The minute you cross into Indonesia you get a feeling of a more affluent country. The roads are in good condition, the villages have better houses, nicer kept surroundings and newer cars.
East Timor and the east side of Indonesia are devout Catholics. There are many churches and mother Mary figurines in cars and vans. The vans are used as a bus service and a number of them have pictures of Jesus and religious odes. There are also many with the cross of saint George and the union Jack. I don’t know why, but I thought it was pretty cool being an English man.
The roads to Kupang,( where I will catch the ferry to Larantuka, Flores) consisted of a variety of good twisties, through undulating countryside and villages. I did have to be careful as some of the corners had sand and gravel. None of the roads have corner speed signs.
I probably did more cornering today than my entire time in Australia.
I finally reached Kupang and headed to the port to make sure I knew where the ticket office was. I didn’t want to miss the ferry as it only sails on a Thursday and Sunday.
From there I headed to a hotel that had been recommended to me by Mark. The owner was a great guy he took me into town on the back of his scooter to buy a sim card and get it fitted.
I must say I’m a poor pillion, not my thing at all.
When I got back to the hotel there were two couples, one from Ireland and one from the Netherlands. They had been there a few days and invited me to the night markets for dinner. I gladly accepted. It’s nice to speak to people in English and have a good conversation.
I was away by 9 to fill the bike with petrol and get to the port by 10. I had been told to get there early just in case the ferry was full and they would not let you on.
I arrived at 9:30 to a busy port, other ferries were being loaded and there were people everywhere.
I discovered that Indonesia is an hour behind East Timor so it was really only 8:30am. Oh well, I sat and watched the chaos.
When I tried to get a ticket no one spoke English, I finally managed to understand the tickets didn’t go on sale until 12pm. At 12 there was a rush to the ticket office I paid my R213,000 which is about US$20 and the ticket officer would not give me a ticket, there were lots of pushing and shoving going on behind me. From what I could figure out they wanted some sort of document so I gave them my driving license, it wasn’t what they wanted but they copied some of the details and gave me a ticket. As soon as I had the ticket they gave the go ahead to get the bike on the ferry.
I was one of the first on so the bike was at the back of the ferry. I watched as the trucks and other vehicles came on. Right next to me parked a flat deck truck. Perched on the back were 6 goats and 3 horses. Then came more goats, they were tied up in the corners of the ship. By the time the ferry was loaded the place was jammed packed. People lying on the floor, animals doing their business everywhere. Next to me was a camper van with a pair of brothers, they are going from Darwin to Delhi. They were kind enough to lend me a chair to sit on. The aroma from the animals, a 44 gallon petrol container, diesel fumes, people smoking and the heat made for a pretty miserable time. The thought of being sat there for 18 hours was not pleasant.
After a few hours I decided to head to the top deck. On the way there I visited the toilets, there are only two and they are squatting pans. When I entered it was like walking on to the set of a horror film, I thought no one should have to see this. I am mentally scared by the image. I can’t imagine what they would have looked like at the end of the trip. I can’t complain because I’m not the one who will have to clean them.
When I arrived on the top deck there were only a few people there so I spent the night under the stars lying on the metal floor. It did get cold and damp.
I headed to a hotel recommended by Mark its called the hotel ASA. The plan was to have a lazy day and catch up on some sleep. When I got to the hotel the only rooms they had were the expensive ones. I chanced my arm and tried to negotiate the price to the standard rate, there was no budging on price.
I heard a voice say you don’t want to stay here if you’re on a budget. It was an Indonesian guy called Mario. Mario lives in Perth Australia but owns a fishing business up the coast at Nurabelen. He invited me to stay there for the night at no cost. I gratefully accepted his invitation and followed behind his car as they drove around the coast until we came to his factory, It was a lovely ride. His factory is in an idyllic spot. He was the perfect host having his driver drive him and I around the local area, it was nice to be in air conditioning and be able to look at the sights rather than concentrating on the road ahead. He showed me around his factory and he told me to pick a couple of fish from last nights catch for lunch. They were cooked over an open fire and they were part of the huge lunch he put on for me.
Mario invited me out to on his traditional wooden Purse Sein fishing boat for the night catch. It was a 12 hour trip. I accepted and off we went. It was good to see how they catch fish and how long and physical the work is. The catch that night was only small, just enough to break even but the catch the night before had been big.
A big thank you to Mario for his hospitality.
After very little sleep for the last two days I headed to Ende via Mermare. It was a seven hour ride, the roads were newly sealed and in great condition. The roads passed over mountains and volcanoes and ran by rice paddy fields. The roads were twisting and undulating they were 98% corners. These are the best roads I’ve ridden on my trip so far.
