(1694km - 33days)
15 February -
Malacca (Malaysia) – Dumai (Indonesia) - By ferry (plus some
Malacca was rather
slow to wake from the Chinese New Year celebrations, and we
weren’t sure if the ferry was even running. Time to move on
however, and we packed up early and cycled down to the ferry
jetty. We were advised to take the second ferry as the first one
was choc and block full, whilst the second one wasn’t even half
full. The ferry ride took about 2.5 hours and walla, there we
were in a new country again – Sumatra Island, Indonesia.
to be halfway between India and Africa, hot, humid, crazy
traffic and potholed roads, this is more my kind of country
(opposed to more organized SE-Asian countries like Malaysia).
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Malaysia, but feel very at home in
more chaotic countries. I think I’m going to like Indonesia! So
here we are back in dirty rooms with peeling paper-thin walls,
shared toilets, and bucket showers - what more can I say.
16 February -
Dumai – Duri - 5km
We followed the
busy, potholed road south in blistering heat; I somehow think
that this is going to be our lot for the next few months.
I haven’t worked
out the money thing yet, the local currency is Rupiah which
seems to be about 1 000 Rupiah to one SA Rand. Here we are in a
conservative Moslem country again and being stared at yet again
(especially in shorts and T Shirt). They will just have to stare
as it is far too hot to cycle in long pants and sleeves.
The people seem
very friendly and everyone wants to be your friend, we are
constantly being invited to stay at their homes. “Hello, how
are you?, Where you go? and Welcome to Indonesia” is constantly
being shouted from the side of the road. They seem to get the
Miss and Mister thing a bit wrong as I’m often called Mister. (A
reminder of the “Good morning teacher” in Africa, is the regular
“Good morning Mister”, even in the afternoon).
My heat rash was
so bad that I opted for an air-con room, but accommodation seems
rather expensive in Indonesia and we cycled around for a long
time in order to find a reasonably priced room. In general the
quality of the rooms are similar to some of the Arabic countries
and Pakistan, not to clean, curtains hanging from washing pegs,
mouldy peeling walls, and a bit smelly.
17 February -
Duri – Minas - 110km
The map that I
bought in Dumai was rather useless as it showed no km and was a
very small print but at least it was better than nothing. We
headed for Pekanbaru on the narrow potholed road and I was
amazed that the truck drivers were so courteous, sitting behind
us until they had space to overtake. This is not a road for
listening to the i-pod, we had to be very aware of vehicles on
the road. Not only was the road narrow but came with lots of
steep little ups and downs.
We could tell that
we reaching the equator as it was not only hot and humid but
rain came down in buckets every now and again. So we took
shelter with the local motorcycles waiting for the worst to pass
and then continued along the road. I spotted a sign for a
hotel, and we went to enquire even although Ernest said it would
be far too expensive as they had security guards at the gate (a
sure sign that it is out of our price range). The place turned
out to be a resort type of hotel with tennis court, swimming
pool, etc. The price list scared us, but after chatting to the
management for a while they gave us a decent room for 100 000 Rp,
not only with air-con and hot shower, but with dinner and
breakfast included - now that’s what I call a good deal.
18 February -
Minas – Bangkinang - 90km
We were rather
slow to leave our luxury accommodation but eventually got
underway, and I was pleased that the road leveled out a bit. So
we cycled past rice paddies and the ever present timber stalls
on stilts under rusted corrugated iron roofs, selling everything
imaginable from cigarettes to petrol by the liter. There
were Mosques aplenty, some quite impressive and some looking a
bit worse for wear.
Although this is a
Moslem country they do not seem to be as conservative as some
other countries. There appears to be many Girl Schools and women
are quite independent, schooting around on their motorbikes, and
very much doing their own thing.
really lazy, and by the time we reached Bangkinang we called it
a day and found a room for the night.
19 February -
Bangkinang - Pankanang - 85km
We left at around
10h00 after looking for a cap for myself, (I once again lost my
old one). It was by far the best day on the road since we
arrived in Indonesia, although hot, humid and hilly it was very
scenic past small villages, dense forests thick with ferns, and
a large lake where the river was dammed up, probably to feed the
hydroelectric plant that we saw earlier.
We crossed a few
very large rivers complete with fish farms but had no idea of
where we were as our map is not very accurate and the sign
boards indicated places not mentioned on the map. The final
stretch leveled out and we cycled along a river which, had it
been anywhere else, would have been jam packed with holiday
resorts. Eventually we spotted a petrol station where we were
offered a room to sleep on the floor. As there was a restaurant,
showers and toilets we settled in for the night with hordes of
people staring and watching our every move. When we sat down to
eat our table was shared with curious onlookers. Ha, ha our
room was invaded every now and again by people coming to have a
look at us. As this is a public room they proceeded to sit down
on one of the mats and just look at us. I’m putting the laptop
away now as they sitting right on top of me to see what I’m
doing. There’s nooo private space here, what a disaster, should
have pitched the tent next to the river instead.
During the night
the room filled up with other people sleeping over, and I woke
in the night to find a local man lying next to me with his hand
on my leg; I couldn’t wait for the morning to get out of that
20 February -
Pankanang – Bukittinggi - 85km
I was up at first
light, but we still didn’t get away until 9h00. We expected to
climb all the way up the mountain to Bukittinggi, which I’ve
read is on top of a mountain. We were pleasantly surprised to
find that the climb up the pass was only 20km. In the process we
crossed the equator but missed the sign somewhere along the way
(must have had my head down huffing and puffing up the hill).
On top of the
mountain we stopped for a bite to eat and marvel at the view of
the surrounding mountains, then it was on the bike again and we
flew down the mountain on a very steep winding downhill. The
road continued to be busy, especially in the villages, where the
main road was packed with busses, trucks, cars, horse drawn
carts, motorbike taxis with sidecars and of cause us on our
bikes. This part of Sumatra is home to the Minangkabau. With
the Minangkabau society being matrilineal, the houses are owned
by the women of the family and ownership is passed from mother
to daughter. The houses are mostly of timber and have dramatic
buffelo-horne like curved roof structures.
Soon we were
caught in the tropical rains again. We quickly found shelter
and waited for the worst to pass so it was after dark when we
arrived in Bukittinggi.
Two days spent
doing very little, although we did walk to Panorama Park which
has views over the gorge, and we even went down and explored the
WWII Japanese tunnels. I still want to know how dog owners
manage to sleep with their dogs barking all night long! Just as
the dogs went to sleep the mosques started up! At least their
purpose is to wake the whole community. This is a Muslim
country so there’s no getting away from it, but the dogs??? How
can the owners not wake up from that constant barking?
23-24 February - Bukittingkki – Padang - 95km
This must surely
rate of one of the best cycling days for a very long time! 95km
of downhill past small villages, raging waterfalls, over rivers
and through lush and green forests with volcanoes as a
backdrop! Oh yes this is volcano county and there are hundreds
if not thousands of volcanoes in Indonesia. It’s also a country
which has experienced various natural disasters recently, such
as the tsunami and a succession of earthquakes.
Early on in the
day Ernest and I lost each other somewhere along the way. When
I arrived in Padang and was shocked to see the full extent of
the devastating earthquake of a few months ago. See and hearing
it on TV never seems to be very real. Many buildings have
collapsed and are now in ruins, hotels have been destroyed and
the few remaining ones, now charge exorbitant rates.
Early on in the
day Ernest and I had somehow lost each other along the way. However, just after I pulled into one known cheap hotel, Ernest
pulled in there as well - ha, ha there’s just no getting rid of
this man! I was however quite relieved to see him, as I was
getting a bit worried after I saw a bicycle flatted by a truck
along the way and it made me realize how quickly an accident can
Padang remains a
busy coastal town with a very scenic beachfront packed with
stalls offering crab and prawn meals. We watched the sun set and
what a display of color that was.
25 February -
Padang – Painan - 80km
We headed South
along the coast on our way to Jakarta (still about 1 000km
away). What a stunning day on the road, we followed the coast
for app 20km and then the road turned inland over the hills. We
followed a small river through many tiny villages, past rice
paddies, rivers and forests. Along the road people are drying
all kinds of goods, rice, oranges, cloves, cinnamon, what a
We ended up in the
small town of Painan and intended to camp by the beach but I had
a distinct feeling that the entire town had come out to watch us
- they came from far and wide on foot, bicycle and motorbikes to
witness the spectacle. In the end we headed back into town to
find a room as it is rather difficult to find a bush toilet with
the whole world watching!
26 February -
Painan – Balai Selasa - 76km
Although this is
not the easiest cycling one can get, the scenery is
unsurpassed. The day started with a good hill or two. It was
boiling hot and we were sweating buckets. Again the road
followed the coast past many fishing villages, rice paddies and
rivers. We stopped to sample the food along the way, including
cassava fried in a batter.
A drinks stop at a
local shop normally attracts the entire village, staring
unashamedly without even blinking an eyelid. The road is lined
with villages and seldom do we pass someone without hearing
“Hello friend” or “Where you going?” – as well as the occasional
“What are you?”, “Who are you?”, or even “Why are you?”.
We made it to the
small village of Balai Selasa just before the rain came down and
there was just enough time for Ernest to go to one of the local
stalls and pick up some more fried snacks, amongst other things.
February - Balai Selasa – Tapan - 65km
Indonesia come with squat toilet and a water reservoir (mandi),
from which one can scoop water with a plastic bucket to flush
the toilet and “shower”. I was, however, so hot that I submerged
myself in the reservoir, something I’m sure you’re not supposed
to do, but there I had my own tiny swimming pool. Fortunate they
have a power shortage, and in general very low voltage globes in
the rooms – it’s better not to see what else is floating in the
water. Power cuts seem to be a general occurrence, even stopping
the mosque mullah’s chorus in mid sentence!
It rained all
night but by the time we were ready to leave it had cleared and
we were on our way. The road turned inland over the hills again
but at least we had some cloud cover for most of the day.
some unusual fruit along the road, one (markisa) was like a
passion fruit but less watery and with a thick skin that one can
peel off to eat the pulpy inside. The other fruit (salak, or
snake fruit) has a tough scaly skin with 3 firm white segments
inside, quite sweet and delicious with a faint mango flavour.
Soon the heavy
rain came down and by the time we were soaked to the bone we
arrived in the village of Tapan, where we opted for a room.
Sopping wet and dripping with water it was surprising that the
landlady even let us in. An interesting room without any glass
in the windows, just shutters, the room looked clean but Ernest
picked up a really bad eye infection, we think from the pillow
(or the wash water in the bathroom “tank”)
28 February -
Tapan – Pasar Bantal - 125km
The day started
flattish but got progressively more hilly. We thought we were on
the coastal road (meaning next to the ocean) but it was up and
down hills through palm oil plantations, and it just carried on,
and on, and on. One needed to pedal like the clappers down the
hills to make it up the next steep one. The road was full of
potholes and often broken up in the dips, so it was not always
possible to get enough speed down the hill to carry you up the
Fortunately we had
some food along the way as it became a rather long day as we
were unable to find an ATM to stock up with cash again. Ernest
also had a really bad day as he couldn’t see out of his one eye,
and the other one was also becoming infected. Late afternoon the
rain came down as usual and making it hard to camp as the ground
was flooded. In the pouring rain after dark we were offered
camping space in a disused mosque at a small village; at least
it was out the rain – and we discovered that the lights still
worked! We boiled some salt water for Ernest to wash his eyes,
ate our noodles, drank our coffee and then it was straight to
bed – accompanied by many eager mozzies.
