I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bali Ha'i

Saturday 1st to Monday 3rd October

There wasn’t too much going on in Senggigi during the three days we were there. The busy season (June-Aug) had come and gone, which meant that the touts and hawkers had to focus all effort on flogging their cheap 'n' nasty goods and services to the few remaining targets, like us, who were still around. Anything and everything pushed in your face, from tee-shirts to pirated DVDs; taxi rides and tour excursions; tacky bangles & bracelets to full-on body massages – 'Yes Meestir, with full relief if you want it' ..!!.. just about all the crap you can imagine that might just possibly tempt you to open your wallet.

Even a quiet stroll across the beach was near impossible. "Tidak mau" - "No buy" - is an expression you can get tired of repeating very quickly.

We had contemplated a day or two on one of the nearby Gili Islands, but faced with the prospect of more non-stop hustling from the irrepressible touts; well, we decided to give that whole idea a BIG miss.

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The breakfasts at the Puribunga Beach Cottages, in Senggigi, were really good though; let’s take a walk through some of our mornings’ menu:

Fried breaded chicken wings (KFC style, but better), corn fritters, tasty noodles .. and summin’ else I didn’t recognise (top LH corner of pic), but were pretty good nevertheless.

As much ‘special fried’ & ‘plain boiled’ rice as you could eat.

In fact, a proper little Chinese meal .. which obviously meant you knew you’d be hungry again within a couple of hours! ..

.. which is a good enough reason to scoff some toast, with maybe some dodgy-looking fried eggs on top; or

Perhaps a cooked-to-order pineapple (or banana) pancake, with honey. They were good too.

Some fresh fruit to finish off?

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Food in General: Just like anywhere else in the world, the food in Indonesia can range from being really excellent .. to downright diabolical. It does help if you like rice and bananas, that’s for sure! Indonesians don’t understand The West’s passion for potatoes with every main course, as from their perspective, rice is the obvious cornerstone.

I’ve taken a real liking to Tom Yam Goong, which is a kind of prawn-based bisque soup, with straw mushrooms and coconut poom; heavily laced with ginger, lemon grass and quite a bit of red chili.

If you can get through the first two or three spoonfuls of Tom Yam, which will grab your epiglottis and tickle it hard; send a pungent vapour down your nose; make your eyes water ever-so slightly, and the hairs on the back of your neck go all prickly .. then you’re soon into a taste sensation that you will never forget. Guaranteed Pure Asia. And I’m making a ton of it when I get back home.

We popped into a Japanese Restaurant the other day, just for a change. This particular establishment offered free Wi-Fi, which was another reason why we called in to eat there, because it also meant that we could catch-up on all our emails and stuff at the same time.

Neither one of us was brave enough to take our chances with the Sushi board and the other unpronounceable exotic oriental fare on offer, so we opted for a couple of freshly home-made Teriyaki Hamburgers; I had a beef one and Ellen chose tuna. The twist here is that the burgers were saut├ęd in a slightly reduced wine jus .. with a few splashes of soy sauce for good measure. A simply delicious way to turn the humble burger into a haute cuisine delight. Again, I’ll be trying this out myself back home.

And for what it's worth .. quite frankly, I find chopsticks distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years .. haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to eat a bloody burger?!

We’ve had the odd dessert from time-to-time too. Never as good as a bowlful of rhubarb crumble & custard though!

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Tuesday, October 4th

We didn’t want to leave Lombok without making a brief visit to the Island’s southern coast. With this in mind we were determined to spend at least one night down in Kuta (Lombok); tempted by stories of the local, fun-loving Sasaks who saturate the little township’s motley assortment of barefoot bars. Mix this up with a series of crescent-shaped bays – classic turquoise in the shallows and deep blue further out to sea, licking wide sandy beaches, backed by swaying coconut palms and framed by domelike headlands patched with lush tobacco fields .. and maybe you’ll have a vague idea of why we were always going to be drawn Lombok’s south coast.

Unfortunately it will all too soon to be a thing of the past. See, a Dubai-based development firm has already started to transform Kuta’s prestine coastline. The sea change is already well under way. What a shame. Indonesian law allows government [corrupt] ministers to force owners to sell their land at will. And sold-out to Dubai it has been. I hope the Arab developers bring economic opportunities, ecological and cultural awareness to the local community, but quite honestly I doubt they will; not if Dubai itself is any sort of a blueprint to go by.

