Strolling the promenade
I've always wanted to go on a cruise. In high school my best friend Trudy and I planned to go when we finished year 12. For a couple of years we pored over the brochures and chose islands, ships, cabins, decks... but when the time came neither of us were 18 and they wouldn't let us travel alone. Ten years later I was very excited at the prospect of travelling to Singapore by boat.
I had heard of another boat (not Pelni) that went to Batam on a Saturday, but unable to find any info online we decided to just go to the terminal and test our luck. As Sam outlined in the previous entry, we were able to get a Pelni out of Jakarta that day. I tried to buy first class tickets - everything I had read in other people's blogs suggested it was the best way to travel. But they wouldn't sell me first class tickets - I got the impression this ship only had economy class from what they said. But as Sam and I wheeled our bikes up to the ramp the crew asked if we were traveling in first class. When we said no, they offered to upgrade us on board.
The price was relatively cheap. We'd already paid AU$70 for both of us to travel in economy and they wanted another AU$180. We figured $250 for both of us to travel in our own room with ensuite for the 30 hour journey was good! But it was more than we were carrying in Indonesian money. We did have US dollars though. It took some haggling over price and exchange rates, but eventually we got the upgrade for about US$170. The whole experience with the ticket availability and first class upgrade makes me think that we probably could have got on the Friday Pelni to Batam if we just turned up and paid. And for other travelers, if they tell you first class is not available, push it. Because it probably is available.
The first night we were happy to simply eat a meal of two minute noodles purchased from a fellow passenger (there was no meal provided on board that night and we'd not had time to eat in the rush to leave) and go to sleep. Sam waited until the ship left and took some photos, but that didn't happen until after 10.30 and I was asleep by then.
We were woken at 4.30am by the Muslim call to prayer broadcast to everyone over the PA system. But exhaustion allowed us to fall back to sleep. The next awakening came at 6.30am, when the crew woke us for breakfast. We were escorted to the first class dining room and seated at a table in the middle of the room. It was just us. We weren't sure up until this point if there were other first class passengers, but there had been no footsteps going past our cabin door so we suspected we were it. Breakfast was a cold rice, egg and beans. Not great, but we were hungry so ate it anyway. We were told lunch would be at 11.30.
After breakfast I suggested a walk around the deck, but we didn't last long. Just long enough to buy a drink from the shop at the top of the ship, but the constant, curious stares of the fellow passengers drove us below deck where we watched a DVD.
After the DVD we were laying in bed talking when there was a knock at the door at 10.30. Lunch was being served. As we ate our rice, fish and beans a band played a mixture of Indonesian and English songs for our benefit. 'Only You' was a particular favourite, and it was very amusing to sit in a big dining hall and have a band play when you are the only passengers. The Indonesians were looking at us strangely through the window from the deck. We noticed another place set at our table, and shortly we were joined by an Indonesian lady, the only other first class passenger. I tried to make eye contact, and sat there smiling. But she didn't look at us at all. We finished eating (not that hungry since we just had breakfast), were told to be ready for dinner at 5.30, and went up the top to buy a drink and chocolate, before returning to our room.
Our afternoon sleep was disturbed at 4.30 - dinner was ready. Our fellow first class passenger had finished eating already so at least there would be no more awkward silence while we ate our rice, chicken, fish and spinach.
The sun was getting ready to set when we were finished so we went out to watch. It seems everyone had the same idea, but once we arrived the landscape wasn't watched as closely as we were. I suggested we go to one of the lower decks, where there weren't as many people. This worked out well, and we were able to find ourselves a quiet spot to watch a spectacular sunset.
One of the crew told us that the ship was probably going to arrive at 5am. This worked out well for us, as it meant we could sleep and not worry about finding a hotel in the middle of the night. The journey had been very restful and comfortable, although the voyage was 30 hours and the three meals were served in a ten hour block. Luckily we'd bought our own bananas, apples and milo with us!
The boat arrived amid a spectacular sunrise, and our cruise was over. We still didn't know where Kijang was, but we were one step closer to mainland SE Asia.
The island of Bintan
We are now on the ferry to Kiraji (I think). We are hoping to get from Kiraji by boat to either Batam en route to Singapore, or if possible direct to Singapore. We will find out when we arrive at a speculative (no-body really knows) time of 5am tomorrow morning.
Tuesday morning and we set off for the Sinbad water/theme park. We could find no information online other than some photo’s and brief FAQ’s by which we were able to establish that the theme park does actually exist. So, we asked the staff at the backpacker hotel we are staying at when we arrived (23 February) and they informed us very confidently that it opened at 10am and closed at 4pm. Bummer we thought, it’s 2pm now, but maybe we can catch it for a few hours the following day before our train leaves at 6:30pm.
