Escaping the hectic streets of Bandung, we take a day trip to one of West Java’s most popular attractions located a short minivan journey outside its Northern suburbs.
The interesting geology of the region and it’s immediate accessibility to Bandung means that a visit to Tangkuban Perahu volcano is as appealing to weekending Jakartans as it is to hardcore volcanologists.
Having been sardined into the back row of the minivan, as to my disbelief, the driver successfully crammed more and more bodies into the dilapidated vehicle; it came as a relief to switch to a private charter to make the final 5km ride to the rim of the main crater.
Tangkuban Perahu is considered a dormant volcano, its last major eruption being in 1959.
The volcano still sends up small, yet visible plumes of smoke and gases and as you near the crater rim, and the sulphurous stench hits your throat in a way that recalls Port Talbot on a day when the wind is off the bay and the Steel Works is at full production capacity.
Judging by the excessive number of warung-stalls, guides and horse drivers offering their services on and around the crater edge, it seems that the rim of the crater even with its inherent dangers offers a more enticing place to set up business than the colloquially named “Port Toilet”.
The main Kawah Ratu crater is an impressive size, if somewhat dull in appearance. From a strong vantage point you can see it’s stark grey slopes dropping sharply to a flat bed of ash and then behind that, a light green “pool” of volcanic “stuff” from whence come the constant puffs of sulphurous emissions.
An undulating walkway circumnavigates the rim, but instead of following the hordes, we chose to take a hike down to a secondary crater a steep kilometer or so beneath the main event.
After descending sharply through forest thick with clouds of mosquito, we were able to scent the Domas Crater below us. As it appeared through the trees we could see several geysers and boiling springs bubbling and hissing away at the crater base.
There are numerous secondary craters on the slopes of Parahu, but Domas is the only one open to the public on account of the poisonous gases emitted at the other sites.
On that basis, I can only imagine they emit a stink as dangerously powerful as the miasma that hovers around and about the main road through Taibach.
Enjoying an early afternoon respite as “The Boy” snoozed upon my back, deep within his ergo-sling, the 0.5 and I bathed our feet in the hot springs and watched as our fellow day-tripper received mud massages from local hawkers.
The must-do at Domas is a won’t-do for me as it involves eating an egg that has been freshly D.I.Y. boiled within one of the hotter springs.
A personal peccadillo? Perhaps. Yet one that is completely justified through a traumatic egg-induced incident at the age of five when I was at the time admitted to hospital for a tonsillectomy.
Just like “The Boy”, as a young slip of a lad I loved eggs in all their cooked forms, but since “egg-gate”, I have been acutely averse to the sight, smell and most probably, taste, of a boiled egg and cannot for the life of me understand why people find them so appealing.
Over the past few years I’ve mellowed significantly in my stance on egg consumption, even accepting of late that for many years I’d missed out on the fine taste of Spanish Tortilla.
I don’t for example, have a phobia of eggs in the way that my friend Ade Sprake has with tomatoes.
When we backpacked together in Oz a decade ago, one of the most amusing episodes of my entire trip was watching Ade cower fearfully in a corner as I closed off all escape routes and exposed him to a bowl of chopped tomatoes which I was intending to use for a pasta sauce.
Of course, my sense of schadenfreud would be nipped in the bud if an equally thoughtless tormentor were to tease me by bringing a runny yolk close to my mouth, buy hey, I was young, I was free, and Ade was an easy target.
Anyway, the massed ranks of egg-tasters seemed to find their volcanic treats suitably tasty. More fool them.
We left the eggy smells and sights of Domas and headed back to the highway to hail another (probably equally cramped) minivan. As we reached the narrow mountain road, the heavens open and we dashed to a roadside warung, which was the only structure in the vicinity offering shelter.
It took almost two-hours to see the worst of the downpour through, during which time I foolishly dismissed the offer of an overpriced private hire back to Bandung on the grounds of being a pikey backpacker.
It was the only option presented to us over the next 120 minutes.
The £8 the driver wanted to charge between us seemed a retrospective bargain at the end of our unintentional stopover, and to rub salt in the wounds, I ironically got soaked to the skin as we waited to hail a ride back to Bandung.
At the end of this day, I am man enough to admit that I was more likely to erupt than any volcano in Java.