We chatted to some of the locals who seem quite puzzled and bemused by it all; in a dazed state of mind. They used to play beach volleyball at the end of their gardens. Now that’s all gone! .. they’re actually banned and prohibited from using their own beach in their own back yard (literally) for such recreational purposes.

Quite clearly the incarnation of Lombok’s South Coast is on the clock. My recommendation is that if you want to catch the last throes of Kuta Naturelle and its neighbouring villages, then you’d better book right now.

I bunged a Rp 20,000 note to the poor chap who described to us what’s been happening lately. No strings attached. It was nearly a day’s wages to him.

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Wednesday, October 5th

I got up at sunrise (05:45am) and took a solo ride east down the coast for about 10-15 km. Ellen laid-in that morning. Eventually I found myself in a nearby coastal fishing village that is still untouched by the developers .. for how long remains to be seen. Hardly anyone around from the ‘developed world’ apart from me; always assuming Cornwall is now considered fully developed .. Camborne Town excepted, of course. No one except me and a few fishermen, a handful of seaweed farmers and their children.

Panorama – click for full view (or right click and 'Open Link in New Tab')

Then a young man approached me .. right out of the blue, Joseph was his name. We struck-up quite a decent conversation. He and his young wife share the same house as his parents, right down on the shoreline. Joseph showed me a picture of his new baby daughter .. and then offered me a cup of freshly ground coffee. No strings attached.

I told him he was very lucky to be living with all his family in such a beautiful part of the world. “You think I’m lucky Meestir? Ha! I never thought so before.”

What do you think?

We shook hands, for quite a long time actually .. and exchanged some warm words and smiles, before I had to leave his serene village and return back to the hotel in Kuta. We both agreed that we were glad we had met. It was a lovely way to start the day.

Good luck Joseph. Don’t let the bastards grind you down mate!

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09:00am: We had some breakfast by this time – pineapple pancakes again, with loads of pineapple; the bike was already packed, so it was off to Lembar to catch our fourth and final ferry .. this time to Bali.

Once upon a time, if you had told me that one day I would definitely arrive on the exotic Island of Bali by way of a motorcycle, all the way from New Zealand, then I would have accused you of being stark-raving bonkers! Funny how life works out.

After leaving Kuta we passed alongside fields of grazing cattle, doing it all naturally; none of your factory farming here. Calves suckling straight from the udder. Good to see.

Through villages where every day is market day.

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Cast off from Lembar at 11:45am .. and three and a half hours later our ferry had made its landfall and rounding the final headland before docking in Padangbai, East Coast Bali, where we spent the night.

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Thursday, October 6th

The regular blasts of the ferry-ships’ horns as they arrived and left Padangbai’s harbour kept us awake during the night, so it was an easy decision to leave and head further south, on the morning of our first full day in Bali.

Sanur, is described in the Lonely Planet as a ‘genteel’ alternative to nearby Kuta(Bali) and Seminyak, which is why we chose to spend a day and a night there. The 40 km [25 mi] ride down from Padangbai was the first full-on ride in the rain that we had experienced .. erm, all this year, if I think about it. Hot and sweaty, we soon discovered that Sanur is really quite over-commercialised and comparatively expensive to what we’ve been used to. It’s also a haven for expats - Brits, Aussies etc – which soon became obvious as we explored up and down the town’s high street.

Nice sandy beach though, which is sheltered by a reef ..

.. and where inside the reef sailing boats sometimes race against each other.

Ellen spotted this 1½ metre long snake slither up the shore from the sea, heading towards a pile of rocks further up the beach. We were not sure - and are still not sure - precisely what type of snake it was. Maybe it was a taipan, which is THE one to really watch out for, because the taipan is the most poisonous snake on Earth, with a lunge so swift and venom so potent that your last mortal utterance is likely to be: "Bloody Hell, is that a sn--"

Needless to say, neither one of us fancied a swim that day!

The northern end of the beach finishes at in a classic Indonesian way. Bali Perfect.

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Friday, October 7th

Another night in Sanur was quickly dismissed. If we wanted a set-up that to all intent and purposes mirrors any one of your typical Canary Island resorts, then that's where we would have gone.

Time to head east in search of the real Bali.

Mid-morning, heading back east, and we stop at Goa Lawah Temple, which is thought to be over 1,000 years old. This temple is also known as the Pura Goa Lawah (Bat Cave Temple) due to the cave containing fruit bats around which the temple developed.