Even on these roads my tiredness was starting to get the better of me. A couple of times I had to pull over as I was almost falling asleep.
I finally got to Ende and found a hotel for the night.
I was awoken at 5:30am with people talking outside my room, so much for a lie in. I went to breakfast at 6am feeling knackered and sleep deprived and also looking a little rough. While there an American lady asked if I was Steve. I said yes, she and her four friends said “are you the one riding around the world on a motorbike?” I said “I am” They asked me all about my trip and where I was going. They also wanted a picture with me and my bike, which we did.
As I arrived in Ruteng I pulled in for fuel. The petrol stations have huge queues and every time I pull in people stare and take photos. It’s quite common for people to come up and get a photo with me. The bike and I are a bit of an oddity around these parts.
Because people have to wait so long to get their fuel they try and fill their tanks to the brim, often rocking their vehicles to get the last drop in. From there I headed into town to find some where to stay for the night. The town is in the hills and a bit rough. I stayed in this hotel for US$35 a night which was expensive for what it was. The going rate was $45.
The plan for the night was to finally have a lie in and catch up on the many hours of lost sleep.
At 4:10am I was awoken from a deep sleep by the local mosque playing their wailing call to prayer. At 4:20 and 4:30 they repeated the call. A few expletives may have passed my lips. I thought to myself in these days everyone has a cell phone why don’t they just create a wailing app and download it?
I had to get cash in the morning. The ATM’S only allow you to withdraw about US$130 a day. As I was heading to Luan Bajo to catch the ferry to Bima I needed extra cash. I walked across the road to the ATM to find none of my cards worked; I went to another and the same thing. This could be a disaster waiting to happen I thought. I asked the security guard at the ATM if there were any banks around I might be able to get cash. The guy spoke reasonable English, told me to follow him and got on his scooter and took me to many ATM’S until one of them finally accepted my cards. I was so thankful for his help I gave him US$5 for his help. He was extremely appreciative.
Finally cashed up I headed to Luan Bajo. As I headed into the hills I noticed huge quantities of diesel on the road particularly around the corners, aha I thought this is from all those diesel tanks that were full to the brim in Ruteng, they had drained as they went up the hill and around the corners. It was that bad you could smell it. It was time for caution. The day before my front tyre had skidded across the road and I thankfully was able to keep the bike up.
I arrived in Luan Bajo and stayed in a hotel a block from the port.
Yesterday I purchased a ticket to go and see the Komodo Dragons. They are in the Komodo National park and it is a two hour boat trip there. The trip cost about US$30 and a $1.50 to hire a mask and snorkel. When we got to the Komodo National Park there were lots of extra fees to pay. You pay more if you’re a foreigner. You had to pay a fee for, Camera, Entry, Trekking guide and local tax. It all added up to US$10 extra.
The guide led us through the park and it wasn’t long before we saw our first dragons. The guide said we were lucky today they were active, they are normally asleep.
We finally headed home to complete what was a fantastic days sightseeing.
Up early yet again to head to the ferry terminal buy, my ticket and be on my way. The ticket office opens at 7am and we are supposed to sail at 8am. It is now 9:10 and we are still sitting in port. We finally got away at 9:30 and arrived in Sape at 4:30pm. It was a pretty uneventful trip. It seems that every man in Indonesia smokes and so the seating area is choked with smoke. The floor resembles an ashtray and people are oblivious to it. It reminds me of the UK in the 1970’s.
I sat and observed what was going on around me. There were Muslim women sitting together, one coughing and then getting up out of her seat to spit out the window. In fact people seem to spit everywhere.
When the ship arrived in port it was time to disembark. As I sat on my bike in riding gear getting hotter and hotter the trucks start up their engines and you sit there breathing diesel fumes for 10 minutes, that added to the smoke I breathed in in the seating area for the last 8 hours I now understand why everyone spits.
Once the ramp at the front of the ferry had dropped it was time to ride through the chaos to Bima where I stayed the night.
I left Bima and headed to the other side of the island to Poto Tano to catch the ferry to Lombok. Sumbawa is much more Muslim than the other islands I have been to. All the women wear head scarfs. There are lots of horse drawn carts ferrying people and goods around. I did have a chuckle to myself as I rode past one with a goat aboard. It did look like the goat had hired the horse, cart and driver for the day. The goat was standing in a very pioneering pose.
The roads are far less winding than the other islands, which meant I actually got to use gears above third. The downside to this is that the trucks here seem to use both lanes. I’m always taking evasive action as trucks come barrelling towards you on in my lane.
