After giving Doris a thorough check over after the horror ride of a few days before, it was a high speed run from my hotel room in BADAR LAMPUNG to the vehicle ferry terminal at BAKAUHENI on the southern tip of SUMATRA.
The guide book I have with me describes the road as a scenic drive through the countryside; I think someone has been eating magic mushrooms! Hey, you can’t see anything for the bloody diesel fumes, the whole place is so polluted, you are screaming for oxygen every time you manage to get clear of the ponderous lorry convoys and the kamikaze bus drivers.
I managed to do the 90 odd k’s in an hour and a half, just making the 9.00am ferry that would take me to MERAK in EAST JAVA. At the speed I was traveling I knew I was taking a considerable risk, due to the traffic conditions, but no one at the hotel knew about the current ferry timetable, the only info I had was it leaves every 2 hours, is that a 9.00am or a 10.00am departing time? No one new, so I gambled for 9.00am, shit it’s the first time I’ve won anything since my kids went to primary school.
The one accident I saw on the road was a fully loaded bus, just off the ferry, head butting a house on the left side of the road, the front of the house was destroyed, and there appeared to be the remains of a smaller bus upside down on the other side of the road, no ambulances, no police, so it must of just happened.
The ferry crossing took exactly 2 hours as advertised, and so far I was pretty impressed with the transport system in Java, especially at a grand cost of $5A. That was about to change! I could even see Krakatoa on my starboard side, I was really impressed!
We disembarked at 11.00am and I was now on JAVA soil after over a week in SUMATRA, I wonder what the differences will be?
Almost immediately the traffic was moving a bit faster, great! There is more traffic, not great! And there is another bloody toll road, no bikes! Shit I have to flow along with the great unwashed again on roads that the Indonesian government deem roadworthy. It began almost immediately, the sight of little green and sometimes blue, minibuses all over the place, just stopping at will, with no indicators, just nothing, not even brake lights, holding the whole of Indo’s highway system to ransom for a R1000.00 fare, (about 10c US) when they stop to pick up customers, the whole highway system stops.
This was the driving conditions I was faced with, sure the road conditions were better, but JAVA has at least 4 times the traffic of SUMATRA. I had my first night penciled in at a place called BOGOR, which the guide books describe as a sleepy mountain town. It’s obvious who ever wrote this, traveled by train and not road, the town itself is a dirty little country town, with the only redeeming factor of being famous for its botanical garden. I did however find a great little guest house run by 2 crazy sisters who are half Arab and speak very excitable English, they even put Doris in their garage for safety and arranged a massage from a little Indo lady who resembled an EWOK! Give the WISMA GUEST HOUSE a look, good value.
Saturday morning, 8.30 am, and it was off East to my next designation on the south coast of JAVA to a surf spot called PANGANDARAN, it was a good days ride of around 350k, I estimated about an 8 hour ride. I really underestimated the average road speed I could maintain, the traffic congestion is the worst I have ever experienced, the ultimate gridlock, nowhere to go, and all because of those little green and blue bloody taxi buses. I was very concerned at the wear on DORIS’s clutch by the time I had traveled 85k’s I had been in the saddle for 4 hours, there was no way I was going to get to my destination at this speed.
Just as I was getting used to navigating my way around the taxi buses, I become gradually aware of another menace on the road, the local ROSSI look alike imitators, on anything from a clapped out Vespa to a piped 125cc Super Racer, these guys will buzz you at a very close range, on 1 occasion, I kicked a guy over to my left and behind a truck that I was about to pass (he tried to pass between me and the truck).
Another rider then come out on my left, braked and run into my left Pannier, then pissed off, I caught up with him, pulled along side and give him a thick ear for his trouble, the last incident occurred when I was in such a shit fight of a traffic jam, that I seen a gap and gunned it, some guy coming from the opposite direction, tried to cut across me, he braked, and my right pannier ripped off his front mud guard. I just kept going. Then as I was negotiating the same traffic jam, I miss judged the gap size that I could fit through, and took out a green minibus’s left taillight with my pannier, revenge is sweet!