After reaching Amlapura, along some superb roads, we turned southeast and passed by the Taman Ujung water palace complex of the last king of the Karangasem kingdom. The building was completed in 1921, but was extensively damaged by the big earthquake in 1979.

Beautiful views across Lombok Strait, as we then twisted and turned up and around the undulating coastal road to Amed. This is the Bali we had come all this way to see.
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We arrived in Amed during the late afternoon and started to hunt down some lodgings for the night.

Now then, I'm always a bit suspicious nowadays when total strangers approach me and start asking questions; the usual stuff like, 'Where do you come from?' .. 'Where are you going?' .. 'Where are you staying?' .. because quite often this sort of intrusion can be followed by a sales pitch for summin' you usually don't want, let alone need.

But young Johnny (below) asked those same questions, followed by 'Okay, you follow me .. I take you to nice place to sleep'. And blow me down he did.

Costing just Rp 200,000 [GB£14.50], Johnny Schwarzenegger here took us to the best value-for-money lodgings - which included a decent breakfast the following morning - that we've had on this trip since our stopover at the Susters' Convent in Ruteng, Flores Island.
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Saturday, October 8th

Into the Central Mountains ..

.. through hectares of stepped rice fields, eventually to finish at Toya Bungkah along the western bank of Lake Batur.

The road down into the caldera lake from Kintamani, where we literally had our head in the clouds, thus it was quite cool and misty (raining even) to Toya Bungkah; the road meandered across an unreal landscape of overgrown old lava flows.

I wish I could say that we enjoyed our stay at Toyah Bungkah .. but the fact is we didn't. Nothing worked in and around our grubby little hotel - the 'pick of the bunch' according to Lonely Planet - except the wretched flies, who were all working overtime!
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Sunday, October 9th

The next morning's sunrise was the best part of the whole flooded crater experience.

Local fishermen at work catching the day's family meal.

Surreal.

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We had to head back up the crater rim to Kintamani in order to progress to our next destination, Lovina Beach, on the north coast of Bali. The road down the mountain range is much steeper than the inward road up (from the south) because the northern coast is only about 10 km away from the crater rim at its closest point. As we twisted and turned down the rapid decent we could feel the heat and humidity incrementally build-up almost after rounding each hairpin bend. I’ll bet the temperature increased a good 15° - 20°C in the space of 30 minutes.

And then it happened again ..

There we were, minding our own business, keeping an eye out for some lodgings, knowing full well we had plenty of time to sort this as it was barely lunchtime; when along pops Danni and persuades us to follow him to a ‘Plenty good hotel’.

“Is it near the beach?” we yell back (suspiciously). ‘Yes Boss’ was the reply .. Hey! surely that’s a promotion from ‘Meestir’? I thought to myself. So we followed him for a couple of kilometres or so ..
  .. which eventually brought us to this outlook, from the chalet that we booked into for two nights at SRI Homestay. Good ol’ Danni had turned-up trumps, just like Johnny-the-Poseur did back in Amed.

Two fantastic places to stay, coming to us right out of the blue. I put the Good Karma down to the Rp 20,000 that I gave away back in Kuta, South Lombok. We shall definitely be going back to this one at Lovina Beach for sure next year; owned by an English bloke, Colin, and his young Balinese wife, Sari. For the price – of around GB£20 /night – it really doesn’t get much better than the SRI Homestay.
  And we also befriended young Bobby, the receptionist's brother .. a committed Hindu, who invited us to attend his Temple’s celebration. Held just once a year, at approximately the same time, but must coincide with a full moon, we had a smashing time at the Vishnu (Protection) Ceremony – and yes, both of us were obliged to wear wrap-around sarongs throughout the evening.

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There were hundreds and hundreds attending the festivities at the beachside Hindu Temple. All the ladies were carrying offerings on their heads, (of typically fruit and other foodstuffs), to their God.

And gambling down on the beach. Kids less than 10 years of age chipping-in with their wagers .. no problem whatsoever.

Up-tempo Hindu Music banging out all the while. A lot of drum rhythm with xylophone-type instruments pitching the tune. It was really good too. I shot some movie footage, but overlooked to ensure the sound recording was switched on (which is wasn’t) – doh!

Ellen actually went into the Temple Sanctum Sanatorium to take part in the group prayer ceremony. I declined the invitation, being the committed heathen, like what I am.
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Tuesday, October 11th

With just three full days remaining before we must leave this fascinating tropical island, on the morning of Tuesday 11th we thought it best to get ourselves back down to the capital region of Denpasar.