1 March - Pasar
Bantal - Ipuh - 53km
The road continued
up and down the steep hills, what a difficult ride it was. I
felt short of energy and had difficulty with my smaller gears,
not something you want on a ride with a million and ten steep
hills. Up and down we went through oil palm plantations. Ernest
struggled with his eyes and found it difficult to see, by now
both eyes were virtually swollen shut.
We stopped in Ipuh
but were unable to draw money, as the only ATM in town was out
of order. We decided to take a room and I took the bus back
(with my last money) to Mukomuka to where we saw an ATM, the
previous day. Once there I was shocked to find that the ATM only
took Master Card and not Visa (mine is unfortunately Visa). I
was in near hysterics as now I had no cash whatsoever. The
friendly man at the bank gave me 150 000 rupiah out of his
wallet without blinking twice!! Can you believe that!! He did
not even want to give me his name so I can repay him later. (I
did however manage to get his name from one of the staff members
at the bank). I will be forever grateful to that friendly man.
It was enough money to get a bit to eat, take the bus back and
pay for the room where Ernest was lying in a dark room with his
eyes (obviously) closed. There was also enough money left to get
a large amount of noodles to see us through to the next big
town. I only got back to Ipuh at 10.30 that evening, hot, tired,
hungry and thirsty. Ernest was not impressed, as he reckoned us
worse off than before. Wow what a day, I would have dearly liked
someone to offer me a cup of coffee instead.
At long last I
could have a shower and change out of my dirty cycling clothes -
I must have stank the people out of the bus, considering that I
had not showered or changed my clothes in the previous two days.
2 March - Ipuh
– Ketahun - 82km
The day did not
start in a perfect way, after packing up Ernest discovered he
had a flat tire (from a pothole the previous day). Instead of
waiting I got on the road as it was already fairly late. Ernest
is quite fast, in both fixing tyres and cycling and would catch
up soon. Off I went up and down the notorious hills. If there is
one thing I don’t enjoy, then it is slogging up steep hills in
my granny gear at 5k/h and men on motorbikes pulling alongside
wanting to know if I want to boom-boom, while pushing their
thumb between their index and middle fingers. This only happens
when I cycle on my own and never when Ernest is with. I gave
them a mouthful and they took off on their motorbike.
By the time Ernest
caught up it was already 16h00, so it wasn’t long before we
pulled into a petrol station with a grassy patch where we were
allowed to pitch camp. We ate the last of our noodles and drank
our precious coffee and then it was off to bed. The tent was
like a sauna and I would have loved to leave the fly sheet off
but with all the usual spectators it’s not possible unless I
want my every snore watched.
- Ketahun – Bengkulu - 91km
I was on the road
before Ernest even had his tent down. The road was not as hilly
as the previous days but littered with potholes the size of
small cars. I bounced my way along the poor road until after
60km I decided to wait for Ernest. The people are just so
friendly along the way, always shouting “Hello Mister, how are
you?” from far away. When you answer there is normally
scores of hysterical laughter afterwards.
arrived (I had to go into the road to stop him, otherwise he
wouldn’t have seen me) and we were on our way to Bengkulu. Once
there the first thing was to find a working ATM. With money in
my pocket, we headed for the nearest hotel, had a shower and
found some food. A shower is definitely not something that’s
overrated!! Hotel Samudera Dwinka was quite fancy but they had
some cheap rooms at the back which were quite comfortable,
large, on the ground floor and came with a fan and a back door
as well as a hot water dispenser – for plenty of coffee. (The
only difference between our room and most of the other rather
expensive rooms was air conditioning and hot shower).
We had no
intention of moving on until Ernest’s eyes had recovered and he
could at least see where he was going. The antibiotic drops seem
to be working and he already looked a lot better.
Bengkulu is quite
a large town and had a shopping mall with supermarket etc, etc.
The roads were littered with mobile food stalls (kaki Limas) and
we ate as if we had not seen food in many days. In the meantime
we did our much needed laundry and I found a better deal for my
modem with unlimited access to the internet for the next month.
I played on the internet whiles Ernest cleaned the bikes - not
to mention that he sprayed the greasy muck off in the bathroom
with what he calls the “ass-washer” (a flexible pipe protruding
from the wall in many eastern toilets, usually with
high-pressure water controlled by a sprayer at the end – in the
cheap places the plastic scoop from the “tank” is used for the
ablutions). I hope the hotel staff did not notice, as I’m sure
they will kick us out on the spot.
I went back and
forth to the mall (it was such a novelty) found a face mark and
hair removal cream and spent the rest of the day titivating
myself. In the mean time Ernest also spent time at the
interesting local market, having his tent zip replaced, cheap
Chinese shoes repaired, and his beloved chair sewn up.
Oh yes, we even
experienced an earthquake, in this earthquake-prone area.
However, I can hardly say that we experienced it, as it happened
after we went to sleep and we didn’t even wake up (only heard
about it the next day!). The quake happened 160 km out to sea
from here, and although it measured 6.5 in magnitude there was
fortunately no structural damage or injury here in Bengkulu.
Today, the 7th,
we took a walk around town and to the coast, also visiting the
historic Marlborough Fort built by the British in colonial
times. Ernest’s eyes seemed much better and I think tomorrow
we’ll scoff up the last of the luxury breakfast buffets served
here (included in room price), and move on again.
8 March - Bengkulu
No, we did not
move on, there we still were, we woke to bucketing rain, and
decided to stay put.
definitely the footwear of choice around here, for easy removal
when entering shops, houses and lodging, I’m getting fed-up with
removing laced shoes, it’s such a hassle.
Sleeping does not
always come easily, roosters crowing at all hours of the night,
dogs barking, mullahs calling people to prayer endlessly, and
rock hard mattresses - not a good recipe for peaceful sleep.
What is with the short mirrors, all I can see is my navel,
surely no one is that short; uhmmm…… full of complaints,
definitely time to move on.
9 March - Bengkulu –
Seluma - 60km
At last we were on
the road again, and what a good day it was. The road was not bad
at all and the hills where absent. I did not however, feel very
well and struggled along on a day that should have been as easy
as pie. Once we reached Seluma we opted for a room and even
although it was hardly past lunch time, settled in and I even
had a little nap. We walked into town in search of the food
carts, with hordes of children in tow. They are just so sweet, a
bit wary of us at first, but friendly enough, often chanting
“tourist, tourist, tourist” which normally gets the whole town
out for a look.
10 March - Seluma – Manna
easy day as the hills were not as severe as before. We pedalled
quite happily along through small villages, densely forested
areas, rice paddies, and the ever present oil palm plantations.
locals normally comes with a barrage of questions. “What’s your
name, where you from, how old are you, are you married?” After
answering and posing for pictures with them, you’re considered a
friend for life.
11 March - Manna –
Bintuhan - 75km
I was not
quite firing on all cylinders but we carried on regardless.
As usual it was
hot, humid, the hills were steep and the roads were bad!! Kids
were cheering us on as we passed through villages, dogs barked
at our heels and elderly people looked up in amazement. We
dodged potholes, geese, chickens, goats, and water buffalo as we
passed through what seemed like an endless village.
We rolled into
Bintuhan where the fried food stalls got the better of us. We
booked into a room and went shopping, returning with a huge bag
of fried snacks - enough to feed the whole of Africa, and if
that was not enough we got ourselves a rice meal as well.
12 March - Bintuhan –
Pugung Tampak - 82km
The day started
deceptively easy as we cycled along the coast. Soon we headed
over some of the steepest hills I have yet encountered on this
trip. The sign board along the road which indicating the
severity of the gradient was no exaggeration! At first I
thought it to be a joke and that the board was placed the wrong
way round on the pole, but I soon discovered that whoever made
that sign was quite serious. We huffed and puffed and had to
push our bikes up the endlessly steep hills.
It was supposed to
be quite a scenic day (the road runs through a National Park),
but I saw nothing just my own sweat dripping on the road. I was
never more happy to see the end of a National Park, from where
we sped down the hill towards the coast again and landed up in
the small village of Pugung Tampak.
Dead tired, we
found Cecep, who runs a basic “homestay” and caters for surfers.
Cecep’s home is very traditional, built around a courtyard
complete with a well, laundry and monkey on a string. We,
however, decided to camp behind his house next to the beach,
which was maybe not the best option. Soon the entire village
surrounded us and I was concerned that the whole crowd was going
to come down on my tent. I was aware of torches shining into my
tent until the early hours of the morning, as visitors came from
far and wide to witness the spectacle. I had hardly fallen
asleep and the Imam started singing in the nearby mosque - let
me tell you, that man should not quit his day job just yet.
13 March- Pugung Tampak -
Krui - 37km
I felt tired from
the previous day’s mountainous road and was rather reluctant to
leave. Ernest was keen to carry on, so we packed up and cycled
along the coast. Again it was hilly but nothing like the
We passed through
some small fishing villages with double-storied wooden houses
lining the main road. Laundry hanging on fence poles and produce
being dried in the sun has become a daily scene. It‘s also not
unusual to see the odd bullock cart along the way.
As we reached Krui
we opted for a room as I felt weak and unwell. Aaah the pleasure
of a room (with fan) where one can close the door and be out of
the public eye for a few hours!
14 March - Krui –
Bengkunat - 87km
At last we had a
flat scenic road along the coast!! It lasted for at least 60km
but unfortunately came to abrupt halt as we turned inland
towards the mountains. What a pity we’d stayed in Krui, as there
were some fantastic beach bungalows just about 25km down the
road. We just had a quick peek and then it was on the road again
past more fishing villages where they were carefully drying tiny
fish along the road. The smell of ground coffee and cloves
accompanied us all the way. About 20 km paste the tiny village
of Bengkunat we found a derelict government office and camped
out back beside the banana plantation were we found handy
(abandoned?) water well. Later we were almost as amazed as the
villagers who appeared from out of the bush, coming to fetch
their evening supply of water. In those isolated parts they tend
to be a bit shy, and were stopped in their tracks as they came
upon the two strange-looking foreigners camping next to their
well. After surveying the scene they built up enough courage to
fetch their water – eventually there was a whole crowd of them,
and some of the children were even demonstrating the English
they’d learnt at school (“mother”, “father”, “grandmother”,
It was not the
most comfortable of nights as first the mozzies feasted on us
and then it started raining, we had no option but to crawl into
our tents where we lay sweating in our own private sauna.
Fortunately we’d cooked and eaten our dinner by that time.