At 10am we flagged down a taxi and off we went. Half an hour and 65,000 Rupee later and we were excited to go to our first theme park overseas together and the first for our trip. Anticipication building we ran the 100m from the street to the entrance… were we where met with laughter. We were far too early, the park did not open until 2pm (closing at 8pm rather than 4). If we were to wait 3 hours for the park to open we would be able to enter for 5 minutes, and then we would have to leave.
Dejectedly we realized that we wouldn’t be sliding down any water slides today and began to walk towards the road. Half an hour and several futile attempts to get a taxi home (20kms) we started walking. An hour and a half after this and we were back. We packed our things, carried our bicycles down the stairs, and rode around 10k’s to through a chaotic mess of traffic and one way streets to the station, very early but safe in the knowledge we wheren’t going to miss the train, put our bikes in a place we could keep an eye on them and waited for our train to arrive, all the while questioning inquisitive eyes staring at us, refusing to move, sometimes trying to talk to us in Indonesian, ‘hello Mr’s’, ‘wer you from sir’s’, staring and watching, disbelieving.
The train arrived, or at least it was now time for our train and we hoped that this one was ours, so on we got, directed to an empty, dark carriage we locked our bikes to the wall, found our seats in the next carriage, and exhausted, collapsed into our seats. The train left the station with a great roar and almost instantly the other people in our carriage (Indonesian men) all fell asleep. We tried, but couldn’t, we were too excited. The train began to pick up speed and wobble from side to side and amidst the noise and the excitement, somewhere between Surabaya and Jakarta, we fell asleep.
Awakening with a jolt, I opened my eyes, 2am and bloody freezing. Not for the first time in this country the air-con was at full freeze and everyone in the carriage was covered in blankets, some even had them over there heads and faces. Deciding I had better check on the bikes and find a toilet, I got up. I found the bikes, to my relief still OK, but now there was 4 unconscious Indonesian men surrounding them, laying on the ground in the carriage. I observed there faces, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it so I took photos of them all, not sure exactly why but I figured if stuff went missing then maybe I might have a clue what to look for.
On the way back I find the toilet. It's a smelly affair, but it does the job. I go to pour some water down the hole (how you are meant to flush) and through the darkness and the noise of the train I make out a muffled splatter; it seems as though nothing is stopping the water, the usual resistance just isn't there... Maybe the hole just goes onto the tracks I speculate... In the morning when it is light I look again and realise that it is true, the toilet goes straight onto the tracks... What makes this even worse is that when we are coming into Jakarta there are shanties along the rail way lines for more than 100kms!
Seven in the morning, we unlock our bikes while the train is still moving, and just before the train takes off from the station manage to pull our bikes from the carriage. We are in Jakarta, and there are people everywhere. An hour or so later and we have found a hotel, it is nice, and cheap, and we are exhausted. We have a shower, locate some breakfast down a laneway and set about finding out about ferries to get to Bitan- from where we will find another ferry to Singapore. But there are none, apparently, at least until Friday next week, nine days away. We don’t want to be here for nine more days, and rack our brains trying to figure out how we can get off Java.
We try a different travel office, but they say the same thing, but we still can’t fathom there being no way of getting to Batam for nine days so we decide to head down to the Ferry dock (20km’s) ourselves. When we get there we manage to work out that there is a ferry that goes to an island somewhere near Batam, an island off the coast of Singapore. But, it leaves at 5pm. Bummer, it’s now 4pm and there is no way we can get back to our room and get our things in time to make it. We sit there ruing our luck when suddenly a taxi driver walks up to us. ‘Hello Mr’ he says. ‘Hello’ we answer back. ‘No taxi thank you’ we say. ‘You go Batam’ he says, ‘ferry not leave 5, leave 7, maybe 8,’ ‘Are you sure’ we reply. ‘Yes, I here many year, you trust me…’
We scream back to our hotel, give our room to a Russian lady who has just arrived, find a taxi, shove our bags and Shanna’s bike in the taxi and while I ride behind, head back to the port. The evening storm has arrived, the rain is pouring, the traffic is chaotic and while I’m waiting behind the taxi at a set of traffic lights a beautiful girl walks up to me. ‘No thank you’ I say (this area is known for prostitutes, we saw them on the street when we came the other way), when a manly voice counters with ‘soma soma (no worries) sexy boy.’ I squirm, but then laugh at myself.
