Batu Karas, Indonesia; The Ultimate Roadtrip Rite of Passage


Once upon a time Batu Karas was known as a quiet fishing village, and a secret surfing spot. Located just 32km west of Pangandaran, it’s become quite the popular destination for a (prolonged) weekend escape. The beach is about 7-10 hours away from Bandung or Jakarta by car, depending on your luck, but we’ve been told there are easier ways to get to Batu Karas. Unfortunately for you, Leon and Atri insist that the only way to enjoy the full Batu Karas experience, is to hop in a car with your friends. And they refuse to talk about any other means of transportation.


After quitting my job in 2013, my friends and I decided to go on a road trip. Originally we were headed to Cirebon, but everyone came to our meeting point decked out in shorts and t-shirts – and we figured we’d look better on a beach. Our initial trip planning happened on our Whatsapp group, and basically went; “Bored. Road trip anyone?” followed by affirmations. Our happy-go-lucky attitude continued all through the trip, which ended pleasantly and left us with plenty of good memories.


This misleading memory of easily planning and navigating the road trip, became the foundation of my 2015 trip to Batu Karas – which started with us getting lost along the way, because I fell asleep, and Google Maps lied. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t technically Google Maps’ fault – our cell phone reception was terrible, and while it was loading, we took a wrong turn and ended up on a mountain somewhere. Atri tells me she had the directions written on paper during her trip, not so with us. Oh we were a bunch of misguided children of technology, who foolishly believed that it would never let us down. I really should know better than to automatically assume that cell phone reception will be good everywhere. I learnt to not take things for granted, and that planning ahead really is that important.


Our friendship was seriously tested during the trip. We saw each other at our best and worst. It might sound dramatic, but we drove for 10 hours, and only two out of the five people there could drive, myself included. For the first time, I saw my friends as they were, as they reacted in various ways to our road trip trials and tribulations. There were groans and grumbles aplenty, but we somehow survived and hey – we still like each other! While we missed the sunrise we planned on seeing, we got to drive our car directly onto the beach for a really cool photo session, which turned out to be totally instagramable!



I’ve been to Batu Karas a total of three times; 2005, 2008, and 2012. Tari is going to b*tch at me for the quality of these photos, but they tell a story! And they’re important! And for me, they represent my Batu Karas, this weirdly addictive destination of my youth.

Back in 2005 when I first set foot in Batu Karas, there was hardly anything there, just the inn we stayed at, where we heard our next door neighbour going at it all night, and Kang Ayi – our go to warung by the beach. In the morning we saw a turkey having a threesome, and we were offered omelettes which had us ‘appreciating life and the universe’, and by that I meant we had really magical omelettes. Everything might sound disjointed and completely unrelated, but I swear it’s not my memory playing tricks on me – our first Batu Karas trip really was that weird. Looking back, the trip feels like it could have represented my whole university experience. A series of random events that coalesced into something beautiful, and utterly bizarre.


My second trip to Batu Karas came out of the blue in 2008, my friends and I had just finished our final exams one semester, and since we were too exhausted to go home to Jakarta (I went to university in Bandung) – a mere 2 hours’ drive away, we decided to take a 7 or 8 hour trip to Batu Karas instead, during which time a really cheesy song became our anthem, because why not, right?

That time, Batu Karas had already begun to build some nicer lodgings, there were a lot more surfers on the beach, and Kang Ayi’s warung got a little more expensive. The beach itself felt a little more crowded, and we rarely had the space to mess around. My most favourite memory from that trip was watching a beautiful sunrise, although it was quite a wet morning and the sun didn’t really blaze, as much as it sleepily peeked from behind clouds, we had most of the beach to ourselves. That time around, we were more comfortable with exploring, so we also headed to Batu Hiu and Green Canyon which were located nearby.

By 2012, the traffic to Batu Karas had gotten worse and the drive which previously took 7 to 8 hours, took around 10 hours. For some reason, getting past the winding roads of Nagreg really stuck in my memory; the roads were on a steep uphill climb and had tricky curves, and our car was completely dwarfed in size by huge trucks and busses. It was complete chaos, to the point that we dubbed our friend who navigated those roads; the Queen of Nagreg, for being an absolute hero and not throwing a fit.


The beach was super crowded when we were there, and surfers of all nationalities crowded around Kang Ayi’s now sizable place. There were several hotels open, ranging from surfer huts, to cosy little bungalows we could now afford as part of Indonesia’s working force. It seems like every trip to Batu Karas is a little bit weird, and it gets a little more complicated each time.


Where is Atri?

Batu Karas feels like a trip you should take while you’re young and somewhat broke. Because really, when else will you have the patience to sit for 7-10 hours squished in a car, barely able to grab some shut eye because someone’s knee is digging into your back, and someone, somewhere is always singing. It’s perfect for a road trip with your friends, the kind of impromptu adventure you undertake because there aren’t any classes on Monday and you just want a quick getaway by the beach. It’s the kind of place that’s better experienced in a dodgy inn than a resort, because you just know you’re going to meet some great characters there!
Having said that, I feel like I’ve put Batu Karas behind me, but I don’t know – maybe someday I’ll revisit for nostalgia’s sake. Have you ever felt like you’ve outgrown a holiday destination? Somewhere that you still remember with fondness, but makes you feel like maybe it’s just not for you anymore?


One response to “Batu Karas, Indonesia; The Ultimate Roadtrip Rite of Passage

  1. Pingback: Pangandaran, Indonesia; Nature at its Best | two runaways·

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