There are a few peculiar or plain weird things I’ve noticed in Indonesia since I got here.
Not a lot of men smoke, but ALL men smoke. I’ve been told it’s not polite for a woman to smoke. I still get offered cigarettes every day…
People like their caged birds. You see them in houses, on roofs, in the streets, everywhere. And they breed them in huge, cement flat-like, blocks set in the middle of an otherwise pretty landscape.
Boys and men like to grow their left thumbnail to ridiculous lengths. Why? I don’t know. I’ve tried finding out a few times but the only answer I get is it’s a hobby…
Pyjamas are worn like normal clothes. By girls and women mainly. You see them on motorbikes, in the shops and on the streets. Looks rather comfy I have to say, maybe I’m gonna get myself a nice pair pink with flowers, or hearts or teddy bears…
Where ever you go there are groups of kids sitting around playing instruments and singing songs. On the side of busy roads, on front porches and even in busses and trains or at the traffic lights trying to make an extra penny.
Everybody asks me for my phone number and then ‘missed calls’ me. As I don’t know most names I have a whole lot of strange numbers in my phone like: ‘Old Lady’, ‘Police Man’, ‘Pretty Boy’, ‘Boy Bikebroke’ and ‘cycle Bandung’…
I got a nice surprise in an internet café in Bengkulu as a head popped out from behind a computer.
That was Mike, a cycling Irish guy who has just started his 5-year-round-the-world-bicycle-trip in Kuala Lumpur, where he’s been working the past few years.
I have to say, I’ve met a few cycling-people on this trip and they’re all weird (with the exception of me obviously. I’m perfectly normal)
Mike here is no exception. ( http://1bike1mike.com/ )
First of all he doesn’t drink coffee! Unimaginable for me. Then he is Irish but has never touched any alcohol either. Even more unimaginable for me… He doesn’t eat meat or anything meat-related. He seems to survive on cookies, energy-bars (they’re real good by the way) and tofu. He has never even tried a banana!!!
He is very well prepared for his journey, as I discovered. He has a back-up for everything. A water filter, a back-up water filter. A stove, a back-up stove. Great maps for half the world. GPS and a fancy little thing that sends an email to his parents when he pushes the button. It even will get you helicoptered out of anywhere when you push the alarm-button! And enough spare parts to build a whole new bicycle. Unlike me…
As we were both heading in the same direction we decided to move on together. He needed someone to slow him down a wee bit since he’s been doing some ridiculous mileage lately.
I seemed the perfect person for slowing him down because if there’s one thing I’m good at it would be taking it easy 😉
So off we went, along the coastal road of west Sumatra that didn’t appear particularly difficult… on the map.
But it has started to rain again. Not a little bit either. It doesn’t improve the mood if you start the day cycling in wet clothes, not to mention the rash…
And then nature decides to push some enormously steep end high hills right underneath our road! And every time you think that surely it couldn’t possibly go up any further, it just does.
But the end of one day we found the most beautiful and perfect spot to pitch our tents. Right behind a restaurant with a grand coastal view. I got coffee in my tent the next morning, the morning of my birthday 🙂
It started as a real nice day, and we were both looking forward to arrive in Kriu, a slightly bigger town where we expected some facilities. Wrong. No ATM, no nice hotel, just rain and people shouting.
It was good being together since I really started to get sick with people calling me ‘Mister’. Now at least I could pretend they’re all addressing Mike. And we could take turns moaning about the road, people, bikes, rain and traffic to each other 😉
After going over the budget, and the distance to cover we figured we could make it along the coast till the next ‘town’. Not realising we had to cross another HUGE hill, that also happened to be a national park. It was of course very pretty, and I managed to hang onto a truck, a little bit of the way up. But when we kept going up, the rain started falling and it was already rather late we started to worry slightly, normally all be fine, but we’ve both seen the ‘beware of Rhino-sign’.
Just then Mike’s chain snapped… So when a pick-up passed and stopped for us we didn’t hesitate long and jumped in the back. Turned out to be a good move because the road was much longer then expected (even Mikes GPS-system hadn’t told us that). Actually the road on the way down was more one big mud-bath/ landslide. Even in good weather it would’ve been difficult. So lucky we only got soaking wet, freezing cold and shaken to bits in the back of the pick-up.
But we were making progress. And until the ferry down to Java it was nothing too strenuous. The last bit was just a little busy with trucks and busses blowing their stinking exhaust fumes in your face so you’re black at the end of the day. We’ve been cycling along the coast for a good while with a great view of the remains of the mighty Krakatau-vulcano, who exploded in 1883 with the loudest bang ever recorded on earth. Or so a lonely planet guide told me.
When we got to the ferry we got whisked through and onto the boat, nobody bothered trying to sell us a ticket or ask for money.
Then it seemed to be time to split up again, it’s always nice to have some company but I love being on my own as well. And not trying to keep up with some one who’s a bit faster.
And Mike wanted to head along the coast south, while I wanted to make my way inland to try and get to Malang in time for my friend Ruud’s 66th birthday party.
Just after we split up I saw some ancient motorbikes parked along the coast. Norton’s and BSA’s. I moved on and was quickly overtaken by a whole group of them. So when I saw them standing on the side of the road a few km on I stopped for a chat. Turned out to be the annual ride of the ‘biker’s brotherhood’. A motorcycle club in Indonesia. Great bikes and great guys. We kept overtaking each other since they had to stop often for small repairs on their 1930/1940 motorcycles. They told me they’re based in Bandung, I checked the map and realised it’s roughly on my way. So I promised to come and see them when I got there.
One thing I had to get used to again is everybody calling me mister again, now I can not pretend they’re talking to Mike. But, I found the perfect solution! Every time some one shouts;”HELLO MISTER!” I just pretend they’re saying;”HELLO SISTER!”…. It makes me feel a whole lot better.
Next day I ran into a different crowd from the same Motorcycle-club. These guys were living in Bogor, funny enough my destination for the day…
So I spend the night in a big house on the river where 5 of those guys were living together. It was surprisingly clean and tidy for a house with only guys. I got taken around town to see some old buildings and eat Martabak. A yummy thick pancake with sweet filling.
They gave me a ‘bikers brotherhood’ club t-shirt. So now I can pretend to be way cool as well. 😎
When I left the next morning Sani would show me the way out of town. Then he helped me up a pass… then he decided to come along the whole 120km to Bandung where he had some relatives…
I like Bandung. It’s a big crazy city, but as soon as you get into the little back alley ways it’s like a small village with kids playing and no cars.
I stayed for two nights with Lukmans family, one of the biker-boys.
We rode around town on his 1941 BSA and even had a beer in a proper pub. It was a surprise for me to see, for the first time in Indonesia, girls smoking, drinking and wearing short skirts.
The night developed into a proper pub-crawl ending in a big night-club where we all (by now there was about 15 of us) got welcomed like old friends. A band played and people danced. Miraculously bottles of whiskey kept appearing at our table and we finally stumbled home around 5a.m….
I ‘hang out’ at some friend’s house before finally catching a train.
Lukman, his girlfriend, and 4 others took me to the train station and helped me out with the rather complicated procedure of getting a bicycle on a train. I was given another t-shirt, this time one to remember Bandung (like I would forget!)
And set of on the long and not overly comfortable overnight train ride to Surabaya, where I had to change for Malang.
I was a bit worried about finding my bicycle back and dragging all my luggage from one train to another, but a friendly security guard organised all for me. I could even wait in the personnel’s office. I got offered coffee and was rather surprised by the karaoke installation in the corner where the people ‘working’ here took turns singing songs.
After another three hours in an ‘economy-class’ train, looking out the window wishing I was cycling, I arrived in Malang. Only the train, or at least the bit I was in, didn’t stop at the train station. Everybody had to climb down to the tracks. At the same time lots of people tried to get in as well. On the side I tried to get out with my bike was a deep ditch that smelled like an open sewer… Lucky I got some help getting the bicycle down ‘cause it was a place I really didn’t want to drop my bags. Then dragging the lot across the other tracks I got welcomed by Ruud who came to collect me from the station and took me to his wonderful house up in the hills.
What a great view and what joy to have a hot shower!! The first one in 5 weeks… And a washing machine!! My clothes haven’t seen one of them on the inside for 5 weeks either… Even a maid to put my washing in the machine, and then iron and fold it…. And a servant who scrubbed my bike, which I did found slightly embarrassing. But it’s now shinier then ever.
Ruud ( http://ruudzaan.blogsnel.nl/ ) born in Indonesia spend 55 years living in the Netherlands. I met him in Thailand when he was riding his ’54 Royal Enfield to Indonesia. He rode one from India to Holland in ’98 🙂
Now he’s working here for an organisation called Bhakti Luhur. They help disabled children.
Last Saturday we celebrated his birthday all together with song and dance and great food.
In his house it’s like being at home. I can watch Dutch TV, read Dutch book and listen to Dutch music. I might stay a little while. At least over X-mas.
And my bicycle has given up again. As has my camera, which makes me really sad. Something on the inside seriously broke and now all pictures are purple/green blurry things.
I’m not sure yet what my next move is gonna be. But I’m getting my visa extended for another month for sure.
For now, I hope you all enjoy the x-mas holidays and I wish you all the best for next year!!!!
Its gonna be a good one.
I might even actually reach Australia at some point…
15 thoughts on “Boys and Bikes”
Leuk je vanochtend weer een poosje ‘gesproken’
te hebben via de msn, vlak nadat je je nieuwe bericht had geplaatst. Heb het net uitgeprint en ga het weer vertalen voor de opa’s en oma’s. En wat een geweldige foto’s weer! En wat zonde dat je fototoestel kapot is.. 😦 .
En nou maar even kijken of het lukt op 2e kerstdag online te komen: hebben we de hele familie even bij elkaar:-) . En doe Ruud de hartelijke groeten van ons!
papa & mama.
HALLO MIRJAM ALWEER IN INDONESIE GEWELDIG, OOK IK WENS JE VANUIT EEN KIL, ONGEZELLIG HOLLAND FIJNE KERSTDAGEN TOE EN ALLES WAT WENSELIJK IS VOOR HET NIEUWE JAAR.
GO FOR IT.
Hoi Mirjam, Leuk om je verhaal weer te lezen. Je kunt goed schrijven. Misschien een boek over je belevenissen in de toekomst? Hele fijne warme feestdagen en de groeten aan ruud. Wij zijn in mei 2009 in maleisie en indonesie waar mijn dochter voor een half jaar studeert
Happy Christmas Mirjam.
It’s exciting to see you getting closer, but not too fast! You look like you’re having a trip of a lifetime.
Doris is heading down here next year too – hope we can have a reunion! I’m going to be up in Europe/Russia/Asia next year until Sept/Oct I think, but after that I’ll be heading back to the top of the south.
Hope to see you here.
Keep cycling safe.
Wish you a great X-mas @ Ruud’s place and hope 2009 will be as great for you as 2008 was. 😀
Prettige kerstdagen en een gelukkig nieuwjaar!!
lieve Mirjam,Ik heb net een mailtje naar je gestuurd maar dit gaat misschien sneller,ik wist niet dat ik ook naar je eigen adres kon sturen dus dat heb ik gedaan,nogmaals heel gezellige dagen bij Ruud en doe hem maar van ons de hartelijke groeten en een dikke kus van ons beiden,oma
Another great story, thankfully you are not like Mike and taking it the easy way.. like repairing your bike with ty-raps and duck tape. It’s only a pitty you can’t repair your camera with it as it prevents you from taking photo’s from great moments on your trip and share them with us.
It also looks like you are going to get very close to your goal… reaching Australia.. but when you arrive in Darwin you are still closer to Indonesia then to Sydney 🙂
Keep on going..
Hello my love!
Glad to hear you’re still doing so fabolous. Like Emily said – pretty much looks like a big reunion in New Zealand or Australia next autumn (ähm, or acctually spring then, isn’t it…)!!!
keep cycling, wondering, enjoying and most of all – Dancing!
Wonderful stories! Keep it up!
..and Australia can wait 🙂
Wat een verhalen weer, leuk hoor! Grappige foto met al die kinderen achter je aan 🙂 . Balen dat je toestel stuk is, hoop dat je snel een oplossing vind. Het was leuk je even te zien en horen met kerst. Ik wens je een mooie jaarwisseling toe en weer veel plezier en geluk voor 2009! Veel liefs, Karin, Michiel, Stella
Hey Mirjam, daar is het al 2009, dus gelukkig nieuwjaar. Wij hebben over viereneenhalf uur de jaarwissel. Een goed 2009, en wellicht dat we elkaar (weer) eens in het echt gaan zien dit jaar. Lijkt ons leuk.
Sorry it’s late but Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I had a great Christmas with family and then was concussed for New Years. But that’s a Catriona story. I’m going to Canada around June and back to NZ around October but would love to catch you in Oz on way or way back. You’ll have to let me know when you know where you reckon you’ll be and when so I can book tickets. Love ya lots and hope your bike and camera sort themselves out!!!
Ahhh, Indonesia, fantastic – I am assuming you will go to Bali – don’t miss it if you can. I got a touch of Christmas spirit with a weekend trip to Bratislava/Vienna. And now it is nearly all over and the house is begging to be tidied.
I hope you had a great Christmas and New year and enjoyed all that comfort. Australia will be there for ages yet so you still have some journeys ahead before visiting. I’ll be home myself in Perth in Dec for a wedding.Who knows, you may possibly be there still or maybe just arriving!
Happy 2009 and keep those wonderful tales coming. Be safe.
Hi Mirjam they call you “miss berani” it mean tough woman..Hope you always enjoyed cycling in Indonesia .
It’s nice to catch you last month at somewhere in the middle of sumatra island..now i’ve done my journey only 3052km for 29day from Jakarta to northern sumatra (Banda Aceh) ..maybe in my next journey i’ll do the same as you do ..cycling all around the world .
keep cycling forever