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

Friday, 23 September 2011

Mountain Madness

Saturday, August 17th

Not the best of starts as we left Larantuka around 09:15am on Saturday morning, September-17th. About 5 km out of town we hit a patch of diesel oil which sent the rear wheel spinning and had us skating sideways with the black beast slipping away from under us. Fortunately the tyres regained traction on dry asphalt before the start of an entirely conceivable lowside crash passed its point of no return .. and we were perpendicular again in flash. Shaken and stirred, we muttered a few expletives and carried on.

My riding confidence going forward, however, was thereafter more than a bit on said lowside; a feeling which prevailed for most of the twisty but often beautiful scenic road .. to our next stopover point of Maumere City.

On the way to Maumere
[NB – pronounced with three syllables: Maw-mare-ray]

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What adjectives can you use to describe a place like Maumere? Several words immediately spring to mind actually, most of which start with either the letter ‘f’ and/or ‘s’.

Located on a long lanquid coastline, back-clothed by bluey-green lush mountains; on paper at least, the City has a lot going for it.

The reality is that Maumere has grown up and around a grubby, sweaty ram-shackle harbour; bad graffiti is scrawled across most of its crumbling buildings .. and there’s tons of rubbish littering every nook and cranny, the street gutters are choked with the filthy stuff.

You must have your wits about you when riding through the City’s quite confusing road network, as the place has the worst driving standards that we’ve experienced anywhere to date; even worse than Dili’s traffic scene, which is quite an indictment. I am now so glad that I installed the new 136 dB horn last month back in Darwin. Good work done there.

So we just rode on through shitty ol’ Maumere without stopping and exited by the west road out of town that soon lead us, after about 8-9 km [5½ mi] to the contrasting near idyllic Gading Beach Hotel, right on the sea ..

.. and booked into one of its clean, air-conditioned bamboo bungalow-chalets with an imaginative arty-farty interior paint job, comfy queen bed, colour TV (broadcasting only one Indo channel though) shower and western-style flushing loo. More pure bloody luxury, at a not too over-the-top price tag of Rp 250,000 per night [GB£17.80 pn].

Annexed no more than 20m from our chalet, the barefoot bamboo restaurant has an upstairs terrace where we ate and drank most of the time .. always wafted by a rare, cool sea breeze.

Two – and not a solitary – night stopover at Gading Beach was quickly agreed upon between me and er’ indoors.

Here's a tiny peek of our weekend:




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Monday-19th

But something bad happened yesterday, Sunday-18th.

I was robbed!

A dozy thief, probably a youth, unscrewed the cap from the bike’s RH storage pipe and nicked one of the tie-down straps that was stored inside. Loss of value: about GB£12, so not the end of the world. Now there are just three tie-downs inside the tube, whereas before there used to be four. Why he (or she, but probably a ‘he’) left the remaining three tie-downs behind gives a bit of a clue about the toe-rag’s intellect. But the real IQ giveaway is that little wanker failed to realise that the tank panniers, which I had left still strapped across the tank, contained something of more significant value and real use; namely our self-inflating roll-up mattresses, which have a combined value of around GB£200.

But the really annoying aspect of this opportunistic theft is that said shit-for-brains also scarpered off with the tube’s screw-on end cap – value GB£6 – that can be of no practical use to him whatsoever. What a pillock.

Having been assured on arrival by the hotel manager and the gate security guard that the Alp and add-on accessories would be completely secure parked-up behind the reception office, on discovering the theft I went absolutely berserk with the pair of them .. !! .. Indeed, upon reflection the way I reacted, is something that I’m not too proud of.

And their security antennae really should have been on red alert, as the day before (Saturday-17th) some fellow Dutch guests had a wallet stolen from their chalet containing a few hundred thousand Rupiah and about 60 US dollars, plus their credit cards. The management’s argument was that the Netherlanders should really have kept their door locked.

My best deduction is that the bunch of local youths, about four or five of ‘em altogether, who were hanging around the hotel’s beachfront from time-to-time throughout the whole weekend, were probably responsible for both petty crimes. Hell, Ellen even spotted one of the shysters remove and walk away with the shower head from the courtesy freshwater shower stand. I mean, what the hell would they want with a second-hand shower head in any case?

Just a mob of pathetic mindless idiots, who have simply created some bad Karma. The whole wide world is infested with them. And it’s all going to end very badly for us all one day.

