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7180 km: English on the Trans-Sumatran Highway

We had no idea to expext of the Trans Sumantran Highway. With a map that is consistantly confusing, plots cities wherever the cartographer "remembered them", and no height profile, of course every ride becomes a bit of a guess.

What the map shows though is 1 road connecting the North (populated) to the middle (populated and oil) part of Sumatra with the Trans-Sumatran Highway. We thought, let's give it a try, if it is horrible we can always escape it with a bus. So to put it in Singlish: "See How First!"

Here is some idea, of the worlds most beautifull Highway!!!

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The local version of the infamous Tubing

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Sidespan scooters...the mode of transport in cities and through mountains...

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Actually on the road to the highway...a bridge that has seen better days

And somewhere in the middle of the rice fields you see a lot of tourist shops, and 20 guys with T-shirts in there hands (and very fast under your nose) and you realize....a the Equator

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We are back in the Northern Hemisphere!!

With fewer cars on the road then on way to Shek-O, or a country cycling path in the NL. This roads cuts through mountains over rivers and through endless shades of green of all the rice paddies.... Absolutely stunning.

Today we crossed quite some villages almost half the time and I can say that our "Hello" indicator has gone up to about 1 / 50 meter. So for a 125 km trip that is about 5000 hello's in different varieties. The bodies are fit enough to cycle a full day now, though the hello's need a little training still....

Interestingly in he Morning it was Hello Mister to both me and Whiskey, whereas in the afternoon we both became "Hello Miss"....strange.

When riding into town here, I aksed someone for a hotel, the nice fellow showed me the way and was also just on his way to his weekly English class..... So he wanted to introduce me to his students and wanted me to come straight away. I managed to negotiated time for a shower (15 min max.) and there I was in a room of 20, being cross examined about my trip. I have a hard time explaining to some of my friends why cycling from HK to Singapore is fun... So in broken English...that was quite a challenge.

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"my class"

Now it is 2 more days till lake Toba and what remains of the tourist industry there.

Cheers,

HY

Posted by HoYing 08:12 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

7300km Lake Toba; relaxing Batak style

After 7300 km and 101 different hotels, hostels and home stays we are delighted to have found another true home away from home. Look at our house:
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We are tempted to stay here for a while; sleeping long without any traffic noise, swimming in beautiful lake Toba:
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eating gadogado and drinking ice cold bir bintang while watching some of the latest movies from Mr Moon’s (the owner of the place) DVD collection.
We are on an island in Sumatra’s biggest volcanic lake. Island life is really great. Everything goes slowly, slowly including the few cars or this slightly overloaded school bus:
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This area is the home of the Batak people. They have their own language, food and typical houses:
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They are very welcoming indeed, make great music and are said to be great party people too………..maybe we should throw ourselves into the weekly Saturday night disco tonight.

Posted by Whiskey 02:52 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

7480Km Berastagi and Bukit lawang

Two vulcanoes, two days of hiking followed by more than two days of pain to remind us that cycle muscles are not quite the same as hiking muscles............

First we had a tough day of cycling from lake Toba to Berastagi. Never NEVER believe non-cyclist who tell that a road is "easy" or "not so steep" or "easily done in a day". Because these ignorant car-potatoes just do not know, in fact they don't have a fr##king clue. "In my car I only had to switch to low gear occasionaly so it cannot have been very steep" is the nicest description I have heard so far. This particulairy nice piece of info was about a 34km non-stop climb that had us standing up on the pedalls with tomato-red heads, swimming in sweat and growling our way up in the lowest of low gears........At least we had someone to swear at and imaginary murder while we were at it. Always helps to work yourself up into a rage during a climb. Agression pushes you higher apparently.

Anyway, The road to Berastagi which was described as "easy going" had it's fare share of hairpins and 10%++ inclines. Always nice. It also turned out to be a good 130kms as well. Spoiled and lazy cyclists as we have become now, we took the bus for the last 40km. It has to be said that the ride was fabulously beautiful, along lake Toba, big volcanoes in the background, rice terasses, coffee plantations, the works.