Finally we make it back to the ferry and realize we are 50,000 rupiah short. So Shanna goes off looking for an ATM while I stay with the bikes… An hour later and I’m starting to freak out, it’s getting dark and still no sign of Shanna. Frantically I look through the bags for a lock and a knife, and when I look up I see Shanna in the distance, searching the crowd for me. Phew, relieved I run over and ask what happened…
Three hours later at 11pm the ferry finally leaves, we are excited but we soon drift off into a peaceful sleep, on our way to an island we still don’t know the name of.
Escape to Surabaya
We are still battling the Indonesian stomach attack – Sam more than Shanna. We’ve made the decision to ride to the city of Surabaya – the second biggest city in Indonesia – and from there catch a train to Jakarta. This is the best thing for our health both in terms of recovering from the stomach bug, but also for the basic instinct of staying alive. Surabaya is 65km away and looks fairly easy to find on the GPS.
The condition of the road has improved and we’re able to do a good pace – around 30km/h. It feels like we’re flying down the road and when we stop for our first rest break we’ve made 25km. But to Sam it feels like we’ve gone further. He’s not retaining any carbs and his energy levels are rock bottom. His lays down on the concrete outside the convenience store and shuts his eyes, desperate for five minutes of sleep. But the honking horns put a stop to that dream.
We start riding again. There are signs to Surabaya and we follow them around a series of exits at major intersections. One of the signs (backed up by the GPS) points us down a toll road, but the booths are long abandoned and the road full of holes that could swallow us, so we guess it’s not a toll road anymore.
We continue our good pace. We overtake a guy with a cart and pony – the poor pony looks partly lame and we feel sad. Sam yells at the guy to look after the pony and get it re-shoed, but the man just laughs and waves as we pass.
We cross a bridge where the rain waters are gushing out towards the ocean, and all of a sudden our two lane highway is a one lane track with a village running down the middle. Shanna checks the GPS – it says to continue following the road. But the road ahead is blocked. We ask some locals who point us towards a dirt road full of rocks and holes. Scooters and trucks are heading down there but we’re not convinced that this is the road to Indonesia’s second biggest city. We check with some more locals who confirm it, then call out “Rupiah” in annoyed voices as we head down the track.
The traffic is moving slowly. It is one lane, traffic is trying to move in both directions, plus we’re trying to dodge the holes, or at least minimize the damage. We follow the track for about half an hour, still confused as to how we ended up on this road to get to Surabaya.
Eventually the traffic banks up and we’ve made it to the intersection with the main road again. A policeman and some locals are directing traffic – otherwise we would never get out of the side street. Even with the police trying to stop traffic on the main road it looks certain that some of the trucks won’t stop for us, but at the last second they do. It is quite exciting to join with all the other vehicles in getting back onto the road, and we laugh as we pick up the pace again.
Not far down the road there is a turn off to Surabaya again. Again, there are toll booths. This time, the booths seem to be operating and it is a real toll road. Our GPS is telling us to go that way, the signs are pointing that way, there are no other alternatives, and so we decide that is the way we’ll go. We quickly realize that although Indonesians don’t care for road rules, there is one rule that everyone knows – bikes can’t go on toll roads. We have people yelling at us from trucks, the side of the road and waving for us to pull over. But we’re not in the mood to try and find another way to go – one that is full of pot holes, horse-drawn carriages, manic motor bike drivers, rusty old bicycles, trucks honking us off the road, and a myriad of twists and turns. We want the direct road. The man in the toll booth is waving and smiling so we just pick up speed and head on through. Soon people are honking and waving out of their windows at us, some in encouragement of the renegade cyclists, others informing us of their presence in Indonesia... The road is one of the best we’ve seen in Indonesia, and we are mostly able to ride without braking and veering into the traffic to avoid holes, bumps, people, bikes, rickshaws and all manner of unique vehicles. We move quickly, eager to reach our destination.
We’re doing well until we see another toll booth up ahead. We hear yelling through the speaker system in a shrill, panicky female voice, and a hand in the ‘stop’ signal is extended out of the booth. We don't know were else to go and are exhausted, so we pick up speed and sail through again. This time the people in trucks around us laugh and give us the thumbs up. We’ve only got 10km to go and according to the GPS we will take the next exit. At the exit though we’re surprised to see more toll booths. None of this was on the GPS we muse...! We’ve come this far, so we decide to go with the strategy that has worked so far. We get through the first checkpoint, secretly riding close behind a truck but the next booth, 50m ahead is the one that does us in. Unfortunately this time there is a lot of traffic, and we get stuck in a queue, giving security time to come over and escort us to the side. We act the unknowing tourist – pointing to the GPS and showing how it said to ride to Surabaya. He says 'Polisi' and 'English', 'Polisi take you,' a few times and in clear English tells us to 'Wait here for Polisi.' He goes away to continue managing the traffic. We are left to wait for the police...
