I have mentioned JavaIndo Tours and our guide, Iksan, several times but wanted to give a special mention about Iksan and his career dream. Iksan is about 30, with a wife and small son. They live about an hour’s drive from Yogyakarta and he routinely gets up at 3 am to go to work. He often takes people on tour from 6:30 am to 7 pm, and then goes home, rarely seeing his son when he’s awake. He has been in the tour business for six years.
I can’t say enough about how attentive he was to our tour needs. Twice he rearranged what we would do based on our requests; he was a great help getting into the tourist sites; and he shared a great deal of knowledge with us about what we were seeing, and Javanese and Indonesian culture. Iksan had many questions for me about America during our three days of touring.
Iksan, however, is not satisfied. He wants to start his own business, and he showed us
exactly where that would be – in his home village. On our third and final day of touring, which he rearranged so that we could go to a less-touristy beach – Parangtritis Beach – we also visited the valley where he lives. It is about an hour’s drive from Jogja in the mountains that separate the plains area from the Indian Ocean.
First, we traveled on a one-lane road up the mountainside, fields of rice, corn, sugar cane, peanuts and other crops filling seemingly every space available, and terraced where necessary, while higher up teak and mahogany trees lined the road. When someone was coming in the opposite direction, one of you would have to find somewhere on the side of the road to squeeze the other by. Interestingly, the roads were in much better shape than on our trip to Dieng, where there was heavy truck traffic, including many logging trucks, that tore up the pavement.
On the way up, we stopped at a place where they make one of the food staples of these
mountain people – putu. This takes the place of rice, which apparently is expensive for them. Putu consists of shaved cassava and a sweetener, which is combined in single servings, cooked over an open fire and then served. Or, in our case, placed into small boxes to eat later. We bought five for $2 to eat later. This dish turned out to be very good, especially after our meager breakfast.
Cassava is an annual crop grown in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy root, and a major source of carbohydrates. Cassava, when dried to a powdery extract, is called tapioca. Cassava is the third largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and corn, and is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people.
Next we entered a park-like area, another small fee to enter, with lots of paved walkways and steps to negotiate once we parked the SUV. We were now in the Jembatan Gantung Imogiri region. Iksan led us to an overlook that peered down into his valley, a brown river flowing, with rapids, several hundred meters straight down. Off to one side, the river meandered through jungle, the mountain rising up on either side. On the other side you could see houses and farmland. Unfortunately, the clouds were covering much of the landscape and a storm would soon arrive.
I told Iksan that if a developer ever saw his valley, it might one day become a resort area with hotels, restaurants and maybe even a golf course. The beach is only a half-hour away. He has smaller plans.
For Iksan, his village is an ideal location for a village bicycle tour and kampung home stays. He wants to market primarily to younger backpackers who would like to live in a remote kampung with a family in their home, eat their food and see their lifestyle. It’s a fairly small tourist niche but he has a great location for it. Currently, he is working on his off hours to make sure he has all the right kind of people and experiences in place before he starts to market his tour.
I promised him I would give his idea a shout out on this blog. We also talked about ways he could market his tour via Facebook or his own blog. If you would like more information, please contact Iksan at +62 818 0400 7008.
After visiting Iksan’s kampung, we headed for Parangtritis Beach. Again, there was a small entrance fee, plus parking fee once we arrived. The area was very busy with food and souvenir hawkers, and warungs everywhere serving simple Indonesian foods. The traffic was thick, with many tour buses. It was, after all, New Year’s day.
The beach is black sand, wide and very long. At the eastern end where we first arrived, the crowd was large, the beach littered from the fireworks party the night before. (I hate how people trash the beach on New Year’s and, in the U.S., the 4th of July.) I couldn’t wait, however, to get my feet into the water, which was warm. Via was equally excited.
We then drove up the beach through an area with hardly anyone present, although the beach looked even better, until we came to another crowded beach. This was where we were to have a seafood lunch. This was a fishing village beach and the colorful pontoon fishing boats were parked only yards from the watger’s edge, waiting for the end of the day, when the fisherment would launch for a night of fishing.
The “restaurant” was actually a long string of warungs along the beach, each serving the
same food. Almost all the seating was Javanese style, meaning low tables and sitting on the floor, which I cannot do with my knee situation. We finally found one warung with regular tables, the Narotama, which was the last warung in the string.
Via had her heart set on ordering crab but they didn’t have any so opted for a very spicy prawn soup. I know it was spicy because I tried a small sip and had trouble breathing. I decided on ikan bakar (BBQ fish). Iksan and our driver joined us and someone ordered small clams, which are very spicy. We added a plate of greens and a big bowl of rice to share. We shared everything, including the fish (I had one). They also brought me a warm Bintang.
Iksan, I think, was worried the scene was maybe a little too “rustic” for a bule but I assured him it was exactly what I was looking for. I would much rather this day’s experience than touring some temples. I was the only bule I saw all day.
The one problem I had with all the touring, however, was the fixation with getting to the tourist site,
bypassing much of what I wanted to experience and photograph. I missed so many wonderful pictures on this trip as we motored on by. It was frustrating. But on the way back to our hotel on this last day in Yogyakarta, we did stop along the side of the road so I could take some pictures of rice farmers.