This memoir is a continuation of our last post - The Lost Sultanate of Bantam.
Departing the town of Banten Lama, we headed west towards the direction of Anyer, a idyllic beach town where the Great Post Road starts in the west of Java. Home to an iconic lighthouse which we planned to visit, the beach is also one of the closest places on dry land in Java where one could see the infamous Krakatau, a volcano which erupted with cataclysmic results in 1883.
En route to Anyer, we passed by Cilegon, a city aptly nicknamed the "City of Steel". Cilegon is home to Krakatau Steel (after the volcano), the largest producer of steel in Indonesia. Apart from that, there were also several petrochemical refineries and cement plants in the area, giving it a real industrial feel.
|Petrochemical plant in Cilegon|
On the trunk road to Anyer, we were treated with one of the biggest problems encountered by the locals in these parts - flooding. The two-lane road had been reduced to one narow strip which stayed dry. Some gung-ho motorcyclists who tried to ride through the flood waters ended up with stalled engines and had to push their bikes out of the water. As the flood water was knee-deep, virtually everyone tried to squeeze onto the dry strip, causing major congestion.
Before long, I could spot coconut trees swaying in the gentle sea breeze and we soon reached a small cape which extruded out of Anyer beach. Hardi explained that he wanted to show me something interesting before we headed to the iconic lighthouse.
As we planted our feet on the sandy beach, Hardi said: "Take a look at the sand."
|Dark volcanic soil mixed with the white sand of Anyer Beach|
"The volcano is over there." Hardi pointed to the faint silhouettes in the horizon. "The tall one is Pulau Rakata, the short one is Anak Krakatau." said Hardi
|The faint silhouette of Pulau Rakata and Anak Krakatau as seen from Anyer|
|Eruption at Anak Krakatau by flydime|
When Krakatau erupted, the explosion could be heard as far as 3,100 kilometres away in Perth, Australia. It is considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history. The extent of the damage was horrendous. Officially, a hundred and sixty-five villages and towns were destroyed and a hunded and thirty-two were seriously damaged. The official death toll recorded by the Dutch authorities was 36,417 people though it could have been more. Many thousands more were injured by the eruption and the tsunamis that followed and two thirds of the island of Krakatau was destroyed as a result of the eruption.
Rogier Verbeek, a Dutch geologist living in Buitenzorg*, had done research in Krakatau just two years before it erupted. He was allowed to spend a few hours on the island and the samples he collected at that time proved to be essential in judging the geological impact of the eruption later in 1883. (*More information on Buitenzorg can be found in our post - In Search of Olivia's Tomb.)
|Some guy tried to sell us these monsters at Anyer Beach.|
Anak Krakatau has been growing considerably since then and it currently has a radius of roughly 2 kilometres and it's highest point measures in at around 324 metres (1,063 ft) above sea level. The volcano is growing at a rate of five metres every year.
|This guy swam too hard. Sea wins, guy fails.|
When we approached the aforementioned rock, I was amazed by its size. It was huge! If the story was indeed true, I could imagine the monstrous power the eruption of Krakatau had. Having said that, the eruption was about 13,000 times the nuclear yield of the Little Boy bomb that devastated Hiroshima so it was highly plausible that a piece of rock could be thrown this far across the sea.
"There is a more famous rock called Karang Bolong further down the road where many tourists visit. However, not many people know of this rock, which has a special cave." said Hardi as we continued towards the rock.
|The person next to the rock should give a good sense of scale. The rock was massive!|
|The rocks in the water reminded me of our very own Squance Rock* in Changi.|
(*As seen in our 2010 memoir - The Mysterious Grave of Batu Putih)
|An old sign, worn and torn by the sands of time.|
|Completed in 1885 under the order of King Willem III of the Netherlands|
|Offshore mooring off the coast of Anyer Lighthouse|
From our position at the base of the towering lighthouse, we walked over to the former location of Fourth Point. The zero kilometer marker of the Great Post Road (Der Grote Postweg) was placed right in the middle of the battered foundation of Fourth Point.
|Marker Stone for Der Grote Postweg Zero Kilometer Mark and ruins|
Anjer - Panarukan
|Lighthouse Keeper pointing in the direction of Krakatau|
The Great Post Road, which ran for 1000 kilometres from Anyer - our current location - to Panarukan in East Java, was completed in just a year through the effort of these Rodis. In West Java itself, traces of the road can still be found today in Banten and the city of Bandung.
