Sukamade, getting there
Most foreign visitors come to Sukamade beach in Meru Betiri National Park with a tour ordered from their hotel in Banyuwangi, Kalibaru or Jember, or from a travel agent found on the internet. The tour operators invariable use a 4WD for the bumpy ride of the last 14 km. We made it with our Isuzu Panther which had just enough clearance, though we got some scratches on the bottom. And we might not have made it if there had been more rain and Sukamade river swollen.
An alternative to a 4WD is a motorbike. It is easier to navigate between the rocks and potholes, and it can cross the river by bamboo raft, saving a detour of 7 km. One can take a bus to Jajag and there hire an ojek (piggy-back motorbike) to Sukamade, typical price Rp 250,000 for the 56 km. If you are lucky a truck will take you from Jajag as far as Sarongan (42 km), and if you are luckier still to your destination Sukamade village. We were told that at most only one truck daily goes that far, but several go to Sarongan.
The distance from Banyuwangi or from Kalibaru to Sukamade village is about 94 km. A bus can bring you as far as Jajag (38 km). From Jajag to Pesanggaran (20 km) the road is well-sealed; follow signs to Pulau Merah until the turnoff 6 km from Pulau Merah, then go direction Sarongan.
We found the road sealing from Pesanggaran to Sarongan (22 km, via Sungai Lembu plantation) in poor shape, but still passable.
Beyond Sarongan the road has never been sealed. It winds through the hills passing Teluk Hijau (Green Bay) before it descends to Sukamade river valley. We wondered what to do when two cars meet on the narrow mountain road, because there is no way to pass each other. It seems that traffic from Sukamade leaves in the morning and traffic to Sukamade after noon, so that a conflict is not likely.
There used to be a bridge crossing Sukamade river, but it has been washed a way after heavy rain. At the site of the bridge a raft brings pedestrians and motorbikes across. We met a driver who said he crossed through the river with his 4WD. But we had to make the usual 7 km detour to find two crossings of tributaries to Sukamade river, where the water is shallower and the banks are less steep.
Near the western border of Sarongan village there is a checkpoint where one pays for admission to Meru Betiri National Park, Rp 20,000 per person plus Rp 50,000 photographing permit. This was February 2014, the price has not changed since May 1998. Closer to Sukamade there is another checkpoint manned by a plantation official, where you are just required to sign the guest book.
- Road Trip
Ferry to Bali
In Banyuwangi, we were almost immediately brought to the ferry that was to take us to Gilimanuk on the island of Bali. Not a very comfortable trip, the ferry we were on had to wait its turn for what seemed an awful long time before being allowed to enter the harbour. Karaoke and noodle soup. There were also lots of noisy trucks on our boat - all in all it was quite an experience!
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