Some guy approached me at a service station, while I was filling up, he spoke good English, and we kicked off a conversation, you know the type, were are you from, what’s your name, how much does the bike cost, were are you going, I am bloody fed up with this shit, especially in Indo, they are not as polite as the Thais. Then he come up with the ultimate question, what do you think of Indonesia, well, sometimes I am not known for my tact, I give him the usual response, friendly people, good tourist potential, and the worst fu…ng drivers in all of Asia, driving on the worst managed fu…ng road system in the world!
His response was calm and swift, “you should come here on Ramadan, its quiet then! No way am I going to organize my holidays around some religion. Bloody Muslims!
By 4.00pm I had only reached a town called TASIKMALAYA, about 130k short of my initial destination, it began to rain heavily, so I gave in, found a hotel and decided to leave for the ocean tomorrow. I can’t even relax with a couple of whiskies! Bloody Muslims!
This is the worst fuel consumption I have achieved since leaving Australia almost a year ago, and the second worst moving average, only bettered by CAMBODIA.
The hotel was surprisingly comfortable, and doesn’t get a rate in the travel guide, so the buggers haven’t stopped everywhere! Because Java is such a large Island and the few tourist spots of interest are few and far between, I had to average nearly 400k a day on the shit road they call highway 25, next stop was YOGYAKARTA, funny name for a town, I thought. Well, it’s within reach, so at a blistering average of about 60k/hr, I got to YOGY at around 4.00pm, you guessed it, afternoon rain again, I found the local railway station, and using it as a landmark, I tried to get myself orientated, and find myself some lodgings, GPS compass set, map out, I was totally involved in the science of navigation, when a young bloke on a bike turns up and says, “you need a hotel?” I said “yep”, well follow me!
Off I went following a little 80cc Yammy through peak hour traffic, give me a break! We eventually got to a little hotel, right in the middle of the arty part of town, (YOGY is the rough equivalent to CHIANG MAI..Indo style) the young bloke done me a favour, the management spoke English, and the place even had a pool, all for $10US a night, including breakfast, what was the catch? It was next to a bloody Mosque, 4.00am screaming again! Except for the early morning human rooster calls, I could spend a bit of time in YOGY, unfortunately I could only afford 2 days, because of the restrictive 30 day visa, so once again it was off down the mighty Highway 25 to a recommended stop over on the way to BALI, called MT. BRONO, an active volcano approximately 3000m up in sky. Shit there is a lot of activity under the ground in Indo! I made the turnoff in around 6.5hrs, with a surprisingly decent ride, except for the usual Carbon monoxide poisoning from the pollution belching out of the trucks and busses, I only got run off the road twice.
The road up the mountain was absolutely fabulous, is this Java? Or am I in some 18th century European country, this would have to be the most scenic part of Indo I have seen so far, its right up there with Lake Toba in SUMATRA. You just keep climbing, 3000m in around 18k, small European type villages are placed delicately along this beautiful little road, the whole landscape is totally rural, with most of the villagers working the land, much the same way that they have done for centuries.
They have a different look about them too, they are short and stocky, much the same as the Moungs in LAOS, except the young woman have the most beautiful complexion and faces I have seen so far in Indo.
Then you start to smell the Sulphur, it begins to get stronger as I ride even higher into the clouds, even Doris sounds different, gasping for more oxygen as we rise. Then you see it, you are confronted with a scene straight out of the PLANET OF THE APES, a huge open plain, about 500m deep with an active volcano right in the middle, letting off a ominous plume of white steam. Boy, this looks bloody dangerous! It was now 4.30pm, so I settled into a great lodge, built right on the shear cliff overlooking MT BRONO.
The next morning I wanted to get to BALI, about 180k away, so up at 6.00am, with an outside temperature of 12 degrees C , was off down the track on Doris to confront this huge beast of nature. You can actually ride along the black sandy base, most tourists take a package ride in a 4wd bus, but my bike will do nicely, good for a few photos too.
You have to park in a designated area, where all the hawkers converge on you selling the usual tee shirts and crap. Its about a kilometre walk to the summit, or you can hire a horse, what the heck, I hate horses, they are one animal on the planet that I have a healthy mistrust for. Anyway I’m short on time, if I want to make the ferry to BALI, so up I go into the saddle, and “Thomas of Java” is immediately created! The young horse handler walks in front of you guiding his trusty sure footed stead up the narrow path, leading to the summit, sore on the bum, but saves the legs. He waits for you to come down, and then gets me back to Doris in no time, I was even starting to enjoy my little equestrian adventure, when my little horse started to pig root another of his kind, just as I was dismounting. Give me a motor bike anytime!
