by Pippin Barry
Water cascades down a cliff-face as five interns fight for their lives on the river rapids. We’ve come to Probolinggo river to experience white water rafting, Sunday (14/6). I strap my life-jacket on and fasten my helmet as I jump into the raft. The temperature drops as we head down into the canyon and the oncoming rapids. “Boong, Boong, Boong!” shouts the guide and we crouch down in the middle of the boat as the front tips over the edge. Round 1 result – Interns: 1 River: 0. The sun creeps in through the canopy illuminating the century-old root structures that creep along the stone. Parrots screech overhead as we relax in the open river before we get to the next bend.
Curtis, Mandy and I are in one raft with two guides. Mandy can’t swim (she is of the asian persuasion) so we have a great time when our raft tips over. She floats life a graceful jellyfish as we push her to the centre of river. An hour of tossing, bumping, rocking and rafting gets us to the pitstop where cool coconuts and tapioca sweets await. We laugh and play in the water as puzzled villagers look on. One scene looks like it was staged by National Geographic with naked men and women bathing their cows as children jump off rocks. We resume our journey to the end facing the rapid greats such as ‘the espresso’ and ‘S1’. Mulling at the end of the river we start a mud fight. One well-aimed fistful gets in Yvonne, the new intern from China, as she laughs out loud. Pas, Curtis and I decide to do some rock jumping. That 10 feet drop looks much more impressive from above than below.
We have such a great time on the river that we are sad to leave, but leave we must. We pile into the car and drive to Pacet a satellite village Mojokerto. This time around we will live with the local villagers! My host family welcome me in the front room: The grandmother, grand father, great uncle, two daughters, their husbands, the son, his wife, and the one grandson. I’m amazed at family life in Indonesia – as much as I love my parents I’m quite happy living 3000 km away from them. Here they share everyday with each other.
We communicate in broken indonesian and english which works well combined with the pictures I have on my laptop. The next morning I get up early to help milk the cow; which I’m fairly sure I did way better than the other interns. Still my host family were much more efficient. It looked like they had turned a tap on the udder and milk was just pouring out. Unpasteurised milk is illegal in my state of Victoria in Australia so it was great to try some here. It’s really delicious compared to the low-fat milk we are used to drinking back home. With a full stomach I meet up with the other interns and Sucre and Totong and we hike up to a mountain waterfall. It looks so good Curtis and I decide to take a dip under the stream.
On the way back down the mountain we stop at a deer conservation centre and feed the animals so sweet potato. The girls went crazy for the baby deer and were persistent in trying to get it to take the potato from their hands. Later we take a dip in the local pool where one spa is heated by natural hot springs. The main spa is too hot to swim in but the second one is just right for a relax. In the night we are invited for dinner at Sucre’s home and get to enjoy a traditional Indonesian music night. Boys and girls are in a circle with tambourines and drums while two girls sing into a microphone.
On the last day we went to school for activites. First we played Dolip-pan then duck duck goose or bebek-bebek ayam and then a lively game of dodgeball. The trainees joined in with all of these and it was a really energetic morning. We then hiked up a mountain trail to prepare pots for new pine seeds. The pine trees are harvested for their sap which is used in the production of latex. Small cuts of bark are removed from the base so that the sap collects into cups placed underneath – a great sustainable farming activity.
Life is so different in this mountain village it is hard to believe you are just a few hours from Surabaya. The village is so tiny you could walk across it in 2 minutes. Everyone knows everyone else in the village and rely on them for communal work. I had a great time here over the two days and hope I can revisit before I have to leave Indonesia.