From afar it looks like a huge fairy tale castle with a dozen high towers with faded emerald, azure and golden domes sticking out of the forest bordering the beach. If it wasn’t for the Google search done earlier, we would probably have missed it, in our quest to fill our tanks at Jepara’s marina before sailing through Karimunjawa, Belitung, Bangka, and the Riau Islands, renowned for lacking quality diesel. Concerned with our wellbeing and wondering what else there is to do in the area but fill up diesel, I have stumbled upon this wannabe Disneyland theme park, derelict before being completed according to some reviews, nevertheless, ready to take the chance to break the monotony of days on end motoring our way North-West towards the Malacca Strait, I have WhatsApp-ed them to confirm they are open.
We keep it a surprise for the kids, who, after anchoring, are asked to wear shoes for a short walk. They don’t miss the incongruous building and start making wild guesses at what it could be, when Azur notices an airplane at the entrance and concludes it is an airport. No idea why there is indeed an old plane sitting at the entrance, which has obviously been sized to accommodate hundreds of visitors but is presently empty (Tuesday, school/work day?), as we are about to enter not an airport, but a waterpark*. Which doubles as a mosque as I would later learn.
A group of students are getting dressed and a family is on its way out when Zephyr, Azur and I arrive, which leaves us the only visitors of the park late that afternoon, with close to a dozen staff to assist us. Thomas is to join us after his planned three round trips to the nearest petrol station to fill up our tanks, four twenty-litre jerricans at a time.
In the dressing room, while donning my rash top and yoga shorts brought to cover the too revealing bikini, I can’t help but notice all the ladies removing wet full-length leggings and long-sleeve T-shirts they wore to swim, and I feel quite underdressed, but so be it, the priority is to entertain the kids who are delighted to be here. They’ve never been and always dreamt of visiting a waterpark so they’re in heaven, adrenaline pumping in front of the colourful, long and steep waterslides they’re about to ride.
Of course, one could question the cracked walls, the puddles of water inside some closed off buildings, and the slippery tiled floors (the architect apparently thought it was a good idea to use smooth tiles in a water park), but the excitement is at its peak when we reach the top of the stairs equipped with our blue foam mattresses ready to slide.
After a brief hesitation, Azur decides to go first. No sooner has he disappeared in the red waterslide’s tunnel that we can hear an upset “I’m stuck! How do I get back up?” Needless to say I have to gather the little patience I have in me to explain with the softest voice that waterslides are one-way device, not meant to be climbed back up. Puzzled, the Indonesian lifeguard on duty asks what is going on, or so it seems, as I don’t speak Indonesian and nor does he speak an ounce of English. Then he makes some wiggling gesture, and we relay the information to Azur who should try to wiggle from side to side for his mat to slide, to no avail. Then the lifeguard yells something to his colleague down below, which upsets Azur even more “Mum, what is happening, what is happening?” As if I had become fluent in Indonesian in the process. So, we don’t know what is said, but Azur finally manages to slide down, greeting us with a cheeky “Bye-bye!” until … he gets stuck at the next loop, and unblocks himself, emerging at the other end shortly after, thrilled.
When both Zephyr and I make our big splash next to him each from our own parallel slide, a group of agents urges us to grab the white foam mats instead of the blue ones, which are too worn out and sticky. We run back up to reiterate the experience with our high performance mats this time. Faster they are, indeed, no one gets stuck, but almost worst, I am sliding with such velocity someone think it best to place an inflatable buoy as a buffer against the basin wall for me not to crash into it, and what a great call, without that last minute safety measure we might have been due for another trip to a hospital!
That’s how the afternoon goes from one adrenaline rush to the next until I suggest to the kids to go down the lazy river for a respite and, being the only ones on their Indiana Jones trail water, they take forever to go round the loop and by the time they’re out, an indistinct message through the megaphone alerts me that it is probably time to call it off. No time to shower, they’ve all been closed, and so we leave the park through the back door (everyone seems to know that we are the ones on the yacht anchored nearby) heading to the beach in our togs to have one last swim before returning to the boat, when it starts raining.
So far, the Indonesian wet season had been wet in name only, and although Thomas would have loved to refill our tanks with fresh rainwater to fulfil his dreams of self-sustenance, more than once he ended up on the deck of the boat with his body soaped up waiting in vain for what looked like a shower to rinse him, which turned out to be a small drizzle, no more. This time is different. A heavy curtain of rain is accompanied by a waterspout which alarms Azur as it is closing in on our anchorage, threatening the peace and quiet of our Obelix patiently waiting for our return, while I try to hide my own anxiety profusely reassuring him as best as I can. The waterspout recedes but it doesn’t take long before heavy winds and torrential rain are on us, forcing a retreat under the purpose-built elevated shelter facing the beach. We’re joined by some villagers who were fixing a wreck, and a couple of waterpark staff on their way home who’ve stopped their scooter, waiting for the deluge to stop. We share pieces of pineapple we had kept for afternoon tea with them, but, for lack of common tongue, for the next hour or so we can’t share much more than that and a few nods and smiles watching the kids run in the rain or jump in the puddles that are quickly forming to an impressive height.
When Thomas finally comes back from his refuelling mission, the whole area is flooded and we make the executive decision to extend our cocooning with an early dinner at the luxurious Kadjiné restaurant next door, where, again, we’re the only patrons. Never mind the out of order swimming pool being chemically treated, we end the day on a high note indulging fancy mocktails, burger, fries and local dishes, without hurting our wallets either, the bill barely reaching $20 NZD. As they say, keberuntungan berpihak pada yang berani! Or fortune favours the bold, in plain English.
* Mystery solved after Thomas improvised benefactor and driver for the day, Yunus, explained him that the plane is here for locals who will never have a chance to jump in an airplane to experience what it looks like inside.