The last week here at home before the off has been the usual count down to tieing up all sorts of loose ends. I have a kind of pile that I add to now and then ready for packing…it is strewn on the floor of the landing. The weather has been glorious and a great help as we tidy the plum orchard and farmyard and lock things away.
We are off to Indonesia for about 6 or 7 weeks. Then on to Australia, to Queensland to meet my daughter and family where we have rented a small place for the week. Then back with them to Perth area to see their new home etc. The motorbike element is essentially in Indonesia.
The plan this time is to buy and then sell a bike…each.. We are flying out tomorrow to Medan in Sumatra. Thus far my geography takes me. It is the main town of the most northerly island in Indonesia. Here we hope to buy two smallish bikes, ride them south, island hopping till time runs out and then sell them before heading to Queensland.
Oct 5th Sunday
Up earlish for me for I still have not packed into my three bags. Two throw over panniers and one waterproof bag. Who knows what bike it will be ..? I also need to still finish a couple of things. I fail with the last bit of computer work…it will have to come with me. Relevant files saved to dropbox…hopefully. Nephew Matt comes to pick us up to take to King Lynn station. We are beginning, ingloriously without any bike! We know that the train journey will be train, bus , train and then tube to Heathrow. It goes to plan but yes, takes a long time. Clive moans like hell. Wanted a driver to take us in our car to Heathrow. I say its good for him, lugging his stuff around. I am carrying more…my choice.
Planes will take us over the next something hours through the night to Medan with three flight changes.
Still flying through the air getting increasingly tired, hot, leg achy etc. Food comes, sleep is difficult but between Dubai and Jakarta we have an empty seat between us. My hand luggage is heavy, slung over a shoulder, and the other hand grasping crash helmet, jacket and pasport. In and out of security, its all far worse than sitting on a motorbike!!!!
Reach Jakarta our breakfast time. Rush off plane, get visa, get bags, through customs, out of airport and back in through next door to get on a domestic flight to Medan. We have made the connection/change of carrier. Two more hours or so and flights should be over. Its pretty hot and gets dark at 6pm. Have now switched to local time…I am longing for the hotel. This one we have booked…the only one that is booked.
Our taxi ride was about 40 mins and the hotel is fine. We were exhausted! 22 hours of travelling.
Its hot and humid and was raining a bit as we arrived last night. It has been overcast all day, thank goodness as when the sun shone for a moment it was boiling hot.
The city is busy, the roads are full and jammed with cars and bikes tooting non stop. We decide to walk….no one walks especially europeans. So we stood out as we tried to get along on the so called pavements. Its sort of half way between India and Malaysia in terms of dirt etc. We were warned about being careful with shoulder bags ….
Thus the hunt for two motorcycles began . We headed to a Honda dealer who were very helpful but only had up to 150cc and new ones. We cannot buy new because we do not have the identity card AND registration takes 2 months! So it has to be second hand….fine. Next off we go to Yamaha who are also friendly…Suzuki across the road was less so….and there is a 220cc bike there called a Scorpio. We get a price and go next door where there is one of these bikes but it belongs to another man….his own private bike. Very smart though with extras, like chromed bits and pieces , and fancy exhaust. Clive persists and the man sells his own bike at a good rate. Back to next door for me, not quite so favourable but pretty good. We end up haggling over about £25 but in indonesian money it sounds a huge amount….500,000 rupiahs.
Neither bike is bought yet as we will bring the money tomorrow after finding money changers in the morning. We go back to the hotel in a local type of tuktuk only it is a small motorcycle with a side car like attachment. Clive and I only just fitted in! Interesting!
Decided to go out for supper and did not walk far till we found the exact opposite of our hotel….a small cafe like place but full of locals. Two rats ran across as we went in but we continued to sit down and had a meal. Very friendly, food interesting but I avoided the tiny green chillies that did my tongue in the night before….so hot! Another rat ran out behind Clive….and we left the chickens feet in the dish of beans.
We seemed to have survived our cafe food amazingly well and the large number of mango juices of yesterday. Mission in the morning to change dollars to rupiahs for payment of bikes. This we hope to recoup at the end of the trip when we sell. Off we go in mini side car bike taxi thing (Becak) to money changing street, and then immediately back to hotel nervous of being robbed. In the afternoon off again with money and we each pay over the required amount for our bikes and proudly head off into the traffic.
Back in the hotel we get ready for a night out with the kind Marcel and his wife…the man who Clive has bought his bike off. It turns out he is a lawyer and consultant. We are picked up and taken off to a large restaurant, meet with some more friends ( his wife’s best friend and a spanish boyfriend) and eat a great meal. Then off to see some sights of Medan and watch a guy in chinatown make pancakes for us in a traditional way. Then Marcel whisks us back to our hotel with our bag of pancakes in our hand. Thank you to Marcel and his wife..
Check out luggage on bike, buy vital stuff in Sun Plaza, see Sultans palace, and finally eat at TipTop restaurant which is one of the oldest in Indonesia. Faded charm with hideous internal fittings but obviously still doing good business. Clive buys me an expensive alcoholic drink back in our hotel to celebrate the “beginning” tomorrow. I think hotel staff think we are crazy embarking on what they think is a long journey on such small bikes. We shall see.
Up early but ended up late off by about 9.30am. Marcel and Janny came to see us off. Clive’s straps for his luggage were a bit inadequate and his luggage system needed a bit of a workout. But off we went into the Medan traffic. Found our way pretty well out of town but the traffic and filthy air were quite a trial. The urban area went on for quite a way but eventually we found ourselves in amongst palm oil groves and countryside. Endless villages and people in this so populated country. Traffic eventually comprised bikes and lorries…private cars are scarce it seems once out of town.
