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

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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