And what a ride the main North<~~>South road through Bali is! Up-and-over the Central Mountain Range. Brilliant fun. I did shoot some video footage, which I might turn into a short movie when I get back home. It’ll need some music added though, as my camera’s sound recording facility was still turned to ‘off’ .. [doh!] again.

Our six day ride around the Island of Bali.

Kuta-Legian Beach, near Denpasar. The locality of the 2002 Bali bombings.

Just how many pictures can you take of a sunrise or sunset? I think it’s definitely time for us to return home.

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CONCLUSION

This chapter of my blog is about to close. My first venture outside the recognised 'fully developed' world has been a resounding success, completed yet again without any mishaps whatsoever, thank goodness. I really do think I'm starting to get the hang of the motorcycling malarkey!

Some old friendships have been renewed and strengthened; some new ones forged.
And now it's definitely time to return home to my country, Great Britain.

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STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP ...
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As I type the last few words of this post on Thursday afternoon, October-13th, you should know that around mid-morning today, here in southern Bali, we felt the effects of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. JEEEZUS! .. WTF WOZ THAT?!

.. or words to that effect, were heard all around hereabouts, as people (me included) rushed from every building out into the streets.

'Must be jelly .. cuz jam don’t shake like dat!' .. was my answer

You may hear about it on the news. LINKY

A couple of weaker aftershocks have occurred this afternoon. We're all fine here .. BUT not sure how soundly we will sleep tonight?

I mean, let's face it, it really really is time to come home, eh?!

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link Lombok to Bali

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Yunno, whenever I go abroad and see how others live, it always brings home to me what a wondrous place I live in – crazy as fuck, of course, but totally adorable to the tiniest degree. Built on stable ground too!

What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec, Farleigh Wallop and Water-Ma-Trout? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? ['Please Hardy, full on the lips, with just a bit of tongue. There’s a good chap.']

There is no other nation on the planet that could possibly have given the world William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, Isaac Newton, The Beatles, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, the Open University, Stephen Hawking, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Gardners' Question Time, the chocolate digestive biscuit, and Bond

.. James Bond

.. except my country of course, Great Britain.

It's a privilege to be part of a fair and tolerant nation of people who voluntarily dismantled their own mighty empire, upon which the sun never set, in a generally benign and enlightened way. A free market economy country that has a social conscience. A country that during the middle of the 20th Century created a far-seeing all-embracing welfare state that was way ahead of its time .. and to this day still remains the best in the world. In short, a people that did, and still does, nearly everything right, which is the reason why everyone in the world wants to come and live in, or at least visit, my green and pleasant land.

How easily we Brits lose sight of all this. Our nation, this tiny Atlantic archipelago sitting just offshore from the coast of Europe, which has always punched far far above its weight .. that fought and won a just and noble war .. when it stood alone – completely alone for quite some time, mind you – against the full might of the Nazi killing machine, with no-one else to defend its shores except Dad’s Army, a handful of brave young fighter pilots, and more than a little Bulldog Spirit. Our finest hour.

Travelling overseas for these extended periods reminds me just how much I love and miss my country; every last bit of it, good and bad. I am so looking forward to returning home, where I can once again rest my head on that old familiar pillow.

I really do miss my family and workmates; I miss the Cornish coastline, country lanes, village cricket, people saying 'mustn't grumble' and 'I'm terribly sorry but'. I miss proper Marmite, BBC Breakfast TV and Carol Kirkwood. I miss PG Tips, Coleman’s English Mustard, Marks & Spencer, bite-size Shredded Wheat, Ordnance Survey maps, baked beans on toast, stinging nettles, bacon sandwiches with HP sauce, hot-water bottles, crumpets and butter, drizzly Sundays, and rhubarb crumble with custard. I miss them all.

The fact is that my Britain is still the best place in the world for most things: to post a letter, go for a walk, watch some decent television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, visit a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek a little help when times get tough, or stand on a cliff top or a hillside and take in a view.

I have said it before and I'll say it again. I love my country. I love it more than I can tell you.

And to think that I am, by birthright, one of just 65 million Britons – barely one per cent of the world’s population – it was always going to be a 100-1 shot that I would be born British. And yet it really happened. What a stroke of luck!

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Thank you for reading my blog and sharing some of my private thoughts.

Until next time.