We double check the GPS – we want to turn left in just 500m and then we’re off the toll road. We look around, it seems no-one is watching us...and the Polisi don't seem to have arrived yet... We decide to make a run for it. We’ve heard about the police who need financial reasons to help you and considering we’re surrounded by toll roads we’re not sure what they would tell us to do anyway. We count to three together and, make a sudden take off. No one has seen us yet, we think, aside from the motorists that are laughing from their trucks and cars as we try to merge through the traffic and get to the side of the road. Adrenalin pumping, this is a challenge in itself, and we only just manage to squeeze through the hoards of traffic spilling from multiple lanes. We speed away and around the corner, but in case anyone is in pursuit we keep riding as fast as we can, legs in pain but adrenalin keeping us moving. We round another corner and suddenly we are on another freeway, panicking we look around us to realise there are now motorbikes on the road... are we safe, are they still coming for us our minds frantically wonder when suddenly a load of dirt falls off the back of a truck and into Shanna's eyes, stinging and blinding her. Blinded and in pain she keeps on riding, hearing Sam yell 'turn to your left and stop...NOW'; she blindly follows, collapsing and crying into a busy city alleyway, the tears washing the dirt from her eyes, the relief of having gotten away washing over her, it seems the chase is over. Diarrhea still trying to overtake Sam's resitance, the rush is now on to find a toilet, and we take the first little laneway we find. We feel safe again. And it seems, we’ve made it to Surabaya.
We weave through a myriad of small streets before rejoining the main road – a massive four lane highway that is bursting with traffic and barely moving. After all the small villages we’ve been in, we weren’t expecting such a major city. A few kilometers down the road we spot KFC and happily pull in for some refreshment. As we leave KFC the rain starts bucketing down again. The GPS says there is a hotel just 500m up ahead so we keep riding. We see it on the left and pull in. It’s not flash but we can get a room with air-con and its own bathroom, the place has Wifi, plus the rain is pouring down, so we decide to stay.
We are amazed at how much rain falls during the afternoon. The hotel paths are flooded and we’re worried about our things. We make sure our possessions are up off the ground and decide to go for a walk in the rain. It is pouring but we laugh as we splash though puddles. The massive gutters are full of gushing water and it seems as if the streets will soon flood.
Riding in the wet season
The heat is killing us. Each day the air is stifling and we are covered in a layer of sweat unlike anything we’ve experienced in Australia. The sweat forms pools in the crevices of our elbows and drips through the dirt that cakes our legs. We decide to spend half the day relaxing at an internet café and ride in the late afternoon, when the temperature drops significantly.
We spend a blissful couple of hours updating our website, catching up on facebook and researching ferries from Jakarta. But before we’re ready to leave the power and internet go off. The café quickly empties but we’re reassured that this doesn’t happen all the time, and when it does things are back to normal in 20 minutes. We’ve got the laptop so we keep typing, but after 45 minutes we’re told the power won’t be back until 4pm. With no internet we decide to ride after all.
The roads are terrible. Massive potholes, rocks, different surface textures… we’re constantly weaving around the holes and trying to avoid any overturning jolts. It’s impossible to build up any speed. On top of this, the trucks, buses and cars seem to be particularly determined to kill us. Despite it being one lane in each direction, they’re overtaking three abreast and well and truly coming onto the shoulder on our side of the road. As we weave around the massive holes in the road we’re also concentrating on traffic in both directions. No one cares about rules and the lives of two strange white people. They beep at us to move out of their way, the locals still yell at us for attention, school children and teenage girls laugh at us, teenage boys yell out in Indonesian what we can only guess to be insults based on the mirthful laughter of their peers.
We check the GPS phone and look for a train station. Nothing nearby. We have to keep riding until we hit another city.
Storm clouds have gathered and big rain drops start to fall. Scooters are pulling over and people are pulling on rain jackets, but we welcome the cool relief. The fields next to the road are already flooded almost up to the road, and the thunder indicates a lot more rain is coming. We’ve only done 40km, but the weather makes the choice for us. We decide to stop at the next hotel we see to recover mentally and plan our future course.
Just as the rain starts pouring down we pull into a fancy looking hotel with Wifi and a reasonably priced café menu. We shower and order a feast – rice, chicken, veggies, a burger, soup… we haven’t eaten all day our nerves are fragile. As we sit on the internet waiting for our food the storm rages outside. The power goes out, but the hotel is prepared and turns on a noisy generator. We sit in a haven of light while the bikes and scooters and cars and trucks continue to move around outside without any street lighting and most without any lighting on their vehicle. After waiting 45 minutes they come to get our food order again. We are angry but they speak no English so we can’t communicate to them that the food should already be here. We have no choice but to keep waiting.
Our food comes out and we eat to the sounds of bad karaoke upstairs – a service they provide for the wealthy businessmen who stop here. We go to bed early but throughout the night Sam is disturbed by the sounds of drunk people being escorted back to their cars and scooters where they drive away. Exhausted, Shanna sleeps well.
Difficulty- Sam 9 Shanna 8
Weather- light rain
Awake at 6am and the sweat is already pouring from my body. The tiny archaic air-conditioner making a loud noise in the corner of the room is doing nothing, and the heat is oppressive. Laying there I can’t help but think about our first day in Java and wonder if it will be the same for the next 1000+ kilometers. What if it is, what if the crowds never stop, the people never stop yelling, all needing or demanding an answer to their ‘hello Mr’s’ or cries of amazement, laughter or bemusement. What if the constant honking never stops, the heat never ceases, the array of hopeful suitors never cease their attentions or the food never changes?
We cool ourselves with a small bucket of water in the decrepit, grimy bathroom and the feeling of the cold water washing over my body is exquisite, cleansing and instantly refreshing, but I try not to let the water enter my mouth, my stomach already feels queasy and I’m wondering if today is the day our resistance gives way.
Back on our bikes and we soon realize that that day has come. Frantically searching for a bathroom, (not as easy as you might think when you are in the backwoods of Java) we finally locate one just before our powers of resistance are embarrassingly about to give way. Attempting to squat, with tired legs over a grubby pan the steaming pungent stinky liquid explodes with an embarrassing cacophony of noises.
I hear what I think is laughter… I turn the tap on, the sound of the running water is comforting, and it hides things. Removing my shorts (for those who don’t know toilet paper is only used here in café’s or restaurants as serviette) I fill a bucket in the corner with water and pour it down the hole, it doesn’t work so I try again. This time the mess goes down the hole, most of it anyway, a few more bucketfuls, in the hole and on myself and back on go the shorts (all the while careful to stand on my thongs). The water runs down my legs, my shorts are a little wet, but it feels nice in an odd way, kind of like using a bidet but a little more real...lol
My stomach is still queasy, and so is Shanna’s, but we buy some cold drinks from a roadside shack and tentatively get back on our leather bike seats. In an hour we find a roadside café and eat some rice, we have to eat, we have no energy and laying down while drinking flat lemonade in an air-conditioned room (what we would have done at home) is not an option. Stomach’s still funky, we lay down in a hut beside the café constructed from Bamboo and tin, and eventually fall asleep despite the honking of horns and the screaming of motorbike engines revved to there limit. A short sleep but a delicious one, sharply awoken by the sound of screeching honking trucks.
Over the next few hours we stop three times in various locales to find places to relieve our bowels. We haven’t gone far and our energy is depleted, most of my carbs I presume are in various holes across the Javanese countryside… But at about 3pm a storm approaches, the sun is covered in dark cloud and the temperature drops. Weak and tired or not, this is an opportunity we can’t miss. Over the next 3 hours despite our whining bowels we ride 65km, and as the dark begins to take over the light we desperately search for a hotel. During the morning, when we refused to stop we saw many, but now, even approaching a city and we cannot find a single one. We stop at a traffic light, urgently scanning the streets, trying to ignore the questioning faces when we hear a ‘hello Mr. how can I help you.’ Trying to hide the desperation in our voices I ask him very slowly if he knows were a hotel is. “Yes Mr. he says, hotel jus’ down her’, you go der’, dey very good dere.’ ‘Thank you very much,’ we reply.
This time it was clean, a hotel with a white sheet, a luxury we never realised we would seek. The girl at the desk spoke very good English, astonishingly good and we wanted her to know but it seemed that no amount of 'terimah kase's' could do it justice. The hotel was out of rooms with aircon so we had to make do with a small fan pushing the hot air around the room. We filled the small bucket with cold water over and over and over again, and let the water wash over our tired bodies, peeling back the grease and grime, feeling in that moment a sense of achievement unlike we had yet felt, an inner satisfaction that needed no words.
