Friday, 1 August 2008

Day 436 - Bandar Lumpang

Sunday was one of those days, I got up early and had breakfast, then decided I wanted a proper day of chilling out as Saturday had all been pretty hectic in the end, besides another day of rest would do me good. Well, I guess it did do me good, but I started to look at the map of Java and beyond, there is a long, long way to go and not many days to cover the distance, in the end I felt I had wasted a day, it wasn't wasted I know, but that is how it felt.

So Monday morning was a replay, but this time I never felt like stopping any longer and soon I was on the road. I had no idea how far I would get or where I would stay, I just decided to see how things went. They went pretty well, the first 30k was flat, then the hills started, but they were proper hills, long enough to call hills and not so steep you have to bust a gut to get up them, I was beginning to enjoy myself again, even though the sea was still conspicuous by it's absence and the rest of the scenery was hardly anything to write home about, so I wont. Then I saw a kilometer stone saying 83k to Manna, that would make 140k for the day, a bit long but at least the place was on my map and with a good stretch today, having studied the map I decided it would be another 6 days steady riding to Jakarta, better than I had expected, so that was the target for the night's stop. With about 30k to go I was joined by a motorcyclist, before he even said hello he said "I have a friend like you, a cyclist from Switzerland, his name is David. Do you know him?". "A cyclist you say" I replied, "Yes", "Is he from Switzerland?", "Yes", "His name isn't David by any chance is it?", "Yes, it is" he replied, "No, I have never heard of him". Then he wanted to know my phone number so that he could come and meet me in Manna in the evening, but I lied a little bit and told him I didn't have one, besides I haven't got a clue what the number is, I never knew what the number was when I bought the sim card, I suspect it has a 0 in it somewhere, it probably has a 1 too, but after that it all starts to get a bit vague! I toured Manna somewhat reluctantly, a biggish place with lots of accommodation, but the prices were a joke, they wanted as much as I paid for a good room in Bengkulu for flea pit here. My chosen flea pit at least has clean sheets. When I went in we established I wanted a single room, so they showed me a room with 3 beds for way too much, but as I was leaving they showed me a better room with 2 beds for half the price. It's all a game to them, just to get as much money as possible, which results in me going around 5 or 6 places just to find an honest price. In the evening in one small area there were hundreds of birds, but they may have been bats, it was difficult to tell in the half light. Their home was obviously in a building by the road, so I went over to it. There were 2 small square holes in the doors and everything was heading in and out, a real bottle neck, not even a one way system, but for the few minutes I stood and watched I never saw a single collision, very agile with a great tuen of speed, very impressive.

A short ride was on for the next day, so having arrived I decided my body needed more sugar, so I bought a cakey, slab type brick thing, it weighed a ton, but when I came to eat it in the evening despite it being tightly wrapped the local ants had claimed it as theirs, there were dozens in there, tiny little ones that dart all over the place. That was my sugar fix and I wasn't about to give it up easily, so I gave it a wash under the tap and ate it, a bit soggy mind. The next day I bought another cake this time it wasn't wrapped so when I went out I created a little island with my coffee container and piled all the food stuffs on top, a nice little tower. On my return the whole lot had toppled and there was a whole swarm of ants around the cake, 100s of them, but I still wasn't giving up, though this time I just huffed and puffed a bit and then ate it. Blow me (excuse the pun) but the following night the ants were once again at my cake, but I lost the will to fight them this time and I just ate it. I'm sorry, but if I ate a few ants with it, it might seem cruel, but that is their problem not mine.

Most days seems to start reasonably easily hill wise, but after about 40k I had just decided I would stop at the next cafe for a bit of refueling as I could see some nasty hills ahead, but having dropped down to a bridge the road turned sharply and went straight into a very steep climb, to make things worse the road was rocks on one side and gravel on the other, so I stuck to the gravel, but it was so steep that I eventually lost traction and came to an abrupt stop. I couldn't get started again for the same reason and as I could see tarmac ahead I got off and pushed. This was somewhat more difficult as my feet lost traction too and whats more I really needed to be going uphill with the brakes on as the bike didn't seem to have a head for heights and was desperate to go back down again. At last I got going again, but it was still very steep and really tough and slow, but my main concern was that it would plummet back down to the coast again and do the same thing. I needn't have worried, it just kept going up and up, steep the whole way. After not having a hill more than 80m this one suddenly hit 441m, horribly steep for about half of it that really drained my energy, but as it became less steep I could feel myself recovering slowly. In the afternoon I stopped for more food and was then told they had no change, I had to come back tomorrow for it. That didn't go down well as the food had been very poor and way overpriced already, and the place had been busy when I arrived, they had change, it was just a ploy to get me to leave it, but I made them go and find change. The last 30k were still up and down but the whole day the scenery had been fantastic, the sort of scenery I had hoped to see so much more of along this road, but I had hoped it would be all down hill, though I couldn't quite see how that was going to work out.