A stone's throw away from the Zero Kilometre Marker, a second marker can be found. This blue stone was laid by the TNI AL's (Indonesian Navy) Office of Hydro-Oceanographical Study.
Through his arrangements, we have been given a rare chance to ascend to the top of the lighthouse. With the sun setting fast, we headed towards the lighthouse entrance, eager to see the interior of the tower and the lamp before it turned completely dark.
As we stepped through the rectangular doorway of the lighthouse, the first thing I noticed was a door in the middle of the central column. This was the former storeroom for the fuel which lit up the lamp in the old days.
Ascending the metal staircase, I noticed whole floors that look to be severely rusted. There are 17 flights of stairs to be climbed which amounted to about 267 steps in total. Each floor had a window that allowed us to peek through for a nice view of the sea.
We arrived at level 6 of the lighthouse when I started feeling uncomfortable. There seemed to something watching us from the deep dark recesses of the room. I took a few shots but they all turned out blur and out of focus no mater how hard I tried to adjust my lens. This was also when I caught a whiff of something rotten. It was a really bad odour. I took my compass out of my pocket, half expecting to find the needle spinning around wildly. Nope, it wasn't.
"You smell that?" I asked Hardi. "Yes, I do." We stood there for a while. Nothing. After a short while, the smell was gone. Eager to push on to the top to catch the sunset, we continued on our ascent.
The lighthouse keeper, who had gone ahead of us to the next floor, came back down and asked if everything was alright. We explained what he had just experienced, to which he replied "This is a old lighthouse. That's actually quite normal. I just ask them to leave me alone as I am working and they usually do."
|Hardi stops to take a breather and check his shots.|
|Lighthouse Keeper explaining the reason behind the numerous small holes|
|"Bullet holes" in the ceiling created by trigger-happy Japanese soldiers?|
In the old days, the room was home to a large discus which supplied fuel to the wick of the lamp above. Technology has since taken over and the lamp is now powered by electricity in the present day.
Heading up the final flight of stairs, I finally the first rays of light from the lighthouse lamp as I emerged from the stairwell. The bright bulb was enclosed in a fresnel lens, which helped to amplify the waves of light to reach great distances across the sea. It was fascinating to see the lamp us close for myself. I took a couple of pictures, some from within the lamp room, and some from the galley outside.
|The lamp flickered off for a few moments and|
I quickly whipped out my camera to get this shot.
After the interesting lamp room, it was time for us to head out to the galley outside. The breeze was pretty strong out here, and the height of the galley made the walk a little more intimidating, but the excellent view of the setting sun more than made up for the unnerving experience.
|Sunset over the Sunda Straits, as seen from the top of Anyer Lighthouse.|
Bakau, the southernmost tip of Sumatra, can be seen to the right of the picture.
|The wind made everything a little more unnerving |
|Don't drop your keys.|
|Another view of the sunset in the southwest direction|
(Incidentally in the general direction of Krakatau)
Well, I guess he was right. The steps were narrow and steep, and descending 17 flights of stairs in the dark was much harder than expected. Even with our torches, we had to descend slowly due to the steep incline of the staircase.
Before long, Hardi and I were back on level ground. I turned around and took a few more pictures of the lighthouse, now basked in the last glimpses of sunlight against the dark-blue sky.
I hope that these fragile pieces of history are not lost and forgotten over time. Surosowan Palace has already fallen victim to the unforgiving effects of time, and i hope that this does not erode into the other relics of the past which Banten has in abundance.
Afterall, Bantam was a great Sultanate which started off the spread of Islam in Indonesia. The future generations should be reminded of its achievements for years to come - not just in textbooks - but in person; field trips organized to Banten and Anyer should be a good start. This part of Indonesia's history is just too precious to fade away just like that.
Article & Photos copyright of Aaron "Six Stomachs" Chan
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