There are lots of monkeys sitting at the side of the road and are very road wise. I thought maybe these guys should drive trucks?
As you go past the coast you see many salt making facilities. They basically drain sea water into pools evaporate the water and then dig up the salt and bag it.
What you also see along the side of the roads in all islands is rubbish being burnt. There is always smoke around.
I arrived at the port just in time to catch the Ferry. It was a two hour trip to Lombok. Once I hit Lombok I headed to Kuta beach in the south and stayed the night.
I headed to Lembar to catch the ferry to Bali. I was lucky again. Just as I arrived at the ticket office the ticketing guy told me the ferry was due to leave in 10 minutes. The trip was a 4 hour trip. Once in Bali the culture hits you, there are temples everywhere. I headed up through the hills. The road was narrow, only wide enough for a car and the steepest road I’ve ridden to date. Before long I was able to see a panoramic view of the harbour and the surrounding area. As I passed along the narrow winding streets I saw people dressed in traditional costume and heading to the temples. It was a sight to behold. I then headed down from the villages towards Tanah Lot. It was about 6pm and the traffic was diabolical. By far the worst I have seen on this trip. I suspect I will have worse to come.
I visited Tanah Lot this morning. It’s a temple on the coast and is of spiritual importance. It was high tide while I was there and it made for a better spectacle. There is a small entrance fee to view the temple. On the way there you walk past all the tourist stalls.
When I got to the top I looked as if I’d just gotten out a shower, mind you so did many others. It’s good to get to do some exercise, sitting down on the bike doesn’t get the cardio going, but it is tiring man handling a heavy bike and concentrating all day. It has been slow going, much of the day I’m riding around in first and second gear.
I then headed north to Ulun Danu the temple in the lake. After the usual pictures with me and the bike by the locals I headed into the temple. The temple is in the hills and it was nice to be 10 degrees cooler.
I have 15 days to travel 3500km, that’s when I need to ship my bike to Malaysia and my Indonesian visa runs out. I headed west to catch the ferry at Gilimanuk. Again I arrived and within 10 minutes my bike was on the ferry and shortly after on my way. The crossing only takes half an hour although today was a little longer as we had to wait for one of the ferries to move so we could berth.
Once in port at Ketapang I headed west off around the coast. The roads were reasonably straight and there was an opportunity to get in 6th gear. Soon the traffic arrived, masses of trucks crawling along with heavy loads taking all the lane, pumping masses of black diesel fumes, cars and vans behind trying overtaking moves that border on suicide. Yes this was what the traffic was like all day. I saw one truck down a ditch and another on its side with its load spilled.
Today I had my first road rage incident. A car pulled across in front of me to overtake a truck ahead, we were side by side. I tooted the horn to let him know I was there and he carried on forcing me across in to oncoming traffic. I managed to hit the brakes and drop in behind just in the nick of time.
I soon caught up with this guy and yelled and waved my fist. If there had been a red traffic light and we were stopped I would have pulled him out of his car and given him something to remember. I don’t mean the road code.
His driving did improve after that and I carried on ahead.
This part of the trip is a real chore now. Its all about getting out of here before my visa expires.
I headed to Bromo. The road there was steep and twisting. The higher the road went the worse the condition. I passed through a couple of villages until I got to Bromo. The steep hills are cultivated and the people working them must have mountain goat blood running through their veins. The amount of manual work required to develop and run these areas is amazing. I headed up past the village and the road was now getting really steep and narrow. I was concentrating so much on the road that I didn’t have time to look at the view. Distraction can mean the difference of being on the road or off. As I came to a corner I could see a flat area to the left. I pulled in there and sore this view of which I have never seen before. It was like looking at another planet. The best thing I have seen on my trip so far.
I also had my first rain today on the trip. A couple of torrential downpours and I got soaked. It was quite pleasant riding around wet as it was much cooler. Traffic was even slower in the rain.
I ended up staying the night in Wonogiri at the Hotel Diafan. Two guys kindly led me there on their scooter. It was getting dark and I would have never found it myself. It was a bit more than I usually pay at US$26 but well worth it as it had a shower with hot water and Premier League football on the TV. I have my first illness today. Sore throat, cough and a running nose. Coincidentally it’s the same symptoms the Muslim woman spitting out the window on the ferry in front of me demonstrated. Thanks for that!
Day 69 Tuesday 11th November 2014
I awoke to a view of smoke filled hills. The thought of breathing in more smoke and diesel fumes was not what gets me out of bed in the morning . I headed to a couple of temples, Prambanan and Borobudur. These are world heritage sites. As I rode I noticed the pace was above 30km/h in fact in some instances I got up to 87km/h, but not for long. I was going down many country roads and the traffic although heavy was mainly scooter and cars. The air was breathable and I was actually enjoying some of the ride. The temples were worth seeing although they are expensive to get in $20-$25.
The traffic at one point had stopped. It was thunder and lightning and raining very heavily. When the traffic started to move (it was stop start first gear stuff) it was apparent that a tornado had gone through only minutes before. Trees were snapped in half like matchsticks, roofs had been blown away and power lines were down and on the road. Locals had just got chainsaws out to clear the roads.
Day 70 Wednesday 12th November 2014
I was determined to clock up as many km’s as possible. I had the route set in the GPS so all I had to do was follow it. The going in the morning was really slow until I got on the motorway. It was a toll motorway and I couldn’t believe my luck there was absolutely no one on it. After averaging poultry 30km/h I was now sitting in sixth gear chomping through the km. I did start to wonder why there were only a couple of cars and a truck way back in the distance. I thought maybe the toll is too much for the locals. Just then a pickup truck, with its roof lights flashing, with a couple of guys in it wave me down to the side of the motorway. They spoke very little English put it appears I’m not supposed to be on the motorway and they tell me I must go back to their headquarters. One of them told me to sit in the back of the vehicle and he will ride my bike there. I said NO! And that was the end of that. I followed them back to their head quarters. When we arrived there, there was a greeting party including the boss. The boss spoke very good English. They were more interested in where I was going and where I was from than anything else. We had what is now the standard photo shoot and the boss had one of his guys escort me to the main road where I would be on my way.
Day 71 Thursday 13th November 2014
Today began the same as yesterday ended, with grid lock traffic. I was determined to make it to Merak ferry terminal. Ordinarily a 300km journey wouldn’t take that long. I was manually configuring my GPS. I’d pulled over to the side of the road do this, when I hear a voice yell out to me” are you lost” I said” no I know where I’m going it’s just taking some time” The guy Adhi, was In a motorcycle club and he offered to escort me to Merak with the help of other motorcycle club members at various points on the way. I gladly accepted. It took four hours to get to Merak. The guys did a great job escorting me there. They were such humble pleasant people. I can’t thank them enough for their kindness.
After a 14 hour riding day yesterday I was feeling worse for wear. The hotel I stayed at had a spa complex. After breakfast I had a 90 minute massage for $20. Just what the old achy body needed. I set off to the ferry and rode straight on. The trip took about 3 hours.
As soon as I rode off the ferry the traffic was lighter and the roads more sweeping. I was actually able to get into 6th gear. The feeling of relief that the rest of Indonesia would not have traffic like Java was pleasing. Had the joy of motorcycling returned. Oh yes!
Day 73 Saturday 15th November 2014
The riding today was not as good as yesterday and the whole day was pretty uneventful. I did ride through a couple of villages where the buildings reminded me of medieval England.
Day 74 Sunday 16th November 2014
There is less traffic on the roads and the roads are in good condition. My cold is finally starting to disappear. I stayed at a place called the Golden Hotel today. I finally have wifi so have ordered a new rear spring for my shock from Racetech in the USA. Alana will bring it to Thailand in December.
Day 75 Monday 17th November 2014
Good progress today I clocked up over 500km, Medan is getting ever closer.
You have to be constantly scanning the road ahead. Today I had to take evasive action and come to a complete stop twice for trucks in my lane. The biggest issue is slow traffic, people on bicycles, slow scooters or slow trucks. You often see trucks going 20km per hour fully loaded. That’s as quick as they go so there is a huge amount of traffic behind them trying to get by. I’ve seen some insane overtaking moves, but no accidents yet.
Every day it now rains. There is a huge downpour and that is it for the day. Sometimes it lasts for a couple of minutes, sometimes a couple of hours. I normally get wet but dry off pretty quickly. I’ve been riding every day since my day off in Komodo so I’m starting to feel a bit tired. Tonight I stayed at Hotel Pangeran in Pakenbaru. Very luxurious, and a nice treat. Normal rate is $147 per night but I got it for $51. I think the guy at reception felt a bit sorry for me standing in this fancy lobby with my bike gear on. It was great to get between clean crisp white sheets ahh, sheer luxury!!
Today started off pretty much the same as the last few days except progress was slower, it seemed that I was going through one village after another with very little open road. The roads were starting to break up in places and it was just a matter of biding my time until things improved.