Saying goodbye to the Mountain, it was off on the final section of highway in Java, thank God! The same usual shit confronts you as you make the Easterly turn onto highway 25. I was making good time, then around 25k from the ferry wharf at Ketapang, the heavens opened up and I got totally drenched in buckets, right through the last bit of tropical rain forest in East Java, the foliage was so dense, that the GPS couldn’t get satellite cover. No sooner had it began, it stopped, the sun came out, the ferry was about to depart, and I could see BALI beckoning, about 1 hour across the narrow straight.
Total kilometers traveled: 1600k at an average moving speed of 46k/hr. with a top speed of 116k/h.
BALI, THE FABLED ISLAND OF AUSSY PARTY ANIMALS.
The road down to DENPASAR has the best surface, so far in Indo, its about 120k’s to the beach resort towns of KUTA and LEGIAN, so I settled back and decided to cruise into town at a very leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery. The first thing I found in BALI, the motorcycle riders are even more ferocious than in Java, if you sit on a leisurely pace, your space is immediately invaded with every description of little bike you can imagine, even the young girls were giving me a bad time! Stuff this, back to highway mode, knock back a cog, GIVE ME WARP SPEED SCOTTY! Leaving the poor little buggers in Doris’s exhaust note, I had to ride offensively all the way to Legion Beach, which, meant reasonably hard riding, with your finger constantly on the horn. Consequently by the time I got a cheap hotel on the beach at Legion, poor Doris had blown a fuse!
I can really pick the time of year to travel, BALI is now celebrating its Hindu New Year, and you would think that would be a time for a good party, especially here in Party Animal Town. Not the Balinese, they close the whole Island down and lock all the tourists in their hotels for 24 hours! Give me Thailand any day, and I complained about Thailand’s 1.00am Bar Curfew! Shit I haven’t had a whiskey and soda since arriving in this godforsaken country!
KUTA and LEGION are really just a cheap holiday for Aussies and Euros, it reminds me of a rundown Surfers Paradise, it’s obviously not the real BALI, but I can’t really comment on that matter, because I’m locked up in my bloody Hotel!
Since getting out of BALI, INDONESIA has revealed a few surprises to say the least, first of all, I thought riding for a 100k’s or so through the BALI landscape would reveal some of her hidden charms, not so, maybe I was on the wrong side of the island, who knows, anyway Bali just wasn’t my cup of tea. So it was off to the ferry wharf at Padangbai, to catch the 10.30am ferry to LOMBOK.
You should never assume things will go your way in Asia, I rode for 2 hours on the congested roads to Padangbai, through the usual kamikaze bike riders, that I have become used to in Indo, only to be confronted by a crowd of around 100 bike riders milling around the ticket box trying to get their tickets to Lombok, it was only 9.45am, plenty of time to get a ticket in a civilized way. No, not in Indo, push, shove, elbows flying in every direction, I thought to myself, “I’ll just be patient and wait for the crowd to die down.”
That worked fine, at precisely 10.15am I paid my money to the uniformed ticket man. “One motorcycle and one person to Lombok please”, he replied “24,000R”, with my ticket between my teeth, I ride over the short distance to the embarkation ramp, to join the hundreds of other bikes and pedestrians with an assortment of farm animals, chickens hanging by their tied legs, piglets in string bags, perched over some old ladies shoulder, you know, the usual sights that you become accustomed in Asia, plus the most tenacious hawkers this side of Vietnam, selling anything from cigarettes to DVD’s.
We waited patiently for the ferry to disembark all of its cargo, then waited and waited….
Then a little guy comes up to me and says “one hour late!” So we waited and waited…then finally it was time to leave, you beauty, I rode up to the armed guard who was checking the tickets and he immediately asks, “Motorcycle bigger than 100cc? You must pay double,” pointing to the ticket box, so back to the ticket box I ride, the one I visited 2 hours earlier. If you think I was getting pissed off by this time you weren’t wrong.
