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.
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. 😎
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.
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.