INDONESIA: 11.04. - 05.06.2005

Route: Sumatra (Belawan, Medan, Bukit Lawang, Medan, Berastagi, Parapat, Tuk Tuk, Tarutung, Bukittinggi, Lake Manijau, Padang), Java (Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Borobudur, Yogyakarta, Solo, Cemoro Lawang (Mt. Bromo), Bayuwangi), Bali (Lovina, Tulamben, Padangbai), Lombok (Lembar, Marakan, Gilli Air, Senaru, Mt. Rinjani, Matabar, Lembar), Bali (Ubbud, Denpasar, Kuta)

Distance: 2485 Km    Ascent (in total): 13765m      

Preface: Cycling is definetely not the best way for exploring Indonesia. On one hand, Indonesia is much to big too visit it on a bycicle with the available two months visa, and on the other hand, the traffic is pretty dangerous. In total, we had two accidents and many "almost accidents". Despite of the city state Singapore, Indonesia is we only country, in which we didn't sleep in our tent. Especially on Sumatra, we didn't feel really comfortable. Three times some guys threw stones to us, and up to 20 times a day guys shoutet "fuck you" to us. At least at the touristy places the people were much friendlier than in the rest of Sumatra (normally vice versa). The inhabitants of Java, Bali and Lombok were again quite friendly, so that we were able to enjoy our trip. The landscape in Indonesia, and especially the volcanoes are absolutely worth a visit.
Boat trip: Indonesia consists of several Islands, so we had to travel by a ferryboat from Georgetown (Malaysia) to enter the country. When we bouht our ferry ticket we were told, that there is no extra charge for the bicycles. When we picked up our tickes on the day of departure, we were suddenly told, that there was an extra charge for the bikes. Normally no problem, but we had already spent our last money just a few minutes earlier! We had a hard discussion with the travel agent (who sold us the ticked an who had told us, that there is no extra charge), and finally, he gave us the money for the bike ticket out of his commision. Loading the bikes on the boat was no problem at all, and some hours later, we arrived in Belawan, the port of Medan.
Bukit Lawang: From Medan, we cycled the 95 Km to Bukit Lawang, a small village famous for its Orang Utans. Already during the last 25 Km, we had some guys with their mopeds next too us, who tried to arrange a guesthouse or a jungle tour for us. It was quite hilly and it was about 35°C hot with a humidity of nearly 100% and therefor a real pain with the guys, but finally we managed to get rid of them. During a big flood in 2003 most of the houses and guesthouses in Bukit Lawang were washed away. It took us some time to find a nice questhouse, but it was on the other side of the river and we had to push our bikes over a shaky suspension bridge. During the next days we heard more about Bukit Lawangs fate. Due to illegal deforestation they had some erosion problems in the recent years. After some heavy rainfalls, a big flood came and washed everything away, and many people died or lost their whole existence. Because of the lack of accommodation the tourist season in 2004 was very poor, and after the Tsunamy and the earthquakes, there are nearly no tourists on Sumatra any more. Although the governmet is building new houses for the families, with no tourists it will become nearly impossible for the Bukit Lawang to recover.
Orang Utan Center: The main tourist attraction of Bukit Lawang is the BOHOROK ORANG UTAN REHABILITATION CENTER. Already in the center we saw two female Orang Utans, playing around with their babys. Together with two rangers, we followed a narrow steep and slippery path into the jungle. After 20 Minutes, we reached the feeding platform, some wooden boards between the trees. Just some minutes later, the first Orang Utans arrived. In total four female Orang Utans with their babys and two male Orang Utans came to the platform for the free bananas and some milk. It was great to see, how save, elegant and silent the Orang Utans managed to swing from tree to tree. It also was very fascinating to see the humanlike behaviour ot the Orang Utans: each Orang Utan didn't believe, that the bananas were finished, until it had inspected the rucksack of the rangers with its own eyes.
Berastagi and Mt. Sibayak: To reach Berastagi, our next destination, we had to cycle up into the mountains, and with 1445m in altitude within 65 km, it was a very hard 6 tough stage. We decided to climb Mt. Sibayak, with 2094m the smaller of the two volcanoes of Berastagi. The ascent was quite easy, because 2/3 of the path were paved and even the last stage wase made out of concrete. The higher we climbed, the more it smelled like rotten eggs. On the top we could finally see the reason: several huge hot steem fontains, containing sulphur. In contrast  to the ascent, the descent was quite difficult: steep rotten stairs, slivery rocks and tracks with some missleading junctions. According to the warnings of the guesthouses, many tourist miss the path and have to stay over night in the jungle. We had good luck and arrived save in the valley.
