Last update was from Sinville
(Cambodia), which I didn’t really enjoy mainly because of my banged up ankle, so I left after just one day
headed for Thailand again.
The ride west was really enjoyable once I got off the highway, the traffic thinned out and a smaller but still
paved road wound it’s way along the coast, passing small villages and endless rice fields all the way to the
It was about a 300km ride to the border
post so I didn’t arrive there until mid afternoon, found a cheap place to stay and decided to see about
repairing the bent and ground through left pannier.
The guys at the hotel helped me find a
tube of silastic and by swapping some of the covers on the base of the pannier I was able to make a decent
waterproof repair, and put the axe into service once again to get most of the dents back out of
It did however have some cracks in it
from all the panel beating so I made a mental note to get them repaired in Bangkok before heading for
The boys at the guest house suggested I
might like to join them for “$5 boom boom” that evening, but I politely declined and went out for some street
The following morning over breakfast I
was joined by Roger who’d been in that town specifically for the $5 boom boom, but he called it a “chicken
“yeah it’s unbelievable, they actually
have some really pretty girls out there, you can have ‘em there for $5 or bring ‘em back to your room for
$10!” he said…
Crossing the border was really simple,
although I was really sad to be leaving Cambodia so soon, I think it’s been the standout for Asia so far,
without any real reason, I just loved the people.
The ride into Bangkok was lovely, it was
lovely because there are no animals or tractors on the highway in Thailand and that makes for more relaxing
safer riding. I even managed to sneak onto the expressway that runs straight over the buildings and into the
middle of the city!
I could see the GPS route sending me
towards to on ramp and started looking for an alternative, but then realised that there was a long one way
ramp and an overpass before the toll booth and reasoned that if I got to the booth they couldn’t make me ride
all that way back so took a punt and went for it.
Predictably the guy at the toll booth
waved me to one side and asked me to park, then he and another policeman started telling me that bikes are
not allowed on Thai expressways, I just kept pointing to the GPS and repeating the word “Bangkok” like an
idiot. In the end the cop told me to take the first exit and asked me to pay the toll
I love the way this works in Thailand,
the cops will ask for a bribe and expect you to pass it to them covertly, but of course I get my wallet out
in full view and start looking at the notes pretending not to recognice them, holding up a bunch of them and
one by one pass them to the policeman. He doesn’t like this but lets me leave after I pay my 200 baht
This scene repeated 3 times on the 100km stretch of
expressway (I missed the exit J), although the next time I told the policeman I had
already paid the toll and refused to pay it again. As I wound my way into Bangkok lots of cars were signaling
to me that I wasn’t supposed to be on the expressway but I shrugged my shoulders and smiled, to which they
laughed and continued on. This got me to within 10km of my hostel before being booted off by another
policeman who first spent 5 mins looking over the bike…
I stayed in Bangkok for a few days to do
a little work on Betsy, she needed an oil change and I wanted to get a pannier tig welded before leaving the
last big city I will see for some time. Back home this would be simple, look up “Aluminium Welding” in the
yellow pages and go there.
In Bangkok it took me 2 days to find
someone, although I was really excited when I finally did. It was a panel shop specializing in repairing
broken motorcycles, mostly old vespas and lambrettas. The old thai man working there was fabricating new
panels for an old 150cc vespa from scratch, and when I showed him the pannier he just said “argon ok” and
wandered over to show me a new tig welding machine.
I figured if he can make new panels from
flat sheet metal then he should be able to weld ok too, and was really impressed with the work he did. I left
there a couple of hours later with 2 sound panniers and $10 lighter for it.
The ride south to Malaysia was
uneventful, I made the trek in 2 long days to Georgetown (Penang), riding about 500km on the first day, and
800km the next. The border crossing into Malaysia was easy, although really congested, times like that it’s
nice to be on a bike as we have our own express lane and don’t need to line up with the cars and trucks who
must spend all day there!
Getting close to the border there was
rain in the distance to the south and pretty soon I was riding in it. The last 2 hours to Penang were in
pretty constant rain with poor visibility. Not nice to be in heavy traffic like that, especially when you see
multiple chain collisions along the way, but fortunately I made it without incident and found a nice room in
a cosy little hostel in Georgetown for the night.
I met with Mr Lim who is the agent for
shipping from Georgetown to Medan (Indonesia) the following day, and arranged to drop Betsy off at customs 2
days later. The shipping cost is about US200 all inclusive, really cheap because it isn’t a container boat,
it’s actually a 30m vegetable boat that brings veggies from Indonesia to Penang. The bike is craned onto the
deck and parked under an awning so no need for a crate at all. I just hope she gets there in one
There is a huge KTM dealer in Penang so
I went for a look the next day and stocked up on spare parts, and bought a few bits that I had patched
together on the road in the past few months, before returning to the Red Inn to fit my new pirelli’s to betsy
and do all the little jobs that I have been putting off for a while.
Customs clearance from Butterworth was
really simple, I said goodbye to Betsy in the afternoon, and the next morning took a ferry to Langkawi and
then another to Koh Lipe to hang out with Lucie for a week while Betsy is delivered.
Koh Lipe is a really relaxed little
island in the south of Thailand, we spent some time on the beach doing nothing, then a few days doing my PADI
Scuba course and then a day snorkeling and fishing on a long tail boat with some other friends, followed by a
delicious dinner of fresh fish last night. I could really get used to it there.
So it was a really sad goodbye this
morning, and now I’m on the aforementioned ferry returning back to Penang where I’ll spend the night before
flying to Medan in Indonesia, the last country I’ll visit before arriving on home soil… Australia. Re-Entry
will be tricky.
Mule Out. xoxo
Time flies, it’s almost the end of March
and I’ve just got moving in Indonesia! The hardest thing about picking up betsy was finding a taxi to Belawan
for a reasonable fare. Indonesia seems to have gotten the art of ripping off tourists down to a whole new
level. The first rate I was asked for was 250,000rp, but eventually I paid 90,000rp by walking across the
carpark of the airport and bartering with a cabbie over there… welcome to Indonesia!
From Belawan I rode back to Medan which
took about an hour (20km) because bikes are not allowed on toll roads in Indonesia, and got a cheap hotel for
the night. Cheap over here seems to be about $5 a night for a private mosquito infested
From belawan we headed west to the
‘Orangutang Rehabilitation Sanctuary’, which turns out to just be a spot in the jungle where you pay money
($2) to see them being fed (and $5 extra if you want to take a photo!), but it has nothing to do with
rehabilitation or conservation whatsoever. They just feed them to keep the tourists coming through, and
aren’t shy about telling you that either…
That done I decided to get out of there
and take a look at some of the volcanoes on my way south through sumatera. My map shows a track from Bujit
Lewang directly to Berestagi without going back through the Medan mess, so I decided to give it a try. As the
German guy in Lewang said “try it, whats the worse that can happen?”
The worse that can happen is that you
fall over a lot, reinjure an ankle AGAIN, injure the other one too, and then hurt your back trying to lift
the bike repeatedly. All that and then turn back with just 6km to go because the track is unrideable at that
point, and have to backtrack 40km, and then ride via Medan anyway.
But it makes for good
To write that this track is bumpy is a
massive understatement, the KTM is bouncing and bucking so much it feels like trials riding, the WP
suspension soaks up impossibly hard hits over and over while still staying composed, but I’m giving it all I
have just to stay upright.
It seems to come in waves, when the road
turns up the mountain the erosion has ripped the track up exposing the big stones under it and I’m on the
pegs again, digging the balls of my feet into the sharp edges of the pegs
“keep your feet up dean, FEET UP” I
remind myself over and over as I dig my knees into the tank, gripping it tightly to try to take some of the
weight off my arms, and make sure I don’t succumb to the temptation of putting a foot down which in these
rocks could mean a broken leg.
Its exhausting riding like this, a
continuum of almost falling, correcting, regaining balance, losing it again, bouncing off the edge of the
road into the vegetation, keep it moving or fall off, it’s murder.
10km passes like this and I’m wondering
where it’s going to end. I pass a small village and sigh realizing it’s only the halfway point to where I
want to get. I tell myself that this is why I’m here, this is the reason I’m not at home working 9-5, this is
the rush, the adventure, and it keeps me pushing on past where good sense runs out. Ballsfirst for the first
time since Siberia.
One km at a time the track runs on, it
rounds a tight bend and gets steeper… and more rocky. I bounce through it by keeping momentum, a little off
line and I slow to catch a fall, then try to accelerate again but betsy coughs and doesn’t
“don’t stop now betsy, anywhere but
here” I say out loud as if she can hear me…
It’s so rough here that I can’t stop, I
know that if I do I’ll fall over. It’s amazing the places you can go with a heavy bike but what kills you is
when you stop, just keep moving, keep the throttle open, no matter what, even when you think you’re going to
fall, keep it open and it might come back to you.
Off line and into the scrub, small trees
whipping at my face but I don’t dare get out of the throttle, I try to regain the path, hoping the edge
doesn’t fall away, chug chug chug and we’re back on the path again, that was close…
Betsy is unhappy though, the altitude is
affecting her in a magnified way for some reason, and she won’t drive off the bottom cleanly, I keep needing
to pull some clutch and get the rpm up to keep moving, but in this terrain it’s making things really
The bash plate hits home once, twice and
then really hard a third time, it occurs to me that that hasn’t happened before, keep moving, up, up, the
road improves for a moment and I stop to catch my breath.
Holy cow, this is hard work. I take a
couple of pics and remount. Another hairpin turn uphill and the track narrows and gets worse still, for a
long stretch steep uphill. Instinctively I know this stretch isn’t possible and that I’m going to fall
trying, but I’m into it and can’t stop so just try to get as far as I can before it turns pear
The road is only about a 2 metres wide,
and the jungle is tall along both sides. Rocks about 30 to 50cm in diameter line the track, there are black
marks all over the road where someone has sat with wheels spinning trying to get through, I can feel the MT21
rear skidding and slipping as it pushes betsy forwards.
A series of big rocks punch at the front
tyre and as hard as I’m trying to keep it straight, my run ends when the front bounces to the left and off
the edge of the road. I pull hard at the bars to stop if falling over down-hill and manage to put it down the
other way, phew.
Bit by bit I drag the front out of the
bush, then drag the rear, scraping the pannier across the rocks to get it pointing uphill again. Then
I’m breathing really hard and need to
rest but I can’t get it on the stand, it’s too rocky. It’s too rough to ride it from standstill there so I
have to walk it out. On such an incline the bars are really high, and with the rocks everywhere even walking
it is tough.
A metre at a time we move, inevitably
stalling the engine in regular intervals as I fall behind when the tyre grips and the bike lurches forward.
I’m exhausted. Finally on a surface flat enough to put the stand down, I collapse on the ground, having
breaths, tearing off helmet and gloves, gulping water from my pack.
I walk a short distance up the path to
see if it improves and am encouraged by what I see. Back to the bike and push on then, it’s ok for 100m and
then turns uphill and it’s more of the same.
“Fuck it, this is impossible!” I’m
thinking as I concentrate for another rodeo ride that ends with the bike on it’s side again, this time my
ankle is burning. Now I’m angry. I pick it up and gun it to get some momentum and somehow am moving again but
it’s short lived. Another series of big rocks, another dent in a pannier, a second twisted ankle and I
concede it’s time to turn back.
I’m just 5km from the end of this road
but I’m alone, I’m tired and a little hurt. No one regularly comes through here so if I break something in
another fall it could be really serious.
It takes 10 minutes and another fall
just to turn around on the narrow track, and then I fall again in the descent. Its soul destroying. But
finally back to the rideable part of the track and I catch my breath as I pass tractors and buffalo drawn
carts. It’s 100km to Berestagi from here, I was only 5km from the end of the bad road, it goes over and over
in my head as I battle the traffic all the way there.
Later I download the gps track to
Mapsource and see that I was right at the top of the elevations shown on the map. Who knows - another push
and I might have made it, or I might have broken an ankle trying and still be up there now. I’ll never know,
but I gave it all I had (and then some more) so I don’t let it bother me too much.
25-3-11 In a coffee shop in
At Berestagi there is a 3 hour hike up a
volcanoe you can do, or if you have a motorcycle you can ride up there in 10 minutes, followed by a 15min
hike to the summit. The view was ok, but I’m glad I didn’t walk up, it wasn’t THAT
From there to Lake Toba it rained the
whole way, but the road was ok, and not too much traffic for a change, actually I kept thinking I must have
taken a wrong turn because there is traffic EVERYWHERE in Indonesia. Eventually I arrived at the ferry for
Samosir Island – it’s an island inside a volcanic crater lake, that actually has another island in it! Sounds
like an Escher print huh!
I dodged the usual group of hawkers at
the ferry terminal trying to get me to eat, buy or stay somewhere, and found the ticket office and little
restaurant attached to it, where I took off my drenched riding gear and sat quietly for a couple of hours
while a puddle of water gathered under the table from the jacket dripping.
It took 45min to cross and was dark and
raining still when we rode off the boat. I had some idea as to where there were some guest houses so rode on
into the rain slowly on the winding road to try to find a bed somewhere. 5 minutes later I noticed a red
warning light on the dash and saw the temperature readout was at max and flashing, and I thought this was it,
I turned her off and then the ignition
back on to now see 2 red lights on the dash…
“I didn’t think it had 2 red warning
Turns out one is for oil pressure (I
knew that) and the other is for temperature, she has never overheated before so I haven’t seen that one yet.
But still it’s good, overheating could be something small, oil pressure would be serious. So I stopped for 5
minutes and pretended to be interested in a guesthouse to stay out of the rain and let the engine cool for a
bit before continuing slowly again.
I stopped at 2 more hotels and breathed
a sigh of relief when the last one had somewhere out of the rain to park (my panniers are both bent from the
recent falls so they were leaking), and a really nice room with a HOT shower for only
The following day was raining again, and
given the overheating it made sense to spend a day working on betsy. So from 9am to
New waterpump seal, bearings and drive
Changed Front brake
New thermo fan
Installed new original clutch
Relocated old pads and lever, (bolted to
the sump guard)
Checked torque on luggage
Beat dents out of both panniers
Patched a tear in a carby
It’s strange doing all this work in a
carpark, people come and go through the day, some stay a while to chat and ask questions, most look horrified
when the engine case is removed exposing the primary drive gears and clutch basket, but I assure them that
all is ok, and we will be moving again in the afternoon.
They must not have believed me because a
bunch of people came running to see her when I started betsy up again in the evening, they were looking
around to see what had become of all the tools and parts that were scattered across the floor
“all ok now?” one of the girls
“yes all good” I
“you very mechanic?” she
“not really, but I
“how many times you make big
And the questions
The following morning half the hotel
staff come out to see me off, a few of the girls were quite cheeky and ask if they can come too, I offer to
put them in a pannier but they sulk off muttering something under their breath.
So the sun is shining and the road is in
good condition and for the first time in a while Betsy feels normal again, that lasts 10 minutes and I either
run out of fuel, or the fuel pump stops momentarily, I haven’t figured out which yet. But there is a local
station (fuel from 1lt containers) nearby so I push it there and put in 10 litres before riding another 15km
to a real petrol station, where it takes another 27lt. The tank is only 32 litres, but somehow has taken 37…
I call this the tourist pour.
I ride on and make 370km for the day,
passing tea plantations and little vegetable plots for most of the way, before stopping in the evening in a
little town with only 2 hotels. One is really big (expensive) and the other is tiny (filthy), I take a room
in the filthy one and sit out front chatting to Indonesian truck drivers intent on teaching me to speak
Indonesian, before sleeping in a mosquito infested room and waking up covered in
There’s nowhere to wash so I put on all
the same clothes and make a mental note to get a decent room in the next town. The GPS says 209km to
Bukittinggi and based on my travel in Indonesia so far I know this will take 4 hours of riding. So I fill
with fuel and head off on the ‘trans sumateran highway’
The ‘highway’ is a little track, mostly
tar but with some dirt and lots of pot holes, that doesn’t seem to have more than 50m of straight road for
it’s entire length. Undeterred I ride for about 160km before stopping for some lunch at a roadside stall. So
far it’s been dry riding, and although the road isn’t great I’m enjoying the day.
It’s an endless set of switchbacks that
traverse the Sumateran jungle, down one incline and up the next, a village every 10 or 20km, some traffic but
it’s not mental, lots of other motorbikes but they ride well and aren’t any trouble to overtake. I get the
odd little bit of light rain, but not enough to bother me, although I can see the storm in my mirrors and am
glad I got away to the early start I did or I might have been riding it that all
During lunch I go to the bike to grab my
phone to call a friend for her birthday (Happy Birthday Croatia!), and realise I have left it in the hotel
room that I left that morning. SHIT.
It’s 160km back to the hotel, then
another 209km to the town I wanted to reach, I do the math and realise I probably won’t make it by nightfall.
That sucks balls, but I breathe deeply, tell myself that at least I’m not at work and set off in the opposite
direction, straight towards the rain.
Ten mins later I stop to put in my
waterproof layer. This is going to be a long day. I don’t even know if my phone will be there when I get back
to the hotel, but figure if it is then this ride will be worth it. It’s really draining riding, continually
changing gears and accelerating and decelerating, and now that I’m pressed for time I’m giving it a bit more
to try and make the km pass faster, consequently it’s even more draining but the km pass and after 3 hours
I’m back at the hotel.
What follows is the usual fiasco of
asking at reception, who know nothing, who ask the cleaners, who also know nothing, which results in me
saying “Police”, which sends people running and a few minutes later I get my phone back.
Another tank of fuel at the same petrol
station gets the attendants really interested, first in how much petrol betsy will take, and secondly how it
all disappeared in just 6 hours.
“are you delivering it somewhere?” they
“no it just uses a lot” I respond
No one thinks this is very funny though,
they don’t really get the idea of riding around the world for no reason, let alone why you would do it on a
bike that uses so much fuel, I suppose this isn’t surprising as I ask myself those same questions some days
I have 3 hours till sunset so decide to
try for the same town again, more rain, more traffic, the last 30mins in the dark but I finally arrive –
exhausted. 530km for the day on these roads, my ass is killing me, I want a hot shower and a cold beer. Hotel
Asia to the rescue, 200,000rp is not cheap, but the parking is secure and the room has hot water and a
balcony to dry my suit overnight, I fall asleep at 8pm.
Today I took a day off the riding to go
see a volcanic lake (yes I did ride there but 20km doesn’t really count), and then a few small villages on
the way back.
Sumatera has a strange feel of slow
decay. Like once upon a time there were people coming here, but 10 years ago that stopped and now all the
guest houses and tour operators are going out of business, and consequently not overly friendly to the few
people who do still come out this way.
Although people who aren’t trying to
sell you something are normally really nice, curious but in a friendly way.
From here I head to Padang tomorrow, and
then it’s a very long ride to Java.
Written from my room in a losmen (small local hotel), where I
just spent a fruitless hour walking the streets trying to find a beer…
I left Bukkittingi planning to go to Padang and hang there
for a while, but the ever present traffic jam on Indonesian roads that had me sweating for an hour in
gridlock to get into the centre of the small city, left me feeling a little negative about the situation once
I arrived, and plus it was quite early in the day so I decided to just keep riding.
I was trying to decide whether to stay on the trans sumateran
highway or take the smaller road that runs along the south coast, asking locals or even truck drivers here in
Indonesia is useless because either they have never left their village or they only use one road.
Eventually I decided to take the little road, figuring the traffic would be thinner…
A little way out of Padang the road opened a little and there
were less trucks, so I was pleased with the choice of route and stopped at a local Warung (restaurant) for
some lunch. This was to be my first of many tastes of Makan Padang.
I told the lady there that I wanted to eat and she invited me
to sit and then brought over about 8 dishes and laid them on the table around my plate of steamed rice.
Things like curried fish, fried chicken, an eggplant stew, some tofu with chilli, some whitebait with veggies
I took a little from the ones that looked the best, placed it
on my rice, rinsed my right hand with the bowl of water she provided, and ate my lunch trying my best not to
use my left hand at all, and not to make too much of a mess. It was delicious!
Lunch and a coffee for $2.50.
Back on the bike and I continued until about 5pm on the
narrow winding coast road, stopping at a small homestay that appeared out of nowhere, complete with giggling
children and grandparents looking on amused. I procured a warm beer from a small hut across the road
and sat drinking it, downloading gps tracks and checking email while the family stared at me in unashamed
One of the adult men offered to take me to town for some
dinner, I told him I could ride there myself but he insisted that I leave the bike there and go with him, so
off we went 2 up on the 125cc Honda. We arrived in a small village where there was one Warung serving
Makan Padang and we both ate another dinner in the same flavours that I’d had for
At about this point I realised that the guy who took me there
was either a little retarded or just a filthy pig because he was literally throwing food around the table,
taking food from my plate with his hands and generally getting himself covered in food too. Much to the
distain of the owner/cook.
When I asked for the bill the cook asked me what I’d eaten
and the retard pointed to his bowls too… of course that’s why he wanted to come along for dinner! Maybe
if the guy had been a little more friendly and genuinely helpful (instead of sneaky) I would have bought his
dinner, $2 would hardly break the bank, but I hate those tactics so refused to pay for him, which got a real
laugh out of the cook!
The cook and the retard had some conversation in Bahasa and eventually my
bill came to $4. I was pretty sure it should have been much less, so when the sneak had the gall to ask
me for petrol money for taking me there I laughed out loud and told him I’d pay the fuel once he paid me back
for his dinner J
Another early night and I was back on the bike at 7am.
I rode in ever denser traffic that day, which by lunchtime was a continuum of trucks and buses. So from
then on I was overtaking continuously, really draining riding, and a little risky too. Always on the
wrong side of the road, accelerating into oncoming trucks and ducking back into my lane at the last moment,
getting run off the road by trucks and buses coming the other way, it wasn’t really much
At about 5pm my clutch started to feel a little spongy and
soon after it gave out completely, it didn’t worry me as i could tell it was just the slave cylinder leaking,
but riding the last 70km without a clutch was not the greatest way to finish a day. Eventually I
arrived in a town called Manna, where a hundred local kids all started shouting and beeping their bike horns
when I arrived in town. A nice welcome!
I carefully navigated my way onto the main street, got the
bike into neutral and rolled to a stop. 506km for the day on road that resembled the ocean road back
home. I was exhausted, but still nowhere to stay, so I quickly topped up the mastercylinder, bled the
system and looked at a few Wisata’s (the first few all said ‘full’, clearly lying to me), before one would
let me stay there.
I was out of the special hydraulic oil I’d bought in Penang, and figured I
might need some soon, so bought a big bottle of baby oil from a local pharmacy (much cheaper!). The
master cylinder says “use only mineral oil”, and the baby oil lists its contents as “mineral oil” so I figure
it should be ok, smells nice too J
I then went for a quick ride to check out the sensational
sunset on the south coast of Sumatera before eating another meal of Makan Padang and passing out.
It would have been smart to fix the slave cylinder that night
but I decided to see how long it would go the next day… not very long at all as it turned out, so at 8am the
next morning I stopped at another Warung sans clutch, ordered a coffee and set about replacing the worn
This didn’t take long, so my coffee was still warm when I’d
finished, I sculled it and took off again, hoping to get to the ferry terminal for Java that
night. But the traffic once again conspired against me and with 350km for the day I stopped 80km short
of my goal, in the dark and rain, and was once again refused accommodation at a couple of empty hotels before
one would let me stay there.
Mental note to self – must wash the riding
The ferry to java was a strange experience. Firstly
because one of the crew did a safety talk at the start of the trip, but more strange because he then spent
the next 4 hours giving one presentation after another of various items for sale, including books, pens, a
torch and even a potatoe peeler (complete with telemarketing style demo!).
I asked around on the boat about the roads and traffic in
java and the consensus was that they are worse… crap.
It turned out to be true, so I spent the first 4 hours in
Java stuck in dense traffic struggling to breathe and decided quite quickly to skip Jakarta to try to avoid
the worst of it. That night I could only find one place to stay, a very strange hotel that resembled a
water park, complete with a big swimming pool in the middle, a waterslide ending in a big muddy pool, swings
that looked like fish and wales and about a million mosquitos.
At 200,000rp ($20) it was really expensive too but once again
it was raining and dark so it had to do.
Another early start the next day, but this time with a goal
of Yogyakarta, the arts and music centre of Indonesia, and the home of Linda, a friend of Katka, who I’d met
on the road a few days earlier. I was looking forward to seeing a friendly face at the end of my day,
so I really pushed it and rode 9 hours without getting off the bike, not one single break, but still only
managed a total of 300km for my effort, that’s an average of only about 35km/hr on good quality paved
Why? Traffic. Evil fucking traffic. Solid
bumper to bumper for the whole day. The most miserable day in Indonesia so far, ending with the last
hour in the dark trying to find somewhere to sleep, a storm to saturate me and another hotel that didn’t want
If it sounds like I’m making a big deal about the traffic on
the roads in Indonesia, then it’s because it really is insane. There are 240 million people living in
this country, and most of them are in Java. The roads are shared by horse and carts (no kidding they
are everywhere), little motorbikes, trucks, mini buses and coaches, and they’re all very narrow so there
isn’t much opportunity to overtake safely, which doesn’t stop people, it just means that bikes get run right
off the edge of the road at least once every hour, and head on collisions are routine. The first few
times I rounded a blind bend to be faced with two oncoming buses, I was really upset, and left the road at
speed into the verge trying to maintain control, swearing at the idiot driving the bus. I now realise
this is just the way of the world over here, and put all my effort into not falling rather than getting
upset. It’s not a biker friendly country though, and when you spend all day on the bike that makes it
really hard to like the place.
Times like that I really just want to be home again. Fortunately those
days always pass, and early the next afternoon I was parked at a local Warung in Jogja (as the locals call
it), waiting to meet Linda. And that’s where my little Indonesian adventure took a definite turn for
the better J
Linda is a student from the Czech republic studying Batik
printing, she lives in a beautiful little home (with a SPARE ROOM!), dates another local artist called Budi
and has a really cool bunch of friends. I’d met her friend Katka in Bukkittingi a week earlier when
some of Katka’s tour group came up and said hi to me in a warung. Then completely by chance we bumped
into each other again in the next town, and again in the next one. Katka suggested that when I got to
Jogja her friend Linda would be happy to have me stay at her place for a night or
So Linda took me out for some local food that night, and made
me feel incredibly welcome in her little home. She had some travel planned for the following nights and
was kind enough to trust me with her home while she was away (having only known me for 12 hours!), and Budi
and I watched some football and hung out a little over the weekend too. I made a day trip from there to
the Borobodur temple, hung out on the busy main road, sampled lots of local food, checked out the destruction
left behind by the recent eruption of Mt Merapi and generally rested after all the long days of riding down
Linda came home the night before I was due to leave only to
find a dead rat left on her front doorstep, apparently a small gift from the neighbours to let her know that
they didn’t approve of her having me spend time in her home. I don’t really know what to make of
Leaving Jogja I followed 2 of Linda’s friends, Lucie and Oki,
to the next town (Solo) where once again they insisted that I crash in a spare room. Linda and Oki were
really lovely, housing and feeding me while I was in their care, I hope to catch that gang again sometime in
Big hello to Katka, Linda, Budi, Lucie and Oki from Jogja!
Leaving Solo, Oki suggested somewhere to stay at the Mt Bromo
active volcano, so I rolled out again to do battle with the Indonesian traffic, hoping to make it there that
night, and for once the advice I got from Oki was spot on.
Now in another Losmen, in Sumbawa, just spent an hour trying to find a
bintang. Still thirsty L)
Bromo remains one of the most amazing things I have seen to
date. The road snaking its way up to the summit was generally in good repair, but without warning at
one point the entire landscape turned grey, (a bit like it feels to pass the snowline in the mountains), and
I was surrounded by a sea of ash.
The road was covered in ash too, in some parts it had been
brought down by rivers of water running down the mountain and deposited in grey mounds in the lower parts of
the road. I wasn’t expecting this at all, (infact I didn’t even know the volcano was still
active!), and at one point stopped at a warung to ask for directions.
The owner said yes this was Bromo, and he made a really
effective volcano erupting mime that had me thinking the eruption has just happened in recent days. I
looked up “Safe” and “dangerous” in my dictionary and eventually resumed riding amid calls of “yes yes bagus
bromo!” (bromo is good!)
It was almost dark when I reached the top, so I checked into
a backpackers and got an early night in preparation for a dawn rising to try to maximize the chance of a
clear view of the crater. Laying in bed though I could actually feel the earth trembling from the
strength of the volcano, and there was a continuous noise quite similar to the way your house shakes if it’s
close to the airport and a plane flies over. Just this continual dull rumbling sound…
I was warned by the staff not to try to ride up to the
lookout, because “the road is really rocky and steep”… sounds like a challenge to me! In the end it was
an easy ride, and I was rewarded with clear skies and no one else at the lookout, I sat and drank a coffee in
the cool mountain air before riding back to the room to get breakfast before the kitchen
I was hating the idea of heading back into the traffic mess
again, so spent some time looking at maps, gps tracks and asking around on the mountain if there was a back
way to the Ijen Plateau. Turns out there was one, and a damned fine ride it was
I rode out across the sand sea that surrounds the Bromo
Volcano, passing local guys carrying huge baskets of wild grass back to their village for feed stock, and
eventually found a little path that led in roughly the right direction down the other side of the
It snaked it’s way along a gully, up across a mountain range,
through terraced garden plots on impossibly steep slopes, and 2 hours later it arrived in a small town where
the ashphalt started again. From there I followed a highway that was only a little congested with
traffic, running parallel to a river for about an hour, before starting the climb up to the Ijen
The soils in these volcanic areas must be incredibly fertile,
and coupled with the slightly lower temperatures and regular rainfall they make for great crops. The
Ijen plateau is an incredibly beautiful part of Indonesia, where coffee plantations share valleys with bright
green cabbage crops and rubber tree woods.
My gps and travel guide both had the same guesthouse, called
Arabica Homestay, so after an hour long ride up into the plateau and a narrowly avoided bribery attempt by
the local park ranger, I arrived at a nice little room complete with hot shower and comfy
I think that was my best days riding in Indonesia so far, or at least it was
until I got to bali, but more on that later J
Next morning I woke at 4am to make the trek up to the Ijen
Crater where locals have devised a method to condense the sulphur rich steam coming from blowholes in the
crater, and spend their days manually hauling baskets of sulphur – 90kg baskets! Up out of the crater, and
down the side of the mountain, all for $15 per day.
Having walked up the mountain with these guys, then followed
them into the crater and watched the process, I sincerely hope that I will never feel the need to complain
about ANYTHNG EVER AGAIN. The pictures are amazing, take a look in the gallery.
Owing to the early start, it was still only 10am by the time
I’d done all the sightseeing for the day, so once again I took a chance on a small road going down the
mountain and once again was rewarded by a fabulous day of offroad riding, ending in an electrical storm at
the ferry terminal to Bali.
Just as I stopped at the ticket counter and paid for my
ticket the heavens opened in that monsoonal way, leaving me cowering under the shelter blocking a couple of
trucks and motorbikes.
“you move” said the guy behind the
“into that rain?! No way mate!” I
Fuck it! So out I went and in the 30 seconds it took me to
ride to the ferry ramp, be loaded onto the boat, get told to move to another one and then return to the first
one, I was once again saturated to the core.
Then the rain stopped. I hate it when that happens J
But it was ok, at least I wasn’t hauling sulphur out of a
volcano! I stripped off and hung all my gear out on the back of the ferry, spreading it all out in the
hot sunshine, then hung around the bike for the 4 hour crossing to turn and check the clothes until they were
Arriving at Bali I had about 130km to ride to Ubud that
night, Katka’s group were staying there and after Linda being so nice to me I thought it would be good to go
say thankyou in person.
The first 80km passed quickly and I was starting to think I
might have left the traffic mess behind, but no luck, the last 50km took 3 hours, so once again I arrived in
the dark, and once again I was saturated. I really need to try harder to avoid the afternoon storms
I followed the GPS into an abandoned lane about 2km from the
centre of Ubud before being rescued by some locals who suggested that I might be better just following the
signs… um… ok.
In Ubud, tired and wet, I started looking for somewhere to stay, but I think
I was a bit fatigued because I went around in circles for an hour with no success. Desperate to get off
the bike, I stopped at a little restaurant aptly named ‘Lokal Warung’, and drank a couple of bintangs over
dinner. I noticed a family homestay across the road from the warung, and it turned out to be lovely, I
checked in and changed out of my wet suit, I was dry again and happy J
I spent the following day sleeping late and then exploring
Ubud (boring), and the following one I checked out and went in search of a new rear tyre for Betsy in the
Kuta area. I had some leads from google but rode past a little bike shop near my place in Ubud and
stopped to ask some advice.
That’s when Kadex came bounding outside, took one look at
Betsy and decided that we would be brothers from then on. He spent 15mins on the phone trying to find
some rubber, and eventually sent me on to another shop where they had a couple of tyres in stock for me to
“tomorrow we survey some tracks in the mountains here in
northern bali, if you find tyre you should come with us!”
“um… ok. What kind of tracks?”
I spied the CR250 and Husaberg 250 motorcross bikes in the
shop, complete with brand new off road tyres and figured that in the right hands they would leave betsy for
dead in tight single track riding. Kadex seemed to rethink it a little too, and kept muttering
something about how big betsy is, but eventually he said
“no problem, we are 4, if you can not pass we can lift!
Tomorrow we meet here at 8am, I hope you find tyre!”
The shop Kadex sent me to had a Maxis dual sport rear in a 130 size, not ideal, especially for
chasing motocross bikes but it would do.
So next morning all the luggage came off Betsy for the first
time since Algeria, I dropped my tyre pressures to 18psi, filled with Premium, said then recited the Hail
Mary with my right hand on the Koran while seated in the lotus position... (times like that you need to cover
all your bases!)
I met Kadex at his shop, where he introduced me to Raza and
Putu, we strapped the bikes onto trailers and headed off destined for a volcano in the north of
As we unloaded on the other end I was a little apprehensive
about the day ahead, would I be able to keep up? would I fall off trying? (how many times would I fall off
trying!), was betsy in good enough shape for this, etc. I suggested to the guys that if the going got
too crazy I could always take my own road home, I didn’t want to ruin their day out, but they were having
nothing of it.
We rode off the tar into a tiny bit of single track that went
straight up the side of a mountain, making a series of ever steeper turns as it snaked up higher and
higher. Kadex went first and the smoky but agile CR just seemed to slingshot its way up the
mountain. Oh dear.
I negotiated the first couple of bends ok, but the rear slid
on the third and within 2 mins of starting the days riding I’d fallen off the bike already. The guys
were awesome though, and without a word (but a bit of a laugh) they were all there helping me get betsy back
on the rubber, and steadying while I remounted.
Kadex assured me this was the worst of it and that pretty soon it would open
out a little. They were riding in unfamiliar areas though, so a few times we arrived at a hillclimb
that even the little bikes couldn’t manage, but every time they scouted it first and sometimes came back
saying they didn’t think it was a good idea, once they even got the Husaberg bogged in mud and couldn t come
back so I though I’d lost them for 30mins while they dug it out J The look on Raza’s face and the mud covering the bike said it all, it
It was incredibly challenging to ride with these guys, partly
because the tracks were so narrow and there was little room for error with vertical 100m drops off the sides
at times, and partly because it was raining all day and some of the tracks had turned to rivers, but mostly
just because these guys were completely fearless nutters and seemed hell bent on finding tracks that I’d fall
off on, and then having a laugh at me when it happened.
“Dino, what do you think, it is ok?” Kadex would always
ask me when we arrived at something a little tricky.
Or sometimes he or one of the other guys would wait at a
really sharp/steep turn with fatal vertical drop off the narrow ledge and get ready to try to catch Betsy if
I got something wrong.
We rode some crazy tight single track along vertical ridges
that had me wondering whether I’d even bother to go look for the bike if it went over, we stopped at small
temples tucked away on the side of a mountain, we ate noodles for lunch at a local warung, we even rode along
the beach for a while ducking either side of wooden boats and tether lines, sending sand and water flying
into the air.
“dino - is ok if we ride on the beach for little bit?”
“sure why not, we’ve been everywhere else
“dino, is finished single track now, is ok for you we ride on
big rocks now?”
“um, how big?”
This was the highlight of the day for me, the track descended
into a 50m wide river bed that had recently flooded and we turned and rode up the side of the mountain along
the river stones. It really tested me to stay balanced on the big stones, but we managed it ok with
only a silly fall trying to scale the bank of the river on the way out.
I really enjoyed riding in a group again, it reminded me a
little of riding Siberia with Paul and Barton, and it was nice to be able to really push the envelope knowing
I had good people around to help if anything should go wrong.
“Dino! You know you really would be having more fun with
smaller bike” said Putu after my last fall.
“ok Putu, you wanna swap?”
“No no no, thank you, that is not bike, is
We rode pretty solid all day, only returning to the trailer
well after dark (thankfully not too much difficult off-road in the dark though) and ate dinner together while
laughing about the day we’d had. I felt really lucky to have been asked to ride with those guys, and
really hope to get back there again, albeit with a smaller bike next time!
Big hello to Kadex, Putu and Raza – some day I’m gonna take you guys riding in Australia, we’ll head
out into the desert, and then I’ll leave you out there for a few days just for kicks!
Written from a bench seat next to the coffee bar on the ferry
to Flores. There is distorted HEAVY metal music coming a speaker too close to my right ear. A row
of impossibly wrinkled middle aged men are staring intently at me while seated on multi coloured decrepit
plastic chairs, surrounded by their discarded cigarette butts on the floor.
I left Bali the following morning amid some confusion after
my mobile phone died from all the water of the previous day, I switched to my Australian phone without
realizing it was still on Thailand time, and so I missed the ferry by an hour.
Fortunately from Bali to Lombok they run regularly, so an
hour later I was on a boat deck again with all my wet riding gear suspended from hand rails drying in the
(I don’t know how much more of this music I can take
I needed to stop in Matardam to apply for a visa extension,
which Katka seemed to think would take me at least a few days, so the plan was to apply and head to the Gili
Islands while it was being processed.
I got my gear dry just in time to leave the boat and be
soaked again by more rain, so I arrived in Matardam looking like a wet rat, asking directions to the
Immigrasi Office. This turned out to be easy enough to find, I bought the extension forms from a
counter tucked away underneath the main building, had some help filling them in from the friendly girl
working at the counter and headed off on foot to find a photocopy place.
If the immigration place was easy to find, a photocopy place
was impossible, I walked about a kilometer carrying all my riding gear and the now badly creased and half
damp forms before asking again at a shop if there was a copy place nearby…
“yes but long way from here”
I did my best sad and dejected look and the guy offered to copy them for me
in his office J
By that time it was 4pm, the office closed at 4pm. I
half ran the km back to the office and up the stairs, dropped my gear in a heap on the floor and walked over
to a bunch of staff congregated around some nasi goring, but they all picked up their food and walked away at
the sight of me…
“please!!!” more sad and dejected looks from
“ok go that counter”
“office closed sir”
“oh no, please can we do something? I have come such a
long way to get here…”
“hmmm where you come from?”
“from Bali and I need to return there tonight…”
“we can process today but for
“400,000!?” fake surprised look
“ok then, but will be finished
“yes 15mins you sit”
I knew the fee was only 250000, so it was a 150000 bribe to get it done
there and then, but figured it was worth avoiding another trip there, so coughed up and sat down, actually
feeling pretty good about things. Katka couldn’t believe I had the extrension done in 10 mins in
Matardam, usually people use an agent, and they need a sponsor and a ticket home… but a little grease on the
axle works wonders over here J
(Heavy metal swapped for Euro Pop –
From there I rode to Senggigi and checked into a nice hotel
with a hot shower for the first time in days. Katka had been nice enough to find me a hotel where it
would be safe to leave betsy for a few days, and her tour group was at the same islands so we caught up for
some dinner in a local warung.
Next morning we took a taxi and then a boat to Gili
Trawangan, where I spent the next 5 days doing my advanced scuba diving course, snorkeling, eating more local
food, making some new friends, John and Sammy, (who I hope to dive with again in Flores) and generally having
a great time.
Katka’s group was bound for Bali and then home, so we said
goodbye half way thru my Gili Adventure, hoping to catch up sometime again in the future, and following Gili
I set out east for the last few islands of Indonesia.
The coast road around the north of Lombok was a fun ride, not
much traffic and clean asphalt so the 150km passed quite quickly and I boarded a ferry to Sumbawa at about
The ferries here have different tariffs for motorcycles
depending on the engine capacity, a small bike might cost 70,000rp, then up to 500cc was 110,000rp and over
500cc was about double that. I cottoned on to this early on in Indonesia and have been telling a little
white lie (sorry mum) at all the ticket counters, telling them Betsy is a 450 instead of a
This has so far saved me about 500,000rp J
Arriving in Sumbawa it was almost dark, and there was nowhere
to stay in the little port town, so I bought a few litres of fuel out of recycled ‘Absolute Vodka’ bottles,
put on my glasses and cautiously rode along the unlit coast road looking for the nearest
The nearest one was full (empty), but they sent me to a Bule
(tourist) Hotel nearby, where I got a room for only 35000rp. ($3.50). Sumbawa is a relatively
traditional muslim island so after asking a few places if they sold beer and being given dirty looks, I
resigned myself to a dry night and got to bed early.
It was 400km across Sumbawa, and a really enjoyable ride
too. Very little traffic, mostly good road (about 80km in construction but no challenge for betsy), the
only problem I had was when I stopped at a collection of food stalls in a little village and once again
ventured out looking for a bintang to wash down some Nasi Campur with…
What ensued could be roughly translated as
“we don’t like your type in these parts, so it’s better that
you get going” angry Indonesian man gesticulating wildly…
“huh?? I just want a beer…”
“no you leave here now… go now!”
Now I know how Rambo felt - “All I wanted was something to eat!”
(or in my case ‘something to drink’ J)
A hasty exit followed and I rode non stop the rest of the way
to the port at Sape thinking there was a night boat leaving for Flores at 7pm. Actually it was
At Sape I met a Swiss guy Chris travelling with his
Indonesian wife Anita, who were on their way out (on a horse and cart) to try to find some beers –
Hilarious! He assured me that if successful he’d grab me one too, and sure enough shortly after dinner
we were sipping on almost-cold bintangs wrapped in plastic bags to avoid detection by nosy
Chris just came to let me know he has opened the rest of the
beers on the bow of the boat. Gotta go now, beer calls! Flores in about another 4
Written from a local café in Lubanbajo (flores), having just
been told my liveabord dive boat has to be rescheduled because this Sunday is Easter Sunday and the crew need
to go to church. Fair enough I guess.
Happy birthday Bryster.