9th to 12th November 2019
Having arrived from Malaysia on my trike (see the previous blog to catch up) I book into my hostel in the Little India district of Singapore. The smell of curries cooking in the nearby restaurants is alluring. Not so the large gangs of itinerant workers lounging around the public spaces drinking alcohol and eating food!
Over the next 3 days as I am waiting for the ferry to Indonesia I get out and about in Singapore visiting all the highlights
Harbour area and downtown
Trees in the Park
Its pretty much a revisit of when Hels and I visited a year ago. I do manage to catch up with Sk Lah at the Tree Inn Lodge. He’s an avid cyclist and hosts many cyclists at the lodge, he says the total is over 300 over the last 7 years!
But now it’s time to move on. Singapore is too expensive to stay for any length of time on a pension! So the plan is to catch the ferry from Singapore Harbour Front to Batam, a small Indonesian Island off the south coast of Singapore.
An overnight here then catch the weekly 28hr ferry from Batam to Jakarta.
On Tuesday morning I cycle down to Harbourfront. As I’m cycling along I realise my gears are now incredibly hard to change. Oh dear, I recall a recent conversation I had in Malaysia with Ivan the Swiss cyclist. He asked me if I carried spare cables. Oh how he’d be laughing now. My options are to hunt down a bike shop in Singapore or wait until I get to Jakarta. I decide that I should at least try finding spare cables here then if that fails I still have Jakarta. As luck would have it there’s a high end MTB cycle shop about 1km from the harbour. Google says its just opened! I cycle over and indeed they have the parts I need, I’d done some research and the Rohloff takes normal gear cables I just need to ensure I get the longer version! Later when I do the currency conversion I realise I’ve just handed over $50 for two cable and outers… Holy Crap, maybe I should have waited until Jakarta!
Back to the ferry terminal and I hunt out the service elevators that will take me and my trike up to the second floor of the harbourfront mall where the ticket offices and ferry terminal are situated. Yes, you read that right, I get to cycle through a busy shopping mall to get to the ferry. I follow the signs and find myself at the ticket counter and purchase my $20 ticket (I need to pay an extra $10 on boarding for the bike) to Batam Harbour Bay.
As I mount up and prepare to cycle over to the terminal I hear the lady calling me back. “We only allow normal bikes” she exclaims. What!? “So how am I going to get to Batam to catch tomorrows ferry to Jakarta” I ask. “You can try another ferry company upstairs” is the answer. Ok, so I leave my trike and bags there and take the escalator up another floor, now I’m feeling a little worried, you know me and travel days, it’s a good job I got here 4 hours early, with this and the bike shop run its now looking tight. I explain the situation upstairs and show them a picture of the trike. Yes no problems. However this ferry goes to Batam Central, about 10km from where I need to be. But no worries I can cycle over. I’m told to report to boarding and security 1 hour before departure. So after a mild panic I’m feeling much better. That is until the boarding ladies see my trike. I see them furtively looking at my trike, then they are on the radio. A man turns up and says they cannot take my trike. I tell them I had previously had the OK. No. There’s no other way to Batam. No. I’ll miss my ferry. No. Pweassssse? Maybe, let me ask the boss of bosses. I’m envisioning Don Corleone but a small man in a back office comes out, spends 5 minutes speaking with the boats head porter and the captain. Finally they tell me I can load. In fact I can load immediately. I follow the head porter down the wide gangway to the Quay. I follow him further along to the wide gangplank onto the ferry and load straight on.
What was the problem I wonder. Well anyway I’m safely on the boat, the trike us inside and I’m the only one there. Then the real boarding begins and a horde of Indonesians returning home embark with all their worldly possessions! My trike is soon swamped with baggage! But I don’t care, I’m on. I note a few people get oily marks on their clean clothes from my chain. Oh dear! I hope they don’t notice before we disembark!
The crossing takes an hour and a half and I have to wait until last to get off. Welcome to Indonesia!!
I have to check my baggage through a scanner then buy a visa on arrival ($35). Then my trike is returned to me after being checked and I cycle out through the terminal into Indonesia. Immediately I see the traffic is manic. And its also very dusty! I cycle along with the heavy traffic, people waving and calling as I go by.
