A Drive in the Park

May Day is a national holiday in Indonesia and it fell on a Friday making for a 3 day weekend. The offspring’s prior plans, though, precluded taking full advantage.

Mrs. S.A.M and I decided to take a road trip. Surprisingly, it was our first since we’d been here.  We didn’t think it was too ambitious.  A trip to the nearby “Rain City” of Bogor, so named because it is up in the hills and that is where monsoonal rains germinate.  

We had a busy day planned.  We’d leave early, breakfast at a tea plantation on a high mountain pass, see the premier zoo, visit a gamelan gong factory and dine somewhere on the way home.

Many people warned us of the crowds and the traffic, but we thought if we left early we’d avoid much of the problem.  We set a goal of a 6 am departure and were late by 20 minutes.  90 minutes later we were stopped at the side of the road about ½ from our goal.  It seems there is one main road up the mountain and the close it during times of heavy traffic and make the whole thing a one way road up the hill.  To avoid catastrophe, they stop all traffic and clear the road.  So we napped and waited for a good long while.

The locals, sensing a money making opportunity, hawk their wares up and down the lanes of 2 km worth of stopped traffic.  Fried tofu, chips, water, pizza, toys, tissues.  Buskers with ukeleles or even just kids clapping, sing for their breakfast.

Nearly 3 hours on we’re moving again.  Our driver says that the best way to do this trip is to do it on a weekday.  “There’s no traffic then!”

4 hours on we realize that our plans need changed.  If we go to the Tea Plantation we can’t get back to the zoo, because traffic on the road is moving the wrong direction.  We abbreviate.  We nix the gong factory and decide to go to the zoo first and see what opportunities present themselves after that.

4 ½ hours on we made the turn off to Taman Safari.  The road winds off and is lined with stalls of people selling carrots and bananas.  The driver tells us that people can feed the animals, so we buy some produce.

We gained entry to the park along with a nice, solid line of cars and busses.  Taman Safari is firstly a driving zoo.  This fits in Indonesia where walking is discouraged. The road starts along and we ask the driver for a break. We’ve not eaten and we need to use the toilet.  The driver tells us that the road is one way and the toilets and restaurants are at the end.  He thinks the drive will take about an hour. We cross our legs and eat some of the bananas.

From my previous descriptions, you may have some idea of the zoo, but this was actually well done.  Certainly they could use a consultant from Disney, but so could a lot of places in the U.S.  The animal part of the zoo was well done.  They’d done well to make the place as native as possible.  The animals roam free amongst the hills, road and clouds of exhaust.  Really, we had a lion dart across the street behind our car. Our driver told us of a time a bear climbed on his car and broke the radio antenna  For a while, traffic was blocked by a hippo in the road. Despite being in the car you could actually see a lot.
Giraffes, Zebras, camels and elephants had the racket down. They knew most of the cars bought carrots outside and so there was a bit of a shakedown.  With the volume of holiday traffic, some of the animals got full and so were subjected to just being pelted with lots of produce thrown from cars. That was rather sad

At the end of the road you could park.  There was an amusement park with animal shows, rides, a water park and some restaurants. There was an aviary and a baby zoo.  There you could get your photo taken with a tiger cub or baby orangutan.  You could even walk into the cage and feed the penguins.

We took in the Tiger show.  It was all done in Indonesian.  I know there was plot.  The Tiger tamers came out and did a dance with three women scantily clad in tiger outfits.  Then the women departed and three tigers came out.  They did some leaps and tricks and that was that.

We spent a leisurely 3 hours wandering the park.  We could have done less, we could have done more, but we decided to see what else we could salvage from our plans.  The road was still flowing uphill, so we opted for the tea plantation.  

This was quite a peaceful place.  Terrace upon terrace of hedged tea trees up and down the distant hills.  There are some platform tents and a nice tea house.  After the crowds go home and the sun goes down, I bet it is a pretty nice place to spend the night; looking across the valley watching the thunder clouds roll in or the sun sink down.  

After a tea break with darkness falling, we headed back home. Traffic was flowing our way, so we didn’t have to stop.  We cruised with the windows open. Catching glimpses of a million different stories in all the stalls, shops, nooks and crannies along the way. We made it home in an hour and a half.

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