We have headed to Bukit Lawang, a small village on the edge of real jungle and home to a load of Orangutans. We arrive and reach the end of the road for even little bikes. Have to enlist help of locals who are ofcourse delighted to lead us around. Most hotels of charm seemed to be up beside the river/jungle. Nearly inaccessible by motorcycle, but not quite. With local riders our bikes reached a place called Rain Forest hotel. It was very steep up and down, not impossible but local skill helped….certainly me…and Clive.
Soon we have signed up to a jungle trek and rafting. Hopefully all in the space of tomorrow morning and then off to Berastagi near where a volcano has erupted . This may upset our plans…not sure yet.
In the evening a downpour began just before dark. It is still pouring. Huge noise on our tin roof, thunder and lightning, baptism of fire in the tropics! Poor bikes are still there in the rain…..just moved them wearing Clive’s plastic poncho bought to keep his bags dry…only one of his bags are waterproof.
Off on our trek through the jungle. It had rained a lot in the night , waking me up but by morning you would hardly realise. Clive has unhappy stomach but also wants to see orangutans. He is torn! He comes….off we go with a guide ….3 hours and then raft back down the river. I have never been so sweaty wet. Dripping inspite of not exerting that much. However all forgotten as we look at swaying tree top branches and see Gibbons flying/leaping at huge speed through the trees. Then an Orangutan was seen a bit far away . Mounting excitement as he/she came nearer and finally got some photos and watched.
Again far more speedy than in a zoo and much more energy. Plodding on the guide stops and there right beside us are some Thomas lip (?) monkeys. Down to the river..slip, slide and watch and cool down whilst a raft is made from some large inner tubes. Other groups appear too and their rafts are made. No way can you say I don’t want to get wet clothes….off we go bouncing down the fast flowing river on the tubes all lashed together.
So fun over, we change, eat a bit and then get our bikes back up their obstacle (steep hill with steps) and down , with some ” hired “help.
Off to Binjai. This is back tracking a bit but we have certain problems of an exploding volcano on our planned route and we need to find out more tonight as to whether the road is open.
We had been told that the hotel Garouda was the best hotel. We headed for it. We have already found out to ask for the most deluxe…standards are low and things are cheap. The Garouda is a ‘knocking shop’. We are here as nowhere else to go. They find us amusing. We have asked for a room key….none of the rooms seem to lock from the outside ! As we go to bed ( the sheets are clean and the room looks clean) I find a large cockroach behind a cupboard. He is dead now…..
We reached Tuktuk on Lake Tabo without any problems. It was our first full day. We did 250 kms. Clive has had a tummy bug..possibly banana shakes…and was not feeling the best so a good job done. Our bikes went well and are one of the fastest things on the road. That being said there are some good modern vehicles quite capable of going much faster but they just don’t. Non aggressive drivers for sure. They come out very slowly and set off slowly and stay quite slow. ..except for mini bus drivers who are the same the world over trying to get maximum speed out of their ailing machines. Some vehicles are ancient, others new. Some bikes and becaks are ancient too…no MOT in this country.
We zipped through Berestagi where the volcano is erupting nearby. A little bit dusty but that was all. However here, where it should be bright and clear, is very hazy and we are now told that this is either the volcano or forest fires. If it is forest fires those must be clearance fires for it rains a lot here and every where is green and verdant. Shame because we were meant to have lovely views coming down into this ancient volcano to this huge crater lake. Clive relieved to find nice hotel after last night, which was a bit basic. Lovely local Batak housing here. They look like ships and are wooden. Quite unique with their arking roofs.
Oct Mon 13th
Day to enjoy the lake only it is still shrouded in a kind of smog that is rumoured to be connected to either the volcano erupting (Volcano Sunibanga) or forest fires or pollution. Usually it is clear. It did clear quite a bit as the day went on.
We wandered around this little bit of Samosir trying to photo a typical Batak house. We did okay and also saw some chieftains mausoleum and some “stone chairs” that were old….!! Off again tomorrow..Its been a nice break in a good hotel.
Time to make some progress south. We have done two tourist attractions now some miles need to be done on our two little Yamahas. All indonesians think we are crazy and are unbelieving that we intend to travel so far. They also think that I must be strong….not sure why.
We take a ferry from Tomak on Samosir and head across the lake to the other side, opposite to the way we came in to the crater. We do 190 kms today and end up in Sipirok.
Some observations about Indonesia from the road….
Lots of hens, especially cockerells. They all have very longs legs in order to cross the road before getting run over by the myriad of little motorbikes.!
We are in great company. Motorbikes are the king of the road. Private cars are not so plentiful. No bicycles. Trucks are short generally, ancient too, as are minibuses which can be new or very very old. All , old and new belch black diesel smoke. We are looking filthy by the end of the day…bit like coal miners.
The air is polluted with diesel fumes. We have hardly seen the sun.
The road is wonderfully free of signs. There are no speed signs any where. There are no warning signs for sharp bends. There is just a solid single white line in places, or broken line or none. One overtakes or undertakes whatever gets you along the best. Cars go slowly such that we seem to be one of the fastest vehicles on the road. New cars go no faster than old cars….not usually. Not sure the drivers are very confident, they seem to go the speed they perhaps once did on their motorbike. Cars get beseiged by motorbikes and find it hard to get along the road perhaps!
Taxi/minbus drivers are an exception. Like anywhere in the third world they drive hell for leather as fast as their old or new vehicle allows.
In one town we started to see ancient vespas with rather good sidecars seemingly designed for them. Some looked really old….
