From the archives: Cottage trip no. 2

Playing catch-up on some old topics.

I should start this one by telling you that my friend C is coming to visit from Canada this weekend! This is very exciting, because we have been friends forever and I can’t wait to see her – plus we have an awesome trip planned to Flores, so stay tuned for that. But thinking about her visit reminds me that I neglected to post the final details of our trip with my other dear friend and visitor, J!

After our memorable (though rather ill-fated, for her at least, heh) few days in Kalimantan, we came back to Bogor for some rest. And where better to relax than at the cottage in Puncak?

We drove up the pass midday, which was great – very little traffic, clear views across the mountain, and just general good spirits. We made good time. Unfortunately, when it came to finding the cottage again, we were getting a little bit lost. Google maps is wholly unreliable here, and really did not want to send us straight there. We seemed to be going in generally the right direction, but it was impossible to find the exact alley road that would take us to the cottage itself. After getting lost a couple of times, some kindly security guards directed us to the right way, so we set off again. But wait – the car in front of us has suddenly gotten itself stuck in the ditch on the side of the incredibly narrow road, blocking our way!

Until you’ve seen a car stuck in a ditch in an Indonesian alley, you haven’t lived. This is how it works: 1. Car A, being driven by a barefoot child, very slowly drives down the alley road. 2. Barefoot child does not know how to drive, and thus gently slides one car wheel into ditch. 3. Barefoot child, not knowing how to drive, cannot correct for this error and proceeds to drive a second car wheel into the ditch. 4. Seventeen more barefoot children appear out of nowhere and begin to dangerously rock the car up and down, back and forth, in attempt to dislodge the car, effectively trapping car further into ditch and pulling off important items like bumpers and side mirrors. 5. Random adults appear and tie a rope to the car and try to tug-of-war the car out of the ditch.

At this last step, B finally took pity on them and got out of our car to see if he could help. I’ve never seen a group of tiny people cheer so loudly at the sudden appearance of a giant who wants to help tug-of-war their car. Alas, even his bear strength couldn’t move the car out of its death hole. Meanwhile, friend J was running around, also barefoot, snapping pictures of the hilarious spectacle – I think she fit right in around here.

We thought we might stop at "KFC" for lunch.
We thought we might stop at “KFC” for lunch.
Car tug-of-war. Those kids were so excited to see a man giant!
Car tug-of-war. Those kids were so excited to see a man giant!
That car ain't going nowhere
That car ain’t going nowhere

Eventually someone brought around a bunch of rocks and barrels to fill up the ditch under the wheel, and the car drove itself free. It was pretty wrecked, I hope that kid wasn’t in too much trouble – certainly it was not his car.

Anyway, at last we made it to the cottage to enjoy a couple of nights of quiet living. In fact, I did basically nothing for those few days, and took no pictures. I thought I forgot the camera, but as it turned out, I had just forgotten to take the camera out of my bag the whole time. But everyone did the tea mountain climb again and they took some more photos. It looked like they had a beautiful view, not as misty as last time we were there. And no leeches.

Soon it was time for J to go home. We spent a last day in Jakarta, enjoying some food and shopping, and sent her on her way with a lot of stories and a bunch of batik. Miss you!

 

Cottage & Tea

It’s been a busy couple of weeks!

I had a friend visiting from the UK, mainly for work, but we were able to enjoy a few great nights out during the week. More exciting, we took him up to the “cottage” that my work maintains in the mountains nearby. Ostensibly this is a place where you could hold work retreats and have a bit of isolation, but really I think employees just rent it out for party weekends – which is exactly what we did!

Let’s backtrack a bit, though. Last year, we had a really great masquerade party at the end of our Annual Meeting. During the course of the night, I won the door prize, which turned out to be a free night at the cottage. Until now, we had never been able to find a time to go up, but the certificate was expiring in October, so it was becoming a bit desperate. Luckily, with our friend in town and some other friends interested in joining, it was perfect timing.

