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.


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

Saturday 2 June 2012

Java Cakes

Saturday, 26th May

I had mixed emotions when we departed from Kuta-Legian shortly after breakfast on Saturday morning (26th). Very excited to be back on the road after such a long break .. all jumbled-up with some apprehension .. thinking, ‘What now lies ahead?’ – I always do at the beginning of every long ride.

A final farewell to Jode (centre of above pic) – our host for what must amount to more than a week all told; that is, with last year's plus this year’s visits combined – and his family, and indeed all the staff, of Arca Bungalows, central Legian. A great place to stay if you’re ever in the vicinity.

Parorama – click for full view

Through the manic streets of greater Denpasar, heading a little north and then west .. and out into the countryside through acres of luscious green stepped padi fields. The iridescence of it all was quite mesmerising .. even a little distracting at times.

Three hours after leaving the city we were boarding the ferry at Gilimanuk on the western tip of the island for the brief ferry ride – of about 45 mins – across to Java .. and into the heart of the country.

Our first close-up view of the Island of Java - on the left (above) - our sixth Indonesian Island to date .. and the penultimate one for us. Some Java factoids for you:
  • Population: 135 million
  • The world's most populous island
  • Capital City: Jakarta (and the nation’s capital city)
  • Land Area: 132,000 sqare km [51,000 sq miles]
  • It is about 1,050 km [650 miles] long and up to 210 km [130 miles] wide
  • 13th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in Indonesia
  • Highest Peak: Gunung Semeru – 3,676 metres [12,060 ft]

Heading north and west after disembarking the ferry, we ran through too many townships and small cities to count. Got seriously held-up in a couple of them; this being a Saturday the kids were out of school and some sort of girls’ parade in one township in particular, which slowed our progress to a a very slow crawl /standstill for well over half an hour. Little cuties all the same though, eh?

By around 5:00 pm, with blackened faces from a day’s worth of riding into noxious black diesel + two-stroke petrol fumes, and 280 km [174 mi] later, we pulled-up at the Palm Hotel in Bondowoso; described by Lonely Planet as ‘one of the cleanest towns in Java’ [a ‘must see’ then, for this reason alone!]

The hotel was indeed very nice. We are happy to recommend it. Not too pricey – @ Rp 250,000 [GB£17.50] per night – with very pleasant and helpful staff.

.. security can be a bit slackarse at times though!

We crossed into another time zone and gained an hour between Bali and Java, so now we’re just six hours ahead of London UK time. Dusk, however, does fall a little earlier because of this.

By 7 o’clock we’d stocked-up on snacks and drinks from a local supermarket just up the road from the hotel. Anyone for Green Peas flavoured crisps? ..

.. or Nori Seaweed, or Salmon Teriyaki flavours perhaps?

I guess not. Original Pringles it is then!


Sunday, 27th

First Javanese excursion: The fabled sulphurous Ijen Volcano (Kawah Ijen) to see the infamous hod-carrying sulphur collectors hack-out their precious yellow stuff* and hike it up from the spectacular crater lake of Kawah Ijen, located 65 km [40 mi] east of Bondowoso.

* Ijen sulphur is used for cosmetics and medicines, and is added to fertilisers and insecticides.

Getting there was mostly a pleasant ride along quiet rural roads, where the main crops appear to be sugar cane, maize, coffee and rubber.

My word, they work hard for a living.

Shared a few giggles with this bunch loading their harvest onto their clapped-out truck.

About a 5-6 km stretch of uphill, very badly broken, remote road gave me a hard time as we approached the lip of the crater that marked the entrance to the Ijen Plateau. Feathering the clutch too much with extreme high revs to get the big 21” front wheel over some of the rocks and rubble without doubt cost me a few thou of precious clutch plate. Indeed, I had to loosen the tension a couple of turns on the clutch cable adjuster to eliminate slippage when we reached the top – [mental note made: I may need to replace the clutch plates before too long].

Temporarily parked-up to take a breather [above picture] and the sound of cicadas and other forest wildlife was quite overwhelming. Hear for yourself: Click the play arrow below in order to ::LISTEN:: to around 30 seconds' worth.

Parorama – click for full view

Three barrier check points later, costing a couple of thousand rupiah (or a few cigarettes – the choice is yours) in ‘administration fees’ – no receipts provided, of course – and we were tracking across the Plateau towards Kawah Ijen at around 2,300 m [7,546 ft], through thickly forested alpine-style highlands, skirted by arabica and robusta (Java’s finest) coffee plantations, which were obviously thriving in the cooler, almost temperate, climate.

