The Story of How I Decided To Summit An Active Volcano With No Training or Preparation Whatsoever

Gunung Merapi, which literally translated means mountain of fire, is one the biggest active volcanoes in Indonesia. Earlier this year I was feeling a little restless at work and had the bright idea to attempt to summit the Mountain of Fire with two ex-military guys.

For context, I’d been back in Jakarta for about a year and wanted to start hiking. One of the things on my bucket list is climbing Mt Rinjani in Lombok (which HG & DR did just last year), and I was looking for a few easier hikes to start training for it. Merapi sounded like a solid choice for a first serious hike as it was accessible from Jogja and could be completed in a day, i.e. without having to carry a ton of camping equipment around. The trek from basecamp to summit was supposed to take about 4.5 hours.

I can do that, I thought. I’ll be fine.

I definitely underestimated the Mountain of Fire. Let me just make this clear—Merapi is a beast of a hike. It’s not the distance, which is a manageable 3.4 kilometres from basecamp to the summit. It’s not the altitude, which is just under 3,000m above sea level. And it’s not the trail, which is a single meandering path up the mountain that’s actually quite well-marked. But the thing that I didn’t know was this: Merapi is insanely steep.

You know how even decently fit people find themselves a little out of breath after running up a flight of stairs? Imagine climbing up escalator steps for five hours—for some sections of the hike, it was more like two escalator steps at a time—and then imagine doing that with an extra 10 kilograms on your back. And all the while, you’re racing time to make it to the summit in time for the spectacular sunrise you’ve been promised.

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The hike is broken up into five sections. By taking the distance and dividing it by the estimated time it would take, you can tell that the section between Pos I and Pos II is the steepest and most difficult. That and the final scramble up to the summit itself, of course.

The other thing about hiking Merapi is that you have to start in the middle of the night, because during the day the active volcano emits more sulphurous gases. Full confession: this hike was only my second all-nighter ever. But as someone once said, adventure gets out of bed before the sun does!

(Okay, it was me. I said it.)

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Adventure gets out of bed before the sun does, but once the sun is up feel free to take naps. Stef took a nap out in the open, exposed to the winds at high altitude, which in hindsight was not the best idea. When he woke up 20 minutes later, his body’s core temperature had dropped and he had to put on extra layers, huddle in the carne, and drink hot tea to warm up again.

We started the hike at 1 am, and it was painfully steep from the get-go. Within 10 minutes I was gasping for breath and wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. Of course it was no problem for my ex-military hiking companions, but I kept needing to pause for breath, and soon enough the three of us were trailing behind the rest of the group. Stef, seeing me struggling, offered to take my water pack and some of my extra weight. Still, it was tough going.

But there was no turning around, there was no going home, there was no sitting on a rock in the jungle by myself waiting 7 hours for everyone to go up and come back down. In a way, quitting simply wasn’t an option, and that kept me going, taking step after step after step. Eventually I relaxed into the rhythm, going at my own pace. I stopped worrying about trying to keep up with the pack, or making it to the summit by sunrise, and focused instead on just doing the hike (and surviving it).

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It was, in a way, oddly therapeutic.

Picture the scene: it’s 0200 or 0300 in the middle of the night—you’ve lost track of the time in your sleep-deprived haze—and you’re making your way slowly up the side of a volcano.

There are no lights for miles around, except for the torch strapped onto your forehead, cutting a swath of light through the darkness ahead. There’s a cool breeze every once in a while, rustling the leaves of the trees around you. Other than that, the only audible sounds are the scuff and step of hiking boots and the rhythm of your own laboured breathing.

At some point, the forest thins out and you catch a glimpse of the view.
It’s dark, of course, but you realize you’re standing near the edge of the mountain, with a steep drop-off. Below you is a scattered sea of lights, dimly lit and twinkling in the night.

You realize you’re looking down into the valley, into sleeping towns, and you realize how high up you are. That feeling—of standing on the edge of the world, of having made it this far up—made the aching in my legs fade.

