This entry is taken from a part of an email addressed to my family, hence the focus on Dhanu, for he's the one I'm reporting about. Thanks to Mahanagari for arranging the Pawon Trip, and to our valuable resources during the trip: Dr. Budi, Opa Felix & Ute, Snapling, etc. Photos courtesy of Mahanagari; more can be viewed at Foto2 Trip Mahanagari di Bukit dan Gua Pawon
I'm still working on the sketches of our journey, but I expect to upload them quite soon!
Dhanu still likes to talk, although he is supposed to be the one who's most tired. The day before (Saturday 23rd), I took him to a hiking trip to Pawon Hill and Pawon Cave, which are located in Padalarang (about half-an-hour ride from Bandung). We went together with a group of friends (there were 21 of us in total), in a small bus. Our meeting venue was the famed Geology Museum nearby Gedung Sate, where we watched a movie about how Bandung area was formed geologically, accompanied by an explanation from Dr. Budi – a geologist who explored the Pawon area himself as his PhD research, and also teaches at ITB.
We had lunch at the museum before departing to Pawon area, so we arrived at the location at about 2pm. Too bad it started drizzling, but nobody seemed to mind. We first gathered at a side of the mountain, where we could see both the mountain parts that are still intact, green and lush at the left side – and the mountain parts that have been excavated (mined for its limestone), bare and white at the right side. Our bus parked at the foot of Pawon Hill and it was time for us to start hiking. The drizzle didn't stop – the rain got heavier instead. Despite all the mud and wetness, Dhanu enjoyed everything. He even liked it when all his shoes and legs were covered with mud.
We started going uphill; the path was quite steep and slippery, but we could hold on to rocks and stones around us. Local farmers plant palawija, or a variation of rice that grows on dry land, so we could see green sprouts among the white, towering stones (which have given the name Stone Garden for the area). When we finally reached the top, we could find fossils of coral reefs and small sea creatures that used to roam the area on the scattered stones. The spot we stood on was under the sea!
A bit lower from the hilltop lays a tomb. It is said to be empty, but is still considered a sacred place. The rain went on, making the path more slippery, yet our spirit was not dimmed. We continued walking downhill – or perhaps it's more appropriate to call it sliding downhill – because what we mostly did was treading carefully from one stone to another, or trying to look for a dry ground that was sturdy enough to support us. However, our effort was almost useless, for our shoes were already caked with mud! Dhanu had no difficulties, no fear. He happily sped through the path. I wasn't worry for him, because a group of young rock climbers – who train at that hill regularly and know the path very well – watched over us during the whole trip. These boys were really helpful and made us feel secure.
At the foot of the hill, we were given two choices: continue sliding down the hill to reach the cave, or going back to the bus and riding it to the cave. I, and a fellow traveler who also brought her young son, chose the later, along with a couple of other friends who were too tired and tense to slide downhill.
The bus parked quite far from the cave, so we had to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the mouth of the cave, still accompanied by the falling rain. After taking a few pictures, we started entering the cave. The rock-climber boys have placed ropes that helped us climb the path into the cave. Dhanu could do it very well. He only stopped at the main entrance of the cave because he heard loud screeching noises. When he found out that the noises belong to thousands of bats that live in the cave, he turned his back and started climbing down. He didn't want to deal with a cave full of bats. So he waited outside the cave, along with a couple of group members.
I proceeded into the cave with the rest of the group. This cave is not the kind that looks like an ant colony: lots of wholes and tunnels in the belly of a mountain. This one is very much open: lots of rooms with big 'roofs' and 'windows', looking to the scenery below and allowing plenty of fresh air. The bats gathered in the main room, we could see many of them circling the high ceiling. They were loud and smelly, indeed.
One of the cave rooms is where Dr. Budi and his team found a fossil of a human being, now known as the Pawon Man, aged about 10.000 years old (Bandung area was formed about 16.000 years ago). The original skeletons have been removed to the Archeology Museum and a replica is placed at the location. Research relevant to Pawon Man and his environment is not quite completed yet, but the mining of limestone at that area is exceeding the speed of the researchers, so it has become great concern.
We exited the cave at sundown, the same time the bats went out for their feeding. Imagine thousands of tiny wings flapping above your head, all screaming high-pitched noise, pouring into the night sky.
When I reached the small hut outside the cave where Dhanu was supposed to be, he was nowhere to be seen. It turned out that he already started walking to the bus, along with other group members who exited the cave earlier. The rain has finally stopped and the sky turned bright at night, leaving the mud drying on our shoes and legs. The evening wind cooled our sweat-ridden face and body. But, tired as we were, we had an extraordinary experience! And what's best is that Dhanu actually likes this kind of adventure, where he could be confident and feel good about himself!
We arrived at home at about 8pm, Dhanu couldn't stop telling Sybrand about his trip, the Stone Garden, the cave and the bats. He couldn't go on for too long, though, because he fell asleep soon after he's bathed and put to bed.