15 March - Bengkunat –
Kota Agung - 70km
Ernest had one of
his very slow mornings packing up, man the guy can drag his
heals. It was 9h00 before we got on the road. I could not
believe it was another day of serious hills!! Again the road
ran through a National Park. I’ve come to the conclusion that
National Parks are for hiking not for cycling. We climbed and
climbed, higher and higher through a dense rain forest and
although it was scenic I did not have the presence of mind to
enjoy it. It started raining and the road became slippery and
very wet. Once out of the park there was about 10 km of steep
downhill, but alas, not to be enjoyed by us. A landslide had
covered the road in clay soil, and in the rain it was rather
hazardous. Those vehicles which attempted to pass were spinning
and skidding in the mud, trucks were sliding into the
embankment, but somehow we managed the get through.
The clay clung to
our bikes to such an extent that the wheels could not turn and
we were forced to stop and clear the worst away with sticks. At
least we had one pleasant surprise, as we came upon the town of
Kota Agung at least 20km earlier than expected (the best maps we
could find here are not proportionally correct, they don’t
indicate all the places, and they don’t show distances). We were
pleased to reach the town, and we also found a comfortable room
with a convenient tap and hose pipe where Ernest rinsed the
16 March - Kota Agung – Pringsewu
The hotel gave us
a surprise breakfast of fried rice, and after the bikes were
oiled we were on the road heading up another mountain pass.
Nothing like a good long hill first thing in the morning. I much
prefer a mountain pass to the short chain snapping hills we had
in the previous days. At least one climbs up at a steady pace
and then you go down again.
What a pleasant
surprise we had! Once over the crest the road just went down
and down and down, I knew it had to happen some or other time.
It was a real pleasure. Around 15h00 the clouds looked
threatening and drops started falling. At about that point we
arrived at another unexpected town, and once we’d spotted the
very nice local hotel Ernest and I gave each other a quick
glance and pulled in there without a word being spoken.
More amazing was
the fact that no one in Sumatra seems to know the km too the
next town. They glaze over and then come up with a number that
varies so drastically from the previous one that one never
knows. They can, however, tell you to the minute how long it
takes by motorcycle or bus.
distances given between Kota Agung and Bandar Lampung varied
from 50km – 200km!! That’s quite a difference (in the end it
turned out to be about 100 k’s).
Bandar Lampung - 38km
included in the room rate, and as everyone knows, that’s a dead
loss to any establishment when cyclists are around. I just love
the rice cooked in a banana leaf served with a fiery
curry/coconut sauce. The Indonesians are not scared of chilly
first thing in the morning. So I set of with serious heartburn
up the hills again. This time the distance reported was between
45km – 75km to Bandar Lampung. Strange enough there were no
distance markers along the road to Bandar Lampung.
reached Bandar Lampung after a mere 35km. I needed to extend my
visa ASAP, as it has already expired the previous day and I was
rather anxious to get to an Immigration office.
We found a rather
expensive hotel but as it came with air-con and hot water I dug
deep into my pocket and paid the price. Then it was off to the
Immigration office just to find that I needed a sponsor. The
hotel where we stayed was unwilling to help, what a pain!! I
can’t blame them, I don’t know if I will do that for a total
stranger. At least I was back in time before the storm broke
which came with such roaring thunder I thought the nearby
Krakatau had erupted again.
The entire morning
was spent renewing my visa. Whatever you do, don’t overstay your
visa in Indonesia; it came at quite a price. Arie Tours,
on Jl Wolter Monginsidi, was kind enough to help me process the
application (also at a steep price). Job done!
Walking around I
noticed that there was more to Bandar Lampung than expected, big
supermarkets, loads of hotels, (which we’d missed coming in on
the bike the previous day), a huge local market and even a
Carrefour and Pizza Hut around the corner! Uhmmm….. just
wondering if I should frequent them.
Traffic was hectic
and, like elsewhere in Sumatra, traffic rules are often
disregarded. Traffic lights are ignored and so are one-way
street signs, making getting around quite challenging.
There is nothing
as pleasant as listening to the bucketing rain from the safety
of your hotel room. (Ha, ha sorry that was not rain, just the
air-con dripping outside the window)
Bandar Lampung -
Kalianda - 63km
An easy ride to
Kalianda where I thought of taking a boat to Krakatau, but it
was a little bit pricy after paying for my visa extension and
fine for over stay, so I gave it a miss and rather just spent
the rest of the day in the small harbor town of Kalianda.
I’ll just have to
do the volcano thing somewhere ells. There will still be plenty
of opportunities to do that here in Indonesia.
Cilegong - 46km
Breakfast is often
included in the room price, even in cheap rooms. Don’t get all
excited now it’s only a plate of fried rice. After breakfast we
packed up, loaded the bikes and were on our way to Bakauheni to
catch the ferry to Java Island.
Once in Bakauheni
we swiftly got directed to the ferry terminal and in no time
were on a huge car ferry. It must have been the slow ferry as
the crossing to Java Island took 2 hours. Somehow it didn’t seem
necessary to buy a ticket for the passage (nobody asked for
tickets, and nobody offered to sell any). Can this trip be for
free, or did we just miss the ticket office?
The ferry ride
came in true Indonesian style complete with Karaoke singers,
instant noodles and the ever present deep fried tofu sellers.
The fact that the staff were frantically working on one of the
engines during the entire trip - bits of engine parts laying
everywhere- did not seem to bother anyone. Sea traffic appeared
no less hectic than the road traffic with other ships passing
dangerously close in front of us (no surprise that the there are
many shipping accidents in this region).
Once off the ship
at the Merak ferry dock on Java Island, we hit the road in the
direction of Jakarta. We only made it about 15 km through the
traffic before we found a reasonable hotel in the town of
Cilegong, with outside rooms under shady trees.
So came to an end
our cycle in Sumatra and it will be interesting to see what Java
is like. Was that a level road or did I just imagine it?
Tangerang - 91km
I thought that
Sumatra was one long drawn-out village, but Java seems to be one
long drawn-out city. Not once did we leave the built-up area,
and cycled in traffic all day long. However, my impression is
that the traffic is fortunately very aware of cyclists.
Saw a guy pedaling
down the road with his sewing machine (actually a sewing
workshop on wheels). Well, what do they say? “If the mountain
won’t come to Mohammad, then Mohammad must go to the mountain”.
It rained on and
off all day long and by our third soaking we found a room where
we could dry out. Although Tangerang is a large town we had some
difficulty finding accommodation, as many hotels were seemingly
full. Maybe they just didn’t want two scruffy looking cyclists
dripping rain water all over their neatly polished tiles.
22 March -
Tangerang – Jakarta - 31km
It was hardly a
cycle into Jakarta, only 30km and we were there. We picked up a
nice tail wind and got blown right into the city centre together
with whirling dust clouds, cardboard boxes and plastic bags. The
traffic was hectic with thousands of motorbikes and taxis. The
one-way streets made it even more frustrating, just as we
thought we had the route all planned we had to deviate to “who
knows where” because of one-way streets.
we found ourselves on Freedom Square and then it was easy to
find our way to Jalan Jaksa, the cheap tourist accommodation
area. We found a room at
which was comfortable enough at the price. Ernest seemed to be
all hyper-active and washed the bikes and some of his gear, as
well as doing some work on his bike (hub and brakes). He was a
real busy bee!
23-24 March -
Donned hat and
shades, and in full tourist disguise, we went exploring what is
left of the old Dutch city of Batavia. We found only an old town
square with one or two well preserved colonial buildings. The
rest of the buildings seem to have been hit by some severe
natural disaster (floods, earthquakes or is it just old age??)
The old Dutch port (still with beautiful wooden fishing vessels,
but in rather polluted water) is still operating. Cargo is still
being loaded in a rather old fashioned style along rickety
gangplanks. Wow, there’s no way you’ll get me to walk on those
Just around the
corner was the fish market, (which at the best of times is a
smelly place) but with dirty water gushing from open sewers,
people doing their daily ablutions in full view in the nearby
canal, cats and rats having the run of the mill and homeless
people squatting seemingly everywhere, this one was a bit more
smelly than your everyday fish market. Just outside the fish
market we found the old “Uitkyk Toring”, which is now starting
to resemble to Leaning Tower of Pisa.
taking local trains and so we did our exploring bit by local
train, at Rp1000 (about 80 cents SA) a ticket it’s hardly money
at all, but how come it’s Rp1500 coming back? It just makes no
sense at all, same train, same route but different price……
weird. (Subsequent experience seems to suggest that you pay to
the end of the line, which is further for us on the way back).
25-28 March -
Scores of Islamic
students staged protests outside Jakarta’s parliament against US
President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to the country. We
nearly got caught in the whole thing but made a quick u-turn and
headed in the opposite direction. The positive side was that the
city streets were dead quiet and we could wander around at
Just to the south
of where we’re staying is the modern city of Jakarta, complete
with bumper to bumper traffic, modern shopping centres,
high-rise buildings etc, etc. It’s however quite easy to get
around, whether by bus, train, tuk-tuk, or mini-van.
I can’t believe
we’re still here in Jakarta after a week! Ernest came down with
a bout of bronchitis, but still kept fiddling with the bikes,
and did some repairs to his tent, etc. Seeing that I’m neither
domesticated, nor do I know anything about bikes, all I did was
lie around, endlessly listening to music - what a pleasure.
29-30 March - Jakarta – Bogor - 57km
We seemed to be cycling less and less. The
road was congested the entire way from Jakarta to Bogor. Bogor
is world renowned for its historical botanical gardens and we
could hardly cycle past without a visit to the park. We found
accommodation close by at Puri Bali Homestay for a
reasonable price and with lovely old spacious rooms. We spent
the following day exploring the gardens - and what an impressive
haven it was.
31 March - Bogor –
We climbed up the volcanic slopes to the
Puncak Pass, which took the best part of the day but offered
stunning views of the surrounding mountains and tea plantations.
Ernest was still suffering from bronchitis and on the downhill
it started raining, so we started looking out for a roadside
Disaster! As I went up a wet concrete ramp
to check on a room I slipped and fell. I immediately knew
something was seriously wrong as I went into spasms and couldn’t
stop shaking. I sensed that Ernest was irritated by my
clumsiness but he still went with me (by taxi) in search of
medical assistance. X-rays revealed a dislocated shoulder
and two fractures, but the local hospital wasn’t equipped for
further treatment so they referred me to a specialist in Cianjur
about 20km away. Off we went in another minivan but the doctor
was out of town and we made an appointment for the following
So I spent an uncomfortable night back in the
“disaster-zone room” (which we’d been forced to rent), sucking
1 April - Cibodas – Cianjur - By minivan
I managed to charter a local minivan to take
me, the bike and the bags to the larger town of Cianjur, where I
had an appointment with the specialist. All the effort was in
vain, as I was again referred to doctors in the city of Bandung
about 65 km away. What a schlep, I just hate things like this!
Cycling was out of the question, so all I could do was take more
pain-killers and go to bed.
As if I didn’t have enough problems, earlier
in the day my credit card got stuck in the ATM. Fortunately it
happened at a bank which was still open, but it was still a big
rigmarole getting the card back – obviously not my week!!
2 April - Cianjur – Bandung - By minivan
It is such a mission to organize things if
you don’t speak the language. When I enquired about a minivan to
Bandung the hotel staff thought I wanted to exchange money!? In
the end I flagged down a minivan, negotiated a fee and set off
for Bandung. I could not believe Easter weekend was such a big
event in Indonesia (the most populous Moslem country in the
world), as hotels were fully booked and one could only get a
room at prime rates. There wasn’t much else to do but pay the
price and sms Ernest where to find me (he was still following by
By this time my arm had swollen to double its
normal size and it was on fire. I went to a reputable private
hospital in the city, just to discover that there was little
they could do but put the arm in a sling and give more
painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicine. At least the
painkillers seemed to working better than the stuff I had up to
3 April - Bandung
There was no doubt that I would not be able
to cycle for some time, so I had to make a quick plan. I decided
to leave all my belongings at the hotel and fly back to South
Africa for a month, while waiting for the silly arm to mend.
Fortunately there was a travel agent directly next to where we
stayed and in no time at all I was bound for South Africa
(albeit a huge credit card overdraft). I bought Ernest a plane
ticket as well, but he didn’t seem all that pleased about it
(Was it because his trip was being put on hold?) Whatever the
reason, he was rather miserable.
4 April - Bandung – Jakarta - By bus
It was another mission just getting to
Jakarta airport from Bandung (chartered minivan with bikes from
hotel to bus station plus three hour bus ride to the airport) –
all this while I was in constant pain and had a splitting
headache as well, not even the medicine seemed to help. On top
of that we still had 8 hours to wait for our flight which was at
half past midnight. Just to crown it all, I puked 2 airsick-bags
full before the plane even took off!! Now that is what I call
“things not going to plan”.
5 April - Jakarta – Cape Town, South Africa -
Wow, what a long, long day it was. Hours and
hours in the air – via Dubai (that’s what happens if you live at
the Southern tip of Africa) eventually we arrived in Cape Town
where I spent just as many hours chatting to my sisters while
drinking numerous glasses of wine. I was, however, more than
relieved to be off that darn aircraft and snug in a real home,
eating my favorite dish (macaroni cheese) of which a huge bowl
was awaiting me as I stepped into Karin’s home.
6 April – 11 May - Cape Town
It was party after party, pizzas galore, and
after many good bottles of wine it was time to head back to
Indonesia and continue where we’d left off. It was great to see
my friends and family again, and even after extending our
departure for a week, 5 weeks were just not enough to catch up
with everyone. It was a concern that my shoulder was not yet
completely right - now really, tell me, how long does it take
for a bone to grow on?!
12 May - South Africa to Indonesia - By plane
After a 9-hour flight to Dubai, a 5-hour
stopover, a further 8 hours to Jakarta, plus a 3-hour bus trip -
we finally arrived at our hotel in Bandung at 3 am. We were
happy to find our bags still exactly as we’d left them, albeit a
13 May - Bandung
Jetlag and time-zone differences started to
take its toll on us. After a long and deep sleep we were still
tired but had to start organizing our equipment. Unfortunately
the new front rack for my bike didn’t fit properly so Ernest had
to do some magic, but the gears just didn’t want to play along.
Ernest worked on the bikes for hours that afternoon, but was
unable to fix the gears on my bike.
14 May - Bandung – Cicalengka - 46km
Ooh it was so good to be on the bike at last.
First we cycled to the bike shop and had the gears on my bike
sorted out, Ernest also got a new front derailleur, and after
everything was fitted it was 12h30. We headed south-east along a
terribly busy road, complete with traffic jams, busses, trucks,
motorbikes and scooters. Not even on the bike could we always
By 4.30 we did a mere 46km, dark clouds
started heading our way and with big drops of rain falling we
kept our eyes peeled for a room. We pulled into roadside village
(in Java the whole roadside is a village) and asked around for a
room. By the time we found a room we’d actually started heading
back in the direction of Bandung. The room came without windows,
a solid cover of mould on walls and ceiling, and a pile of
cigarette butts swept into a corner. Rooms were obviously let by
the hour as there was a constant coming and going of visitors,
and judging from the sounds coming from the other rooms I think
they all had a pretty good time.
With rain pelting down on the tin roof we
cooked our noodles and drank a local “Bintang” or two.
15-16 May - Cicalengka – Tasik Malaya - 73km
In the morning I was more than happy to be
out of our cell and back on the road again. Things went well
enough until we started climbing over the mountains when I could
feel that I hadn’t been cycling for 6 weeks – Gosh, how quickly
one looses fitness. In the afternoon the usual rain-storm
arrived, driving us to seek shelter at a petrol station. After
an hour the worst of the rain was over, but it was still
twilight and raining, with parts of the road more like a river.
I felt that this was a dangerous situation as we were not very
visible, the road was narrow with flooded potholes, and the
traffic was extremely heavy (as usual in Java).
I was becoming concerned about the gathering
dark, but fortunately about 10 k’s before Tasik Malaya town
Ernest spotted a hotel - there was no argument about pulling in
there (fortunately the rooms were cheap and not too bad).
17 May - Tasik Malaya – Tasik city - 16 km
We cycled the short distance into the city
centre, drew some money and then decided to stay for the day.
Good thing too, as we did some laundry, high time as well, as
I’ve been wearing almost the same clothes since leaving Cape
Town 5 days ago.
18 May - Tasik Malaya – Cipatujah - 78km
I was getting back into my stride and felt
more at home on the bike and on the road than on the previous
two days. We headed south on a much smaller and more quiet road
to the small seaside village of Cipatujah. Although a hilly
road, the scenery was sublime. We pedaled past small villages,
rice paddies and dense forested areas. Once again we had to take
shelter from the rain for a while, but for most of the afternoon
it wasn’t much more than a drizzle. What a pleasure it was to
cycle in the rain, at least it helps to keep one cool!
Soon we arrived in Cipatujah and found
ourselves a nice little local hotel room close to the beach. We
had hardly unloaded the bikes and the landlady brought us a
bunch of bananas and later 2 huge plates of fried rice
accompanied by the usual omelette, prawn crackers and slices of
cucumber. At first we thought we were the only visitors in the
village but soon a bunch of travelling salesmen (on motorbikes)
arrived - that’s when you know that you’re staying in a local
Later, just as we were nicely settled in, the
earth started to rumble and shake! Clothes started swinging on
the wall, the standing fan teetered back and forth, the water in
the bathroom mandi (tank) was sloshing around, and even the
floor tiles were moving back and forth!! Ernest and I looked at
each other wide-eyed and I quickly put my shoes back on, just in
case I had to run from our not so strong looking room (or a
We had hardly calmed down again and a whole
bunch of local policemen arrived (apparently to check our visas,
etc.). They were obviously inquisitive about us and wanted to
chat, but the language barrier was a problem and they didn’t
stay long - at last we could go to bed.
19 May - Cipatujah – Batu Karas - 76km
We left our fragile-looking accommodation and
headed towards Pangandaran, the next biggish place on our map.
We followed the smallest of coastal roads past fishing villages
and more rice paddies. The road was mostly level as we followed
the coast, what a pleasure it was! Some days, bicycle touring
can be so much fun!
We took our time and turned off the main
road. In the process we found the fishing village of Batu Karas,
and decided to stay the night. The place is popular with
tourists as it has a great beach and good surf as well. There is
a range of accommodation, some fancy hotels and also basic
“surfer dorms”. We found a nice cheap place attached to one of
the beach restaurants, and it was even worth eating there
instead of cooking our own food.
20-23 May - Batu Karas – Pangandaran - 34km
A short ride into Pangandaran,, apparently
the main beach resort on Java island. There’s a lovely beach,
hundreds of cheap hotels, a peninsula with nature reserve up the
road, and not much else. Ernest was complaining of a sore
backside, so we booked into a room and did lots of exciting
things such as the laundry! We also spent the next day in
Pangandaran, and while Ernest fiddled with equipment I spent
some time on the beach - lukewarm water and good waves is not
something I complain about. That evening after supper I started
feeling nauseous and puked my lungs out all night. Although I
felt a million times better in the morning, I was weak so we
stayed on another 2 days. The first day I mostly spent sleeping,
and on the second day I went to the bookshop and spent the rest
of the day reading The Shining Mountain by Peter
Boardman. I love mountaineering books and find our personalities
and justification for what we’re doing scarily similar. It’s
interesting to read that he had as much difficulty in explaining
to people why he climbed, than what we have explaining why we’re
24 May - Pangandaran – Cilacap - 90km
There were heavy thunderstorms during the
night, and in the morning it was still raining. At first we
couldn’t decide whether to move on or not, but by mid-day the
weather had cleared and we were eventually on the road. It was a
rather bumpy road, but that also meant not so many vehicles. We
followed this tiny road over hills, past rice paddies and
coconut groves, and through villages until we reached the large
town of Cilacap. It was rather late and half dark by the time we
found a reasonable room for the night.
25 May - Cilacap – Kebumen - 90km
We got woken up with a tray of breakfast at
6-30. The breakfast consisted of a teenaged chicken thigh (with
claw still attached), sticky rice, and sambals. No need to say
Ernest had both plates, but was convinced that it had already
been prepared the previous day.
We left by 8 o’clock (a record for us in
recent times!), and continued East along the road. During the
course of the day we found ourselves back on a main road, and in
Java that means the road was jam-packed with buses, trucks and
scooters. I have to remind myself that there are 130 million
people living on this island of 132 000 square kilometers - the
most populated island in the world. The roads are also rather
narrow and often in poor condition – everything but a relaxing
It was still fairly early in the afternoon
when we arrived at Kebumen, a large town about half-way between
Cilacap and Yogyacarta. Due to the early start we’d had enough
for the day, and had no trouble finding a reasonable room. In
some of the more conservative Indonesian towns it is, however,
rather difficult to find a beer with which to relax during the
evening – and this town is one of those places.
26 May - Kebumen – Borobudur - 87km
We were up and going before 8h00 again, ghosh
what’s happening? It was a rather overcast day and soon it
started raining, not that it’s a big problem – it’s nice to be
cooled down a bit.
As we approached Borobudur the road became
more hilly as we crossed over the flanks of two volcanoes.
Jeepers, those hills were steep, but I huffed and puffed and
made it to the top. From the turn-off to Borobudur it was a nice
downhill run into the village where we planned to visit the
well-known Buddhist temple on the following day. We had to
search for a room in the pouring rain, as accommodation was hard
to find due to the annual Buddhist Waisak Festival. Borobudur is
the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and during this
festival thousands of pilgrims and monks visit the site to
celebrate the birth of Buddha and his teachings. Because the
site is a popular tourist destination, it inevitably comes with
all the tourist paraphernalia one can expect of such a place.