That moment kept me moving, kept me reaching, kept me pushing myself.

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At about 05AM, we stopped by a little cave just below the Pasar Bubrah station. This far above the treeline, the ground was sparse and rocky, but just as steep. My body felt exhausted and one of the guys was starting to get cramps in his legs. We decided to stop at the cave to avoid aggravating our pre-existing injuries, and because although I had just enough energy left to make it to the summit, I didn’t know if I’d be able to get all the way back down the volcano after that.

The three of us swung our packs off our tired shoulders, drank lots of water, ate some snacks, and made ourselves comfortable while we waited for the sunrise.

We didn’t have long to wait. All around us, the endless darkness began to lift. The blackness became a grey, and then took on an orange tinge. Slowly the forms began to emerge—the blanket of clouds under us, the creases and ridges in the mountain.

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Our cameras were out and we began shooting. It was cold, the wind whipping around us as we stood exposed on the side of the mountain. My fingers grew numb and I got to the point where I put it away and just stood there, watching the sun come up, watching colours flood back into the landscape, watching our surreal, otherworldly surroundings come into view.

It made everything worth it, huddled there together above the clouds, with an amazing 270 degree panorama around us. The ache in our muscles dulled and stilled, and it felt all the better because the pounding ache reminded us that we’d earned it, in a sense.

Soon, our guide came back down the mountain to pick us up and head back down. We stumbled down the mountain with shaking jelly legs, using hands to scramble down the steep route, grabbing on to branches and rocks to take some weight and pressure off our legs. To be honest, it was a miracle that none of us fell head over heels on all the way down, but we made it in one piece.

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Climbing the Mountain of Fire was a long ordeal. We set off at 1 am, and didn’t get back down to base camp at 10 am. Is it crazy to say that in my mental calculations, I had only thought of it as a one-way journey? I had envisioned 4-5 hours of comfortable walking, and instead spent 9 hours pushing my physical limits on a difficult terrain on an incline that killed me. The next day I could hardly walk, and everything hurt.

But were there any regrets? None.

We fought gravity for four and a half hours, snatched 20 minutes of sleep in a little cave, soaked up a beautiful sunrise against striking mountains, and welcomed a new day from above the clouds.

The rest of that Jogja trip is another story to come. But until then, I urge you: Go climb your mountain! Go do something big and bold and outrageous. Go outside your comfort zone, but stay within your limits. I promise you won’t regret it.

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To more adventures and stories to tell,

SL. (@sofietyger)

 

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A Heart-Warming Lesson From Going Solo to Ijen Crater

Just like the famous and phenomenal Star Wars franchise, which has a prequel to its first original 3 episodes, this post would be the prequel to my last post. Before the 12 hours I spent in Surabaya, I got to spend two days in Banyuwangi. It’s a small city located in East Java (about 6 hours of train ride from Surabaya) for a hike to Ijen Crater and a motor ride to Baluran National Park (will share about this in other post).

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Back in February I was having two weeks off as I was in between job. Being a real millennial that I am, of course staying in Jakarta and doing nothing would be my last option. With limited budget yet limitless curiosity to explore new places, after a little bit of web-hopping and trackpad-clicking, I was already sitting in a train to Banyuwangi.

I arrived in Banyuwangi at 3pm in the afternoon, and directly headed to a homestay, which was located right in front of the train station. After settling in and cleaning up, I rented a motorcycle and went out to explore the city. But, right now I’m not gonna go into details about Banyuwangi. Let’s save it for another post.

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The Sulphur Mining.

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Don’t I look like a ninja? Pardon the bad quality photo.

To catch sunrise at the summit of Ijen Mountain, I had to wake up at midnight, and leave before 12am because the homestay’s front door will be locked afterwards. However, because I was probably too tired, I overslept and didn’t hear my alarm when it went off. I jumped out of bed at almost 1AM thinking I’ve missed my only chance to hike Ijen Mountain. Thank God, I haven’t.

