turtles, batu hiu and mojitos… a day unlike the others

Yesterday we decided that it was about time that we got out of the village and went and saw some of the sites that the tourists travel so far to come and see.

So, we (Sara, our wonderful new Belgian friend Emilie and myself) left the village early in the morning and headed out to Batu Hiu (Shark Rock) which is about a fifteen minute drive from Batu Karas over the bamboo bridge and  the little towns of Cijulang and Parigi. Batu Hiu is reached by an incredible coast road that takes my breath away every time I drive down it. Sapphire sea as far as you can see lined with dark sand and bright green rice fields. It’s just perfection.

Emilie with an 8 month old turtle

When we got to Batu Hiu we went in search of a little turtle rehabilitation centre that we had heard about. When we got there, it seemed like it was a little disappointing. Three tiled pools were in the back of a tiny dilapidated building and inside the pools floated some beautiful turtles. It looked like something set up as a cheap tourist gimmick, but as we all know, looks can be very deceiving. The program was actually very positive, they just don’t have the money to develop their site any further. The money goes to the turtles and their care. Although the water was pretty dirty – turtles poo a lot apparently, most of the turtles looked very well cared for.

I could have stayed here forever.

There were two occupied pools one with big turtles at about 8 months old and the other with turtles that were only a couple of months. We were very lucky to be allowed to pick them up and stroke their soft skin and feel the weight that they acquire as they get bigger. Soon they would be released into the ocean at Batu Hiu beach, once they are strong enough to survive, and when the new batch of eggs hatch and room needs to be made for the babies to grow.

spectacular views from Batu Hiu

We then headed off to Batu Hiu and climbed through the mouth of the shark and up the hill to see some of the most incredible views of coastland I’ve seen in my life time. When I got to the top I sat on the grass with my camera and just watched the world breathe. There is something absolutely phenomenal about just taking in the world around you when all you hear is silence and its as if you are the only person on earth. The sea swells and spits white wash at a silent sand. Rocks and trees and creatures live here, breathe here, grow here, existing. I spent a long time watching some local fishermen casting their lines off the rocky cliffs into the belly of the sea.

When we climbed back down again we stopped at a little warung to get soome breakfast. Some soto ayam (chicken soup) and a young coconut is to this day the most filling, delicious and healthy breakfast that you can devour. The salty soup is packed with crunchy chicken, soft noodles and crisp warm vegetables. And there is nothing better than a young coconut, sipping its water and sucking on its flesh. Coconuts have an important history in this country, as they do in a lot of Asian countries, as the water (not milk) of a coconut is completely safe and sanitary to drink straight from the sea. And in a country where the local water will make you sick, before bottled water was the norm, coconut water saved many villages from sickness.


It was sad to hear the old woman who served us talk about the lack of tourism and money that exists in this little village of Batu Hiu (much smaller than even Batu Karas). When the tsunami hit this part of the world in 2006 (a much less known tsunami than the 2001 asian tsunami) the coastal towns were devastated. Batu Karas was flattened in places and there were many deaths. But at least our village stretches inland so many were protected. Batu Hiu exists on a point where there is nothing but sea and the majority of the village is stretched out against the coast, and there was true devastation not only at the time, but even now. Tourism has suffered greatly and it is what many of the locals in these villages need to survive. But since the tsunami, less people come to visit, there is less money to rebuild, and they are all suffering.

We drove on to Pangandaran a small town a 45 minute drive from Batu Karas. It’s the place to be if you want to go hunting (for the ladies) according to my local friends in Batu Karas, where the choice of girls to date is pretty slim. It is also the place to go if you need something a little more than what is offered in the villages. We stopped at a favourite cafe of ours right on the beach, where you sit in comfy cane chairs and they serve their own twist on the much loved Mojito. We ordered a pitcher, which was actually a teapot, and came with three shot glasses instead of normal glasses. So we sipped at our shooters and ate Roti Bakar – and indonesian favourite – of baked bread with chocoloate and butter. Delicious.

roti bakar and mini mo's

A cream bath, yoghurt, a key copied, and something alcoholic to drink other than beer or arak were on on the list and subsequenlty checked off the list as we made our way around the winding streets of Pangandaran. We were also hunting for hotel rooms as we plan to do the drive down next week and have a big night, stay the night in a nice hotel and bake by the pool the next day. Sometimes it really is necessary for a change of scenery.

relaxing in Pangandaran

When the list was complete and we were all satisfied with a day away from the village, we climbed back on to our bikes and ventured back in the mid afternoon sun toward Batu Karas.

There is a certain joy that comes to me when I eat local food in its truest form. And I definitely had one of those experiences when we drove back through Parigi. When you hit the village of Parigi there is a petrol station (one of very few in the area) and across the road is the pasar (market) where I do my fruit and veg shopping. At about 4pm every afternoon a little warung appears on the side of the road outside the market. I’d heard about it, but I’d never seen it. Friends have told me that it is the best place to eat the local Indonesian/Sundanese food in true style – and for next to nothing.

makan makan

So when we saw it we stopped. we sat, and we ate like we had never eaten before. I can’t describe the food, it was so incredible. A gentle combination of soft meats, tofu and crisp cucumber that makes up the majority of the local food was all served here. BUt this was something very special. Rice cooked in banana leaves, opened with a cough of steam, waits for you to  dress it in flavours from the coast and surrounding hills of South West Java. Spicy noodles, green tofu, little striped squash, sambal, yellow chicken steamed in spices and banana leaves, perfect little beans fried and soft and buttery. My tongue burns from panas and pedas – both the heat and the spice. And even when I’ve had my fill, the wonderful Ibu is bringing out more choices for the evening service, baked fish that you tear apart and crunch on their tails, fried chicken that begs you to eat it. But I’ve had my fill. So I sip my tea and wait for the bill. For all three of us to eat all this and more it cost 20,000rp which is the equivalent to about $2.10AUD. We gave her 50,000rp and told her to keep the change. How food can possibly be that cheap I will never understand.


We headed back to Batu Karas full and satisfied from the day, we made mojito’s and took them to the beach and lay on the sand as the sun set. We were joined by some local friends and told stories of vespas being fixed and unsuccessful fishing. We sat together, drinking, smoking, thinking. The group ebbed and flowed like the ocean that lay before us, getting bigger and smaller with time. The first clear night in a while was stitched with thousands of stars. A sequined blanket that we lay under for hours chatting, gazing, relaxing.

It had been another perfect day.

Barefoot inked. Skin browned. Belly full.

2 Responses to “turtles, batu hiu and mojitos… a day unlike the others”
  1. Graham brown says:

    I would love to travel to this village it sounds fantastic, my partner and I are looking for somewhere different we font surf but do dive/ snorkel !! We are from the Uk and have done Oz and N/z and Singapore !! Keep the blog up

  2. Well, Pangandaran is wonderful! 😀

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