Australia…Vomit

We started cycling in Australia. So different from my wonderful Indonesia. On the positive side.

..1.people speak English although sometimes with the accents and slang you are no better off knowing what they are saying than if we were Indonesia.

2. Beer is plentiful and cold. I hear wine is good and plentiful.

3. There is normal food.not just rice and chicken. Our camp chefs are ver good too.

4. You can use the tap to drink water and brush your teeth.

5. It is clean as people use the plentiful garbage cans.

But there are definitely downsides.

1. It is wicked expensive. You go from paying 70 cents for a drink and 3 dollars for a very large beer to paying 4 dollars for a cola and 6 or 7 dollars for a bottle of beer.

2. The landscape is incredibly boring compared to indonesia. Kilometer after kilometer with a straight road of the same landscape.

There are rare stops for cold drinks if any. We can have 100 km plus with no place to stop. Only our lunch stop to refuel and rehydrate.

Heat and headwinds. We get to the lunch stop around 9 because it is “coolish” and fairly still. Then the headwind/side wind becomes gale force and the temp goes up to 105 degrees.

When the sun goes down and you settle into your tent..it is still wicked hot and you sweat and can’t sleep. It does cool off at around midnight.

Quick story of our second day. 135km or 80 miles. The Stuart Highway extends down the center of Australia. It is used for transport most notably for the “road trains”. A road train is a cab with four semi truck beds attached. Sometimes it is four petrol oil tanks together. This day thankfully Andreas, our tour leader found a really nice route off the highway. Beautiful in the early morning and with a little more variety. The route made it over 70km before lunch and no stops. Felt great. After lunch the wind was ferocious and it was over 100 degrees. All was good. Felt really strong. Luckily thete was an unexpected gas station 30km from the finish. Well I thought I was fine but when I got off the bike everything got real bright. Yes I am familiar with this feeling from my marathon days..I was overheated about to faint. Managed to get inside…bought a cold drink and some chips because I was craving the salt. I was standing at the bar trying to gather myself and the next thing I know I was a million miles away in my head kind of dreaming. After about 2 minutes (that is how long the other riders sitting at the table estimated) I “woke up” and realized where I was. I thougjt I was already in camp but no I still had some 18 miles to go. By tje last 6 miles I was down to a crawl and cramping. It was Dan’s birthday and desperately parched we pulled directly into the nice campground tavern. I had a beer poured but my stomach was upset from heat distress that I barely was able to sip. Thete was another rider; Jody who was celebrating her 40th so beer and wine was flowing. I felt sick to my stomach so told Dan I was going to camp. I made it around the corner to the little country store when I had to sit down or else pass out. This nice australian family with 3 kids were also sitting outside and began asking me about our ride. As I was trying to smile and answer all of a sudden I ran to the closest available bushes and puked everywhere. Felt much better and fortunstely our medic, Chelsea was walking by and got me some electrolytes and more chips. After a few minutes I felt fine and went and set up my tent. Dan and I have discussed various strategies to make it on a longer day with these headwinds. Mainly it means going slower in the morning and drinking more in the morning even thoigh your inclination is to faster and put the km behind you when it is cooler. Also to stop at about 40km and get off the bike grab a snack and drink even if we still feel fresh because the morning is always easy. Will keep you posted on how things go. We have some long stretches in the next 5 days and the weather pattern is stuck on headwinds.

