Normal flat, busy service was resumed, all a bit boring after the climbing between the volcanoes, but an easy day went down well, even if nothing much happened. I stopped at a cafe, it was empty, though a few minutes later about a dozen Harley-Davidsons arrived, 2 on each bike. They made themselves more at home than a bunch of Audax cyclists. I set off again before them, they passed me 30k further on, that's a big lunch stop for them, may be I am doing the wrong thing. It was also a day of madness from bus drivers, why slow down when there is a hazard in front of you when you have got a very loud horn that works perfectly well? I was glad I wasn't on them.
Another mundanish day followed, though at least I could see a mountain through, the haze/smog, it's an improvement. I again saw the Harleys on the move, about 30-40 of them, most of them on the opposite carriageway despite the one we were heading along was all but empty. It made me think that no Indonesian should really be allowed loose on such a powerful machine. As seems to be the case with any big motorbike, even just one, there was a police escort, sirens blaring, but at the back of this group were a whole host of support vehicles, including 'spare' bikes on trailers, then right at the back was an ambulance, complete with Harley-Davidson logo on, so it would seem that even they think they aren't safe on the road. I got onto smaller roads today, I was looking forward to that, but it was worse. There seemed to be the same amount of traffic crammed onto a much smaller road, slow and fast vehicles together, nobody wanting to slow down. Added to that the edge was really rough making cycling in a straight line difficult, so some of the inpatient buses and lorries squeezed past far too close for my liking, I didn't enjoy it, I was glad to reach the wider smoother roads of Probolinggo where I stopped for the night. In Sumatra and West Java whenever you go into a cafe you get a mug of water, albeit warm, and a jug was always on the table, I usually cleared the lot. In central Java the jug disappeared, just the glass which I kept asking them to refill, but here in East Java the glass has gone too, they expect you to buy bottled water. I wont buy bottled water for four reasons, I am too tight, I am happy to drink tap water even if it has to be boiled, I try to minimise the amount of plastic I waste, and I have forgotten the fourth reason! Today I made the mistake of ordering food and asking them to refill my water bottle at the same time, they just looked confused and thought I was very strange to request rice to be put into a water bottle. After that I struggled to get my request across, so had to hide the water bottle from them, it made life a bit easier anyway.
Probolinggo was a much smarter town than your average Indonesian town, at least in my experience anyway, it was looked after and showed it. It was also the last big town heading east on the northern coast of Java, so I hoped that meant less traffic from there onwards. That's exactly what it meant, so much better than the previous two days and added to that it was also nice and clear, I could see the mountains, I could even see the tops of mountains. To my left I soon had the company of the sea, the road remained easy going, it was very enjoyable, everything that I had hoped for from the west coast of Sumatra. There were boats on the beaches begging to be photograhed, or was it me begging to photograph them, anyway, I did with relish. It was the sort of day that makes you want to get up the following morning and do it all again. I passed mosques where they were collecting money at the roadside, they had big sound systems with somebody talking, then as they saw me I would hear a distorted "HELLO MISTER" come booming out of the speakers, I couldn't shout that loud so just gave a wave. I also passed groups of school children marching along the road, each group in matching uniforms, but all the groups different to each other and all very colourful. It was a big event, I kept passing groups heading the other way for about 8km and families lined the streets. When I stopped to take some photos I became the main attraction and everybody wanted me to take a photo of them, I decided it was best to move on.
So the last day on Java would be a breeze, the trouble was it was a strong one, against me! The wind always seems to run parallel to the coastline in the opposite direction to the way I am going. But as I went along, the road became more rural, rather pleasant, then I could see Bali, there was a narrow strip of sea between us with mountains on either side. The air here is just as bad as the Indonesian drivers, when it gets narrow it all wants to get through at the same time and none of it is willing to wait, so for a while it was a real struggle into the wind, but I made it to the ferry, though with a resonable swell it wasn't fun getting on as the connecting bits were moving in different directions. The crossing was ok, though we rolled nicely. I got chatting to a group of French people, two of whom live in Jakarta. I asked if a driving test needed to be passed "No, all you need to do is buy a license when you are 17 and off you go". "What about motorcycles?" I asked, "The same" he replied, "But there are so many kids on motorbikes", "Oh, they are just practicing". So just imagine, Java, an island about the same size as England and Scotland with twice the population, and not a driving lesson amongst them. Shit!! It is not surprising that the driving is so bad. A common manouvre for motorcycles is as follows: If you want to turn right, you start looking for a gap about 500m before the turn, then you cross on to the opposite carriageway and head into the oncoming traffic, then when you get to the turning you turn right, minding to avoid the traffic coming out of the turning. The alternative is to sit at the junction and wait for a gap, but who wants to do that when nothing is going to slow down for you, they will just mow you down, not deliberately, but that is small consolation.
So I had a choice to make this morning as I started across Bali, I could head along the south coast to the white sands, big surf and 5 star hotels, but my wallet broke out into a sweat just at the thought of it. Well it is a Norwich City wallet, it hasn't got any money! So I made my way along the north coast, I passed through a National Park, hardly any traffic, I could breathe fresh air for a change, rather than that black sooty stuff, though it didn't last too long, but at least there aren't as many truck and buses here. I stopped at a beach resort with calm seas, black sand and no star hotels, though the one I found is wonderful, all on its own, immaculate and with a pool that I even went in. I will live in luxury for a couple of days, I have a western loo and loo paper, hot water and get this, a shower cubicle with a curtain so that the whole bathroom floor doesn't get wet, I can't remember when I last had such luxury. It was so much better value than the others I checked, though I did get bugged by touts that dashed into the hotel before me, made out they had brought me there and consequently the price rockets to pay for their commision. Where I am staying I managed to get through without them. If I had asked them to take me there, that's one thing, but their antics didn't go down well with me. I shall have a rest day and what is more I don't feel as though I really need it, but it better here for a rest day than anything else coming up.
So now the journey through Indonesia becomes very different, small islands and more rural on each one. The ferries become less frequent, evey 30 mins to Bali, ever 2 hours to Lombok, every day to Sumbawa and Flores, about as often as a Norwich City victory to Timor. I can't wait that long!
It's great to hear from you Anita and Martin, even at this late stage and it's good to know you will be reading the blog from now onwards. I was glad to hear that Ron has the address too as I left in a bit of a rush and I missed most of the Combe people before I left. You are making me feel a bit guilty though as I promised I would go to Cambodia with Martin and I crept through recently without telling him, though I guess he will find out now. Send me an email if you have time, the address is on the right hand side, it would be great to hear what you have been up to. Hi also to the Likely Lads from Ireland, good to hear that you are still drinking your way around the world! You be careful in Vegas, I don't suppose they will let you use that Monopoly money.
I shall end with a brief update on Aoiffe. Apart from the first week when there was one problem after another even before the bome marrow transplant, all has gone well and to plan and rumour has it that she might even be allowed out today. Crikey it gone quick, but then I thought about it and it's been over 6 weeks, though I don't suppose Aoiffe locked up in her isolation unit felt it went that quickly. I am guessing that she found it tougher than expected, even a text message was about as much as she could manage at times. Thanks for all of you prayers, thoughts and good will vibes, it seems to have paid off, but don't stop yet, there is still a long way to go. Once home she will need around the clock attention and will return to the hospital 3 times a week for the first 2 weeks, hardly worth going home! After that the recovery continues for a long, long time.
Bali, what a wonderful place, you turn on the tap and out comes Bali water!