Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ Category


‘Do you want to see the new-born baby?’
We all walked in the (almost) full-moonlight down the street to the hospital to see the new baby boy. All the family seemed to be there to admire the boy, laughing and joking in a very jovial event. He is one of the next generation to live on this planet that I have cycled across. I wish him all the best!

The road to Larantuka

The road to Larantuka

The appearance of the people has been changing. They are now clearly different – very dark, many with dark hair with tight curls. Passing slowly from Europe it is fascinating seeing the people change from European through to Asian and now towards Aboriginal Australian.

Hello mister kids

Hello mister kids

The road was almost flat for 30km today and it was lovely to speed through with music blaring. It can get demorilising crawling up a hill only to descend again ready for the next one. I passed little lean-tos in the palms next to the sea.

House amongst the palms

House amongst the palms

Sea

Sea

I’m climbing the last major pass before the end of Flores, and am staying in a little village in the mountains. A lovely family welcomed me into their home. The world is full of wonderful, caring people!


A full moon at 3am with a clear sky. The air is cool and still as the lone cyclist slowly crawls up the mountain. I can see the whole valley in the colourless light, the trees casting shadows in the moonlight. Everyone is sleeping. Just the crickets keep me company and the odd dog that howls as I pass. I feel excitement cycling at night, and peace in this beautiful night landscape. I am climbing to see the sunrise at Kelimutu.

Sunrise at Kelimutu

Sunrise at Kelimutu

The sunrise is stunning from my vantage point above the volcanic crater-lake. The black slowly gives way to the deepest blue on the horizon, and the landscape grows in detail. As the horizon turns to pink, the clouds roll over from the neighbouring crater like water flowing over a stone, only to evaporate above the lake.

Kelimutu

Kelimutu

I start talking to a guy from Lembata island (to the east of Flores). Yes! There are boats. I can go there and get to Alor island, and from there to Altapupu on Timor island near the border with East Timor. I had read about this on the internet, but I saw no confirmation that this boat exists. Well, it does, and I am going to take it! Very cool!

When I finally got going from Moni – the village at the base of Kelimutu, I was expecting a smooth descent to the coast. Well, there seemed to be more up than down, and as I crawled over the endless ups, I realised I was tired. The early morning and the many long days recently have taken their toll. I stopped at Koka beach at 3 and decided to call it a day.

Mountain village

Mountain village

Koka Beach

Koka Beach


‘I practice my English by counting the Bule (foreigners) that pass,’ she said as we sat in the little shop on the side of the road.
‘Wow!’ I replied. ‘I practice my Indonesian by counting the number of hello misters. How many bule have you seen today?’
‘One,’ she replied nodding to me.
‘Ah!’ I replied.

River

River

I certainly would have beaten her one bule. I wasn’t counting but there might have been one hello mister every minute or so averaged out over the day – still, nothing like yesterday. Today was a late start after searching (and finding) the screw that broke on my saddle, and taking it for another welding job. It was kind of nice being forced to sleep in – I couldn’t leave until the shops opened and my bike was fixed.

Saddle repairs

Saddle repairs

My destination was the village at the bottom of the famous Kelimutu volcanic crater lakes. A short day with a 1200m climb and a drop to the village where I was able to set up my tent next to the river.
I followed a river all the way up, passing lovely little villages and paddy fields.

Village

Village

Hut

Hut

Tomorrow morning I’ll leave at 3 for an ascent to the crater.


I closed the hotel door and collapsed on the bed. Today was intense. The ‘hello mister’ density was staggering. I felt the poverty of the people. I gasped in awe at the beauty of the landscape. I passed 35000km, and my saddle broke in front of a hotel.

35000km

35000km

Everyone says ‘hello mister’, mostly followed with ‘ke mana?’ or ‘where you go?’ Cars pass, roll down with windows and ask this, they cry it from busses, from the crowd of people packed into trailers or from motorbikes. They usually honk to reinforce the greeting.
They cry ‘hello mister’ from the side of the road – kids, fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers. When playing kids spot me, someone screams out ‘BULE!’ (foreigner), or ‘TOURIST!’, and then there is a chorus of hysterical screaming ‘MISTER! MISTER! MISTER!’. Then I hear the frantic patter of feet behind me as the kids rush to catch me. If I’m on a downhill I just whoosh away, but on the uphill I have them follow me, asking me where I am going or crying ‘My name is! My name is!’
Sometimes I hear a slow motorbike following me at my speed just behind me, or next to me. Several times they followed me for minutes – in silence after all the standard questions have been exhausted. Stopping does not deter them – they stop too. Taking a piss in front of them doesn’t deter them. They wait patiently.