Exhausted, and covered in lathers of sweat, the heat, the noise and the bed conspiring to make sleep a contest; yet inwardly smiling, content.
One white duck
Difficulty- Sam 6 Shanna 6
Weather- hot and sunny, cloudy & cooler in the late afternoon
We were ready to start our first full day of riding in Java but we needed to find some food. We ate some bananas we had left from a roadside stall and set off to find food.
We rode past a school and it was clear that we were an unusual site. The students and teachers gathered at the fence to watch us ride past and yell out "Hello Mister" and "Where you from?" at the top of their lungs. Each one hoped for a personal acknowledgement of their greeting.
We stopped at a small shop hoping to find some Nasi Goreng but found donuts instead. As we ate the two ladies tried to talk to us, but they knew as much English as we knew Indonesian, so we didn't get very far. They called out to their neighbours who came over, the younger girl able to speak some English. Through them we were able to talk a bit about where we were from and what we were doing. A small crowd of friends gathered to be part of the fun and when we left we were told to come back next time we visited Bali.
We quickly found some real food and cold drinks when we stopped at the food kiosk at a big service station. The sauce was very spicy though and it was hard to force ourselves to eat enough to have the energy to keep going.
We had chosen to follow the coast road to the north of the country. Java is made up of volcanos and mountains so our reasoning was that the coast road would be the flattest. But as we followed the road, it was heading towards a mountain. We hoped the road would steer around the bottom but it soon became apparent that we were headed up.
As we pumped our legs up the hill we were overtaken by trucks and cars on narrow sections of road, each one honking and calling out to us. Sometimes it was friendly but sometimes it was so insistent it seemed hostile.
As we climbed the hill it became apparent that something was going on - all the cars and trucks were stopped. We rode past them and were amazed when the queue kept going for kilometres. At the top of the hill there were roadworks happening - right on the summit stopping traffic from both directions from getting through. We were waved through with smiles and a few "Hello Mister!"s only to notice that the queue on the other side of the hill was even longer. These people must have been sitting there for hours waiting to get through. It was as if the whole NE corner of Java had been stopped by the roadworks. Luckily we were able to sail past everyone on our bikes.
The condition of the roads up to this point and for the next couple of days proved inconsistent. Sometimes the surface was smooth and we sailed along at speeds of over 30km/h. Other times it was bumpy with massive potholes we couldn't miss and our bikes shook at the impact. On our second day in Java Sam realised one of his wheels was slightly buckled, but there was nothing we could do except redistribute weight and commit to reducing weight even further when we had our next rest day.
As we rode on our first full day in Java the sun beat down on us so when a man rode up beside us and offered us a rest in him home we happily accepted - also because he was the first person who spoke good English we'd come across in Java. He said it was 1km to his home but about 4km later we finally arrived.
We sat in his cool home and met his family. As they fed us a strange pink soup that had pieces of bread floating in it he said we could spend the night if we wanted, and also requested us to come to the Islamic school with him where he taught English, so we could speak to the students. We politely declined on both counts, stating that we needed to keep moving. We ate as little of the pink soup as possible. Not only was the taste offensive to our western pallets, but it had chunks of ice floating in it which we were certain would be from the tap. The cold water he gave us to drink also had the distinct taste of coming from the tap, not the bottle.
The man seemed to invite all his friends and family to come and "see" us. We had many curious faces look through the doors and windows at us as the man sat there, proud as punch, telling us it was his hobby to make friends. He even had a big gold and purple ring which he said had nothing to do with his marriage, but rather it had magical powers to help people like him.
While in the home Shanna asked to use the toilet and the man nodded his understanding of the question and spoke to his wife in Indonesian, presumably to take Shanna to the toilet. The wife led Shanna to a room out the back without a door, which just went around a corner. Seeing no toilet in there Shanna asked the woman if it was the toilet and she smiled and nodded. It seemed to be the bathroom. It looked a lot like Wayan's family's bathroom, only without the toilet. Thinking that not all families must have a toilet, Shanna squatted over the drain and peed. She tipped some water from the bucket to wash it down the drain and walked back out. On her way back into the house she saw another little room off to the side - this one with a toilet in it.
Back on the road the stares from men grew even worse – boys and men on bikes would ride slowly behind Shanna, smiling as they went past when Sam yelled at them to keep moving. Surprisingly, although many women wear muslim headwear, they always smile approvingly at me and nod that they are pleased.
