It’s not very often you are given a second chance in life, but I was. I had a second chance to revisit Ciwidey. The last time my wife and I visited this place was last year. We had a wonderful time enjoying the fresh air in the morning and the view of green tea farm, so I decided to revisit it.
Ciwidey is located about 37 kilometres southwest of Bandung. The easiest way to get there is to drive in your own car. Since we don’t have any car, my friend and I tried something else, getting there from Bandung using public transport, or so we thought. We took the midnight train from Jakarta to Bandung, and after a nice cup of coffee at Bandung station, we thought, maybe we could order an online taxi to Leuwi Panjang terminal where we were going to get on a public transport to Ciwidey. To our surprise, although it was still early in the morning, somebody was taking our order and soon enough we were cruising to Leuwi Panjang bus terminal.
When we got there, we found that the minivan, or what the locals call it elf, was still waiting for passengers, no, not that elf the mythical creature in the movie. The driver wouldn’t leave until the van was full. So we waited and had a cup of tea. The smell of noodle soup and nasi goreng was so tempting, but this was too early for breakfast.
It was already 4 AM, we then thought, “Would somebody pick up our order from the terminal to Ciwidey terminal?”
“Mas, boleh bayar cash saja? Jangan pakai go pay, biar bisa ngisi bensin,
(Can you please pay cash, not go-pay credit, so I could fill up some gas later)”, said the driver.
Of course, that was not a problem at all for us, we said to him, as we happily stretched our legs in a comfortable van taking us to Ciwidey terminal. The trip took us about 1.30 hours from Leuwi Panjang to Ciwidey terminal. We let the windows rolled down to enjoy the cool breeze in the morning.
The driver dropped us off at the intersection of the Terminal, “Ciwidey terminal is over there, but you can wait for an Angkot going to Ranca Upas camping ground here”. He said before driving off back to Bandung again. Nice lad, picking up our order in such an early hour of the day.
We didn’t have to wait very long, a yellow minivan came approaching us, with barely any passenger in it. It was a strange feeling riding minivan public transport again. As the van moved slowly going up through a winding road ascending to Ranca Upas, I gazed outside looking at the sun starting to appear behind the faraway hills. Snapshots of high school and university days came to me, remembering the moments when riding ‘bemo’ was an essential part of my life.
What I like about the names of places in Indonesia is that almost every name would have a story, a history or a myth associated with it. The name Ranca Upas comes from two words, Ranca means swamp, while Upas comes from a person’s name. He was a dutch whose work was to guard the forest area around Ciwidey. One day he disappeared as he was doing his usual rounds around the forest. His body was never found. Villagers claimed to have seen his ghost appearing in the forest.
Ranca Upas is a camping ground boasting a size of 210 ha, with a flat ground surrounded by hills and mountains and located around 1,700 meters above the sea level. The temperature is mild and could get quite cold in the evening. The camping ground is not that far from the main road, roughly about 700 – 900 meters. You’ll see a big parking space with many stores that sell food, snacks and even firewood. These places rent out all camping equipment; like tents, mattress, and sleeping bags. We got a tent and a mattress for Rp. 200,000 (about USD 15) per night.
When we got there, there were already some people unpacking their tents. I noticed that there were a couple of big tents, the ones that you used for parties or those I remember my dad usually stayed in when he was on duty with his military company. That didn’t look too promising, there would be a big crowd later that day. I prayed that those were the tents that people had used and left already. I was wrong.
It was cold, I checked the time it was already around 1.05 AM, but it felt as if it was just 7 PM. I must have slept for about 5 hours. I slept early after our trekking through the tea frams. I heard people walking past in front and back of our tent. Some girls were giggling at the tent from our left. An out of tune aspiring singer was singing at the top of his lung the songs that I used to like but hated them instantly then. I tried to close my eyes again, put myself at ease, so I could go back to sleep again. Ten minutes passed then I realised this was a useless effort. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, opened the zipper of our tent and walked out, and suddenly I felt the slap of cold air on my face.
“1 O’clock in the morning. It’s still a few hours from the break of dawn”, I said to myself.
I strolled amidst the darkness finding my way to one of the stores that would be kind enough to sell me a cup of coffee.
“What should I do after this?”, as I sipped an instant coffee mix, that tasted like all sugar inside.
I ended up buying a pile of firewood and carried them back to the tent. I didn’t want to go back inside our tent and then just lay down listening to the screeching voice singing some cheesy songs. As I was walking back from the stores to our tent, I noticed many people were camping at the parking area. So you drove all the way up here and then camped next to your car? Talking about irony.
I started the fire right in front of our tent, and as the flame went bigger, it felt cozy and warm. Suddenly, I could hardly hear the singing any more, it was just the rattling of the wood-burning.
Situ Patenggang and Trekking through the tea farms
Ki Santang and Dewi Rengganis were madly in love. They had been separated for a while and then went to look for each other. Ki Santang, a king to be, and Dewi Rengganis, believed to be a descendant of angels met and then made a promise. Dewi Rengganis requested her lover to make her a lake and a boat so they can both ride the boat together. That’s the myth of how Situ Patenggang was created.
Situ Patenggang was located not far from Ranca Upas. It is one of the favourite tourist spots in the area. You should expect a big crowd during the day, especially around the areas of the boat restaurant. If you want to enjoy the lake view without the crowd, you may need to walk a bit further away.
We decided to walk back from Situ Patenggang through the tea farms all the way to Ranca Upas, or wherever the google map would take us away from the main road. This was proven to be the highlight of my time in Ciwidey. Away from the crowd, the walk through the tea farm was serene. You could hardly hear anything but the wind and the birds chirping. The trail was tough, about 4.5 to 4.8 km because most of the route was going uphill, but we were happily soaking it in, enjoying the trekking and filling our lungs with the fresh air. It was an extraordinary experience given that I had to walk going to and from the office inhaling dirty, polluted air of Jakarta in the morning and in the afternoon.
Breaking Dawn at Ranca Upas
It was almost 4 AM. The temperature dropped to around 12 degrees. I didn’t feel cold, though. The second pile of wood was still burning and had kept me warm. Strangely, I couldn’t hear any rooster’s calling. Maybe we were too far away from any village. A blanket of fog and mist had been covering the camping ground throughout the night. There were only a few moments where you could see the sky, but no stars were seen. Well, I was hoping that I could see a bright sky at night, getting a glimpse of the milky way, but you couldn’t do that in Ranca Upas. The mist and fog would be too thick for you.
The sunlight emerged lazily. Slowly, I could see the camping ground started to be awake. People began to move around, heading for toilets mostly, and the crowd started to move toward the sunrise. People were busy taking a selfie. I noticed the quiet moment around the camp was only from 3AM to 4AM, it was indeed the right decision not to stay inside the tent and tried to go back to sleep again.
As I was packing and getting ready to go down to Bandung, I reflected on the experience for the last two days in Ciwidey;
“Would I go back camping at Ranca Upas?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“but… I would love to go back and do the trekking again.”
P.s. If you are wondering why the story sounded like I was all alone, well, my friend was happily snoring all night long, the noise didn’t really bother him I suppose.