Some interested kids

Some interested kids

Lots of kids cry out ‘Money! Money!’ I thought – just mischievous kids. Sometimes I stopped and asked them for money – saying I thought they said they had money for me. When I pulled in to a collection of houses at the beach, I was taking in the scenery and taking some photos with the kids buzzing around the bike, when the father came up and asked for money to fix his electric saw. My spur of the moment reaction was to say I didn’t have any. Later they daughter was telling me in Indonesian how Flores is much poorer than the rest of Indonesia. There is no industry here, and no way to make money. ‘Life is not good,’ she said. The family live in what looks like paradise to western eyes – on a beautiful beach lined with coconut trees, with turquoise blue water lapping the shore. They live in a ramshackle lean-to which may also look idyllic to a westerner – if one doesn’t have to live in it. It left me thinking as I pulled away on my Rolls Royce of bicycles, with the GoPro mounted and all the accessories exuding wealth. I wish I had given the father some money to fix his saw. It probably would have only cost a few dollars, and it would have made him very happy.

The beach

The beach

The road was amazing, descending down to the beach with mountains everywhere. The coastal road was to die for – hugging the coast, and then rising and falling 50m at a time – around each crag and over each headland.

Mountain view

Mountain view

View of the sea

View of the sea

The beach before Ende

The beach before Ende

The beach road

The beach road

In the beachside village

In the beachside village

The ‘hello misters’ rose to a crescendo as I approached the town of Ende. I just needed to get away. I wanted to avoid a hotel today, but I just needed out. I pulled up to the first hotel – down a small alley. Surrounded by a crowd of kids, I tried to turn the bike 180 degrees by lifting on the saddle and the handlebars when I found the road was a dead-end. CRACK! The saddle snapped. ‘Where you from, mister!’ ‘Where you go mister!’ ‘MISTER!’

I’ll fix the bike tomorrow. Tonight the door is locked and I’m inside – alone. Sometimes the hermit in me wins out – and that is OK.


‘Ini mandi atau keringat?’ (Have you had a shower or is that sweat?)
It was sweat. The ascent was long and I was wet. An ascent along a road that wound around and around and up and up, passing through forests, overlooking a massive volcano, and past another naked guy walking along minding his own business.

The volcano

The volcano

I left from the paddies at sea-level, climbed to 500m, and then dropped to sea-level for a swim.

The rice paddy out the front door

The rice paddy out the front door

Midday swim

Midday swim

And then it was a climb to 1300m, up and up and up. Motivated by a conversation with Will, and a recommended hotel in Bajawa, I felt the peaceful bed beckoning. An evening alone is nice for the hermit Matthew. ☺

On the way up again

On the way up again


It’s flat they said, indicating with their hands. Not up. Don’t believe them. I may have stayed at the same altitude, more or less, on average, but it was definitely not flat. Returning to the coast was cool – a drop of 1350m down, down down.

On the way up in the forest

On the way up in the forest

The famous ride paddies where dry. Grass was growing on them, and the cows were grazing. I asked why. My Indonesian was not good enough to understand. Something about not having enough water. The government was involved, and poor people couldn’t afford something anymore. Mm.. I’ll have to improve my Indonesian..

Dry rice paddy

Dry rice paddy

I think I may have missed some nice views on the way down. They road was in the clouds. Higher up the rain clouds were looming and always about to break loose. They never did, though.

Road in the cloud

Road in the cloud

I was invited into a nice family’s house, ate rice from the rice paddy opposite and drank coffee from the mountains I just passed through. Oh – and we ate chicken that was (until recently) running around outside. Very cool.

My host family

My host family

Tomorrow won’t be another 100km+ day. A climb and drop of 600m is followed by a climb of 1300m, all before 70km are up. Flores keeps bringing on the mountains.. ☺


Leaving the tourist hive of Labuanbajo where money talks, and tourism is the people’s livelihood, I returned to normality. I returned to ‘Hello Mister,’ and ‘where you go?’. I returned to thumbs up and people smiling and cheering. Yes, it was steep, but not as bad as I had expected. No pushing the bike today.

First sunrise of Flores

First sunrise of Flores

The road climbed to 1000m, winding its way to amazing views over the island.

The road was steep

The road was steep

View from above

View from above

I had a short break visiting a lovely family for tea. They have hosted cyclists before, and there is a young German guy there teaching English at the local school.

A short break with this family

A short break with this family

After returning to almost sea-level, the next climb was back up to 1000m. This climb was quite gentle (for Flores), and I was able to make it almost to the top before sunset. A lovely family invited me in to their home for dinner and a bed. The people here are so friendly and caring.

The Christian house

The Christian house

My host family

My host family

The boat from Sumbawa was quite uneventful, but beautiful, crossing deep blue water with flying fish everywhere, and beautiful pointed islands on the horizon.

The boat to Flores

The boat to Flores


Today was the day of searching for food in the land of Ramadhan. The morning is the most food-free – just a few bready things offered by the apologetic closed restaurant owner. Then, after the next small pass at a small place I found open:
‘Are you muslim?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ was the reply as they tucked into their rice and sate, with the sun somewhere in the sky behind the rain clouds.

Misty morning

Misty morning

Little shops offer the most meagre of snacks if you’re really hungry. Some restaurants open at lunch, although seem to hide this fact. The Indomaret and Alfa-mart (Indonesian equivalents of 7-eleven) don’t seem present on the eastern side of Sumbawa. I made my way along with what I could find until Bima where I had a lovely big lunch, and had my water bottles cleaned of their thick layer of mould by the friendly owner.

I was all ready for a 900m climb to get to the end of the island. My app was wrong, and had given information on a small mountainous road rather than the main road. After only climbing 450m, I was shooting down to the harbour, all ready to catch the boat to Flores tomorrow.

View from above

View from above


Day 2 of my challenge – cross Sumbawa in 3 days – during Ramadhan. With most restaurants closed, it was eat where you can find something – and I needed food. It was a hilly, hot affair with an afternoon one-hour torrential downpour.

Morning view

Morning view

All the restaurants look closed. I have to poke my head in to see if anyone is there, and sometimes there is food – although I am the only one eating it.

The sea

The sea

I decided to have a sleep during the torrential downpour. Before I knew it, I was provided with a nice little mat and pillow.

Downpour

Downpour

My comfortable downpour setup

My comfortable downpour setup

I ended the day with a little pass, and a beautiful sunset view.

Sunset

Sunset

All ready for the final attack on the rest of Sumbawa.


The guy stopped his motorbike and waved me down. He pulled out his smart phone and showed me some gay porn videos. He suggested we go to the beach for some fun.
‘Do you do this often?’ I asked.
Yes.
‘Foreigners or Indonesians too?’
Both.
Being gay in Indonesia is not easy, I guess.

Arrival on Sumbawa

Arrival on Sumbawa

Last night Clement and I studied the map. Clement’s friends are flying back to France from Bima on Sumbawa on the 21st. I couldn’t get to the East Timor border from there before our visa expires, and so I left Clement and his friends this morning to get some kilometres done. If I have time, I will try to cycle the less visited islands to the east of Flores before taking a boat (if one exists) to Timor. Back to cycling alone.

Sunrise from the boat from Lombok

Sunrise from the boat from Lombok

Saying goodbye to Clement and his friends

Saying goodbye to Clement and his friends

Each island in Indonesia is different, and Sumbawa is no exception. The road started through flat, marshy territory between pointy peaks dotted everywhere. There were lots of horses and carriages too. I even passed a traffic jam of horses and carriages. Super cool.

Sumbawa

Sumbawa

Sumbawa

Sumbawa

Horse and carriage

Horse and carriage

I cycled to dusk and was invited to stay by a lovely family who gave me a delicious meal of fish and rice – a Sumbawa specialty. Tomorrow I have to leave before dawn as they are leaving to go to the Ramadhan pre-dawn prayer in the mosque.