We've had many good experiences with the people too. One that first afternoon Sam spent some time yelling "Bonjour" to everyone who called out to us, with the logic that "Hello" was too simple and he wanted to make them think. Sometimes he would just ride through a town yelling "Bonjour" to everyone before they even had a chance to yell out to us.
Once we'd done 90km on that first day it was time to find a hotel. We hadn't seen one for about 70km so needless to say that the first one we saw, we went in and paid for a room. It was a ghetto hotel. The worst we had experienced yet. There was no fan, and the rattling old air-conditioner seemed to do nothing. We spent about an hour trying to kill all the mosquitoes only to realise there was a big gap under the door that we needed to plug. So we used the towel they'd given us. For dinner that night we ate the Indonesian equivalent of two minute noodles from the small grocery store across the road, using hot water the land lady provided us with.
Following the pink soup and hot water, we both went to sleep wondering what the morning would bring.
The sound of twilight
We awoke early to the sounds of silence. 6:30am and not a surfer in site, or awake. No dawn patrol, no board grabbing for the early before the trade-winds pick up- but a whole lotta hangover... We were tired, but we felt good, and we needed to as we were on our way to Java.
A massive breakfast at the American/Australian style restaurant/cafe next door of porridge, eggs on toast, bacon and fruit salad had us ready to go and we got on our bikes, full of food just as the locals (Aussies, Americans. Mexicans-still not up yet, Pomms and unidentifiable surfers), too hot to continue sleeping, were getting up. They stared at us wide eyed- seemingly unable to comprehend just what was going on, and one of them waved a slurred good-bye as we pedaled away from the beach and up the hill to the main road.
The sun was hot and the hills continued as we pushed on to the ferry port. We were hungry and desperately needed a cold drink but we wanted to get on a ferry so we kept riding, through rain forest, rice paddies, and many small villages dotting the coast and finally arrived in Gulimanuk, and the ferry port. Riding straight up we purchased our tickets and rode onto the boat.
As we rode into the hull we saw a person selling watermelon, which we happily purchased. It tasted so refreshing and we didn't care that juice dripped down our faces as we devoured it. The boat was filling quickly with buses, trucks and passengers and Sam went to take photos of the colour and action. Two young boys who were jumping off the pier asked Sam to take their photo, but just as he got positioned and ready they demanded payment for their stunt. Laughing, Sam gave them $1000rp and they jumped into the clear, cool water below.
As the ferry left Bali, Sam went upstairs to the passenger level to see about buying some more food. He bought some rice, chicken, beans and chickpeas. When the seller asked if he wanted juice, Sam happily accepted, only to watch in stunned amazement as an avacado was juiced and placed in his hands, like a thick, green smoothie. The food was spicy, and while Shanna ate just a small amount, Sam knew he needed the carbs so forced it down and used the avacado juice to cool his mouth. While he ate a curious mix of locals inspected our bikes and asked us questions in Indonesian, which we had no hope of answering. Eventually a doctor who spoke a little English joined the group and was able to relay some basic information to the others.
The ferry took about 40 minutes to cross, which was a long time considering we could see the other side all along. When we landed we decided to head straight for a hotel to relax for the rest of the afternoon. Only a few kilometres down the road we found a place with air-con and a dine-in menu. We ordered some Nasi Goreng and settled in to watch one of our movies.
When the movie was over the sun was setting and we walked down to the water to watch the sun set over Bali one last time. We could hear the evening prayer song coming from a nearby mosque, giving a haunting feeling to the night. We had arrived in a muslim territory, and we had no idea what to expect.
Into the unknown
We paid the hotel $785,000 (slightly less than Aus $100) for the past five nights, including breakfast each day and having our clothes washed. We were sad to leave such a good place, an area we had gotten to know well (Jimbaran), and the kind staff but it was time to move on so we packed our bags, carried our bags and bikes separately down the stairs and waved goodbye to Sunny, one of the staff we’d made friends with - who still couldn’t believe we were riding our bikes around the world or understand why we would want to do such a crazy thing (sometimes we wonder the same thing ourselves).
The first 60km were through a never-ending stretch of towns, each one blending into the next. This meant we always had supplies of cold drinks when we needed a break and a sugar hit.
The GPS on the phone usually worked well, leading us fairly easily through the weaving network of roads. We stopped often to check it and other than a few confusing moments when it wanted us to turn around and take a different road, we made it to the road which would take us to the ferry terminal in Gilamanuk.
We'd decided to ride 80km on the first day, and when we hit that mark we found a modern, western style hotel just off the main road. We asked the price but were shocked to be told $600,000 for one night for the cheapest room! We told the lady that was too expensive and she suggested we ride another 10km to Medewi Beach, a popular surfers hangout.
We kept going, pausing only once to consider taking a dirt road that had a sign saying there was a hotel 1km away, but a local noticed us looking at the sign and pointed at it, put his thumb down and shook his head. He motioned for us to keep riding down the road. We were very grateful for that local tip!
The first hotel we saw in Medewi Beach had a cheap restaurant attached but it was full. There were surfers arriving back from a day out in the waves and it seemed we'd stumbled into a well-known surfing area. The man from the hotel took us next door, where there was no sign, and spoke to the lady who lived there. She showed us a small room with a double bed and a bathroom (of sorts) attached, and said $60,000 ($7.50 australian). That was more like it! We moved our bikes in and enjoyed the cold shower, washing away all the sweat and dirt of the day. At the restaurant next door we enjoyed dinner of spaghetti bolognese and stir fried veggies and chicken. It was a nice change from Nasi Goreng!
Back in our room we watched some episodes of House and fell into a fitful sleep, interrupted through the night by the American and Mexican surfers who were drinking outside our door.
The aftermath of Mt Agung
Pain overwhelmed me as I awoke. Would I ever be able to walk again? Could I even get out of bed? The hike up Mt Agung had given me the stiffest, sorest legs I’d ever experienced. Worse than the Oxfam 100km walk, worse than the 20km grind up Lavers Hill on the Great Vic Bike Ride, and the even steeper hill after it. This was pain.
I literally dragged myself out of bed (physically moving my legs to the edge of the bed) and grabbed the laptop to go down to breakfast and catch up on photo editing and journal writing. Walking flat along the balcony was hard but when I got to the steps I realized I had bigger problems. Going down was nearly impossible. I held the handrail and brought each leg down onto a step before tackling the next one. I must have looked like I was about 100. When Sam came down and said he thought we should stay for the day and rest our bodies I was so relieved – I seriously doubt I could have ridden if I tried.
I spent some time in the pool – swimming laps and stretching. When I got out I felt better and thought I would magically be healed. But within an hour they were not only hurting again, they were worse! Sam asked if I wanted to go get massages but not only was I convinced that I could never stand the pain of a Balinese massage in my present state, I was also convinced that I was not going back to that massage place. Which was a shame, because they were cheap and good.
We had to return the scooter and were hungry so we rode down the street to find some food on our way to Kuta. We tried a few places that didn’t have anything that looked appetising, until we saw a restaurant with the magic words ‘Nasi Goreng’ and ‘Mie Goreng’ out the front. We looked at a menu and the prices were right – 7000rp (less than $1). We feasted on our delicious meals and then jumped on the scooter to return it.
In Kuta we decided to spend some time wandering, so we found a cheap DVD shop where we made some purchases and then opted to get facials, not massages, at the spa down the road.
We got a taxi back to Jimbaran for about $4 and stopped at the restaurant again to buy some food for dinner. We put on one of our new DVDs and massaged each others legs… Shanna’s were still feeling progressively worse. We were too tired to pack, but reasoned we’d do it in the morning.
Sunday morning I awoke and my legs were just as bad. Steps were still torture and getting out my seat a chore. Sam wanted to leave, but I convinced him that one more day of rest would make all the difference, and I would pack during the day to make sure we got away early in the morning.
We spent more time in the pool, watching DVDs, and I really did pack our things. We also realized we had to go back to Kuta again to buy malaria tablets. The first pharmacy we went to tried to charge us the equivalent of $1/tablet, and when you need about 240 of them that is expensive! We went to another pharmacy, of the same brand, and bought 80 tablets for the equivalent of $3. HUGE difference. They didn’t have any more but hopefully we’ll find some more in Thailand. We also found a Cadbury chocolate in the first pharmacy, which was so good…
It was nice to spend a couple of days resting and recuperating before heading off on the bike again.
Quick update from somewhere on Java
Sorry there have been no recent posts - there is limited internet so far on Jave. But as we near Jakarta (only about 900km to go) hopefully we'll see more.
We spent two days riding to the ferry terminal in Bali then caught a ferry to Java. The past two days in Java have been HOT!!! Luckily the north coast road that we are taking has been fairly flat, hills are a killer in this heat.
We are sick of cars beeping at us, men oggling at Shanna like she was Jennifer Hawkins riding in a bikini and sick of Nasi Goreng! But the people are so friendly and the landscape beautiful - more stories and photos coming soon!
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia