Monday, December 14, 2009

Litter has its uses

Way back then and there (Thailand, late 60s) bags you were given in the shops were recycled sheets of used paper - old exercise books, government forms - simply glued into shape. Then came the plastic bag and Thailand's shorelines, canals and roadsides soon became lines of semi-transparent decomposition-resistant offence. Wind forward a few years to Indonesia in the early 70s: in my memory at least the plastic bag or food wrapper had yet to arrive and all that lay by the roadside in Bali in 1974 were banana-leaf offerings to the lesser spirits. Today, alas, no longer. Our first shock as the beach at Carita (opposite Krakatau) strewn with various wrappers and bags inches thick. And so it has continued, apart from select locations , especially those frequented by foreign tourists, where care is taken to clean up. And as sure as litter attracts litter, cleanliness tends to discourage it.

So how could it be useful? Well, for example, in finding your way out of a crater.

After the serene green delights of Botanic Garden town Cibodas we moved on to Hot Springs town Ciater (Ci=water in each case) but soon dismissed the springs as hopelessly mobbed (it was a weekend), tawdry and, yes, full of litter. What to do? Obviously a visit was indicated to the large volcano dominating Bandung (no dung banned, actually). Despite the Sunday crowds (and yes more litter) it was an impressive sight - a large caldera containing twin craters, one spewing steam and sulphur fumes. A short walk past the car parks (yes, a road leads to the top) and the lines of stall led us clear of the hordes and onto the track round the crater rim. Some way along, the path branched, one way going up to the higher reaches of the rim, the other along the ridge between the two craters. At the end of this, the path led on and up, the litter told us, to the opposite side of the rim. Up we toiled with frequent rests, but never in doubt as to the route, plastic reliably showing us the way.

There is a more pleasant ending. After the main volcano view, a track leads down to a side crater where steam vents and hot water pools steam and bubble and stain the rocks yellow, giving the visitor a hands-on - or rather feet-in - experience of a volcano in tick-over mode. All the way down, the path was swept and spotless, not a speck of plastic to be seen. It can be done!

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