Posts Tagged ‘Sumatra’


Indonesian language lesson – the numbers. Exercise number one: count the number of ‘Hello mister’ in 30 minutes. Answer: 62 ‘Hello mister’ in 30 minutes. Also 34 ‘Hello mister’ in 17 minutes before Clement got a flat tyre. Exercise number two – people counting: I counted 27 people watching Clement fixing the tyre – all in Indonesian!

Some spectators

Some spectators

Today we descended on a bumpy road through the dense forest to the sound of tropical birds hooting and monkeys screaming. It was beautiful and so peaceful.

Rainforest

Rainforest

Rainforest

Rainforest

Our quest of reaching 100km each day to make it to Jakarta in time will be difficult. In the mountains we had constant steep roads. On the eastern plains we had heat. Today we had a torrential downpour for a few hours, which I think is quite normal on the west coast.

Shower

Shower

Our strategy from now on is to cycle when it’s dry, only stopping for water and thrusting some food down our throats with great haste. We will cycle until the torrential downpour actually starts (not just when the sky turns black – we may still be able to cycle another 15 minutes) and stop at the next restaurant (which is invariably within 500 metres). Our days will consist of an early start with a two hour torrential downpour break sometime in the afternoon. The elements will dictate our day – the ultimate in going with the flow.

We stopped at a school today to camp, and were invited in by the headmaster to eat and stay at his house. Again, such lovely people!


Sumatra keeps surprising. We left our camp in the coffee plantation and climbed through the forest, bathed in sun, with the monkeys hooting all around, and the beautiful volcano imposing in the heavens. Then we passed onto a high plateau with tea plantations as far as the eye could see. The day’s end saw us ascend into the mountains again in the drizzle.

The road upwards

The road upwards

This ride in Sumatra is amazing. The views are stunning, the food is great, and the ‘Hello Mister’ frequency is very high. Selfie shots abound, and gaggles of giggling girls pull over, parking their motorscooters around us and take turns in taking selfies. I never know the answer to ‘where you go?’. The answer is always ‘over there.’

Tomorrow it’s down to the heat on the coast. Hopefully it is a little less steep there, and we can break the 100km again.

Towards the volcano

Towards the volcano

The beautiful mountains

The beautiful mountains

The volcano

The volcano

Volcano

Volcano


The valley was beautiful, downhill, as Clement and I stood on the back of a pick-up truck, transporting my bike and Clement’s sick bike to the next bike shop. Once on the bike again, today, I lacked energy. The endless ups and downs (several hundred metre climbs and drops) were not inspiring me today, even though the landscape was beautiful. I guess I can’t be bursting with energy every day.

Clement on the back of the truck

Clement on the back of the truck

Beautiful river

Beautiful river

Tea plantation

Tea plantation

We find ourselves tonight in a half built house surrounded by coffee plants, and a few papaya trees. The crickets are out in force, which brings me back to camping in Australia in my youth. I’m in the same hemisphere as that youth now!


I counted fifteen people gathered around us in the little pergoda on the side of the road. Clement’s bike was inverted and we were looking at his wheel. A bicycle expert with teeth pointing in all directions was the first to arrive, and after tapping my bike and feeling the tyres, he started working on Clement’s bike.

Our bike repair place

Our bike repair place

Three washers were added to the back axle to compensate for a bolt ground smooth by some, as yet to be discovered problem. The gears were then readjusted to compensate for the washers. All explanations during the repairs were done by the waving of arms and pointing. Thank-you, kind gentleman, for helping where Clement’s and my technical skills were inadequate.
We fear, however, the problem will return. Clement needs a new axle, maybe a new hub, and a new gear cable that is now frayed.

We woke this morning to hear the pouring rain, and then went back to sleep. One’s desire to cycle diminishes when one contemplates getting that wet. Also, Clement’s panniers are not very waterproof anymore, apparently. When we finally woke up, we were offered another incredible breakfast, including a self picked cocoa fruit from the tree just outside the door.

My first cocoa fruit

My first cocoa fruit

By ten we were on the road, cycling at snail pace up an incredibly steep, unrelenting road. We were cycling up the side of a volcano, we discovered later, when we spotted the volcano evacuation signs.

