9 January 2017
– Cape Town, South Africa – Bali, Indonesia
The time has come
for me to say goodbye to my lovely family and all of my awesome
friends. Once again, I did not get so see everyone, but I did
spend time with my mom and met up with my longstanding Facebook
friend, Diana, who I spent a lovely day within and around the
Winelands of the Cape. We watched a hilarious duck parade and
had a glass of wine on the lawn. Bliss! I walked in the
mountains, ran along the beachfront, paddled with my dragon boat
friends, and spent countless nights shooting the breeze next to
the “braai” fires. In all that time, I only cycled once; I could
just as well have left the bicycle in the box! On January 9, I
boarded a plane for Indonesia, from where I will slowly make my
way to Malaysia and meet up with Janice for our “Kuala Lumpur to
Bangkok” cycle. Watch this space! Now, it's time to get back to
my normal life on the bike as I wonder what Indonesia will hold!
10 January -
After nearly 24
hours of flying, I finally landed in Bali, and I could not wait
to get out of the airport and into the fresh air. It was hot and
humid, as could be expected, as Bali is only a short distance
south of the equator. I flagged down a taxi (bicycle and all, as
I was in no mood to put the bicycle together) and headed for
Komala Indah 11 Cottages. The rooms were simple but spacious and
consisted of ground-floor bungalows that came at a very
reasonable price of 100 000 Indonesian Rupiah ($1 – 13 000RP).
Although the room only had a fan and cold water, it was set in a
lush garden, and the price included breakfast, consisting of
coffee and toast with jam or bananas.
I drew 2 000
000RP, bought a SIM card, paid for the room, and bought a large
Bintang beer, which I drank while sitting on the steps
and talking to other travellers. I fell asleep rather early but
woke again at around 3 a.m. and was wide awake. Bali is five
hours ahead of where I came from, and it is, therefore, no
wonder that my time was slightly out of sync.
11 January –
I did, however,
fall asleep again and only woke at 9 a.m. I quickly got dressed
and went for a jog, but it was a rather unpleasant affair, as it
was already too late and far too hot and humid.
I put the bike
together and rearranged my stuff back into the panniers where it
belonged. Then I was off to the shop to get all the little bits
and pieces I needed but don’t usually carry with when flying.
I took a walk
along the beach, and although Bali is as touristy as they come,
it remains a pleasant enough place to hang out for a day or two.
In fact, I quite like the madness of it all. I'm sure that there
are enough tie-dyed T-shirts and sarongs for sale to dress
all of Africa, and one wonders how all the eateries make a
living. I watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean while the
waves rolled in and surfers caught the last waves of the day,
all while doing my fair share for the sale of Bintang beer.
12 January –
At first, I had
thought of heading out, but then I encountered software problems
on my laptop and thought it best to sort those out first. It
took hours and hours; eventually, I had to call in Microsoft
support, but even they had difficulty, and the upload was so
slow that it was 10 p.m. before everything was back to normal.
did not see much of Bali and its beaches on that day. I only
walked out once (while the slow upload was in progress) to
marvel at all Bali holds. With its colourful stores and Hindu
temples, it remains surprisingly Balinese for such a touristy
It was rather hot
and humid, so I waited until sunset before heading out on my
run. It was a most glorious evening, and the sunset was truly
spectacular. I was once again extremely grateful that I had
had the desire and will to go for a run. I had plans about
jumping in the ocean; however, by the time I was done, it was
already pitch dark, and I still wanted to rinse my sweaty
running gear. By then, it was time for my daily Bintang and my
usual plate of Mie Goreng (stir-fried noodles), loaded with
chilli from the street vendor around the corner.
13 January –
Bali – Mengwi – Ubud – app 50 km
After breakfast, I
cycled to the Pelini ferry service office to enquire about a
ferry to Singapore. The answer was positive, and according to
the Bali office, there was a ferry leaving Tanjung Priok,
Jakarta, on 3 February for the island of Batang, arriving there
the following day. From Batang to Singapore there appeared to be
various ferries leaving several times a day (one hour).
Then it was back
to my room where I loaded the bike and first swung by the bike
shop to buy a set of new pedals as the bearings on mine packed
up. Therefore, it was after midday when I finally left, sporting
two bright red pedals. (LOL, I have never seen red pedals
before!) I headed for the small village of Mengwi as it is home
to the Taman Ayun Temple, which is a group of temples situated
in a most beautiful garden. It looked like the entire stretch
between Kuta and Mengwi was one big temple with vendors selling
temple paraphernalia. Just as I arrived, it started raining with
the result that I could not even take any pictures. There was no
accommodation that I could see, and I, therefore, headed in the
direction of Ubud along a small back road that leads past bright
green rice terraces and (once again) some beautiful temples.
Just before Ubud,
there was one huge clap of thunder, and the rain came pouring
down; I continued until I reached Ubud. I pulled into the first
sign I spotted, Ayu Bungalows, and must have looked rather
bedraggled as the room (at 250,000RP) was more than I wanted to
pay. The owners, however, were kind enough to give it to me for
150,000RP, including breakfast. I felt guilty when they did this
as it was such a nice room with aircon and hot water.
14 January -
Ayu Bungalows, Ubud – Medewi Beach – 80 km
“Did you sleep
well?” she asked with a friendly smile, hands touching her
forehead and palms together. What lovely people the Balinese
are. Included in the price of the room was a breakfast of
scrambled eggs and toast, fruit and Indonesian coffee, which I
enjoyed op my little veranda while the sweet smell of incense
drifted across from the offerings.
One can’t just sit
staring into space all day, so I loaded the bike and waved my
friendly host goodbye. I first paid a visit to the nearby Goa
Gajah or Elephant Cave, which was situated just down the road.
It is said that the cave dates back to the ninth century, but
I’m not sure if that means that the cave was dug out (as it is
quite small inside) or if it is referring to the carvings around
the cave entrance and the bathing ghats (which were only
excavated in the 1950s). To enter the cave (now a temple), one
gets given a sarong to wear, which I did with pleasure, as I did
not want to anger the fierce-looking demons carved into the rock
on the outside of the cave.
The ride today was
fairly up and down, but once over most of it, I sped downhill to
the coast past scenic rice terraces and had to take the
obligatory Bali rice terrace shot. In fact, I did not just take
one; I took about 100!!! I guess I’m going to spend the rest of
the evening sifting through them. I found the coastal road busy
and narrow but very scenic. I tried to stick as much to the side
of the road as possible, but even then, it was a challenge. I
passed a good number of surf camps and other nice-looking
beaches and settled for Medewi Beach, where they have a handful
of rooms, all at a very reasonable price. Once I had my shower,
it was off to the nearest food cart for my daily bowl of bakso
soup and a beer.
Medewi Beach, Bali – Banyuwangi Beach Hotel, Java – 60 km
Breakfast was a
rather interesting affair known as a parcel and coffee. The
parcel consisted of rice and other stuff wrapped in a bamboo
leaf (or maybe it was a banana leaf) and closed with a toothpick
or thin bamboo stick. It was delicious! I then headed for
Gilimanuk where I could get the ferry to the Island of Java. It
was, once again, an enjoyable ride with mountains on the one
side and the ocean on the other, and past the ever-present rice
paddies. The last part of the day the road ran through a
national park, and it was even more lush and green than normal
with the trees forming a tunnel to drive through. Monkeys risked
their lives darting across the busy main road, and even the
temple statues looked more friendly than else where.
The ferry from
Gilimanuk to Java Island only costs 7000IR (for me and the
bike). It was a rather short crossing and only took about 10
minutes, but I had to wait for about an hour for the ferry to
Once on the island
of Java, I found a room at the Banyuwangi Beach Hotel which
sounds far more upmarket than what it is. But, then again, what
can one expect for $3–$6 a night! I went upmarket and took the
$6 room—living the high life! Hahahaha!
The reason for the
stay here is to see if I could arrange for a trip up to the
crater lake. I found a “travel agent” that could arrange just
such a thing. I got picked up at midnight, and we drove up the
mountain for about an hour and a half. We then walked up a very
steep path for another hour to the crater rim. This was where
things became rather surreal. We descended into the crater to
Kawah Ijen Lake and the sulphur deposits. Noxious and sulphurous
smoke billowed from the volcano’s vent. The fact that both a
guide and a mask was included should have warned me about the
conditions. More bizarre was passing miners digging sulphur out
of the crater floor and lugging it on shoulder poles up the
steep path. The conditions these guys work in can only be
described as “a medieval vision of hell” and one could hardly
make them out as they slowly headed up the path in a cloud of
sulphurous smoke. Down on the crater floor, one could see the
bright blue sulphur fires burning, and I felt extremely sorry
for the guys working down there, digging out the sulphur with no
masks or any kind of protection.
