Puncak – the waterfalls

Before hitting the trail up to the hot springs on Mt. Pangrango, you have to make a ritual sacrifice to the Indonesian bureaucracy. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought the traditional offering, my passport, so we had to do a lot of waiting around in a small office before they issued our hiking permits.

Once we got going, though, everything was great. The foliage here is denser than on Merapi; it’s really jungley. This wooden walkway takes you over a long boggy stretch. The air smelled intensely green and planty.

Our first destination was this high rocky valley with three big waterfalls. It’s a pretty cool place, but since it’s an easy one-hour hike, it was really crammed with people. I kept looking around expecting to see guys selling fried tofu or Teh Botol, because it was just like a Saturday afternoon at the marketplace.

I couldn’t figure out whether these people in orange were a hiking group or a company out for a team-building exercise. Or maybe some Ukrainian protesters. They were really whooping it up for the photographer.


Talking to Widi on the Phone: A Poem

Talking to Widi on the phone: oh lord.
Talking to Widi on the phone: it hurts.
He says something really long in Indonesian and in the pause while I struggle to decipher it and formulate an answer he suddenly says
And all the words I’ve gathered in my head
fall away.
I don’t even like phones.
I don’t think Widi likes phones.
Who said phones were such a great idea anyway?

Talking to Widi on the phone.
It hurts. Oh lord.

Prepaid cellphone cards: What are these people so happy about?


Puncak is Jakarta’s weekend getaway, so the capital has exported a certain amount of urban sprawl here. The main road running through the Puncak Pass is clogged with buses and motorbikes, and all the little villages along the way are growing into one long strip of hotels, restaurants, noodle carts, mini-marts, etc.

You may be stuck in traffic for a while, but at least you can get your shopping done. We were offered sliced mangoes, cubes of deep-fried tofu, cigarettes, peanuts, candy, cold Strawberry Fanta, aluminum bowls, vinyl belts, and an elementary English-Arabic textbook.

We arrived in the afternoon and went straight to the lovely botanical garden, which is much bigger (and cleaner!) than the one in Bogor. It’s probably worth a weekend of its own. The air was clean and almost cool enough for a sweater, which was pretty exciting after the prolonged dry/hot season we’ve been having in Jakarta.

Thanksgiving subs

People keep asking us what we’re doing for Thanksgiving. In between, I keep forgetting it’s Thanksgiving. The calendar says November, but the weather here is still pure August: mid-90s during the day, sunny, and humid.

I had to work this afternoon anyway, so I went to spinning class at the gym, and then Chad and I got subs in the mall food court. Mine was a meatball sub. I was foolishly thinking Italian meatballs drenched in tomato sauce, but what I got was something like Swedish meatballs with a sprinkling of pickled carrots and fresh cilantro. It was actually quite tasty, so I had no complaints.

And it came with that traditional Thanksgiving side, chopped fresh chilis.

Grassman on Gatot Subroto

Passing, at last

You never know who you’ll see on the freeway here. The other night we wanted to go to a movie, but since the new 007 flick is hogging 3 out of every 4 screens near us, we had to take the nearby megahighway to a place south of Blok M to catch “The Prestige”. The highway, Gatot Subroto, was even more jammed than usual, and eventually we found out why: this man pulling a cart loaded with bundles of long grass was blocking a whole lane.

Some people honked, but most just drove around. I think there’s a lot of tolerance for things like this because everybody knows he’s poor and he’s just trying to make a living. But you have to wince, because he’s obviously putting himself in danger.

Indonesia is a drive-on-the-left country, so he was in the slow lane, at least.

Through the taxi’s back window. Note fake palm trees.

We really liked “The Prestige”, by the way.