The front door was already locked, thank God the owner was kind enough to wake up and open it for me. Next thing I knew, I was already on the road using a motorcycle, feeling very much alive. The cold wind kept on slapping my face. The streets were mostly dark and deserted. The locals were already dreaming their way to La la Land. Google Maps told me that it would take me about 1 hour of motor ride. So I put my earphone and sang along to any song that Spotify shuffled for me.

About one hour later, I finally arrived at the entrance of Patulding (the basecamp of Ijen Mountain). I had to pay IDR 5K (if I’m not mistaken) to go in, and also bought a pair of gloves, since the guard was warning me that it might be very cold up there due to the rainy season.

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Waiting for the sunrise

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The road to Patulding was narrow and COMPLETELY DARK. There were neither houses nor streetlights. My only source of light came from the headlight of my motorcycle, and there were also no other vehicles. I was completely alone in the middle of what seemed to be a concrete jungle. After gathering every little bit of courage I could find within me, off into the wood I went! Secretly wishing that I would encounter a car, or other fellow motor rider, or at least a human being walking. There was none.

“No turning back, Bro,” I said to myself. I just gotta continue the ride until I find the Patulding basecamp, which was about 20 minutes later. Traveling alone in the dark at midnight, in the middle of a forest was scary enough. At least, for me. But it didn’t stop there. It started to rain. Not a drizzle. Heavy rain.

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The Perks of Being Twenty Gerson Henry Surabaya Kawah Ijen Banyuwangi Baluran National Park Traveling Lifestyle Solo Travel Indonesia 09

The cartwheel that miners use to carry the sulphur.

The road became slippery and I remember feeling utterly worried that the machine would just give up on me and I had to continue the rest of the trip walking to Patulding. Thank God the motorcycle was tough enough. To make myself feel better, I sang some worship songs out loud (LOL). It was dramatic.

Long story short, after a wonderful (not) trip, I arrived at Patulding Basecamp. Parked my motorcycle, while still shivering, because it was super cold. Gratefully, my camera and iPhone were okay, even though my hip pack was drenched.

Feeling a bit traumatized, my guts level decreased immediately from 100 to almost minus. I was intently planning to hike alone, but after what I had to go through, I buried that plan, and hired a local guide, Mas Yono, instead to accompany me. At first, I thought hiking to Ijen would be a smooth sailing. The pride in me, kept on telling me that since I’ve conquered Rinjani, which is 3726 meters above sea level, going to Ijen (2799 meters above sea level) would be nothing.

I was wrong. You really can’t act cocky towards Mother Nature.

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My signature yellow jacket.

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These cartwheels are used to carry people. Yeap, that explains the pillow haha.

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Breakfast with the locals.

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See? I told you.

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The guides.

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Sulphur as souvenirs.

The hiking itself was easy, but since it was drizzling and foggy, the crater has the potential to release toxic gas that could be dangerous to you, and would make your breathing difficult. Unlike Rinjani that made me walk about 6 hours to reach its summit, Ijen was kind enough to let me walk for about 40-ish minutes.

Sadly, the wind was very strong, and the fog was thick, I couldn’t see the blue fire with my own eyes. I had to be content to see the sulphur miner who were busy extracting one of nature’s precious gems to be sold as souvenir or soaps that could make your skin smooth and clean.

Around 6PM, the sky gets brighter. Sadly, there was no hint of a sunrise at all. It was all clouds and fogs instead. There was a bit of discontentment within me, because I felt like I deserved to witness a clear, mesmerizing view, after such scary trip. So, I waited for another hour. But instead of giving me the glorified sunrays, the sky decided to unleash raindrops.

I sighed. And told myself to be grateful. Because even without the sunrise, the whole trip to Ijen Crater has left quite a memorable story.

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Act like a tourist.

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Meet, Mas Yono.

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The sun started to appear when I was already on my way back.

At 7.30-ish I’m already back at the Patulding basecampe and decided to stay for a while to have a bowl of noodles and hot milk as breakfast. The kind-hearted guide, Mas Yono, waved his goodbye. Before he left, I asked him, whether he’s going to accompany another guest. He shook his head, and replied, “One guest per day is enough. I shall let the other guides to have more guests than me, because unlike the others I have a rice field at home that can be my other source of income.”

I was so inspired by his answer and literally felt something within me got warmer. Probably it’s a gentle knock to my conscience, a reminder not to get greedy with what I have in my hands. There’s better fulfillment in sharing. Sometimes we forget that, especially if we’ve been living in a big city, which has a strong ME-FIRST culture.

There might not be a sunrise for me to watch that morning. But there was something more beautiful to witness. A sincere heart.

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Imagine going through this narrow road at midnight, in total darkness and heavy rain.

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

Twelve Hours in Surabaya

We’re always in the search of happiness. Some people find it through social interaction, some through building networks. Some through relationships, some through achievements. I, myself, often find happiness through exploring new places and getting lost in between. This is why traveling seems to be one of the primary tools that would keep me refreshed. Just like what DR said in his latest post, travel is essential. If I may add, it’s essential to keep me sane.

Perhaps it’s the millennials part of me, I don’t mind spending some of my savings for a little break from the daily routines and crazy schedules. Some people argue that our generation don’t really care about settling down, let alone buying a house for our future family. All we care for is making memories through a series of adventures. Is this really becoming a dangerous trait for our generation? Well, everyone can have their own thought about this. Let’s have a convo over coffee if you’re interested to have a further discussion about this. But for now, I’m not here for that subject.

I’m here to share one of the exploration I had during my last visit to the capital of East Java. Some of you have already asked me to share the complete itinerary via Instagram’s message, pardon me for the delay, but it’ll be up in the blog soon.

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12 hours train ride to the east of Java.

So after spending two days in Banyuwangi for a hike to Ijen Crater and a motor-ride to Baluran National Park, I took a train ride to Surabaya and had about 12 hours to kill before my flight back to Jakarta. All I could think about the moment my train arrived in Gubeng Station (Surabaya’s train station) was to immediately order online transportation and go to Depot Bali (Jalan Makam Peneleh 30). If you’re in Surabaya, their Nasi Babi Peneleh is A MUST! Tripadvisor even put it as Surabaya’s Best Balinese Nasi Babi. Good news is, they-re available in Go-Food so you can easily order and have it delivered to your front door.

I’ll let the picture tickle your curiosity even more.

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

You can forget about any other things I put in this post, but NOT this one!

Basically, it’s a plate of freshly cooked rice with tender-crisp pork belly, pork satay, a bowl of tasty broth soup and three different type of Sambal. I’ve fallen in love with this one since the first time I gave it a try a year ago, and have been craving for it ever since. Who could resist a huge portion of greatly tasted meal that comes in a very affordable price?

Next on my list was to put my bag in the airport, and then go to Madura by crossing the Suramadu Bridge. I was in the spirit of exploring those beautiful beaches that I stumbled upon in Google. Sadly, I had not enough time to do all that. It would take about an hour from my breakfast spot to the airport, and it would take another 1,5 hour to go back to the city, plus it would take another 1 hour from Suramadu Bridge to the center of Madura. After a lot of consideration, I settled on just crossing the bridge for the sake of experience, spent about 30 minutes there, and went back to the city.

The details of my short visit to Madura will be up in another post. As for now, let’s focus on this city that is known as “Kota Pahlawan” (the City of Heroes). So, it was almost 11am when I finished exploring a tiny part of Madura. I haven’t even showered, and I was still carrying my 60L carrier. Those yummy porks from Depot Bali were already gone untraceable. My tummy was once again empty. My eyes were pretty tired and needed to rest. My back was started to ache due to carrying the heavy backpack for hours.

The super kind Gojek driver, Mas Adit (I’ll share about him on the next post), suggested me to rent a cheap room at a homestay located in the downtown area so I could shower and have some rest. He even helped me search for the most strategic place that has best price on Google (yeap, on Google through his smartphone!) as I told him that my budget was only about 100k or even lower than that.