After a big hill I coast down the other side to my hotel for the night. I also stop at a travel agents and buy a ticket for the ferry tomorrow. There’s first class (4 man room), second class (8 man room) and economy. All with meals included. I opt for economy ($34) and hope for the best.
My first meal in Indonesia is Bakso, a broth like noodle soup with reconstituted meal balls, either, chicken or fish or unknown! Tasty Broth but the meat balls are dense and don’t taste of much in themselves.
Wednesday 14th November 2019
Batam Ampur to Jakarta
The next morning I turn up at the ferry port early. I know that the ferry is a big one so I’m not envisaging any problems today, but its pays to be careful. There are crowds of people hanging around the shabby terminal building where we are held back from the air-conditioned interior by steel gates. I park my trike and join the crowd! I’m soon taken in by a group of porters and taken around to the staff canteen for cups of hot tea. At least its better than sitting out in the blazing sun.
Later, after we’ve all sweated about 1 kilo of fluids they open the gates. The human mass pushes through and I am left to lift by trike up the steps to get into the building. We all head for the baggage scanner. It’s definitely each man woman and small screaming children for themselves. I finally get through the pushing and shoving and only have 2 people fall over the trike! I’m waved on, and as everyone else boards a bus I am waved in a vague direction along the quayside. After about 300m weaving between cargo lorries and forklifts I spot the KM Kelud my home for the next 28hours or more. I don’t spot a vehicle ramp, just a set of steep metal steps leading up into the bowels of the ship! Oh god, this is going to be a pain. There’s a continuous line of porters running up and down the steps hauling luggage, including what look like bubble wrapped toy bumper cars! I finally catch the eye of one of the guys that took me for tea earlier. He helps me up the stairs amongst the scrum of other passengers and we deposit my trike in a large passageway alongside the bumper cars. Now I can relax again. I check my ticket to find my bunk space and I’m directed to the economy section of the ship. My bunk is on the top row, with a plastic covered mattress, alongside (very closely alongside!) another 300 beds just in this section alone. My neighbour is an elderly Indonesian lady who soon falls asleep as all around me families and friends scramble over their beds or share snacks on someone’s now communal bed. I am the only westerner in the room. In fact, apart from 3 Swiss girls who have booked a first class room and another couple with a small child everyone else is a local.
I decide to scout out the ships facilities. I soon find the smoking deck, the mosque, the 1st and 2nd class restaurants I’m not allowed in, a small cafe/shop and that’s about it! I stand in the outer deck and finally watch the ship set off. In 28 hours or so I’ll be in Java.
The passage is smooth and although economy class is cramped and occasionally hot and smelly I manage to sleep during the night. Our economy meals are served from a hatch in plastic trays and we all eat on our beds. Rice, block of dried fish, and a minuscule portion of waterlogged vegetables serves for my next 3 meals!!
No chance of gaining weigh on this ship!! Its probably about 1100 km between Batam and Jakarta, and as we pull up alongside the jetty the sun is nearly set. It’s going to be a night ride from the terminal into Jakarta but thankfully only 10km. Disembarkation is just as fraught as getting on the boat. In fact, having positioned myself to be first off the boat I am then moved by the porters as they need a clear space to come and go. Then everyone else crams into the space and there’s no way I’m getting off this ship before everyone else has departed! Oh well, so much for planning ahead. At least I get to watch the mad scrum of people trying to get off the ship 10 abreast down a 2 man gangplank. Finally one of the porters assists me again and I touch terra firma. The quayside is madness as I weave my way out and find the road into Jakarta in the dark. Trucks, mopeds and speeding cars blast passed me on the dusty road, my gears are still not repaired (job for tomorrow!) and I can’t wear my sunglasses to keep the dust out of my eyes in the darkness but finally I make it to my hostel.
Tired and hungry I grab some fried chicken from the shack next to the hostel, wash it down with a bag of crisps and a couple of beers and then get my head down.
Friday 16th November 2019
I’ve decided to stay an extra day in Jakarta, not for the sights of this capital city (there aren’t any) but so I can disassemble my Rohloff gears and replace the cables with new. I’ll need a tape measure, wire cutters and patience to do this. The first two I find in a streetside bicycle shop, the latter disappears as soon as I attempt disassembling! One of the cables is so frayed I can’t get it out of the gear shifter housing and in the end have to remove a circlIp and take the shifter completely apart. After that it’s a simple matter of replacing, measuring and reattaching!! Did I mention I’m doing this at the side of a busy street in the blistering heat of downtown Jakarta!! Patience indeed! Back in the cool of my hostel I also swap out the seat mounts I picked up in Singapore, then quench my thirst with a beer or two!
So what’s the plan going forward? Basically I’m near the western end of Java and I plan to get the ferry to Bali from the far eastern end of Java 1000km away. I’ll also be visiting the Dieng Volcano complex, Yogyakarta and the two Temples of Borobodur and Prambanan and hopefully climbing Mt Bromo and Mt Ijen. My visa for Indonesia is only 30 days but I’ll be able to extend it for 1 more month when I reach Bali where I’ll spend Christmas and New Year before any further movement. It’ll also give me plenty of time to explore Bali, the surf, snorkel and party paradise!!
Saturday 17th to Tuesday 20th November
Jakarta to Dieng Plateau and Volcano Complex.
Jakarta, is the capital of Indonesia, the largest city in the country, and one of the most populous urban agglomerations on earth. Jakarta is currently the largest city in Southeast Asia, and its metro area is so large it has its own name: Jabodetabek (for the initials of Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi). Jakarta is located on the coast of Java with an estimated 2016 population of over 10 million people. The metropolitan area of Jabodetabek has a population that exceeds 30 million (Greater London is 9 million).
Needless to say, my route out of Jakarta is bedlam.
I manage to navigate my convoluted way for 75km, until I can’t stand the noise anymore and call it a day. The heat has been intense and the dust will give me black snot for days to come. The next 3 days are more of the same, but at least I up my mileage to 110, 108 and 115 km per day along the north west coastal region of Java. There’s not a lot to talk about at times it was just a matter of surviving in the heat and traffic. But at least tomorrow I’ll be heading inland, only 57km, albeit uphill, to the Dieng Plateau and Volcano Complex.
Traffic is much lighter as I head inland, there’s a lot less dust but the litter lying along the roadsides is nonetheless impressive.
The first 20 km is flat but then I start climbing. In fact for the rest of the day, 37km, I climb and climb, 2073 meters up to Dieng. This is by far the steepest hardest climb I’ve ever come across in 4 years of cycling.
Gear 1 is my friend and pretty much sees me through the day, except for some occasional downhills, which only mean more climbing! (2440m of climb, with gradients as big as 25%!) it takes me all day, the sight of the next hill around the next hairpin will ever be etched into my memories! So tough! The one consolation is that it’s definitely got cooler as I climbed. Not that I ever stopped sweating!
Wednesday 21st November
Dieng Plateau and volcano complex
Dieng Volcanic Complex covers an area of 6 to 12 km and features stratovolcanoes, twenty small craters and volcanic cones dating back to the Pleistocene and Holocene periods.
A well deserved day off after yesterday’s climb so I can explore the area and go for a walk !! The area has a long dark history of volcanic eruptions. The last being in 1979.
In 1979 a phreatic eruption was preceded by at least three felt earthquakes. At least 149 people were killed by poisonous gas(es) as they fled phreatic eruptions at Sinila and Sigludung craters. The bodies were found along the track leading to Batur (the people were single file along the track and seeming to be asleep). The gases were either carbon dioxide (CO2) or carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Over 1,000 people were injured with 100 of these requiring hospitalization. About 15,000 people were evacuated from 6 villages near Sinala. The gas(es) also killed livestock and fish.
There are also a number of Temples in the area, the oldest in Java and also 2 lakes, side by side, but one having a sulphuric content that gives it an aquamarine colour.
I climb up a nearby hillside to see the views, weaving my way amongst the farmers terraces. There are all sorts of things being grown in the rich volcanic soil, carrots, cabbages, onions and lots of potatoes. I spot a few villagers out on the hillside weeding and harvesting some of the lush carrot crop. They seem surprised to see me as most tourists stop at the “official” viewpoints. My route is definitely more picturesque, but a lot harder. In fact by the time I finish my walkabout I’ve clocked up 15km!
As well as the 2 lakes I also see the bubbling Sikidang Crater and the geological Park around it. A little like Iceland but with swings and photo-shoots the locals have erected to charge tourists for taking photos on. A bit tacky!
Thursday 22nd Nov
Dieng to Yogyakarta
One of the sights to see at Dieng is sunrise from Mt Sikunir. With this in mind I set out at 4am to cycle there, see sunrise then continue on to Yogyakarta. I stumble out of Dieng in the darkness, the occasional tourist car or motorcycles pass me by. I’ll see them on the hill for sunrise no doubt! Fortunately the going isn’t too bad and about 15 minutes before sunrise I pull up in the carpark, pay my fee and start walking up the trail. There’s fog all around, so this may be wasted effort. But as I pass lots of other tourists struggling up the hill I finally break out onto a viewpoint just after sunrise. In the far distance is another huge volcano with the sun rising beside it above the fog layer. It’s all very beautiful, but I don’t have more than 5 minutes to enjoy it as the fog shifts or rises and we are all soon engulfed and the sun disappears.
I’ve still got over 100km to do so I get back down the hill sharpish and head out.
Now I’m not too worried as I know a lot of today I’m going to be descending down the back side of the mountain I climbed up the other day. However I didn’t realise how dangerous it was going to be. In fact, today is going to turn out to be my scariest ride ever. All is OK to start, it looks like a new tarmac section has been completed on this back road down the mountain. The ride is smooth, and I coast down the first few descents and at one point seeing a nice uphill in the distance decide to gather some speed. All is going well as I zoom down the smooth road and then fly back up to the crest bleeding some of my speed. Then I’m caught out by the hidden 90 degree right turn just over the crest and on the next decent. . My speed is definitely too high to take it and I instinctively hit the brakes. Remember that new tarmac, so smooth and shiny? Yep, no grip at all, my wheels lock and I find myself sliding down the hill. Panic! OK I try modulating the brakes, but nothing is working, in desperation I unclip my feet and try scrubbing some speed with my feet, a highly dangerous endeavour when riding a trike for fear of my legs getting sucked under the front crossbeam!! I’ll have broken legs to contend with too if it all goes wrong. But it seems to do the trick and I stop with about 2 foot of road surface left. The drop off the side of the road would also have resulted in broken bones and destruction! Phew. I carry on descending but now I am crawling down. At times my forward motion is only allowed when I sit on the front crossbar to transfer weight and brake power onto the front wheels. At times I sit there petrified to move, wondering if the next movement will send me sliding down the road. After an hour of this I finally reach a level area and take a rest. Wow, I’ve never been that scarred before.
Fortunately the road is gentler now and for the rest of the day I descend towards Yogyakarta.
About 40km before Yogyakarta I arrive at Borobodur Temple.
Borobodur is a Mahayana Buddhist temple located close to Muntilan on the island of Java in Indonesia. Built during the rule of the Sailendra Dynasty (c. 650-1025 CE), Borobudur remains the world’s largest Buddhist temple. The Buddhists among the Javanese population performed pilgrimages and other rituals at Borobudur until around the 14th and 15th centuries CE when the temple was abandoned as many Javanese converted to Islam. Rediscovered in 1814 CE, Borobudur has since then been the subject of immense research and archaeological investigations by the Dutch and Javanese. UNESCO designated Borobudur as a World Heritage Site in 1991 CE following a restoration in the 1970s and 1980s CE overseen by President Suharto (1967-1998 CE) and UNESCO, and the iconic temple continues to play a powerful role in shaping Indonesian aesthetics, architecture, and cultural identity. Borobudur is the most visited tourist site in Indonesia.
Definitely a sight worth seeing. The huge terraces with small Bell shaped stupas circling each level are beautiful and with the commanding view over the surrounding countryside it is a photographers dream. And for “instagramers” too! It was quite busy with lots of Indonesian tourists taking photos everywhere whilst I was more than happy just to soak up the atmosphere. Fortunately I was also able to get the obligatory shots for the blog too!
Another 40km and I arrive in Yogyakarta. I cycle down Jalan Malioboro an iconic street of Yogyakarta city. The street is alive 24 hours a day and extends for 1 km from North to South with historical Dutch colonial-era architecture, new modern building architecture mixed in with the Chinese and contemporary commercial districts. Horse and traps (andong) line the street as tourists both local and international walk the pavements. Craft sellers tout their handicraft to the visitors. There are hand-made crafts and batiks, also sandals, sarongs, hats and bags all made from leather, dry plants, shellfish, coconuts, and rattan. You can bargain the price for crafts and batiks and can purchase them for quarter of the price and often half the original asking price. The street is rammed with traffic too and its a stop start cycle down its length but finally I break free and reach my hostel for the night.
It’s been a long sometimes fraught day and I immediately order a frosty beer and slip I to the pool to wash of the road. Tonight’s rooms are all communal with only fans to cool the weary traveller, but fortunately I’m so tired I will have no trouble sleeping!
Friday 22nd November
Yogyakarta to Wonogiri
On route out of Yogyakarta there is another attraction to see. About 15km from the center is Prambanan Temple Complex. This is a Hindu temple complex in contrast or actually built in completion with the Buddhist temple at Borobodur. Built in the 10th century, this is the largest temple compound dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Prambanan Temple Compounds consist of Prambanan Temple (also called Loro Jonggrang), Sewu Temple, Bubrah Temple and Lumbung Temple. Prambanan Temple itself is a complex consisting of 240 temples. All the mentioned temples form the Prambanan Archaeological Park and were built during the heyday of Sailendra’s powerful dynasty in Java in the 8th century AD. There are lots of school children and local tourists milling around the temple.
But unbeknownst to most tourists if you wander further into the park there is a lesser frequented spot.. At the far end of the park is the 2nd biggest temple and largest complex for Buddhists in Indonesia!
While Loro Jonggrang, dating from the 9th century, is a brilliant example of Hindu religious bas-reliefs, Sewu, with its four pairs of Dwarapala giant statues, is Indonesia’s largest Buddhist complex including the temples of Lumbung, Bubrah and Asu (Gana temple). The Hindu temples are decorated with reliefs illustrating the Indonesian version of the Ramayana epic which are masterpieces of stone carvings. These are surrounded by hundreds of shrines that have been arranged in three parts showing high levels of stone building technology and architecture from the 8th century AD in Java. With over 500 temples, Prambanan Temple Compounds represents not only an architectural and cultural treasure, but also a standing proof of past religious peaceful cohabitation.
Prambanan Temple Compounds contains the original structures that were built in the 9th century AD. The temples collapsed due to earthquake, volcanic eruption and a shift of political power in the early 11th century, and they were rediscovered in the 17th century. These compounds have never been displaced or changed. Restoration works have been conducted since 1918, both in original traditional method of interlocking stone and modern methods using concrete to strengthen the temple structure. Even though extensive restoration works have been done in the past and as recently as after the 2006 earthquake, great care has been taken to retain the authenticity of the structures.
For most of my visit to Sewa Temple I am alone a midst the Temples and piles of stone. You can see where each fallen temple stood, now just a pile of stones that have been tidied into a semblance of order. The quiet is only broken by birdsong and crickets in the tall grass.
For the rest of the day it’s an easy ride and I arrive in the large town of Wonogiri early and call it a day.
Two days later I arrive in the sleepy north coast village of Probolinggo. I’m going to visit Mt Bromo and having researched on the net this is one of several places to summit from.
Monday 25th November
Mt Bromo visit.
With at least 129 active volcanoes and daily earthquakes, Indonesia is the most geologically diverse and volatile place on the planet.
Mount Bromo isn’t the tallest of Indonesia’s active volcanoes, but it is certainly the most visited. Easily accessible, you can hike to the rim – situated at 2329m – to observe the otherworldly landscape that is often found on so many Indonesian postcards. Sunrise from the top is truly spectacular. There are also several other spots on the outer caldera to see sunrise from with Mt Bromo in the foreground. I opt for a tour organised by my hostel. The next morning I get picked up in a comfortable SUV and along with one other girl I’m whisked off to to Ceromo Lewang, a small village below the outer Caldera at 2347m. From here we walk up a very steep slope in the pre dawn dark to the sunrise viewing point. By the time we arrive on the viewing platform there’s already a number of people milling around getting photos and keeping warm.
We are all soon rewarded by a spectacular sunrise and the surrounding views of the caldera, Mt Bromo and the view back down to the coast are well worth the effort.
Now we need to walk back down to the village for the second part of the tour. We will be driven in a 4×4 down into the caldera, across the dusty plain Known as the ‘Sea of sand’ (a nature reserve) to the foot of the active volcano of Mt Batur. There are actually 5 volcanoes in the larger caldera, including Mount Bromo (2,329m), Mount Batok (2,470 m), Mount Kursi (2,581 m), Mount Watangan (2,661 m), and Mount Widodaren (2,650 m).
From our drop off point it’s another climb up to the rim of the volcano, with yet more stunning views of the rock formations and the interior of the steaming volcano. We are passed by groups of Indonesians being led up the mountain on horseback.
The dust being kicked up is a nightmare, but finally we reach the last section which has been made easier by a set of concrete steps up to the rim. The sun is well up now and warming the cool air quickly. I’ve soon got a sweat on as I hike up the steps.
Finally I reach the rim. Again there’s a large gaggle of local tourists taking photos, but after a 5 minute walk around the rim I’m soon rewarded by a better view with nobody about save a few international tourists. The Bubbling sulfur pit down below is steaming and the sounds are ominous, but thankfully today wasn’t the day for an eruption and I was able to take in the views peacefully.
Finally it’s time to head back to the 4×4 and a quick drive to the village for breakfast.
Then back in the SUV down to the coast. What a great experience and I’m glad I took the tour rather than cycling up on my own. That would have been doable but such an ordeal and probably added 2 days to the trip!!
Wednesday 27th November
The longest day!
This morning I wake early in my hostel. Some people are getting up early for their trip up Mt Bromo so I’ve decided to set off at the same time to try and beat some of the days heat. It’s 330am when I hit the dark roads and I’m soon whizzing along in the cool air with only the occasional lorry thundering by. Before the sun has risen I’ve already done 50km and feeling good. I know there’s some accommodation at 85km but I’m still going strong as I flash by in the early morning sun and decide to push on to 35km where the next accommodation option is.
By the time I reach there it’s not even midday so I look at my map and realise if I do another 66km I can reach the far eastern edge of Java and Banyuwangi the ferry port to Bali. Its been a little hilly on the coast road but I decide I still have it in me and so I stop for some lunch and a break then carry on. By 3pm I’ve done it and I have a look at Maps Me to see which of the numerous hotels and hostels I should pick. But wait a minute! I’ve ridden 183km today, wow that’s my biggest mileage in one day ever.
However, I know another trike rider who had recently clocked up a magnificent 200km (Matt Galat who is also on a world trike tour) whilst cycling down the coast of Thailand. At the time I had marvelled at this feat of strength, my highest mileage before today was 140km and I’d never imagined ever reachIng 200km as I was normally quite knackered after any day with more than 100km. Dilemma? No not really, and so rather than resting and getting the ferry to Bali tomorrow I decide to push on a little bit more and break that fabled 200km barrier at least once. I cycle to the ferry point and after a short wait I cycle onto the ferry to Bali. It’s only a 45 minute crossing, about 5km to Bali and so by 430pm I cycle off the ferry onto Bali.
Now I just need to do another 15km and I’ll have done it. There is an immediate noticeable difference from riding on Java. It seems a lot greener, the people are even more friendly and there’s tons of Balinese Temples and ornamental gates everywhere.
The road is also very undulating. But by 530pm I hit the 200km mark! Yes! I stop to make a quick video to mark the occasion.
Now to find some accommodation, before darkness hits hopefully! Haha, would you believe it? There’s none nearby, in fact the next town is another 18km away! This is definitely going to be the longest day ever! I continue cycling, up and down along the undulating Road as darkness falls, fortunately my bright lights and the small amount of traffic makes for a safe completion to my ride in the dark and I find a great little hotel in Negara on the south west coast of Bali. Time for a beer and copious amounts of food!! 218km, an incredible effort even if I say so myself!
So that’s Java done, 1075km in 11 days of cycling. My cumulative mileage now sits at 33602km.
I’ve got another 2 weeks left on my visa but the intent is to visit immigration and extend my visa for another month and explore Bali and the surrounding islands over December and the Christmas and New year period. There’s some amazing snorkeling, surfing, culture and nature to be had in the area and I aim to see as much as I can.
I’ll leave all those adventures for the next blog. Thanks for reading so far and hope you enjoyed the journey.
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See you all again soon!