We had been told about an hotel near Sipirok which we found easily enough. We were followed in by a tour bus full of european girls! We now really understand that there is a bit of a leap to make in our travels in that there really are no great places to stay till we reach Buttinggi which is 313kms. This is quite a big day even on our normal bikes. After chatting with the tour leader we realise that that is that and we must/have to do it . We are told it will be 10 hours on the road. The road is through lovely scenery…jungle…but is twisty.
Oct 15th wed
We got up early to be off by 7.30am. It had rained last night so wet looking bikes. Clive not slept well again. He has slight tummy problems still and I have a really nice full on cold, sneezing and coughing etc. Any way off we go and we overtake the tour bus with in about two hours. It had set off half an hour earlier. We had stopped to get petrol and drink and it was stopped for their drink break. They will take 12 hours to do the day’s journey apparently. We took 9 hours in the end. We had plenty of short stops and all went well.
Bit of problem finding an hotel to suit our two tastes!!
Found more towns with vespas in, enjoyed the scenery and the road.
Loads of villages with endless tiny, tiny shops. Restaurants/cafes harder to find…. My bike seems to be slipping its clutch….might need a new clutch but consider this as not major as feel the mechanics here will know how to do it. The heavy traffic in most towns allayed with the heavy loads the little bikes carry must mean clutches go.
Oct 16th Thurs
Air pollution…at least that is what we think it is. We wake up to the usual hazy sky. We have hardly seen the sun. Take a walk to the hotel Clive would liked to have stayed in. Its called the Hills. It is a huge grand place full of VIPs etc. We have a cup of tea. It is a very nice spot. Rooms are amazingly cheap considering the place. Trouble is they take you for a ride on the rest like food etc.
Head off to another volcanic crater lake called Maninjau. Lovely road to it. Look for an hotel called Lawang Adventure Park hotel but though we find it , it is now just a home stay and not good. The stunning views that were , are non existent in this hazy sky. Such a shame as we are immediately above the lake. So down the 44 hairpin bends we go to find a small village at the bottom with a few grotty hotels and one just passable. It has had its hey day…probably before air pollution hit and there was a view. Or is it just the time of the year? We think not.
Forgot one road sign that we do see..Hati_Hati.. we believe that it means slowly_slowly. This sums up very nicely the relaxed approach to life that the indonesians seem to have. Relaxed, not lazy, but not in a rush. They do everything at a relaxed pace, including their driving…excepting bus drivers!! Food is produced to order in their own good time. How nice to be so relaxed.
Oct 17th Friday
We leave our lakeside with slightly more visibility than yesterday. Round the top and head off to the coast which is obviously hotter. The road looks like it runs close to the sea but in reality we can hardly see it. We head slowly into Padang, it is pretty spreading but because it is Friday. …muslim Sunday…. we think there is less traffic than normal. Some shops shut but many as normal. Mosques do not seem as busy as Clive might expect. Seems to me that many do not bother. Certainly there are many women with covered heads and long gowns but equally they look fairly modern riding their scootors and motorbikes .
Since my clutch is on the way out….confirmed by a mechanic yesterday who fixed Clive’s fancy little screen which had fallen off….we decided to try and get it done today. See ideal Yamaha place on main drag. As we were having difficulty in finding an hotel we popped in there first. Clutch plates…£7…here shortly. So we whizzed off and found a very fancy hotel to appease Clive whilst they got the clutch plates. The fancy hotel ? Cost £28. My argument against such places is that you could be anywhere in the world. Anyway, very nice now and then and yes….very good value!
Back to Yamaha where we were given a free iced tea and given seats to sit in a special room….with other customers….so that you could watch your bike being fixed through a window. There were several mechanics working away. Exactly one hour and all was done. Price £5.50 for oil and labour. Total with tip £15. Amazing.! Now to plan the next few days…
Oct 18th Sat
We went out last night , on foot, to a Lonely planet choice eating place. It had moved but only round the corner. Within a minute of arriving the heavens opened and it poured! It was a local fish place. Good fish but the smoked sambal sauce was too hot for us to really enjoy. Still raining a bit on leaving but a very kind man….typical of the Sumatrans…..went and got his car and drove us back to the hotel.
Decided to move onwards so off we go to Sungai Penur, 217kms excepting that I make an error and we go 20kms too far along a road…missed a turn. I say I for it seems to be me that has easiest access to a map .I carry it in my rucksack. Clive’s map…same…is in his bag which is impossibly strapped to his bike and inaccessible by day. I have also been checking progress on google maps on my phone. Keeping gps working does not use battery and you can see where you are . Useful in town. Clive says his Blackberry phone does not do google maps…
It becomes a long day but with lots of little stops we make our destination. At one stop we asked, we hoped , for an omelette. We had got the eggs and then made a mixing sign and they nodded. What we got was a tea flavoured eggnog in two glasses with straws! It was curious but quite nice! Otherwise it was quite difficult to find more than a pepsi or orange fizz etc. Countryside was mountainous and pretty if you could see through the smog. Houses are interesting as they are a mixture of styles, some wooden and some stone or concrete. I love the wooden styles and especially the Batak houses. In many of the villages crops were out drying on the side of the road or even on the road. Rice, beans, cinnamon in particular. Seen tapioca growing in the valleys, and tea bushes on the mountain sides. Coffee also growing…. Tonights hotel is not a bargain. Kettle defective, loo leaks water, aircon outlet drips water on to bathroom floor, plug so worn it falls through the plug hole…but worst of all is that the mosque seems to be competing with the karioke downstairs .
Oct 19th Sunday
Woken at about 5am with a phone call from the UK. We wanted to set off early so after a cup of tea from the defective kettle…it worked!.. we headed off to a petrol station and the usual queue of bikes for the cheaper petrol. The more expensive petrol is still only 75p a litre so with no queue we usually go for that.
According to google maps there are three choices of route to Bengkuku. None are very direct. Together we opted for the middle shorter route. There was the coastal route. ,..different exit from town, and the more inland route. I , says Clive, failed to find the correct route, so we ended up on the long route. Major miles but lovely mountain road followed by a good fast, not busy, main road where the little bikes could push on. Then back through the mountains and down to the coast. We stopped for quick drink spots frequently and had to keep going to make it ideally before dark or rain!
It took 12 hours. We did end up in the dark for an hour but though there was lightning in the sky…no rain. Heading down from the mountains was an unending bendy road which was in fact good fun with various other bikes on the road. Clive leading ,we showed the locals how even Brits can do bends on little bikes. They showed us the way in the dark!
The seats on the bikes are not great and bums get quite sore etc after a long day like this. We could have stopped one town back but its one hotel did not look great. Now that we are here in Bengkulu we shall have a break and see what is around. For one the skies seem clearer.
Oct 20th Mon
Because the skies are clearer AND we are at the coast it’s hot. “Let’s not take the bikes” says Clive. Only after being helped by a friendly policeman who told us where to stand and which colour minibus to hail, did we get moving. Not many private taxis so it was shared minibus. Clive could barely fit in the tiny Dihatsu! Bench on each side and open door way. On this first bus we found an american who lived in Bengkulu. Great help as she told us one or two things. I asked her about the polluted skies. …she claimed it was burning not traffic. She said it was the burning season. Could be better at other times of the year when they are not allowed to clear and burn?? Certainly Bengkulu was cleaner but it also had less traffic. Nicely relaxed . We got hot plodding around. Saw the Fort Marlborough. Built in early 1700’s by the Brits and was/is second largest fort in Asia.
Eat in the hotel. It may seem strange to many but we have hardly had any wine. It was possible to buy in Medan but since then not possible. Because the food is spicy and there are such wonderful fruit juices, wine is hardly missed. You can get beer much more easily.
Oct 21st Tues
For breakfast I had some juice called Chaisim I think. Bright green and good. I looked it up and its Chinese cabbage!! Foodwise you can have anything from continental to spicy mains..for breakfast. Thats in better hotels..
Hot again as we search the town for a money changer. Clive wants to change some dollars. The banks don’t want to know unless its in crisp $100 bills..which his are not as in UK $100 are out of favour with our banks!! Succeed and off to Manna further down the coast where there should be an hotel or two. There are good surfing waves but no tourists and we have a bit of trouble finding a spot but we do. No wifi for first time.
I find it a great shame that there is not more wildlife to see. Whilst we have been in the countryside and jungle lined roads we have barely seen even a monkey. Too many people. And as for birds, very very few. The only ones we have seen are in bird cages at people’s houses. So sad. There are national parks but they are not into real tourism. You can go treking with a guide and camp in the jungle etc. No other type of infrastructure for tourists. We have seen very few europeans….In this district, Bengkulu, hardly anyone speaks english.
I think I can hear thunder..but we pop out on the bikes to find wifi which we do from a shop selling mobile phones. Then somewhere to eat. All looked very basic and unclean so in the end bought a whole bag of some different things being fried by a street vendor and took back with us to our room. Total cost of bag of food…less than 50p.
Oct 22nd Wed
Woken at 6.30am with a knock on the door and a breakfast tray. Bit of a surprise! Noodles and a bit of omelette. Bathroom has no basin nor loo paper. You are supposed to use the loo with only the aid of water to clean things. We washed in a bucket though the cold shower did work.
One hour up the road and Clive says his clutch had gone…no drive. I spotted that his chain was off. We pushed the bike to a handy hut on the other side of the road. Out came two men followed by two girls. One man spoke a little english. They set to. Front chain cog had been lost/ come off. We looked back on the road..no go. However no problem , 1 mile back in a village they would have a chain set. Off goes one of them on his bike. We hang around with the two “slightly easy ” girls. Couple of middle aged men turn up. Beer is offered…large pile of empties to the side. Man comes back. In no time at all the bike is fixed. We have lost one hour.
On we go till it rains. First rain we have had during the day. We shelter for half an hour.
Onwards on a worsening road surface but our little bikes take all in their stride. Though rain has stopped water is coming across the road in places. It makes for fun riding. We see two boys on a bike towing a dead dog on a rope. One can only think that they would only bother if they intended to eat it. They do eat dog.
We reach Tanjung Setia, south of Krui on the coast. It is a surfers place and we are settled in with a few aussie surfers. Apparently they don’t use soap, towels or loo paper, other wise room fine. Oh…no kettle.
Oct 23rd Thurs
The surfers had disappeared by the time we had breakfast. They had left early for another spot so our vague thoughts of staying and watching surfing went out the window. The proprietor was fast asleep on a bench. Australian through and through….too many beers last night. I popped the money for our room under his cap on the table in front of him and off we went to Bandar Lampung. Jungle lined road in places, trucks lurching along ..overloaded. Broken road, good road and then finally more traffic and built up as we approached Lampung. Biggish city.
Few more points about Sumatra now we are nearly off to Java.
A great many of them smoke cigarettes but they don’t have a lot of alcohol. We have gone past many a wedding party for these are very public affairs. Huge awnings in neon colours are erected next to the road or on the road. Apparently the more important you are the greater part of the road you can use. One today was occupying all one side of a bit of dual carriageway. I am sure if we had stopped we would have been welcomed in at any of these weddings. Normally the music is very loud indeed, karioke seems a must and no alcohol is drunk. They go on all day and into the night. We have probably gone by about 10 a day.
For some reason the indonesians want to take photos of either Clive or I with themselves. We are often asked to smile with young girls for photos on their i phones. Where will they end up…photo of me with filthy face, dirty hair and motorcycle clothes.!!
The motorcycling in the traffic demands a great deal of concentration. Competing with other bikes behind belching trucks, looking out for holes in the road, and looking ahead for a chance to overtake takes some doing. The law in Indonesia does require helmets but maybe only half do. Flip flops, bare arms and legs ,muslim girls with headscarfs and entire families aboard one bike are common. Babies in arms and mother sitting sideways….I even saw two ladies sitting sideways today behind the male driver. In spite of this we have only seen one lorry in a ditch in 2500kms. I put it down to their relaxed attitude to life and not getting frustrated on the road. If this was Africa there would be a truck crash on every bend.
We have 93 kms to the ferry port tomorrow. …Bakauhenu.
Oct 24th Fri
Road not too bad and we get to the ferry in good time. Much more efficient than one might imagine and we are soon on board.
One more traffic observation. Driving on the left, all vehicles use their right indicator for
1. Eventually turning right
2. To denote that they might overtake but that in the meantime they don’t want you…a bike..to overtake them.
3. They might swerve right because of a pothole
4. Because they have forgotten its on.
Ferry not full and we are soon on our way in the traffic. This is the main road to Jakarta. We have 120kms to do. It takes a good 4 hours. That’s on motorbikes that should be able to pick their way through the traffic.
There is a motorway/toll road but no motorbike at all is allowed on it. So bikes end up with all the trucks. The 120kms was built up all the way.
We have headed to the airport because tomorrow we have to get our standard 30 day visa extended. This could be a problem or take a while…who knows.
Oct 25th Sat
Immigration at the airport would not help with extending the visa. We have to go to an immigration office elsewhere. BUT they are all closed today because it is a public holiday and they are closed tomorrow…Sunday. So…we decide to go in a town called Cirebon which is where we will reach in two nights time, all being well. We do still have time. In retrospect we should have applied for a 60 day visa from the embassy in London. Now we know ! Visas on arrival are only for 30 days.
Clive has another little problem and needs to get a letter to England asap. That is easier said than done. He had hoped to give it to someone London bound at the airport. Will have to go back there tonight. Our hotel is very close to the airport but unfortunately at the wrong end and so taxi rides/ motorbike have to go all the way round the perimeter. We have got a few things wrong here….!!
Oct 26th Sun
Clive went back to the airport and did find someone to take his letter. We set off today with the aim of purely crossing Jakarta from west to east. It should be about 100kms of conurbation. We do pretty well but get messed up a bit by the fact we are not allowed on toll roads. No motorbikes are of any size it seems. Clive is very aggrieved by this. …says motorcyclists are being treated as second class citizens. We have to plug along on the old road when we get it right! Don’t do badly and traffic only chaotic on roundabouts and crossroads where might ends up being right and motorbikes do well en masse . We had quite a bit of trouble finding an hotel. At one point we were being directed to one 50kms down the road!!
Oct 27th Mon
Breakfast was the usual indonesian style…looks like supper. Help yourself to noodles, rice, fish stew, chicken stew, etc. Hopefully there are some eggs somewhere….
Road much better, on our side at least. On the other side of this dual carriageway there was a traffic jam that extended for about 10kms. Caused by a junction that needed serious re designing. In spite of a concrete central reservation, buses and others were coming through gaps onto our carriageway and heading towards us in the fast lane in order to try and get round the jam. At the same time bikes were doing the same but taking to the hard shoulder side of our road and coming towards us on our left. Due to the relatively slow speed of everyone it all seemed to work!!! Except at the junction which was complete chaos.
We reached Cirebon in very good time. Even saw some paddy fields between settlements. Checked in to good hotel and headed off to immigration to renew our visa. Soon back at hotel with instructions for hotel to sponsor us…”just a letter”. The hotel obliged. Back to the office. Now we have to get letter of guarantee and now you have to fill in this form….As expected this is a big hassle to get another 30 days extension. We are not done yet….to tomorrow.
Oct 28th Tues
Getting the visa extension is now in the hands of a friend/guarantor of one of the immigration officers. With his passport in our hands and our passports in his we are supposedly meeting again at 3pm. So off on the bikes in the heat to see Krakon Kassepuhan…a walled palace dating from 1527. It was well hidden amongst filthy houses, rubbish and stalls. But it was nice to wander around and take a look. The sultan still lives there.
Then it was off to Yamaha. Clive wanted to put the chain on that he has been carrying around since his sprocket breakdown. This was a failure as the chain was the wrong length. He did not want to buy yet another so old one back on again. It looks okay. I was a little fearful of my clutch cable breaking so had a new one fitted just in case. Part plus labour was less than £2.
The friend/guarantor did not arrive at 3pm but eventually made it about an hour and half later. “Quick” he said, ” in the car, they need your photo” .We thought the office was shut but no, lo and behold, open just for us!! We sat jammed in his car in a traffic jam inching our way there. Phone calls to check our progress…all very anxious making. But we made it and duly had a photo, finger prints, and signature done on some special machine. Finally our passports were stamped and then another wait for yet more checking. Done. Then the poor man had to fight the traffic once more to take us back. Yes, it did cost!
Oct 29th Wed
As we ate our meal outside etc last night the heavens opened. Quick nip inside whilst the food etc was rescued!
Today we have started heading down to the south coast and thus have seen some better countryside and roads. Lovely terraced paddy fields with plenty of people working away. One village had a rope making industry with teams of ladies and also men all busily working away. They seemed to be recycling old rope and making into new as well as using new material. At first we thought it was cotton but on stopping discovered it was some artificial fibre. They do appear to be a busy nation, most people doing something unlike in Africa. Very industrious . Just too many of them. We went through a coastal village which had a fishing fleet moored up a river.
It was a filthy bit of water with rubbish every where and the water almost black. A woman waved a large prawn at us to buy. Where had that prawn come from !? The filthy river water ends up in the sea along with everything else. Its less depressing than Africa because there are more resources here and a better work ethic. But one keeps seeing..too many people for the land to sustain.
Oct 30th Thurs
We leave Purwokerto and head for Magelang which is very close to Borobudur which we shall sight see tomorrow . It is the largest Buddist temple in the world. Restored to the tune of $25 million in the 1980’s or so. We have found ourselves in a hotel in a kind of holiday park beside a river . Lovely views of paddy fields and the river. We watched two men cross. One took his shorts/trousers and pants off to cross. Put back on on the other side!!
Today we especially remember Rhys.
Oct 31st Fri
Off to see Borobudur but Clive feeling under the weather. We had chosen a taxi rather than bikes so off we went anyway. Expensive tickets, but in we go. Clive deteriorating, he opts for a train on wheels to save him walking so we lose each other. Less people than expected, less noise too. They made us wear a sarong for some strange reason over whatever clothes we had on. Handed back at the end. Took my photos..not as impressed as I thought I would be, but its a big place . All built without mortor. I went to the top, Clive did manage to see it but did not climb it. Plenty of touts pestering away. Very few westerners though. Bought a sampan like hat but how to get it home. Think it will have to be left. It was only £2.
Clive desperate to lie down so back to hotel. He had a pain in his stomach. That was only symptom. After he had decided he wanted a doctor he began to feel better! Anyway doctor comes and now he has some wonderful packets of medicine to take. Checked what he had been given on the internet .
Nov 1st Fri
Clive improved. He had some breakfast..and so did I..and I packed up his bike for him.
Short day to Solo or Surakarta. We take the route between two volcanoes. One seems to be active and smoking. Once we reach our destination I read up that this volcano, Gunung Merapi, is the most active volcano in southeast asia ! Large eruption in 2010. If we had gone round the other side we would have seen lava flows. As it was we had a pretty and scenic road seeing the other benign volcano too.
I took a walk to see if I could find a restaurant for tonight and get some money. Lots of street food vendors. You buy the food and then either eat at a plastic table or ,as many were doing , spreading a cloth on the pavement and sitting down on it to eat.
Nov 2nd Sun
As we turn out of the hotel we are immediately faced with some kind of celebrations and the huge one way street closed. Slightly scuppered our route out of town memorised in our heads!
We head up another valley between volcanoes. This time the volcano Lawu is a revered one and being Sunday loads of people are taking a sunday drive up this way. Not in a car, but quite naturally on their motorcycle. Wives on the back and a child in the middle. Up and up we all go. In one village there were a huge number of men walking down the street all dressed identically in what looked like some martial arts clothing. It’s quite steep up and our bikes have quite a job on . Masses of stalls serving food as we near the top. Clive not happy as they do not have chairs. You are expected, as everyone else does, to sit crosslegged at low tables. The locals are selling their produce of orange gourds and strawberries.
We end up in Keridi for the night. Traffic has lessened a little as we have headed east. Roads have been pretty good . Traffic lights are better obeyed now the traffic is not so intense. The air is cleaner, less polluted and even clear blue when we are in the mountains. Countryside when we get it is intensively and neatly cultivated and looks very green up in the mountains. Towns are mostly clean , but don’t look in any waterway…that is where the rubbish is.
Nov 3rd Mon
Easy day to Malang. Should have been nice route between two more volcanoes again but it was pretty built up and a fair amount of traffic. We were not in a hurry so tried to enjoy the scenery between bouts of overtaking. I would be embarrassed if I was in a car and got overtaken by a little 150cc motorbike going up hill. But that is what happens. Not really sure why their cars don’t go along better.
Down into the heat of Malang. We have stopped here because we are hoping to do a ‘Bromo tour’.
Nov 4th Tues
We got a Mt Bromo tour organised. It began at 11.30pm last night when we got up after having gone to bed at 8.30pm. So with two hours sleep off we went in a landrover with 3 others on a magical mystical tour that is going to take 12 hours. The driver started on what I would have thought was an alternative route or shall we say the long way round. The poor landrover seemed to struggle on the climbs. The driver revved the engine to hell. Anyway we were confronted finally by a gate on a track. With no explanation it was turn round and head back the way we had been for the last hour or so. I was monitoring where we were on my phone! All the way back down and then round to the route that I would have gone for. All in the dark. We were trying/aiming to get into the Bromo crater before sunrise so that we could all take lovely photos in the clear morning light. This is what everyone does! Not a lot of talking from us and the driver was hurrying along to get there. He was safe but had interesting timing on gear changes with much revving. The poor landrover groaned.
It was probably born in the 1980’s. Its engine at full throttle for much of the time. In and out of 4 wheel drive. It was tarmac mostly. Either the clutch would go or the engine would blow up. In the event the drive shaft that drives the front wheels (in 4 wheel drive) clattered to the ground on a good steep bit. Still dark .I thought that’s it. We jumped out in case the brakes failed too.! 10 mins later the driver has got the drive shaft off and we manage to get going with 2 wheel drive only.Up and up. We go over 2000m high, over the lip of the old crater and lurch very slowly down a bad track. Across volcanic sands and finally get stuck at our destination! But we are there. Very lunar landscape and we had almost made sunrise!
We then had to walk 2 kilometers up the Bromo crater. I thought it was a classic looking mt beside us but no it was trail across the sand and then up. Here we are at 5am and there are loads of jeeps, landrovers, toyotas, people and horses on this sandy plain. The horses were for you to ride on if you did not fancy walking across the sand and up a bit. Four of us set off…Clive declined. The driver got the landrover unstuck. To my amazement at the top was a crater that was actively smoking away with a good smell of sulphur/bad eggs. Worth the effort.
The landrover made it back up the track at about 5mph and in low ratio gears. We had learnt that the engine was a toyota ..hence it had not blown up ..yet. The mystery tour then gave us a chance to walk miles down to a waterfall..not worth it..and look at a pile of stones…temple! We did indeed get back after 12 hours. Back to bed at 2pm and wake up again at 4pm. Think we can get back to normal tomorrow!
Nov 5th Wed
Another hot day on the Javan roads. We are now heading off to Bali. About 200kms today to get us to a town called Jember. We skirt another volcano..Semeru. Cannot see it as it is shrouded in cloud and mirky skies. It is currently erupting every half hour but we see nothing. Stop for our Pulpy juice drink…orange…and are gawped at by giggling school girls. Then supermarket stop at the Indomaret to get water and milk. We have taken a liking to this chain of little supermarkets. All part of the journey.
Now keen to get to Bali. Java has been very interesting but so very busy on the road and too full of urbanisation. People very friendly and helpful though, as in Sumatra.
Nov 6th Thurs
It should have been easy to find the route today as we set off but we went wrong just a little bit which meant a bit of a more minor road in order to get back on route. That was nice. Motorbike vendors with their bikes piled high going door to door or delivering to some particular destination. Indonesians do seem to always be busy at something especially the motorcyclists. Once they get a car all seems to slow down!
We get the ferry from Ketapang to Gilimanuk on Bali.
Very lucky as we went straight on, and the ferry left 5 mins later. First off and away to Lovina near Singaraja on the north coast. Immediately see monkeys by the roadside. (Saw virtually no animals in Java, just poor birds in cages at nearly every house). Empty road..for a while… but obviously far less traffic.
Arrive at booked hotel..on booking.com…but not to Clive’s liking. Its by the beach and the sea looks good . Boats on the beach makes it all look nice. We have not seen this in Java. Have lost an hour with time change so swimming in the morning…There are more Europeans than we have seen for a long time. Celebrated our arrival in Bali with some wine.Bali wine! Remarkably good.
Nov 7th Fri
Had our first swim in the sea. It was very nice! We are now 8 hours ahead of UK, lost an hour yesterday on reaching Bali. Off to Ubud by going through ‘the interior’! I wanted to go via small road but Clive was not going to wait while I map read our way. Without a tank bag where you can lay a map for easy reference in front of you, map reading per se is tricky as it means stopping, taking gloves off and getting map out of my rucksack, or seeing where we are on the phone (google maps). So it was turn round and back down to the main road and around. Top of the mountain range it was raining. Great shame as there were three lakes up there in an old volcano crater. Rain and mist forced a stop in a nice cafe on the top. Setting off after it had stopped it rained again. Already wet we put waterproof jackets on and continued. Once we had descended enough the weather changed and all was dry. Finally reached Ubud. Looks very relaxed, hippyish and touristy. Thats it , we are with the tourists now! Even got other europeans on motorbikes…hired.
Bali is full of temples and shrines, they are everywhere. Even in peoples’ gardens. The Balinese are also much more likely to be wearing traditional clothing ie a sarong and head band than the sumatrans or javanese. All is much more colourful and interesting.
Nov 8th Sat
Working out our next move, seeing Ubud. Ubud is really quite big with many streets stuffed full of shops and bars and restaurants. Here we have full on tourism. Its low season so god help it in high season. Coaches galore crawl through on the narrow main streets, disgorging their clients to look at the palace/temple and shop in the market etc. All in baking hot sun..real feel 37c today. For me that is dripping ..far more than perspiring! Can hardly concentrate on anything in shops. Nice batik cloth..
It reminds me of Siem Reap in Cambodia, laid back but nevertheless full on.
Nov 9th Sun
Off to catch another ferry. This time to Lombok. We wend our way out of Ubud and off to the coast at Padang Bai, where the ferry goes from. The road seems to end in the ferry. No timetable, they just go when they are full, about every hour. We are off about 45 mins after arriving. The crossing should take about 3 hours. We sit outside on the deck. Never out of sight of one island or another.
And so we reach Lombok, our final island. After a few days here we will return to Bali. Sadly after a refreshing hindu influenced Bali, we are back to islam and mosques. They are building an enormous one in Mataram, the capital, where we stay the night. Having booked an hotel with booking.com…Clive does like to do it ..we had a failure in that they did not have the room as booked. Off to find another hotel…. it decided to rain a bit , enough to send us diving for shelter . Clive gets wound up ,before spotting a replacement hotel, as his camera is a bit vulnerable if it rains!
Nov 10th Mon
Clive’s indicator was broken on the ferry so first call is Yamaha ..again. Takes a while to find but we do and very quickly a new front indicator is on. We have only a very small way to go before arriving in our hotel for the next few days. This is our luxury break. For £45 a night we are in a hotel resort in Senggigi. Had a swim in the sea…bit of a sideways current! Then it rains..tips it down. I like it, so warm and raining , and I am walking in the pouring rain in my bather. Great feeling. We rode our bikes to our little room (different chalets dotted a round). They didn’t like that but we had unloaded before they caught up with us !
Lombok more built up than I realised…
Nov 11th Tues
Thinking about bits and pieces…how Indonesian women like wearing socks, in the heat, with flipflops so their socks look odd as they try and hold the flip flop on with toes; how I have seen so few birds in the wild..here where there are flowers and bushes there are some sparrows and swallows but nothing colourful ; how they cut the cat’s tails off at birth ..poor cats; how most drivers of cars drive them as though they are learners; how young some motorcyclists are ,ie about 12, school children biking home with no road sense at all; how we love to see the rainforest and the monkeys beside the road but it is oh so rare.
