A Travellerspoint blog

Destination Bali 1973 (part 1)

By car from Salatiga, Central Java

In the second half of 1972 I had my furlough in the Netherlands. That’s why I did not make a holiday trip in Indonesia that year. And perhaps I should explain why the holiday between academic years fell in December. In the aftermath of the 30 September/1 October 1965 coup by general Soeharto schools and universities had been unable to function for half a year. It was only in the late 70ies that the government brought Indonesia back in step with the Northern hemisphere by allowing one school year of 18 months.

So it was in December 1973 that once more I drove my car to Bali. This time I was accompanied by three students who boarded at my house: Jacob, Matias and Sumardi. They came from less affluent families living living in Central Java. So this vacation – all expenses paid – was a great opportunity for them. As a matter of fact, Jacob never finished his studies because his parents could not support him any more. So much for the prejudice that all ethnic Chinese in Indonesia are rich.

As I had been to Bali twice already, I chose to spend more time on the road for exploring East Java. From Yogyakarta we took the southern route east through the Gunung Kidul limestone hills. We had made weekend outings to the beaches of Parangtritis, Baron and Kukup. Indeed, Parangtritis had recently been discovered by backpacker tourists (hippies), who slept on the beach or in a primitive home-stay run by the village head. Nowadays during weekends and holidays Parangtritis is overrun by domestic visitors. But the farther east one goes from Yogyakarta, the less spoiled the beaches are.

Ngungap cliffs

I had some copies of WW II topographical maps, and on these had identified a couple of interesting destinations in Girisubo district, the most easterly district of Central Java. Navigating the unpaved roads with the aid of these maps we found the Ngungap coast first. Nowadays it is smooth going on the Jalan Pantai Selatan Jawa (South Java Coastal Road).

We were welcomed by a monkey high in a tree. Today there are few places left on Java where monkeys roam free and are shy of people. I still encountered them in Merapi National Park and in Ijen Natural Park.


Here my students and some villagers are at the top of the Ngungap cliff. Swallows make their nests in a cave at the foot of the cliff. Thrice a year the nests are harvested by the locals, who have been at it for many generations. Chinese consider birds nest soup as a delicacy. Indeed, one of my former students made his fortune by exporting swallow nests to China.


We came out of harvest season. But if you look carefully at next two pictures you can see the scaffolding of bamboo and lianas that the villagers construct for entering the cave.



In 2012 I saw these men preparing for harvest. They build new scaffolding for each season.



Wediombo Beach

Heading west again by a long detour we found Wediombo Beach, a beach with sand and rocks in a wide bay. Here is a picture of the road leading up to it.


The Gunung Kidul hills used to be a poor and arid region. But a lot of effort has gone into making it greener. Compare these two photos of the same spot in the road, the one on the right is of 2012.



Here is our first view of the bay when we approached it. Again with a picture from 2012 for comparison.



Wediombo was and is a favourite beach for anglers who can throw out their line standing on a rock.



But we just had a swim and basked in the sun. The second picture shows the selfsame spot in 2012 where my students lay in 1973, but the pointed rock on the right had tumbled down.



Tabuhan Cave

The next day we crossed the boarder between Central and East Java, heading for Pacitan town. At the time Pacitan was an isolated place, a long travel time from Yogyakarta in the west and Tulungagung in the east. 24 kilometres before Pacitan we made a stop at the Tabuhan Cave. Here is the entrance to the cave as we saw it in 1973..



Nowadays the cave is a prime attraction, complete with parking for tourist buses. When we visited for the first time, visitors were rare. But at least other students of our university had been there before us. This was evident from the graffiti ‘UKSW’ on a stalactite. The letters stand for ‘Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana’.

Several villagers accompanied us into the cave, including the man with the guest book.





They showed us the nook where mystics used to sit meditating for hours, in sensual deprivation. Jacob and Sumardi only posed for the photo-op, with a torch.


But the main attraction is the musical feature of the cave, as the name Tabuhan indicates. The group of villagers did a gamelan performance complete with female singers, by knocking with pieces of rock on selected stalactites.




These pics 0f 2009 show that they had modernized their equipment, using wooden hammers to knock on the stalactites. But we also learned that wear and occasional breaking of the stalactites forced them to find new ones, that they had to sculpt in order to obtain the right pitch (according to the Javanese pentatonic scale).






We passed the night in very quiet Pacitan town, the only guests in the losmen. Here is a view of Pacitan bay, seen from the road approaching it from the west.


You may have wondered how the four of us with luggage for a month fitted in that Volkswagen. Well, my companions travelled lightly, with not much more than one change of clothes in a bag. So they did some washing while in the losmen. Later on our way we took a rest to let the clothes dry in the sun.


And Matias also needed to do a small repair. >>


If you have read my previous historic blogs, you will have seen that on this trip I had a new car. The VW had been shipped from Germany earlier that year. Not much later the Indonesian government prohibited the import of built-up cars. The Japanese brands started to assemble their cars in Indonesia, but the European brands disappeared from the market.


From Pacitan we headed for Ngebel in the Wilis mountain range, along 100 kilometres of mostly winding road. Ngebel was not on the tourist map, and though it now has a few hotels the name will not ring a bell even with most Indonesians. Yet Ngebel is of interest because it has an artificial crater reservoir like Telaga Sarangan on Mount Lawu. The reservoirs were created in colonial times by damming the outflows of much smaller crater lakes. While Sarangan has long been a popular resort, Ngebel remained in pristine isolation. When we drove to Ngebel, work was in progress to make the village more accessible.


When we arrived at the reservoir shown below, we thought ‘Is this it? Not at all like Sarangan.’ We discovered that Ngebel has two reservoirs, this smaller one is located just one kilometre downhill from the bigger one.


Next three pics show what we came for.





We drove all around Telaga Ngebel and found the outflow on the south side, where people did their washing in the river.



The village head received us well and offered us staying at his house. He showed us the local industry: distilling resin from the pine trees on the mountain.


And he told us that that very night there was to be a wayang kulit (shadow puppet show) performance at the village: lucky us! Such a show is a festivity for the whole village, and an occasion for hawkers to sell their wares.




There was also a woman selling food, and we had our evening meal before the performance started.




Here the scene is set. The puppets are arranged in the order the dalang (puppet master) will use them.