Indonesia Update- Sad to see it ending so soon

It has been some time since I have written on my blog…sitting in a nice air conditioned hotel on the tip of the island of Flores with a few hours to kill so thought I would bang out an update…especially for those not on Facebook because I do occasionally post some pictures and update there. Flores is Portuguese for flowers as we begin to head east towards East Timor we will leave the land of 4:00am wake up prayers. It is small in population and best known for the komodo dragons and the related good diving on nearby islands. There are also some big volcanos of which of course we will find ourselves climbing tomorrow. It will be another long hard day in the saddle with over 2,500 meters of climbing or 7,500 feet give or take over the 125 kilometer ride. Now of course this is why I have not updated my blog…who really wants to hear about our daily challenges on the bike. Everyday is a challenge in its own way…in about 7 riding days we will have covered Indonesia and I really could not have imagined loving almost every minute as much as I have. Really really really loved it. The hard riding has made it even more enjoyable as the daily challenges make the day go by so fast and the end of day so rewarding. To be honest, some days Dan and I even congratulate ourselves for making it through another tough one. The other day we had a 192km or 120 mile day. Dan was so focused and rode so strong we were surprised that a ride that took so much mental preparation ended as easily and quickly as it did. We definitely have gotten stronger over the 2 months but it is always a fine balance to know yourself to parcel out your energy and keep feeding yourself whatever works to not get too weak. I had another bout for about a week of gastro problems but not near as bad as the first round. Just seemed to work itself out. I eat less and less of our prepared foods. If we get eggs for breakfast, I eat them, usually have candy for lunch and then for dinner if they have plain or fried chicken or fish with no sauce that is not hot…well I eat that too. Don’t eat bread and stay mostly away from rice and noodles. The prepared dishes like vegetables, some rice, many meat dishes etc just have to have a little bit of hotness or spice and I can’t eat it. Mostly I live off Bintang (the beer) vitamin water, hard candy, and crackers. So far it has gotten me through and I have lost a little weight but must be eating plenty of calories with these vices to have not faded away.
I was happy to leave Bali and Lombok (the tourist areas), yes it is nice to get Coke Zero and have a salad (oh by the way…I do love the soups here and usually have several bowls) but I don’t like being around tourists and then treated more like a westerner with money. I guess I love being special.
While I just can’t emphasize enough how much I love the Indonesian people, they can be remarkably inefficient and just head scratchingly strange. Let me relate the ferry story. The ferry was scheduled to leave at 9:00. We had stayed at this marginal hotel 100 yards from the ferry, and headed alltogether to get on about 8:00am. The ferry loading area was already hopping and they were beginning to load the trucks/vehicles. So we enter and go to the first level. It is already stuffed wall to wall with people laying on these mats, no windows, no air circulating, just god awful. So up to the next level…Here there are some chairs, maybe a little more light but also incredibly hot and packed with people. So we all make our way to this room with air conditioning and recliner chairs and separate bathrooms. This was the VIP room. We were joined by one indonesian family of about a dozen and about a dozen more. The room was fairly large so it was only filled to bout 80% capacity. We never paid extra or anything. A little before nine I headed to the upper deck because our room was getting stuffy and I figured we would be pulling out soon. Instead I was treated to a two hour side show of overloaded trucks trying to fit in the vehicle compartment, every possible bag of produce/salt/fruit/garlic/whoknows stuffed in every crevice of this vehicle deck…even chickens running loose. Luckily we were at the front with our bikes so at the other end we did not stick around to see how they caught them to bring them out. Oh but I digress. So I am sitting up on the deck looking down at this truck coming on the ferry. There are about 5 young men standing on the side rails urging them on slowly and then all of a sudden they yell stop! Well of course the truck can’t fit because they have loaded all this extra crap on the top of the official load so there are about 3 inches too much. The first truck it looked like a whole layer of mattresses. So untie all the knots, pull off the tarp and try to rearrange by shifting some over the cab and some almost falling off the back. Another try and then stop…on to plan B. Finally after 3 attempts they unloaded some. Then another truck came on, same thing but this time only 2 tries. These five young men apparently are not part of the errant truck but get paid by the truck driver for their ability to get it all to go…eventually. They were like strong gymnasts bouncing all over the place. They kept loading and loading. When we went back down at the end of the ferry ride, everything was packed so tight you had to literally climb over the motorbikes as you could not even fit between anything. One of our staff person went under a truck and then could only get in our van through a window. Needless to say it was along long ferry ride as we were there an hour early, it was delayed 2 hours leaving as they loaded it up, and it was a 6 hour ferry ride. Long long day. Put me on a bike in the heat for 120 miles anyday over a ferry ride.
I think people are mixed about their feelings of the Indonesian people. I am one of the riders that have loved everything about the Indonesian people. I mean I just love them. I can’t explain. It has helped tremendously that I can speak to many of them in my limited Indonesian, which has improved a lot as I have some very basic things now I can communicate. Everyone has been so welcoming and the young men are so sweet. The little kids just get so excited as we pass by and the villagers all say hi and smile if you engage them with a hello and a smile. In that poor village right outside the ferry I went for about a 2km stroll and they are so poor it is shocking but they all smile and wave and say hello. You see the kids entertaining themselves with sticks and strings and bags. I was watching these kids play soccer on this dirt field with something like old construction of wood for goalposts. One kid came up to join the game and took one of the flip flops from the goalie so he could kick the ball.
The other thing I have to say is that I am so glad I have been exposed to moderate Muslims. Their religion is the basis of the community and they support the poor people in many ways. One day as we rode we saw a bunch of people going to the mosques on a Sunday which is weird because Friday is the day when they go to the main weekly serviced. They were all dressed up and many shops and markets were closed. We also saw tons of trucks packed to the brim with obviously poorer villagers from farmlands and more remote areas. I was able to find out from a young man that spoke good English that this was a special week in their faith culminating in that Sunday where the mosques kill the meat in their special way and give it away to the poor people. Several times I spoke with young men who talked about their religion and the importance of helping those less fortunate. I always felt welcomed even in my spandex, even by the men gathering around the mosque that seemed more religious and serious. And I do love the prayers when they are done well…not too loud, with a good speaker system, and when they are soulful and not harsh. Yes even at 4:00am.
Well I could write on. Oh one other thing. Looks like the odds might be moving to better than 50/50 that Dan and I will join Tour d’Afrique through another epic next year…this time through South America. Since I speak spanish it will be great to become fluent. It starts in Columbia July 11 and ends 12,000 km later at the southern tip of Chile. Pantagonia, the Andes, Machu Pichu. But alot of miles before then still have to get through.