By the time I got
back to my room it was 7:00 and I had not slept or eaten since
breakfast the previous morning. It was time for food and a nap.
17 January -
Banyuwangi Beach Hotel – Situbondo 88 km
With a population
of 260 million people, Indonesia is rather crowded, and 58%
living on the island of Java makes it the world’s most populous
island. Needless to say, the narrow roads are rather busy, and
the potholes do not make things any easier. Broken down trucks
have nowhere to go and stay put, and I passed one this morning
that seemed to have been there for a while, as the driver was
playing board games (on a board drawn on the road) while the
others were collecting money from passing traffic. I think if I
wrote down everything I saw today, it would be a book.
Sometimes when I
get to a new country, I find it quite overwhelming. It all
started early morning as I came out the shop where I bought
water for the road and found someone measuring my bike. He
seemed to go around measuring everything, from cutters to paving
stones, and he was very conscientious! On two occasions, I saw a
person walking along the road stark naked! Don’t know what that
was all about. I know there is the Dani tribe from New Guinea
who wears hardly anything, but I somehow don’t think these guys
were from there. That was bizarre.
The more usual
included numerous small villages, bright green rice fields with
the ever-present cone-shaped mountains as a backdrop, banana
stores selling nothing but bananas, in all shapes and sizes.
There were men sitting on their haunches cutting grass by the
side of the road (as animal feed, I guess) and hijab-wearing
women tending sheep. In fact, I passed some colourful stores
selling only hijabs (I should get one). There were young boys
running around the rice fields flying kites and old men walking
along selling woven baskets. Women dried small fish on wooden
tables, and men transported wood on the back of motorbikes
stacked sky-high, all this in the company of muezzins calling
people to prayer from the mosque’s minarets (they should pay
more attention to the quality of their speakers).
It was a hilly
ride, and by the time I reached Situbondo, it was time to start
looking for a place to rest my head. I found an even less
expensive room than the night before, and at 60,000IR, I could
not complain about the state of the bathroom (LOL). The bathroom
was not bad at all; unusual maybe, but not bad. Stranger was the
beds facing the bathroom instead of the door. There was plenty
of street food to be found, but beer was becoming more
difficult. I bought one at the Indomaret but, once in my room,
discovered it was a Bintang Zero (LOL).
18-19 January –
Situbondo – Probolinggo – 95 km
“Hello, Mister” is
the standard greeting around here. I must say that the
Indonesians are very friendly and I get the thumbs up, numerous
times a day, as they zoot past me on their motorbikes. I,
however, remain a novelty and I’m sure that (in this area) they
have seldom seen a western woman, except for the faded poster
girls in the workshops, and the sexy-looking ones on the truck
The road hugged
the coast for most of the day, making for easy and scenic
cycling. The road was therefore lined with “warungs”
(restaurants) selling “Ikan Bakar” (grilled fish). In the
process, my Basa Indonesian is coming along just fine. In the
food department, Basa Indonesian is fairly easy as long as one
knows the words for rice (nasi), noodles (mie, mee or mi), fried
(goreng), grilled (bakar), chicken (ayam), and fish (ikan). If
also learned to say where I’m from (Africa Selatan) and that a
bicycle is a sepeda.
restaurants, there were plenty of fish and rice drying along the
road which is understandable as it is their staples around here.
With about 90% of
the population being Muslim it is no wonder that there are so
many mosques - the problem is that they all seem to be short of
money and collect from passing traffic, making the already
narrow road even more so. Phew, cycling here can be quite a
I stopped in
Probolinggo and found a room at the Hotel Paramita. This time it
was somewhat more expensive, but it came with the luxury of a
clean room. My reason for stopping here was that I wanted to
organise a lift up to Mount Bromo, but that worked out too
expensive, so I may give it a miss altogether or take the bus up
there in the morning. I may also decide to stay put here as I
desperately need to do some laundry, but I will sleep on it and
decide in the morning. For now, it is Selamat Malam as it is
already 11.45 p.m. and I'm falling asleep as I'm typing.
20 January –
Probolinggo – Mt. Bromo
I packed up and
left Probolinggo, but when I got to the turn-off for Mt Bromo, I
changed my mind and decided to go up there after all. Instead of
cycling there, I found another real cheap hotel to leave my
bicycle, and I grabbed a motorbike taxi to the top of the
Although I visited
Mt Bromo six years ago, while cycling Indonesia, I thought it
worth my while to pay it another visit. Although it was a most
spectacular ride up the mountain, it was a rather unsuccessful
day when it came to taking pictures. I'm of the opinion that the
pictures I took six years ago came out miles better. In any
event, it was still spectacular and remains a sight to behold.
