27 May 2010

CYCLING JAVA, INDONESIA - Bandung to Kebumen

14 May 2010
Bandung – Cicalengka

Ooh it was so good to be on the bike at last. First we cycled to the bike shop and had the gears on my bike sorted out, Ernest also got a new front derailleur, and after everything was fitted it was 12h30. We headed south-east along a terribly busy road, complete with traffic jams, busses, trucks, motorbikes and scooters. Not even on the bike could we always get past.

By 4.30 we did a mere 46km, dark clouds started heading our way and with big drops of rain falling we kept our eyes peeled for a room. We pulled into roadside village (in Java the whole roadside is a village) and asked around for a room. By the time we found a room we’d actually started heading back in the direction of Bandung. The room came without windows, a solid cover of mould on walls and ceiling, and a pile of cigarette butts swept into a corner. Rooms were obviously let by the hour as there was a constant coming and going of visitors, and judging from the sounds coming from the other rooms I think they all had a pretty good time.

With rain pelting down on the tin roof we cooked our noodles and drank a local “Bintang” or two.

15 May 2010
Cicalengka – Tasik Malaya

In the morning I was more than happy to be out of our cell and back on the road again. Things went well enough until we started climbing over the mountains when I could feel that I hadn’t been cycling for 6 weeks – Gosh, how quickly one looses fitness. In the afternoon the usual rain-storm arrived, driving us to seek shelter at a petrol station. After an hour the worst of the rain was over, but it was still twilight and raining, with parts of the road more like a river. I felt that this was a dangerous situation as we were not very visible, the road was narrow with flooded potholes, and the traffic was extremely heavy (as usual in Java).

I was becoming concerned about the gathering dark, but fortunately about 10 k’s before Tasik Malaya town Ernest spotted a hotel - there was no argument about pulling in there (fortunately the rooms were cheap and not too bad).

17 May 2010
Tasik Malaya – Tasik city
16 km

We cycled the short distance into the city centre, drew some money and then decided to stay for the day. Good thing too, as we did some laundry, high time as well, as I’ve been wearing almost the same clothes since leaving Cape Town 5 days ago. 18 May2010
Tasik Malaya – Cipatujah

I was getting back into my stride and felt more at home on the bike and on the road than on the previous two days. We headed south on a much smaller and more quiet road to the small seaside village of Cipatujah. Although a hilly road, the scenery was sublime. We pedaled past small villages, rice paddies and dense forested areas. Once again we had to take shelter from the rain for a while, but for most of the afternoon it wasn’t much more than a drizzle. What a pleasure it was to cycle in the rain, at least it helps to keep one cool!

Soon we arrived in Cipatujah and found ourselves a nice little local hotel room close to the beach. We had hardly unloaded the bikes and the landlady brought us a bunch of bananas and later 2 huge plates of fried rice accompanied by the usual omelette, prawn crackers and slices of cucumber. At first we thought we were the only visitors in the village but soon a bunch of travelling salesmen (on motorbikes) arrived - that’s when you know that you’re staying in a local joint.

Later, just as we were nicely settled in, the earth started to rumble and shake! Clothes started swinging on the wall, the standing fan teetered back and forth, the water in the bathroom mandi (tank) was sloshing around, and even the floor tiles were moving back and forth!! Ernest and I looked at each other wide-eyed and I quickly put my shoes back on, just in case I had to run from our not so strong looking room (or a tsunami).

We had hardly calmed down again and a whole bunch of local policemen arrived (apparently to check our visas, etc.). They were obviously inquisitive about us and wanted to chat, but the language barrier was a problem and they didn’t stay long - at last we could go to bed.

19 May 2010
Cipatujah – Batu Karas

We left our fragile-looking accommodation and headed towards Pangandaran, the next biggish place on our map. We followed the smallest of coastal roads past fishing villages and more rice paddies. The road was mostly level as we followed the coast, what a pleasure it was! Some days, bicycle touring can be so much fun!

We took our time and turned off the main road. In the process we found the fishing village of Batu Karas, and decided to stay the night. The place is popular with tourists as it has a great beach and good surf as well. There is a range of accommodation, some fancy hotels and also basic “surfer dorms”. We found a nice cheap place attached to one of the beach restaurants, and it was even worth eating there instead of cooking our own food.

20 May 2010
Batu Karas – Pangandaran

A short ride into Pangandaran,, apparently the main beach resort on Java island. There’s a lovely beach, hundreds of cheap hotels, a peninsula with nature reserve up the road, and not much else. Ernest was complaining of a sore backside, so we booked into a room and did lots of exciting things such as the laundry! We also spent the next day in Pangandaran, and while Ernest fiddled with equipment I spent some time on the beach - lukewarm water and good waves is not something I complain about. That evening after supper I started feeling nauseous and puked my lungs out all night. Although I felt a million times better in the morning, I was weak so we stayed on another 2 days. The first day I mostly spent sleeping, and on the second day I went to the bookshop and spent the rest of the day reading The Shining Mountain by Peter Boardman. I love mountaineering books and find our personalities and justification for what we’re doing scarily similar. It’s interesting to read that he had as much difficulty in explaining to people why he climbed, than what we have explaining why we’re cycling.

24 May 2010
Pangandaran – Cilacap

There were heavy thunderstorms during the night, and in the morning it was still raining. At first we couldn’t decide whether to move on or not, but by mid-day the weather had cleared and we were eventually on the road. It was a rather bumpy road, but that also meant not so many vehicles. We followed this tiny road over hills, past rice paddies and coconut groves, and through villages until we reached the large town of Cilacap. It was rather late and half dark by the time we found a reasonable room for the night.

