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Published: October 31st 2019
With TravelBlog... But only a little late. I should have written this blog half a week ago. But I was busy. Busy searching for megalithic statues in Pagar Alam. Together with my guide/homestay manager/English teacher, Mr. Perdi. Who only wanted enough money for a kilogram of rice, for his services. Two days of riding around with me and showing me all the sights. For a bag of rice! I think not! I decided Perdi deserved more than a bag of rice, and paid him the normal guide fee. But it tells you a little about Perdi's view on life. He really wasn't that interested in my money. He was interested in meeting me and showing me around. Point. The same with his English class, he charges a measly 30 cents per lesson to his students, because he wants everybody to be able to take his course.
Perdi started out as a guide in Pagar Alam back in 1991! He used his guiding services to practice his English and learn about tourists. His taste for adventure had him move to Dubai after a while, where he lived and worked for six years. A year or so in Germany made him realise
he didn't like the cold and he returned to Indonesia, back to his beloved home town. There he worked at a more upmarket hotel for a year, before moving to the homestay. Why? Because he likes to shake things up.
And so I met Perdi. And he asked me what I wanted to do in Pagar Alam and I told him I was interested in visiting the megalithic sites around the area, and the tea-plantation and some waterfalls. Next thing I know he offers me his service for free. Now, that is something that hasn't happened to me before. It was a welcome surprise and gesture, but as I said earlier, in the end I paid Perdi, because I feel that Perdi should make some money. A bag of rice alone, doesn't pay the bills!
So Pagar Alam... It has those megalithic sites, with interesting rock carvings, of men with big eyes and flat noses, often riding or fighting or hanging on for dear life, on elephants. And then there are some dolmens too, though they are less interesting. The thing is, those sites are terribly sign posted, or not at all, so you really need a guide
Yes we do!
to find them. And even the guides can't always find them and have to ask locals. What you can see, and what has been found, is only the tip of the iceberg in all likely hood. The upside of all this bad signposting is that you will have all the sites to yourself, should you choose to go.
Apart from the megalithic sites, Pagar Alam also has a famous tea plantation on South Sumatra's highest mountain, Mount Dempo. I didn't climb it, the rainy season has started, there is no guarantee that you will see anything once you reach the top. Instead we rode around the tea plantation, which was started by the Dutch, and, rather childishly, burnt down by them when they quit Indonesia. But it has since been replanted obviously.
Finally there are the many, many waterfalls, which are also impossible to find without some local knowledge. They are hidden away in the folds of the land, down steep slopes on the other side of raging rivers where monkeys howl in the distance as they clamber on branches hanging over the ravine.
While I was in Pagar Alam I also managed to become the guest
of honour at the opening of a three day tourism conference/workshop, and so I am now on the official photo of said conference, together with the mayor of Pagar Alam and many other men and women of importance in the area. Yes, I was a well loved photography object for the folks at the conference.
This is what I was doing, when I should have written my blog. So I feel I had a good excuse.
Before Pagar Alam there was Bengkulu, which once was a British colony, with Raffles as it's most famous governor. Bengkulu is a laid back town, with Fort Marlborough to testify for its erstwhile British heritage. Truth be told, the British actually found the place terrible and were glad to trade it with the Dutch for Melakka. I on the other hand found it charming, even if there isn't a whole lot to see or do. It was just a nice quiet backwater. So backwater-ish, that the Dutch exiled Sukarno here for a few years, his house has been turned into a museum.
And before Benkulu there was Krui, which is the only place I saw any other tourists. Krui is famous
View from my first hotel near Kalianda
for its surf, and so those other tourists were all surfers. Except for me of course. I was the guy who was lazing away in his hammock looking at the surfers. It was off-season, so there weren't that many surfers either.
If we go back even further we end up with me in Bandar Lampung, which has even less going for it than Bengkulu. For most it is just a transit point to Krui. I used Bandar Lampung to get my bearings. You see the first few days in Sumatra I was kind off lost. Because my plan had never been to go to Sumatra, but to Papua. And when I ended up in Sumatra I didn't actually have a clue what I wanted to do there. I needed to make a plan. And a plan I made. And when I had made it I felt a lot better since I had a purpose. That purpose is all of the above and more. The more being what will be written in my next blogs. Perdi, of course, wasn't my purpose, he was one of those nice surprises you find while going about your purpose.
I shall end with
View of Bandar Lampung
the wish for more nice surprises to end up in my purpose in the coming weeks!
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