Halimun Salak National Park Part-5 Ends
The Last Day in Citalahab
We were glad to finish the Citalahab forest walk. Feri’s estimation was right, we completed the trail in about one hour. With Feri as the guide, our experience of the forest hiking was rewarding.
Coming out of the canopies, I just realized that it was a cloudless hot day. Sweating, I took off my jacket. I abruptly remembered the cobblestone track of last night. Things were different in the daylight. Stopping at the site where we saw the glowing mushroom, I squatted to see those tiny little “plants”. Only the biggest mushroom was apparent. We continued to walk to the Cikaniki Station. Erik was already there in the car waiting to pick us up. “Let’s go to the waterfall, it is not far from here,” he said as we were all in the car.
I saw a sign in the direction of Curug Macan–the name of the waterfall. “Let’s take a short-cut,” Erik said as he was driving further on the bumpy road. The car dropped in by the road, he and Feri got off and assessed the underbrush short-cut. The path was descending and I didn’t see any track, it was dense with bushes. “This bypass is shorter than the formal entrance,” he added. Erik started to step down and the others followed. Again, I needed to keep my balance as we were walking downward. Feri helped me several times when I was tracing the path. For sure, only certain local people used this bypath. In the first 20 meters of the declining pathway, I had to struggle. After that , the track was a bit levelled. We walked on leaves littered and rough ground, which was not different from the forest trail that Setyo and I just took.
The waterfall was located in the forest. As we were walking near to it, the sound of the falling waters was getting louder. Curug Macan, meaning tiger waterfall in English, is one of the many waterfalls in Halimun Salak National Park. In the past, the tigers used to take water on site for drinking. Hidden behind the five-meter waterfall was a cave where the tigers used to live. As more people visited the site, the tigers left the cave. Curug Macan is now a popular recreational site for the local villagers. If there are outside visitors, they must be guests– like me–who stay at Citalahab.
By the river, the locals built a cemented circle for sitting. The huge umbrella above the seat was already worn. The thunderous sound of falling water was soothing. Forcefully falling on the big rocks, the waters poured into a small river. Many big rocks were scattered on the river, halting the water that kept running no matter what. My eyes refreshed to see the crystal clear flowing water. It was contaminated only by some falling leaves and twigs from the big trees that grew along the river. Unfortunately, some irresponsible visitors threw their plastic trash. Setyo picked up an empty plastic bottled water that was found on the river side. I told Erik that some trash bins needed to be installed.
I sat on one of the outsize rocks by the river. Staring at the unstoppable running water, I felt rejuvenated. I was looking up to the sky, it was covered by the shades of the giant trees. It was a fresh atmosphere. If I didn’t think of the guys who would wait for me, I would plunge into the river and play in the water. In my mind, I was planning to do it in the river next to the homestay. We left Curug Macan as it was getting late.
Entering the homestay, the food was already presented on the carpeted floor. Again, it was delicious Indonesian food with sayur asam as the best dish for lunch.
After lunch, we were chatting with Erik who told us about his projects including building the Citalahab community for responsible tourism. As Setyo was going to take a nap, I decided to go to the next door Cikaniki River. I went toward the river. The stream was normal but, I heard, a few months ago during the rainy season the water had overflowed and flooded the nearby houses.
I went down to the river through small steps that had been made by the locals. Lifting my trousers, I let my feet dip in the water. Ah! The water was cold. The rocks– big and small–were spread on the river. I held on to big rocks to walk towards the opposite of the stream, it was quite strong. In the middle, the water reached my knees. After walking back and fort in the waters I approached a site covered by trees. I sat on a big rock, dipped my feet in the river, and felt the stream flow bathing my skin. It was chilly. Just watching the water that ran unstoppably was really reviving. Feeling cold at my feet, I decided to finish my relaxation.
As I was out of the river, I noticed that the neighborhood looked deserted. The visitors were already leaving and most villagers were also away. “The villagers are going to the soccer field to see the kick off of the tournament,” said Erik. We were the only guests left. It was half past one, we needed to leave soon. We said good bye to Feri and his wife, our host.
Sitting behind the steering wheel, Erik was ready to bring us back to Jakarta. One-day stay was actually too short to enjoy Citalahab. We returned to the rough road again, passed the small residential areas, and exited the National Park at about 4 pm. On the way, Setyo and I fell asleep, while Erik was calmly driving, entertained by the music from the radio car.
Erik picked us up on early Saturday morning in Jakarta. The ride from Jakarta to the heart of the National Park was long and it was not easy considering the road condition, but he could make it well. In the evening after we arrived at Citalahab, he still guided us to see the glowing mushroom. And again in the next early morning, he was already fit to go for sunrise. On the same day, he drove us again back to Jakarta in the afternoon. He used to the tight schedules, no wonder he could maintain his stamina. Erika was a flexible person and was able to make himself comfortable in every situation. We were glad to have him as the organizer and guide of our trip.
The best time to go to Citalahab is in the dry season (April-September), not the rainy season (September-April). Our case was special. We went to Citalahab on October luckily it was not raining. The bumpy road to Citalahab and the forest trail are muddy and slippery on rainy season. Your trip to see the glowing mushroom at night could be cancelled, if it is raining. And the spectacular sunrise could be missed as well. Intensive heavy rains could result in the flooding of the Cikaniki River.
If you leave Citalahab on Sunday afternoon by the car, expect being trapped in the congested traffic in Bogor and the highway, as many urbans return to Jakarta, you may end up arriving in the evening.
Individual or Organized Trip:
It is a matter of time and budget to choose the trip to be organized individually or by a tour operator. Although a private tour is a bit pricey, it is flexible. The schedule can be customized to our interests. As the operator organized the whole trip, I was free from hustle and bustle. I just sat in the car and be ready for the program. The service also included the pick up and the drop off. Organizing the trip individually is possible. However, you need to calculate the bolts and nuts, from arranging the transportation to booking the homestay.
Considering the condition of the track to Citalahab, it’s highly recommended to take a jeep. If you ride a motorcycle, a trail motorcycle is recommended. Only the locals ride on underbone motorcycles back and forth to Citalahab. The driver should be familiar with the road condition of the National Park area.
All activities are outdoor such as forest trail or tea plantation walk, you need to be fit. This is not a site for children. Getting up early is required if you want to catch the sunrise. If you are there to do nothing, I recommend you choose the house by the Cikaniki River. There are some traditional wooden houses located by the river.
The room at the homestay is very basic, do not expect anything fancy. The house has a squatting toilet and it doesn’t have water heater. The host will try to accommodate your needs having warm water for taking shower. The food is Indonesian home-made food, if you have your own favorite food, you can bring it with you, or if you have the raw materials, you can ask the host to cook it for you. Only cash applies. You will interact with the host, so respect the local cultures and just enjoy the place you are visiting, it is fulfilling.