We finally got on our way to Lombok, with smooth seas and some interesting scenery, except there was no were to sit, the ferry was chock a block full, people were sleeping in the walkways on makeshift ground sheets of newspapers, curled up with children, farm animals and numerous domestic pets, It was a long 4 hours.
The ferry arrived in Lombok amidst a heavy tropical storm, great, it’s 4.00pm and I have to find a bloody guest house on some god forsaken island that I have never been too.
Oh well, let’s get on with it, following my GPS in the general direction were I knew Senggigi Beach was, I finally passed a few resorts, then I recognized the sign, “Batu Bolong Guest House”, this establishment was recommended by an Aussy bloke from Darwin who I had met previously a few nights before in Bali, he reckoned his mate owned it, and would look after me.
I did a youy, drove through the entry,( remember it was raining and I was soaked to the skin), I asked to see a room, and before you know it, I was sitting on the first floor balcony of my own waterfront bungalow, overlooking the ocean for $20A. I was a little puzzled with the info that my drinking buddy from Darwin gave me, so I asked the reception who owned the Guest House, it was definitely not an Aussy, but she did inform me of an Aussy bar next door.
Ah ha! That night as I watched the ever increasing lights of the fishing boats gather on the horizon, loud music accosted my ears from next door at the Aussy Bar, it was INXS! Shit I haven’t heard them since that Michael fellow docked himself. “I have to go an investigate this,” I said to myself, there is life in Lombok after all. Bloody oath there was, I approached the entry to the bar with a little trepidation, but once I turned the corner I was confronted by a brightly lit bar, decorated in a way only an Aussy could do. Sitting around it were about 10 of the roughest and course bastards you would want to meet, all speaking a language I could understand.
The first greeting was one that’s universal down under, “how ya goin ya ol bastard”, I was in friendly territory for the first time in 6 weeks. The night just got noisier and noisier, everyone passing on insults after insults and consuming as much alcahol as my mates back home. In the group was the owner, an Aussy bloke in his late fifties, who has been married more times than you can count, and has had countless businesses in Asia, from Trucks in East Timor to bars in Thailand. His offsider, Mick, was a big Yank from New Gearsy, whose father was an Irish seaman and his mother was a Scot, he run away from the draft in 1969, joined a biker gang and eventually ended up in the South Seas. The rest of the motley crew consisted of construction workers from Perth and fishermen from Darwin, including my new found mate from Darwin, Beachy, who had just arrived that afternoon.
It was the first time since Thailand, 6 weeks previous, that I had had a big night, so what a bunch of Aussy piss heads to get mixed up with.
The booze was running freely and as the night progressed, someone mentioned that the local disco was raging, so off we went, we were the oldest there, but it didn’t matter, the local women just wanted to dance and play pool with us, against a backdrop of loud Indo rock and roll, dim lights and gyrating bodies. The place closed at 2.00am, and since my bungalow was next door to the bar, I called in for a night cap, to my surprise, so did most of the crew, just listing to louder and louder music and drinking more booze, except the owner had gathered about 6 young local girls, I didn’t ask, I just paid my bar bill and politely said good night, after all it was an 8.00am start for SUMBAWA, the same morning.
It was 6.30am, and feeling a bit seedy, I ate a quick breakfast, packed up Doris and headed for the ferry terminal that would take me to SUMBAWA. I arrived there just in time for the 10.00am ferry and got to Poto Tano, 2 hours later. I think I will return to LOMBOK, next time with my 8ft surfboard!
I had a full tank of juice, so following my map; I headed down the mighty Trans Sumbawa highway. The road meanders around the coast, hugging the extinct volcano’s and mountain peaks that make up this comparatively dry island. It’s almost 400k from west to east, were you end up at a little fishing village called Sape. This is where you catch the ferry to FLORES. I didn’t expect to do it in one shot, considering my previous experiences with Indo’s roads and traffic, but surprise, surprise, the western road was in good order and made good time, then through the centre of the island, were you ascend into the mountains through twisty roads and endless villages, with the road gradually deteriating as you descend through the mountains towards the east coast.
