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.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia