|06-14-2013, 12:10 AM||#1|
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Trusting the Gnome: Indonesia, East to West
(a more fancy version of this post with more pictures is available here, along with some English and more Hungarian language adventures in Indonesia)
I am a Hungarian guy who is just finishing a scholarship in Indonesia. For the last ten months I have been studying Indonesian language and culture, taking my time exploring mostly the island of Jawa on a motorcycle. Now that the program is over, I have two months to discover the roads less travelled, starting from the eastern end of the Nusa Tenggara region, heading west. I am planning on reaching Lamalera village in the Solor archipelago, the last village on earth where humans still regularly hunt whales by hand, using harpoons. From there, I am heading west: from the island of Lembata I take a ferry to Flores, and begin my journey through the islands of Flores, Sumbawa, Lombok, Bali, Jawa, and finally Sumatra.
With a little luck, I will be able to reach the Aceh region, the westernmost tip of not only Sumatra, but whole Indonesa. After this, I will return to Bali to meet my family, so that after some days of relaxing we can return to our home in Europe together. I am bringing a laptop with me, trying to report as much as I can from the way.
Enter my Bajaj you-should-have-bought-a-Honda Pulsar 135 LS. I fell in love with her back in September when I went into a shop to buy a Honda. I had 800 USD for a bike, and the sitting position on all the modified 7-12 year old Thunders available in that price range all seemed a little small for me. I almost gave up and went home when I saw my Bajaj in the corner... When I asked the owner about it he just smiled apologetically and said ’That one? Oh never mind that, that is just a Bajaj, sorry for leaving it out here with the normal motorcycles’. I mean that is what I think he said, as back then my Indonesian language skills relied mostly on misinterpreting metacommunication.
I managed to convince him to let me try it, and I was hopelessly in love after the first hundred meters. She seemed a little sportsy but still comfortable, she wasn’t built too small, se was young, convincingly strong, she sounded modest... she just felt right. The guy did not believe me when I said I want to buy it. Maybe that is the reason why I managed to talk him into giving me a good price: he didn’t believe that I seriously want to buy a Bajaj.
So what is the problem with Bajaj? Firstly, it is not Japanese. Secondly, it is made in India. Ever since they debuted a few years ago in Indonesia, Bajajs are considered cheap and unreliable by most people. The build quality is rather low, on the not-very-good roads that make up 95% of Indonesia they sound like a can full of little rocks kicked around. On the other hand there is loads of new technology packed into them, the parts are cheap, and by now there are official Bajaj stores in every bigger city in Indonesia, and you can find more and more satisfied owners every day. What could go wrong? Well, a lot. But first, let me introduce her properly:
The Bajaj Pulsar 135 LS is – according to the official website - the fastest Indian. Nice! She has a 135 cc, 4 valve, twin spark DTS-i engine delivering 13.5 horsepowers, and a 5 speed gearbox. On better days she eats 1,8 litres on 100kms, and even the torturing ride with two great bags and an oversized passenger in the gunung sewu (thousand mountains) region cannot drain more than 2.2 out of her. I don’t know how much it is in MPG as I don’t have internet connection right now, but it has to be absurdly high. In Indonesia this bike is considered to be big, as the regulations make sure that bigger bikes are unreasonably expensive, hence very rare. I don’t really mind, as the quality of the roads and the mentality of the other drivers on them don’t let you drive fast anyways. There are very few highways here, and motorcycles are banned from all of them. At the same time there are many everyday situations when a very light bike is a big plus, for example I have no idea how I would have pulled a big GS out of this ditch on a potato field:
I bought the 2 years old bike with 34 000 kms on the clock, and we have been together for another 23 000 kms since September, so we got to know each other very well. One of the big advantages of the climate here is that the motorcycle season never ends, as long as you don’t mind the rain. A lot of rain.
Murphy is very strong with this bike. She made me learn Indonesian motorcycle language very fast, for example I learned the phrase ’clutch disk’ (kampas kopling) between ’Can I have some fried rice with chicken’ (boleh saya minta nasi goreng ayam) and ’I feel sick’ (saya sakit). Right now she is munching on her third set of clutch discs, and I already bought an extra set for the trip. The carburator is a constant source of annoyance: it had been opened, cleaned, adjusted, yelled at, accidentally dropped, dropped on purpose, partly changed and posessed by a demon more times that I can remember. Right now it is fine, although fiddling with the standard RPM during the ride is a daily routine. The front disk brake often overheats and disappears, and when it doesn’t, it tends to get stuck. Thankfully the back (drum) break is very weak and the engine break (?) is not very powerful either. Oh wait. Every now and then one of the clip-on handlebars get loose, which is surprising, but it can easily be fixed. The electrical problems are all mysteries to me, but it surely killed a regulator, the battery and a dozen fuses. Recently it started to eat almost as much oil as fuel, but I think that problem I solved for good. The headlights sometimes turn on and off for no good reason and when she is tired she simply doesn’t start. I stop listing the problems here as I am running out of words that I know in English, approaching the only Indonesian, the only Hungarian, and only Indonesian and Hungarian territory. I hope it was a good enough snapshot of the situation to understand that a little bit of luck will be needed on the trip. Fortunately one of my friends drew a gnome called ValvÄ with crayons for me to put in the little compartment under the battery. The gnome fixes most of the problems overnight if I keep it (him? Her? Do gnomes have a gender?) fairly dry. It/he/she is a busy gnome, and something tells me he/she/it will be even more busy during the trip.
I don’t want to be unfair with the Bajaj. He is doing very well compared to the pressure that I regularly put on her, and if I take into consideration that all this happened in 23 000kms, it really isn’t that much. Also, thankfully the pipe is up pretty high, so even when the afternoon showers turn the streets into knee-deep rivers, the Bajaj survives. Plus, the parts are really cheap, so it is not a huge financial burden, not to mention that during these months I learned much more about how a motorcycle works than in the last few years altogether.
I am from Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Hungary is a very good location to be if you like to go on motorcycle trips. On our yearly tours with my friend we have been to many beautiful places in the greater region including Sicily, Finland, Moscow, Minsk, the Balkans, Transylvania, Athens and Istambul. There is even a ride report somewhere on this site, I will dig it up when I get some internet. This also means that I am not an unexperienced rider, but I wouldn’t call myself very good either, whatever it means. I am lucky enough to be 24, and I consider myself closer to being a child than an adult (I hope it will be like that forever). Also, riding in Indonesia is nothing like riding in Europe. Luckily I didn’t have any traffic accidents here so far, but there had been many-many very dangerous situations.
For this trip, I have the great advantage of speaking some Bahasa Indonesia. Outside of Bali not a lot of people speak English, especially in smaller villages. Also, I already know a lot about indonesian culture and customs, and I hope that in this ride report I can share some insights that would go unnoticed for the traveller who jumps into a motorcycle trip in Indonesia without previously living here for at least some months. I love Indonesia, and I want to share this love with as many people as possible: this is my primary reason for switching from Hungarian to English in my writing. I hope this thing here will not only be interesting but also useful, maybe I can even inspire some people to visit Indonesia.
For parts of this trip, some other people will join me. In fact, for the first part I will be the one joining other people: Zoli, my good friend talked me into going with him to this Lamalera village to meet the whale hunters. At the time of writing he is on the way from Jogjakarta to Malang, and half an hour ago I got a phone call from him. It turns out that he had an accident, as the lane he was driving in disappeared from under him without any prior warning. He seems to be OK, but his bike suffered some damage. I hope he is really fine, his bike can be fixed easily, and he will reach Malang safely in an hour or so. The last part of the road goes through the mountains and it is a little tricky even with a good bike...
Luz, a girl from Argentina is also joining us on her own bike. There might be more people, but like most things here in Indonesia, it will be decided at the very last moment. Right now it is 22.30 on a Thursday night, and we are leaving Saturday morning.
Getting from Malang to Flores turned out to be the tricky part. The original plan was to get on a ferry going from Surabaya, a huge city 70 kms north of Malang to Flores two days ago. Here, it is close to impossible to know when a ferry is leaving, where it is heading, whether it is possible to transport bikes on them, or whether that ferry is even a real one, not just a mistake in the timetable. Calling the company doesn’t help a lot either: after a few conversations it turned out that after going through the often contradicting information available online and offline, we knew much more than the guys working for the travel agencies, or even the company running the ferries. This meant that while most of them are confident but probably wrong, we are just more and more puzzled and confused.
In the end a few days ago we finally reached an almost competent but completely honest information source. He told us that there might be a ferry going directly to Flores from Surabaya this Saturday afternoon which can definitely be boarded with a motorcycle. He also told us that he can confirm it only on Thursay, two days before the departure. This was by far the best news we had in days, so even though it was still strange, we started planning with a plan A and a plan B. Plan A was the ferry on Saturday, and plan B was that Zoli is joining us in Malang and we leave on Friday to take the 4-day, ass-torturing, through-4-islands long way with our motorcycles to Flores, instead of the 30-hour (according to some sources. It might also be four days, that nobody knows) ferry ride. A few hours ago they confirmed the ferry, so plan A it is! Also, plan C is in progress, if it turns out that there is no ferry after all. If the ferry sinks, well, plan D it is...
I finish now, as Zoli can be here any minute and I got carried away anyways, MS Word tells me I am over 2000 words. There might be a new post before we leave, and after that, I will write as often as possible. Yes, there will be a lot of pictures!
Hope you guys will also enjoy the ride!
emelemkalapom screwed with this post 06-14-2013 at 12:16 AM
|06-14-2013, 12:49 PM||#3|
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Pack the system!
It is 1:15 am, we are leaving to Surabaya 7 in the morning tomorrow. The day was not so surprisingly spent doing last minute preparations. After the accident yesterday, the Honda Supra X of Zoli needed some patching up: it got brand new tires (apparently both of them got destroyed in the crash), the bent handlebar was fixed, the oil was changed, but no new chain today. That will have to wait until Flores.
To be sure to have a place for our bikes and ourselves we decided to buy the ferry tickets in advance. After getting an address for a travel agency from my friend in Malang, we fought a desperate battle against the chaotic Indonesian administration to find the place. Indonesians like to name every street in a sub-district the same or almost the same, and the houses are given a random set of numbers and letters as identification to make them close to impossible to find even if you know the exact address. In the end a friendly guy from another tourist agency got on his bike for us and guided us through a maze of alleys to find the tourist agency which offers not only cars and buses for rent and nice hotel vouchers, but also.... mice.
First, they told me that the ferry we want to catch does not carry motorcycles. It took us a few minutes and phone calls to convince them that it does. After another phone call they told us that all the bikes that the ferry is to carry should have been sent to Surabaya two days before departure, so we are late. As I mentioned in the last post, the company running the ferry told us that until Thursday they can’t even confirm whether the ferry will actually depart on Saturday or not, so we tried to explain the otherwise friendly lady that she might be wrong. By that time I started to feel like being part of the Monty Python cheese shop scene.
Ten minutes, a few more calls later she told us that we might have been right after all. By that time the Boss also arrived. He seemed a little more competent, until he tried to convince us that the only way to put the bikes on the ferry is to leave them there, 70 kms south of the port, and let them arrange their transportation from Malang to the port. For a small fee. I patiently explained him how little sense it makes to leave the bikes there and catch a bus to the exact same place where they would bring them. Now that I look back I realize we should have left after the first few minutes, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the absurdity of the situation a little.
They made photocopies of the registration papers of the bikes, made seventy-five other phone calls and finally gave us a price that was a good 30% more than the price written on the website. Another hour of bargaining followed, not the ’80!’ ’40!’ ‘Ok, let it be 70!’ ‘I can’t pay more than 50!’ ’60 is my final offer!’ ‘Deal!’-kind, but the prolonged, torturous, sweaty type. In the end I even tried to use the combination of the intimidating English language and bar charts about what I think is a fair profit margin...
Finally we bought the tickets for 950 000 RP each (Indonesians love their zeroes... 10 000RP is around 1 USD) and realized that it is already getting dark. After dinner (which happened to be also my breakfast and lunch) we dropped by a kind of alternative concert that a friend recommended. One of the performers pushed a Honda semi automatic scooter on the stage, plugged a few wires here and there, turned on a set of tricky devices, kickstarted the engine and started somehow creating very strange music from the sound of the engine. I didn't have a camera to record the performance, but it was very impressive! Also the Honda was the exact same type (the legendary supra x) that Zoli has, so we considered it a good sign for our journey.
I finally packed my stuff not so long ago. The remaining part of the post will be going through the contents of my bag, partly to congratulate myself on how well it seemed to go, partly to make me notice if something is missing, and partly because it might be interesting to some people. The bike doesn’t have any panniers, and I wanted everything to fit in my medium-sized backpack. Travelling light is much more fun and I wanted to make it as light as reasonably possible.
Here is the list of things I am bringing for the trip:
-Shorts and swimming shorts
-Not enough socks (where could the others be?) and underwear
-A plastic bottle of my favourite blend of 20W40 oil
-Three T-shirts and three funky Batik shirts that not a lot of people outside Indonesia would wear
-My only hoodie that had seen better days, but still functioning
-A sarong that is not only light, but can be used as clothing, towel, blanket, pillow, weapon, sail and much-much more
-The single best blanket in the world from a KLM aircraft that I will absolutely return to its rightful owner
-A sharing-is-caring T-plug
-Nokia charger, an USB-to wall socket adapter and 3 different USB cables: for the camera, the mp3 player and the Kindle. Hooray for standards!
