Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Day 04 : Kawah Putih, Bandung

We started Day 4 of our trip quite early as we had made plans to spend half of the day sightseeing and the other half shopping. Given the distances that we planned to travel, we decided the day before to charter a taxi for the whole day which cost us 500,000 Rph excluding toll charges and entry fees. After having a simple but filling breakfast of nasi goreng prepared by our homestay host, we left Bandung heading to even higher altitudes to visit the craters that the area was famous for. While most visitors to Bandung would head towards Tangkuban Perahu for their spot of crater sightseeing, we opted instead to visit the less popular and more distant Kawah Putih crater.

Being less popular meant that even some taxi drivers had trouble figuring out how to get there which unfortunately included our taxi driver. He had to stop a few times along the way to ask for directions to Kawah Putih from the locals which gave us a chance to appreciate the surrounding scenery. The drive to Kawah Putih took us nearly 2 hours through the town of Kapo where the narrow single lane road was crowded with all manner of vehicles. Quite a number of times our taxi was surrounded by other cars, buses, lorries, becak, horse drawn carts and not to mention pedestrians on foot. It was definitely the image that one would conjure when thinking about the population density of Java. Looking back, I think the massive number of people on the road could be attributed to what seemed to me to be their market day since everyone seems to be converging to the main market there.

After the chaos of Kapo, the traffic began to thin out as we approach the winding roads into Ciwedey. As the roads start to wind into higher altitudes, the temperature began to noticeably dropped into more welcomed coolness compared to the muggy temperature in the lowlands. Due to the lower temperate temperatures, Ciwedey was also famous for it’s strawberry which one could see planted in plots outside of almost every other house in the area. All these plots had signs that invited people to stop and pick their own strawberries but unfortunately for us, their strawberries were not in season and we could not stop to pick them. We did get a spot to stop where we got to stretch out our legs and take photos of the surrounding padi fields and strawberry plots to remember the place by.

(R: Padi terrace and L: Strawberry plots at Ciwidey)

(Strawberries not yet ready for picking at Chiwidey)

After the long drive, we finally reached the entrance to the Kawah Putih park where we had to pay 45,000 Rph for the 4 of us and for the car since we can drive the car all the way up to the crater site. There was some parking space at the entrance if we chose hike the distance up the mountain instead but the 20 minute drive looked steep and hiking would definitely tire us out faster at this altitude. In addition to the visitors parking, there was also a sign that pointed to an off road buggy adventure course at the foot of the mountain that looked like fun. Since we did not plan to break our necks speeding in the woods in buggies, we gave it a miss as we began our ascent higher into the part. The road leading to the crater site was fairly well maintained if not a wee bit on the narrow side. Thankfully it didn’t have a lot of twists to it which made it less challenging for the motion-sickness inclined person like myself.

(Sign at entrance to Kawah Putih, Ciwidey, Bandung)

We soon reach the parking space designated for cars and minivans near the crater site. From there, we had to walk up a little bit more before we reach the crater proper. True to it’s lesser popularity, there were only a few shops opened selling food and trinkets in the area and there were less visitors at Kawah Putih than I would assume would be in Tangkuban Perahu. The air was definitely cooler up there as we started our walk up to the crater. Passing the people selling shawls and headgear for more cooler days as well as the numerous strawberry stands (15,000 Rph per box), we finally saw our first sight of the crater lake of Kawah Putih. We could of course smell the sulfur coming out of it but the surreal greenish-white lake surrounded by mist quickly made us forget the smell that surrounded us.

(On approach to the Kawah Putih lake)

It was like nothing I have ever seen in Malaysia. The rainwater that had accumulated in the crater mixed with the minerals in the ground and heated by the volcanic heat still present in the area gave it it’s unique coloring. I would think that with the sulfur that was previously mined in the area, the waters would be more yellowish but is was not so at the lake. I’m guessing there were other elements in play (lead?) which gave it the greenish-white hue to the waters. Since the crater lake was not a very big one, we were able to walk almost all the way around it except to the parts where the lake met the almost vertical crater lip that towered high above the lake level. The water itself was quite warm to the touch and supposedly the waters were therapeutic for some skin diseases but we didn’t go wading into the lake especially where there were no signs indicating that it was safe to walk into the lake.

(Some views surrounding the lake)

There were still a lot of trees surrounding the lake and a lot of them were twisted and gnarled for what I’m guessing was the effect of the composition of the soil there. According to the literature, there hasn’t been any historical eruption of the crater so there were not many signs of volcanic activity in the area apart from the crater and the heated lake. As we walked around the lake, winds would occasionally gust through the treetops down into the crater lake which lifted the mist that blanketed most of it. This gave us views of the other side of the lake where it met the vertical crater lip on the other side of the lake bank. Of course the mist would quickly descend down again once the winds stopped blowing to hide everything again in it’s cool embrace.

(Sample of vegetation surrounding the lake)

(Scenes that we saw when the mist was blown off the lake surface by the winds)

We spent almost 2 hours at the lake taking pictures of it and ourselves at the lake knowing that it was not something that we get to see that often. For me personally, it was something that I always dreamed to see and here I was seeing the beauty of a lake in a crater of a volcano in Indonesia. It was then that I really felt that this trip was becoming all that I had planned and dreamed about and that this was really just the beginning of our journey of discovery.

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1 comment:

Chen said...

wow! the place looks very mysterious !