The puppet master at work. I am sorry that I can’t tell what the performance was about. Often it is a well-known classical story, to which the dalang adds allusions to actual events.



Notice that the spectators next to the dalang are children. The (male) adult audience sits on the other side of the screen.


And this is what the audience sees. It is a shadow play after all. The puppets speak, intoned with different voices by the dalang. As evidence which puppet is speaking, it moves its arm. See the puppet directly below the lamp.



The next day we took our leave and headed south to Prigi, a village with a sandy beach in a deep bay. The bridge shown here, still close to Ngebel, was a good one by comparison with what was to come.


Farther south, past the main west-east road, the road was badly maintained. We were lucky to be able to reach our destination at all. At one place the rain had washed a bridge away and we had to cross the little river on two wooden beams. So Prigi proved to be even more isolated than Ngebel. Maybe because of that we were received by the local military commander. At the time many places had a military government parallel to the civil one especially when the communist party had had a big following before the coup by Soeharto. It reminded me of colonial times, when a Dutch ‘resident’ looked over the shoulder of a Javanese ruler. Here we walk along the beach with the commander.


The people of Prigi made a living from the sea.



Someone once commented on the local economy of Java: John sells Mary a ham sandwich and Mary sells John a cheese sandwich:



Believe it or not, Prigi too had a celebration that night. But we did not see it. When we had seen the preparation in next picture, the commander hustled us off to our accommodation for the night. Said my travel companions: There is be joged dancing, and the captain is ashamed that you should see it.”


Joged is a sensual dance, for which a village brings in women from outside. The women elect men to dance with them and the men are to give them money. To pluck up courage the men drink beer. Orthodox Muslims of course disapprove of the custom, but it is still a common part of local culture as I later witnessed elsewhere.


New Year's Eve in South-West Lombok. >

Bersih Desa' festivities in Nglambangan near Madiun (East-Java). The yearly celebration is supposed to cleanse the village from bad influences. V



From Prigi we headed to Blitar, the birth and burial place of Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno. There we visited his grave. Soekarno, or Bung Karno as his nickname of endearment was, died on June 21, 1970, when we happened to spend weekend at Sarangan. We learned about it because our hotel hung the national flag half mast.



Initially Soekarno’s successor, general Soeharto, did not want Soekarno’s grave to become a place of pilgrimage. So this is what we found at a Blitar cemetery, the only indication that a grave was special being the triple umbrella:



Later, when Soeharto felt his position to be more secure, he had a grand mausoleum built near Blitar. The following pics are from 2009.






Heading east from Blitar we passed by the Karangkates Project, which was nearing its completion. The dam in the upper stream of Brantas river was built with development assistance from Japan and created the second largest reservoir of Indonesia.





Our last destination before Bali was Bromo. Nowadays hotels and home stays have proliferated at Cemoro Lawang on the rim of the caldera, but in 1973 those did not exist. We stayed in the only accommodation, the pesanggrahan in Ngadisari, at 10 kilometres from the the rim. (Pesanggrahan’s were established in colonial times primarily to serve travelling government officials.)

Neither were there jeeps and horses available. We left the car at what is now Cemoro Lawang, then descended into the caldera and crossed the sand sea to Bromo on foot. This picture shows where we descended, see the sloping road right of centre.


Half way in the sand see we came upon a block of concrete with small offerings. They were the only evidence of reverence for the spirits of the caldera by the Tenggarese who inhabit the highlands. Nowadays there is a large Hindu temple compound at the same location.


The stairs that all tourists doing Bromo have to negotiate on their own legs were in existence, but in dire need of some repairs.




Another view of the sand sea from Bromo volcano, and a peek into the crater.



During the whole day in the caldera we met just one man.


In part 2 I will write about our experiences in Bali.

Posted by theo1006 10:07 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Destination Flores 1971 (part 2)

around Ende


My hosts in Ende, the parents of one of my students, were well-connected, she being a teacher and he a school inspector. They made a real effort to take me to interesting places at a time tourism was virtually non-existent. The inspector used to make his visits on foot or bicycle, sometime on horseback. We joined him occasionally.

On one of those hikes, we passed by a spring in the forest with a curious history. In colonial times the Dutch had built here a small swimming pool, named Woloare. But after independence the local government wanted to enlarge it. So they broke down the concrete wall on the lower side of the pool, which took quite an effort. Then they built a new and higher wall more downhill of stone and mortar. When they filled up the pool, the new wall collapsed….


My hosts also introduced me to two traditional villages. At the time they were really traditional, not yet accustomed to receiving tourists. The people in these villages addressed me with ‘romo’, the title of a catholic priest. Priests being the only white men they had encountered.


Nggela lies, as the crow flies, not more than 20 kilometres east of Ende. But even today – according to Google - it would take a two hours' drive to get there, by a long detour. Walking would be a 50 kilometres hike. So the practical way to travel from Ende to Nggela is by boat along the coast, setting out from Ipi beach. The photo shows people arriving at the beach near Nggela, which lies 1.5 kilometres inland. The boat that brought our group there was more seaworthy, but I don’t have a photo of it.


The population of Nggela belongs to the Ende tribe, who live along the coast and make a living of fishery.


At the time they still lived in traditional houses, built of bamboo and wood with thatched roofs.


These were arranged around ancestors tombs, as indeed is the custom all over Flores.



Though nominally catholics, the relics that the Ende people preserve have nothing to do with catholicism. I could not receive an explanation what is special of this elephant tusk and where the village obtained it. There are and never were elephants on Flores. The really holy objects were stored in this vessel, that only could be opened on special occasions with due ritual.



Nggela is one of many Flores villages where the traditional weaving technique ikat is kept alive. In this technique the patterns are dyed on the warp before the cloth is woven. The process is started by stringing the warp threads on a frame. After the pattern has been drawn on the warp, bindings are applied where the dye may not penetrate. The warp threads are then immersed in a bath of natural dye. As most patterns require more than one colour, the warp is strung once more on the frame, taking care that they match, and the process is repeated. As I don’t have a good picture of a woman at the loom in 1971, that photo is of my 2011 visit to Wolotopo.


The finished cloth is sown into a cylinder. Centre in next photo is my student’s mother showing how the skirt is worn. The other women have dressed up in a skirt that is considered more precious, as it is not locally made.


