On my third visit to the still rustic-yet-a-bit-touristy Pangandaran I was able to go spelunking in the national park near the West Beach. I checked into the Bamboo House near the Pangandaran Beach (two kilometres from the West Beach and close to the Bus Terminal) and met Kurniasih, the first person you will normally meet upon stepping into the inn’s courtyard. The hotel has a beach bar on the Pangandaran Beach and a café on the West Beach. Both are beautiful spots to spend the evening dining and drinking.
Every visit to Pangandaran includes an itinerary that covers the Green Canyon river, though it lies an hour away from this small beach town. Green Canyon’s ownership is probably shared by both Pangandaran and Ciamis in the tourism industry. The river’s crystal-clear green water is inviting. Boats are always ready for the 15 to 20-minute journey which takes you to the cave shelter with boulders in its mouth. Boats are anchored there and you can swim the remaining part beyond the boulders in cold water. I remembered capturing the silhouette of a boatman at this point years ago. I ended up getting more pictures this time.
The sun, the sand and the surf. They are all there at Batukaras, giving Pangandaran a run for its money these days. The ticketing official at the Bandung railway station even talked to me about Batukaras on my way here – “You are going to Pangandaran? I will suggest a better place, Batukaras. It has a better beach.” Doesn’t that statement speak volumes on the rivalry? However, my own observation says that Batukaras beach itself is not enough to attract large numbers of visitors. It still has to depend on the Green Canyon glory which is a 15-minute drive. At the same time, it is good to see some comfy hotels like Java Cove and the beachside restaurants here.
SPELUNKING NEAR THE WEST BEACH
There are at least five caves including a Japanese man-made one in the Pangandaran National Park. The tour guide takes you through all these for a mere US$15 to US$20 before dropping you at a white sand beach, north of the West Beach. You can see the West Beach from here. Every cave has its history and myths. The Kramat cave is probably the most attractive and the deepest. Out of the caves into fresh air, I sunbathed on the white sand beach before trekking to the secret beach on the other side. This trek involves walking on coral rocks, boulders and some sandy patches. It takes you to a dead end where you can spot the hidden beach where few cares to trudge simply because it involves some patient trekking. This whole area, the beach, the coral waters and the cliffs surrounding them look very prehistoric in appearance. Just two local fishermen and me. You need to get out of this area before 4pm as high tides inundate it after that.
IN THE VILLAGES
On my last day, I took a motorcycle ride along the 2004 tsunami-affected villages. Many villagers had lost their homes and relatives on that destructive day. However, the villagers have long since returned to their normal lifestyle, and agriculture is the main calling for the majority. While on the motorcycle I enjoyed the stunning views of the greenery all around, provided by rice fields, banana trees and other plants. The farmers’ houses are hidden in these sylvan surroundings. I visited one of them to have a chat with the locals. The highlight of my visit was my encounter with an orphaned bat, being taken care of by a farmer and his family. It was left hanging from a bamboo pole in front of the house.