Long story short, I picked a homestay, thank God there was still one empty room left. After a much needed showers and power nap, I was all ready to be back on the road again. But first, I needed to have a lunch. A friend of mine recommended me to try the famous Kwetiau Medan Apeng at Jl. Kedungdoro No.267, which was only within a walking distance from my rented room.

I forgot what I ordered, but it tasted good!

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Kwetiaw Goreng Apeng Medan

Next up on the list was to visit House of Sampoerna, a museum, café & gift shop located at Taman Sampoerna No. 6. What’s so appealing about this place? You can take a bus tour around Surabaya’s most historical and touristy spots with a professional tour guide. The best part is, it’s free! All you have to do is register yourself at the front desk and wait for the next bus (ready every 2 hours if I’m not mistaken) to take you around. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to wait for the bus. So, although I had the bus ticket in my hands, I decided to skip it and chose to explore the city by foot.

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The Bus Ticket.

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Captured by the super helpful front desk receptionist.

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Lovin my handy wooden card holder from @_projectkristal

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

The guys from my childhood. Anyone knows who they are?

I spent the next 15 minutes exploring the museum and taking some photos before I moved to Zangrandi. Some of my friends told me to pay it a visit. Well, it was all sunny that day, so I thought a cone of ice cream would be great. The place was quite empty when I arrived, even though it is located in one of Surabaya’s busy streets. Then I remember, oh yeah it was weekdays; most people were still at their office. I ordered a combination of avocado and chocolate ice cream, which I finished in just about two minutes (or maybe less, haha). I kinda regret visiting Zangrandi, because apparently we have it here in North Jakarta! Oh well…

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Oldschool.

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It’s gone in less than a minute after this photo was taken.

The excitement of exploring new place while at the same time candidly capturing random people or scenery that I stumbled upon was uncontainable. After paying my Zangrandi bills, I stepped onto the side of the road, letting the sun pinching my skin. It was hot and dry, but my feet urged me to keep on walking.

I love how clean the city is. I love how organized and structured the city is. There’s a bit of Singapore that I kept on finding in some places. I must admit, the city major is doing her job excellently. People are crossing the street using the zebra cross and pedestrian bridge. They even have CCTV on each pedestrian bridge, so that people would feel safe when crossing the bridge at night. There were no homeless people using the bridge as shelters. Everything was so organized. If only this could happen in Jakarta.

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

Brotherhood.

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

One more people to go.

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

Very clean indeed.

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

The real urban hustler.

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Just Chillin’

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

Taken by a super kind security guard.

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

It does feel like Singapore.

the perks of being 20 twenty surabaya east java jawa timur travel lifestyle foodies culinary exploration solo traveling train depot bali nasi babi peneleh es krim sangrandi gerson henry

Pedestrians are well protected in this city.

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Hard Worker.

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On Duty.

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Well-Maintained.

After about an hour of strolling around, a text from one of my good friends, Aveline Gunawan, popped out on my phone screen. Apparently she was in town and was enjoying the afternoon at a newly opened coffee shop in Surabaya, Caturra Espresso (Sorry, but this is also for next post.)

It was quite a well-spent afternoon, because I didn’t expect to encounter some familiar faces during this trip, let alone having a good laughs over good coffee. As a real Surabayan, Ave recommended me, one of Surabaya’s classic restaurants that have been her favorite since she was a kid, Ayam Goreng Pemuda. It was located at Jalan Tidar, No 21, only two minutes away from Caturra! She wanted to order an Uber, but I was like, “Are you kidding? Let’s just walk!”

Two minutes later, we were already at Ayam Goreng Pemuda enjoying plates of Ayam Goreng (traditional deep fried chicken cooked with local herbs and spices), Sayur Asam, and the bomb for me was the Cumi Goreng (fried squid) – the one inside the pink bowl on the right. Indonesian foods, so far, have never failed to amuse me. This restaurant was also the last place I visited in Surabaya. And, within only about 3 hours, I was already sitting in the airport waiting for my plane to come.