As one enters the
vast caldera, the fume-belching cone of Mt Bromo stares you
right in the face and, from a distance, one can hear the hissing
and splattering of the volcano. A short trek across the sand and
up to the summit brings you to the brim of the crater, where you
can gaze down into the belly of the beast. It splatters and
roars while steam and smoke rise high above the cone. One can
also walk along the edge for quite a distance, giving the whole
volcano an other-worldly feel.
Then it was back
down the mountain, past the vegetable plantation, and one
wonders just how they manage to farm on such steep terrain. Up
on the mountain, it is an entirely different feel from the
lowlands, as it is much cooler, wet and misty, with blanket-clad
farmers on horseback inspecting their farmlands. Wooden houses
on stilts cling precariously to the mountainside, and
red-cheeked kids skip their way to school.
Soon, I was back
to reality and at my hotel where I ordered a bowl of bakso
before cycling back into town to stock up on some needed
21 January –
Probolinggo – Surabaya – 102 km
It was easy
cycling, but it was the road condition and the heavy traffic
that made for slow going. I, nevertheless, had a fantastic day,
and although not much happened, it was the general everyday life
that once again fascinated me. Roadside stalls sold the most
interesting and beautiful woven articles, and I cycled past
gangs of school girls on scooters, giggling their way to school.
Mothers steered motorbikes one-handed while holding (what looked
like) a near one-day-old baby on the other arm. Bicycle
rickshaws carted hijab-clad pre-schoolers to and from school,
while toothless men sat chewing their nasi goreng. Ladies dried
corn in the sun, and others were cutting grass along the road as
cattle feed (she appeared very impressed that I knew it was for
There’s never a
shortage of eateries in Indonesia and, as always, the road was
lined with “warungs”, selling the normal “nasi goreng”, “mee
goreng” and “ayam”. Every so often, I would get the pungent
smell of durian as I cycled past roadside stalls, where stall
owners looked up in utter surprise. There were plenty of “Hello
Mister” from locals selling the biggest jackfruit I have ever
seen, all making the day so quintessentially Indonesian.
Surabaya, it started raining, making for a nerve wrecking ride
into Indonesia’s second largest city. I was more than happy to
reach my destination but found that cheap rooms were hard to
come by in this city. Eventually, I settled for a pricier room
than normal, and it did not even come with a better-quality room
than the cheapies!
22 January -
Once in Surabaya,
I thought it worth my while to go exploring (seeing that it was
such a mission to get into the city). The Qubah (the city’s
labyrinthine Arab quarters), situated around the Mesjid Ampel
Mosque, was an ideal place for doing so.
The mosque is said
to mark the burial place of Sunam Ampel, one of the holy men who
brought Islam to Java, and at the back of the mosque is a grave
where devotees offer rose petals and chant prayers. The area
surrounding the mosque forms a large souk with typical Arab
merchandise, including dates, fezzes, samosa, prayer bead,
perfumes, and lots more. The area is not touristy, and I stood
out like a sore thumb as I wandered the alleys, camera in hand.
Residents peeked through curtains and through doors slightly
ajar, most likely wondering just what a foreigner is doing in
their area. “Photo, photo,” the youngsters shouted, making for
easy photography, although not always with the best of
backgrounds. I nibbled on food for sale and watched in amazement
as ducks were slaughtered right there on the pavement!
Chinatown also did not disappoint and was as colourful and
vibrant as always, with beautiful temples and the ever-present
colourful dragons, not to mention interesting eats.
Unfortunately, the local fish market was already finished by the
time I arrived, but the rest of the market was still in full
swing, selling anything from meat to vegetables and fruit. The
area surrounding the market was equally busy, with bicycle
rickshaws waiting in line to cart anyone away to their
23 Surabaya –
Bojonegoro – 117 km
What a mission it
was getting out of Surabaya! I first made a bit of a loop as the
road I had in mind was a toll road, and bicycles were not
allowed. Eventually, I got on the right road, and I followed men
on bicycles dressed in shalwar kameezes and fezzes out of the
busy city centre.
It took about two
hours to get on—and I hesitate to call it this—the open road.