In the afternoon we walked back to beach, but the boat had not yet come to pick us up. We lay down in the shade of some trees. A young boy had come with us. He started humming a melody while rhythmically knocking a pebble on a stone. His simple music merged with the sound of the waves. I closed my eyes and felt contented.



Life went on and another day we went to Wolotopo, much closer to Ende. So we walked. Yet the only access to the village was by a flight of rough stairs between two rock faces. Forty years later, in 2011, I visited Wolotopo again, and found it had changed a lot. A road had been cut between the two rocks and we could go by car.



Wolotopo was and is quite a big village. Like in Nggela, the people of Wolotopo used to live in traditional houses with thatched roofs. At my first visit there were still four multi-family houses, in which up to five families lived each with their own fireplace for cooking. The thatched roofs need maintenance, see the photo where half the roof has been renovated.



They were also busy re-enforcing an embankment, Wolotopo being located on the steep slope a river valley.



In 2011 only two of those big houses were left and most families lived in single-family houses built of brick.



Though those veranda's of the long houses remain favoured for community life.



In 1971 the only brick building in Wolotopo was the church. I remember the chat I had with the resident German priest. His greatest joy was the harmonium that he had had sent from Germany, so that he could accompany the singing of his flock. But he was disillusioned that he had not been able to change the custom of adolescent boys and girls to bath together in the river at full moon. He had wanted to have a wall built to separate them, but had not succeeded.

At that time there was no bridge, except during heavy rain one could cross the river by wading through.


I saw several small houses on the hillside across the river, and asked who lived there. But these were not for living in, but served for food storage. After harvest the crop is stored here, at a distance from the village. That way the risk of losing the food supply to fire is reduced. I saw this custom also in Sumbawa (situs Uma Lengge in Maria village). It is a wise measure, because the risk of fire in a traditional house, with a kitchen under a thatched roof, is not imaginary. In Nggela as recent as October 2018 31 houses were destroyed by fire.



Later a hanging bridge had been built and now some families live in bungalows across the river.


Like in Nggela, there were ancestral tombs in the centre of Wolotopo. The corrugated iron roof on the left belongs to the church!



There was also a big banyan tree, perhaps planted when the village was founded. I photographed it again in 2011.



And Wolotopo also had its heirlooms, among them an elephant tusk like in Nggela. They also had several ancestor’s effigies covered in red cloth. In 2011 I had brought my laptop and I showed the villagers the pictures of my previous visit. They then told me that this ancestor’s effigy had been stolen! So they were very happy to copy my file of it on a stick (and the other photos of my 1971 visit).


Next photo of my later visit shows how they now keep the effigies.


To Mount Iya

Of course we made an excursion to Iya volcano. Its last and unexpected eruption had occurred less than three years before. So its condition was regularly monitored. We, a group of five, joined an inspector whose duty it was to measure the temperature in crevices in the craters. Any increase in temperature is an indication of heightened activity.


It was a hot day. Once we approached the peak of the old crater, vegetation was scarce and there was no shade.



in the photo on the right Pulau Ende is just visible in the background. According to legend it is the sword with which Mount Iya cut of the head of Table Mountain.

We descended into the old crater, where our guide had to make a measurement.



By the time we reached the new crater, I was very thirsty. I had not known what to expect, everyone just carried one bottle of Fanta. When I looked down into the crater that lay beneath me like a big cauldron, I thought: ‘When I go down there, I will never get out again.’ So I waited on the edge while my companions went down and the guide did his job there.



For our return we descended the steep slope to the shore, then walked along the the water's edge. After an hour or so we reached the first coconut trees. There we took a rest and I drank the water of three young coconuts.




The coloured crater lakes of Kelimutu have become the second most visited attraction of Flores after the Komodo dragons. They can be reached from Ende by a turn-off from the trans-Flores road. That road had been built in colonial times, but in 1971 it was not surfaced yet. So it was rough driving along this tortuous road with high cliffs on one side and deep ravines on the other. People still spoke of a horrible accident that had happened years earlier. A highly laden truck with passengers on top of the load had hit a rock that had fallen on the road. As a result the truck toppled over sideways en rolled into the ravine.

We did not go by truck, my hosts had chartered the Willys Jeep owned by the protestant church of Ende. Here it is on the road from Moni to Kelimutu (now nicely sealed).


We were lucky to have a clear day and saw the lakes in their natural state, without railings, explanatory and warning signs. Neither were there the stairs to the peak from where to view all three lakes.



I can confirm that at least one lake changes colour. Here in the foreground is my 1971 photo of lake Ata Polo. At the time its colour was dark ‘liver’ red, in the photo it comes out almost black. When I visited again in 2011 lake Ata Polo was dark green.



Lake Nuamuri Koofai is separated from lake Ata Polo by just a low rock wall, yet it’s colour is different. I have always seen it light green(right).
The third lake, Ata Mbupu, seems never to change colour. It is shaped like an almost perfect cylindrical sink hole (below).


This was a day long excursion. On the way back we found a suitable place for the picnic we had brought.


Christmas in Ende


The majority of the Ende population are Christians, either Catholics or Protestants. So we attended Christmas celebration at a school, where the biblical story of the birth of Christ was enacted by the students. At right are Joseph and Mary standing by the manger. Below angels, shepherds and the three kings pay homage to the newborn.


At home family and guests participated in the local line dance rokatenda.


Soon after Christmas we had to return to Central Java. The Willys Jeep of the church brought my student and me all the way to Maumere (150 kilometres on the not yet surfaced road). From Maumere we flew to Surabaya, where I had left my car.

Posted by theo1006 10:57 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

Destination Flores 1971 (part 1)

By freighter ship

As a physics teacher at Satya Wacana University in Salatiga I had taken in five students boarding at my house. One of them was from Ende, Flores. He had accompanied me to Bali in December 1970, on condition that I would go with him to see his family the next year.

So Ende was the destination where the two of us were headed in December 1971. Unlike Bali, I could drive my car only as far as Surabaya. From there we travelled by ship. At the time there were just two ships commuting between Surabaya and Ende which charged an affordable price for students. My companion had learned from a relative in Surabaya that the Stella Maris was to depart early in December. Of course there was no mobile phone yet, they communicated by telegram! And we were lucky to get tickets at all, because December was the holiday season. Many students from Sumba and Flores wanted to pass the festive days at home.

The following photo’s give an idea what Pelabuhan Tanjung Perak, the port of Surabaya, looked like in 1971.







The motor vessel “Stella Maris” was a 100 ton freigther built in Germany. It had been ordered by the catholic order SVD (Societas Verbi Divini or ‘Society of the Divine Word’) to support their activities in Flores. It has been in operation for about 25 years, starting in 1959. The BW photo I took at sea. The colour picture shows the Stella Maris anchored off Waingapu (Sumba).



Being a freighter the ship had no accommodation for passengers, except one cabin reserved for members of the SVD. Ordinary passengers like us, had to make do lying on deck. The VIP passenger had another privilege. Live chickens on board were destined for his (and the captain’s) meals. Whereas ours’ consisted of rice with sambal.
Here are two photos of students who travelled with us. The one with the batik shirt is my companion, Herman.


On our three-day-two-nights journey we anchored at Waikelo and at Waingapu on Sumba, before we reached Ende on Flores. I have tried to draw that route on my Travel Map, but found that it was impossible. It seems the Map will only show routes of regular passenger ships. It wants us to have travelled via Makasar and even overland through Sumbawa. Actually we took the shortest route to Waikelo. And from Waikelo to Waingapu we did not stop at Sape on Sumbawa and Labuan Bajo on Flores as the Map shows, but just made a short journey east.


I think we left Surabaya past midday. After heading south for a while along the coast of East Java, we turned due east.

Then night fell and we saw nothing of the other islands we passed, Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa.
Early on the second day we passed through Sangeang Strait between Sumbawa and Sangeang Island, then we turned south towards Waikelo on Sumba. Sangeang Island is vaguely visible in next photo.


At Waikelo there was no harbour with piers as there is today. The Stella Maris just anchored as close to the beach as the captain dared to go. A couple of Sumbanese welcomed us in their dugout canoe, but we passengers were rowed ashore by the sloop of the ship. The Stella Maris was to stay anchored for several hours for unloading cargo, so we had some time to spend on land.


On the beach a crowd had already gathered for bringing the cargo ashore. Trucks stood ready to transport it inland. But the only means to bring it ashore were the dugout canoes of the locals. There was a small brick building, probably the harbour master’s office. Otherwise there were only a few thatch-roofed houses at a short distance. [ The developer of my film did a bad job. Hence the white ghost smears of the pictures. ]




We did not await the unloading, but were advised to walk inland where there was a compound of the SVD. It was about an hour’s walk. When we arrived we were first of all directed to the bathrooms where we took a shower (Indonesian style with a gayong). That was truly welcome after almost 24 hours on deck.


Being refreshed we had lunch in the office of the priest in charge. The SVD ran a carpentry training workshop. After we had been shown around it, we had another drink with one of the sisters.




When we had walked back in the sun to the beach we could have done with another shower. I looked for some shade and found it under a limestone cliff. There I could replace the film in my camera.


We might well have returned later, because the unloading was still ongoing. I heard the captain was irritated because the men worked too slowly. I do not know what the cargo was. It was brought ashore in big sacks using the canoes of the locals.




So we had some more time on our hands to explore the coast. The soil of Sumba is not fertile, it consists mostly of limestone. The exception are the river valleys, that form green oases. The dug-out canoe builder below was happy to pose for me.





It was already late in the afternoon before we sailed for the next stop, Waingapu. That was only a short distance away, but I think we had to wait for daylight before the Stella Maris could enter Waingapu harbour.



Among the unloaded cargo was corrugated iron roofing. Some passengers left us in Waingapu, but we had new companions too: a family that moved to another island together with its belongings.





From Waingapu we sailed north-east. Here is our first sight of Flores. The conical mountain on the left is Inerie volcano (2227 masl). On the right is visible Ebulobo volcano (2124 masl). Inerie, near Bajawa, is a popular volcano to climb by travellers doing Flores.


Ende had and has two harbours: Bung Karno harbour on the west side of the Ende peninsula, and Ipi harbour on the east side. The captain headed the Stella Maris to Ipi harbour, but that turned out to be a mistake. Depending on the seasonal wind direction one or the other harbour was in use. It seems that just the day before the authorities had decided to make the switch. As it was already too late in the day to sail around the peninsula to Bung Karno harbour, we stayed an unplanned third night off Ipi beach.



So, on the morning of the fourth night we disembarked at Bung Karno harbour. It was only a short walk from the harbour to my student’s home. Ende town lies at the neck of Ende peninsula, which is only 2,5 kilometres wide at its narrowest. Which goes to say that one can easily get around walking. Half an hour’s walk brought us to Ipi beach, a popular beach for the youth of Ende. Everyone walked, there was hardly any traffic. See the photo of a hole in the road. Why bother to repair the road when everyone knows the hole and walks around it?

I conclude this part of my blog with some views of Ende and its environment. In part 2 I will relate what we did during our stay in Ende.


The peninsula south of Ende is about six kilometres long. There are two mountains on the peninsula. Bordering the town is Gunung Meja (Table Mountain), an extinct volcano shaped like an almost perfect truncated cone. The southern half of the peninsula is formed an old and a new crater of Iya volcano Gunung Iya. Its last eruption occurred on 27 january 1969 after a quiet period of 87 years. The irregular hilly terrain between Gunung Meja and Gunung Iya likely is what remains from prehistoric volcanic activity.

Next two photo’s show the peninsula. The first I took at Nuabosi, a high viewpoint north of town. The second I took from the shore east of Ipi beach. Table Mountain is on the right. The small island on the left is called Pulau Koa. Local lore says that Table Mountain and Iya Volcano had a fight. Iya cut off the head of Table Mountain. The head fell in the sea, and remains there as Pulau Koa. Then Iya hurled away his sword. It ended up in Ende Bay, about ten kilometres from town. That's Pulau Ende.


Table Mountain was and is a popular destination for getting out of town. From its top one has a fine view of Ende town and its surroundings. Compare the next two photo’s, the first from 1971, the second from 2011. In 1971 the town was still small and surrounded by countless coconut trees, copra being the main produce of Ende. In 2011 the town has grown considerably, encroaching on the coconut plantations.