Some Observations of the Indonesian People

A little bit about the non-city people of Indonesia some of it particularly this spectacular farming area of West Java.

I have never seen a more happier, helpful cultures of people. We have been here for over a month and I have yet to hear a single raised voice, a child over 6 months crying, road anger, signs of displeasure.

Just an example…our van which provides some snacks and fruit, water etc for us about midway through our ride. To do this it includes settting up tables, benches, an awning etc and having 15 cyclists with bikes everywhere needing bathrooms. They just knock on a door that seems to be right and except for once the people just say ok. Often they come out with food or fruit as well. Amazing!

Once I fell on a rough rode and immediately the motorbike stopped to help me up and see how I was. On that same day, these workmen hauling big logs on their back saw my wound and were quite concerned and kind.

It is really part of the culture. We pass 20 kids walking after being let out from school, the next thing you know some big yellow truck has picked them all up and they are hanging from the roof out the sides etc all laughing.

We have seen at least several hundred thousand if not a million school kids and that is not really an exagerration and they always are laughing and enjoying each other, boys and girls…no fights, no bullying, and that is with no adult around supervising. The older kids can be really friendly or ignore us acting cool but mostly really friendly.

You see a truck breakdown on the side of the road, pretty soon others have stopped to help. You will often see someone on a motorbike just stop to offer someone walking a ride. You can tell they don’t even know them.

There are tons of kids! You usually see those under 3 years carried against the mom, grandmother and/or father in this kind of sling against their bodies. You also often see men with kids independently hanging on to the front of a motorcycle as young as probably 9 months. It is amazing to see these tiny tiny kids just looking over the handlebars. Sometimes there is one tiny one on the front and then two others ages 4 or 5 on the back. All happy as can be. You see the kids when they are not in school entertaining themselves with ropes, rocks etc. not much toys. That being said, at least Indonesian boys and many girls…I would guess ages 14+ have motorbikes or scooters. You can see kids as young as 7 or 8 on them. It is the primary transport to get to school for many kids, but others and of cours the younger ones walk or are taken by family members.

When I talk motorbikes, i am not talking about big old Harley hogs or equivalent. Most are honda 125cc,. Thinking about selling one of our cars and getting one to putt putt around Falmouth. Traffic is so fluid here, no one fights for a spot on the road, it is a complete fluid give and take, kind of amoeba like. People slow down, move over, speed around, essentially look out and move like a big amoeba. They drive like their cultural, extremely cooperative, non confrontational, everyone wins, everyone at different speeds but respected as a member of the road. It makes cycling here fun even in the most chaotic city streets…not in a place like Jakarta of course but most others. Another interesting traffic note is there can be self appointed citizens at busy intersections or places where there is road construction to manage traffic. Occasionally the drivers will give them a tip for doing it.

People in the countryside are thin and dark but food is so plentiful you can tell people eat well. There are multitudes of fruit, many many chickens and of course rice and more rice. On very rare occasions, maybe a dozen times we have seen outcasts of society for whatever reason; naked or nearly so, filthy with a big mop of hair picking through garbage. It is such a rare sight.

I am getting a little long winded and could go on and on, so just a couple more observations for now. You rarely see any mechanized tools or machinery. Almost everything is manual labor. For example, we saw acres and acres of freshly tilled soil and the way it was done was a man carefully using a sledgehammer. We see many many stake trucks or dirt moving trucks….about the size of a big dump truck but with just the bed and sides to haul stuff. Sometimes they cab be overloaded with big rocks, fruit, dirt, logs, lumber you name it. What you realize as you ride along and see men loading them that both the loading and unloading of some seriously heavy stuff is done with manual labor. We have seen 4 or 5 guys lifting logs 10 feet long and about 18 inches in diameter up on these trucks manually.

Other observations I have seen men with 4 or 5 40 lb. bags of rce etc all loaded on their motorbike…then the wife and baby get on the back. You see motors piled high with goods…one day saw a man balancing about 5 big dresser furniture spiked high. I have seen long bamboo sticks dragging off the back. It is endless and amazing. You see old men balancing 2 huge baskets filled with pounds of bananas, coconuts, wood on their back. So heavy they can barely walk.

They do all the base road work, walls and drainage by manual labor. You see big rocks and gravel etc with constant manual movement. Often you see men and women breaking big rocks into small stones and manually sorting them.

You see men go into the forest to cut bamboo and then you see them on the road carrying a 20 foot bamboo pole.

I just list a few but the sightings are endless.

Often, particularly in some areas you see huge areas with some type of ground cloth, drying out something, rice, coffee, chiles, who knows. An infinite amount of diverse fruit, seeds, nuts, grains, etc.

Just a small glimmer of why I love this trip and why I love love love the Indonesian people.

The Cycling since the last post

It has been quite a while since I updated my blog post. We are now in Yogyakarta on a rest day, in fact we have two rest days here and well deserved and oh so needed. Tomorrow we are taking an excursion to the Prambanan temple; a unesco world heritage. Yesterday we arrived at a very nice hotel in Yogyakarta but it is so strange to see so many westerners walking around. I must say most are whiter and chubbier than us sun soaked, dehydrated, lean epic cyclists. Yesterday we sent our passports off to get an extension on our visa and this morning we dropped our bikes off at the local shop to change our chains and some cables and just a general cleaning. We certainly feel naked without our passports and bikes.

I was so exhausted on our last rest day and was not in a particularly positive frame of mind. Our ride into Cipanas was hellacious and then I was pretty upset with myself for being weak minded. Let me explain. We started the day after about a 6 mile ride to the turnoff the main road to a 9 mile stretch of what was essentially a river bed of rocks…big rocks, little rocks, craters. I made the turn and after about 300 yards I told Dan, I don’t think I can do this. To compound the problem with the road for the first part was that it was uphill. You get no traction. I ended up falling 4x and Dan 2x…you are going really slow so they are mostly tip overs which means scrapes and bruises but always at risk of worse. The bad part is that once you fall you lose confidence and to ride off pavement you need a lot of confidence because hesitation and looking down instead of ahead is a guaranteed prescription for falling. Of the people who rode this section; most have either mountain bikes or are really good riders with great bike handling skills with mountain or cyclocross experience. So we walked and then in certain section when the baby heads (the big rocks) became more like the size of fists we would ride. Downhill Is much easier on the rough stuff too. Let me say that amongst all this trauma we are cycling through some of the most spectacular hillsides of tea plantations which are rows and rows of tiered tea “bushes” with tiny little rows of paths between them. As you ride along kilometer after kilometer you see little pockets of women in colorful clothes and conical bamboo hats picking. The work seems so hard but they all seem to enjoy each other and the work. I’ll talk about what I love about the Indonesian people a little later. On to this ride…so we finally got out of this section on to a paved road…up a little hill and the next thing you know we are on broken road. While the early morning riverbed surface is about a 8 or 9 on a scale of 1-10, the only thing lacking was steepness, this “road” was about a 6. I can ride it but very very slow as you have to pick your way through the best lines and your hands, bike, feet, and butt take a beating from the continuos jarring. We finally got to our lunch stop (35 miles) at 1:30 pm or 7 hours to walk/ride. We were the last ones there of those that rode. The afternoon route included about 6-8 kilometers of uphill and downhill that was so steep that even our best cyclists had to walk through a good portion of, which meant we would have walked through it all. We decided to take the van (the very long way around since the van could not go through this trail. A moment of weakness after a tough morning. I so regretted not giving it a go so I was pretty depressed at the last rest day.

Onward to the four riding days from that rest day in Cipanas to Yogyakarta. Some of the most beautiful and spectacular scenery imaginable as wee as some of the easiest and hardest paved or semi paved road riding we have done. Every moment traveling through the countryside we see the most amazing things. I’ll try and describe a little later but it is also so beautiful. In one day you go from the farming of the rice fields in the lowlands, through rain forests, little villages in the mountains, through tea plantations on the hillsides, very very small log cutting operations, base road work almost all done by hand. Our riding crew was down to about 7 riders by the last day as some suffering from minor health issues (exhaustion, or lingering colds, repeated gastro issues, cuts) and 2 that flew home because of a death in the family, hired a van to go to our rest day a few days early to get a few extra days r & r. That means Dan and I are usually the lat ones in. We did one really tough ride which was about 120 kilometers total. The morning was along the rice fields for about 40k and we made good time, then we began climbing … Some of it very steep but those sections were not that long by very steep I mean over 12% so we have to walk. Dan has become a really good climber, it helps to lose 15-20 lbs and we generally can make anything up to about 12% unless they are under about 200 feet then we can power up and over. Unfortunately over does not mean downhill, it usually means a smaller grade of incline. Anyway on this epic day we ended at this spectacular hotel at the base of a volcano, unfortunately if you are on a bike it was roughly. 2,400 ft climb over 12 kilometers. They don’t make roads here by cutting into the mountain with gentle switchbacks. You follow the contours of the mountain ridges. It was tough but we made it. So exhausting yet so satisfying. There is a direct correlation on how good the beer is and how tough the ride was.

Just Keeps Getting Tougher

I can’t really remember what I posted last. I do know it has been seven very long days since our last rest day. Our rest day is in a very big nice resort in Caritas in Java! Yes on to another island. Goodbye my beautiful rural Sumatra and hello to the very populated, more “western economically viable Java. The resort is about a 2 hour boat ride to the famous Krakatoa volcano. A few of our group is going but it sounds like hell to me to use up a rest day on a boat and seeing some rocks. It is only 6am and the resort is swarming with about 300 people…mostly kids. Maybe it is a school trip and they will be gone soon.

Well the highlight or low light of the past week was my fall on a very short rough patch of road going downhill which resulted in Dan and I losing our EFI (every fucking inch) status. Not that it was a goal of ours but still fun to try as long as possible. Essentially I picked a line to go down this rough patch…looked up and saw a truck in front of me…over corrected and down I went. I am fairly clumsy on a bike and don’t have great handling skills. You need a certain amount of confidence, just short of bravado to be good on rough roads. The faster you go, the less you think the better. So down I went. Dan knew right away I needed stitches. Said he did not know if it was bone he saw but certainly parts of the anatomy he was not used to seeing close up. He did his best to clean it and bandage it. While I wanted to keep riding, another rider Joacchim, and Dan convinced me not to. Joachim called our nurse and then a nice girl from a house/store just a few hundred yards away insisted I come in and wait in the shade which we did. The hospitality of the Sumatra Indonesians is over the top. The nurse and one of our van drivers came and luckily saw a clinic/hospital just around the corner. It was very barren…not good lighting … In fact they held a flashlight to see the stitching, but the doctor and two assistants were good and everything very sterile. We did the obligatory endless photo ops and was out of there in about an hour. Total cost…less than $10.00 including pain and antibiotic drugs. Now it was much later in the afternoon and we still had about 40 miles left on some of the most heavily truck traffic roads we had been on. Every bump hurt. You get pretty used to cars and trucks coming right at you as they pass a slower vehicle on the other side … Going the other way. There is usually room for one truck, an SUV and a bicycle with not an inch to spare. Twice though a truck tried to pass a truck without timing it right and you have to dive off the road. Anyway after a very long day we arrived about 5:00 leaving us about 40 minutes before rider meeting and dinner.