It was 3.00pm and I had 180k to go, “bugger it”, I thought, lets give it ago, I found myself gradually rising into the mountains, with some spectacular scenery, with the road getting ever increasing steeper and twistier, shades of the roads in North Thailand! It began to rain lightly, and with fading light I rode into Sape, and by 7.00pm in complete darkness I arrived at the ferry wharf, only to find out that the ferry to FLORES doesn’t leave till 4.00pm the next day and takes 8 hours! I found a Losmen next to the wharf, for $8A and rested, let’s see what tomorrow brings.
17/03/05 – Saint Patrick’s Day
I find myself writing this Diary update at 7.00am in an Indonesian Restaurant, having a breakfast of fried eggs, rice, orange juice and black tea. I am waiting for the ferry to the island of Flores, in a little fishing village on the Island of SUMBAWA, called Sape.
What a place to spend this holy of holier days! Miles away from anywhere, and I am the only white bloke within 500k’s. The guy that owns the Losmen, were I am staying, suggested that I wile away the time while waiting for the ferry on a deserted island. He arranged a boat to drop me off and later pick me up, so supplied with enough water, off I sailed in an old noisy timber boat. Promising to pick me up before 2.00pm, so here I am accompanied by a flock of goats and some very inquisitive monkeys, which are eyeing me off suspiciously from a distance, preferring the shade of the rocks and trees, I wonder if they will knock off my gear if I go for a swim!
It’s going to be a long day, the ferry doesn’t leave to 4.00pm then it’s an 8 hour voyage to Labuhanbajo on the west coast of FLORES. At 3.00pm I waited patiently at the ferry ticket office to purchase my ticket, no surprises, Doris is over 100cc, I have to pay double, then the surprise, the ferry is delayed, its having some repairs done.
A walk out to the wharf reveals the familiar shower of sparks and brilliant light from an oxy welder, they are patching up the front access ramp. Meanwhile all the pedestrian traffic embark, so presumably they get the best seats, the rest of us finally get aboard at 9.30pm, only 5 and a half hours late!
The ferry finally docked after a horrendous 8 hour voyage to Labuanbajo, on the west coast of FLORES, it was a night voyage, so I missed seeing the fabled Islands of Komodo, oh well next time.
With some sleep degradation and an empty stomach, I jumped on Doris and headed for the east coast, quite aware that my 30 day via was running out and it was still a long way to go to Dili in East Timor. I had to get to ENDE, a port on the South side of the island and where the ferry leaves for KUPANG in TIMOR, and its about 300k non stop.
Within about 10k of my journey, I was fully aware of my average traveling speed, the road was rapidly rising and twisting through magnificent rain forests and towering volcano’s, that’s all very well if you have the time, but I haven’t, bloody visa.
I was averaging 40k an hour, so I elected to stay the night in a mountain town called Bajawa, 15OO metres up in the cool air. Nice place to stop off, cheap hotel, except you get an early morning wake up call from that human Moslem rooster again, shit don’t those buggers sleep!
I made my way through the mountains the next morning, and arriving at ENDE, (an appropriate name for a town) I again try and locate the ferry wharf. I finally find the place, why do the Indo’s make all their roads in towns, one way! To confuse foreigners, that’s why. Anyway, after a number of conflicting stories about ferry times, different towns, you name it, these Indo’s will tell you anything, they are just bloody annoying sticky beaks, volunteering all types of bullshit, perhaps just to make them feel good, I don’t know. Anyway I found a shipping company and the guy, who spoke good English, informed me the ferry leaves on Monday at 10.00am. Shit a 3 day wait in downtown Ende!
It’s funny how you meet some characters on your travels, I was having diner at the “SAFARI HOTEL”, (a reasonable standard by Indo standards, at $8A a night, I wasn’t complaining,) when a immaculately clean 1150cc BMW GS adventurer turned up with a spotlessly clothed rider aboard, I immediately thought he must be a rich local, with the obvious omission of any luggage. The guy was talking to the hotel owner in Indo, he eventually approached me, while I was in the restaurant having diner, after spotting my bike.
It turns out he is a rich Indo from JAKARTA, who is on 14 day “ADVENTURE RIDE” from JAKARTA to FLORES, with 6 of his also rich mates, all on $20,000A bikes, now don’t get me wrong, anybody who does that ride and back in 14 days needs a medal, until he informs me, he has also a full backup team of 2 pickup trucks, one with a qualified mechanic and heaps of spares and also the forward vehicle, which contains all their luggage and runs in front of the group with flashing lights and police type sirens! After comparing me and a fully loaded DORIS, the guy looked at me in a very puzzled way, I think he and his mates wanted to impress me, I said goodbye and headed for the ferry to TIMOR. Rich Asians have a very peculiar idea on what riding motorcycles are all about.