On the right a view Table Mountain to the north (more coconut trees), and below a view to the east (overlooking IPI beach). The boy Leonard had joned us to the summit of Table Mountain. He tried to throw a stone into the sea at Ipi, but that was not as close as it looks.


Continued in 'Destination Flores 1971 (part 2)'.

Posted by theo1006 10:51 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Destination Bali 1970


My December 1970 holiday again saw me driving to Bali with three students. Like the previous year two of them travelled to their home in Melaya and Blimbingsari. The third student was from Ende, Flores. I had made a deal with him: this year you accompany me around Bali, next year I travel with you to Ende.

Crossing Bali Strait

I have no pictures of our ride from Salatiga to Banyuwangi, as this was uneventful except for one episode that stuck in my memory. It must have been on the road approaching Probolinggo in East-Java. Unlike today there were no houses and not a soul in sight, except for an elderly woman sitting in the shade under a lonely tree. She sold big mangoes of the harum manis (fragrant and sweet) variety. So the four of us gorged on mangoes until we could take no more. And the woman had her lucky day. Nowadays when you pass by Probolinggo in the right season, there are many stalls on the roadside selling harum manis mangoes.

On the 6th of December we arrived at Ketapang, where the ferries for Bali leave. There was a queue waiting to cross. I don’t remember why, whether because of too much traffic or – more likely – because one of the two ferries was out of service for repair. We decided not to wait in line but to go for the alternative: a landing craft. There were several of these relics of World War II still in service. They could carry just one truck, but then there was space left for a small car like my Volkswagen.



The following pictures show how a truck embarks from the sandy beach, backing up on movable wooden ramps made for the purpose.




And here is my car embarking at Ketapang, crossing the Bali strait, and disembarking at Gilimanuk.




We spent a night at Melaya, where one of my students, Nyoman, lived.

Teluk Terima and Banyuwangi

Nyoman wanted to meet Pak Ketut Putra, the recluse at Teluk Terima (Terima Bay), with whom I had become acquainted the previous year. So that’s where we went the next day. Here are some pics of Pak Ketut Putra’s garden with ‘natural art’. Where his garden was, now is a parking for visitors to Jayaprana’s grave. Balinese will make a stop here even without visiting the grave, in order to have their vehicle blessed by a local priest for a safe journey. But at the time passers-by were rare.



Here is a view from Jayaprana’s grave on the hill facing the house of Pak Ketut Putra. On the left is the peninsula of West Bali National Park. On the right on sees Menjangan Island, and in the background is vaguely visible Mount Baluran in Baluran National Park on Java.



Close by Terima Bay is Banyuwedang hot spring. There was just one food stall among the mangroves, which sold bananas to feed to the macaques. And we had a drink. When I scan the area on google maps, I am astonished how much it has changed. There were no houses, resorts or spas among the mangroves.


After another day at Melaya we, my Flores student and I, set out for Lovina by the northern route. So we passed by Teluk Terima once more, and then made a stop at Pura Pulaki. That temple was and is famous for the monkeys living around it. They used to steal food from local food stalls when the owner was not looking. I saw on Google maps that the altar sites of the temple now have been enclosed in cages, to keep the monkeys out.
When scanning my old diapositives, I thought the next picture was of Pura Pulaki. If so, the temple has been reformed beyond recognition. Perhaps I photographed neighbouring Pura Tirta, but that temple too looks different on Google maps. Is there anyone who can identify the temple shown here?




At Lovina we called on Anak Agung Pandji Tisna, who was king of Buleleng from 1945 to 1947. He let us stay in his shed an bath at his well. Later he built the first villa’s on a plot next to his house, which he named “Tasik Madu Hotel” (Honey Coast Hotel). He invited us to his little chapel in Kaliasem. After his demise in 1978 he was buried next to the chapel in what is now known as the Anak Agung Pandji Tisna Memorial Park.

The Memorial Park is only two kilometres uphill from the coast along A.A. Pandji Tisna Road. In 1970 they were still working on the unsealed road. Here are the roadworkers.



The next day Anak Agung Santosa, the youngest son of A.A. Pandji Tisna, joined us going boating off Lovina beach. Dolphin spotting trips came in vogue only much later.



Water Gardens of Karangasem

The three of us then made a day outing to Karangasem, We made a stop at a temple in Kubutambahan. The garuda sculpture stood out as a landmark, but I do not know its exact location any more.


Beyond Kubutambahan the road was still covered in cold lava from the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung. There were some difficult passages because of deep ruts.



The area was truly devastated and sparsely populated. Near Kubu some people tried to eke out a living making sea salt. But it was the rainy season, you can’t make sea salt when there is no sun.

On the way back, when it was not raining, I took a few pics of the means used to make sea salt by evaporating sea water.



The Tirta Gangga water garden had suffered greatly from Mount Agung’s eruption. The swimming pool was empty and the fountain dry. But the water sources still flowed and we joined the local population who came freely to take a bath. Only after 2000 the garden was restored at the initiative of a grandson of the last king of Karangasem, who lives in the Netherlands. So now one has to pay for entering the garden and using the swimming pool. I think we stayed at Dhangin Taman, a losmen neighbouring Tirta Gangga, that stlll exists.


For comparison I include a photo from 2011, after the restoration of the garden. Both photo's have been taken from a different direction.



The Taman Ujung garden was also in ruins. Curiously the coloured glass in the central pavilion has not been retained during the restoration. I took a picture of a bridge to that building through one of the glasses. You can see that the surface of the bridge is lacking in places. When I visited the garden again five years later, some repairs had been done and the pavilion was off-limits. We were told that it had been rented by an expat, a retired pilot.


Wedding in Lovina

Two days after our trip to Karangasem there was a wedding in the (former) royal family. Here is the happy couple.



The bride wore gold heirlooms of the family, including the keris that someone held up for the picture.


Pedanda Kamenuh, Bali’s chief priest at the time, officiating.



The orchestra (angklung) and wedding guests.





Cooking was done outside, as well as washing the dishes.