-3 one dollar earphones. Long story
-The last classical, tampon-shaped mp3 player in Indonesia
-A pocket-sized English-Indonesian translator
-The case in which the camera is when I am not taking pictures of stuff
-Laptop with mobile internet stick
-Duct tape and clear tape
-Brake pads, around 40%, because I have them
-Clutch discs, because I am afraid I will need them
-International drivers license
-Nylon cable ties accidentally in the colors of the Romanian flag
-2 lighters which I will lose the first day
-Tiger balm because it is awesome
-Vitamins, some band aids and assorted medicine
-Flashlight with dead batteries
-Toothpaste and toothbrush
-A map of Java that I will leave home in the end because I am not going to Java
-Two decks of cards
That’s it! Now that it is on paper (or at least on the monitor) it almost looks like a lot of stuff, but it all fits very nicely into my bag. I even have some extra room for food for the ferry ride! In the following days it will turn out if I am leaving anything important at home...
No I try to go to sleep, but if you notice that I missed something crucial, please leave a comment! I will check it tomorrow morning before departure.
|06-14-2013, 01:14 PM||#4|
Joined: Jan 2006
The second from the top right. Are those the same pills as on the jacket belonging to Kaneda(Movie Akira)?
Enjoy your trip.
|06-15-2013, 01:19 AM||#6|
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Budapest, Hungary
We are already aboard. The trip from Malang to Surabaya took longer than we thought it would, the traffic was crazy. Zoli had a flat tire twice, but otherwise everything went fine. It turns out that the ferry trip will take not 30 but 48 hours, so there will probably be no news from us for at least two days. Ferries are not famous for their accuracy:)
|06-19-2013, 05:40 AM||#7|
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Budapest, Hungary
From Java to Flores: how to climb something that is called Egon?
(as always, the fluffy version is here)
Day 2 (June 16th) – On the ferry
It is 5:30 on a Monday morning. I woke up early to see sunrise. To the South I can see small parts of the island of Sumbawa or Flores: we are way past the furthest point East that I have ever reached in Indonesia before. We left Tanjung Perak, the port of Surabaya around 40 hours ago, and the ferry is once again alive with chatter after a relatively quiet night. Most passengers are already awake, the smell of sweet kretek, the clove-flavored cigarettes start to fill the air, and the top floor is once again alive with the lazy grunts of gambling and Maumere arak consumption. They started early, if they stopped at all since the last time I visited them sitting around their rag full of strange squares with numbers and piles of worn out paper money on the deck at 2 am yesterday night.
This is one way to enjoy the sunshine. It seems like I forgot to put any of the other ferry photos on the pendrive, I will upload them next time!
All in all, the trip is much more comfortable than we thought it would be. Maybe we got lucky with the ferry we boarded, or it is just that our previous months of experience in Indonesia reduced our expectations about transportation drastically. One way or the other, in spite of all the horror stories we heard about long and unbearable journeys on Indonesian ferries, so far the ride is going very smooth.
We slept long hours, ate several meals of rice that came free with the ticket, read hundreds of pages, and made some strange new friends, all of them from Maumere, the city that is our destination. Everyone on this ferry seems to be from Maumere, going to Maumere. It is easy to tell from the faces (they look very different from Javanese people), the fact that women do not wear hijabs on their head, and the crosses that hang from their proud Christian necks. People drinking arak (a strong alcoholic beverage distilled from rice) is an everyday sight in Muslim Java also, but here it is done much more openly. Some new friends such as the mighty Alfa Edison, a truck driver who is shipping goods from Surabaya to Maumere do it more discreetly, while others, most notably our friend Herman do not stop until he is convinced not only that he is from Brazil and Mexico at the same time, but also that he is capable of flying and that at 11 am it is still the night before. Things are generally staying friendly; even the drunkest people of Maumere lose their consciousness before they could lose their temper, and even the loudest drunks cannot match the sober ones having a good time in the sleeping quarters. Down here there are multiple TVs playing different American movies at the same time, half a dozen mobile phones blasting tunes with cranked up volume from pop songs to the dreaded Indonesian Dangdut music. Some people sing along, and most people laugh. There are smiles and a generally good mood all around, which is very nice, even though it makes it kind of hard to rest. We don’t really mind: we have all the time in the world, and as long as the faint smell of piss and arak, and waking up in the middle of the night because of someone passionately singing the refrain of Desert Rose from Sting are our biggest annoyances, we will be fine.
We are the only bules (foreigners, caucasians) on board, so by the time the first night came it seemed like every one of the few hundred passengers already knew our names. Here it seems like we get all the positive, but very few of the negative side of being bules: the people of Maumere are not as obsessed with taking pictures of and with us as the average Javanese, all we get are curious but friendly looks, ‘hello misterrrrs’ accompanied by huge, honest smiles, and interesting conversations. Upon finding out that we do not know exactly where we will stay in Maumere, already three people offered their houses for us to stay in. Yes, mighty Alfa Edison the truck driver and the unreasonably drunk Herman were two of them, but I got the same offer from a much more sober guy as well. This new friend of mine looks no more than 22, and he is returning alone from the second semester of studies in Surabaya to his 1 year old child in Flores.
During the last few hours of our trip we enjoyed some nice sunshine, refused to join the Papuans in their gambling, gazed at the spectacular Flores landscape (I have never seen anything like this in Indonesia before). We even spotted some dolphins close to the ferry, and later we even managed to wave at a distant whale. As I write this last paragraph the ferry is approaching the Maumere harbor, just a little more than 48 hours after our departure.
…and so the trip begins!
Day 3 (June 17th) – Land!
It took hours for the trucks and cars in front of us to leave the ferry, so by the time our wheels touched Flores soil it was already dark. During the long wait we witnessed the sun going down behind one of the billion mountains in Flores, and also examined the cargo that came all the way from Surabaya. Apparently there is an unexpected lack of garlic on the island (vampire invasion?), as almost all trucks had huge bags of the white little things hastily thrown on top of them. Finally we managed to leave the ferry, and after paying 20 000RP (2 USD) of some kind of entry tax each, we were on our way (I think it wasn’t just some semi-official guy at the port looking for some extra cash, as the paper I got for my money literally had 5 signatures, 6 stamps, 11 abbreviations (OPP, OPT, TKBM, DPC, INSA, APBMI, APBM, GAFEKSI, PBM, INF) and a fingerprint on it).
This is just the top of the garlic-iceberg. Boss Besar means Big Boss, by the way
Flores is a refreshingly comfortable place to drive a motorcycle in, especially if you come from the vastly overpopulated and constantly busy island of Java. I was surprised to find out that even though the roads are rather narrow, they are in far above average condition. We had only 30 km-s to our destination (Lena homestay, east from Maumere), so we took it slowly. I was completely charmed by Flores, even though I didn’t see much of it. The traffic was scarce and lazy, there were funny looking churches instead of mosques on the side of the road, people were very helpful and smiling all the time (we already got used to this in Java), and most of all, the smells were amazing. Maybe it is mostly because I’m not used to driving this slow, but for me Flores has the most exciting mixture of smells in the whole world. Burning bamboo and coconut, fresh fish, freshly cut grass, the smell of spring, the smell of autumn, a whole set of flowers, swamps, some of these combined, and many more that I couldn’t connect to anything specific from my memories. I was smiling like a madman under my helmet and I was breathing through my nose so heavily that my head started spinning. In spite of the prospect of a much needed shower and a meal that contains something other than rice with rice, I was a little sorry that we arrived to our destination so early. Luckily, there was one last free room at Lena homestay. Also, they had some OK fried rice. I somehow didn’t even think about ordering anything else, which kind of scares me. The magic continued as we find out that because of the high tide this last remaining bungalow could only be reached by a little wooden boat: the stars were up and shining, and more exciting smells reached the boat as we took the five minute trip to our place for the night in total darkness. They already turned the generator off, so we had to use flashlights to find our way and prepare for sleeping.
The way back from our bungalow
Day 4 (June 18th) – My name is Egon. Gunung Egon.
In the morning the same little boat picked us up to take us for breakfast. We got up early to see the sunrise (2 sunrises, 2 sunsets, dozens of identical picture of nice colors, big contrasts and the sea – check!), left our stuff at the restaurant, got on our motorcycles and took off to climb a nearby volcano called Egon. It was much trickier than we thought it would be…
We decided to climb without a guide. It is cheaper, more exciting, more of a challenge like that. Relying on the directions given by locals on the street, we easily managed to find the road that goes to Egon, which varies between “Road”, “Almost a road”, and “This used to be a road” in condition. Relying on Lonely Planet we were trying to find the village of Andalan, which is right next to the trail to the crater. After our first efforts of trying to find it on our own, we started asking people. A yo-yo ride started between a place up a hill where they told us that we have to go back a few kilometers, and another place down the hill where they told us we have to go up a little. Between the two points, we haven’t seen so much as a single house.
Why? Below is a picture of what was left from the village after the most recent major eruption of Egon (2004):
This is what remained…
It was a case where the otherwise awesome quality of Indonesian language that is NOT using any grammatical tenses for past, present and future turned out to be a downside. The people we asked told us where Andalan WAS. In the end an old man volunteered to get on my motorcycle and show us the place himself. His equally nice wife helped him wash his feet real quickly and we were on our way. I transported a lot of people from A to B with motorcycles in my life, but he was the first one to use this peculiar way to hold me… He was an amazing character who mixed the common Indonesian with the local language liberally, so I didn’t understand exactly what he was telling me about while rubbing his running nose against the back of my jacket from time to time.
Proundly Transporting the Elderly since 2005!
The clouds were already gathering as we started our 4-hour trip to Egon. The visibility got worse and worse as we approached the crater and the constant rumbling noise from inside reached us about an hour before we could finally see the rim through the thick clouds. Fortunately parts of the sky cleared long enough to see our surroundings and take some pictures, but the panorama I wanted to see so much was way out of the question.
Egon crater. You see the few black pixel on the left side of the picture, on the edge of the cliff? Thats me, enjoying the sulphur goodness
All in all, Egon was still very impressive from the inside. There is a small crater lake (the edge of which can be seen on the left side of the picture), pink, red, orange, green and yellow cliffs all around, and a few cracks from which the violent rumbling and the poisonous gasses were coming from. The scariest thing about it was that the intensity of both the rumbling and the smoke was constantly changing. One moment it was relatively quiet, and then suddenly huge puffs of smoke came out accompanied by noise that sounded like an airplane in the sky. Egon sounded very moody and ready to erupt at any moment. There was another suspicious thing: we did not meet a single other person on the way up or at the crater itself, and there was also no trash at all on the trail. After the ‘popular’ volcanoes I climbed in Indonesia before (Merapi, Ijen, Agung, Bromo), it seemed rather strange to have the whole thing exclusively to ourselves. A hint of paranoid was enough to make me think that maybe Egon is officially closed because of the elevated volcanic activity…
In the end two much more mundane natural phenomena tried to ruin our volcano trip. The first thing was something that we thought we managed to leave behind in Java; rain. Around three months into the official dry season, it is still raining there regularly for some reason, and it is getting on my nerves. It seemed like a good idea to leave for the driest part of the whole country to avoid it. We failed. Later it turned out that it was the first big rain Flores saw in almost a month, which might have made it better, but it actually made it worse. Sorry if I sound like I am complaining, but imagine pouring rain on top of a volcano, hours away from any kind of shelter. It was a challenging enough situation in daylight, but soon it also became very, very dark. Fortunately Luz and Zoli had flashlights and I could use my phone, but we still managed to lose the tiny trail a few times. In the end the real heavy rain started just as we found our motorcycles near the site that once was a village, and so we could ride off in the rain and fog. We did not prepare well for the trip: I had no raincoat (the reason is another story), we had only half a liter of water for the whole climbing and we were very, very hungry. In the rural areas of Flores it turned out to be tricky to find food, which was strange for us who live in Java, where every hour of the day, anywhere you are, there is an open warung offering rice nearby. In the end I spotted something that looked like a warung but turned out to be a wedding. The misunderstanding resulted in a rather absurd situation where we got free food and local arak, and we sang the Hungarian song *Kossuth Lajos azt uzente* with Zoli to the newly wed couple, saying that it is a Catholic tradition in eastern Europe, and it brings good luck.
Right now we are in Larantuka, exactly 24 hours after the Kossuth wedding. The story of what happened today (good ride and big rain in a nutshell) will follow in a few days, hopefully along with the success story of whale hunting in Lamalera!
Here we are! (in Larantuka)
emelemkalapom screwed with this post 06-19-2013 at 06:01 AM
|06-23-2013, 05:56 AM||#8|
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Gone Whale Hunting
I finished the story last time at the wedding we invited ourselves to in East Flores. It was around 9 in the evening, and the late hour, the prospect of more rain to come (it did come all right) and the quantity of Arak in our bellies joined forces and convinced us to stay for another night in a homestay nearby. We found Sunset Cottages to be completely empty: there were no guests to be found and the generator was fast asleep, leaving the otherwise neat little bunch of cottages in thick darkness. The only sign of human life was a single candle casting shadows from one of the bungalows nearby. That is where we found the owners, two smiling citizens of Flores who enjoyed their sweet solitude brought to them by not being recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook. They started the generator, gave us shelter from the rain, some hot tea and a reasonably priced bungalow right by the sea. If it wasn’t for the two electrical problems (nowhere to charge my batteries drained by Graham Greene and P.G. Wodehouse, plus the blinking light bulb in the kamar mandi which gave me an electric shock that didn’t let me go to sleep for another hour), I would say that it was a perfect ending for the day we fought Egon and won. Sort of.