There is no such thing as an “open road” in Indonesia, but at
least I was out of the thick of things. The road remained busy
the entire way, and I hardly took out the camera as I had my
eyes on the road trying to avoid potholes and keeping my line as
one cannot afford to swerve out for anything, and it felt like I
was constantly surrounded by motorbikes.
was once again easy cycling, and the day passed quickly. Only
once did I try a smaller road, but although very scenic, the
road was in such poor condition and the going so slow that I was
happy to get back on the big road again. A truck overturned and
spilt its entire load of rice all over the road. It caused a
huge traffic jam, with trucks backed up for tens of kilometres.
Phew, I was happy to be on a bicycle. The self-appointed traffic
wardens also seemed to help; I don’t know how the traffic would
flow without them. In Bojonegoro, I found myself a nice homestay
and was very comfortable for the night.
24 January –
Bojonegoro – Sragen – 125 km
Between the cocks
crowing and the muezzins calling people to prayer, there was no
sleeping in. Good thing as well, as the day turned out to be
rather slow going. It started off very scenic, with rice paddies
and mosques; unfortunately, the road deteriorated even more, and
I rattled, shook, and bounced my way along, something that
became quite irritating as the day wore on. I had to laugh as
motorbikes would pass me, and then the heads would spin around
to see just who or what was on this bicycle. I don’t blame them,
as I looked a bit like a clown with my yoga pants and skirt over
it. Every now and again, I would spot a mobile phone and hand
popping out a car window for a quick snap. I do find it a bit
tiring to be so constantly in the public eye; I wonder if other
cycle tourers also find it so.
At midday, the
heat became more intense and the road hillier. It was very much
a country road through a very rural area, where woodcraft
appeared to be the primary income. The road was lined with
stalls selling some beautiful wooden items, from furniture to
statues, and even skulls!
I managed to stay
dry all day and found a room at the Graha Hotel in Sragen just
before the rain came down. It was a fairly nice hotel, and I
feared they would not have a cheap room, but fortunately, they
had an economy room at 90,000IR. It was only a fan room, but it
was on the ground floor, and I could wheel my bike right in. My
kind of place!
25 January –
Sragen – Surakarta (Solo) – 32 km
The traffic was
already hectic by the time I left, but soon I was between the
rice paddies and mosques again. I had no intention of turning
into Solo but then changed my mind as there were quite a few
interesting things to see. I found a room at Warung Baru
Homestay and set off on foot to explore the old part. I was
hardly on my way, and it started bucketing down. I thought I
would wait it out but, eventually, I took a bicycle rickshaw
back to my room as I had no umbrella with me.
Nothing much came
of my sightseeing as the rain never subsided. I popped
out only once for a bowl of bakso and to buy a plastic raincoat.
To make use of my time, I did the laundry in the hopes that it
would dry by morning. Fortunately, my laptop came back to life
and I could sort out my pictures.
26 January -
Surakarta – Prambanan Temple – 53 km
I think the
wallpaper was way too busy as I could not fall asleep, or maybe
it had something to do with the fact that I hardly did anything
at all the previous day. I must have fallen asleep at around 3
a.m., but then the muezzin started singing at 4 a.m., and on top
of that, someone in the alley where I stayed died during the
night, and funeral procedures started at around 6 a.m.
Eventually, I got
up and loaded the bike up as there was no point in trying to
sleep. By the time I left, the entire lane was covered to
provide shelter from the threatening rain, chairs were put out,
and the body laid covered for people to say their last goodbyes.
Speakers blasted verses from the Quran for the entire
neighbourhood to hear. In a way, it was quite nice, as friends
came by, sat down, chatted for a while, and then moved on again.
The price of my
room included breakfast, and what a feast it was!
They served rice with what looked like a tofu stew and other
stuff; it was an all vegetarian affair, and it was delicious.
I then got on my bike and cycled the short distance to the
Prambanan temple. The temple complex has been declared a UNESCO
site and consists of beautiful Hindu temples from the ninth
century. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and was constructed by
the king of the ancient Mataram Kingdom in 856 AD.
I found myself a
room nearby and then set off on foot to explore the complex.
Unfortunately, the weather did not play along (photography
wise), but the temples are located in a beautiful garden
setting, and it was a pleasure just strolling around enjoying
all of the old temples.
Early morning I
spotted these guys loading flour, and thought it could make a
few nice pics, but when they came out again they had cleaned
their faces. How sweet is that?
