Had a leisurely breakfast and spent the first half of the morning updating the blog. We both ached from our dragon boat session but felt ready to tackle the day ahead.
It was a real stop and start day, heavy traffic all the way, Lots of weaving in and out of traffic, t he only way to move forward was to ignore what was happening behind you and just concentrate on what was happening in front of you or to the side of you. Indecision was your enemy so you picked your spot and cycled forward. There were bikes, minibuses (local transport) coaches and bicycles everywhere not only moving in the same direction as us but also heading towards us on the wrong side of the road. If you add to this, pedestrians you have some idea of the chaos we were trying to cycle in. Priority seemed to be given to anyone joining the road, which meant that drivers didn’t look left or tight they simply pulled out in front of the traffic and the traffic made way for them. It took 6 hours to cover 42 miles, in temperatures in excess of 35c. I don’t think I will ever like city cycling, you have to concentrate so hard that you don’t really get to experience what is going on around you, but I think we’ve broken the back bone and we should be on quieter roads tomorrow. Although the locals have not been as friendly as the Sri Lankan’s we have received a lot of thumbs ups and shouts from passing traders. Along the route we have seen a lot of motorcycle repair shops which is not a surprise given the number of motorcycles on the road. Along side these there are a number of food stands, photocopy shops and clothes stands and banks.
My earlier comment (in the last blog update) re people wearing pyjamas in the morning needs to be changed, pyjamas have been adopted as a comfortable form of clothing for some people living in Indonesia, I have seen a number of women and children in pyjama sets they’re even on sale in the shops in the main clothes area rather than with underwear. I should imagine in this heat they’re very comfortable but does look a little odd to us westerners especially when worn with fancy shoes.
People in Java look more oriental than Sri Lanka and are fatter in comparison. We have seen some slums near the railways and rubbish by the side of the roads, but the big towns and city are relatively clean. People we have met so far speak very little English, so we are trying to learn some useful phrases. 90% of people living in Java are muslim, we have seen a number of men and young boys wearing fez hats known here as Rui Topi
For the last ten miles of our ride, Gary was on a mission, I really struggled to keep up with him, I couldn’t understand what he was doing, we were scheduled to finish early in a town with little to do, it was really hot and humid and we (or I) was still aching from our little jaunt in the dragon boat. When we stopped for a drink 2 miles from our hotel he apologised and said he was lost in his own little design and engineering world, he’d been designing an exercise paddle ergo that doubled up as a bike and training equipment for triathletes (other words a torture machine) As we enjoyed our ice cold spite drinks we sweated buckets, it is no surprise that we haven’t seen many cyclists in Java.
Whilst cycling in the traffic it was interesting to note that traffic wardens (we’re not sure if their official or not) direct traffic in and out of junctions, as they would in the UK, but here drivers tip them for their effort, we assume rather cynically that the wardens get to recognise certain faces and tippers are given priority over other drivers.
We arrived at the hotel at about 3.30pm and had a chilled out afternoon, we had looked on line for something to do in the area but when the highlight on trip advisor is a service station (rest place) you know there’s nothing to see. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and spent most of the time fighting mosquitoes.
Breakfast in the hotel (included in the price) was an oriental breakfast which was not much better than indian breakfasts. On offer was rice, a stir fried dish, a dish which looked like soup and an omelette square with all sorts in it including chillies. I opted for dry toast with jam and peanut butter needless to say Gary went for a little bit of everything. Which clearly wasn’t enough because at our first stop he had a big chocolate and coffee doughnut.
Short day today as we have a big climb to do tomorrow and there are no hotels in our price range on route to break the trip up.
The first half of the ride was on very busy, noisy roads so it was head down and plough through it. To avoid a main road (which was possibly a motorway) Gary took us for a ride by the river, unfortunately most of this was on a very broken path with lots of ditches and ruts, not a comfortable ride but something different to concentrate on. We saw motorcycles crossing a rickety bridge which had almost collapsed into the fast flowing river, as we cycled passed I thought rather them than me. Gary stopped to see if we needed to cross it whilst I prayed that the route was straight on, fortunately luck was on my side. Once back on a main road we went through many small towns that were decorated beautifully with national flags to celebrate 70 years of independence (we have seen these since our arrival in Java) the also had life sized fully dressed dummies of men, women and children in various poses standing and sitting outside houses and shops.
In the towns there were a lot of houses that looked like they were still being built, all individual and using good quality materials, the area seemed quite affluent. As in all the towns we’ve cycled through there were men sitting in the shade quietly passing the time away, the never look like their in a hurry to go anywhere or do anything accept chill and bide time. Several of the women looked like they were checking each others hair for head lice, I seen this in a couple of villages.
Once at the hotel we had lunch for 90p and went our separate ways Gary wanted to cycle to a lake 4 miles a way, which didn’t interest me, I had some shopping I needed to do, I am so bored with my clothes and I’ve also lost an earring. Unfortunately I failed miserably, I did go into a clothes shop and tried on some trousers but got a quick reminder that clothes in Indonesia are not made for women my heights, the bottom of the trousers we’re half way up my calves and this clearly was not the design. I couldn’t be bothered to look further, I was hot and bothered, I really don’t think I’m cut our for shopping. I did happen to notice whilst looking for a moisturiser that there are a lot of products in Indonesia for making the skin lighter, it would appear that women the world over want a different skin colour to the one they were born with. I was also stopped several times for money, which always makes me feel really uncomfortable.
On my return to the hotel I sat outside and was fortunate to see a mother cat feeding her kittens right by the side of me it was really sweet. We’ve seen lots of cats in Java but few stray dogs, monkeys or roaming cows.
I took a cycle trip (unladen) out to a large lake, I had read something on the internet machine that mentioned canoe hire. The route was small rural lanes and very hilly, the sort of steep hills that has your front wheel popping up.
The lake was a pleasant surprise, although no canoe hire where I was. I had cycled to a local fishing port, as far as the eye could see there where the square floating fishing pens. Loads of wooden fishing canoes, and for my entertainment several rafts (better than the ones we built with Pam Bennington for the Amazon race) which the fisherman paddled with a single blade and threw fishing nets to scoop out any fish.
On the steep bank they had built ramps that looked like ski jumps, large bags of grain (?) were slid down from the top to a small boat about 50ft below, the skipper of the boat had to catch the sack of grain and load his boat.
I took a different route back to the hotel, still lumpy but no where near as bad as the one I had used earlier.
this short 13 mile excursion had me climbing a total of 1024 ft.
Ginette – glad I didn’t go – I had a much more relaxing afternoon
We had dinner in a local restaurant and it was horrible, I hardly ate a thing. The menu contained no english and the waiter could not speak english other than to tell us the items on the menu that were not available. We opted for a local special dish, Nasi Goring (rice, chicken and a separate broth) which in itself was not too bad, although I seem to have developed a dislike for chicken on the bone. However what made the meal unpleasant was the fact that we were being bombarded by mosquitoes and if that was not enough to put you off your rice dish, on the big TV screen immediately in front of me was a programme in graphic detail about maggots, yuk!
When we got back to the room we realised that it was going to be an uncomfortable night as there were a number of mosquitoes in the room, Our room was on the ground floor and outside of our room were table and chairs in a courtyard where a group of young people were sitting and socialising (how dare they lol), if that was not enough to challenge us the local mosque was right next door to the hotel so we were guaranteed an early wake up call. We put ear plugs in and climbed into our red sleeping bag liners and hoped for the best.
39 miles climbed 3017 feet
We slept surprisingly well considering the conditions, not perfect but at least we were not up all night fighting the mossies. That said one of the buggers still managed to attack my leg and i now have a further 6 bites argh!! I wish there was a way I could make a deal with the mozzies, I would happily leave a thimble of blood in the room if they would just leave us alone.
We set off without breakfast as it was not included in the room rate and headed for the hills. It was a hard, hot, hilly day and although the roads were busy and the views poor it wasn’t a bad day. We passed through a number of small towns, the people in Java are happy to wave and shout but are not as quick with their smiles as they were in Sri Lanka. At one of our stops the locals took pictures of us and a little baby took offence at us being there and tried to shoo us off.
A lot of the towns contain pre fab buildings that look like they’ve been there for a number of years, the towns were small with shops on either side of the road with not a lot else going on.
Petrol is sold local shops or houses and is stored in glass demi johns and poured into motorcycles through a funnel.
We were wet through (sweaty) by the 5mile mark and although there were some downhill stretches most of the day was spent climbing. Occasionally we could see some mountains to the side of us but the view was blocked by the small towns.
Not a great route, so we have agreed to look at it again tomorrow to see if we can change it.
Arrived at a central hotel at 2.30pm and managed to negotiate a good deal for the room about £14 with breakfast . We were both knackered through interrupted sleep and heat exhaustion so we took advantage of the air conditioned room and clean beds and had a quick nap before going shopping.
As is often the case we didn’t buy anything but it was good to people watch without having to think about the traffic. We were amused to see guitarists trying to earn a penny or two from playing to passengers on small mini buses or people sitting in traffic. They didn’t seem to be making a lot of money but you had to admire them for trying.
After some encouragement from one of the rare bars in Java we agreed to go in for a drink and got chatting to an Australian man who works for an airline as part of the cabin crew. He had lots of travel experience which he was happy to share with us, especially helpful was his tales from Vietnam.
We had dinner in a local restaurant, I ordered grilled chicken and salad but just the smell of the chicken made my tummy turn. I usually like chicken and I can only imagine that I am being turned off by the site and smell of chickens being cut up and hung in shops as we cycle pass. My salad was lovely and was covered in a satay sauce so I don’t think I will starve.
We have noticed in a couple of the hotels in Indonesia that there are arrows on the ceiling, in this hotel the arrow had the word Kiblat, out of curiosity we looked this up and as we guessed it is the an arrow informing muslims re the direction for prayer.
Bandung to kota Grut
The steep hard hill climb day.
Fantastic nights sleep, in a really comfy bed and no mosquitoes, heaven. I do miss my bed! It is one of the downsides of this trip, we never know where we will be sleeping, each bed is different even the bathrooms can be different, several of the hotels in Indonesia don’t provide you with a sink, the bathroom simply contains a shower and a toilet.
We set off rather late (10.00am) after a lovely buffet breakfast. The first 20 miles we cycled through more traffic. We were stopped on route by a man on a motorbike who wanted to exchange details and help us with our directions. I couldn’t really hear him, but after talking to Gary for about 10 minutes we followed him through town to some bike shops, exchanged a few hello’s with people working on bikes and then he guided us to a road which would lead us to our planned destination.
We stopped for lunch in a small cafe, the owner could speak no English but offered us a plate of rice, with several sauces which he ladled out of some big pans, Gary had a chicken leg with his lunch. The plate was huge and I regretted eating so much as not long after lunch we started to climb a mountain, and I got indigestion, I also needed the loo so when the traffic stopped on a steep part of the hill I asked if we could have a breather. Once back on our bikes the mountain got steeper and steeper, I heard Gary grown up ahead of me so I looked up from the road which I was studying really hard because it was full of pot holes to see a very steep bit up ahead. I wasn’t in the mood to play so decided to walk my bike for a bit, we had not gone far and I could see Gary had also got off his bike and was pushing. We rode the bits we could but the road was almost impossible to ride, especially with our bikes and panniers. Not only was it very steep, in excess of 20% (my limit), it was also in an awful condition and was in the process of being repaired this meant the traffic was down to one lane so there was little room for errors when you were on the bike. It was a mountain that just kept on giving at one point we were both pushing our bikes, Gary being a little stronger than me would push on ahead and then come back for me. At one point when Gary was ahead of me a young man took pity on me and got off his motorbike to help me push the bike out of a sand dune which I had steered into. Every time I tried to reverse the bike out of the sand dune I nearly rolled back down the mountain with the bike – it really was that steep (we later learnt the hill was in excess of 30%).
We stopped for drinks at one of the kiosks on the way up the mountain and watched the children playing on the opposite side of the road. The girls were dressed in colourful hijabs whilst the boys wore colourful tracksuits. They giggled as we tried to cool down and drink our drinks. I am not sure if they were amused that we were trying to cross the mountain on bikes or the fact that we were westerners. We also saw a woman carrying a child in a sling and I realised that whilst cycling in Indonesia (or Sri Lanka) I have not seen a pushchair. It would appear women carry their babies until their ready to walk, this however may be just in the rural areas.
As the afternoon ticked on by we decided to flag a lift from one of the pick up trucks, I had begun to think we might need to camp on the mountain (it gets dark in Indonesia at 6.00pm and it was already 4.00pm, with no sign of the top of the mountain). Fortunately Gary managed to talk a local into taking us to the top which turned out to be a further 8 miles to the top.
We were really grateful and paid him £5.00, which is a lot of money for Indonesia, I’d have gladly given him double that amount but that was all he asked for which in the circumstances we thought was very reasonable. Once we unloaded the bike we cycled down the other side of the mountain stopping to take photos on the way. We stopped at the first big town and booked into a hotel. We were both feeling weary and the sun was going down.
After we’d showered we ventured out for dinner, we found a nice but not noisy (from traffic noise) Japanese restaurant. I took one look at the menu and realised I wasn’t hungry so struggled to order anything but settled on a broth with vegetables. Gary had chosen a meal which had a photo on the menu but when his meal arrived it looked like mine only he had chicken and a fried egg on his.
Whilst walking back to the hotel we noticed a number of horse and traps, we have seen a number of these in the smaller villages, they seemed to be used a bit like a tuk tuk.
I have not really enjoyed the cycling in Java, we cant seem to get off the busy roads. Today I took the risk of riding a back road to our destination, I had read on another cycling blog that the back lanes are far quieter and more scenic. However these other cyclist hadn’t found the bloody lane we did.
Stuart would have loved it but I think even he would have had to walk, I estimate some 30% climbs straight up, no weaving roads and hairpin bends just straight up the hill, no chance with the laden bikes. Even when pushing the bike your feet were slipping on the slopes trying to get enough grip to push you upwards. The temperature was about 40 degrees so we were sweating like pigs.
After the lift to the top, the down hill section was on good tarmac surfaces and the inclines were not as steep, a stark contrast to the route we took up the hill.
Another good nights sleep, woke up refreshed and ready to take on what ever the day wanted to throw at us.
Breakfast was a little poor on choice, we ate indoors as there were lots of smokers outside (nearly everyone appears to smoke in Java). I had toast and melon for breakfast whilst Gary tucked into rice, noodles and a fried egg.
We looked at google maps and read some blogs before leaving the hotel and prepared ourselves for another day of climbing. Although we did have to climb for the first 10 miles the gradient was much more manageable than the previous day. After the 10 mile mark we descended more than we climbed but this was hard on the legs as the road suddenly changed from being really steep to descent to a a steep climb.
The scenery was very pretty and we stopped to take a couple of photo’s, lots of people working in tiered rice paddy fields, lakes and pretty houses.
Gary; We cut through a saddle between two volcanoes, we had already passed a large volcano which was a pointed cone shape as if drawn by a child.
We followed about 40 feet above a mountain stream with huge boulders in the water, on both banks rice paddies had been cut into the hills side making several small stepped layers until spreading out into a larger flat area. By the roadside some building had been erected on Bamboo sticks so that they overhung the steep edges. This was the first pretty area we have seen so far in Java.
Ginette – Over the last couple of days throughout the day we have seen children in various uniforms going to and from school there doesn’t appear to be any time during the day when we don’t see or hear children it is a lovely noise and they’re generally happy to see us and call out to say hello.
As we’ve said before the English language is not widely spoken in Java, I hope this explains why I’ve been called ‘mister’ on more than one occasion, it is quite funny hearing ‘hello mister’ ‘how are you?’ spoken very quickly in a very oriental accent. If they do get my gender correct it is ‘hello miss or mrs’ whereas in India it was often ‘hello auntie’.
We arrived in Tasikmailya fairly early and booked into one of the first hotels we cycled passed, not the cheapest hotel, but it was in the centre of a mall and had everything we needed. There was a small price to pay for stopping at the first hotel we had to cycle up a multi storey car park to get to the entrance of the hotel. On the way up we cycled passed walls covered in graffiti so I was a little dubious it either it was going to be a really luxurious hotel as it was in a big mall or a complete dive. Fortunately it turned out to be a bit like a centre parcs villa, with lots of artificial pathways and greenery leading up to the rooms.
In the mall I managed to buy a new bra (my old one was beginning to look very silly, I have dropped at least three cup sizes since leaving the Uk) and some new earrings as I had lost one. As in other areas of South East Asia there are far too many shop assistants in the stores. It took 4 sales staff to sell me my bra, one to look over my shoulder whilst I browsed, one to show me to the changing room, one to write me out an invoice and to follow me to the till and a further one to take my card for payment. All 4 of them were highly amused by my purchase. Later in the day I purchased some new ear plugs for my iPod this again took at least 4 girls to process the order and then several minutes of giggling and posing for photo’s, it would be really hard to shop for anything in a hurry, but it does add a new dimension to shopping.
Back at the hotel we asked if they sold beer and was informed they didn’t but they kindly offered to drive and get us some from the next town, 10 minutes away as the town didn’t sell beer. We were not that desperate and made do with a bottle of water and a bottle of coke.
Good nights sleep and an excellent breakfast, a choice of both western and chinese. We had only scheduled a short day, so didn’t leave the hotel until gone 9am
First 28 miles were really easy we cycled passed some really affluent areas with very pretty houses painted in lovely bright colours. At our first stop a man passed us on his moped and round his middle he had a lorry tyre nothing surprises us anymore but it is amusing to watch what they can put on their bikes, if we haven’t said already the record number of people we have seen on one bike is 5, we have now seen this several times, the strangest thing to date has to be the double bed frame.
Outside both houses and shops we have seen a number of caged birds which are kept as pets in Java. We still haven’t seen any stray dogs but have seen dogs for sale in small cages. Cows are not held as sacred animals here and feature on most menus.
I’m not sure if it is down to the heavy weight of traffic but there does not appear to be as many birds in Java as in Sri Lanka. I cycled along today for about an hour without the iPod and all I could hear was the noise of motorbikes, which is a real shame. Some of the motorcyclists look so young, we have looked up the legal age for driving a bike and it is 17 but some of the kids we’ve seen are much younger.
As you cycle through the towns you can hear all the obvious noises and in addition you can hear men trying to sell a variety of goods, to attract customers they either use horns, whistles of bang sticks on wood. Goods are sold either from bikes, carts or from baskets which are held on a pole and carried across the shoulders
We arrived at our planned destination at 1.00pm, we scouted around for a hotel but were not impressed with the ones we viewed so agreed to stop for lunch and push on to the next town which was approx 20 miles away.
We had hoped we would arrive at our hotel at about 4pm but did not arrive until 6.30pm although not late it was very dark and we were very tired and hungry. Gary had a challenging day plotting the route, he had to rely on google maps which did not take into account the fact that some of the roads went through fields and some did not look like they existed at all.
The first half of the afternoon was a scenic ride along a canal, we stopped to watch some boys jumping off a bridge into the river. There were a number of bridges placed strategically across the river some more rickety than others, I egged Gary to cross one of them whilst I took a photo but he didn’t make it half way a cross, as the bridge was too wobbly, it was funny to watch him try, I did take some photos but I don’t think they capture the moment very well.
The second half of the bike ride was spent mainly off road, including cycling across fields and very rocky embankments not very pleasant, and difficult to negotiate, lots of swerving to avoid pot holes and rocks made worse by the fact that we took the wrong turn on a couple of occasions. As we neared the main road we cycled through a village, it was dusk and to add to the eeriness the call to prayer was being played which is normally a soothing sound but on this occasion it sounded like two different men calling from opposite sides of the road, all a bit spooky, I was glad when we reached the main tarmac road.
We booked into the first hotel, showered and went out for dinner.
Gary; Today was two stages for me, the morning stage one, which was easy and all went to plan. Then the afternoon stage 2, which was a “disaster”.
I am navigating from my phone which is packed in the top box so I need to stop each time to check the route so I tend to cycle until I reach a turning. We cycled across flatlands to a town that hardly showed on the map but according to my phone had three hotels (none of which you can find on the internet so we had not been able to book). when I eventually stopped to check we had gone two miles past the turn (we had not passed any paved turnings). for the next 10 miles I had to navigate towards the town via footpaths, gravel tracks, grass tracks – all shown on the GPS as roads. surprisingly there are still lorries, cars and bikes on these obscure roads and along the way there were still houses, must be a nightmare for the locals when it rains.
I thought we may be camping tonight, there were a few good places we could stop but Ginette wanted to push on (so did I), we cycled in total 60 miles and the last part in the dark, its get dark here by 6pm. We do have lights unlike some of the motorbikes and other cycles we nearly bumped into in the night. Fortunately the small town did have an open hotel with room for us.
Dinner was chosen from a menu which we had no idea of any of the dishes, my was picked with the scientific method of shutting eyes and circling and then pointing to a dish, the total bill including drinks for us both £2.50. The hotel bill was £16 inc breakfast.
We were woken up at 6.30am!!!!! by a knock on our door, Gary sleepily got out of bed and in walked in one of the staff with our breakfast of noodles, fried egg and coffee, at 6.30am!!! I hastened to add we had not ordered this, nor did it get eaten. We left it on the side and went back to sleep.
We checked our email before leaving the hotel and were saddened to hear that another of our friends had lost her long battle with cancer. A very somber start to the day and a reminder of how lucky we are to be undertaking this amazing adventure. I spent a lot of the day thinking of those close to me, that have died in recent years, happy and sad thoughts but good to have the time and space to remember them.
Very tired legs today, the first part of the ride was pretty flat and fairly slow as we had roadworks to cycle through. Alongside the road the locals were burning their rubbish so we were often cycling through plumes of black, putrid smelling smoke. On the subject of smoke through out the week we have cycled passed crops being burnt unlike the UK only parts of the field are burnt instead of all of the field.
The second half of the ride was hilly, at one point I got off my bike to check the brakes and tires were OK as I was finding it really hard. When we stopped at the next stop Gary agreed it was like cycling through treacle our legs were shot from the cycling the previous day.
Gary; The Road works are controlled by men with mobile phones and flags, they stop the traffic one end. This doesn’t seem to apply to cycles and motorbikes as they all ignore the man with the flag and drive on, dodging the oncoming cars. So this is what I did, to the sound of Ginette calling me by my full name, a sure sign she was telling me off, she was trying to be a good girl and stop at the man with the flag.
Cilicap, a coastal town and yet again we still have not seen the sea at all.
We arrived in Cilacap at about 2.00pm shattered and pleased to be off the bike, we had planned to go to the beach but decided to chill instead and stay for 2 nights so that we could rest our bodies.
We had dinner in a local restaurant, again we struggled with interpreting the menu, Gary is happy to eat anything and simply closes his eyes and points at something on the menu and asks if he needs rice with that. I am struggling a bit with the food in this area so played safe and opted for broccoli soup, which turned out to be broccoli in a broth. Needless to say I was still hungry after dinner so we went to the supermarket for crisps and chocolate. Gary’s meal was a beef stir fry dish, it wasn’t very big compared to some of the meals we’ve had here and was a little more expensive at £3.50 for both meals. It was a nice restaurant with low tables a seats on the floor, very few mosses but lots of ants.
When we returned to the hotel we had a beer (the first in days) it cost a staggering £7 for two bottles but tasted delicious, we drank this whilst eating our snacks and watching the athletics (first TV we’ve watched since leaving the UK) — what a rock and roll lifestyle we’re leading.