We headed up after work on Friday, only getting trapped in about an hour’s worth of traffic. So it only took us 2.5 hours to drive the 25 km to the cottage – a holiday miracle! The cottage is located up in the Puncak area, which is nestled into the side of the local volcano and generally considered vacation country. It is much cooler than the city, and the cottage itself is quite private. Calling it a cottage is not really fair – it’s more like a small mansion, with four bedrooms and a huge living space. There were 7 adults and the 2 kids, and we fit very comfortably. It apparently sleeps 16 if you pull out all the extra bedding and mattresses.

After we arrived, we enjoyed a great evening of drinking and impromptu ukulele karaoke. In the morning, we lounged around and the kids had fun exploring the area. In the afternoon, we took a little hike up the hillside to a nearby tea plantation. The guide said it would be about a 40 minute walk, so we figured that wasn’t a big deal. He neglected to tell us that it was literally 40 minutes up a cliff. It was a bit of a workout! I really shouldn’t have drank that Smirnoff Ice right before we left. Anyway, after braving the rainforest, a few mosquito bites, a couple of leech attacks, some major kid whining and several long rests, we made it to the top. And it was worth it!

The view was a bit cloudy, but it was cool and lovely, with a breeze washing over us. We enjoyed the scenery for a while, took a meander up an old cobblestone path and rescued LittleB when he tripped and gouged his knee skin off on said cobblestone path. We had to peel the skin back and rinse it out with water, bleh. But he’s a trooper.

Soon the rain clouds were threatening so we headed back down. It was a bit slower going with the kids, who tended to build up too much speed and start tumbling, but we made it. We only found one leech on our friend after arriving home, and we blasted that sucker with salt – it was science in action. Afterwards, we took a swim in the still-filling pool, which unfortunately was a bit grimy, but we did find some frog eggs! We kept them in a jar and watched them grow over the weekend. More science in action!

On Sunday, we relaxed and swam some more, in the now-filled-and-cleaned pool. We headed home in the afternoon, again getting stuck in some initial stand-still traffic, but once it got going, we made it home in about 2 hours or so.

Definitely worth it, and I think we’ll be making a regular weekend out of it!

 

Beach Weekend

This past weekend we traveled down to Pelabuhan Ratu on the south coast of Java. Another group of friends made the plans and booked a villa to celebrate a few birthdays, and they very kindly let us tag along. We went into it knowing that the trip takes a long time, the roads are crap, the beach is beautiful but basically unswimmable, and the places to stay are of questionable quality. After writing that out, I’m sort of wondering why we went… but it had to be done for the sake of adventure!

Going

Knowing that the traffic can be bad, especially on a weekend, we decided to leave early after lunch on Friday. The rest of the group was planning to leave Bogor at 7 or 8 at night, which was just too late for us with the kids. So we piled into the car with our friend and set out. I drove. Now, to put this trip into perspective, here is a google map showing our route:

Okay, 110 km, just under 3 hours. Sounds pretty reasonable, considering we are driving through a volcano range in Indonesia… Actually, just writing that makes me wonder again why we did it.

The drive started slow as we headed up the first mountainside. There was a lot of traffic, and, as it turned out, several of the roads were under construction, slowing down even more what was already our snail’s pace. But, I pulled a couple of *ahem* questionable passing lane moves (basically I just drove into oncoming traffic until I couldn’t any more, that’s a thing here), and it only took us an hour or two to get through the slowdown.

By then, we had reached the “bad” part of the road. I would describe this section of road as 30% road and 70% potholes. And very curvy. Luckily, LittleB only barfed once. I think that’s a pretty good average for this road, from what I’ve heard. Apparently there was a former school principal who used to go up every weekend and his kid would be sick in the car every time. That sounds like a good family bonding activity to me! We averaged about 25 km/h.

This is a fairly normal part of the road. Like I said, 70% potholes.
This is a fairly normal part of the road. Like I said, 70% potholes.

Six and half hours later, we rolled into the hotel.