Bottom line is that the incidents spoiled what should have been a perfect couple of days .. for both the nice Dutch couple and ourselves. For what it’s worth, I demanded that I would pay for only one of those days; thus saving the replacement cost of my stolen items. The management didn’t argue the case, as they could clearly see that my offer to settle our bill with a self-imposed 50% discount was NOT NEGOTIABLE!

You can understand why it’s said that the most useful emergency repair tools you can carry on a trip like this are (a) a roll of duct tape; and (b) a can of WD-40. These should be able to fix and repair 90% of breakdowns and failures.

Which reminds me, I must get around to buying a can of WD-40!

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Onwards to the village of Moni - the usual base for visiting Kelimutu National Park.

.. along some seriously twisty roads ..

Panorama - click on the picture for full view

.. with spectacular views along the way.

Panorama - click on the picture for full view

Touching the coastline at Paga

Alongside Padi fields so bright and green .. you could think they must have been sprayed that colour with flourescent 'dayglo' paint.

After arriving in Moni during the early-mid afternoon, we pull up at Sylvester's Homestay. It was a fairly clean room and came cheap at Rp 150,000 [GB£10.71]. His boys get an inflatable globe.

And we bump into Orian again, who is also making his way to Bali by way of 'Bemo', which is a small minibus. Good bloke is our Dutch mate Orian; we've enjoyed his company for the last three days.

He also likes the same refreshments as us! Bintang* beer, the cornerstone of our evening relaxations here in SE Asia.

* 'Bintang' is Indonesian for 'Star'

Fairly clean is one thing, but this didn't prevent some unwelcome gate-crashers sharing the night with us

Like a gecko or two ..

.. bloody BIG spiders .. and

.. slugs crawling out of the sink.

Too yukky!

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Tuesday, September 20th

We decided not to make the trek up to the top Mount Kelimutu at 04:30am, the recommended best time to view the lakes, after the pre-dawn mist rises, and before clouds drift in. The conditions, however, appeared very overcast when our alarm clock did its thing. Clouds were racing past the moon, obscuring it for most of the time. So we went back to bed, hoping it might be clearer after breakfast.

At nine o’clock we made the 14 km [8½mi] trek up the mountain – through clouds and a fast-building haze.

And guess what? The buggers at the gate only demanded Rp 20,000 per person admission price .. plus an outrageous entrance fee/tax for each of our cameras of Rp 50,000. WTF?!

Not prepared to negotiate with us, we told them to stick their poxy lakes where the sun don’t shine; then turned around disgusted, and descended back down the mountainside to the main road. Who needs to pay anything to snap a few pictures of clouds.

See, it's the principal of the thing. National Parks should be free, or dirt cheap at the very most. We could have no doubt sucked-up the cost of Rp 20,000 each. But what a bloody cheek it is to levy a tax on our cameras! It’s not as if the money they're raking in is being spent maintaining a decent road surface up to the site .. because I’ll bet not even a teaspoonful of tarmac has been laid on that road for years; the potholes were testimony to this.

Sod the political monkeys who no doubt pocket the money in the typical corrupt manner. I don’t need to see your turquoise lakes that badly, my friends, as I’ve seen all the coloured lakes to last me a lifetime - for free - in Europe and New Zealand .. and elsewhere. Hell, I don’t need to drive more than 15 miles [24 km] from my home in Cornwall to see a pit full of turquoise water in one of our abandoned clay pits!

And here’s a message to the world: Come visit my wonderful country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. All of our National Parks and AONB (areas of outstanding natural beauty) are completely free. Complimentary, as in COSTS YOU NOTHING .. Zippo, Zero, Nada, Zilch .. bugger-all mate. Complimentary is very cool, guys. Take note. Likewise for all of our great national and local museums, like the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert, the Natural History Museum, etceteras .. the list goes on and on. All for free, especially to our foreign guests. Come visit us; you won’t be charged a penny. The same goes for your camera!

Still smarting from the attempted rip-off, 55 km [34 mi] later we pass through Ende.

This is the farewell at the end of Ende .. which is yet another Flores port .. and shithole of a town.

Yeah .. and up yours too Ende!

Okay, my rant machine is now officially turned off!

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After 123 km [ 76½ mi] of more magnificent twisties, we eventually arrive in Bajawa, where we spent a quite unmemorable night.

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Wednesday, September 21st

Lost in Bajawa!

Oxymoron – words that don’t make sense together. ‘Military [and] Intelligence’ is a good example. ‘Female [and] Map-reader’ is another! In other words, we got lost in Bajawa trying to find the way out to the Ruteng road. I’ll not elaborate!

Ellen asks for directions from a police officer, who makes a brave attempt to explain where we’re going wrong as best he can in pigeon Indo-English. Three pair of eyes soon begin to glaze over in the frustration of it all.

Then we get a “Okay, you follow me Meestir” .. and in a jiffy we’re off to the races!

Hurtling through town and out into the countryside at breakneck speed, with everyone giving way.

What a bloody brilliant cop!

Ah – so that’s the way!

Ellen [the] Watson, had redeemed herself.

A handshake follows with a "Good luck Meestir" ..

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[ .. incidentally, we've lost Orian - send out an APB: Where the hell are you Orian?]

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.. and we’re soon entering into Mountain Madness.

It was quite extraordinary riding from Bajawa to Ruteng – a distance of 135 km [84 mi]. No let-up whatsoever.

Just full-on outstanding motorcycle terrain. Easily the most challenging I’ve taken on anywhere in the world so far. Varying road surfaces that often simply disappear altogether and turn into dirt without warning. Constant pothole dodging is a given.

But oh-so such sensationally brilliant fun at the same time! .. which takes you into that ‘special zone’ that every motorcyclist loves and craves – but seldom tends to experience. You go into that special zone when you ride the tracks and roads around central and western Flores. It is quite inevitable.

And you simply never know what just might be around the next corner. That’s our roadway under there .. somewhere.

1:30pm .. Ruteng – pop. circa 37,000 - and ..

.. we follow this 'slightly' overloaded small truck into the town centre.

Where we check into the best commercial digs of the trip so far. The spotlessly clean ‘Kongregasi Suster Santa Maria Berdukacita’ – a blessed convent .. that was prepared to take in a couple of stray meestirs .. for a small donation of Rp 190,000, of course!

.. erm .. CASH only, my child .. if you don’t mind.

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away
Job 1:21

.. God Bless You, my child.

Worth every penny - just soooo immaculate.

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FACT: We left Cornwall on the 18th August. Up to this particular Wednesday (Sept-21st) we had not seen a drop of rain anywhere any place – inc. Northern Territory Aus, Timor-Leste, or Indonesia. 34 consecutive dry days. Worth a mention.

But that all changed when we got up to Ruteng. At these altitudes up in the mountains – of 1,200+ m, [4,000+ ft] – the near daily downpours that we’ve heard about so much actually do happen .. ‘Dry Season’ or not .. and almost right on cue, at a quarter past two in the afternoon we experienced one that lasted for 2½ hours. The first rain for more than a month and we were in downtown Ruteng, 2 km from the Susters, looking for a late lunch, as we were quite hungry at the time.

As we couldn’t get into our room until it had been prepared and serviced properly, all our riding gear – jackets, helmets, gloves etc – was still strewn over the bike and thus vulnerable to the weather; nothing protected from the elements whatsoever. Ellen even ended up with 2 inches of water in her upturned helmet! We simply didn’t ask the blessed susters if we could unload and get all our luggage and stuff inside, despite our room not being ready, which was silly of us, as I’m sure there wouldn’t have been a problem.

Result: still wet jackets the following morning, Thursday-22nd

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Thursday, September 22nd

Around 130 km [81 mi] along our very last section of the 'trans-Flores highway' still twisting and turning around blind hairpin bends, and pothole dodging .. and

Panorama - click on the picture for full view

.. we arrive in Labuan Bajo, Nusa Tengarra's 'next big thing' in tourism. At least it feels that way, with a steady stream of Komodo and Rinca-based tourists and backpackers descending on this quite lovely harbour town, freckled with bay islands .. and blessed with surrealist sunsets.

We shall take a two-day excursion from here, tomorrow Saturday-24th, to a near empty and unspoiled, tranquil offshore island called Seraya. We've organised the rental of a sweet little beach bungalow over there. Maybe get in some snorkeling .. I hope so anyway.

The bike is tucked-up inside the lobby of our Labuan Bajo-based digs, which we have reserved for five nights .. at just Rp 140,000 per night [ten quid], which can't be all bad. It's worth the price just to know the black beast will be in a secure environment whilst we're away on Seraya Island.

Just three weeks remaining before we must leave this fascinating country, from Denpasar, Bali. How quickly the time has flown?!

Stayed tuned - more to follow in about a week's time.

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