The day before and the prior day we had some pretty spectacular rides through national parks and rain forests. Wicked hard…several times too steep/long and thus off the bike you go to walk that little section, but the cacophony of sound of animals, bugs, etc. was deafening. Near the end you could here the loud whoop from baboons. Sounded like they were laughing at us. I would not doubt it if they were. On the downhill on one of these big climbs it was so steep that a truck had stalled which caused another big truck to flip over. Luckily we arrived shortly after the wreck. We had to stop several times because I don’t have disc brakes and you brake so hard your metal rims heat up so much that it can cause your tube to pop if you don’t let them cool.

Yesterday we had a hellacious 30k ride to the ferry. At first it was the usual up and down with the usual truck traffic. Then at various points the 2 lane highway shut down to one lane. We pretty much follow the motorcycles as they are just faster bikes. It was crazy enough but when we got to the downhill towards the ferry it was the same time another ferry had just docked and all the trucks and cars were passing the vehicle in front depending on how loaded down it was. Like dogs in a pack…each one trying to get to the front if it can for faster riding on the upcoming steep sections. The ferry was pleasant enough except the two hour ride turned into 3+ hours as it circled offshore waiting for the slip to free up. Then just like that it was hello Java. About 8 of us road together from the ferry helping each other with the directions and watching for our flagging. After about 20k we had a lunch stop. After lunch we had 2 big climbs and finally we arrived, close to dark at 5:30. My most difficult ride because every little bump or rough spot was like a knife slicing my arm where my stitches are. Thankfully the roads were pretty good for the most part but the little bits of unsaved road no matter how small was excruciating.

Today it is just rest, clean bikes which are shockingly filthy and need some TLC. Everything is pretty laid back here. There is no internet although they claim there is so who knows when the next post will be. Unfortunately, the group of 300 kids are outside with some guy screaming into a poor speaker system. We are staying in little cabanas. (8 in 4 rooms with shared common area). Luckily ours was the furthest away…although still very close to an all night bonfire, shouting, bongos party. It was directly outside several of our riders’ rooms. I can sleep through just about anything but Dan was up. At least he was reading an account of the TDA tour from Cairo to cape town. Makes ours look like a walk in the park.

Five days until the next stop…hopefully some internet to at least send this off.

Well a few days from our rest day. The morning after our rest day Dan was not feeling well at all, but tried his hardest to ride. He barely had enough energy to make the hills then coasted as long as he could. It was slow going and we finally made it to lunch. He tried to have a coke and while that was the best place to tell the leaders he needed a ride in. He again tried. At 80km he could barely get enough energy to lift a leg let alone peddle so he called the leaders and the van was going to come by after lunch. He sent me on my way. first time I have ever cycled alone on these tours. I was pretty adrenaline pumped and made the last 30k before Dan. Then I found out they had to stop 2x to let him out to puke. This was another “basic” hotel. It had air-conditioning but we shared a bathroom, which is not all that pleasant when you are puking and shitting. Today Dan took the van directly to the hotel. He has started taking Cipro the antibiotic….you feel so helpless. We had 2 falls today. One guy had just joined us from cape town and we think broke his collarbone. Another fell and has bruised ribs. Rough roads and some really steep sections. Luckily I followed a real good woman rider with a mountain bike and she picked great lines and we powered through to lunch on some steep and rocky stretches. I tipped over once because my back wheel had no traction. After lunch the climb got tougher or I was tired. I walked up short steep sections about 6 times. You really have to make that decision at the bottom because it is too hard to clip out of your pedals from a standstill. Arrived to see dan just about ready to order some food. A good sign. But now he is resting and while the food has stayed so far, he has some stomach cramps.

The scenery has been beautiful up and down the coast…but with the riding so hard we did not even stop at the big viewpoint. Will catch up in a few days.

One last thing. Been suffering from a sort of heat rash. Scratch and itch all night. Suggestions welcomed.