Staying

We stayed at a charming villa nestled into the side of mountain, overlooking the coast. It was built of teak and boasted of luxury on its website. The truth? It was kind of a crazy haunted mansion / grade 5 matchstick building project / Frankensteinian monstrosity dangling precariously off the edge of a cliff. Yes, it was made out of teak, but it looked as though someone took parts of other buildings and glued them haphazardly together, holding it all up with random pieces of wood and twine. Also, the driveway was at about a 75 degree incline, which our automatic Avanza was not happy about.

The view from the second floor to the main floor and cliff
The view from the second floor to the main floor and cliff
That is the front of the building. Above the colored tiles is a guest room, held up by the random posts.
That is the front of the building. Above the colored tiles is a guest room, held up by the random posts.
One of the second-level sitting rooms.
One of the second-level sitting rooms.

Anyway, we were the first ones to arrive, so we had our pick of rooms. Originally, we were supposed to be in the Panorama room, which I assumed was the nicest because it cost more. It turned out to be a strange little room at the bottom of the house (without a panoramic view, despite its name), and it only had three single beds in it. There is nothing comfortable about squeezing two above-average-sized adults and two children into three single beds (let’s be honest here, they were actually cots), plus to reach the room you had to travel down an unlit, slippery, misshapen walkway. Um, no. So we took the room upstairs that had a king bed in it. At least we mostly fit into that one.

Other than the wasp nest in the bathroom, the rest of the accommodations were ok. Oh wait, there was also a pool. I use this term loosely. It was kind of a little rectangle of water surrounded by a bunch of old wood and tarps. It’s possible someone swam in it once… but no one ever found them again, so it’s impossible to know for sure.

By the way, the rest of our party arrived at 2 am.

Playing

We spent the day on Saturday at the beach. It was beautiful. Big waves, dark, ferrous sand, rugged coastline. But the undertow was vicious. I didn’t even bother putting on my swimsuit, because I didn’t want to float away. The only people in the water were professional surfers. And B.

Big waves!
Big waves!
Beautiful coastline, though
Beautiful coastline, though
Let's play "Where's B?"
Let’s play “Where’s B?”
The surfers were enjoying the waves
The surfers were enjoying the waves
There were a few guys with boogie boards, too
There were a few guys with boogie boards, too
Lovely views
Lovely views

I stayed on the beach with the kids, building sandcastles and digging up crab holes. Once in a while, a giant wave would sweep onto shore and wash everything away. Like our friend’s flip flops. Like the kids. Like J’s swimming suit. Seriously, it got ripped right off of her, or rather, she got pulled right out of it. I had to choose: J’s bottoms or J herself? It was a tough choice (we paid 20 bucks for those shorts, they were Roxy brand!). In the end, I went with the kid. She spent the rest of the morning in her underpants. At least she thought it was hilarious.

Abby helping the kids build a sandcastle
Abby helping the kids build a sandcastle
The kids making a new friend
The kids making a new friend
Watching the surfers
Watching the surfers
Still beautiful!
Still beautiful!
J's new friend Eloise.
J’s new friend Eloise.
We didn't catch a crab, but this dog did. All he did was roll in it. Gross.
We didn’t catch a crab, but this dog did. All he did was roll in it. Gross.

Here is videographic evidence of such a wave:

Eventually the waves got big enough that even B had to give up, so we headed to a resort down the beach for lunch. We spent the afternoon enjoying beers and pasta on the beach, watching the local kids play some rousing games of football and “dunk your friends in the ocean” (I’m assuming that’s what it was called).

Afternoon view from the restaurant
Afternoon view from the restaurant
Another view from the patio
Another view from the patio
Having some lunch
Having some lunch
Some kind of deep conversation happening
Some kind of deep conversation happening
Good food & friends
Good food & friends
Also up to no good
Also up to no good
Kid up to no good
Kid up to no good
Watching the fishing boats. Shortly after this, some buffalo walked by
Watching the fishing boats. Shortly after this, some buffalo walked by
More coast views
More coast views

That night, we just stayed in and got drunk. It was a birthday party, after all. I don’t have any photos, so you will just have to believe me.