Peak Penulisan

Two days later we, my student from Flores and I, took our leave and headed for Kintamani. We followed the scenic road via Kubutambahan. The road reaches it highest point at Penulisan Hill on the caldera rim, from where we had our first view of Batur volcano. With 1745 metres Penulisan Peak overlooks the volcano (1717 metres). In the next picture it is just visible in the lower left. Mount Abang, with 2151 metres much higher, is shown on the right of Batur volcano.. And in centre background is Bali’s most sacred mountain, Gunung Agung.



The temple on Penulisan Peak, Pura Teguh Kahuripan, was being renovated. Its statues had been temporarily set aside. I found a photo of the statue below in MIguel Covarrubias' "Island of Bali" (first edition 1937) with the caption: "Eleventh-century Hindu-Balinese Statue in the ruined temple atop de mountain Panulisan".


The owner of the food stall near the temple had two pups for sale. Next picture shows them with children at Seminyak (the black-and-white one is another pup). I had to smuggle them to Java, because moving dogs between Indonesia’s islands is not permitted. We made sure that they had eaten their fill before taking the ferry to Java, and they lay fast asleep on the floor of my car. I gave them (irreverently) the names Rama and Shinta.



I read on Wikipedia that the Kintamai dogs have only been provisionally recognized as a breed in 2019. And that they are good climbers, not afraid of heights. The latter I can confirm, see the two photo’s from 1971. They climbed a kitchen stair to reach a bone we had attached to an iron wire.



Kintamani is the name of a large district comprising Batur caldera and the highlands around it. But it is also the name of a village on the rim of the caldera. We stayed there at the only accommodation available, a homestay with warung. The owner arranged for us to do the two things not to be missed at the Batur caldera, a visit to Terunyan village and climbing Batur volcano.

Terunyan is Bali’s most famous Bali Aga village. The Bali Aga are the original inhabitants of Bali before the introduction of Hinduism. Although they now embrace a form of Hinduism, they preserve customs not found in most Balinese villages. In Terunyan they do not cremate the deceased, but let the corpses decompose on the sore of lake Batur at some distance form the village.


To reach Terunyan we hired a dug-out canoe, the only boats available on the lake. The boat came with two rowers, but we did some rowing ourselves too.



When we reached the village we found it very modest. Not many people were around, because they live from cultivating fields on the ther side of Mount Abang, The main temple was the seven-tiered meru show here. The rowers said that according to local belief, the meru was the centre or navel of the world.




Batur Volcano


The next day we climbed Batur volcano. Nowadays the usual one hour trek starts at Toya Bongkah near the edge of the lake. But in 1970 we set out from Kintamani village before daybreak. So we descended in the dark from the village into the caldera. We had to cross a lava field, but by then we had a good view of the lake and Mount Abang.




When you approach Batur volcano from the west, you have to pass a couple of older and lower craters before attacking the main cone.





There was no trail around the crater, in places we had to walk on the steep outer side. When seeking support with our hands, we felt the earth being hot. A small concrete pillar marked the peak of Mount Batur.


The descent to the hot spring on the edge of Lake Batur was relatively easy. But unlike today there were no hot pools to soak in. The hot water emanated under the lake’s surface directly into the lake, So that you had to keep close to the shore to feel the warmth at all. We huddled together with locals taking their daily bath.


Catching Eels

We spent a week or more with the family of my guide of the previous year in Basangkasa, Seminyak. At the time the main road through the village was still a dirt road. And the village was surrounded by wet rice fields as far as the eye could see. The fields provided not only rice, but also sources of protein, frogs and ikan belut. The latter are a small eels, 30 centimeters long at most. One night we went catching them, using a stormking lamp. The eels were dried in the sun and could then be preserved. I did not like them too much, they tasted of earth.


Scattering Ashes Festivities


One day when walking along the beach we met a group of villagers who had just finished scattering the ashes from a cremation in the sea. They had brought their music and food, and were relaxing on the beach.


We joined them when they returned home by nightfall, as there were to be more ceremonies and offerings.






Last but not least there was a wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performance.
Nowadays usually an electric lamp is used to project the shadows. But in this case the light still came fro the flame of an oil lamp. That is how it should be because the moving flame brings the shadows to life.


Besakih Temple


From Basangkasa we also made an excursion to the so-called “mother temple”, Pura Besakih. There were no crowds of tourists and no guides. Access was free.





The Balinese just quietly performed their prayers and ceremonies while we walked around.


Shipwrecked in Terima Bay

Finally it was time to return to Java. I called on my passengers in Melaya, where someone proposed: “Why don’t we go to Teluk Terima once more and try to visit Pulau Menjangan?” So that’s what we did the next day. We had breakfast at Pak Ketut’s, who had lived at Terima Bay for several years, but never set foot on Pulau Menjangan, which lies seven kilometres off-shore.


Then Pak Ketut went to a neighbouring Madurese settlement to hire a boat. After an hour or so he returned with an outrigger boat and a boatman. I think it cost me IDR 150,000, which nowadays is next to nothing, but was a fair price at the time. It turned out that the owner of the boat had been so eager for that money that he did not think of safety.

Perhaps it was 10 o’clock when the six of us set out to Pulau Menjangan: three students, pak Ketut, the boatman and me. The first kilometres went without a hitch. But when we were about half way the wind got stronger, and the waves higher. Water entered over the sides of the boat. We threw away our lunch in order to use the containers for bailing out the water. But that was to no avail. Soon the boat was full and sank under us. That is to say, being a wooden boat it floated just under the surface, with the mast and sail sticking out. We could only hold on to the side of the boat and to the outriggers.

Initially I did not worry too much, because there were other Madurese boats in sight. But these did not approach, instead they returned to mainland Bali. After some time we were all alone in the water.

How long we remained that way I don’t know. I remember thinking: ‘If only we can survive the night.’ Because my students started feeling cold. People in the tropics have a lower metabolism than Europeans.


Suddenly our saviour appeared, we had not seen him coming. Pak Achmad Djainuddin had seen from afar that our sail was not in order and had come to investigate. He was a Buginese living in nearby Sumberkima. It was our luck that he was there at all, because the Buginese sail all over the archipelago.

Pak Achmad quickly decided how to bring us all to safety, considering the wind, the waves and the capacity of his boat. He brought us to Pulau Menjangan in two shifts, three by three.