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Ayam Goreng Pemuda

If you ever encounter the same situation like mine, where you have to wait about 10 hours before you catch your next flight, here are some few things you can do:

  1. Ask for some recommendations on what’s good to check. People nowadays are so keen in sharing their information. I, myself, got plenty of replies via Instagram story and Facebook.
  2. Use your time wisely. Choose to visit several places that take fewer hours to reach, rather than one place that would take hours to reach.
  3. Don’t be afraid to talk to local people as they could be the best guide to show you around.
  4. Always check on Google maps how far you are to your next destination, this will help you to explore effectively (with minimal risk of getting lost, and waste too much time on the road).
  5. Throw your pride away when you find a good ootd spot, then ask a stranger to capture your photo.

 

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Willem Deliemen (Pancake Adventure): Delivering Joy, One Pancake at a Time

If you think that there isn’t much to do with a pancake, think again.

While I was resting in the middle of my walk down from the summit of Rinjani, 2 foreigners came from the opposite direction with what seems to be a… cooking pan.

Their names are Willem Dielemen & Pieter Dieleman, brothers from Amsterdam. As they were setting up their camp, HG and I had a little chit chat with them and found out that Willem is quite an unusual backpacker. Somehow, Willem manages to mix his adventures and his love of Pancake. That is why he brings a cooking pan everywhere he goes, let it be Turkey, India, Australia, Dubai and many more including Indonesia!

To sum it up, Willem Dielemen and his Pancake Adventures aims to deliver joy by giving back to the people through plates of Pancakes! He started by cooking Pancakes for construction workers in Dubai and continued spreading out happiness all over the world. In fact, when I met him in Lombok, he had just finished a cooking project with the Dutch embassy in Jakarta.

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Meet Willem!

We believe that meeting Willem somewhere in the middle of the woods was no coincidence. We took the chance to exchange cards and schedule a Skype interview to get Willem as our inspiring person of the month. What can be more inspiring than traveling in your 20s, spreading out joy all over the world? Check out the interview below!

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TPOB20: Who is Willem in your own eyes?

Willem: Willem is an open minded, creative guy who is always looking for adventures and new stories.

TPOB20: What kind of adventures are you looking for?

Willem: I am actually looking for two kind of adventures: one is the crazy, far from the obvious encounters. The other is my pancake adventures.

TPOB20: So what is it that do you do for a living?
Willem: I’m traveling around the world making pancakes. When my money runs out I find another spot where I can sell my pancakes to save money for new adventures. The last place I did this was Australia, soon it will be New Zealand. Those are for working, but for traveling I have traveled from Turkey to the Philipines overland. This includes Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Dubai, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. After Cambodia I ran out of money and went for a year to Australia to sell pancakes

TPOB20: Wicked story! What was your major in college? And.. why pancakes?
Willem: I actually studied Dutch Language and Literature, and took a master in Book Publishing. It has nothing to do with Pancakes and my Dutch language skills haven’t been very useful around the world either.

I started making pancakes as a gratitude to all the beautiful people I met on the road. Just as a thank you for their hospitality. During my travels I was always looking for a purpose and since I was already making pancakes for my friends, I thought it would be great to share that joy with people who could use some positive vibes

And why pancakes… Back home it’s a dish that we eat to celebrate a birthday or something else. For me a pancake dinner is a joyful happening, so I like sharing that joy with the rest of the world

TPOB20: So it all came down to a family. What does your family think of what you do?

Willem: My parents are proud of what I am doing. They really encourage me. Although when I told my mother of the places I still want to visit, she fell silent; she thought I would be back in a couple of months.

TPOB20: What was your early 20s dream like?

Willem: I am still in my 20s…. at least for 7 more days before I turn 30. I never dreamed that I would be 30. I honestly was so scared of being 30, having a family, being a high school teacher, walking my dog, paying my mortgage… I really believed I would end like that… failing miserably.

I actually never dreamed of traveling either, but I knew I had to do something creative. Traveling was actually a way to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but the only thing I found out is that I want to continue this lifestyle, at least for a bit. 

