February 23, 2007 GMT
Indonesia - Sumatra
The rumor was that the custom in Belawan would suck every Ringgit out of our pockets. Though the paperwork was swift, and we got receipts for the 200.000 that each of us had to pay. It was all done in 45 minutes. The trick is to smile so immensely that they do not want to ruin your jolly mood by suggesting a bribe. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it works. Then it was off to the jungle.
Good news: The Indonesians have forgiven us the cartoons
We needed some retreat from the big city hullabaloo and found it in the rainforest near Bukit Lawang. Renata and Tobias wanted to stay for longer in the area while I – as I usually do – opted for a slower pace in the last half of the visa duration. So I left at dawn to check out the Trans Sumatran Highway. It doesn’t really remind much of a highway. It’s more like a second-class side road with a serious road sign problem. No wonder I got confused and did a wrong turn in a crossing. I still do not know where I was, but it was nice there.
In the rainforest we came across this exhibitionist orangutan mother. Drop me an email if you want her phone number.
I hoped to make it from Lake Toba to Bukittinggi in one day, but in the far-flung village of Rau I had to seek shelter from a massive rainstorm. It got dark. The rain would not stop, and I was stuck. However under the same straw roof was a cheerful Arabic language teacher named Idrus. The rain lasted long enough for us to have some laughs, and he invited me to stay in his humble home to dry my clothes, have a wash, have a good night rest, etc… The mud-spattered motorcycle was parked in their living room. He even drove me to a nearby eating place and refused to let me pay or share the bill. Islamic hospitality to a friend from Harstad, he said. What a nice guy!
Idrus and his family: What would happen if he or someone like him got stuck in bad weather somewhere in Norway?
The next day I crossed the Equator. From thereon the sun was always behind me. Bukittinggi was nothing to write home about, and I kept on moving south along the west coast. The next two days was as strenuous as the two before due to the astronomic number of hairpin corners and the trillion gear shifts (mostly between second and third). It was impossible to keep a steady pace. I didn’t expect any improvements as the map displayed an even thinner line south of Bengkulu. But indeed it was the best part of Sumatra – less traffic, much faster roads, more variation of scenery, inviting villages, lush forests and beautiful beaches. It all was like a great reward for the roads endured further north. The only annoyance was a wasp that got stuck up my right nostril. I had to use my Leatherman to remove it.
Jungle roads: Sometimes I take a break to enjoy watching cars stuck in the mud
Here is a sunshine story: In Ipuh - a village rarely visited by anybody - I stopped for breakfast at a food stall outside the local school. Four teachers came out to get me, and I had to be English teacher for a day. The kids charmed the hell out of me, and by the time I left everybody could sing “Får æ være sola di” by Randi Hansen.
The kids in Ipuh
Posted by Erik Saue at 08:56 AM
February 19, 2007 GMT
The Hindu festival at the Batu Caves was slightly different party from those at home. Just imagine yourself on a vorspiel pushing a barbecue fork through your face, then walk all night carrying a jar of goat milk. Add a few fishhooks, scent sticks, fruits and flowers, blood and music and you’ll get the picture. The really interesting part is that the Hindu’s seemed to enjoy it.
After the crowds I was looking forward to some tranquillity at Cameron Highlands. Supposedly the landscape is stunning, but fog blocked the view, and I spent the night doing homework. Ah yes, I’m hereby a student. My first day at BI Nettstudier started a few weeks ago, so to improve my current degree. Very exciting indeed (check it out: www.bi.no). If all goes well I’ll do a couple of exams in Sydney. A few tips: When you’re motorcycling around the world while studying at BI Nettstudier you need lots of energy. The many food stalls serving fresh fruit juices are an excellent source. Add a cold shower in the morning and two tablets of Omega 3, and your ready to process international marketing management inside your helmet for miles on end.
Reading Harald Biong and Erik B. Nes would not be the same without this.
Malaysia is pleasant. I can recommend it to anybody. Yet my five weeks there were without those singular episodes – good or bad – that will stick with you forever. People were friendly, everything went smooth. It was all too straightforward to brag about to the grandchildren in year 2047.
If you're trying to read the book by Harald Biong/Erik B. Nes and see this guy, you’d better flee to another guesthouse. He will chat a hole in your head.
The ride ended in Penang, and I hooked up with motorcycle travellers Renata and Tobias from Germany. We met in Lahore a year ago, but the meeting was brief, and it was great to revive our acquaintance. All three were facing the question how to transport our bikes across the Malacca Strait. There are no ferries from Penang, so improvisation was needed. The solution became an iffy wooden boat shipping onions to Belawan in Sumatra.
The next question is how Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, will welcome a cartoonist from Norway
Posted by Erik Saue at 11:24 AM
February 08, 2007 GMT
If you import a vehicle into Malaysia you only need to call Clasquin and ask for Yep. Yep, that’s right. Give her the papers she want, and then do something else for the two weeks it takes to process the import permit. During the wait you will miss the long, hard rides from dusk till dawn. But don’t worry; in Kuala Lumpur there are ways to compensate.
C’mon, ride that skunk, yes, yes…
I had to sleep too, and booked a room at Equator Hostel. They target overlanders at their most vulnerable – grimy, tired, and desperate to watch DVD movies - and I was sucked into a whirlpool of easy living. I tell you, I became a heavy user of their facilities. Its true, I showered every day. It was crazy!!! But know this: If you ever drive through Kuala Lumpur you’d be an idiot if you didn’t stay there. They have neat and clean facilities in a super-central location, top service for overlanders, and breakfast and lots of smiles included. They know where to get new parts and skillful repair for your bike, and across the street is an indoor motorcycle parking lot guarded 24/7. You’ll find your KL palace here: www.equatorhostel.com . Enjoy!
Hady and Phillip run the Equator. Watch out, they might make you wanna stay forever.
In younger years the Kuala Lumpur name was synonymous with a primordial place far away, but nowadays they have the superurban Petronas Twin Towers and a futuristic monorail. While you wait for the next train you are entertained by Beethoven, and in grocery stores you hear jazz, making banana shopping pleasant. Indeed, you hear calming music everywhere. However to move around in this western oriented capital can still be a nerve blasting experience. The locals walk extremely slowly, and on narrow pavements your inner tempo is seriously challenged. The same happens when you want to get off a train, and can’t because those waiting on the platform decides to board the train first, thus blocking your exit. Not to mention the sluggish and narrow escalators where the person I front of you just stand there. It it wasn’t Beethoven but Dimmur Borgir on the speakers… Still you have to love everybody. Give any person a smile, and you get a big smile back. In Oslo they would consider you a lunatic.
Arrival at Port Klang: If your original bike breaks down en route, do not despair; get a new one shipped from home.
In Port Klang I had a wonderful goodbye lunch with Yep and her assistants, and soon I hooked up with some friends I hadn’t seen since Pakistan. More to come…
Posted by Erik Saue at 09:52 AM