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Tung Tung Gunung and a week of culture

You probably already checked the pictures of Cahyana River and our first descent of Tung Tung Gunung River at my Duemstuff blog. Here is a full story:

Cahyana flows in an artificial irrigation channel, maybe an hour away from Tirtaseta’s house. In a short stretch there are four fun waterfalls and one of the nastiest little weirs I had ever seen before. While there was a dead goat stuck in a weir to remind us of what could happen to us, the rest of the waterfalls are totally safe and really fun. Maybe the most fun fact is that you can’t really control the angle of your boat on 3 of them because of a concrete kicker at the bottom of slides. You almost certainly end up disappearing in a waterfall while flying. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun and even a drive there was a bomb as it is a nice experience to be driven (and to film) in an old 1980 Tirtaseta kayak van.

Filming the way to Cahyana

A slide before the last Cahyana boof

Nafi boofing

Me at the first Cahyana drop

Oh yeah, what is it with these snakes in Indonesia? When I was walking to set up the camera on the first Cahyana waterfall I stumbled upon a big, massive, green and I don’t know what kind of a snake heading towards me – really fast and really close. To an amusement of construction workers on the other side of the river, I ran away like my feet were burning. I wonder what they would have done if they were in my shoes?

In the evening guys explained that we intend to do a first descent mission on Tung Tung Gunung River next day. Sigit, Puji and some other guys already did a descent of its lower section, while we would be attempting the part just above it. Chef Sigit drew a colourful image of the river and surrounding nature in my mind by telling us about some funny experience he had there. Apparently there are also pine trees in Java (I didn’t know that before) as his story relates to his meeting with a panther in a pine forest next to Tung Tung Gunung. What a fine storyteller he is as we had loads of laughs hearing about it. And yes, he also survived to tell the story.

Next day was to be a magnificent one. The field next to Tung Tung Gunung and a view it offers can only be described as sublime. It didn’t feel real to be there with kayaks on our shoulders. Kayaking, an activity I love so much, is usually accompanied with cold water and heavy dry suites. But here we were on a tropic island, wearing only some boardshorts and rashguards. First views of the gorge made me a very happy man as a smooth canyon with some big boulders unveiled in front of me. Water level was quite low, but still good enough to go. It felt like being in a low volume Corsica creek but with warmer water, more green and a few more palm trees. A creek was a not too hard but still exciting descent with some nice slides and short cataracts.

A view from the path

Sigit on one of the rapids

With unaccounted for number of creeks still to be discovered and paddled for the first time here in central Java and Indonesia in general, this creek just raised my expectations a mile high. Unfortunately water level is an issue in Indonesia. No snow means only rainy season is good to go. It rains here almost every day but usually not enough to decently fill all the creeks up. So you kind of have to be lucky to come here when it rains a lot. We attempted Tung Tung Gunung on a normal day without rain and it was still good to go. Some creeks, as they tell me, have a regular flow above minimum water level, while most runable upper sections need more rain. TungTung Gunung for instance has an even upper section, which we had to leave for the next time. But it sure shows much potential for an extreme bigger water run.

The week that followed was a very busy one, but more culture oriented. I got an ear infection so I didn’t mind too much that we didn’t do any kayaking. We spent a whole Monday following a traditional brown (coconut) sugar production process and we also visited some traditional Banyumas style “Batik” clothes painters which are unfortunately a last generation of women that know how to practice this dying art in this village.

And so it begins: Sigit’s uncle climbing a coconut tree

…and collecting a sweet coconut tree juice

A hard working family cooking the juice

Collecting a still liquid sugar

A final product: brown coconut sugar

Batik Painting

I like to believe I’m getting a clearer image of how people live in Purbalingga and of how things are changing here. People are very much proud of their old Javanese culture and language. The atmosphere of the town and villages is a unique mixture of Muslim, contemporary and Indo-Javanese features. An old and poor looking Indonesian “warung” next to a beautiful Javanese style culture centre and a mighty Arab style mosque are what first meets the eye. Private houses are very much similar to European, but usually only one floor tall. Five times a day whole country is overwhelmed by the sounds of prayer, which gives much character to a day. It is especially mythical not to stand too close to a single loudspeaker as prayers from different locations start blending into what seems as an ever repeating eco. On the other hand a motorcycle traffic jams and internet gaming cafes give city a taste of contemporary city rush.

But the people here are what gives most character to this land. I am aware that almost no western tourists come here, which is why I am so much more interesting to them. But the fact that I am always accompanied by smiles, greetings and open conversation (sometimes only attempts), just powers me up through the days. That is the benefit of visiting a non tourism developed parts of the country: people still treat you as a guest.

One day I decided to do some evening jogging in the rain through some back alleys. When looking at surprised faces of the people sitting in front of their houses, I couldn’t help to laugh while imagining what the scene must have looked like to them. They probably hadn’t seen a white man for months and then they saw one running by their house at dusk and in thunderstorm… A hard concept to register I guess.

An evening thunderstorm: A common view from our house

In the mean time I feel being on vacations with old friends here in Tirtaseta house. They all have a great sense of humour so we never run out of interesting conversations accompanied by much laughter.

We’ll be attempting new first descents in next days. In the mean time here are some pictures from other things we did during the week: I gave an interview on national radio and we visited local high schools where we presented kayaking to children and what it could bring to them and their community.

Radio interview

School presentation

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