27 May Borobudur
We were up early to visit the temple.
Borobudur is an excellent example of Java’s Buddhist heyday.
Constructed in the early part of the 9th century the
temple was later abandoned with the decline of Buddhism in the
area, and covered in volcanic ash by an eruption in 1006. The
buildings were rediscovered in 1814 by Raffels, then governor of
Java. To Buddhists the temple is a symbol of awakening and of a
human’s journey to enlightenment. It sits on top of a small hill
and overlooks the surrounding valleys and hills. From here one
can also see the two nearby volcanoes, “Sumbing” and “Gunung
Merapi” which appears in a near state of eruption (smoke spewing
from the top and all - I’d better just behave until I’m out of
Soon, however, hordes of giggling school kids
arrived, (“small students” as the gatekeeper referred to them)
all wanting to have pictures taken with me, and wanting
autographs in their books which they apparently brought with
especially for that purpose. I did the best I could, but there
were just too many of them! So with the arrival of the heat and
the school kids we retread back to our room for a lazy
28 May Borobudur to Prambanan (via
Yogyakarta) - 71km
Shortly after leaving Borobudur we cycled
past the nearby Mendut Temple where more Buddhist celebrations
were underway. Police blocked the road off around the temple,
but allowed as through on the bikes. Monks were chanting at the
temple so we just viewed the scene from outside the fence.
I now realized why I thought I was stuck to
the road cycling to Borobudur - it was uphill!! So it was a
relatively short downhill run all the way into Yogyakarta city.
Once there we discovered that there was not room for a mouse in
town - everything was jam packed full, due to the celebrations.
We cycled around for hours looking for room, but eventually we
decided to head out in the direction of Solo, our next
destination. Within about an hour we passed the temples of
Prambanan, and fortunately we found a cheap room close by just
before the rain came down. I decided to have a look at the
temples the following morning - these seemed to be Hindu
temples, hence the fact that we found accommodation so easily.
29-30 May - Prambanan – Solo - 51km
First thing in the morning I went to visit
the Prambanan temple site – reputedly the largest and most
beautiful Hindu temples in Java, built in the 9th century and
mysteriously abandoned just after completion. Although seriously
damaged by the 2006 earthquake, I found the temples to be very
impressive. Then it was back on the bike.
It was a fairly flat ride into Solo, known as
a very conservative city. It can’t be all that conservative as
Ernest managed to find not only a beer, but also a tin of ham.
The local Moslems probably think that he is going straight to
The next morning we decided to stay one more
day. I handed in my laundry and we walked around town. We also
bought some new dry bags at an outdoor store, at a fraction of
the price we would pay for it in SA. Food for myself was more
difficult to find as everything I saw had meat or egg in it.
Eventually I ordered a spring roll at the hostel where we stayed
and instead of a spring roll, got an omelette with veg inside.
Ernest had to once again eat my poor order, and that after he
already had to eat my breakfast omelette which came included in
the room price. (I think he’s had enough of omelettes for a
31 May - Solo – Caruban - 119km
After Ernest had 2 omelettes for breakfast
(mine and his), we headed in the direction of Surabaya and found
the road fairly smooth and flat. That also meant that the buses
and trucks were going ten to a dozen and we had to be careful
not to become road-kill in the process.
At last it seemed that we were (at times) out
of the built-up areas and among some farmlands for a change.
Cassava, rice and sugarcane were being grown in large
quantities. All kinds of things were being sold next to the
road, including tiny monkeys, fancy chickens, and colorful
song-birds in cages.
I nearly got bitten by a snake which had been
run over, and in defence it was striking out wildly in all
directions. I did not spot it until the last moment, so I
swerved away in a panic and nearly got run over by a truck
myself -sjoe, that was close!
Otherwise it was a good day on the road and
we put in a full days cycling, something we haven’t done in a
while. Around 5 pm we pulled into the small town of Caruban
where there was no problem finding a bed, food, and a beer -
what more can I ask for?
1-2 June - Caruban – Surabaya - 159km
We were on the road early and headed in the
direction of Surabaya, and until we reached the outskirts of the
city we made good time as the road was fairly flat and not too
congested. However, once we reached Surabaya the traffic became
horrendous, and the last 15 k’s into town took hours - the last
thing I feel like after such a long day on the road! (When
Ernest decides what the destination is for the day, then there
is no stopping him - and me like a small dog following in his
wake, tongue hanging out and huffing and puffing for 160 km!).
By the time we found a budget room close to the city centre it
had been dark for some time, and I was totally buggered. I had a
quick wash out of the mandi and then passed out on the
The following morning we went to enquire
about a boat to Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. The
first shipping company wouldn’t allow us to take the bikes
along, so after I schlepped all the way to the head office of
another company I was informed that the ticket office was
elsewhere. We decided to leave it at that for the day, and
rather cycle to the ticket office the following morning.
That evening a huge explosion rocked our
street, scattering building rubble and broken glass everywhere –
I nearly shat myself! The power was cut, and there was general
pandemonium around the place with people running and sirens,
etc. There seemed to be a strong military presence which made me
think that it was something more sinister than just an accident.
(Later I discovered that it was an accident in a gas-storage
warehouse – it was even on the TV news, and apparently 3 people
(661km - 21days)
3-4 June - Surabaya – Borneo - By ship
In the morning we packed up and cycled to the
harbour where the friendly security guard at the gate went to
the shipping office by motorbike to buy our tickets for us. I
wasn’t feeling well, and as the boarding time was only later
that afternoon, I parked myself under the nearest tree while
Ernest went back to town in search of an Internet cafe and
snacks for the trip.
Judging by the ticket price (R160 SA for a
24h00-trip) it sure was not going to be a cruise liner. I was
suffering from severe diarrhea and certainly wasn’t looking
forward to spending a long time on a crowded boat with a lack of
toilets. The ticket included 6 meal vouchers so it seemed that
they were expecting us to be on the boat for significantly
longer than the predicted 20 to 24-hours. The fact that we only
left at 20h00 instead of 17h00 made me wonder if we were going
to need all those vouchers. However, once on board the friendly
crew gave us an option to upgrade to a private cabin for a mere
R40 each - what a bargain! (I quickly dug in my wallet en
coughed up the money). There we were like two comfy rich
tourists, even having meals served in the cabin while the rest
of the rabble had to stand in que’s! The ship was a large
car-ferry, so we could cycle on board and store our bikes below
decks with the trucks and cars and motorbikes (R60 per bike).
Twenty-two hours after sailing out of
Surabaya we docked at the river port of Banjarmasin. We only had
to cycle a few k’s into the city, and although it was dark we
had no trouble finding our way and booked into one of the budget
hotels. It was immediately apparent that it was going to be even
hotter and more humid in Borneo than in Java. The last part of
the ferry trip to Banjarmasin was up a large river, and from the
ship one could see that a large part of the population lives in
wooden stilted houses over the water along the riverbanks.
5 June Banjarmasin
I felt absolutely awful and spent the best
part of the day lying in the room under the (not so effective)
fan. It was boiling hot and the humidity was extremely high,
just what one can expect being so close to the equator. Ernest
found some tablets for my nausea which seemed to work quite well
and by the evening I felt a whole lot better. We decided to stay
another day, and I arranged an early morning river trip with
Ahmed, a local guide.
6 June Banjarmasin
We were woken by our guide at 5 am (we hadn’t
adjusted our watches to Borneo time – an hour earlier than
Java). After cruising up rivers and canals in an open slow-boat
we arrived at the very colorful floating market. We bought some
fruit from the boat vendors, and on the return trip we stopped
at the riverside “old market” for vege’s and made a nice potato
salad that evening. (I still could not stomach any fried stuff).
The markets are fascinating and a quick glimpse into the daily
life of the local people.
Banjarmasin is a city with a maze of rivers
and canals, and much of the population spend life in the stilted
houses lining the banks. The waterways are not just for
transport, but also serve as a toilet and a bath (swimming,
laundry, and dishes are all done in the same water). Then they
still fish in the river, gosh, I hope they don’t drink that
water as well!! That sure will be enough to kill a person. The
people are incredibly friendly and shout, scream and point us
out to their kids, as we pass by. At times I felt as out of
place here as an urang-utang would be on the streets of Cape
7 June Banjarmasin – Margasarihili - 81km
We decided not to take the main road, and
left Banjarmasin along a narrow paved road following a canal
with plenty of local life. In contrast to our suspect map, the
road abruptly turned into a small gravel road which ran along
rivers and canals and rice paddies. We could tell that there
have definitely not been many tourists in this part of the
world, as people seemed rather apprehensive of us.
The mother of all storms was building up
around us, and our road had deteriorated to a footpath with no
shelter in sight. Fortunately, just as the storm broke we
reached the entrance road to a coal mine and sheltered in the
security hut, with coal dust from the overhead conveyer belt
showering down together with the driving rain. Later, in light
rain, we proceeded along the unpaved mining road which soon
ended. Before we knew it we were back amongst the rice paddies,
and the rain had turned the track into an impossible clay pit.
Slipping from side to side, my bike and feet were soon jammed up
with the thick sticky clay. Pushing the bike was also
impossible, and I ended up dragging the bike along, falling and
slipping around in the process.
It seemed like an eternity before we reached
a canal where a ferry took us across, and we were hopeful that
conditions would be better on the far side. The locals helped us
slide the bikes onto the ferry, and then helped us clean off the
worst of the clay. As it was getting rather late we considered
camping right there, but it was still raining and there was no
shelter or dry land around (besides that, the mosquito’s were
eating us alive. By the time we’d made up our minds to move on
it was dark, and the friendly locals helped push us off through
the clay for the first km or so (bikes caked with clay again!).
By then the path had improved to simple mud, stones, and
potholes, so we could cycle to some extent. It was tricky
cycling in the dark and the rain I was lucky to have only one
serious fall (luckily I didn’t break my arm again!).
A lifetime later 2 rather soaked and muddy
foreigners slunk into the small town of Margasarihillir – much
to the surprise of the locals. After looking around for a while
we went to seek shelter in the (deserted!) police station. After
a long while the police returned from their patrol (or dinner?),
and allowed us to camp in their derelict back rooms. In fact, it
took a while to explain to the police that all we wanted was a
place to sleep (not a lift to the bus sation, or a meal, etc.).
Ernest worked until well after midnight to wash the worst of the
muck off the bikes.
8 June - Margasaribilir – Kandangan - 54km
At last we were on a tarred road again, and I
have never been happier. We cycled along the scenic narrow road,
past villages and along a river to reach the small city of
Rantau. What a fascinating country this is. We carried on past
Rantau until we reached Kandangan were we found a hotel. I was
in desperate need of a bath, and we spent the afternoon doing
laundry, and cleaning equipment.
Now the skin is coming of the palms of my
hands, gosh what’s next? It looks to awful, like athletes foot
on one’s hands, this is so gross!!
9 June - Kandangan – Tanjung - 97km
Breakfast seems to be included in the room
rate – often something like fried rice and a boiled egg. Taking
the weather into account it’s no surprise that duck eggs are the
order of the day here.
