Tip Toe Through the Tea Fields

The waterfall amongst the tea fields.

By Morgan Pettersson.

When you imagine Indonesia, the first thought that often comes to mind is of undulating rolling hills covered in rice fields, dotted with the odd farmer and mountains looming in the background.

Whilst this image is not an accurate representation of the diverse archipelago that makes up the country that is Indonesia, the romantic rice field image was something I was still eager to experience if the chance came.

Luckily it did, when I joined 12 fellow journalism and development studies students for a weekend in the mountain village of Cianjur in West Java.

We had travelled hours in a cramped mini bus in crawling peak hour traffic to reach Cianjur, and why you may ask?

To get away from the smog and the dirty city that is Jakarta for some fresh air, a change of pace and a chance to relax.

Our accommodation was spread out between a home stay with a lovely local family and a bamboo hut.

The later which was situated between two rice fields and had a perfect view in the morning of the rice workers slowly picking their way across the fields as the sun rose in the background.

Over looking the rice fields

Amongst the many options offered by the local guides, the group decided the choose the half day hike option through the mountains.

It took an hours bus ride to reach the bottom of the rice fields to start a hike into the mountains.

We had been told we would hike past rice fields into the mountains and come to a traditional village.

Having previously been to some of these ‘traditional’ villages before I was sceptical that it would be a hoax tourist trap designed to exploit the local community.

I could not have been more wrong.

After hiking for over an hour, past many small dwellings and clusters of houses, we came upon the village.

Perched high up in the mountains the local Sundanese who lived here were doing just that, living there.

This was a completely unique experience, without any of the usual tourist traps.

We were genuinely welcomed inside the locals homes and they cooked a traditional vegetarian lunch for us from organic produce.

The life up in the mountains outside Cianjur is so pure and natural and was inspiring to see, although seeing big satellite dishes was a slightly unnerving reality check.

We had been promised the chance to see a waterfall, which I was quite omnious about as I envisioned it to just be a few rocks with a little trickle of water.

The village.

Firstly the trek had to continue, and after walking for another hour or so, the trail came to a rough dirt road with cars and motorbikes whizzing past.

Suddenly a ute pulled up and we all piled inside the tray on the back, curious as to what was going on.

This was to be our transport we were told, as it would take too long to walk to the tea fields.

What a sight it must have been for the locals to see 12 bules (foreigners) speed past local villages, all smiling and waving and shouting ‘Hello!’.

The waterfall we were met with rivalled some of the falls in the Amazon in Peru, and was a refreshing view after a day long hike.

The rest of the stay was spent eating and relaxing back in Cianjur.

Except for one more small event which occurred on Sunday morning.

The owner of the home stay called us and asked if we would be interested in attending a traditional Indonesian wedding, as a friend of his was getting married that day, and we were all invited.

So within half an hour we were dropped off in the suburbs of Cianjur, trying hard to look respectable in dirty travelling clothes.

We where welcomed like family and were followed around by the guests who were making us feel uncomfortably like were outshining the bride and groom.

The culture is so refreshing, in Australia you would rarely just accept a group of foreigners to your wedding reception because everyone would be worried about seating and catering and the fact that complete strangers are at the wedding.

In Indonesia no one minded, the more the merrier is the attitude, with the street kids allowed to roam the fringes of the reception party, because they are welcome too.

The bride and groom were stunning in matching gold lace and embroidered outfits, with all members of the family dressed in similar outfits of green and gold.

The wedding party.

It was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend, although the bus ride back into Jakarta was exhausting as we hit traffic the whole way back, but the mountain scenery was a welcomed distraction.

If you are ever in West Java, Cianjur is the place to visit for fresh mountain air and sights, although I can’t promise that you too will attend an Indonesian wedding.

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