Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Into The Caves Of Kebumen

My darlings, have you ever explored caves? There are many beautiful caves here in Indonesia, and the following is my experience venturing the caves of Kebumen in 2008. Kebumen is a small city in the southern coast of Java, it's the home of my maternal grandmother. Here goes the story...

Bored with the cityscape and in desperate need to find a better self, I went to Kebumen and explored the caves with cousine Dina. And what an awesome experience I had. First, we went to Jatijajar cave. Located 42 kilometers from Kebumen, it took us 1.5 hours to get there. When we got there, there was no one in sight.

I would never get why people love to vandalize such beautiful limestone cave.

"Is it safe if we go in without any guide?” I asked.
“I guess so. Come on,” Dina said.

So we walked in. There are electric lamps and cave openings at the ceiling that gave light inside the cave. But the atmosphere was still a bit eerie. We approached a stairway and started to descend when some winged-creatures flew about.

“Are those bats?” Dina asked as she cautiously stared at the creatures.
“Bats don’t trouble me. It is snakes I’m worry about,” I said, also staring at the creatures.

I was just shutting my mouth and casted my eyes about, when lo and behold, I saw a snake going up swiftly from I-don’t-know-where! It was a long dark brown snake, and its size was equal to my arm. Rooted to the spot, I winked hard, trying to convince myself that I was not daydreaming. 

“Look…look,” I whispered to Dina.
“Look what?” she asked, dazed and confused.

I couldn’t say another word. I simply turned my head, following the snake that climbed up the cave behind us. She followed the direction of my eyes and quickly grabbed my arm.

“Oh, my God,” she whispered back.

We stayed speechless and motionless for the next few minutes or so, until the snake left our sight.

“Should we go back or continue?” I asked her.

Go back meant we could meet that snake again. Continue meant it was possible that we met more snakes ahead.

“I guess we’d better go ahead,’ she said.
We descended the steps slowly, hand in hand. The further we walked, the darker the cave became. We walked faster whenever we heard sounds. Pale and panting, we left the cave almost running. And we were greeted by a cave guide.

“So how do you find the cave?” he asked politely.
“We found a snake,” I blurted.
“Was it a tail-less one? If it was, you don’t have to worry. It’s a keeper,” he said.

How was I supposed to know if it was tail less? I only watched its head to ensure that it’s not a cobra or a sidewinder rattle. (Gee, I’ve been watching too much Discovery programs) We asked the guide whether he could accompany us back into the cave since we didn't enjoy our first cave exploration. Sure, he said, it's his job. Off we went and this time no snake came into sight.

Normal girls will go to other tourism sites after encountering a snake in a cave. I guess we're not normal as we decided to venture Petruk cave, located 7 kilometers from Jatijajar cave, before going to Ayah beach.

Why Jatijajar and Petruk? Jatijajar cave got its name from two jati trees in front of the cave, while Petruk cave from a stalactite resembling Petruk's nose in front of the cave. The trees and the stalactite are no longer exist nowadays.

Span at 350 meters, Petruk cave is a three-storey cave. The guide said that it would took four hours to explore the whole cave. It's too bad, I said, we only had one hour. Petruk cave has no electricity network, so we had to rely on a petromaks lamp. The cave guide constantly asked whether we really wanted to explore the cave. Because many people were afraid to come in when they reached the mouth of the cave, he said.

Was it a wake up call to leave the cave or simply an expression of admiration? We decided to take it as the latter and walked into the cave, after changing our footwear with rubber sandals. It was necessary since the cave floor was covered with bat droppings (ugh, the smell!). In some parts of the cave, the underground river drenched our feet.

No snakes inside Petruk cave (alhamdulillah), but we saw a lot of jungkang (a kind of cricket, but they are huge and look like cockroaches) and a transparent shrimp with huge claws,swimming backwards as it avoided the lamp light. Cute creature. (This was the part where I wished I had that state-of-the-art DSLR camera because my digital pocket camera just did not do justice to the beauties found there. Argh.)

Even though it was pitch black inside the cave, there were a lot of cave wonders we found. The more we went into the depth of the cave, the more unique stalactites and stalagmites we found. There is a face-shaped stalagmite and a dragon-shaped stalactite. It is with great regrets that we had to leave the cave and headed for the beach.

When we reached the beach some 20 minutes later, the public minivan driver politely asked whether we wanted to spend the night at the beach. Of course not, I said, we would leave in 30 minute, just until the sunset.

"But I'm the last minivan," he said. It was 4.50 p.m. (I always forgot that Kebumen has no late bus service like Jakarta does)

There we were, the beach was just a stone throw away (if the stone was thrown by Hagrid) and the waves were calling, but we had to go back?

"Would you mind waiting us for 15 minutes? We won't be long," I asked.

He nodded. And we ran to the beach, took as many photos we could as if our cameras were machine guns and ran back to the road. I felt like James Bond. Mission accomplished. Phew!

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