The owner of our boat had sent his nephew to act as boatman. The nephew feared the anger of his uncle for having lost the boat and begged Pak Achmad to take it in tow. Said the latter: “That boat, I would not want it if you gave it it me for free. Moreover, towing it will slow mine down.” Here is the last we saw of the boat, photo taken by my travelling companion who did not know how to adjust my camera.

So that’s how we made it to Pulau Menjangan. Pak Achmad knew that the wind and the waves would subside later in the day; we just had to wait a couple of hours. Next photo shows sitting in front my companion from Flores. Standing from left to right: Balinese student, Pak Ketut, Balinese student, the boatman with cigarette, Pak Achmad in green shirt, and on the right his crew.


If we had brought snorkelling gear, we might have admired the “wall of corals”, the best sea garden of Bali just off shore from the island. But at the time nobody was aware of its existence. Centre in the following picture is Pak Ketut, smiling happily that he had been on Pulau Menjangan once in his lifetime. And on the right the nephew thinking of meeting his uncle.


In the afternoon, the wind and the waves allowed all of us to fit in Pak Achmad’s boat, and we sailed to Sumberkima. Then we still had to walk 13 kilometres to Pak Ketut’s place, where we arrived by sunset. But I never walked as lightly and elated at being alive.

It stands to reason that I visited Pak Achmad every time I set foot on Bali. In 2005 when I had returned to Java living on a retirement visa, I found his widow still alive. In 2009 I spent a month on Karimunjawa island. Buginese sailors use to anchor there for obtaining provisions, and so did Pak Achmad. A friend of his whom I met there recalled him telling the story of how he rescued a Dutchman.

Posted by theo1006 13:16 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Destination Bali 1969

by car from Salatiga, Central Java

Today, 15 May 2020, I am embarking on a project that likely will keep me occupied until long after the Covid-19 scare is over: to write about my travels in Indonesia before the invention of mass tourism. I arrived in Indonesia in November 1968 to work as a physics teacher. At the time tourism in Indonesia was non-existent. After the Japanese occupation, the struggle for independence, years of bad economic policies under the presidency of Soekarno and the persecution of (presumed) communists after the take-over by Soeharto, the economy was at an all-time low. People were in survival mode and scared to talk politics. My assignment at Satya Wacana University in Salatiga can be seen as one small step in a long process to put the country back on its feet.


The atmosphere in Salatiga town was that of a very quiet village. In the first picture you see a man walking on a main street into town, the signboard points to the campus. If today you tried walking like that, you would not survive it. [Note that most of the photos are edited scans of diapositives and black-and-white negatives, so the quality is not what one expects in the digital era.]

At the time the academic year ran from January till November, a result of the ‘lost’ semester in 1965, when students had not been able to attend lessons. That’s why my first month-long holiday was December 1969. I had been provided with a Volkswagen and decided to drive it to Bali, accompanied by three Balinese students.


That way they had a free travel home for the holidays. An elderly Javanese gentleman had given some advice for a nice route, as well as introductions to two important Balinese men. Our first stop was at Sarangan, a resort village on Mount Lawu. The old road to Sarangan was not yet sealed at the time, and the new, less steep Jalan Tawangmangu-Plaosan did not exist. Later we hiked to Lawu’s summit several times.



Our itinerary then led via Madiun and the teak forests of Nganjuk direction Mojokerto. The old road crosses the railway several times, the trains were slow. When we had been waiting for a train at one crossing, we found the next crossing closed for the same train. Following the advice we explored Trowulan, the former site of the capital of Majapahit kingdom. The brick temples and gates were still in ruins. They have been restored later.

After fifty years I don’t remember where we spent the nights. In simple losmen (starless hotels) no doubt. We had been told to visit Selecta near Malang, and to take the scenic route via Kandangan and Pujon. Half way we encountered Selorejo reservoir and dam under construction. Since its completion in 1973 the artificial lake of three square kilometres has become a popular water sports destination.


From Selorejo Dam the road to Pujon hugs the downstream river from the dam. At the time the river valley was lush green and we hardly met any traffic.



We had lunch at Pujon. Selecta was a letdown. In colonial times it was a fashionable resort for the European elite in Surabaya. And nowadays its several recreational facilities attract many Indonesians. But in December 1969 the place seemed uninhabited, maybe also because of the weather. So we just headed on to Malang. We had heavy rain on the way.

From Malang our recommended itinerary then led along the “South-Semeru” road. That road was not sealed then. I remember endless slow going without a living soul in sight. It was a relief to reach Ampelgading village, but that was still only half way and there was no warung. We stopped at the “Silver Bridge” (Jembatan Perak), the iron girder bridge dating from colonial times.


A new concrete bridge has been built next to it, and the spot is still a favourite stop.



‘Do not miss Ijen’ I had been told. So we set out from Jember direction Situbondo, to take the only road to the plateau at Wonosari, half way between Bondowoso and Situbondo. The road turned out to be in very bad shape, once we had left the inhabited world behind us we were driving on uneven rocks.

When we had almost reached the edge of the plateau, my passengers had to get out of the car; the Volkswagen refused to go the last ascent. But with their help we reached the plateau at last and soon were on a level road between coffee plantations.


We knew that Ijen crater lay beyond the plantations, but we had no map or other indications. We kept driving until the road was so bad that we could not go on. While we were stuck there, two men on horseback appeared. It turned out that one of them was the plantation manager.



With the manager’s help we backed up and stayed the night over at his house.

Early the next morning he arranged for us to go to the crater on horseback. The horses had a tough job along a muddy forest trail that was hardly visible. Perhaps we took a short cut from Jampit plantation. The present hike of three kilometres from Paltuding base is a recreational walk in comparison. Unfortunately I can’t show 1969 pics of Ijen crater. It looked like raining, and I had nothing to protect my camara with.
Nowadays there is a sealed road that takes one in an hour from Paltuding to Banyuwangi. In 1969 the road did exist (it’s on my 1923 map), but it was not passable. So we had to take the roundabout way through Situbondo to reach Banyuwangi. There we got on the ferry ‘Kintamani’. There were two of them, the other one was the ‘Blambangan’.


