I woke up tangled in my mosquito net with my watch bleeping. After delighting in a small shiver, almost unheard of in this Indonesian climate, I rolled over and checked the time. 4:30. Groggily, I quickly grabbed a few layers, my sneakers, a swimsuit, and my trusty camera before heading over to the kitchen. “Jane!!! Kamu bangun?”My brother’s recognizable voice echoed through the front room as he knocked a few times on the door. “Ya Santos! Saya siap until hari ini- suka jalan-jalan dan pantai sekali!” “Bagus, Jane. Ayo kita makan dan pergi rummah Egen!!”
After shoveling down a few spoonfuls of red beans and rice and a few bananas, we took off for Egen’s house. Egen is our Dragons coordinator based in Lanka. He’s lived in the village his whole life and is extremely well respected by all; children and elders alike. At his house that morning, a buzz of excitement was in the air. We were to hike with the local members of LTC, Lanka’s newly established Trekking Community. With 13 members and Egen as the ring leader, LTC has become a vibrant, sporty community of Lanka youth dedicated to exploring, hiking, and developing relationships with Dragons and other visitors. Today’s task: a four hour hike around the base of Volcano Iniere to Iniere Beach, a black sand blue-watered strip of paradise.
We all hopped into a few manta vans for a short ride through the bamboo forest. After a quick stretch, we took off in a massive line, snaking around boulders, through grasslands, past golden mountain vistas. We liked hiking in the early morning; Iniere provided adept shade to cool our backs and boost our hiking mojo. The time passed quickly as we chatted in Indonesian and English about our lives, cracking jokes about each other and experiences from village life.
PTSD to the leech filled jungle days of Ketambe as we dawn leech socks before entering the rainforest. The hum of cicadas drowned out our voices as we hobbled over the logs of fallen cinnamon trees. The red pineapple fruits sprouting out of the greenery made our mouthes water. We encountered giant spiders, fresh vanilla plants, and one too many leeches. Passing by a cleared part of the forest, someone asked, “why is this cleared here?” “For a new farm. Probably for growing corn crop.” Unprotected forests are a huge problem here in Indonesia. The jungle is constantly being sliced into for new farmland and commercial use. After Brazil, Indonesia ranks second in terms of rainforest destruction, destruction almost exclusively resulting from the global demand for palm oil. By the end of the jungle section of our hike, we took a short break to munch on cassava chips and play with a little pack of puppies we found running around.
We arrived at Waktu village shortly after our break, only to find the entire village community consumed in a ceremony. Many men were wearing traditional sarongs and were gathered together at a few central houses throughout the square. Members of LTC explained to us that they were recognizing November 2nd because four years earlier, they had suffered from a huge fire. The fire burned through everything, destroying all of the traditional thatched-roof houses besides three. In the village we talked with local uniform-clad children as they took a brief istirihat from school, which their teacher didn’t seem too pleased about.
A little weary, the group trudged down a serpentine cement path to the beach. Dwarfed by banana leaves, we stared around at the jungle engulfing us. We had been happily walking down the mountain when Boyo, one of our favorite LTC guides, felt the first drop. His eyes widening, he screamed, “Hujan!” and rapidly ran into the forest, only to return a few seconds later with a massive stack of freshly cut banana leaves perched on his shoulder. “Good for protection from the rain. Tidak sakit!” We were all pretty stoked about this latest umbrella technology. But then someone opened the flood gates up there. It was like the ocean decided just to come find us cause we were taking too long to find it! As it rained like there was no tomorrow, we danced, sang, mandi-ied, widening our mouths to try to catch a few droplets of water. Boyo stayed shivering under his wet banana leaf, shaking his head at the sky as he watched us all get soaked to the bone.
We walked/slid down the mountain in the rain for an hour more. After a days trek we found it okay to indulge in a van ride for the last stretch to get to the beach. After bumping over some potholes, waving hello and saying “siang!” to passerby, the strong scent of fish filled our noses. Thirty boats were resting along the left side of the beach, completely with a bucket of group ready for our taking. I had a moment of utter euphoria upon breathing in the salty air again for the first time in so long. (It had only been 12 days, but those who need the sea know what this deprivation is like.)
Happily, we sprinted across the beach like children when the recess bell rings, the midnight black sand hot like coals against our feet. We ate a delicious lunch of fried chicken, rice, vegetables, and freshly grilled fish.
The somewhat oppressive heat of the sun urged us to fly into the water. I felt so free when I flopped into the water in all of my rain soaked, sweat smelling hiking clothes. The salt hit my sweat caked skin in a moment of oceanic matrimony. Baby surface waves crumbled over some children bobbing around in old tires. They were stark naked. I delighted in the watered soup of happiness, diving deep, stroking shallow, floating on my back cloud-watching. Guru Luke got in and started to help teach the Lanka mountain men to swim. They had all been so hesitant and nervous to even touch the water when we had first gotten there. Now they were splashing a little, smiling and joking with each other. They didn’t trust lying on their back would keep them from drowning. Luke would hold the back of my host brothers neck and guide him as he pushed off of the sea floor in an attempt to successfully float. We taught him how to use his arms as paddle like aids, and how by straightening his neck his stomach would rise naturally. He was persistent and determined, asking Luke to help him repeatedly throughout the afternoon. By the end of the day, when the rose colored sun coated the glassy blue waters, you could see a few bodies floating on the surface, staring up at the sky and their chests rose and fall.
Overall, a day to remember. November 2nd.
The day also included a very memorable beach sunset soccer game with guys versus girls. The girls won obviously
-Jane and fam