yogyakarta.

After gorging myself on bubur (Indonesian rice porridge with coconut milk, omg) at the breakfast buffet, we had our hire car delivered to the hotel. There are lots of local vehicle hire places in Yogyakarta that are much cheaper than big international companies (checkout this list); we went with Iwan Transport and had no troubles!

Heading south out of the city was super easy, it was just one long road to Parangtritis for about 45 minutes. Parangtritis is a little seaside town where the locals of Yogya head for the weekend and holidays. Being a weekday we found it completely deserted, which was actually a little disappointing, especially as all the shops and eateries were empty or closed. With our accommodation at Villa Alcheringa not as luxurious as we were expecting things were looking grim, however we ended up having a fantastic, if bizarre day.

The main attraction is Gumuk Pasir, the ‘sand dunes’ a few minutes out of town. Hilariously, this is just a long slope of dirty grey sand, covered in photo taking opportunities like large novelty signs, flower garlands and a swing set. We ended up sitting on the swings for a good half an hour taking photos and boomerangs and just laughing about how ridiculous it all was. The beach had a similar vibe to Maungmagan in Dawei (Myanmar) with warungs lining the beach front, although the sand is a dirty grey and the water, being the Indian Ocean, is a bit too rough to enjoy swimming in. Again we spent a hilarious amount of time just sitting at the waterline getting smashed by the waves and making hilarious videos. The amount of sand that we carried home in our bathers and butt cracks and then deposited in the shower was absurd.

After some time in our infinity spa, we went hunting for the spot where you can go paragliding over the beach, however they were closed that day. Gutting, because when else do you get to go paragliding for $35!? Nearby though was Goa Langse, the path down to which some (apparently) call one of the most dangerous climbs in Indonesia. All I can say is that while it’s steep and the infrastructure questionable, I never felt scared of unsafe. Leaving Angela (who wasn’t game) and her book at the top, I scaled down the Amsterdam-steep stairs, ladders and bamboo poles, the cliff face overlooking the ocean and waves crashing on the rocks below. At the bottom is a little compound of buildings at the entrance of the cave. I was not allowed to enter too far into the cave itself because it’s a religious site, but it really isn’t that remarkable anyway. What was stunning however were the huge rocks, waves and sunset - totally worth it! Worked up quite a sweat on the climb back up, mostly because it was getting dark (is anyone surprised, anyone?). Near the top I heard Ange calling out to me, because it had occurred to her we hadn’t made any kind of plan and if I’d had an accident down there she was stranded by herself in the middle of nowhere. Oops. The 30-minute trek back in the pitch black was not ideal. Back at the room we treated ourselves to an in-room massage.

In the morning the real beach crawl began. The south coast of Java is littered with noteworthy beaches and after some thorough research I had short-listed a number of them to visit. This was no relaxing-in-the-sun type of trip, this was a see as many as we could kind of deal.

First up was Pantai Wohkudu, which was only an hour from Parangtritis and reachable on a very pleasant and sealed road, followed by a 20-minute walk. This beach was a tiny, secluded bay with some beautiful rock overhangs providing shade to lie in. This would be the perfect spot to bring a picnic and book and chill for the day away from any crowds. I did some serious rock scrambling to get some great shots of the rocks and waves. Like almost all of the beaches, we found that swimming was almost impossible with the swell from the Indian Ocean just too rough.

Next up was Pantai Kukup, just another hour along with reasonably good roads. This beach was more built up, with a village of shops and places to eat and more locals enjoying the good weather. And it really was just locals - we barely saw any other tourists or white people between Yogya and Bromo. We got our lunch to go (in a bungkus, wrapped up in paper) to eat on the beach. Literally as soon as we set down, we (and all our belongings) were engulfed by a wave that I saw coming in the nick of time. There’s a second half of the beach with no one on it you can access by running across the rocks/sand while the swell is out. Kukup was nice, but nothing overly remarkable.

(Pantai Wohkudu)

(Pantai Wohkudu)

(Pantai Kukup)

Yet another hours drive along the coast (actually each time we have to drive back inland a bit) was Pantai Timang, which we went to not for the beach, but for the crazy cable car over to Pulau Timang. The last stretch of the drive was our first experience of the rough and narrow roads I had been expecting, but nothing the hire car couldn’t handle. For the last stretch you have to park and then pay to be driven on the back of a motorbike with a local. I think our car could have definitely done it, but I wasn’t in a mood to argue over how they do things and the incredibly bumpy ride was like a rollercoaster. At the coast are some high rock outcrops and an 80m stretch of crashing waves over to a small, rocky island. The locals have built a rope bridge on the left, and on the right a hand-pulled cable car with an absurd amount of rope. Over on the island an incredibly helpful and friendly guide showed us all the best spots, kept us safe and most importantly, gave us our own private photoshoot - his photography skills were to be commended! I asked if we could return via the bridge and he said that foreigners were not allowed, right before a gigantic wave swept over the bridge. It was probably one of the most unique things about the whole trip.

With the day getting late, we decided to skip nearby Pantai Jogan, Nglambor and Wediombo (to be honest, I was being far too optimistic about the amount of beaches we could fit in) and head straight to Watu Karung, which was the most likely place to find accommodation (we hadn’t pre-booked anything). This is where the roads really went full Asia. 20-40km/h was the max we reached, driving along narrow and rocky roads, now in the dark, through forest and tiny villages. To be honest it’s the kind of adventure I love and that kind of driving makes it far less likely I will fall asleep …

(Pantai & Pulau Timang)

I had looked up a place called Pasir Putih Villa but we (and the incredibly friendly and obliging locals) couldn’t find the place at all (I think in the end we decided it had closed down?) and we were led to a very average homestay (Angela reported there were cat sheets, which I unfortunately missed). Also the whole town’s wifi was down. Claiming we needed to go get food, we bailed and instead found our way eventually to Chill Hill Homestay which was much nicer, and right on the beach! We then stumbled upon this cool little outdoor bar run by a foreigner that served pizza. The opportunity to speak a little English and have a non-Indonesian meal at the end of a long and exhausting day was very welcome, especially since the power socket in our room electrocuted me.

Sunrise revealed that we were staying on the most stunning beach in a small sheltered cove. There were a number of other foreigners here too, mostly visiting for the surfing - we got to check out a few very hot surf bods on our morning stroll. This would be the kind of place, in the middle of nowhere, where I could have stayed and checked out from reality for a week or two … but to be brutally honest I don’t think I or anyone I know would say that that kind of holiday is ever going to happen for me!

We headed out early on the back roads to double back to Pantai Klayar, which was suggested as the best of the beaches in the area. The morning drive there along the roughest roads yet, in the middle of nowhere, was really nice. Klayar definitely took the cake on our beach crawl. You can drive right up to and park at the beach, where there is a stretch of shops etc. There’s a long beach that ends in some large rock formations, behind which is a smaller (still connected) beach. The impressive waves constantly crash against and wash over the rocks and beach in different ways, making for stunning scenery. The sand (some white, some black) and the water was beautiful. At the far end you can climb up to a lookout to see the beach in its entirety as well as a blowhole in the rocks. We basically had the whole place to ourselves and wish we could have lingered all day. But we had a 10-hour drive to get through!

You can also check out my video, Java by Instagram Story.

(Watu Karung)

(Pantai Klayar)

(Pantai Klayar)

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