Hot springs: To relax, we jumped into some hot thermal springs on the bottom of Mt. Sabayak. Although it was rally relaxing for our aching muscles, we couldn't stay to long in the water, because it contained too much like sulphur (smelled like rotten eggs). Because our muscles are only used to cycle and not to walk, we had some heavy aching muscles during the next days.
Earthquake: In the middle of the night, our bed started to shake so strong, that we both awoke. We went immediately to the rooftop terrace in front of our room, but the earthquake stopped after about 30 seconds. During the next day many Indonesians told us, that they are very afraid of earthquakes, and some even bury guardian items in their gardens. For sure a bit too scared are some Indonesians at Lake Toba. Although Lake Toba is on an altitude of 900m and sourounded by high mountain, some people are afraid of being hurt by a tsunami!
The Karo culture: The region around Berastagi is home of the Karo. To survive in the mountais, the Karo had a very unique way of living. The Karo built huge houses with 6 rooms. Each room was inhabited by one family (in total up to 40 people). Each family had a special funtion in this small community. One family was the family of the chief and there was also the familie of the deputy (the woman in this familiy was the sister of the chief).Then there was the magic family, which had to look for the best date for seeding, harvesting, marriage, ... . Another family had to take care of the house, and the job of one family was the cooking. Bad luck had the husbandof the 6th family, because he was not allowed to speak anybody who was not living in the house, accept if he was expicit asked to do so. Unfortunately also on Sumatra the things are changing, and since the last Karo house was built in 1943, this way of living now only exists in books.
Lake Toba: Sumatras main tourist attraction is the vast crater lake Lake Toba. About 88000 yeas ago, a huge volcano errupted, finally collapsed and created Lake Toba. Lake Toba is with its 1707 kmē the bigges lake in Southeast Asia and up to 450m deep. Samosir, the island in Lake Toba is nearly as big as Singapore. Lake Toba, already on an altitude of 900m and surrouded by huge mountains is really very impresive, and so we spent a couple of days on Samosir. For 2,- € a day, we had a small and very beautiful bungalow with private access to the lake.
Muslims: During our trip, we have visited 10 muslim countries, and have spent nearly one year in the muslim world. So far we just talked about our good experiences and especially the great hospitalety in Iran. A phenomenon we realized is, that it seems that the Muslims are either very good and friendly (normally the very religious people) or very unfriendly. Normal people, in Europe the majority, are quite seldom. Because of this, we had most of our best and most of our worst experiences with Muslim. Very unpleasant are the men, who don't know how to behalf towards woman. Though we always said, that we're married, and Nadine was dressed conservative, men regulary tried to turn on Nadine indecent. We had men who started to grasp her breasts or tried to kiss her. Once we were even attaked from three guys on a moped, but we had good luck and some locals hepled us. In our opinion, the reason for this bad behaviour is the misinterpretation of the Quran, where woman and men have equal rights.The Arabs probably were afraid of strong woman, and forced them to wear a scarf. Another reason why woman have to wear a scarf seems to be, that the men don't turst each other. They fear, that her wife could be molested form another man, if she wouldn't wear a scarf. The domination of men is also quite obvious in the upbringing of the children. While already young girls have to work very hard in the household (e.g. carrying water), the boys are often allowed to do whatever they want and normally they don't learn to accept boundaries. The boys don't get boundaries from their father, because they are his whole pride, and also not from their mother, because otherwise she would get problems with her husband if her son would tell it his fahter. We realized this phenomenon also in Indonesia, although woman normally don't wear a scarf. May be, we're a bit too sensitive, but we don't feel well, if people throw stones to us or if they shout "Fuck You" to us (Nadine). We really enjoyed the great hospitalety and the friendly people in Iran, Syria and Turkey, but we're also happy to finally leave the islamic world after Indonesia.
Crossing the Equator: After 25850 km and 329 days, we crossed the Equator in Indonesia. Crossing the Equator and taking a picture is only allowed for tourists after having purchased a ticket for the nearby museum. Because we had no ticked and because we were not willing to by one, this strange guy protected the monument from my camera!
Corruption: Corruption is wide spread in Indonesia and quite often, we met Indonesian, claiming the corrupt officials (especially the police) and politicans. In Indonesia you have to bribe the officials to get a job from the government. Even for simple jobs in the army, bribe is necesarry. But corruption is a big problem all over Indonesia, because even in the smallest store the prices are rising, if tourists are the customers. We talked once quite a while with a young man. He had graduaded at university, but because he couldn't afford the bribe, he's unemployd and survives from several small jobs. We were sitting in the small restaurant of one of his relatives and drank a Coke while talking. Finally we had to pay the double price for the Coke. Nadine tried to explain our conversation partner, that this is very similar to corruption and not much better, but he was not willing to understand this. We have the feeling, that corruption is not really a problem in Indonesia, because nearly everybody is involved (at least if they see tourists). But there are of course also many honest people.
Lake Manijau: After some tough days on the Trans Sumatra Highway (hot, humit, many moutains, many kilometers) we took some days off at Lake Manijau. Like Lake Toba, Lake Manijau is also the reminder of a former volcano. Although much smaller than Lake Toba, it's so big, that you have to cycle 70 km to surround it. We spent our days in a lovely small bungalow, direkt on the beach with swimming and reading. The lake is also surrounded by big mountains,and because we were already very close to the ocean, big clouds came in each evening. Especially the big thunderstorm clouds were very impressive.
Boat trip:  To cycle the entire island, Sumatra is much to big for the two months visa. There are trains just in the very east of Sumatra, and a 30 hour bus trip on the Trans Sumatra Highway is really tough, so we decided to sail by ferryboat from Padang to Jakarta. Although the ticketoffice was also open on sunday, we couldn't by a ticket, because they were not able to make a photocopy of our passport. The ferryboat departs each fortnight, and 3 hours before departure, we finally got our tickets. There were no problems with the bicycles, but we had to carry them over steep stairs into the boat. Food was included in the two days trip, and we had just left the habour, when we got our first lunch: rice with fish. The menue was quite simple: rice and fish for lunch and dinner and rice and fried eggs for breakfast. We travelled in "Ekonomi klas", and so we stayed with 300 other passengers on a big deck. The deck was like a very big dormitory with always 7 beds in one row. We managed to find a quite silent corner, although due to the roaring televison, it was not really silent. We spent the afternoon at the fresh air and when we came back, we returned into a smoking cave. Despite the "No smoking" signs, quit a lot of men were smoking and it was no fun to breath the hot, humid and smokie air. We asked some of the smokers to smoke outside, but of course they didn't care. Then I asked one of the crew members at the information desk for assistance. The crew member inspected to deck, but because there were too many smokers, he was afraid of them and so he offered us to change to another deck. The other deck was completely emty, silent, and much cooler (although still over 30°C). We moved and spent our last 1,5 days in a big "private suite".
Jakarta: After 2 days, we arraved at Jakarta, the capital and economic center of Indonesia. The port was 13 km outside the city, so we were facing the big challange "cycling in the 10,5 mio. metropolis Jakarta. The traffic was absolutely horrible, and the only working rule is "the stongest always has the right of way". We decided to reduce the challange to a minimum and planned to cycle just to the next railway station to catch a train to Yogyakarta. There were no traffic signs, so we asked some people for the direction. Conversation was not easy, the roads became smaller and smaller, and finally we ende up in the slums of Jakarta. We had good luck and managed to find a major road heading into the city center. The closer we came into the city center, the more chaotic and dangerous became the traffic. For many motorcyclist was the traffic too slow, so they decided to drive on the sidewalk. After 16 km we arrived at the first railway station, but no train was departing to Yogyakarta from here. While cycling to the next railway station I was twice touched from a motorcycle and a minibus, but nothing serious happened. In Indonesia there are different railway stations for the different train classes, and from the main railway station only the luxury andexpensive trains departed, so we had to cycle to the third station. We had managed already 25 km in Jakarta's horrible traffic without any accident and were aonly 100m away from the third station, when a bus driver became cracy in the traffic jam an bumbed into Nadines bike. Nadines bike layed half below the bus, but she was not injured although the back wheel didn't move anymore. In the eyes of the busdriver it was only a minor accident and so he waved with his arms to show us to clear the road. Finally the bus driver came out of his bus and offered us 0,83 € damages for the destroyed bike! While I tried to find a police officer, a young man jumped out of another bus to protect Nadine and our bicycles, because in the meanwhile the mob had surrounded her and some man even started to molest her indecent. I managed to find a police officer, but he was not really willing to come to the accident. He followed me very slowly and had even enough time to ask the owners of some fruitstalls afer the prices of apples! After ages we returned to Nadine, but the bus driver had disappeared in the meanwhile. Nadines back wheel stuck completely, so I had to carry her fully loaded bike to the policestation (at least one passanger helped me a bit). No police officer was able to speak English and it took some time, until they had found someone who was able to translate. We told the police officers what had happened and showed them the pictures of the bus and the bus driver. Then they asked us the usual question: "And what shall we do now?" We're already used to lazy officials and police officers, and so we told them that we want them to write a report about the accident. The officers dissapeared and I started to repair Nadines bike. First I fixed the puncture and then I looked closer at the rest of the bike. The bus had crashed into her rack and it was totally deformed. With the help of a nearby workshop, I managed to fix the rack, and I had just finished the essential repairs, when the police officers returned with the report. Because we were tourists, they told us, that they would send any further information to the German embassy. Of course we don't expect to get some money for the broken parts, but we didn't want to accept the accidet without any reaction. At least we were really happy to see some police officers working without bribe!
Borobudur: We took the night train to Yogyakarta, the cultural center of Indonesia, and then cycled to Borobudur. Borobudur is the biggest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere and was built in 10th century, like the early temples of Ankor in Cambodia. Even the architecture is quite similar. Borobudur means temple (Boro) on a hill (budur). While the lower galeries have some beautiful carvings, there are some meditating stone Buddhas below big stone bells on the top galeries. There are only a few Buddhists in Indonesia and therefor Borobudur is not used as a religious place any more. During the last century, Borobudur was renovated twice. The second renovation between 1980 and 1988 was necesarry because underground water started to wash out the fundament of the temple. Thanks to the 25 mio. US$ expensive renovation, many generations will be able to visit Borobudur.
Buddha's live: There are carvings on each galery of the Borobudur temple, but the carvings on the first galerie are by far the most impressive. 120 reliefs show the most important stages of Budhas live: Siddharta was born as a son of a king. Siddharta looking for a bright. Siddhartas wedding and Siddharta having a live without any sorrows in his palace. During three secret trips, he saw an ill man, an old man a corpse and a monk. Siddharta left his palace and became an asket. Siddharta became enlightened and was named Gauthama Buddha. Buddha spent the rest of his live with teaching. Buddha encouraged his students to prove everything, even himself.
Mt. Bromo: The landscape around Mt. Bromo (thesmall vulcanoe on the bottom left) is especially amazing during sunrise. Many tourist hire a 4WD to drive to the tourist viewpoint, but be made the 2 hours walking tour. Together with Tim and Evelien from Belgium, we started at 3 pm. In the beginning it was no problem to follow the sealed road in the clear and moonless night. But then the sealed road became a small, narrow path. Sometimes the path was completely covered with small bushes, but with our torches we did't get lost. Aleady during the ascent we passed some great viewpoints, and due to the silence in the early morning, it was a really amazing mood. Shortly after sunrise we arrived on the tourist viewpoint and were really shocked. Heeps of tourists, schouting and pushing each other just to shoot the best photo. But all the other tourists were on an though scedule, and 30 minutes they all went back to their 4WD and rushed to the next spot.
Smoking Mt. Bromo: The volcano Mt. Bromo is still active and, although normally very quiet, 2 tourist died some years ago drung a small eruption.We climbed to the rim of Mt. Bromo but the view inside the volcanoe was not very exiting. MT. Bromo was just smoking in silence.
Giant bananas: We already saw some of these huge bananas in Malaysia, but we thouht that they are used for cooking or making beer. We saw the bananas again in Indonesia and bought immediately one. The banana was so huge, that it was as long as my forearm and so thick, that I was just able to open my mouth wide enough, to bite off a piece. The giant banana tasted like a normal banana and it was enough for Nadine and me for breakfast.
The wrack of USS Liberty (Bali): One of the most famous dive spots on Bali is the wreck of the USS Liberty. The USS Liberty, an US cargoboat, was targeted by a torpedo in 19942 during WWII and towed to the beach of Tulamben. After the vulcano Mt. Anung erupted in 1963, the Liberty finally sunk. Since then, the Liberty is lying about 25m offshore in a depth of 5m - 30m. As soon as the Liberty was on the ground, many corals and fish made it their new home. I allowed me two dives, and although my divemaster was nor motivated at all, it was very fascinating to dive through the wreck. Behind each corner, a new surprise was waiting for me, and I even saw a tiny seahorse. Good luck, the Liberty sunk some years after it was hit by the torpedo, so I didnīt have the feeling to visit a underwater cementery.
Gilli Air on Lombok: The Island east of Bali is Lombock, and some kilometers off-shore from Lombok are the three small Gilli Islands. The Gilli Islands, with beautiful palms, beaches, coral reefs close to the shore and without cars or mopeds, are one of the best spots in Indonesia and not very well known. But even here, the best years are already gone. Since the 1998 El Nino the coral reefs lost most of their colours and there are not many fish to spot, in contrast to touts. Although it was not as good as Koh Tao (Thailand) and the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia), we enjoyed Gilli Air. We had good luck and found a small bungalow with ocean view and spent our days with snorkeling and reading.
Mt. Rinjani trekking tour (Lombok): One of the highlights of Lombok is a trekking tour in the Mt. Rinjani nationalpark. The volcanoe Mt. Rinjani, with its 3700m is the second highest mountain in Indonesia, and is best expolred on a 3 days 2 nights trekking tour. While most of the tourist climb the mountain on a arranged tour, we did it on our own. On the first day, we climbed to the first rim at 2645m. Iīve already been quite often in the mountains, but I never had an ascent of 2200m in one day, and so I was quite surprised, how easy it was. The last water source was a small puddle (during the rain season a small creek) on 2000m, so we had to carry our water to the rim. During sunset, the view of Mt. Rinjani, and the crater lake was amazing. After sunset we tried to warm up with some other tourists around a small fire, before we went into our sleepingbags. On the second day, we descended to the lake and planned to stay there for the second night. But there was so much rubbish around the lake, that we took just a small bath in a thermal spring, before we returned back to the rim. Our second night was pretty cold; it was freezing!!! Already during the descend to the crater lake, Nadines knee started to ache, so we didnīt climb Mt. Rinjani and went back into the valley on the third day.
Cooking adventures: We had not enough space in our rucksacks to take our stove with us, and so we had to cook on a fire. Even if its more romantic to cook on a real fire, we didnīt fell in love with it. Our fire was smoking quite a lot because we had just some small wet peaces of wood and we and our clothes smelled very smoky afterward. Although we just made a noodlesoup our pot was completly black and it took Nadine neraly 30 minutes to clean it.
Hot Springs (Mt. Rinjani):  The area around the original hot springs is used from some locals for living and so it looked like a big dump. Thatīs why all the guides tell their tourists, that the water is much too hot there and the best spot is further down the hot river. But some other guests thought, that the tourist pool is a toilet and so it was a real unforgettable experience, to bath in the pool with some decent smell of excrements in the air.
Porters: All the tourist tours a acompanied by a tourguide and a porter. While the tour guide is carrying the resposibility, the porter has to carry the tent, kitchen gear, the food and of curse all the water (tourist donīt drink water from a puddle). Quite a lot of stuff for 4 persons (2 tourists + guide + porter). For us it was always amazing to see what the porters were carrying to the top of the mountain: several pinnapples, a whole bundle of bananas, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, chips, cookies, chicken wings or even living chicken (on the left side of the porter). But instead of carrying everything in a rucksack, they arraged everything to bundles and fixed it to a bamboo stick (the normal way of transporting things in Souteast Asia). How the porters managed to carry everything over the steep paths with even some climbing sections is still a miracle for us. The best of all is, that they managed to carry their heavy load (much more than 40 Kg) in an altitude of 2500m while wearing flip-flops instead of propper shoes!!!
The big cleaning: Australia has some strict quarantaine laws, because they donīt want to import any disease from the rest of the world and especially not from Asia. If you arrive in Australie all your equipment, and especially bicycles are inspected very serious. To avoid trouble, we decided to clean our bicycles and our whole equipmen. It took us about two days to clean the bikes, but now our they look like brand new!
"Kuta, the paradise!?": We spent our last two dayīs in Indonesia in Kuta, a big beach resort and the main tourist spot in Bali. For us already Koh Samui (Thailand) was a bit too busy, but Kuta was realy though. One surfshop next to each other and even during the night it never became silent. Many tourists from Australia travel to Kuta especially for surfing. Because the surf guards were too busy to look after the girls, I had to rescue twice an indonesian guy, who was caught by the current and disappeared to the open sea. The guy had borrowed a bodyboard, and because he was not able to swim he was helpless, when he was cought from the current. Apart from some trips to the beach, we spent most of the day with cleaning our equipment or reading our books (to bee able to exchange them in Indonesia). On June 05. 2005 we flew from Denpasar to Darwin in Australia.



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