As there is no vehicle ramp to access the ferry at ENDE, your bike needs to be manhandled over the gang plank and through a narrow opening in the side of the ship. You have to pay the wharfies an exorbitant amount on top of your ferry ticket for the privilege. Just as I was sorting out DORIS, and bolting on my panniers, (she wouldn’t fit through the hole fully loaded) 2 more trail bikes arrived, get carried through the ships side opening with relative ease, and end up beside me, and at once complaining to me about the cost of the wharfies, as I set the precedent, little did I know that I paid double the going price of 50,000R,
The 2 guys are French, and have lived in BALI for the past 12 years or so, they make a living traveling through Indonesia on their 125cc trail bikes, buying and selling artifacts to dealers in France. They have even been to BURMA, dealing in precious stones, and around 2 years ago they bumped into my old mate David Unkovich on a trip to Northern LAOS. Both their bikes had a lot of functional, but primitive homemade improvisions, designed to ride as lightly loaded as possible, it made DORIS look like a bloody pack mule. As they say each to their own. True adventures, they were off to the East TIMOR border in the search for some primitive tribal artifacts. Talk about a contrast with the group I met earlier. Their age, 40 and 54, beats a mortgage and an office job.
The voyage to KUPANG in TIMOR took 15 hours, the ferry arrived in the right time, but we left 3 hours late, at 3.30am we disembarked and I immediately headed for the Indonesian Border, as my 30 day visa was on its last day. DILI was 430k away, with no sleep on the ferry, (I lay beside my bike, on the steel vehicle deck and using the bike cover as a ground sheet) it was going to be hard long 9 hour ride, with about 3 hours in the black jungle night. I arrived at the INDONESIAN/EAST TIMOR border around 11.00am, a quick stop for immigration and Carnet stamping then I was almost ready for my final ride to DILI, when at the EAST TIMOR customs shack (and that’s all it is) a friendly armed soldier asks to inspect ALL your luggage, so another half hour goes by, while 2 armed guards go through every bit of clothing and equipment that I carried on DORIS. Always asking the same bloody questions that are universal in this part of the world, “what is this?” “How much?” “Where from?” Shit you get fed up with this crap.
It is the first time I have had my entire luggage searched in all the border crossings I have crossed in 12 months of riding, and ironically into one of the poorest, they also sting you for $30US entry visa, one of the most expensive in Asia.
EAST TIMOR is one of the poorest countries I have visited so far, yet everything is in US Dollars, courtesy of the good old UN and the dozens of NGO’s, that are attracted through necessity or otherwise to these “emerging countries”. Just look at CAMBODIA and the consequences of over charging and exorbitant costs after the UN had gone.
Luckily for me I had sent an email to SDV Logistics in East Timor, about shipping DORIS to DARWIN, I knew that a ship was to leave on the 24/03/05. They are the shipping agent for PERKINS SHIPPING and are very helpful. So DORIS is now in a container ready for a 36 hour ship cruise to DARWIN. I am sitting at DILI Airport waiting for my flight to DARWIN.
BEWARE, EAST TIMOR IS EXPENSIVE!
Cost of shipping motorcycle from DILI to DARWIN: $260US, in comparison, from DARWIN to SINGAPORE: $180A.
Cost of a plane ticket, one way from DILI to DARWIN: $313US, in comparison, SYDNEY to BRISBANE: $120A
Cost of one shitty hotel room, with a clunky AC and no ventilation: $15US
Cost of a can of coke: $1.50US.
Fact: It has cost me more to get me and my motorcycle from DILI to DARWIN than from CHIANG MAI to DILI, including fuel, accommodation, ferry tickets and food!
Total kilometers covered from leaving EAST JAVA to DILI (not including ferry crossings, 5 in total, with an accumulated time of 30 hours.): 1619 km’s at a moving average of 51km/hr. with a top speed of 106k/h.
Posted by Tom Forde at March 28, 2005 12:19 AM GMT
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