Day 5 (June 19th) – The road to Larantuka
Finally a day that was mostly devoted to the thing that a motorcycle trip should be about. After a day of fighting a traffic jam, more than two days of sitting on a ferry and a day of hiking, it was time to wake up, have breakfast, put on the helmets and hit the road the way any road should to be hit: on a motorcycle, with plenty of sunshine. Most of the rain from the night before disappeared or shrunk into friendly little puddles, the air was fresh and the clouds were friendly white. The strip of concrete to Larantuka (the harbor at the eastern tip of Flores island) runs on the coast for the first few kilometers, with palm trees and the occasional view on the ocean. Apart from some dogs and smiling children we did not encounter much traffic on the narrow road that is humbly called Trans Flores Highway. It was hard enough to stop smiling on the first part of the road, but as we started to ascend the mountains between Maumere and Larantuka I just gave up. The smiling muscles on my face ached already, and I immediately realised having this as my biggest concern for the moment is too good to be true. It wasn’t. Our daily trip was not disturbed by any of the usual suspects (rain, crazy drivers, flat tires, traffic jams, potholes that make you feel like you are playing an arcade video game on ’hard’ level). There was some concern about whether we will reach a petrol station in time (the scooters of Luz and Zoli hold only a few liters of gas), but in the end it also turned out fine. My only small regret is that – as in most of the cases when the riding is too good – I forgot to take pictures on the way.
I took picture of bikers in line like women for the bathroom though
Larantuka turned out to be a quite friendly city. We found accommodation close to the harbor not so long before our old friend, The Rain That Should Have Stopped Months Ago arrived. It joined us for our afternoon nap, stayed for dinner, thought about leaving but decided to stay for the night in the end. Because of this we couldn’t do much else than to eat, sleep and go to the nearby netcafé, and it was close to what we wanted do anyway. It was a good day.
Day 6 (June 20th) – The L day: from Larantuka through Lewoleba to Lamalera
Good old Rain was busy all night turning dirt into mud, and by the morning it was back at our place to greet us with a powerful drum solo before the alarm rang. Fortunately it said good bye (using the phrase ’see you later’, obviously) after we finished breakfast. We packed, got on the motorcycles and drove to the harbor just in time to secure our place on the 8am ferry to Lamalewa island. We payed the very reasonable 50 000RP (5 USD) for one person plus one motorcycle for the 4 hour trip, and our only concerr about how they will put 20 motorcycles on our small boat also disappeared after seeing that they knew what they were doing.
Just like that
On the ferry I fell a sleep listening to the soothing voice of Colin Firth narrating an audiobook, and I woke up hours later to a guy who wanted to use the rope I was sleeping on for parking the ship (or whatever one does with the ship. How shoud I know? I am from a country which doesn’t even have a seaside). On the shore dozens of people were already waiting for us, practicing the Indonesian national hobby of wearing helmets while not riding motorcycles.
Maybe so that aliens can't read their brain waves
We had a quick and expensive lunch close to the port before what was expected to be the longest 40 km ride of our lives. The stories about how hard it is to reach Lamalera from Lewoleba on any motorized vehicle (yes, all places start with an ’L’ around here) started reaching us way before we even set foot on Flores, and the huge rains the days before did not help a lot. I was a bit concerned about the supra X of Zoli and very concerned about the Honda Beat automatic scooter of Luz, as the Beat has wheels no bigger than your average family-sized pizza. We asked one last person in the warung about our chances. His ambivalent answer was yes, it is probably possible, but we should be careful about the crocodiles. One of them apparently attacked and ate a pregnant woman the other day, but the other ones might still be hungry. He smiled and wished us a safe journey to Zoli and me. We thanked him for the advice, decided not to tell Luz about the crocodiles, said our prayers, got on the bikes and left.
The road was a little bit better than I expected. Even though it crossed the mountains there were no very steep parts. As we expected the biggest problem was the mud, but the method of one person pushing the bike while the other one makes sure that the back wheel keeps spinning fast enough to make sure the first person gets all the mud in his face worked flawlessly. We did not meet any crocodiles on the way, got only a little shower near the end, and finally reached our destination in four and a half hours, still in daylight.
Welcome to Lamalera!
The whale bones and skulls on the side of the road made us sure that we are in the good place. A friendly guy called Mister Anus (yes we were too tired to help laughing) helped us finding the homestay we were looking for by hopping behind me on my bike and showing us the way himself. He quickly became our number one information source, so the description below relies mostly on what Anus told us.
Lamalera, the bay where whales go to die
There are two Lamaleras: Lamalera A and Lamalera B. According to Anus it was necessary to divide the town in two Lamaleras because one Lamalera was too small to host the population of a few hundred people. Lamalera A is situated on the hill right above Lamalera B, which is directly on the seaside. Now that I think about it, in Indonesian atas means top and bawah means bottom. Tomorrow I will ask Anus whether or not this is merely a coincidence.
All men in Lamalera are whale hunters, and all people of Lamalera are Catholics apart from the one poor Muslim guy with a Catholic wife and two Catholic children. In whaily season the men spend every day on the water in their small ships apart from Sundays, when all Lamalera A and B goes to church.
Is it a shark? Nooooooo
They are hunting for everything that lives in the ocean, edible and big enough to be targetted with their deadly harpoon made of a bamboo stick and this razor sharp thing:
Sharper than it looks
The most important prey is ikan paus, the sperm whale. Even though it is generally illegal to hunt them all over the world, Lamalera remains to be the last exception from the rule. The reason for this is that only a relatively small number of whales is being captured every year, the people are using their traditional methods of fighting them (apart from the small Yamaha motorboat engines that UNESCO may or may not know about), and that the whole town is fully dependent on whale hunting. When there are no whales to be seen, they are hunting all the smaller animals that are brave enough to go close to the surface: mainly sting rays and... dolphins.
Zoli observed that while in Lovina (North Bali) any tourist can get on the popular motorboats and go out spotting dolphins for 60 000 RP, this is one of the few places where for your money you can not only spot dolphins but also watch people kill dolphins with harpoons. Who can resist such an offer? We surely couldn’t.
Day 7 (June 21th) – The Whale Hunt
Not so cute from this angle
In return for our little contribution we could get on one of the whale hunting boats. Surrounded only by water we had a lot of time to think about how morbid and absurd the fun that we are having is. Below is a little part of the chain of thoughts:
„I hope we are going to catch a whale... Or do I? I mean it is bloody business, dangerous, the whale might drag us to who knows where. We generally have nothing to do here. Why are we here in the first place? To take pictures? Because we can? OK, specifically we are here to see a whale being stabbed by harpoons. But I want to see a whale stabbed by a harpoon? No, I guess not really. I feel kind of sorry for the whale. Still, how cool would it be to experience it? Uh-oh, we are changing directions, everyone looks tense and the harpoon guy gets ready. I hope it is not a whale. What am I saying? Do I want to harm these innocent people on the boat? They are just trying to make a living, probably in a more honest and good way than most people do! Why am I wishing them bad luck? This is bad. I hope at least it is just a dolphin. Just a dolphin?! Who am I to judge the creatures of the sea by their size?! This doesn’t make any sense. Dolphins are generally considered cute, aren’t they? On the other hand, ’you are as cute as a sperm whale’ might be the single worst pickup line ever. So why do I want the cute one killed and the ugly one left to live? Maybe because it is bigger? No. I would rather see a rat killed than a mouse. If I could choose I would leave both of them alive, under most circumstances. This means... yepp, I guess that I want these people not to make an honest living. I want them to starve. Am I a monster? Okay this is getting exciting, our harpoon guy lifts his weapon for the third time and I see the fins of the dolphins emerge close to the boat again. I got it! Let the better one win! I will be the spectator who will be happy with whatever happens. What?! Where are the dolphins? Did they just outsmart us, humans?! Bastards!
...and so on. It was a strange rollercoaster of thoughts, but in the end I have to admit that the first word that came to my mind when I saw the two dead dolphins on the shore was justice. Not so surprisingly my evaluation of the situation kept on changing constantly, I can’t even reconstruct it now, so let the pictures do the talking:
kids show the entry wound
Raw raw raw
After the whale hunting was over we walked back to the guesthouse a little shocked and puzzled. Few words were said during lunch, and now that I am past my afternoon nap the whole thing seems like a strange dream...
Day 8 (June 22nd) – The Barter Market
I am re-discovering the art of sleeping these days. We generally wake up early for one reason or another, but afternoon naps are also frequent visitors. There always seems to be an opportunity: to kill some time on a ferry between islands, to sleep through the prolonged afternoon rain, or simply because after a good lunch it seems like the only sane thing to do. The only reason for this to be a problem (apart from the apparent lack of other problems) is that sometimes I get carried away, swinging the pendulum of my biological clock through time zones from Vladivostok to Budapest. For example right now it is 11pm, and once again I just woke up from a refreshing nap. Lamalera is fast asleep around me, the air is filled with the peculiar smell of drying whale skin and the soothing sound of lazy waves from the bay almost make me forgot that this is a place where the creatures of the sea get killed and chopped into pieces every day.
We all agreed that one day out on the sea with the whale hunters was just enough. It was (and still is for another few minutes) a Saturday, so we decided to go to the weekly barter market in the Muslim town of Wulandoni, where people from the surrounding villages come to trade their products. Some bring fruits and vegetables, the people of Lamalera trade all parts of whale and salt, while others offer weavings and other clothes. Actually one can find everything on the market from plastic dolls to fearsome machetes, not to mention the local specialty, the betel (areca) nut. This nut is crushed, mixed with a kind of spicy vegetable and some strange white powder and chewed. One of the side effects is a strong color that paints the mouth red, making almost all the old women look like bloody vampires. Zoli was brave enough to try it himself, but the look on his face after the first few bites made me chicken out...
...I better not show you where the Betel juice is made
We had fun walking through the market, and all of us found something interesting. Zoli had his experience with the Betel nut, Luz tought she found the Holy Grail of Indonesia in the form of home made bread that seemed like it was not loaded with sugar (it was), and I bought a little knife for 5000 RP (0,5 USD).
Not quite to our surprise some dark clouds started gathering, so we decided trying to ride home before The Rain That Should Have Stopped Months Ago. We arrived back to Lamalera soaking wet. The rest of the day was spent mostly by looking at the rain, taking long naps and unsuccessfully joining forces with Luz to convince Zoli to play cards with us. Tomorrow morning we leave early to Lewoleba to catch the afternoon ferry back to Larantuka. The roads should be worse than two days ago after the rain today, so I am sure it will be a lot of fun!
|06-23-2013, 08:19 AM||#9|
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Jakarta, Indonesia
I love reading it and see the country from the perspective of foreigners.
edit: I read that you bought a knife. You might want to be careful with carrying a knife. It's illegal for a civilian to carry a knife, unless the knife is a tool of his trade or profession. When I ride I carry a swiss army knife (the farmer's knife), it's part of my tool kit that I keep in my tool bag, and in case of search I can tell the police that it's part of my tool kit.
BobPS screwed with this post 06-24-2013 at 12:14 AM
|06-29-2013, 05:53 AM||#10|
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Budapest, Hungary
BobPS thanks for the comment! The "blade" is hidden:)
Sorry this time I have to make it quick and there is no time to put the pictures up one by one here also. The two new posts are here:
with all the pictures. My laptop got stolen:( Below is the body of the text.
Pen and paper – I
Posted on June 29, 2013 by emelemkalapom Edit
Writing my blog entry on a torn piece of paper is a somewhat strange and for some reason kind of nice experience. A part of me that desperately tries to find the bright side of all things tells me that it is just perfect like this, that handwriting is awesome and should not be forgotten, it makes me a better and more successful person, blah, blah, blah… As a matter of fact I am forced to go analogue. My laptop is gone, and so is my notebook. Halff of my dirty laundry and my shampoo is also gone, strangely enough. For now it is pen and paper, with their many disadvantages and some upsides. I only have 2 sheets of paper, so I jump back to Day 9 without further comments…
Day 9 (June 23) – Almost Sunshine
The road back to Lewoleba from the whale hunting cillage was much better than the way there. Again, we did not encounter any vicious crocodiles, and even the puddles seemed smaller this time. The sun was shining, we were lucky enough to catch the 11am ferry we did not know about before, so we generally thought that this was going to be the sunny day when everything goes the way it should go.
This guy was sitting in front of us in the ferry. She on the phone with his mother: can you guess how I know?
That was until two hours into the trip, when thick black smoke started to fill the ferry and a minute after we managed to climb up to the open deck it started raining heavily from the sky that was clear blue just half an hour before. That was exactly the moment when the engine of the ferry chose to die.It took an hour for the mechanics to fix it while the ferry was drifting with the currents.and although the smoke did keep creeping into the cabin, we reached the harbor of Larantuka before the sun went down.
This sight awaited us in the Larantuka harbor – every character is priceless
Day 10 (June 24) – Lost and Found
We left Larantuka early in the morning and headed back to Maumere on the same (and only) rad: the Trans Flores Highway. The name was still incredibly funny to us (irony is an unknown term in Indonesia), because we were yet to see the other roads in Flores compared to which TFH is indeed a highway. The sunshine once again gavce us the false hope of having a gull day without rain, and for the forst two hours of the day we could ride without our backpacks: Mathias, the owner of the hotel we were staying in also wernt to Maumere on the same morning, so he took our bags in his car. In Maumere we had lunch together, picked uo the bags and cotinued our journey to Moni. The TFH crossed the mountains to emerge on the South coast of Flores, where we decided to follow a local friend’s advice to visit Koka Beach. The smoll trail going down to the beach made even the Lamalera road seem like a highway, and it got much worse after the first rain of the day hit us on the beach itself.
On the way up there was a lot of pushing the bikes, breaking sweat, swearing, one minor accident (Luz dropped her scooter on one of the especially muddy and steep parts), and the beginning of my unlucky period that didn!t seem to stop ever since.
A few moments before the accidents, after which I stopped taking pictures and came to help
Right after the toughtest part of the trail was over, it started raining much more heavily. We found shelter at the empty primary scool of the tiny village close by. There was no one around. I put my backpack down, and after taking a quick look at the surroundings I sat down next to Zoli and Luz. My bag was about two meters away from me, but not in direct sight. During the five minutes that I left the bag unattended, someone stole it. Most probably tje two kids we even said ‘hello’ to. They were crossing the school yard with a pile of banana leafs on their heads, said ‘Hello Moster’ and passed – or so we thought. Long story short: we noticed the missing bag almost immediately, made a small scandal, eventually half of the village appeared, and seemed genuinely helpful. Our knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia seemed to help a lot, and in less than an hour they have ‘found’ my bag in the jungle nearby, with some valuable stuff and also other things I have no idea why anyoune would take, missing.
I have an accurate list of the things that were stolen, as I took a pre-packing picture before we left Malang.
The important stuff:
-Laptop (they left the charger)
-Kindle (also without the charger)
-My international drivers license (Why???)
-An English-Indonesian electronic translator (That I don’t even mind, it serves educational purposes after all)
-My notebook/diary, full of memories I will never get back.
The less important stuff:
-One of my two decks of cards
-Half a bottle of shampoo
-A torchlight with empty batteries
-A roll of duct tape and clear tape
-Dirty underwear and shirts. God bless them for leaving most of the clean stuff.
In the end we did not go to the police (I noticed my license missing only hours later) as they definitely wouldn’t have done anything, but that nothing would have taken an awful lot of time. We left my phone number in case anything else would asppear from the magical jungle (it did not), took a deep breath and left for Moni in the night. Naturally the road became muchg worse almost immediately, but still we managed to arrive in Moni, the village closest to the Kelimutu volcano by 9 pm.
What is the moral of the story? Well I guess being 100% careful is better than 99% as that one percent can make all the difference some times. Also, the lucky part of being unlucky should be emphasized. Most of my stuff I got back in the end, including my residence permit (KITAS). Losing a KITAS is a major pain in the ass, this is obvious from the stories of the other ‘unlucky’ (careless) friends. A lot of extra money, endless lines at the immigration office, damaged nerves, possible deportation. Also my camera, al my other documents and my money, my creadit card and my phone were all safe in my pockets. Luck in unluck found me and got hold of me. It is with me ever since, but those will be stories of the upcoming days…
The Curse of Kelimutu
Posted on June 29, 2013 by emelemkalapom Edit
Day 11 (June 25) – Hot springs and cold nights
Gunung Kelimutu with its three lakes of ever changing colors is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Flores. As such, we thought it is definitely worth a visit: we are not yet cool enough to ignore something just because it is popular. Moreover, for me it was also a little bit like learning how to surf. I was sure that whenever my one year stay in Indonesia will come up in conversation one of the first questions people will ask me is whether or not I learned how to surf. To be able to answer the affirmative and conseqently avoid the Why? that would follow, I had to go surfing a few times. Ah, the burden one must bare!
The similar questions about Flores are “Have you been to Kelimutu?” followd by “What color were the lakes?” in case of the affirmative, and the deadly “Why?” in case of the negative. So we went, we saw, and now I report: Yes, we have seen Kelimutu. The lakes were deep blue, sinkwater grey and pitch black. The whole experience was pretty amazing and yes, I would definitely recommend it to anyone!
There’s a grey one, and a blue one…
Of course getting to see the lakes turned out to be trickier than we thought… Ew got the first news of Kelimutu being closed down because of the elevated volcanicv activity on the ferry from Surabaya to Maumere. It later turned out that they were not afraid of an actual volcanic eruption, but the amount of poisonous gas thjat fills up the craters and their surroindings. These gases are in fact rather dangerous: for example not so long ago a similar thing occured on Dieng plateau in central Java, and a lot of peasants on the fields started feeling sick, also many of them died. Dtill, we were hoping that Kelimutu will be opened again by the time we get there – it was not, but the rest of the story is not only lucky but also very, very… Indonesian.
…and a black one
In Moni we were tolt that althouigh the crater itself is closed, it is possible to go there with local guides. The poisonous gases are not that bad anymore, and nothing can go wrong if someone from the village accompanies you. Apparently the people of Moni who are very much depending on tourists wanting to visit Kelimutu made a deal with the rangersw: with a local guide anyone can visit! As the gates were still closed as in barred down and sedaled, the last 5 kilometers of the road had to be taken on foot, but otherwise everything could be accessed. The rangers are happy, the locals are happy and the tourists (who can’t pay an entrance fee to the government for a place that is closed) are also very happy, especially because the official notice of Kelimutu being closed kept the well informedand the gullible away. That meant that we had the place almost all for ourselves. A few small companies joined, but there was nothing like the usual crowd that is said to be typical for Kelimutu in high season.
Most of the visitors that day are on this picture, being chased up the stairs by deadly nerve gas
We woke up at 4 am, did the ride on our own bikes to the gates, payed the local guide who pazed the rangers, walked up the road and saw the three lakes in the light of the rising sun. We had a coffee at the viewing point, talked a little with the locals about Moni traditions, and walked down to the bikes again before the deadly gases damaged our lungs and nervous system badly enough to make us incapable of riding on. We finally visited some local attractions: a not quite beautiful but very cozy hot spring,
and a small ikat workshop.
By 11 AM we were already on our way again…
|09-19-2013, 03:09 AM||#11|
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Budapest, Hungary
The trip continues, I skip a part, and I am on the road again, from Malang to Sumatra!
Fancy version with pics here: http://indormation.wordpress.com/201...ride-report-1/
Flickr album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/2684676...57635645073144
And the post itself:
A Trip between Trips
This post is kind of a Ride Report, documenting my round trip from Malang to Sumatra and back. I am writing it mainly to the members of the biker community (primarily PRIDES, Nusantaride and ADVrider), which means that while a significant part of the report will be about exciting adventures, natural beauty and good friends I met on the road, there will also be some motorcycle-talk that is concerned with explosive spark plugs, grumpy crankshafts, and a cheeky little part that is called rantai klep, one of the few words that I do not know either in Hungarian or in English, only in Bahasa Indonesia. Also, sometimes I use unreasonably long sentences, like the one above. If you don’t like or don’t have time for these things, but you still want to get a taste of this adventure, just go ahead and click here for the album on Flickr.
The Sumatra adventure was a direct extension of the Flores-Sumbawa-Lombok-Bali trip that we took with my good friends Luz and Zoli (The posts on that adventure start here, and featuring whale hunting and Komodo dragons), and was immediately followed by the Bali-Lombok-Ijen-Malang-Bromo-Bali circle, an experience that I shared with my parents who visited me in Indonesia. Back at home I ride a BMW F650GS, while my father - who got me addicted to motorbikes – has the Big Brother, the 1150 GS Adventure. It sounded like a fun idea to get the little-big brother of my Pulsar 135 for them, the Pulsar 220. In the end Dono Andomo helped me contact XYZ from the Bali Bajaj Community, from whom we got a nice “big” orange Pulsar with the very convenient 7gear panniers and a spacious topcase. Here we are with the two Pulsars on the Bromo savanna:
Planning is not enough –The Technical, the Human, and the Other
Initially my plan was to ride all through Java, take a ferry to Sumatra and go North-west until I reach the very tip of Indonesia. It never happened. A unique combination of technical difficulties, human errors and plain bad (good?) luck ended up completely rewriting the story of my adventure...
The technical difficulties started long before I reached Malang, the starting point of the Sumatra trip. We were on our way back from Flores when my Bajaj started to become extremely oil-thirsty: first she just needed more frequent top-ups, later she started making strange noises that got nastier and nastier as we made our way through Sumbawa, Lombok and Bali, and finally the thick, white, oily smoke completed the picture. The very last day between Singaraja and Malang I had to stop every few hours to feed the Bajaj more oil, and it became harder and harder to see Luz from the mirrors because of the very same oil that was leaving the bike through the exhaust in the form of ever-growing clouds of smoke.
The Bajaj parts are extremely cheap, especially after the BMW experience. For the price of two original BMW mirrors and a set of brake pads you can completely re-build a Bajaj. In this case I needed a new cylinder block and piston, plus the gaskets. The only problem was that for some unknown reason they didn’t have any of these things in Malang. It soon turned out that the situation was the same in Surabaya, Gresik, Mojokerto, Lamongan, Blitar, Tulungagung and Kediri... It was fascinating to hear how many ways there are in the Indonesian language to say ‘no’ without actually using the word ‘no’. In the end, following the many helpful suggestions pouring in from the Nusantaride page, I found the Jakarta-based online shop called Indipart, and I ended up ordering the stuff from them. They are reliable, helpful and fast, the exact opposite of the JNE service they use to send the parts to their destination. I have spent two days trying to hunt down the parts that were already in Malang, followed by the huge puffs of smoke that were my companions those days.
It hurts me to see this...
It hurts me to see this...
My stay in Malang in between the two trips became ten days long, five times as long as I planned it to be. Through these ten days I gradually let go of the word ‘plan’, and I decided to just ride without a destination that is more specific than West, and see what happens. Finally on July 19th I packed my bag, oiled the chain, put on my helmet, and pressed Play. As I joined the traffic on Jl Tlogomas, I was not in a hurry anymore. Without any specific plans or expectations, I was just happy to be on the road again. The very first song I listened to while I left the Selamat Jalan Kota Malang sign behind became a kind of symbol to the trip for me. I dare you to press play!:)
On the road again – the first steps
Having a new cylinder head and piston in your bike has some obvious advantages, and a few surprising ones. The smoke was gone, and the bike generally sounded and felt much healthier. The whole riding experience finally made me smile again, after so many days of nervous sighs and knitted eyebrows. Once again the feeling of not wanting to stop at all was back, this state of complete relaxation under the helmet, the cozy little bubble that keeps the world away, but not too far: you can smell it, feel it, and touch it with your feet if you want.
The brand new piston and cylinder block also means that for a few hundred kilometers you have to ride the bike very gently: this means using low RPMs all the time, no hard acceleration, using very low speeds. At first I thought this was going to be annoying, but it turned out to be so much fun that I ended up driving gently and slowly for most of the whole Sumatra trip. I started noticing the small details around me that I generally miss. I had the time to examine the looks on people’s faces, to let in much more of the nature on both sides of the road. Following the changes in my mood, I was switching between music, audiobooks, and the muffled sounds of the world around me. The sun was shining, I was slowly but surely approaching my destination for the day, and generally I was enjoying everything that I love about riding a motorcycle.
This snake probably did not enjoy it when happy riders crossed her path...
This snake probably did not enjoy it when happy riders crossed her path...
I was already getting dark as I reached Jogjakarta, the first and only stop that I had actually planned in advance. The plan was to spend the night at Zoli’s place, a house on the outskirts of Jogja, near Bekasi. By the time I reached his house I realized that I was enjoying the ride so much that I completely forgot to eat or drink anything all day, which apparently made me a little bit dizzy and out of touch with the world. A few glasses of water and very nice Japanese food at the house party we were invited to helped me become myself again, and after a good night’s sleep I was ready to go. In the morning I realized that I had left the chargers for my laptop and camera at home in Malang. Fortunately Bea, another friend in Jogja could lend me her charger for my camera, and I’d decided not to use my laptop on this trip, which I think was a good decision after all. We had a lazy breakfast at the house with many friends, and it was already around 11 by the time I got on the infamous Jogjakarta ringroad, a mythical strip of asphalt that carries so much meaning and energy that some people (or at least one) decide to get it tattooed on their chest. Where was I going? West: maybe Batukaras, maybe Bandung, wherever the road would take me.
Sleeping at the wheel, I guess...
Sleeping at the wheel, I guess...
I took the South road through Purworejo, Kebumen and Cilacap before, but I had never seen it so full of accidents sites. There were two particularly bad cases involving a truck and a bus, and I followed my basic human instinct: I stopped to take pictures.
...and another one
...and another one
That day I learned once again how very, very careful one has to be driving on the Indonesian road, and I also learned a nice trick about fish transportation on a motorcycle. I got tired and found a cheap and ugly room in the city of Ciamis, the place where this post will go to rest as well. My plan was to write the whole trip in one go, but I got lost in the details again. This means that in the following one or probably two posts I will write about everything else: my accident, my new friends, my dislocated fingers, what went wrong with the bike, and what happened when I actually reached Sumatera. For now I will say goodbye with this picture that unveils the coolest fish carrying method!
|09-19-2013, 05:26 AM||#12|
24/7 B-road hooner
Joined: May 2007
Location: Guiseley, Yorkshire, U K
Many thanks,it's a long time since I've enjoyed such a well written 'road' trip.
Good luck :)
20 years of VFR thrashing - if it don't break,it don't need fixing!
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