I had no idea this enriches you so much. There is no study that can teach you what you learn when you have to figure everything out yourself. You become streetwise in a very enjoyable exciting setting. 

TPOB20: How do you see the big three coming?

Willem: Yeah, I don’t know.. I think that now I’m nearly there, all the fears I had about that age are gone and thirty is just another number. I still have people telling me, “Yeah but you’re still young, you should enjoy it while you can,” and sometimes those people are younger than me.

TPOB20: What was the biggest struggle in your 20s? What made you kept going?

Willem: My father gave me one incredible advice when I was a teenager. Instead of pushing me to study law, like he did, he said, “You have a curious childlike spark. Try to never loose that.”

The biggest struggle was figuring out life, I suppose. I think my studies were fairly easy. I was figuring out love and career. But when I graduated I thought, “Now what?” I tried some things but you realize that the comfortable status of being a student is gone and you suddenly are a useless citizen, an unemployed. So I tried a couple of things and failed a couple of times and now, because of those struggles, I think I am pretty successful in life.

TPOB20: Can you tell us about those failures and struggles?

Willem: Finding out that I was doing jobs that were below my qualities. You have all these qualities and degrees and there is nothing you can do with what you really like.

So I had a great master degree in Book publishing. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next, but I thought a PHD was too scientific for me and I didn’t qualify after all. Fortunately. Then I tried setting up a blog while working in a bar. This was alright but it wasn’t gonna work. Then I got a job as a data entry manager, which is the most boring job ever. It was at a great company of my friends though, so the place was fun. I got sadder and sadder that I was wasting my creative talent and I had the feeling that I missed the boat.

I only wanted to travel for two weeks. Looked on the map. And got greedy. Two weeks was never enough for what I wanted. I wanted to change my life drastically while I still have nothing to hold me back.

TPOB20: Super exciting and dramatic change! So after all of that, what is the perks of being 20 to you?

Willem: I think the perks of being twenty is being wise enough to be useful and still young enough to get away with anything.

As a teenager you are a narcissistic little brat who thinks everything yourself. Then you grow older and you find out you have still a lot to learn about the world. And you do that in a way that is not so serious yet, you don’t really care when you fail a course in Uni. As you grow older you start to realize, life around you gets more serious. The time before that is the best: you have your life knowledge but you’re still playing around.

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Just like that, our conversation ended. Leaving us to a powerful thought to ponder: What are we doing for the world in our 20s? I know that we don’t have to travel the world to do good, but if you can have a full year long holiday to do good, what could be better than that?

Super Cheap Getaway

If you open this post hoping to get a cheap getaway recommendation, you will get it. If you’re low on budget at the end of the month, this post will definitely point out to you a getaway as cheap as Rp 500k.

You are probably excited now, but there’s one thing I have not told you yet.

In traveling, there is always something to sacrifice. As a travel blogger, I know this very much. If you want to see more sites in a day, you have to sacrifice relaxing and chilling. If you want to take good photos, you might sacrifice on paying more fees to take your cameras inside a touristic sites, happened to me in India. In this case, with a low budget getaway, the hustles are real!

Still, the sites you will get are amazing!

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Tanjung Lesung on a sunset.

After a costly trip to India, I decided to cover something cheap and nearby to my hometown for my travel blog. Of course these things come in one package in the perks of being 20, which are struggling with financial problem and traveling as much as you like.

The main destination was Baduy and the budget was Rp 500k. Baduy is a remote village located in the island of Java only a few hours from Jakarta. My parents have talked about this village since I was a little kid. I grew up wanting to visit Baduy very much, especially Inner Baduy.

Inner Baduy is literally untouched by technology. Locals said that it would take us 6 hours of walking to reach Inner Baduy. Feeling excited for this trip, I packed up my hiking boots and pants just to find out that Inner Baduy is closed for tourists on the month of February to April. What a bummer!