Another week in Sumatra

Sitting in a very nice hotel room on a well deserved rest day on  the last day of August. Was super exhausted coming in to town as we have had some very hard days riding…no surprise there.  The challenges have been different this stretch. We ride along the coast of the Indian Ocean but if you are imagining flat stretches with beautiful white sand braces…think again. We go up and down ridges along the coast some very very steep so you come flying down one side but instead of being able to use your momentum up the other side often they steepen up so fast you are shifting to your smallest gear and still straining. It also has gotten very very hot and humid. Along these little towns there are what we call “coke stops”. You really want to stop all the time but we try and set some target distance to begin finding a good one. As an example on a 140 km day…roughly 80 miles, we try and get 50km  or  30 miles Under our belt to start cause it is cooler.  We always look for a icebox and a place to sit in the shade. Earlier in the trip I may get some water…now it is like my thirst and need for energy is insatiable so it is usually at least a coke and now if they have them I am totally addicted to Nescafé canned lattes in little cans. Ohhhhh the pleasures of life on the road.

Making things a little more challenging is that I have had travelers diarrhea  (TD) the last few days so  trying to stay fueled has been more difficult. This hotel has a normal toilet but when you have those porcelain holes in the ground you are supposed to squat over plus TD and tired legs that don’t let you squat … Well it is a challenge. But everyday no matter what we are eating with, dan turns to me and asks me if there is anything I would rather be doing. Nothing ever!

i posted pictures of the wedding I got invited to so  I won’t repeat here. Everyday is filled with a million hello misters, waves from little kids, good mornings  even if it is 3:00pm. Here scooters and mini bikes of all shapes and sizes. It is the primary mode of transportation for kids anywhere from 8 years of age on up with several kids hanging on. Girls ride too and gat a special kick out of a smile and wave. It can sometimes be exhausting responding to each wave and hello as if they were special.

A couple of interesting notes on Indonesia.  Earlier this week there was a big gas crisis. The major supplier cut the amount of available subsidized gas and diesel by 10% and  15 % respectively. The price is double for un subsidized vs. subsidized.  Well this started rumors of scarcity so all over the country. It did not last long but one day it meant one of the most difficult riding conditions ever.  At the petroleum station the big trucks would line up for miles making the regular 2 lanes negotiate only one lane. Scooters kind of move in and out on the little dirt surface off the road. I should say dirt and rocks. It is fine to squeeze by until it is blocked off and you have to get your bike back over the lip of the road….very easy to fall. Plus you have the motorcycles moving all around you. One day we road like this for about 5 miles. It was like being in a traffic jam on the way to the cape on holiday weekends.

Another interesting thing we have noticed as we ride along the coast is the huge economic engine farming palm oil from the plantations and forest.  Everyone seems to  gather the big nut which is the size of a basketball…which is then filled with little nuts. You see the small little guys with big baskets on either side carrying about a 12 foot pole with a machete or scythe attached. Then you see these dump truck sized trucks filled to the gills with these pal m nuts. Some are so heavy that they don’t have power to go up the steep hills any faster than we can. This can. Cause quite a traffic backup on the windy roads. One day we had such difficulty passing and then being passed by the same truck over and over we finally pulled over and waited until it was well up the road.

Sorry for such a boring post. For us everyday we see new exciting different things but so hard to describe.

It is nice to see so many people following my travels and I appreciate the comments. Keeps me motivated to keep writing. In one more week we will be in java and I am sure it will be totally different.

 

 

OMG what experiences

I am sitting in an internet cage using an actual computer on our rest day in Bukittingi. Bukittingi is a more affluent city it appears. We are staying in a very nice hotel. So difficult to not write a book covering the last few days. I’ll split it into a few sections…the biking-the accommodations and food-the experiences which are unimaginable.