Pretty, and somewhat strange to us, wild flowers and blooms all around.

And when we eventually arrived at our destination .. bugger me! .. t’was shut to tourists because of the excessive poisonous sulphuric gases.

Ho-hum! ..

.. if only I still smoked .. because this was THE perfect moment to light-up a fag. No question.

My only consolation was this very long distance, high-zoom picture of a sulphur collector; first seen by me on the BBC's Human Planet series.

So it was back to the Palm and the Pringles in Bondowoso.


Monday-28th & Tuesday-29th

Another 140 km [87 mi] anti-clockwise semi-circular 3-hour ride then took us to the luneresque landscape of Gunung Bromo, one of Indonesia’s most breathtaking sights.

Again, at well over 2,000 m [> 6,500 ft] the climate is decidedly chilly up in these altitudes .. and for the first time since leaving England I found comfort from wearing a fleece jacket. The cool change was actually quite a relief from the oppressive heat and humidity experienced throughout the previous couple of weeks.

We made our base for two nights on the lip of the Tengger crater, in the relaxed little village of Cemoro Lawang.

Gunung Bromo is at its ethereal best at sunrise, when the colours are the most impressive. There it is smoking away on the left. The cone volcano on the right is called Batok.

No problem getting upearly - at 05:30 - to see this spectacle.

Parorama – click for full view


Later during the daytime:

Rising from the guts of the ancient Tengger caldera, Bromo is one of three volcanoes to have emerged from this vast crater of grey ash, stretching 10 km [6¼ mi] across.

A walk across the savanna crater bed, the ‘Sea of Sand’, to connect with the sacred peak of Bromo.

The bottom of 253 steps to ascend Bromo ..

.. to come face-to-face with the steaming sulphurous bowel of the volcano.

And just to prove that at least one of us climbed those 253 slippery ash-clogged steps .. here’s a picture from the top looking down. A very long, and potential lethal, tumble if you were to lose your footing.

Brom-Tengger-Semeru National Park. Definitely worth a visit.


Wednesday, 30th

Time for us to leave this very cool location .. and head ever further west.

Another goodbye to two sweeties that spent time looking after us - including cooking and serving-up some tasty grub - during our stopover at the Café Lava & Hostel; always with a smile, all throughout our 2-day visit to their remote and unusual corner of the world.

Ira (19), left, and her little sister Chah (12), right. See you in England one day, eh girls?!


After 125 km [78 mi] we pulled-up in bustling city of Malang, where we spent the night in the very swish Hotel Trio Indah II. The Lonely Planet accommodation guide got it right yet again. That's two or three great hotel recommendations 'on the trot' now .. which must be a record!


Thursday, 31st

250 quite difficult, yet fun, kilometres [155 mi] - seven hours in the saddle - over two or three mountain ranges eventually brought us to the pretty coastal fishing township of Pacitan, right on dusk (5:15 pm), where we took 'pot luck' with the first decent hotel we came across, the Graha Prima, which was not too bad at all. Just 15 minutes later darkness fell.

We slept for 10 hours solid that night. Must've been knackered, eh?!


Friday, 1st June

Away from Pacitan by 10:30 am ..

.. heading for the fiercely independent City of Yogyakarta (pronounced 'Jogjakarta') - Yogya [say] 'Jogja' for short - which is widely regarded as Java's 'soul' .. and Java's premier tourist destination.

On the way west across to 'Jogja', about 30 km [18½ mi] out of Pacitan, we pulled off the main road at Punung and followed a winding track for about 4 km, specifically to take a look around Gua Tabuhan (Musical Cave), a huge limestone cavern that is said to have been the refuge to the 19th-century guerilla leader Prince Disponegoro. Apparently guides will give an 'orchestral' performance by striking the stalactites, each in perfect pitch, echoing pure gamelin melodies. Each 'performance' is supposed to last for 10 minutes.

But blow me down, when we got there the place was closed! Second time this week that has happened (first time was Kawah Ijen on Sunday - see above.)


We arrived in Jogja around 2:00 pm, where we met up with our new friends Andy (from Falmouth in Cornwall) who is now based in Jogja where he lives with his English-fluent Javanese girlfirend, Shinta.

At least three whole days in this fascinating city should be a nice respite.

Our thoughts are now just beginning to focus on the island of Sumatra to the west - which will be our seventh (and final) Indonesian island - and where we hope to be riding by around the 8th-9th July .. give or take a day or so.

More in about a week's time.


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