With a slight adaptation to the original plan, my travel mate and I decided to head to Tanjung Lesung instead of spending more time in the Outer Baduy village. That explains the wrong beach outfit we wore on that day in Tanjung Lesung.

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Early train to Rangkasbitung.

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Ojeg to the rescue.

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More public transportation to take.

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Finally arriving at Tanjung Lesung with a wrong beach outfit.

It took us a train ride, 2 motorcycle rides and a few car rides to finally reach Tanjung Lesung from Jakarta. It took us half a day to finally felt sands on our feet. Luckily, everything was set up for our arrival. The nature welcomed us with a clear blue sky decorated by cotton candy clouds.

If only the place was managed better, it would be filled with tourists. This kind of condition was not the first I’ve seen during my days of traveling. A lot of beautiful places in Indonesia is not well taken care of, despite of its promising opportunities. On the contrary, some other beautiful spots are damaged due to exploitation. Hopefully, a better future awaits Tanjung Lesung.

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Greeted by cotton candy clouds.

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Untouched beach at Tanjung Lesung.

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Local fishing boat on the dock.

After a few hours of enjoying the beach, we looked for a backpacking hostel nearby the beach. Turns out there were many of them, but only a few offered a very affordable price for backpackers like us. Motorcycle rental was also available in Tanjung Lesung at a very affordable price! That was how we enjoyed the sunset through these various spots photographed below.

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Purple colored sky.

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Accidentally found this rice field on the way.

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A fisherman getting ready for an afternoon fishing.

Spending a night in Tanjung Lesung was more than enough. It was time to head to Baduy for a village adventure. Of course, the road to Baduy was very far and tiring. The bad weather made our journey even harder!

Hiking through the forest after a heavy rain was inevitable. Although the hike was short, I messed up my Palladium boots. It was my first time using it on a hike and it turned out to be very helpful!

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My black Palladium after the action.

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Baduy’s very own granary.

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On the wall of a local’s house. The photo on the top left shows the elders visit to the National Palace in Jakarta. Without using any modern transportation, these people walked all the way to Jakarta for 3 days.

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Coffee was served upon arrival.

Every visitors would be welcomed inside a local’s house. With no source of electricity from the outside, they depend on solar power electricity. The house is dark during the day, at night time, they rely on a solar powered light bulb.

The locals are dependent on a few livelihood. Other than rice planting and selling coffee beans, the ladies weave fabrics to be sold as merchandises for the visitors. The profit is probably quite high since I saw them weaving all the time! Morning until evening time, all the ladies in the village were busy weaving.

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Fabric weaving.

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Fabric weaving in Baduy is for women of all ages.

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On the table.

Baduy holds a preserved and conservative tradition. This was probably why the people do not mix in with us, the visitors. Compared to my visit to Flores last year, I felt unwanted and uninvited in Baduy. The locals didn’t even respond to my polite request to take photos of them. A simple smile wouldn’t be returned with another smile in Baduy.

Another personal guess regarding this unfriendly welcome is the unfriendly visitors. Since Baduy is a very popular place among city dwellers, I assumed that the locals are quite annoyed by weekly visitations. Imagine having a house that is invaded by visitors every weekend on a weekly basis. I would be annoyed.

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Even though alone, the sun never failed to shine.

The whole trip really costed me around Rp 500k. I could have done it with less than that, but I might have ate a bit too much in Tanjung Lesung. In my defense, I wasn’t on a very tight budget. Perhaps with a little motivation, or the urgent need to make ends meet, I would have saved a lot more.

At the end of my trip, I was very exhausted. This is what I meant by making sacrifices. A low budget traveling requires a lot of hustles and energy. This includes getting on and off buses, sleeping on an uncomfortable bed and even getting to your destination on foot.

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Ragged me, a few minutes before hopping on to a train to Jakarta.

I ended my trip by taking a train back to Jakarta feeling very ragged. At the same time, I feel very refreshed and ready to take on the city life again. Cheers to going back to reality!

DR. (@demasryan)

PS: feel free to hop on to my travel blog for details and itinerary of my Banten exploration!