Prambanan Tempele – Borobudur – 55 km
Again, it was a
short day in the famous Borobudur, home to one of the most
important Buddhist sites in the world. Built with two million
stone blocks in the form of the asymmetrical stupa, it is also
one of the finest temples in all of Indonesia. It is said that
viewed from the air, the temple resembles a colossal
three-dimensional tantric mandala. In any event, I’m ahead of
First, I had to
get there, and to that purpose, I followed country roads through
the smallest of villages. It was a beautiful ride, with the
famous smoking cone of Gunung Merapi in the distance and past
bunches of school children waving enthusiastically. I feel sorry
for these small kids, all bundled up as if they lived on the
Arctic Circle instead of the equator. It surely can’t be good
for a person; in fact, I have read somewhere that most people
here suffer from a lack of vitamin D. If that is so, it would be
very sad because they live in such a sunny country. I also can’t
see how kids can play dressed like that, and it is really sad as
they did not choose their religion. No wonder most of the people
here are so unhealthy. I’m shocked when I go to the temples and
see the majority of people struggling up an ordinary set of
stairs. I’m talking about young people who should be running up
the stairs with ease. Instead, they are huffing and puffing and
hanging on to the railings.
In Borobudur, I
found a room at the very impressive Pondok Tinggal Hotel. At
first, it looked far too expensive for my budget, but they were
very kind and gave me a good discount, and I had a most lovely
room for the night. The hotel is beautiful, built of bamboo and
timber, with rooms surrounding a large courtyard garden.
This time, I was
not going straight to the temple, but the plan was to go at six
the next morning and see if I can get a few pictures. In any
case, it soon started raining, and even if I wanted to go, it
would not have been possible.
28 January –
Most of the rooms
at the hotel were occupied by art students who came on a field
trip, and I was entertained by a cultural show in the courtyard.
The performance carried on until 2 a.m. but I was up again at
five to be at the temple by six.
This time, the
light was slightly better, but it being a Saturday also meant
that half of Indonesia was there! It was nearly impossible to
take a picture without someone in it. I was clearly not the only
one who wanted to see famous Borobudur. The temple has also been
declared a UNESCO site, and the price for visiting is,
therefore, quite steep at $20 for foreigners.
It is, however, a
fascinating site, and it is believed that its construction
started around 750 AD. The temple is wrapped around a small
hill, but while renovating the temple, it was discovered that
the hill was not a natural one, as had been assumed, but
manmade. It is also believed that the temple was abandoned
around the twelfth century, most likely due to volcanic
eruptions in the area. The site was rediscovered by British Sir
Stamford Raffles in 1814, and the temple dug out from underneath
Back at the hotel
the students left and the local car club moved in, I got invited
to join in the festivities as they had a band playing and there
was plenty of local food and drink to enjoy.
In the foyer of
the hotel, a Javanese puppet show took place; it was most
fascinating as it featured the famous wayang kulit puppets, also
known as shadow puppets. The performance often goes on all
night; it is not uncommon for the audience and even the
musicians to doze off from time to time. Wayang puppets are made
from dried buffalo skin and buffalo horn. The puppets are
manoeuvred by the master puppeteer using a very thin stick. I
did not stay very long as I did not understand the language and
felt a bit sleepy although no one would have been offended if I
had fallen asleep.
29 January –
Borobudur – Kebumen – 83 km
It was a short
ride, mostly due to the weather as it drizzled for most of the
day. At first, it was a good climb out of Borobudur, but then
came the downhill. I flew down as I was able to pick up quite a
good speed with all the weight behind me. All the while, I kept
an eye out for potholes, which were numerous, as I sailed past
rice fields, raging streams, terracotta-tiled houses and
I realised just
how history had shaped the language of this country. The
Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British were all here, and each
civilisation left a few words behind. Words like “solo,” “mas,”
“handuk,” and “kantor pos” are clearly borrowed from other
languages. I found it interesting that they used the word
“handuk” for "towel." Obviously, this word comes from Dutch,
and, of course, it was not a word they had in their language
when towels were introduced to them.
I reached Kebumen
early, but it was so wet that I decided to stay for the night
and continue in the morning. I found a room at the Sejahtera
Hotel, which was not a bad place to stay. They had an economy
room for 90,000IR and I could keep my bike in my room.