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Post Script

And here's that video, with a little 'dramatic tone' added:



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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Deserted Island, Dragons .. and Surf's Up

All told we spent five nights in and around the laid-back harbour township of Labuan Bajo. It has a nice ambience, despite the power blackouts .. not that these seemed to matter too much to the local economy as the multitude of diesel generators fire-up and kicked-in almost straightaway to restore ‘business as usual’. What with the power generators, trucks, and heavy duty marine engines from the busy harbour frontage .. it helps too if you can tolerate the ever present lingering smell of diesel fumes in downtown Bajo!

There are quite a few good restaurants around the busy main street, most of which offer a freebie Wi-Fi connection that provided us with the fastest Internet access yet since leaving Australia. The one or two eating houses that we can particularly recommend are, ‘The Lounge’ that serves good Indo-Western tucker .. and ‘The Mediterraneo’, which as the name suggests, dishes-up mainly southern European dishes. Super-fast (by Indo standards) internet connections are available in both these establishments.

Overall, we liked the vibrant little township of Labuan Bajo, which is the main staging post for an excursion to Komodo and/or Rinca Islands. Gotta see those dragons if you’re in this neck of the woods .. and we did just that on Monday-26th.

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Saturday, September 24th

Beforehand though spent two nights on the sleepy little island of Seraya, which is situated about a 5km [approximately an hour’s] small ferry ride from L-Bajo.

As there is no natural freshwater on Seraya, to help conserve the precious imported supply, you only get access for two-hours – from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. Of course, having no natural freshwater does have its advantages, as there are no mozzies to contend with .. :-)

Electricity is similarly restricted from 6:00 – 11:00pm.

With all this in mind, planning your cold water mandi ‘shower’, and re-charging your gadgets needs some forward planning.

As it was close to low tide when we arrived at the island’s north facing shoreline shortly after midday, all of us nine visitors had to transfer to the beach by way of a dug-out canoe, the gunnels of which were no more than 3-4 inches above the waterline. I don’t think any of us were too concerned for our own personal safety in the event of a capsize, as the shoreline was no more than 75 metres away .. we were more worried about our kit getting submerged, especially the electronic stuff like our laptops and mobile-cell phones. Incidentally, mobile phones are mostly referred to as ‘handphones’ here in Indonesia.

Panorama – click for full view
Here’s the view our own little bungalow’s private veranda.

Two days with nothing to do except:

Sip coconut milk freshly plucked from a palm tree growing right next to each bungalow ..

.. then carve out the delicious white flesh inside

Explore the coral reefs

Take in the views from the hilltops
  • Do a little sunbathing; top-up the tan
  • Go snorkelling in the crystalline water
  • Lounge around and read a book or two
  • Drink some cold Bintangs
Watch the sensational sunrises

This was the best picture of the bunch.

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The food prepared by the handful of young staffers (mostly tourism college students getting-in some hands-on practical) – all around 18-years old – was pretty good too, under the circumstances, albeit with a very limited menu.

A visit to Seraya really is a proper ‘getaway’.

We met a smashing young couple out from London, Chris and Portia, who occupied the bungalow next to ours. They were island-hopping eastwards from Bali, whereas we of course were heading in the opposite direction .. and our respective paths simply crossed on Seraya Island – and we’re glad they did. Chris and I may go into business together importing Indo pineapple jam to the UK. Think of 'zingy' toast in the morning .. we'll make a fortune!

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Monday, September 26th

Now we’ve grown used to living with ants, bloody big spiders .. even the odd cockroach .. but we do draw a line at sharing our sleeping quarters with a rat or two! Unfortunately Mr Ratty decided to investigate both Chris and Portia’s hut (as well as our own), which understandably curtailed their plans to stay over for an extra two nights – can’t say as I blame them – and so we shared the same 08:00am ferry ride back to the mainland on Monday morning. The pic above is of Sunday’s return ferry. Exactly the same one as our Monday ride; same weather conditions too, so you get the picture.

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I mentioned earlier that a visit to this part of the world without visiting Komodo National Park – a Unesco World Heritage Site, encompassing Komodo, Rinca and several other neighbouring islands – is virtually a ‘must do’, because they are home to the legendary Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest lizard, which can reach over 3m in length and weigh up to 100kg.

Rinca receives just as many visitors as Komodo because it’s closest to L-Bajo. A visit to Rinca can be completed, there and back, on just a one-day excursion, which was the reason we chose to go there on Monday-26th, instead of the more distant Komodo Island.