In a constant drizzle we cycled along, and I
was happy that we were on a hard topped road. Anything is better
than that mud!
10 June - Tanjung – Muarakomam - 92km
Holy Mackerel, those hills were steep. It
just went straight up and straight down, what happened to good
old zig zags? On top of every hill I first had to stop and get
my breath back, then it was straight down and up again. Along
the way we were offered coffee by locals at a roadside stall
where we stopped for a rest – coffee was obviously being grown
in this hilly area, and locals were drying the beans at the
We reached Muarakomam at around 16h30. It was
a tiny village with just a few houses on either side of the
road, a mosque and a market. We could not believe it when we
spotted a penginapan (small local hotel). They sure knew that
they had a monopoly as the price was rather steep for such basic
11 June - Muarakomam - Kuaro - 57km
Now that was a hard day! Gosh, it’s not that
the hills are that long, only about 500m or so. But the gradient
is insane, then straight down again, across a river and straight
up again. So it went all day until we reached the top of the
mountains. We basically fell straight off that mountain and flew
downhill at break-neck speed. I was nearly a goner as I flew
around a corner at high speed, while a truck coming up swerved
out for a huge pothole and missed me by mere centimeters. I was
a lot more careful after that!
We called it a day when we found a hotel in
the small junction town of Kuaro - I desperately needed to rest
my weary legs.
12 June - Kuaro – Balikpapan - 141 km
I was hoping that the road would flatten out
in comparison to the previous days. Although it was not as
steep, it was still hilly the whole day. We headed for the
coastal city of Balikpapan on the East coast along a “good” road
(according to the locals – still bumpy and potholed). As it had
been on the previous day, it was hot and humid under a searing
sun. I was sure that I lost half my body weight as the sweat
just poured out of me!
By late afternoon we’d reached Pananjang on
the Southern shore of a large estuary, with Balikpapan on the
other side. We decided to take the car ferry across, but
realized why many of the locals hire speed boats as the crossing
took more than an hour. By the time we cycled off the ferry it
was dark, and to our dismay we found that the ferry dock was
some distance away from the city. So, we had some fun cycling
another 20 km up and down steep hills on a tricky road in the
dark, and then through chaotic traffic (every time we asked for
directions it was another 5 km!).
By the time we reached town, I was exhausted,
hungry, and thirsty – but that was not the end of the ordeal. It
was late on Saturday night, and all the hotels in town were
full! At last, after 10 pm we found a place, but had to wait
for a while until the hourly customers had left and the room
could be cleaned! What a long, long day it had been, and I was
never happier to be horizontal – lumpy sagging mattress or not!
13 June - Balikpapan
I wonder if people in SA realize just how
much they are in the eye of the world right now. With the FIFA
world cup their every move is watched across the globe. Here I
am in Borneo and the streets are jam packed with traffic, going
to the local park where a huge big screen is showing the
football. It’s festive and food stalls are lining the streets,
they should have blocked the road, as it was impossible to get
through. Everywhere else in the city, people are sitting on the
pavement in front of cafés and at local eateries, cheering on
their chosen team on TV.
14-15 June Balikpapan
We moved to another hotel, closer to the
centre and one offering better accommodation at the same price.
My knees were sore from cycling up all those hills, but nothing
a couple of anti-inflammatories and a few days rest can’t sort
out. We even had a shower with hot water in our room, which made
us stay another day and enjoy the luxury. We washed our clothes,
washed our hair, scrubbed our bodies and just enjoyed the luxury
of an air-con room.
16-17 June Balikpapan – Loa Janan –
Samarinda - 139km
Time had come to move on and we headed
further North towards Samarinda. The road continued to be
extremely hilly. It was also slightly further than expected. By
the time it got dark, I insisted we find a room as I had enough
of struggling in the dark up hills and trying to find a room in
heavy traffic (my pet hate). So we stayed over in an overpriced
crumby room in the town of Loa Janan, and cycled the remaining
13 km into Samarinda city the following morning. There we booked
into a local favourite hotel close to shops and the central
We also took a walk to the harbor to enquire
about ferries to Sulawesi. However, before leaving Borneo we
plan to explore the interior by boat, as roads appear to be
non-existent and the best way to see the interior seems to be by
I found out to my horror that our digs also
came with lice on the bed. I woke the following morning bitten
to pieces and itching like hell!!
18 June - Samarinda
We conveniently found a guide to take us to
the interior (they seem to frequent the hotels on the hunt for
tourist). I liked the guy so we arranged with him to take us
inland along the water ways. I’m sure that we could have done
this quite easily independently, but what the hell let’s do the
touristy thing for once.
Our guide was dead on time at 8h00. We took
an ankot to the bus terminus where we boarded a bus to Kota
Bandung further up-river, a very bumpy 3-hour ride. There we
boarded a small long-tailed boat, which was not much more than a
canoe with an engine. It fortunately came with a canopy to keep
the worst of the sun off us. The engine sits on the back of the
boat, and has a long direct drive shaft to the propeller - a
rather noisy affair. The engine spattered and roared - reminding
me of our disastrous crossing from Thailand to Myanmar where the
engine blew up.
Soon we left the busy waterways around the
town and found ourselves on a large lake resembling an ocean.
The colors reminded me of the Antarctic, whites and blues abound
as we zooted across the lake. After about 2 hours we reached a
tiny village where we stopped for lunch. The little village is
no more than 1 square mile but was fitted with walkways for
streets whilst everything else seemed to be floating alongside
At times our boatman had to find his way
along channels through the floating grass islands in the lake,
which were sometimes so thick that the boat got stuck. We had to
ask directions from local fishermen a number of times.
A thunder storm was building, and came down
with such force that we took shelter at a floating fish-depot.
That also gave us the opportunity to buy some huge lake prawn
which our guide later cooked for supper.
Our overnight stop was at a village where we
stayed in a very comfortable guest house, resembling a
longhouse. Longhouses (the traditional accommodation) are not in
use anymore and I understand that it is discouraged by
government. Traditionally a whole village would live in one
longhouse, but apparently it was also a breeding ground for
disease. Individual houses are now encouraged but there are
still some lovely old longhouses to be seen in some villages.
After a breakfast of tea and fried noodles we
were on the boat again. This time the route was up a river lined
by dense forest and small villages. Wooden houses on barges
floating along the side of the river are the norm around this
part of the world. The toilets are no more that a small outhouse
directly over the water with a hole in the floor! From what I
could see most of these villages are fishing villages and people
don’t seem to do much more than fish, wash, and clean. I just
wonder if kids don’t drown in hordes??
We even spotted some long-nosed proboscis
monkeys along the way. All kinds of fishing methods are being
employed, from fish traps to Chinese fishing nets, but still
there seems to be plenty of fish around.
The villages along the way seemed to be well
organized (albeit floating and with no connecting road). They
have their petrol station, shops, furniture stores, schools, etc
all floating on barges or on high stilts.
Women could be seen going about their daily
business with faces speared with white cream. The purpose of
which is still unknown to me. Babies were being rocked viciously
in small hammocks and older kids were, seemingly, constantly
playing in the river.
In the next small village I eventually found
the women making the face masks. A concoction of leaves and
flour. This is then rolled into small bolls and dried in the
sun. She keenly gave me some (which I still have to try out).
Back in our guesthouse we ate the rest of the
prawn, tempe (something like tofu, thinly sliced and fried) and
noodles, washed down with some more tea.
I could still not stop itching, no lice this
time just hordes of mosquitoes! I was fairly lumpy by then.
Fortunately the power come on in the evening and stayed on until
the morning, so one can at least have the use of a fan during
It was time to head back to Samarinda. First
I had to take a quick peep at the traditional healer’s house. It
was rather colorful and quite busy, so it seems that people make
use of the local healer fairly regularly. His drumming and
chanting could be heard throughout the night.
Our boatman was ready and waiting for us and
we headed back the same way we came. Although there was not a
huge amount of wild life around there were still a fair amount
of bird life, there were colorful kingfishers, plenty of other
water birds and even a huge maribu stork or two.
I must admit that the toilets here are
something to get use to. Not only is it just wooden structures
over the water with a hole in the floor, people wash themselves,
do their laundry and swim right at the door of the toilet. Best
not to think about it, just squat and do your thing. Good thing
they do not use toilet paper around here. The worst is that you
still have to wash your ass with water scooped from that very
same hole!! Gosh, I guess that is way too much information for
22 June - Samarinda
We bought our boat tickets for our trip to
Sulawesi, which appears to leave every Wednesday. I anticipate
another long boat ride with minimal facilities. Judging by the
way they were selling tickets left right and centre. I’m sure
they have no idea of how many tickets they have sold. We’ll wait
and see what the boat is like.
Ernest was sick and stayed in bed all day, so
even if there was another boat we could not leave.
23 June - Samarinda, Kalimantan –
According to the ticket the boat would leave
at 11h00, but it was 14h00 before we finally left. People
streamed onto the boat and we were packed in like sardines.
Rumor had it that there were 4 000 people on the boat (which I
could believe), licensed to carry 970 people. There was not even
enough space for us to roll out our sleeping mats. Eventually we
opted for the open deck, but even there it was totally packed
with people coming out to escape the stuffy interior. Hawkers
still managed to get thru to sell all kinds of snacks and
trinkets; how they managed I don’t know. You know you in for a
hot and stuffy ride if the hawkers peddle fans at only R3.00.
We waited for the mullah to call the people
to the mosque (on every ship around here) and took the
opportunity to roll out our mats on deck; at last we could
stretch our legs!
As if that was not enough a fierce wind came
up and soon we sailed through a storm. It rained, the swell was
rather large and the boat pitched and the people puked! Ugggg …
there was no chance of going inside as by now it was even more
packed inside and there was not even standing space. We wrapped
ourselves in our ground sheets and waited out the storm on deck.
The problem with such an overloaded boat is
that the facilities are not designed to handle so many people.
People puked and had a pee where ever they could squat! What a
trip we had.
(659km - 15days)
24 June Pare-Pare
Dead tired we arrived in Pare-Pare at 7h00.
Once off the boat we headed straight for a room where we could
have a shower and a sleep. First we had to find a bike shop and
a new tyre for my bike as a huge bubble appeared along the wall
of the tyre. Ernest, still feeling unwell, did all the work and
changed my tires for me.
25 June - Pare-Pare – Enrekang - 86km
Sulawesi is a twisted orchid shape Island
with four mountainous peninsulas sprawling into the sea.
Needless to say there is little flat ground around. The road
between Pare-Pare and Enrekang is probably the most flat of the
lot. We headed north on a gently undulated road until we reached
Both the culture and architecture here seems
to be different to Java and Kalimantan. Traditional wooden
houses lined the road, orchids seemly growing wild along the
road and amazed and friendly locals are keen to inspect us as
soon as we stop. At every stop they appear from nowhere and have
no shame in staring at and even touching us (they must wonder
what a white skin feels like).