Finally have some good swims in the sea over coral. Yes, colourful fishes and must hire a snorkel and mask. Pestered horribly by sellers of sarongs, pearls (fake looking),book marks, key rings, mangoes, massage,…everything except hirer of snorkel and mask!
Heavy rains in the afternoon..again. Rainy season does seem to have arrived. When it stopped went to our bikes to find them marooned in the middle of a lake. Had to paddle out to get them.
Nov 12th Wed.
Took motorbike ride round the north, over to the east , through the mountains and back . A circle. The inland bits were best, where we finally got away from everything to true old villages up by the volcano in an old crater. Clive now actively trying to sell his bike. My indicator rubber cracks/starts to break like Clive’s did so into another dealer to fix it just like that. Clive has more selling opportunity but dealers do not sell second hand generally. We think hirers of bikes to tourists will buy…hope so. To that end we met with various characters on the pavement outside a laundry shop! Little guy called Edy came to the fore. Was serious, took ride on my bike which he seemed to fancy. I even had to go on the back while he rode my bike to show his wife. End result an offer of 8 million…too low. Agreed to meet again mid morning tomorrow.
We are liking Seggegi beach.
Nov 13th Thurs
I manage to get a mask and snorkel and have fun trying to take photos of fish underwater until we go off and meet the Edy again. By this time Clive has had his bike washed. I have not. Back to the laundry shop and the pavement. I go shopping to leave Clive to it. Come back to find a bit of a crowd and more arrive. I am told..another serious buyer. Over to Clive. All these locals are tiny compared with Clive. Tough bargaining but finally smiles all round. Clive has got a price he is happy with. If Clive happy then I am happy too! Edy did not buy ,but got a cut AND my ‘lips’ key ring!!! I liked my Medan key ring! No photo I am afraid. So a little bit later we are walking back to the hotel on foot feeling rather bereft.
Slight change of plan. No need to rush to Bali as bikes sold so now heading to Gili islands…Gili Air. Edy sells us ticket for shuttle bus and slow ferry. We had thought the fast boat at 3 times the price a bit of a rip off. We eat our words.
Nov 14th Fri
Packed and up early ready for the shuttle bus at 8.30am. We wait and wait. Phone calls are made..hotel sympathetic. Long and short we were had…ticket paper useless. They promised our money back but I spent a fruitless half hour whilst the buck was passed this way and that. We are not often had and it was not much money. So, guess what? It was the fast boat and it was efficient and we were there in no time at all. Next rip off was horse taxi. So I hired a bicycle and made two trips with luggage. Clive walked it getting rather hot and bothered. He could have cycled with me on the rack!!
Seems very laid back. Been snorkelling again, camera efforts not always successful.
The island, Gili Air, is tiny. No cars or motorcycles. Its probably half a mile long and a quarter wide.
Nov 15th Sat
Move accomodation…by bicycle! Snorkel and have major luck. Clive hires FatMan cycle..it has huge fat tyres and is good for the very sandy parts of the track around.
Nov 16th Sun
Off to Gili Trawangan, or Gili T. Short ferry ride seems to involve the whole morning. We arrive to a busy scene. Another little dirt road with bicycles, people (tourists and locals) and the horse drawn taxis. The latter want to rip you off…quite naturally ..as you are standing there helpless with a pile of heavy luggage and it is 30+ degrees. We rent a bicycle from a few yards away and I cycle off to search for another hotel while Clive stands guard over the luggage. Settle in . Decide I will dive tomorrow so sign my life away!
Nov 18th Tues
Did have a dive. Had to be refreshed…they said… but I passed with flying colours and off we went. Plenty of turtles both Green Back and Hawkshead . It was good. Today we have moved back to Bali via “fast boat” and shuttle bus ( magical mystery tour) to Legian near Kuta.
Nov 20th Thurs
Hired some amazing scootors…125cc twist and go . Been up to Temple Lot up on the coast…hot! Explored places and shopped. Fly out tomorrow.
Nov 22nd Sat
With our successful arrival in Australia this particular diary will end. One thing amazes me about Indonesia ..the part we saw anyway…is that we only saw one lorry on its side and no motorcycle accidents. All those millions of motorcyclists, including us ! We saw one lady drop hers by mistake. We saw endless families on board, child standing at the front, then driver and then mum with children squeezed inbetween . Crash helmets were pretty well worn but certainly not all the time and definately not on baby’s head. In Kuta they whizzed around in shorts and not often a helmet.
C’est la vie!!
Dec 16th Tues
We got home on Sunday..exhausted. We had worked hard at Emma and Mike’s trying to help them get a few things done around their relatively new home in Dunsbourgh, Western Australia. We had had a good holiday week with them in Noosa, Queensland.
Sorry to leave pregnant Emma..baby due in January but very pleased to see that they are all more healthy after sorting out various allergies in the family. Emma had had Giardia, a parasite that upsets your stomach lining and probably the children had had it too. Finn is very gluten intolerant as is Zack and all of them are off dairy. Mike the father is also histamine intolerant. So with all that we ate very healthily!!
Indonesia is very cheap, Australia quite expensive for us. 11 weeks away and the total cost for us two was £4500 each which included flights, which were at least £1500 each. Not bad! We would recommend living in Indonesia somewhere for the winter..much cheaper than living here. Only problem is the visa…they only want you to stay for 30 days ! Not sure I would go back to Java. Fine for trekking up the volcanoes but towns and roads are too full and polluted…