Dragons tend to stay aloof and hide away from the midday sun from around 11:00am to mid-afternoon. The best time to see them, therefore, is either throughout early to mid-morning, or alternatively during the late afternoon when they’re on the prowl for a meal, which typically can be as large as deer or buffalo, both of which can be found on Rinca. The males also try to eat the females’ eggs, which inevitably can spark-off some vicious battles between the sexes.

Because of our 09:00am return arrival from Seraya dockside in Bajo, we missed the ordinary ferry out to Rinca and had to charter a private boat for the two-hour journey out to Rinca instead, the cost of which set us back Rp 700,000 – a smidge over 50 quid.

Our very own private skipper and his crew

Arriving there just before noon meant that the only full grown dragons we saw were those hanging around the rangers' camps looking for some shade and maybe an easy meal.

The Evil Eye!

There are quite a few hiking trails in and around Rinca, but it’s not permitted – for obvious reasons – to explore the island without a guide; a forked staff was our guide’s solitary weapon to ward off the any attack from a dragon, which more often than not would be a female only trying to protect her nest of eggs.

We did, however, clock a Buffalo or two and ..

a couple of baby dragons

.. no more than 4-5 years old and a modest one metre in length.






Flashback to May 2011

I thought at the time that we were far more excited when we stumbled across a two-metre long wild Goanna in Undara National Park, Queensland, back in May this year.














A visit to Rinca had to be done though; we would never have forgiven ourselves had we missed the opportunity to see one or two of this critically endangered specie – the Komodo Dragon. I guess the trip was just about worth it, despite having to cough-up that wretched Rp 50,000 camera tax.

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Tuesday, September-27th

A last look around Labuan Bajo’s harbour ..

.. before boarding our second island-hopping ferry of this trip (there will be four all told). Another roll-on / roll-off rust bucket .. but let’s face it, an eight-hour ferry ride of 70 km [44 mi] involving transportation of the Meeestir’s BIG bike, including all our kit, plus two ‘Kelas-1’ passenger tickets – for just GB£14.50 [Rp 200,000] can’t be all bad!

What can we say to summarise our first 16-days in Indonesia mostly spent in and around the Island of Flores?

Well I can tell you, for sure, that a smile goes a very long way in Indonesia. It’s said that Indonesians have a smile for every emotion – and keeping one on your face will open-up a whole lot of warmth and open-handed co-operation from these super-friendly folk.

Indonesians obviously love small talk, almost to a passion. What at first seemed like over-inquisitiveness from complete strangers – bordering on rudeness, that we initially found intrusive and quite irritating – we soon worked out is simply a typically polite greeting and an expression of interest in a foreign visitor, who has taken the time and trouble to take a look around their part of the world. For instance, this sort of interrogation is right in your face as soon as you shake hands:
Dari mana Meestir? (Where do you come from Mister?), and Mau kemana Meestir? (Where are you going Mister?). Often quickly followed by Tinggal dimana? (Where are you staying?) and Sudah kawin? (Are you married?) .. even Berapa umur anda? (How old are you?) .. are all out in the open within a few seconds.

When they don’t get an immediate response and see that we’re struggling to grasp and understand their questions, then they usually do the best they can to ask in English. Sometimes in quite good well-constructed English sentences – but mostly with less prose than a pigeon could piece together. But at least they try hard to make you feel important, ‘special’ even, which is a wonderful natural quality to have – and they really are quite genuinely interested in what you have to say back to them; their enthusiasm and pure joy in making a connection with a strangely fair-skinned Westerner riding around on a BIG motorcycle is all too evident.

The village spirit is alive and well in Flores; this was plain to see when Mans & Co – from Motorcycle Outreach (MoR) – escorted us to the remoter rural areas around Larantuka during our first week on the Island. Where kids run from house to house and everyone seems to know who owns which particular chicken! They are poor by Western standards, but enormously rich in other ways. The villages we visited clearly had something of a home-grown welfare system, where a grassroots arrangement of mutual help is happening all around, all the time.

Oddly to us, the focus of many an Indonesian household – or shack-of-a-place they still call home – remains the gravestones of their nearest and dearest departed. There is obviously huge respect for their elders. And I say good on ‘em for that .. especially as I’m getting a little long-in-the-tooth myself nowadays!