26 June - Enrekang – Makale - 80km
Gosh what an uphill day it was. We climbed up
to the highlands with stunning views of the valleys and rivers
far below us. It was a rather slow day as we stopped numerous
times for water and to admire the views and the interesting
traditional houses along the way. Once we reached the area of
Tana Toraja things became even more interesting.
Traditional houses with boat shaped roofs,
rising in front and at the back, is a common site, most also
have a richly decorated barn in front,
Although it was Saturday night, we were lucky
this time and found a room in Makale at the 3rd
local hotel we tried. Although we were not far from Rantapao
(tourist centre of Tana Toraja), it was getting late and we were
rather tired (Ernest was still suffering from the illness which
he picked up in Borneo).
27-29 June - Makale – Rantapao - 24km
It was a short and easy ride to Rantapoa. We
took the opportunity to stop at Londa, a small village with some
fascinating burial caves. One can even go inside the caves where
old coffins are scattered around, exposing skulls and bones.
Very gory, how can these people find any rest? Above the cave
is a balcony with a row of tau tau (life size carved
wooden replicas of the dead) sitting all dressed up in fresh
clothes watching their graves. We found more caves at Lemo where
tau tau is sitting high up on a sheer cliff face.
Once we reached Rantepao, we booked into a
rather expensive but comfortable hotel, in fact we stayed for 2
nights, doing nothing just laying around and watching football
on TV. (Also waiting for Ernest to recover from his illness).
30 June - Rantepao – Palopo - 65km
Another remarkable day on the road. We cycled
through more authentic villages with colourful rice barns. At
last we reached the long awaited downhill. The road was in
rather poor condition and washed away in many places, parts so
narrow that I wondered how the trucks and busses make it past
those detours. Thick clouds and rain hung over the
mountain top and made visibility rather poor as we descended
down the mountain. We reached the town of Palopo fairly
early in the pm, and booked into a room close to the central
1 July - Palopo – Larompong - 81km
At last we reached a level road! (only
slightly up and down at times). What a pleasure it was to
cycle along and just enjoy the ride. We could see all kinds of
produce being dried along the road. The whole range was there,
coco beans, coffee beans, fish, rice, sea weed, vanilla and the
ever present cloves. The smell of cloves will now probably
forever remind me of Indonesia.
We spotted a Hotel sign indicating a beach
hotel, and booked into what was once a very nice resort hotel –
right on the warm tropical ocean -but it has since gone to the
dogs. The hotel is situated right on the ocean with all the
facilities, but no one there. The facilities were not what it
used to be but the location was fantastic. There was a small
fridge and TV in the room - and despite the arrangement of
satellite dishes there was only one channel on TV. (I later
found the TV remote in the bed). Soon the word must have gotten
out that two foreigners were in their midst, and the townsfolk
arrived to come and have a look while we were still unpacking
2 July - Larompong - Sidenreng - 123km
Another excellent day on the road, gently
undulated and with nice views. We picked up a bit of a tail wind
and carried on cycling past more colourful villages. The
Indonesians do like color - from bright pink curtains to
luminous green school tracksuits.
Just as we departed from one of our water
stops, Ernest snapped his chain but fixed it in no time. In the
meantime the lady from the house served coffee and cake. Kids
arrived to check us out, and although shy they’re not timid.
They just come to have a closer look at the two strangers.
The soccer world cup has really put South
Africa on the map. Most people now have heard of South Africa,
although they still find it amazing that we are white. When they
hear where we from, they spontaneously brake into the “Wave your
flag” song. How fantastic is that! I must admit it is a rather
Sidenreng - Pare Pare - 31km
After a breakfast of fried rice and chilies,
there was no doubt that heartburn was going to set in soon.
Ernest (still suffering from his mysterious illness which he
picked up in Borneo) now seems to have a chest infection as
well. He wisely decided not to cycle on to Makassar but to take
a day’s rest in Pare Pare.
4 July - Pare Pare – Pancep - 113km
At last we found a flat road in Sulawesi. The
road followed the coast and contrary to what I expected, was
very scenic and very enjoyable. Hardly any of the places along
the way were on our map – the names seemed to be different from
those commonly used in the area (a bit confusing at times)
Ernest was still ill, therefore we considered
stopping early but there was not much (or nice) along the way so
we carried on to where we found a comfortable room. Once again,
I expect, it was a place where they rent rooms by the hour but
it was cheap and the people friendly enough.
5-8 Jul - Pancep – Makassar - 56km
An easy and short ride brought us to Makassar
with its heavy traffic and congested streets. We found a good
old backpackers hostel right in the centre of town where we off
loaded the bikes. We soon found out that we would have to wait 5
days for the next boat back to Surabaya (Java) - gee that is a
long time to sit around!
While waiting for the boat we visited the old
fort and took bicycle rickshaws around town, visiting all there
is to see in Makassar.
(210km - 8days)
9 July Makassar – Surabaya - By boat
Eventually it was time to leave. The day
dragged on, seemingly for ever. We had to be out of our room at
12h00 but the ship only docked at 3pm and left at 7pm. So, we
sat around in cafes, walked around shopping centers and visited
the old fort (again). At last we headed for the harbor where we
boarded the already overcrowded ship (this was not the origin of
the voyage, the ship does a weekly route amongst various
We found what we thought was a good spot for
ourselves and our bikes in a passage close to the door where we
entered the ship. However, soon other passengers also claimed
their space in our passage and we could hardly move. The rest of
the ship was similar, with people sleeping on the stairs!
The Indonesians must surely be the most
tolerant people on earth. With the boat being that overcrowded,
everything from going to the (soon blocked and overflowing)
toilet to buying something at the shop brings along a lengthy
wait in a long que. Those people (unlike me) don’t stand there
grumbling, sighing, and rolling their eyes. In fact they remain
friendly and chatty as if this is no problem at all. I truly
admire them, even when our ship developed engine problems and we
were left adrift out in the open seas, they did not lift an
eyebrow, - they just carried on eating their instant noodles and
playing cards, believing that the problem would be fixed in no
time at all!!
In the meantime they seem to be constantly
having a shower, and always smell as fresh as daisies; it was
just the 2 foreigners being all sweaty and stinky. I have now
discovered their secret. Sweet smelling flowers, being sold at
the market, is placed in water and is then used for rinsing the
10 July - Arriving in Surabaya
A lot of rubbish is generated by so many
passengers on a ship (meals and snacks are served in polystyrene
containers, and most wrappers, etc. are plastic. This rubbish
was collected in large plastic refuse bags and stored at the
other end of our passage – but during the night the large
side-hatch was opened and all that rubbish was unceremoniously
dumped into the ocean!l I could not believe my eyes, after all
that careful collection, what’s the point?!
We arrived in Surabaya, at around 22h00
(instead of in the afternoon, due to the engine problems). It
took forever to get off the boat with our bikes and bags. We
once again cycled in the dark into town to find a hotel. I was
more than happy to be off the boat and into fresh air.
11 July - Surabaya
FIFA really did put South Africa (Africa
Selatan as they say here) on the world map. Most people have
at least now heard of South Africa. My impression is that many
people still think SA is just a geographical term referring to
the South of Africa. A common reaction is still, “But you are
not black?” As someone asked today, “Where in South Africa,
Ernest was still rather ill, so we stayed one
more day. He refuses to go see a doctor, and because he keeps on
cycling he has now also picked up a cold.
12-13 July - Surabaya - Pasuruan - 67km
We packed up and cycled the relatively short
distance in heavy traffic to Pasuruan. It was a short ride but
better than just staying in one place. I seemed to have also
picked up Ernest’s cold and suffered from a tight chest, blocked
nose and headache. This is so frustrating.
The entire way was very congested, and it
felt like we were not getting out of Surabaya. This must be
guava country as all along the road they were selling guava and
guava juice. A great drink to have as they put loads of ice in
In constant traffic we arrived in Pasuruan;
found a very comfortable room (my favorite) an outside, ground
floor room with a window and a veranda overlooking a central
The next day both Ernest and I were rather
sick and feeling worse for wear, we decided to stay in bed and
only carry on the followed day.
14 July Pasuruan – Probolinggo - 41 km
We took it real easy and only cycled the
short distance to Probolinggo. Although a busy road, it was nice
and flat with a bit of a tail wind, so we arrived early. I was
keen to see the nearby volcano and decided to do that the next
15 July - Gunung Bromo
I got up in the early hours of the morning,
left Ernest in bed, and headed up the mountain to see the
sunrise. Gosh, I have not seen so many tourists in a long while.
Where did they all come from? I could hardly catch a glimpse of
the sunrise with all those people at the view point! It still
remained quite a spectacular site. Mount Bromo with its smoking
cone and smelling strongly of rotten eggs, is situated in a vast
caldera and surrounded by various other craters.
I climbed up to the lip of the crater to see
what was down there. Not much just a smoking hollow! Then it
was time to head back to the room where Ernest was still
semi-comatose under the covers.
16 July - Probolinggo – Situbondo - 102km
A great day on the bike, as the road was flat
and there was not as much traffic as expected. The road hugged
the coast for most of the way and although not a beachy area,
more like mangrove swamps, it was great to be next to the ocean.
I love easy days!! Both I and Ernest felt a
lot better so we enjoyed the day, all we needed was a tail wind,
but that was asking for too much!
(351km - 13days)
17 July - Situbondo – Gilimanuk - 90km
Ernest was still not well; I just yesterday
thought he was getting better. We set off and soon encountered a
rather stiff headwind, which just got worse as the day
progressed. The road was not as flat as the day before but
rather hilly in parts. Fortunately the hilly area was through
shady forest. By the end of the day I had enough of battling
into the wind.
At the dock in Ketapang we took the short
ferry ride across the channel to the island of Bali. At last we
arrived in Bali! I take my hat off to Ernest, who feels crap,
but still manages to cycle 90km in a strong head wind (or is he
We were hardly off the ferry when we spotted
a nice place advertising rooms, and what a delightful place it
was, little bungalows in an overgrown garden, lovely!! I just
hope the wind dies down during the night.
18 July - Gilimanuk – Medewi Beach - 59 km
The first part of the day we cycled through a
national park and under a green canopy of trees. No wonder Bali
is such a popular destination. It has more than just beaches!
The Balinese Hindu culture is alive and well and I have seldom
seen such a vast collection of Hindu temples and shrines. The
towns and villages along the way had a strong ancient Hindu
flavor reflected in the architecture and all the shrines - how
Soon we reached the well known surfing spot
of Medewi Beach. Close to the turnoff from the main road we
found a good place to stay with an excellent menu! I don’t
often cycle past places like this.
- Medewei Beach –
Denpasar (Capital of Bali) - 74km
Bali has everything
to make it a true paradise; with its warm tropical climate and
great beaches, good surf, palm trees and frangipanis. Add to
that an evocative Hindu culture, green rice paddies and friendly
Balinese and it is sure to be a winner. Typical island style
there was plenty of fruit to be had along the way. Roadside
stalls were selling bright red water melons, large yellow
bananas, pineapples and mangoes.