In the afternoon the road I was on turned into a single lane, there were fewer and fewer vehicles and before long there were hardly any. At this point the heavens opened and down came the rain. The road lead down to a valley. The road then disappeared in places replaced with huge water filled holes, parts resembled a river bed and other parts were literally overrun with flowing water from the river. This is where the adventure begins. I’m pleased I fitted the 50/50 Heidenau scout tyres they worked well in these conditions. After a while the rain stopped and I was able to see more clearly. The road then headed up high into the hills where it took me through working villages were people have never seen a western face. At one point I had a car width gap to ride through as the rest of the road had colapsed300 metres down into the valley. I was at cloud level when the road headed back down again, yes you guessed it, it was a repeat of earlier. Once through that section the road started to improve until back into civilisation. I was low on petrol the reserve light had come on and I finally pulled into a petrol station with 20km left in the tank.
I ended the day at Sipirok tired but feeling I had won the challenges of the day and come out unscathed.
Day 77 Wednesday 19th November 2014
It was a cold morning, only 19 degrees. It was a still morning and the clouds were hovering over the peaks of the hills. At this altitude the air is clean and fresh.
I did a couple of chores on the bike. First topping up the chain oiler. I lost the cap about 3 weeks ago so the trusty duct tape does a good job of sealing the cylinder. Tutoro are sending me one out free of charge. That’s great customer service. The next task was to adjust the chain. This is the first time I’ve had to do it on the trip. Once that was done it was time to head to Lake Tobo. It’s the island I headed too. Nice decent down the hills to the island. I was riding through cloud a lot of the way. When the cloud cover dropped I could see for miles.
Tomorrow I want to head to Bukit Lawanga. It’s over 300 km so I hopefully will get there by the end of the day.
Day 78 Thursday 20th November 2014
The road to Bukit Lawang was quite badly broken in places. The trucks give these roads a good work out and they are soon worse for wear. I came across one section that was completely mud with very deep water holes and deep ruts, the section was about 20 metres long and there was no way around. I had to go through it. The watery mud was over the top of the front discs and the bash plate was just above the peaks of the holes. I had to be aggressive with plenty of revs to get the bike through. What a sense of achievement when I got to the other side with no dramas. Winston looked as if he’d just won a mud wrestling contest.
There were many of these sections on the way but much shorter in length. I arrived in Bukit Lawang at 5:30pm wet from 2hours worth of rain and tired.
I met my guide at 8am and we headed in the jungle to see if we could see any Orang-utans. You are not guaranteed to see them but the guide recons there was a 90% chance. The trek took about three hours and it was the hardest walk I have ever done. The terrain was very steep and quite slippery. We saw a white faced Gibbon which is apparently very rare and only lives in Sumatra, some squirrels, Thomas Leaf Monkeys and finally a female Orang-utan with her baby swinging in the vines. Their expressions are so human like. They share 97% human DNA.
Bukit Lawang was almost completely decimated in 2003 when the river flooded the town. Nearly 500 people died.
The river is the life blood to the village, they get their water, do their bathing and washing and swim in it.
I even partook and did my washing in the river. I did get a few strange looks as that is woman’s work.
I headed north east to Belawan. This is the port my bike will ship from. To get to Belawan you have to go through Medan. Medan is a large city and the traffic as usual was slow. Earlier in the day it was time to give Winston a well deserved clean. There was a place on the side of the road that specialised in cleaning motorcycles. They had a water blaster and spent a good hour cleaning every nook and cranny. This all for a $1.50. I rode off on a gleaming bike and was feeling good that Winston looked all new and shiny only to be confronted with more huge pot holes and mud. The shiny new look was short lived. By the time I reached Medan Winston was back to his filthy best. I then headed to Belawan to make sure I could find Mr Anan’s office so there would be no issues on the day. The address would not enter into my GPS so I had one of the local motorbike sidecar taxis take me there while I followed on Winston. This cost me $2 and worth every cent. There is no way I would have found it on my own.
It was now time to find somewhere to stay for the night. Tonight was really difficult. I spent 5 hours trying to find a place. Google maps identified a couple of hotels in Belawan but when I arrived at the location there was nothing. The locals had never heard of them either.
I ended up going back 30km to Medan . I was totally spent by the time I arrived. The traffic was gridlocked and I was going nowhere fast.
I ended up staying in a hotel for $58 a night. This was well over my budget.
Day 81 Sunday 23rd November 2014
Updated my blog as the wifi was really quick. That’s what you get in a 5 star hotel.
Day 82 Monday 24th November 2014
I met Mr Anan at his office at 10am.
After they returned and the paperwork was complete I rode my bike down onto the dock into a warehouse next to the onion boat. There were a couple of dodgy characters there who asked for some money for cigarettes. I responded “no thank you I don’t smoke” They were just trying it on to make me worry about the bike. It was then into a taxi and off to the airport to catch a flight to Penang.