Just like that, almost a month has gone by. We have finished the first of eight sections on the complete tour (which finishes Dec.19th in Sydney, Australia), and the first of the four sections in Indonesia. Yesterday, we crossed over by ferry from Sumatra to Java, one of the most populated and diverse places on earth –Indonesia itself is the 4th most populated country on earth, and Java holds 58% of the 245 million people of Indonesia.
Unluckily, me and Henry who were riding sweep missed the 8:30 am ferry by a couple of minutes, and ended up on a ferry an hour later that took 4 hours instead of the predicted 2 hours. Besides the nice views of the beautiful and clear green-blue water of the Indian Ocean, it was quite a unceremonial way (especially compared to the experience of the other staff who on an earlier ferry were invited into the captain’s quarters for VIP treatment) of leaving Sumatra, the interesting and colourful island that we’ve ridden across for the past three weeks.
Sumatra bustles with life; although not as busy or famous as the neighbouring island of Java, it still has a surprising variation of life and cultural diversity. In Sumatra the landscapes changed between simple villages, where we rode past confused locals, cleaning their laundry in the streams that pass through about every village, and tiny children marching to school in their uniforms; empty pockets of jungle with patch-paved roads or “gravel” roads –aka cobble stone before it has been jammed into the ground–; endless isolated fields of rice or fruit plantations; steep roads winding up and around volcanos; and the simple, but stunning ocean coast, where the locals fish all day, sit lazily by the water, and where we were able to get coconuts at lunch time. We witnessed the religious change that is famously unique in Indonesia; rows of neighbouring villages that flip-flop between christianity and islam as you pass by, religiously ambiguous graves –constructed in the fashion of ancient asian traditional tombs in either beautiful spots in nature, or in the middle of a corn field–, and even stumbled across a small Hindu village. The people have been so kind and welcoming, everywhere we ride we were greeted with parades of “hora, hora” — ‘welcome, welcome’, and even the drivers seemed to enjoy our presence on the rode (or at least, respected our ‘right’ to be on the road… much better treatment than you find from North American drivers).
For me, the highlight of the trip was the last week or so along the coast, where we stayed in a couple beach front and a couple almost-beach-front hotels. I’m a beach-lover, so the opportunity to run (cautiously, ok the water is rough) into the ocean of an isolated beach, after a long and hot day on the bike or in the van was wonderful. My favourite place was Krui, a surfer-paradise hot-spot, were we stayed in an isolated group of cottages, where the average costumer is expected to stay for weeks on end and really just surf all day and drink Bintang all night. Definitely going on my lost of places to return. However, I’ve been told, the list is only going to grow… as Cristiano, the tour leader likes to say with a smile, “oh, you’ve seen nothing yet.”
It’s been a great ride down Sumatra, and I’m surprised at how quickly we already covered 2,100 km of the trip. However, thats the nature of these tours, it goes fast and hard, and before you know it we’ll be in Australia. Sumatra Sutra was sweet, but now we start to Java Jive.
– Nellie Gold-Pastor