The road down the west coast was fairly hilly and slightly
windy, but we soon reached the capital where we had to stop for
a day or two in order to inquire about a visa for Australia.
We did the necessary,
filled in forms, made copies of what was required and handed in
the forms. Then it was just a matter of waiting to see what
will happen. In the meantime I was bored stiff. Time to move
on and check on the progress of the visa later. There must be
more to do on this holiday island than sitting in a city room
staring at the ceiling.
- Denpasar – Kuta
Beach & Uluwatu - 10km/29km/28km
We saddled up and
cycled the rather short distance to the famous or infamous Kuta
Beach. It was a much closer than I had expected. It all came
as a bit of a shock after such a long time in the rest of
Indonesia. Tourists galore, narrow alleys lined with curio
stalls, CD’s. T-shirts, surf shops, western restaurants, booze,
tattoo shops and marijuana!! Gosh, I nearly fell over just
witnessing it all!! We eventually found a reasonable room and
parked off, absorbing it all.
The most wonderful
thing about human beings is how quickly we can adapt to a new
environment! Soon I was shopping, eating and drinking and
nearly had a new tattoo!! I joined the beer swirling holidaying
Auzzies and ate at Pizza Hut, swam in the ocean and spoke loads
of shit with holiday makers from around the world, dogged curio
sellers and anyone else trying to sell me a trip to a nearby
I was enthioasticaly
telling someone about our trip, but he obviously did not me
believe me. Definitely time to move on, I’ll say, before all my
money is gone and people think we’re just making this up!
We biked down to Uluwatu Beach, one of the most famous surfing spots in Bali if
not in the world. There was no accommodation at the surfing
point, but most accommodation places where scattered along the
hilly roads in the vicinity. We only stayed one night and
decided to go back to Kuta, while still waiting to hear from the
Back in Kuta we found
a better room at Sari Bali, lovely with balcony and pool. We
lived in luxury, eating more pizzas and of course we also drank
a few beers.
- Kuta – Padang Bai - 61km
At long last we left
the touristy area of Kuta and headed for Denpassar to pick up our
passports at the application centre. We were eager to see if the
visas had been granted and were rather relieved to see that a
3-month visa was securely pasted in our passports.
We headed off to
Padang Bai to get a ferry for Lombok as we still had until 11th
August left on our visas for Indonesia. We bought our flight
tickets from Bali to Darwin for 10th August and could
now relax and explore Lombok until it was time to leave
Bali is a smaller
island than expected and the roads are good and scenic. So all
in all an enjoyable ride with once again plenty of Balinese
Hindu temples and shrines. Padang Bai is not only a ferry port
but quite an enjoyable little village, with a small touristy
sea-front where there were plenty of places to stay and eat. We
found ourselves a cheap room (complete with sheets which has not
been changed for months) and headed out to one of the small
restaurants on the “strip”.
Ernest went wild and
ordered a steak, big mistake! Although the steak was ordered
“rare”, it was still cremated and resembled part of an old shoe
sole, just as flat and just as tough (the accompanying French
fries looked and tasted exactly like rice). My veg curry was a
winner. Stick to the local food, that way you avoid disaster on
(556km - 13days)
- Padang Bai, Bali –
Senggigi, Lombok - 40km
We took the 10h00
ferry from Bali to Lombok, a 4-hour voyage. From the ferry port
it was only 20km to the capital which we bypassed and headed up
the coast to Senggigi, famed for its lovely beaches, and the
most touristy place on Lombok island. Once there we discovered
that most of the accommodation on the beach was too expensive
for us - so much for the lovely beach where I envisaged myself
in a bamboo hut with the water lapping at my feet.
In order to get out
of our dark hole of a room, we headed for a local restaurant
instead of cooking for ourselves. Ernest, at long last, had his
fish which was not cooked to a frazzle, and was not served with
scales and bones! I had fried veg and tofu, which was
absolutely delicious; I was pleased we did not cook for
- Senggigi – Senaru - 85km
Most rooms in this
part of the world come with a simple breakfast and this time it
was no different. We ate our banana pancake, drank our coffee
and soon were on our way again.
The road was a lot
more hilly than expected and we huffed and puffed up the steep
little hills and then flew down the other side. The ongoing road
works made it even harder and while pushing up one particularly
steep gravel hill a kind local motorbike passenger decided to
help - but I think he underestimated the weight and soon
abandoned me to my own devices.
As often happens the
last 10km of the day was straight up the mountain! We were
rather happy to reach some accommodation with excellent views of
Rinjani (the well known volcano on the island). I was itching to
do the trek up to the crater, but we have such little time left,
that I gave it a miss.
- Sennaru – Lanbuhan
Lombok - 68km
After our usual
banana pancake (tourist breakfast) we sped down the hill at
breakneck speed, but once that was over it was back to the steep
ups and downs again. The scenery was absolutely stunning and
friendly kids cheered us on as we battled up the vertical road.
A chorus of “Turist, turist” and “hello mister” could be heard
as we cycled past small villages. I must admit my greetings
seem to fade a bit towards the end of the day.
Shortly after lunch
we reached Lanbuhan Lambok, the ferry terminal to Sumbawa island
where we had been heading. After some consultation with the
locals we decided to stay the night and only cross to the
Sumbawa in the morning. We found a cheap “losmen” (local
hotel), bought some things at the local market, and eventually
Ernest found a decent White Snapper at a good price which he
filleted and fried (he managed to eat up the whole thing – for
the uninformed, I’m vegetarian).
2 August - Lanbuhan Lombok –
Mataram - 75km
Somehow our plans
changed during the night. For a number of reasons we decided to
stay in Lombok instead of crossing the short strait to Sumbawa. The main reasons being that we both hate back-tracking (which,
it seems, would have been necessary), we had no decent map of
that island, and we were unsure of where to go once we got
We headed back in the
direction of the Lombok capital, Mataram. A number of locals
had reliably informed us that the main road back to the West
coast was flat. Unfortunately (as in many parts of the world),
“flat” seems to mean “straight”. We gradually climbed for some
time, then some “up and down”, and eventually we had the gradual
downhill run-in to the capital. The road was dotted with small
villages where the horse and buggy is still in full use and
seems to be the main mode of public transport around town. Farmers still plow their rice paddies with oxen and locals are
amazed that we’re cycling to the next town! It’s rather useless
telling them where we come from as its way off their radar.
In Mataram we found a
nice room (recommended by the guide book), where we could
unsaddle our own well-used horses. Ernest did his usual pm
march around the markets, and as usual he returned with a
refreshing local Bintang beer. Now we have a few days left
before our flight to Darwin.
3 August - Mataram, Lombok – Padang Bai,
Bali - 21km
We were rather slow at packing up. Eventually
we had the bikes loaded and ambled along the road to the harbour
for the ferry ride back to Bali.
We were just in time for the 12h00 ferry,
along with trucks, busses, curio sellers and hawkers, we boarded
the ferry for another 4-hour crossing back to Bali. The swell
was rather large, making it difficult to walk around so we just
settled in on a mat and ate Pop-Mie and selak (snake fruit,
which we’d bought earlier along the way).
By the time we were off the ferry it was
16h30 so we once again found a room at the same hotel as the one
we’d stayed in before we left for Lombok. It at least appeared
that they had changed the sheets, although we were definitely
not the first people to sleep on them, they were rather less
“used” than on our previous visit.
4 August - Padang Bai – Amed - 56km
I knew we were just passing time in Bali
before our flight out, so I was rather lazy to cycle. We
eventually made a move and headed east and then north around the
island. So off over the hills we went and what a stunning ride
it was! Lush and green with rice paddies and temples made the
ride a pure pleasure and I was happy to be on the bike. There
seems to be frequent celebrations or festivals complete with
people all dressed up in traditional clothes, dancers and local
bands. This time, however, it could have been a funeral (who
Once over the eastern hills we sped down to
the coast and in no time at all found ourselves in Amed, a very
touristy area on the far eastern coast. We found a rather nice
room (albeit pricy) on the beach and enjoyed a swim, a beer and
some of the local food. Although the beach was a black volcanic
pebble beach, the water was crystal clear and lukewarm.
5 August - Amed – Lovina - 85 km
We had a good tail wind for the first part of
the ride, so we sped along a fairly flat road along the coast.
Ernest bought a fish for supper at the local market down the
road – a rather strange looking pike-like creature which he
cleaned and deboned for hours. He was quite pleased with the end
result, a fine meal of game fish fillet and fried noodles. It
seemed to me that so much work should have produced a lot more
fish – but then again, I’m very lazy when it comes to cooking
6 August - Lovina – Tangarang - 83 km
We had to head over the hills back south
towards Denpasar and the airport, and as we’d expected it was a
decent climb across this volcanic island. Then, as usual, we
flew down the other side. The scenery was however stunning, and
we had to stop to photograph the neat terraced rice paddies
along the hillsides. We found an affordable room in the big town
of Tangarang, about 20km North of Denpasar (not a touristy
place, therefore the price was reasonable).
7 August - Tangarang – Kuta - 36 km
The ride to Kuta was fairly quick – with a
bit of a rain shower along the way. We cycled around Denpasar
city looking for an outdoor store which I’d spotted previously,
but I was now unable to find it again. On the road from there to
Kuta Beach we passed a good bike shop where Ernest bought a
spare rim (cheap) – he wasn’t going to cycle through the
Australian Outback without the necessary backup. So we headed on
to Kuta, where we found a nice room at Sari Bali where we’d
stayed previously. Now it was time to sort out the bags and the
bike for our flight to Darwin, trying to reduce the weight as
excess baggage can be very expensive.
8-11 August - Kuta – Kuta Airport - 7km
Ernest scrubbed and cleaned the bikes; we did
laundry; sorted out our gear; and lazed around before our flight
to Darwin Australia. Who the heck worked out the flight time
table? Out flight was at 11pm arriving in Darwin at 3am, ghosh,
what a time to arrive in a place! (The actual flying time was
only 2h30m, but there is a time difference).
I was, however, quite excited to go and
experience Australia, a new country and a new culture, after a
very long time in Asia.
At last it was “Salamat Tingel dan tarima
Kashi” Indonesia. We cycled the short distance to the airport
for our flight to Darwin. Once at the airport we expected
to have to box the bikes, but there were no boxes available
there. However, we were lucky to meet an extremely helpful
Malaysian (Tan C K), who had just bought a bike in Bali - he
phoned the bike shop to bring us 2 bike boxes, which they did.
They also helped pack the bikes -gosh how nice is that.
The bad part was paying for our overweight
baggage which, even after a discount, was still far more than
the price of the ticket. Even on board there was no service
whatsoever (without paying extra), not even a glass of water of
a cup of coffee. Then they still wanted you to clean up and pack
the seat-pocket in front of you neatly the way they want it.
Well bugger that, they can repack their own brochures. Ha, ha, I
suppose, that is what you call a budget airline!