30 January –
Kebumen – Hotel & Rumah Makan Karanganyar Indah – 100 km
Indonesia is a
country with such a natural beauty that I’m amazed at the
scenery every day. Shortly after leaving, I spotted a sign for
Benteng Van Der Wijck, a Dutch fort built in the 1800s.
I had just left
the fort when I spotted another sign, this time for a cave, and
I decided to explore it. The cave was interesting as it had four
underground springs. I should have scooped out some water as it
is believed that the water from the springs will make one
ageless! Inside the cave were various statues, 32 in all.
Apparently, they tell the legend of Raden Kamandaka, the crown
prince who was once imprisoned in the cave. It was all very
following the coastal road to Cilacap but found that the road
did not go through to Pangandaran. Instead, one has to make a
wide loop to get there. In the process, the weather came in, and
after one almighty clap of thunder, the heavens opened up to
such an extent that the roads quickly became flooded. I donned
my plastic raincoat and carried on regardless. Around 5 p.m., I
found a roadside hotel and was more than happy to call it a day.
31 January -
Hotel & Rumah Makan Karanganyar Indah – Banjar – 90 km
Together with the
morning traffic, I snaked my way out of the village where I
had stayed, all moving at a snail’s pace to avoid the potholes
(not that there is any avoiding the potholes, try as you
might!). If there were a prize for bad roads, Indonesia would
win, hands down.
It was a hilly day
in Central Java as I headed over the mountains in the direction
of Merak where I planned to get the ferry to the island of
Sumatra. The poor road, however, made the going extremely slow
and, in the end, I realised there was nothing I could do but
relax, slow down, and follow the traffic. It remained a
frustrating day, as my gears were slipping making the uphills
even more difficult. The stunning scenery, however, half made up
for the bad roads and the slipping gears. I needed to find a
bike shop ASAP.
Along the way, I
passed a sign saying something like “Watch Out – Crocodile
Estuary,” and I wondered how many people were taken before it
warranted a sign like that. I stopped at the most colourful
fruit stalls and was tempted to buy a whole bunch of stuff but
realised I could not eat that much, so I just took a picture and
continued on my way. The Indonesians are super-friendly and are
always keen for you to take photos, making it rather easy to
take pictures of them.
By 3 p.m. the
weather came in again, and just as I reached the village of
Banjar, it started raining again. I did not feel like cycling in
the rain yet again, so I slipped into the first hotel I saw.
Maybe I was overly keen, as it was a terrible place with no
shops in close proximity. I didn’t think I would get breakfast
in the morning.
1 February -
Banjar - Tasikmalaya – 47 km
No two days are
ever the same. I cycled the two or three kilometres into Banjar,
looking for a shop where I could buy internet time for my phone
(I can't run out of internet time now, can I?). I cycled around,
but most shops were still closed, so I headed out on Route 3 and
found the Indomaret mini-mart, where one can get just about
there having a cup of coffee, I scanned at the map and saw it
indicated a bicycle shop just down the road. I thought it a good
idea to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised to find a
very competent and super-friendly Ikey bike shop. Not only did
they adjust the derailleur but also replaced the chain, making
for extra-smooth gear changing. I cannot explain how happy I was
with that! Cycling uphill with gears slipping is just no fun at
The plan was to
push on to Bandung, but I was a bit over-optimistic as it was
close to 170 kilometres away. In any event, I moved along slowly
as it was a gentle but steady climb to Tasikmalaya. Jatnika,
from the Ikey bike shop, advised me to take to the secondary
road, and what a pleasure it was. The road surface was much
better, and the road was not that busy. It also came with some
hidden gems (i.e. the knife makers) and beautiful vistas.
Tasikmalaya, I stopped to consult my Google map as to which road
to take from there, when two cyclists out on their daily ride
stopped and offered to show me a nice hotel. I got escorted into
Tasikmalaya right to the door of the Abadi Hotel, which turned
out to be just perfect! A ground-floor outside room with mandi,
what more could I ask for?
I passed a
bandy-legged old man, scavenging for something to recycle, I
passed salak stalls where sellers were calling “Mister, Mister”
for me to stop and sample their fruit. Most interesting of all
was the talented knife makers along the way, selling the most
beautiful knives and sheaths in all shapes and sizes.
2-3 February -
Tasikmalaya – Jakarta - by train – bus to Merak - 45 km
I realised that my
time in Indonesia was running out and I had one more look at the
map and knew I had to start moving towards Dumai as it was more
than 1 500 kilometres away. I cycled to the train station and
bought a train ticket for Jakarta as I reasoned that it would be
easier there to find onward transport.