Whilst I have been on this road I have been burning about 4000-4500 calories a day, that's a lot of eating, but I like a challenge. I don't leave without breakfast, then I have a meal roughly every 40k and one for luck.Added to that I have an evening snack, at least the leftovers from what the ants had been chomping through!

I could hardly believe the start I had yesterday, 60k of dead flat, not a single hill, nothing, but I knew the afternoon would be heading across the mountains. They told me where I stopped for lunch that it was 90k to Kota Agung where I was aiming to spend the night, I didn't believe them, it was never that far on the map, I guessed at about 60k though once I got started it was 65k to SGI whatever that was, so may be they were right. The mountains arrived with a bang, a sort of rerun of the previous day, though this time the surface was better, that just meant in practice I could keep going, but in reality it was too steep for me on a heavily laden bike, I stopped for a rest, sat with my back to the hill and ate biscuits. Every time I turned around the hill was still there, I really didn't want to go up it. Somebody coming down in a 4WD stopped and offered me a lift up, I turned down the offer, besides he told me it was only 3k to the top. It wasn't it was just over 10k, it would have been more useful if he had said "I have just come down the hill but I have no idea how far it is to the top, I don't know where I have come from or what my name is". That's being a bit harsh, he was a nice man and gave me a drink, but he is crap on distances. It's strange though that when you go up really steep hills, then it becomes less steep, it feels as though you are having a break, it's when they are too steep for too long that it becomes a problem. The road surface was new and having reached 640m I was really looking forward to the descent, but oh dear, it was terrible, sand, gravel and rocks the whole way, very steep for 7km, will lots of sharp bends, so I needed the brakes on hard the whole time, my hands ached, my arms ached, I was being thrown around and fighting to keep control most of the time. I had to stop to rest and to let the rims cool down a couple of times. I felt pretty cheated by the descent but then I thought about going up it, that would have been a nightmare and would have made my climb look like a walk in the park. To make things worse most of the afternoon was spent trying to convince myself I was still on the right road, I couldn't find the places on the map that were initialed on the kilometer stones and what's more I seemed to be going in the wong direction compared with the road on the map. At last I arrived at SGI, but I still didn't know the name of the place, but there was clearly nowhere to stay. I was told by some the next hotel was 5k, by others it was 10k. I had already covered 130k of tough road, I really didn't want to be doing any more, but the road was now in a valley and the roadside was all houses, nowhere to camp, I had to carry on. After 10k I arrived at Wonosobo, what a great name, but still nowhere to stay, it would be another 11k to Kota Agung in the dark, but I was sure there would be something there, thankfully there was. I don't know why I ask people how far somewhere is, they are always wrong, they are about as reliable as my map, it gives you a very rough idea of what's ahead, but you can never be sure until you have got there. I spoke to a guy in the hotel, he had come from Bandar Lumpang where I was heading today, he told me it was 25k to the top of the hill, then it rolled and the last 17k was flat, I believed him.

A dream came true this morning, somebody was yet again wrong on distances but this time he had over estimated, it was only 18k to the top, all on a good surface and none of it steep, a nice relaxed climb and a great descent on a smooth surface, a descent that increased the average speed, unlike yesterdays which reduced it! Then it was almost entirely flat until I reached the kilometer stone 17k from Bandar Lumpang, then I started the second longest climb of the day at about 6km, none of the last 17k was flat. Today I still covered 94k, but after the last few days it almost felt like a day off, I arrived at 15:30, very civilised.

I am really glad to be here in Bandar Lumpang. I had a choice of 3 routes heading south in Sumatra and the last 90 odd k to the ferry is the only road, so I would have been on that no matter what happened. Also my map tells me the mountains are behind me for a while, I like that, I am going to believe it. From here to the other side of Java I have a better map. No, no, what am I saying, that's probably not true, I have a different map.

So all being well I will be on the ferry to Java tomorrow evening.


S said...

If you need all those calories each day then I would eat as many of the ants as possible - all good protein, and nothing compared with those spit roast bugs you were offered.

John Harwood said...

Hi there Al (Oldyonfoldy)

In Bukit Tinggi stayed at the Hotel Orchid, it probably isn't the cheapest place at 75,000 Rupiah, but in my opinion it was very good value in comparison with other places I have stayed along the route in Indonesia. Breakfast is thrown in too, though dont get too excited as it's only a coffee and 2 slices to toast and strawberry jam that tasted strangely salty. There are a couple of other hotels in the same street, but didn't offer such good value.

If you need any more specific info about them or about riding from there down to Java, drop me an email, details on the front page of the blog.

All the best,