Returning

Sunday morning came early, as usual, with a bright-eyed J up and at ’em at 5 am on the dot. We Cayas tend to have a GTFO attitude on the last day of a vacation, ready to just throw everything in the car at 5:30 and head out. I hate suffering under the looming trip home. But we waited it out to spend a few more precious hours on the beach. And drink some caffeine.

Mid morning, we headed out back on the road, thinking it couldn’t possibly be worse than the trip up. WE WERE SO WRONG. First of all, it took us nearly two hours just to get away from the coast. It would appear that every person on the island of Java was at the beach that day. And there was only one lane of the road open because of construction.

Heading out on the road
Heading out on the road
So repaving a road here means literally putting a whole new road on top, so it's basically unusable until it is done. Real helpful.
So repaving a road here means literally putting a whole new road on top, so it’s basically unusable until it is done. Real helpful.
Stuck in traffic...
Stuck in traffic…
Stuck in traffic behind bananas
Stuck in traffic behind bananas
Aaaaannd now, chickens
Aaaaannd now, chickens

It took another six hours to make it through the mountains and back into Bogor. At one point, we literally sat still in traffic for about an hour. It was a long ride… But we made it home in time for a dinner of fruit loops and peanut butter. We live a charmed life.

Moral of the story: Don’t go to Pelabuhan ratu.

Bonus feature. We found this video on the camera that LittleB took of himself. He appears to be narrating our lunch at the resort on Saturday. It’s amazing, so we figured we should share it with the internet. Enjoy!

Retreat in tea country

While many of you were filling up on turkey and pumpkin pie, I was spending a few days on a work retreat. Our group hasn’t done this very often (so I’m told), and it was a nice way to wind down the annual meeting.

We drove up the mountains from Bogor, into an area called Puncak, where there are many tea plantations and the air is cooler. We spent the night in a resort hotel that caters to large groups and corporate sessions. Basically, it was a chance for my team and our division to brainstorm about what is working well, what’s not, and what will be our priorities for the coming months. It was perfect timing for me personally, since it really helped me get to know my colleagues and employees, and invest in the start of our relationships.

The resort ran a number of team-building sessions which were actually quite fun, despite being mostly in Bahasa. We ended the day today with a hilarious game of “dress the cowboy”, where your team takes turns gathering clothes for your cowboy (another team member). The previous day, we played a bunch of observation games and outdoor activities. Then we sang the night away in the karaoke bar. I don’t have pictures of the fun stuff, and I probably wouldn’t have posted them even if I did, but here are a few shots of the drive and the hotel grounds (from the moving car – sorry!):

Unfortunately, I was on the other side of the car from this view, so I had to get someone else to keep taking pictures.
You can start to see the farmed fields of tea bushes. And the picturesque cell towers.
It was a bit hazy, but I managed to finally get a good shot of some of the local mountains. We’re headed into the Puncak pass now.
The nice thing about being management is the fact that you get a room to yourself! By the way, that bed was about 3 metres wide… I slept diagonally because it felt so silly to be crammed to one side. And the other side was feeling left out.
I always like to judge a hotel by the quality of its bathrooms. This one was reasonably good. At least the hot water was plentiful.
This was the patio connected to my room
A fountain in the hotel courtyard
This is where we had lunch – that’s the pond at the top of a little waterfall.
There’s a reason why all the rooms and restaurants were named with “bamboo” in the title
Some of the friends I’ve made.
Heading home. Another perk of management: I got to ride in the director’s car instead of the group bus. This was a lucky shot of the beautiful mist gathering before an afternoon storm.
Around the other side of the mountain

So now I’m home safe and sound, with two days’ of work and emails to do tonight. So I’m posting on here instead. I’m going to leave you with a little peek into the true horror of surprise banana – caught on camera for the first time!

Mmmm… a delicious pastry with chocolate on top. What could go wrong with that? Looks perfect.
Wait, something’s not right… Damnit, surprise banana!!