My friend, who was meeting up with me in Jakarta for the weekend, wanted to head out of the city on an overnight trip. I was not keen to travel far so suggested Puncak or Bandung. We settled on Puncak, after seeing the paragliding activities on offer.
These are our special six experiences in Puncak:
(1) Insane traffic from Jakarta to Puncak and back
Even though we read about complaints regarding the terrible traffic on the road to Puncak, during weekends, we decided to head there thinking that an hour added couldn’t matter much. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
After an hour or so, on our drive from Jakarta to Puncak, our car stopped due to traffic just after we passed a toll booth. Stretching ahead was this long queue of vehicles that seemed to go all the way to Puncak. Since the traffic did not seem to be moving, the driver checked with the traffic police who said that the road to Puncak was closed for 5 hours, as the highway had been made one way in the opposite direction. We decided then to turn around, as we were fortunate that we were just near an exit point, and decided to go to Bogor, which was close by and explore the place before continuing our journey on to Puncak in the afternoon. Once we reached Bogor, the driver said he could drive us straight to Puncak but through interior routes that would take a longer time. We were fine with it as anything would beat waiting in traffic for 5 hours.
I am not sure that I see the logic in making a highway one way for that many hours, especially on a weekend, when the traffic is heavy in the direction of Puncak from Jakarta. Anyway, our drive through Bogor and the interior roads took us through little settlements and villages, which was a much better view than the highway route. I was intrigued by the impromptu traffic policing by local residents, through the areas we passed through. There would be community members at key junctions, turn off points, pointing out the direction to turn and in some areas, there were even road blocks set up and which would be lifted only when the driver gave a few coins to one of the people by the block. In one way, it was a bit of a community service since people would otherwise get lost in the maze of the settlements and it would take time to keep inquiring about the direction each time. This was a streamlined approach, which generated a little income (around 1000 – 2000 IDR, roughly USD 0.07 – 0.15 per vehicle that passed through) for the people doing this voluntarily.
We reached our hotel in Puncak around noon, well before the time that the traffic block would have been lifted.
(2) Staying at Puncak Pass Resort
After checking in and walking around the resort a little to check out the place and its views, we decided to have some lunch at the restaurant.
The rooms were comfortable, with great views of the valley.
(3) Yellow and pink mini vans – the local public transport
After finding out that the local public transport was the yellow and pink mini vans, we decided to use that, whenever we needed to get anywhere in Puncak. In the beginning, it was difficult to flag down a van and there were no prescribed stops. I told Aiying that we needed to confidently stop the vehicle, like some of the locals I had seen. Which meant, basically stepping on to the road bravely and holding out your hand firmly instead of hesitantly. It became a running joke between us whether we were being confident enough to stop a van.
Once, the hotel staff helped us flag down a white van, which they said was also public transport. It was more packed than the yellow mini vans. And, I had to sit with two other passengers in the front seat and wondering if the door might open during one of the turns along the hill road.
(4) Walking around Gunung Mas Tea Plantation
We reached Gunung Mas, without any event, and walked down the road to the ticket booth and paid the entrance ticket of IDR 15,500 per person. There was a tea center just after the ticket booth, but there was hardly anyone there. There were some people seated outside, asking us if we wanted to take a motorbike to tour the plantation or a horse ride. We rejected both and walked along the road towards the tea factory and office. We passed little cottages, that one could probably book if they wanted to stay at the plantations.
At the office, when we asked about any recommended walking paths, they gave us a map for a 4 km and a 9km walk. They also said that it would be better if we came in the morning, as the walking guides would be there. We decided to go ahead and go along the path, till we got tired. It was a bit of a warm afternoon and we were quite thirsty so decided to have some iced tea at the little café, infront of the office, before continuing our walk. I tried out the lychee iced tea, which was a bit too sweet for me.
After the tea, we continued along the route marked in the map and passed through a tiny street of colourfully painted houses. We stopped to chat with one of the women, who was painting her house. We were only able to gather from the brief conversation that she was painting a batik motif on her house walls.
I wanted to know whether they worked in the tea plantations, plucking tea, or whether they were more senior staff at the plantation. Since I only remembered a few words of Bahasa Indonesia, a language I was fluent in when I was a child, and the people we spoke to didn’t understand English, I wasn’t able to learn more about this.
After walking down to the end of the street, and not seeing a path to continue, we realized we might have taken the wrong turn along the walk, and turned back.
(5) Offroad adventure at Gunung Mas:
We saw a four wheel drive with an adventure board pass us, and we stopped it to ask the driver about the offroad adventure. He took us to the starting point of the tour, so that we could discuss with the people in charge. They quoted an inflated amount of around 300,000 rupiah per person. We tried to bargain it down to 300,000 rupiah for two persons, instead of one. They refused and we walked back to the office to check out any tours they organized. They had a banner at the front, advertising offroad tours, camping and paragliding activities, and when we asked about the cost of the offroad tour, the senior person at the office replied 100,000 rupiah per person. We asked to take the tour and they said they would drop us off at the starting point of the tour. We found ourselves being brought back to the people, who had quoted 300,000 rupiah per person. They tried to fudge it off, saying that it was the ATV tour that was 100,000 and not the offroad tour. However, the senior officer from the office was put on the phone and after his conversation, they agreed to take us on the offroad tour at 300,000 rupiah for two persons.
The offroad tour was the best part of the visit to the tea plantation. And, it was a lovely way of seeing the tea plantation, especially when standing at the top.
(6) View point at the paragliding site (and paragliding, if you are lucky)
The next morning, I woke up to see darkening skies outside and I realized that we might not be able to go paragliding on this visit.
We decided to go for breakfast and then see whether or not the weather would improve, by the time we finished.
Since the skies had cleared by the time we finished breakfast, we decided to go to the paragliding site. Aiying had also checked with the operator and he had replied that we should contact his colleague, once we arrived at the site.
Taking the yellow van, we went to the site. Once we climbed up the hill, we saw that there were others there taking in the view and photos.
The view of Puncak, from the top of the hill, was worth the climb up. We were however disappointed when told that there would be no paragliding activity that day and there had been none for the past three days, since the wind was too strong. Aiying was upset because the activity operator had not mentioned this, as we probably would not have even visited Puncak if we had been told that there had been no paragliding activity for some days and the likelihood that the situation would be the same during that weekend.
Anyway, overall, I had a lovely time in Puncak, experiencing these special six with a friend.