With my eyes closed under the rickety fan, in the dead of the night, I sensed an unnerving presence. Then I felt it, something running over my bare stomach! The first shot missed, but I was quicker on the second take – and that poor cockroach didn’t know what hit him! Ooh, the pleasures of the tropics!

25 May 2010
Cilacap – Kebumen

We got woken up with a tray of breakfast at 6-30. The breakfast consisted of a teenaged chicken thigh (with claw still attached), sticky rice, and sambals. No need to say Ernest had both plates, but was convinced that it had already been prepared the previous day.

We left by 8 o’clock (a record for us in recent times!), and continued East along the road. During the course of the day we found ourselves back on a main road, and in Java that means the road was jam-packed with buses, trucks and scooters. I have to remind myself that there are 130 million people living on this island of 132 000 square kilometers - the most populated island in the world. The roads are also rather narrow and often in poor condition – everything but a relaxing ride.

It was still fairly early in the afternoon when we arrived at Kebumen, a large town about half-way between Cilacap and Yogyacarta. Due to the early start we’d had enough for the day, and had no trouble finding a reasonable room. In some of the more conservative Indonesian towns it is, however, rather difficult to find a beer with which to relax during the evening – and this town is one of those places.

26 May 2010

CYCLING JAVA, INDONESIA - Jakarta to Bandung

29/30 March 2010
Jakarta – Bogor

We seemed to be cycling less and less. The road was congested the entire way from Jakarta to Bogor. Bogor is world renowned for its historical botanical gardens and we could hardly cycle past without a visit to the park. We found accommodation close by at Puri Bali Homestay for a reasonable price and with lovely old spacious rooms. We spent the following day exploring the gardens - and what an impressive haven it was.

31 March 2010
Bogor – Cibodas

We climbed up the volcanic slopes to the Puncak Pass, which took the best part of the day but offered stunning views of the surrounding mountains and tea plantations. Ernest was still suffering from bronchitis and on the downhill it started raining, so we started looking out for a roadside room.

Disaster! As I went up a wet concrete ramp to check on a room I slipped and fell. I immediately knew something was seriously wrong as I went into spasms and couldn’t stop shaking. I sensed that Ernest was irritated by my clumsiness but he still went with me (by taxi) in search of medical assistance. X-rays revealed a dislocated shoulder and two fractures, but the local hospital wasn’t equipped for further treatment so they referred me to a specialist in Cianjur about 20km away. Off we went in another minivan but the doctor was out of town and we made an appointment for the following afternoon.

So I spent an uncomfortable night back in the “disaster-zone room” (which we’d been forced to rent), sucking on pain-killers.

1 April 2010
Cibodas – Cianjur
By minivan

I managed to charter a local minivan to take me, the bike and the bags to the larger town of Cianjur, where I had an appointment with the specialist. All the effort was in vain, as I was again referred to doctors in the city of Bandung about 65 km away. What a schlep, I just hate things like this! Cycling was out of the question, so all I could do was take more pain-killers and go to bed.

As if I didn’t have enough problems, earlier in the day my credit card got stuck in the ATM. Fortunately it happened at a bank which was still open, but it was still a big rigmarole getting the card back – obviously not my week!!

2 April 2010
Cianjur – Bandung
By minivan

It is such a mission to organize things if you don’t speak the language. When I enquired about a minivan to Bandung the hotel staff thought I wanted to exchange money!? In the end I flagged down a minivan, negotiated a fee and set off for Bandung. I could not believe Easter weekend was such a big event in Indonesia (the most populous Moslem country in the world), as hotels were fully booked and one could only get a room at prime rates. There wasn’t much else to do but pay the price and sms Ernest where to find me (he was still following by bicycle).

By this time my arm had swollen to double its normal size and it was on fire. I went to a reputable private hospital in the city, just to discover that there was little they could do but put the arm in a sling and give more painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicine. At least the painkillers seemed to working better than the stuff I had up to then.

3 April 2010

There was no doubt that I would not be able to cycle for some time, so I had to make a quick plan. I decided to leave all my belongings at the hotel and fly back to South Africa for a month, while waiting for the silly arm to mend. Fortunately there was a travel agent directly next to where we stayed and in no time at all I was bound for South Africa (albeit a huge credit card overdraft). I bought Ernest a plane ticket as well, but he didn’t seem all that pleased about it (Was it because his trip was being put on hold?) Whatever the reason, he was rather miserable.

4 April
Bandung – Jakarta
By bus

It was another mission just getting to Jakarta airport from Bandung (chartered minivan with bikes from hotel to bus station plus three hour bus ride to the airport) – all this while I was in constant pain and had a splitting headache as well, not even the medicine seemed to help. On top of that we still had 8 hours to wait for our flight which was at half past midnight. Just to crown it all, I puked 2 airsick-bags full before the plane even took off!! Now that is what I call “things not going to plan”.

5 April
Jakarta – Cape Town, South Africa
By plane

Wow, what a long, long day it was. Hours and hours in the air – via Dubai (that’s what happens if you live at the Southern tip of Africa) eventually we arrived in Cape Town where I spent just as many hours chatting to my sisters while drinking numerous glasses of wine. I was, however, more that relieved to be off that darn aircraft and snug in a real home, eating my favorite dish (macaroni cheese) of which a huge bowl was awaiting me as I stepped into Karin’s home.

6 April – 11 May 2010
Cape Town

It was party after party, pizzas galore, and after many good bottles of wine it was time to head back to Indonesia and continue where we’d left off. It was great to see my friends and family again, and even after extending our departure for a week, 5 weeks were just not enough to catch up with everyone. It was a concern that my shoulder was not yet completely right - now really, tell me, how long does it take for a bone to grow on?!