The worst part of traveling alone is that you have no one to share experiences with. No one to live memories with. I knew that going into this trip and it made me sad.
I got a poor nights sleep again. Indonesia wakes up at sunrise to pray and I didn't get to bed until midnight. Around Vina, Miguel and I left Bandung and headed toward Green Canyon with a detour to White Crater. Apparently there's an even more beautiful crater by Bandung but it's been closed for a week due to volcanic activity. White Crater was nice. Apparently it wreaked of sulfur but I couldn't smell it since I seem to have allergies and have had a stuffy nose and accompanying sinus headache and sneezes for the past couple days.
On the way back from the crater we bought a container of local strawberries. The crater was in the middle of a lush jungle which I thought was an odd place for strawberries. The berries were smaller and darker than the ones I'm used to. They also tasted worse. At least the first ones did. Some were sour, some were sweet, some were bitter, some were bland.
With berries in hand we started the 200km road trip to Green Canyon. We were guided on our journey by the Google Maps on Vina's cell phone. I'm amazed at the breadth and precision of it. Google Maps seems to work better here than it does in the states. They have every dirt road through the jungle that's ever been traversed by anyone, even if it was on a donkey. No only that but the 3G works in the middle of nowhere.
Vina drove first. Around I started getting tired and decided to take a nap. The others were hungry so they stopped for dinner and I slept in the car. A half hour later we were back on the road and Miguel was driving. An unexpected fork in the road took us on a large loop around the outside of Bandung.
Google told us the estimated travel time was 1day, and 19hrs. We figured it was a miscalculation and guessed our remainder to be about 2hrs. Around we reached the end of the nice paved roads. The dirt road wasn't so bad though; far better than the ones in Cambodia and Bolivia. At some point, I don't exactly remember when, Vina took over driving again. As the night went on, the roads began to get worse. We also got mixed up with the directions a couple times. It's amazing to me that in a place with one main dirt road we could manage to make a wrong turn. But each time we managed to get back on track.
The further we got into the jungle the worse the roads got but the nicer the houses got. It was very odd. I'm not even sure what houses were doing that far into the jungle. One thing we noticed was that there were no cars at any of the houses. There were no vehicles at all in fact. Just dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. This seemed odd but inconsequential. Around midnight we hit a fork that we didn't know how to handle. As luck would have it, a motor-bicyclist came by—the only vehicle we'd seen since we got on the dirt road. Miguel gave us an update one the strawberries.
We flagged the man down and Vina asked him which way to Green Canyon. A smile mixed with disbelief rolled over his face. He told Vina that the roads were really bad and we wouldn't make it. Worse than they are now? Is that possible? We decided to push on anyway. One thing you must know about the people here is that they will always help you when asked, even if they have no idea what you're asking or what the answer is. As Miguel put it: "You're not lost until you ask for directions"
A minute later we had decided that we took the wrong fork. The road was far too crazy and narrow to turn around so we agreed that we'd have to drive it in reverse. I'm expert at driving in reverse for those of you that didn't know, so I offered to take over. I got us back on the right path and kept driving.
We immediately decided that the road we were traversing would be impossible to go back on. There's no turning around, we're all in. It was very slow going. We moved at a crawl. The road kept getting worse and we kept getting lost. Our spirits were high, we were enjoying some music I brought and we were really getting to know each other. That's when the phone died. Vina was sleeping in back and Miguel and I had no idea how to make it work. We woke her up and she told us to go on without it. She didn't understand the gravity of the situation. After a while we got it working again.
It was about when we hit the road construction. "This can't be possible." A giant pile of gravel blocked our path. "Can we shovel it away?" I took a flashlight and went to explore. Behind it the road was impassible. It was time to use my driving in reverse skills again. If I get us up this loose gravel, huge pothole laden, steep slope in reverse, it will be the most amazing thing I've ever pulled off in my life. More than getting 10 plates spinning at once.
And it was. I continued in reverse until I found a point I could pull an Austin Powers 180 and go back to the last turn. We had a short discussion and decided to risk it with the other fork. It was this point when we realized we were running low on gas. No more music. No more anything unnecessary.
The road continued to get worse. I honestly can't describe it to you. There were many times when we slid backward down the hill. We bottomed out more than once despite moving slower than an idle. It was often challenging just to stay seated. One two occasions I was seriously concerned about rolling the car.
That's when I got stuck on a rock overlooking an unreturnably steep embankment. Vina took the wheel while Miguel and I pushed us forward off the rock. It was time for my reverse skills once more. With both Vina and Miguel's help I was able to back it up and out of an opening not even wide enough for the car. Plants scraped the sides as we went by.
We now lacked enough gas to make it back the way we came in, so we went back to the last fork and took another risk. This one was looking promising. We decided that wherever we end up, that will be Green Canyon. Unless it was Jakarta. That was our rolling joke. As long as they road we were on didn't lead to Jakarta, we were on the right path.
We were coming out of the mountains and heading in the right direction. That's when we hit more construction. Getting back from this one required all of my driving ability and easily eclipsed the maneuver I'd made earlier in the evening. I can't begin to describe to you what I had to do.
Somehow our spirits were still up. Miguel said he could see another way but we'd have to backtrack quite a distance and there were no guarantees. We really didn't have any other options as we were dangerously low on gas and had tried all the other roads already. It was about when I started getting really tired and the villages woke up to pray. We decided it would be best if Vina took over, so she did.
Around we came upon a villager. Vina asked him about the road and he told us we were on track for Green Canyon and that in 3km the road gets better. As I told you before, you can't trust help that people give you here. This man was right though. The road got better and things started looking up. We were now getting excited: this must be one of the most beautiful, remote places on earth. No one else could have made this journey, even in a Jeep or Hummer. When the sun starting coming up at about we hit a city with a gas station. We made it to Green Canyon just in time to watch the sun fully rise.
We pulled up to the beach where the river meets the ocean and immediately feel asleep in the car. At we got a call from some of Vina's friends that were supposed to come with us but canceled at the last minute. They had taken a bus from Jakarta, two hours further away than Bandung, at 9pm last night and made it here in just 12hrs.
We went to meet them at the bus stop only to find 12 double decker buses, lots of cars and tons of tourists. It seems as though there was a bit longer but much easier road to here. I've since found out that Green Canyon gets 2000 visitors a day. Canyon is really a misnomer as it was really just a river with a natural bridge.
When we were waiting for the ladies to change out of their swimsuits I took out a disc to toss in the parking lot with Miguel. After a couple minutes this pimp-looking man showed up and gestured that he wanted to try. We tossed a couple with him and seemed to enjoy it. When we were about to leave he walked up and asked if he could have the disc, so I gave it to him. I had invisioned giving my discs to kids with nothing but I assume it will get put to good use.
All in all the trip was a success. While the destination might have been a let down, the journey will be unforgettable and I'll always have Miguel and Vina to share it with.