Volcano evacuation

Volcano evacuation

At the top was a beautiful high altitude volcanic lake with an amazingly steep road climbing and falling through fields of temperate weather vegetables, above the lake and below the volcano.

High lake

High lake

High lake

High lake

It was steep

It was steep

We are camping at a bus food stop about a kilometre from the fateful pergoda.


‘Don’t shit on the fish!’
The young man raced out of the house in the fading light of the evening. Clement was going, as instructed, to the place where we had a shower scooping water out of the stream that ran next to the road. Directly downstream was a little fish-pond containing some large specimens of orange fish swimming peacefully. The young man thought Clement only wanted a piss.
‘Don’t shit on the fish!’
Little did we know that the stream on the left of the road was for shitting, and the stream on the right is for showering (or urinating). We will know for next time.

The shower

The shower

That happened in the evening. This morning our new friends made a fantastic breakfast for us. We squatted down, fascinated in the kitchen, watching chillies being ground, dough being kneeded, and tempeh being fried. It was all using local ingredients. Just outside the kitchen, our friend pointed to a durian tree, a coconut tree, cocoa, mangos,.. The list was endless. And the rice was from the local paddies. Fantastic!

The grinding of chillies

The grinding of chillies

Then we were invited to the local school, adorned with many wise sayings which don’t translate well into English.

Lost in translation

Lost in translation

The teacher and kids welcomed us into their class and asked us questions on our trip.
Their eyes were shining, hearing about a world out there – a world that they will inherit. Before leaving, we were farewelled in chorus from the school gate.

The school kids

The school kids

School kids

School kids

Today was a day of climbing and cruising back downhill. These valleys are amazing – little areas with rice paddies, surrounded by little hills, dotted with palm trees.

Rice paddies

Rice paddies

Looking down

Looking down

The day finished with the road deciding to climb almost vertically upward. It’s really cool – pushing my body, the sweat pouring off, crawling up a road that gets steeper after every turn – with an amazing backdrop. The endorphins flow and I am happy.

We asked if we could camp in the school grounds in a small village. That was OK, but maybe first we would like to have a drink at the neighbour’s, and have a shower in the roadside stream with a view out over the fish. We were then invited for dinner, and then to sleep. Again, such lovely, hospitable people. All gathered round to look at our maps and hear some stories. Dinner was an amazing spread of delicious Indonesian food. What a lovely country!

The family

The family


‘Can you turn off the light?’ I asked, lying on the living room floor at night, next to Clement, ready to go to sleep. There was a pause of incomprehension. Clement pointed to the light, and made a cross symbol. Incomprehension. I tried the same kind of waving my arms around. The grandpa turned on the other light. Two lights were on.
‘No. No.’ We pointed to the light. ‘Can you turn off the light?’
Hesitantly he turned off both lights. They couldn’t possibly mean that. Who would want to sleep in the dark?

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The family

I love West Sumatra. What a day it was, ending with some lovely new friends in a little village nestled amongst steep hills with a view over the rice fields. Today we had durian, played with the baby pet monkeys, cycled on beautiful roads through rice paddies and snoozed on a restaurant balcony. We also crossed the equator. Hello southern hemisphere!

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Rice fields

The road was varied today. Steep undulating hills, a flat river and then a 17km climb into the heights. High above, the wind is cool, the view over the mountainous forest landscape is amazing, and we are given mangoes fresh from the tree directly over our head. Using a stick like a snooker cue, the mangoes are knocked down to be consumed.

We stopped for our first durian of the trip. I remember durian fruit as being the most horrible food I have ever tried. The last time, I was not even able to swallow it. This time both Clement and I managed to eat it, and we even finished off a full durian together.

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Durian

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Durian

The people here keep monkeys – and the monkey babies are soooo sweet!

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Monkey

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Monkey

In the heat of the day, we passed the equator. I feel at home now. People stand on their heads, and the water goes down the sink in the right direction. ☺ (For the nerdy people there (like myself), the water rotates in a random direction in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The effect due to the Coriolus force from the rotation of the earth is minimal, and is outweighed by other random forces.)