And most enlightening is that, despite this vast country – of 2,000 islands – and being the largest Islamic state in the world (86% of the population), the people in Flores – and the parts of Sumbawa that we’ve seen so far – are absolutely free to worship according to their personal religious beliefs and doctrine. Muslim and Christian temples & churches literally side-by-side; everyone free to pray as they wish .. in total harmony and tolerance with each others’ faith. Not at all, and in complete contrast to what we’re led to believe in The West, eh?

Believe me, there is nothing to fear here. I have not felt in the slightest bit threatened in any way since we left Australia, not even for a second.

So in summary, we like Indonesia, and Flores in particular, very much indeed. Fabulously kind and generous people from whom we learned a great deal.

Ellen and I are now committed to doing whatever we can to help replace MoR’s ageing and decrepit motorcycle fleet. It’s the least we can do .. really.

‘Goodbye’ Island of Flores – thanks for having us.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link Larantuka to Labuan Bajo

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.. and ‘Hello’ Island of Sumbawa.

We made it to our elected digs in Bima – 50 km [31 mi] to the west from Sape harbour – just before dusk finally cloaked the city in complete darkness ..

..and booked into some pretty swish digs; the Hotel La’mbitu. Cost: Rp 192,000 [c. GB£14.00] including breakfast –and our first hot shower for 18 days.

By shortly after seven o’clock we were strolling into one of the main precincts just around the corner from our hotel, complete with traffic-choked streets and crumbling architecture that manages to be quite charmless. We were not at all happy in the chaotic intensity of it all. Street urchins constantly begging for a hand-out didn’t help matters neither; made me feel mean and uncompassionate when I ignored their pleads for a little charity.

Nevertheless and despite the guilt, we grabbed a couple platefuls of grub at a Padang food hall; a kinda cross between a huge American diner and a 1950s-style British school canteen. Clearly a favourite local haunt – and tried the stewed stringy chicken with rice and veggies. Ellen was also tempted to take-on the herring .. bones an’all .. plus we chucked a couple of cartons of water onto our trays. All for the princely sum of Rp 54,000 [about 2 quid each].

I say more about this meal later down the page.

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Wednesday, September-28th

Breakfast at the Hotel La’mbitu.

Incidentally, the coffee in Indonesia is THE best I’ve ever tasted. Bloody nectar, so it is .. grown locally, of course. Not too strong, or bitter – nor too weak neither. Has a very faint nut taste that you can sometimes detect. No milk or cream is required, as it is silky smooth taken black. BUT it’s rarely fully filtered, so you usually have to put up with the unsightly scum as your cup empties .. and don’t forget to leave the last 3-4 mm of sludge at the bottom of said cup!

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Back on the road, heading south, as we want to spend a couple of days in Pantai Lakey, where we heard that the southern Sumbawa tourist pulse beats all year round, thanks to the world-class surfing waves that curl and crash into the location’s massive bay.

We headed about 60 km [37.5 mi] down the road from Bima and passed through the remote rural township of Parado, because it looked like the shortest route to Hu’u and Lakey beyond. A bunch of friendly youngsters, who insisted on a group photo, chased after us as just as we we’re leaving the town’s southern limits .. and by means of a lot of sign language and carefully chosen words in both English and Indonesian, it became clear that our track ahead was impassable; we had to turn around and backtrack more than half of the morning’s progress.

Ellen shot some video footage at this point. Why don’t you ride along with us for three minutes or so?


Click-on the forward play arrow

An hour later and we came to a forked junction in Sila, with no clear signage or directions .. do we take the left or right fork? .. and quickly get confirmation from this dear ol’ Muslim gent that we would be heading in the right direction in we took the right-hand fork.

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Too Much Information:

Yunno, I thought I was going to get away with it .. but it wasn’t to be. Obviously some spicey food that I had recently eaten – probably at the Bima food hall – had given me the dreaded squits. I know, I know .. this is all far too much information! BUT it came on, all of a sudden, in a town called ‘Dompu’ .. I kid you not! That’s why I’m telling the story .. of all the places in the world, it had to happen in a town called Dompu!

I must have raced through the town’s main streets at 120 km/h [75 mph]; just oh-so friggin’ desperate to get out into the countryside and find a hedge. ANY hedge.

If a cop had managed to catch me I wouldn’t have stopped very long to chat, you can count on that, other than to plead, "We have an EMERGENCY SITUATION ON OUR HANDS" [amongst more southerly regions of the anatomy!] But I managed to ‘hang-on’ just long enough to get through Dompu, whereafter ..