First the food and accommodations. I have added fish heads to my list of food eaten. Yep the eye is right there. The other funny thing is that having been a person that has not touched a real coke or similar sugar drink…at our rest stops I suck them down. You really need a way to replenish all the energy you use and man are they good and serve that purpose. I try and eat omelets when I can but when we eat as a group it is whatever is served. A little about accommodations. Tour d’Afrique (TDA) is exceptional at finding good accomodations…when available! Sometimes you are in towns where…well it is pretty rough and basic. In Kota Nopan we had a room with 2 saggy beds, bottom sheets, while clean certainly well used. No furniture, no towels, no toilet paper, and no shower or running water. You get a 3 foot by 2 foot basin filled with water and a bucket. To top it off  there are no windows but slightly loovered windows and doors which we locked at night so not much air circulating. All night someone played the equivalent of Bollywood movies until the prayers started about 4:45. Despite it all we get some sleep. For those on Southern Tier with us this spring, makes the Oberlin Inn seem like the Waldorf  Astoria.

Biking. Cycling is really really hard here. Yesterday Dan and I finished an epic ride of 115 miles with over 6000 feet of climbing, sometimes 15% + and a torrential downpour for about 30 minutes that we waited out. . We left at 6:30am and made it in before 5:30 an hour before cutoff or darkness. Only four other riders did the whole thing and they are tremendously better cyclists than us. But if you think we are tough…one of our cyclists (very fast and great athlete) had fallen the day before and had a deep 3 stitch cut to bone and bruised ribs. He could barely get on and off the bike and it was painful watching him, but the finished and well before us. There have been various gastrointestinal issues and one fall with concussion but the group is wonderful and in good spirits. The day before we had to travel through a kilometer or so of very very rough rocky road. Even a little bit of babyheads (that is terminology for rocks about that size). Everyday has been a lot of climbing and you have to be alert most times because of traffic but it is also very good riding and the traffic is 100% better than the first day. Next week we head to the coast.

Finally the experiences Some of you have heard or seen bits and pieces from Facebook but I’ll expand. The Indonesian people are so friendly they love to wave and say hello. One morning we would pass a school and hundreds of kids came out to the fence to wave and say good morning. It is somewhat tiring but also brings a lift that I try to wave say good morning in Indonesian to everyone…especially the women. The respond with such delight.  Christiano who pre-scouted the route took us off the main road one day to these really below subsistence villages. Most had wood huts, no windows, cooking on stone stoves. They were about 5 feet square. Almost like a throwback in time to very ancient cultures. Many many kids….all excited to see us. At one point I stopped and about 50 kids and some mothers came running up. They were crowding all around so I tried to get them to back up. Then I began taking photos and showing them the pictures. Ohhhh the laughter and delight is beyond words. Even the mothers loved it. So hard to leave could have stayed all day.

I am so glad I learned a little Indonesian because no matter where I stop I can carry on some conversations about how old we are, where we are going, how nice the store is etc. etc.  The kids are especially cute and laugh and laugh at my attempts to speak. Occasionally one of the kids 11-14 years learned a little more english than good morning and between us we do say some things.

Another great experience. So right across from the hotel in Kota Nopan was this huge market. The tarps were so low I could barely fit under but Dan had to stoop. Anyway, they sold more fish, fruit, unidentifiable food than one could imagine. The diversity of food and fruit is astonishing. This is a very heavily muslim town, but they were all very nice. I wore long pants and long shirt. I had a wonderful conversation with the person we bought our water from. On the way back I decided to get a scarf since they all cover their heads. Very beautiful and very inexpensive. Of course never having worn ove…I called a young girl over and had her help me. Then I proudly walked back through the market. Ohhhh the smiles and thumbs up from everyone. I would point to my scarf and say beli (I bought) and well wish I could have a film of the reactions. So much fun.

I could go on and on but one more. The day of our long ride in about 3 seconds the sky erupted…must have been karma because at that exact moment we followed a scooter and motorbike into this 10 foot long structure with an overhang. Our sweep Chelsea had met up with us and was there as well. For the next half hour while Dan and Chelsea chatted, I had the most fun talking with these 3 young (18 years +/-) men. They were so sweet and spoke about as much english as I do Indonesian but together it worked. As the rain stopped they had me climb on their vespa and we all took fotos, making faces, and me putting my arms around them etc etc

Every minute is fun. Again today for coffee I spoke with a man who knew absolutely no english but we chatted during breakfast. At the end he gave us a very special muslim way of saying it was a pleasure to meet you, where he takes your hand and then brings the back of his hand up to his ceheek as he bows his head.

Well think I’m running up a bill here better go. It appears I’ll be out of internet for a while so until the next time.