Rest stop on the south java coast.
On Wednesday July 20th we left early for the long drive from Pelabuhan Ratu to Pangandaran. The main route goes through Bandung, but there had been talk of taking the more remote and rougher road along the southern coast to look for some sea terraces on the shore. Ron Harris did not confirm with the bus drivers, but eventually we learned that the drivers had latched on to the southern route idea and decided to take it. It was beautiful, but not the best idea for those of us suffering with intestinal aliments given the 13 ½ hours it took to make the drive and the limited number of restrooms along the way. Good thing I am carrying a roll of TP in my bag. It was a day of no eating other than a yogurt drink for lunch and a Coke later on.
In a photo-text (with a a screen shot of our current location) to the family I noted that it felt like we were in middle of nowhere, Marie replied that it looked like the edge of the world--very true.
Thursday I was feeling a little better, but didn’t want to risk it on a day of presentations and bus rides, so I stayed at the hotel to catch up on e-mail, sleeping and reading. Unfortunately our hotel does not carry an English language news program so I was not able to see parts of the Republican Convention. Follow up reports make me glad I missed it. I made a run to the Alphamart (local version of a 7-Eleven) to buy Pocari Sweat (a Gatorade type of drink to fend of dehydration) and yogurt to restore enzymes in my stomach. I also got some supplies for one of the students who is also having stomach problems. He is not a seasoned traveler and after a day and night of projectile vomiting and diarrhea he unwisely decided to eat a pink-in-the-middle hamburger. His stomach did not approve.
Pangandaran is a beach resort and fishing town (one fisherman drowned while we were here when his boat capsized in a strong wave). It suffered a strong tsunami 10 years ago. Waves hit the town from both east and west beaches. From our hotel on the west beach the closest high spot is Cagar Alam--the forested hill area to the south of town on the peninsula. All evacuation signs however lead northward to the main mosque--water barely reached there in 2006, but if the tsunami had been Aceh sized it would not have been a safe place, even its second floor. There are inland mountains but they are more than 5-10 kilometers away.
Friday I was well enough to head out. The local natural disaster organization that we are working with (BPBD) arranged for several presentations for us so we divided up into two teams. In the morning we did a presentation at an elementary school and then I led an evacuation drill down the street to the central mosque, which has a large second floor that has been designated as a temporary evacuation site. We then presented at a middle school next to the mosque. That evening we presented to local tour guides and operators and then had a nice discussion about how they can better prepare tourists to be tsunami aware.
Three classrooms with removable panels to accommodate all of the students.
Saturday we drove west for 90 minutes to the small, isolated village of Masawah. We presented to the thirty 5th and 6th graders. We then pretended by counting and shaking that there was a twenty minute earth quake. We evacuated (some children ran) through the village and up some stairs to a hill top. It took us only three minutes to get there. Added bonus is that from the top of the stairs there was still more hill to climb if needed. Forty seven people died in this village in the tsunami ten years ago. We stopped at a memorial made from a fishing boat that had cracked in half during the tsunami.
This farmer on the hill-top survived the tsunami by putting a child on his motor scooter and climbing the trail up the hill where the evacuation stairs now run.
We had an hour to kill before our next presentation to a middle school--where Saturday is scouting day, so while some ate lunch I followed the evacuation route from the school inland through very picturesque rice fields and villages. It was lovely.
When we got back to the hotel, I was tasked with finding a birthday cake for one of the students. I asked at the hotel for ideas and directions and then hired a motorized becak to take me to the bakery. It required pre-orders so I tried the only other bakery in town and found out the same. The driver was very patient with my efforts. Heading back to the hotel we passed a martabak place. It sounded like a great substitute for a cake—thick pancake covered with chocolate, peanuts, sweetened condensed milk, and sugar then folded over and slathered in margarine. Went wave jumping just before sunset. So much plastic garbage floating in the ocean and collecting on the beach--next day the weekend plastic was gone--probably washed out to sea.
Sunday we presented twice to village disaster awareness volunteers (from BPBD and FKDM). The hope is that they will then teach others. Part of my duties at the presentations is to interview officials before and after the surveys and presentations. More wave jumping in the evening.
Our hotel. It is a designated vertical elevation tsunami evacuation point, but there are no signs to tell hotel guests or tourists on the beach that its upper floors are safe. Instead an evacuation sign to the left of the hotel points down the ally as the evacuation direction which eventually ends up at the mosque.
Instead of having to run all the way to the distant main mosque, Pangadanran is now building an impressive and imposing evacuation building in the center of the tourist-busy isthmus. There will be wide open upper floors with no walls that can protect thousands. Plus a heli-pad,
Monday was a day off. Most of us went to Green Canyon. It was recommended by our local counterparts. They told us little. We have passed its entrance several times. It looked like a lazy river through a green forested canyon that boats explore. Little did we know was that it was a top notch canyon for canyoneering and body rafting. We put on helmets and life vests, drove 30 minutes upstream in the back of three small pickups, hiked down into the canyon and then started floating in perfect temperature water. Before long the canyon narrowed, big rocks emerged and we ended up hiking around rocky rapids, floating through some rapids, and jumping off of large boulders. We had about six guides to help the 20 of us navigate the canyon. It was a four hour delight. So beautiful: hanging vines, water dripping from over hangs, lush green vegetation, a flutter of yellow butterflies, a big cave with stalactites. I tripped once and stubbed my big toe and banged my shin, but other than that it was a great day. I even did the biggest jump.
Thanks to Sarah Hall for all of these photos. She put her i-phone in the water proof bag the guides used to keep their cigarettes dry.