I screeched to halt besides a bunch of bamboo canes, and barked at Ellen, "DON’T ASK ANY FARKIN' QUESTIONS, THERE'S NOT ENOUGH TIME TO EXPLAIN .. JUST DIG OUT SOME BLOODY LOO PAPER .. BLOODY QUICK!"

Just made it in time – and I mean just – squatting and squitting .. with not even enough time to remove my helmet! Trauma over. PHEW!

BTW, I’m still in recovery as I tap my keyboard to get out this blog post.

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Lakey Peak, with Lakey Pipe just to the east; two of the finest waves anyway on the planet.

We spent two days watching the supremely fit young surfers and sailboarders .. just do their thang.

And mixed it up with 'em during the evenings.

On near perfect 6-8 feet tubes and barrels.

Dammit, I want my youth back!

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Friday, September-30th

The 230 km [143 mi] northwest ride up Sumbawa Besar, the capital city of the island, was one of the most arduous ones you could imagine. The road through the centre of Sumbawa is, to be quite frank, absolutely fooked! I mean broken to pieces; just mostly rubble and dust .. and in a constant state of repair and disrepair. I was really glad to see the back of it all. The ride made me tired, weary and tested.

Panorama – click for full view

It did have its moments though .. when sometimes we stumbled and rattled around a blind corner and see a wonderful blue bay open-up in front of our eyes.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link → Labuan Bajo to Sumbawa

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Saturday, October 1st

We checked-in at the Hotel Suci around mid-afternoon; knackered and a bit dehydrated. According to the Lonely Planet (Indonesia) guide book, the Hotel Suci is supposed to be one of the best in the city. Unfortunately, perhaps for some (like us pair of heathens), it's located right next door to the Al-Hakim Mosque.

See those speakers? Well we were sleeping right under the ones on the left-hand side (as you see it).

This was our early morning call - at 04:00 am! - which lasts for between 45 mins to an hour. Click the play arrow below in order to ::LISTEN:: to around a minute's worth.



God is Supreme!
Come to the prayer,
Come to success,
God is Supreme!
God is Supreme!

Coming to a town centre .. or residential area near you. Count on it!

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So needless to say, we were on the road fairly early on this first day of October 2011; like at 07:00 am to be precise. Surprisingly, and to our relief, the 92 km [57 mi] coastal road leading from the hotel to the ferry terminal at Poto Tano (West Sumbawa) was in pretty good condition. Not perfect, more of a typical Camborne Town-type road surface, so obviously there's still some considerable room for improvement!



Another day another ferry. This time though it was easy - just a question of buying the ticket at the booth, then ride straight onto the ferry deck. Couldn't be simpler. Cost: Rp 81,000 [GB£5.72] - includes motorcycle cost, plus 2 x passenger fares. Voyage time to complete the 18 km [11.2 mi] crossing was just 90 minutes.


Lombok Island

For some reason I imagined that the central road through Lombok, from the ferry terminal at Labuan Kayangan (East Lombok) to the capital city, Mataram (on the west coast), would be through gorgeous rural villages, with rice fields and passing the occassional temple.

Not a bit of it! The 77 km [49 mi] - about 80 mins - cross-island journey is almost completely urbanised. A hectic traffic scene, where you daren't lose concentration for a second. Alert, defensive riding is the key here .. Oh, and a really bloody LOUD horn, like wot I got!

We were in the centre of Mataram by around 12:20 pm. Now do we (a) stopover in the noisy dusty, and probably expensive city? -or- (b) head a little further north up the coast to Lombok's original tourist town of Senggigi? .. with its rambling series of sweeping bays and wide beaches dappled with Senggigi's coconut palms? No contest!

It's slightly out of season at this time of year ('high season' is between June - August by the way) and we knew that Senggigi has no shortage of excellent hotels and decent restaurants, so outside the peak time we expected to snag some bargain accommodation.  

Panorama – click for full view .. and we did! Here's the view from our luxury Senggigi pad at the Pura Bunga beach cottages About a third knocked off the normal price tariff .. :-)

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The ferry terminal at Lembar where we'll get across to Bali is no more than about an hour away - 42 km [26 mi] - to the south. We're a week ahead of schedule .. and so we now face the prospect of having to spend an extra seven days hereabouts, or on nearby Bali; what a drag .. NOT!

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 So I reckon we'll stay here for 2-3 nights .. and relax some more. We'll just hafta spend a little more time poolside .. :-) :-) Catcha later.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link → Ferry to Lombok and road to Senggigi

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