The bicycle cost
more than double my ticket (I'm sure they pocketed some of the
fees). The train trip, albeit long, was very comfortable and we
arrived in Jakarta at around six. My bicycle was not on the same
train, and I was told to come back in the morning. I grabbed a
motorbike taxi to Hostel 35, in the backpacker area.
The next morning I
headed back to the parcel office by Uber moto. Fortunately, the
bicycle was there, and I loaded up and cycled to the harbour
just to check if the Pelni ferry had left already but I was too
late, and the ferry was long gone. I just thought if it was
still there I could hop on, but I cycled to the bus terminal
which was about 15 kilometres away where I finally got a bus to
Merak, the most western point in Java from where ferries depart
for Sumatra. It was after nine by the time we arrived, and I
took a room at the local “losmen” (guesthouse) for the night.
4-6 February –
Merak – Dumai by bus
From the losmen,
it was a short cycle to the harbour where I found a very large
car ferry ready to leave for Sumatra. The ferry runs throughout
the day and although further than the Bali – Java ferry it was
still a quick crossing and soon we arrived in the tropical
island of Sumatra.
On arrival in
Sumatra, I also found that there was not much of a system when
it came to public transport, especially for a long trip like the
one to Dumai and it was 17h00 that afternoon before I finally
got a bus that would take both the bicycle and me. I’m sure I
was overcharged, but at 500 0000RP, it was still a bargain,
taking into account that the trip was 1 400 kilometres. The bus
was old without any air conditioning, and we rattled along the
equator on poorly maintained roads. I honestly don’t know how
backpackers do it. The bus drivers all need a medal as they
hardly ever stopped. They stopped to eat at around 9 p.m. after
which we all settled in for an uncomfortable night’s sleep.
The next morning
at around 7h00 the bus stopped again for breakfast after which
it was straight through till supper time again. I had no
intention of not drinking any water in order not to use a
toilet, so I drank my usual amount, and when I wanted to go to
the toilet I asked the bus driver to stop, which they did
without a problem. In fact, every time I asked the entire bus
got off and used the toilet, so maybe it was the way to do it.
During the day, I
played on the internet. Fortunately, I had three power banks! I
also realised that the bus trip was not going to be over before
the end of the day and once again we settled in for another
night on the bus. The following morning (6th) I was let off the
bus at the Dumai/Medan junction, leaving about a 50-kilometre
cycle to Dumai.
I was never
happier to cycle 50 kilometres! Although sleepy, it was great to
be back on the bike, and it felt downhill all the way to Dumai.
While cycling this short stretch, memories of cycling this very
road seven years ago (albeit in the opposite direction), came
flooding back! Things were very much as I remembered it. The
potholed road, oil palm plantations, oil pipelines and houses on
stilts selling pineapples were still exactly as they were seven
Once in Dumai, I
checked on the ferries but both ferries had already left, and I
was left with two options for the following morning. (1) The
9h30 ferry to Malaka, Malaysia or (2) the 11h00 ferry to Port
Dickson, Malaysia. There is also a third ferry leaving for Port
Klang, but that only leaves on Mondays, Wednesdays and
Saturdays. Once that was sorted I found myself a really good
hotel at the City Hotel for $20!! My excuse for doing so was
that I spent two nights on a bus!!! I had a good shower, washed
my hair for a change and handed my laundry in for washing!
Dumai, Indonesia – Port Dickson, Malaysia by boat
After a good
Indonesian breakfast, I loaded the bicycle and cycled the few
100 meters to the ferry ticket office. I was far too early but
cycled to the harbour anyway, checked in and waited for the Port
Dickson ferry, which departed at 11h00. The weather came in, and
it was a rough ride over the Straits of Malacca to Malaysia. The
ferry rocked and rolled and could have been called the “pitch
and puke” as seasick bags were in high demand.
We arrived in
Malaysia at 15h00 but the hour time difference made it 16h00.
The weather was rather stormy making for poor light as I headed
out of town in the direction of KL. I did not get very far and
once I spotted the Grandpa Hotel (here I have stayed before), I
weakened at the thought of a nice dry and comfortable room. I
was not going to make Peter’s place, so it made little
difference whether I stayed here or further down the road. I
took a walk to the Giant shopping mall, just across the road and
was like a kid in a candy store! I did not buy anything, just
looked at all the luxury times for sale.