Once in Bali, I had to bring two of my students home. One lived in Melaya, which is just 12 kilometres from the ferry port Gilimanuk. The other one lived in Blimbingsari, eight kilometres inland from Melaya. We were to spend the night at his place, but I could not reach it by car. The road was too muddy and I left the car half way. The students walked lightly with their knapsack containing a toothbrush and one extra set of clothes. I hauled my suitcase for four kilometres. Served me well as a westerner. Of course they offered to carry my suitcase, but I would not allow it. At that time the only feasible transport to Blimbingsari was by buffalo cart. Today there is a sealed road and tourists come to admire the church that is built in Hindu temple style.


The next morning I left Blimbingsari with the third student, Made, as my guide. His family lived near Kuta, but he had volunteered to show me around Bali before going home. Thus we headed back west to take the northern route to Singaraja. Our first stop was at Teluk Terima (facing Menjangan Island). There we met Pak Ketut Putra, who lived as a recluse near the mangrove shore and had made himself a collection of ‘natural art’.



Yet Pak Ketut Putra was an educated person. Half a kilometre uphill from his bamboo house lay the simple grave of I Jayaprana, the tragic hero of a folk story. He had translated the Balinese poem about Jayaprana and his bride Ni Layonsari into Indonesian, the booklet was published in Singaraja. The story tells that the king wanted Ni Layonsari for himself, it’s a Balinese version of the biblical story of David and Batsheba.

Later a temple has been built around Jayaprana’s grave which almost obscures it. Taking our leave from Mr. Ketut Putra, we went to our next stop, Banyuwedang hot spring. The only building at the Banyuwedang site was a ramshackle warung. A colony of macaques lived there in the mangroves. We observed that these rinsed any food in the water to clean it of sand. Later, in 2017, I read a newspaper article of Japanese macaques in Koshima doing that. But I can confirm that the Banyuwangi macaques did it in 1969.


Apart from Pulaki temple, there was not much special along the gravel road to Singaraja. And Singaraja at the time was a very quiet town. We – Made and me - were the only guests in the Chinese restaurant where we had dinner. Except for one man who sat in a corner observing us. He waited till we had finished and then approached us. So rare a sight was a white man accompanied by a Balinese at that time. It turned out that he was Anak Agung Panji Tisna, the last king of Buleleng. He is better known as the author of several novels on life in Bali. He had converted to Christianity after Indonesia’s independence. He lived in an ordinary house in Lovina, and we visited him at a chapel “Ukir Kawi“ that he had built on a hill facing Lovina.


Made and I paid a visit to two more prominent people in Singaraja. Pedanda Kamenuh was the leading priest of Bali at the time, by definition belonging to the Brahmin caste. A year later I saw him officiating at the wedding of someone of A. A. Pandji Tisna’s family. The other man we saw was a commoner or Sudra, I Wayan Bhadra. Yet he was equally well educated, he read Dutch and English as well as Balinese and Sanskrit. The last time I visited him he gave me a Dutch commentary on the ‘Siwaratikalpa’ legend with his own annotations. It has always struck me that caste differences are much less pronounced in Bali than in India.

Later we headed south to Made’s home in Basangkasa, Seminyak, north of Kuta. His parents were farmers, their only wealth were their rice fields. A typical Balinese dwelling consists of a group of pavilions in a walled yard. Their yard was not even walled.


I stayed the remaining days of my vacation at their place, making several day-trips. The main road from the airport to Seminyak and beyond was a dirt road. When I drove along it in my Volkswagen, children came running, calling: ‘Turis, turis!’ When we wanted to go to the beach, we walked the one kilometre on little dikes bordering rice fields. The area is now full of hotels, shops and villas. There is not one rice field left. Made also has sold the land he inherited. The picture shows peasants going home after a day’s work.


One day there happened to be a pengabenan (cremation) in Legian. The elaborate ceremony of an aristocratic cremation gets publicized in the West, but ordinary Balinese can’t afford that. In this case the deceased had been buried while the family saved up money and waited for an opportunity to share the cost with others. So what was burned were just a few bones that had been dug up. It is the ceremony that counts to free the spirit, not the fire.





Another day Made took me to Mengwi, where there was a tooth filing. That is a rite for girls coming of age. I saw a priest doing the filing. The young women denied that it hurt, perhaps they were given a drug. One of them was married the same day.



The next day we visited Ubud, famous because western painters had lived and worked there. Some of their work was and still is on display in the Museum Puri Lukisan. As the only visitor in the museum they gave me a special tour. And it was here that I bought my most valued souvenirs of Bali: a keris in wooden sheath and a mermaid statue. Both are carved in hardwood, unlike current made-for-tourists carvings of soft wood. Another cherished souvenir is the full festive Balinese dress, which I have worn on very special occasions.




In the neighbourhood of Ubud Made took me to Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave), still a must-see place. But we also went to the less well-known temple Pura Durga Kutri, in Buruan village not far from Goa Gajah. We climbed the broken steps to a sculpture of the goddess Durga, believed to be the burial place of queen Mahendratta (961-1011 AD), mother of Airlangga, who founded the kingdom Kahuripan in East Java.

The last place that we visited that day was Pejeng, the temple with it's ‘moon’. What they call a wheel of the chariot carrying the moon actually is a bronze kettle drum, according to archaeologists made by the Dong Son people in Vietnam around 300 B.C.



Made had learned that there was to be a topeng (masked theatre) performance in Baha, 30 kilometres north of Kuta. So that’s where we went at the end of the day. The occasion was the 4th anniversary of the Baha branch of the youth organization GSNI (Gerakan Siswa Nasional Indonesia). Of course I could not follow the action in Balinese. But I did recognize some references to that white photographer among the spectators.





The day before Christmas I took Made’s paternal grandparents for a tour to Tirta Gangga. They had never been there. They posed at the barong monster flanking a bridge. By then I had run out of colour film!

The swimming pool seen below was empty, although the water sources still flowed.



At the right Made, posing at a concrete monster.

The landscape around the water garden was still barren because of the 1963 eruption of Gunung Agung. Nowadays it is green again.




We spent Christmas at Basangkasa with families in the neighbourhood, who all wanted to be photographed. Made and a friend made fun with my newly obtained souvenirs. Not all Balinese can afford them!


Then it was ‘goodbye Bali, till next year’. Here is the silhouette of Made on the beach.



Before taking the ferry back to Java, I met my passengers in Melaya. Then we took the fastest route home to Salatiga.

Posted by theo1006 03:45 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

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