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Equator


Cycling in the zone. Paranoia. Heat and hills. Cramp. Amazing spread of food for dinner. Today was a weird day.

River

River

Clement and I both are bursting with energy. The road is flat and straight, and we power on, going faster and faster. It’s great feeling the energy flowing through my body. I feel strong. I feel I can conquer the world, and I guess I am conquering it, in a strange kind of way. I pass Clement as my music reaches a climax, and am overtaken as Clement does the same. People wave, pass us giving the thumbs-up. We are fast, and we have come a long way to cycle in this blur of a tropical background.

After 80km we stop for lunch, and we talk. And talk. And talk. Two hours pass – two hours of the hottest part of the day. And then we continue, this time at a slower pace – the sun is pounding down and it is hot. The landscape becomes hilly. The sweat pours off me – Clement calls me a ‘spring’ – a spring of sweat.

Then the mood changes. Suddenly people seem threatening. I don’t know why. A guy invites us to his lake to swim, and we both don’t trust him. Strange people drive past making us feel uneasy. Are the tired looking women, plastered with make-up and dressed to kill, standing by their cars, standing there for a reason?

The cramp hits – well, the preliminary twinges of cramp. The hills are steep, and it’s a constant up and down in the heat. No amount of water can fix my twinges, and I know that it is only a matter of time before I buckle over in agony from cramp. We stop – a truck stop – everyone looks weird and suspicious. Or is it us?

A fantastic dinner – a spread of tiny dishes of incredible Indonesian food – and we feel more relaxed. What was the problem? Cycling makes you learn your body, and your brain. Some unusual brain chemistry was at work today. I have experienced it before, and will undoubtedly experience it again. It’s all part of the adventure.


Today was the day of palm plantations. Endless plantations with few people. Today was the day of gas pipelines. Today it rained cats and dogs. Today we saw the rolling hills of total devastation. Land that was once (I’m not sure when) forest, and is now barren as far as the eye can see. Today is day number two of camping in a school.

Pipeline

Pipeline

With no more boats to catch, Clement and I can set the schedule. We realised today that our bodies have different needs. Mine needs many more calories, and it needs a breakfast. Two bananas is enough for Clement. Not for me. An early start was fine, but, due to the lack of people, and just an endless road through the plantations, we found ourselves 50km further on before we could have a late breakfast. I was a bit crotchety, even after devouring my reserve biscuits, ripping open the wrapper when it didn’t comply with my wishes. We will take this calorie need into account in the future. ☺

The morning light and scenery was very serene.

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The morning light

The rolling fields of emptiness were everywhere.

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The empty plains

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Not a tropical rainforest


‘Wortels. Bloemkool. Boontjes.’
I stood there thinking to myself – learning Indonesian is going to be easy. Any non-local vegetable has the Dutch name.
‘Boontjes,’ I laughed. The old lady laughed heartily, showing her half a dozen teeth. Then the whole crowd laughed – mothers, fathers, children, babies – everyone that had congregated around us, mobile phones in hand ready to catch the moment. I feel at home here.

Modern technology

Modern technology

Photo with the family

Photo with the family

The family

The family

We entered the boarding hall for the ferry, deafened by the amazing racket of people hysterically calling out the boat destinations as if their lives depended on it. We were ushered to the booth to pay the 30 cent departure tax, and then made our way to the boat, where I watched uneasily as my fully laden bike was hoisted onto the roof of the boat.

Inside the boat we froze. The airconditioning was tossing the Chinese new-year lanterns around in the breeze – and the breeze was straight from the north pole. Clement and I sat huddled in the warmest clothes we happened to have with us, watching the young Chinese singing stars performing love ballads on the television in front of us.

Cold in the ferry

Cold in the ferry

Sumatra is beautiful. The road is a quiet, passing through the low-lying marsh lands, lined with little houses nestled amongst the palm trees. And the people are so lovely. ‘Hello mister!’ cries come from all directions, and we are stopped every kilometre for photos.

Beautiful landscape

Beautiful landscape

We are camping in the grounds of the local school. My hammock is set-up, and I’m all ready for an early night.