With a good map we would have been prepared and sensible and we would have split it onto two etappes and just enjoyed. Our Sumatra map is a bit of a challenge. We know it is far from precise; towns and villages are plotted more or less at random and the colors indicating height are more of an artist impression than anything else. Always nice when you decide whether to go left or right...." the map, that we know is sketchy at best, says left but I think probably right.....let's ask someone" The first person you ask is very convinced you have to go left, the next person has no doubt it is right.......so we do another of our surveys, ask a number of people and go with the majority of the votes. Long live democracy.

Once in Berastagi, there were two big fat volcanoes to climb! The Sibayak and the Sinabung. Impressive monsters these are. Both still very alive with steam hissing from the crater and nice rotten egg smells to acompany the vista. Sibayak was relatively easy with a long, steep descend over thousends of steps that got the muscle ache started. Then the next day the Sinabung which is higher and steeper and generally more dangerous. As an interesting sales argument to hire a guide there is a sign with who got lost, when and what happened in the end at the entrance of the climb. "Mr and mrs bladiebla from Italy, june 1995, lost, found after 3 days, dead" etc. etc. We decided to take a guide. The climb was interesting........just straight up. No time to waste on hairpins or paths with a sensible incline, no just straight up the side, the fastest route must be the shortest, no?! Two murderous hours lay the foundation for a muscle ache that we won't easily forget.
It was all worth it as the pics below testify:

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Then without a day to rest (we are slightly in a hurry now that the end of our trip looms over us) straight to Bukit Lawang. A bit of a squeeze time wise, but this place is famous for its orang utans and cannot be missed.

You'd say we would have learned by now to not trust the road descriptions of none cyclists. But unfortunaletly we also have developped a great taste for slightly obscure roads that are thin lines on the map and therefore quiet. This one was quiet allright.......a direct shortcut from Berastagi via the base of the Sinabung volcano direct to Bukit Lawang instead of going via Medan. The road described as "new but bad" was indeed the worst road ever. It has a lovely 40km downhill section that unfortunately looked like a riverbed.......what started as a decent road with some potholes changed quickly into one big pothole with here and there a slab of asphalt to remind you that once, a long long time ago this indeed was a pretty good road. We were happy to reach 8km/ hour averages and had to walk more than a few kilometers. Add 3 tropical rainstorms, spaced far enough apart to dry up in between and then soak all over again and you'll understand that after 80km we were toast...... Luckily Sumatra must have the worlds most dense bus population and we found a driver who was kind enough to lash our bikes on the roof and take us for the last 50km.

Posted by Whiskey 06:27 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

7480 km: Mamma says Hello!

"Nora's place", is what someone recommended to us for our stay at Bukit Lawang, it should be easy to find...

Well we ended up at Nora's place indeed, though it turned out that Nora had opended up another hostel right on the river a bit further down the road. Anyway we stayed at Nora's with a lovely old lady for the night. With her few words of English she made us feel really at home, and we had a few good laughs. The next morning we told her that we wanted to go to the other place close to the river, and she said: "Mamma go later, you follow"... so yeah, who is this Mamma?...Soon it became clear that this sweet lady was referring to herself, and that we had become part of a huge family. Within 24 hours we got to know Nora (the owner) her Mother aka Mamma, 1 brother, 3 cousins, and a whole lot of friends.

Wietske said something about some veggies in the garden and Mamma replied: "Mamma buy for you tommorow"

So there we were on a fast flowing river in the middle of the Jungle supposedbly filled with Orang Utangs. And yes, after we had a swim in the river, had some good lucnh, cousin #3 came over and told us that 2 Orang Utangs were having a bath in the river... a fantastic sight! Funny though that although Orang Utang is a Malaysian / Indonesian word (Man of the Forrest), they use another word in Indonesian for the animal....sometimes you wonder why they make everything so confusing....

We had a trekking through the jungle the next day, and yes...the Junlge was full of monkeys, some are "semi-wild", that have been "rescued" and re-introduced to the wild. These Monkeys are not afraid at all, some even a bit aggressive, though there are still quite a lot that are truly wild and keep there distance.

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Having dinner at night we heard someone shout: "Hey Belanda (Dutchie), you want massage?", we said no, then came: " Never try, never know, cheaper here then in Holland".... well good sales pitch but not for me.

After dinner Mother left on the back of a motorcycle of cousin #1, with the the words: "Mamma leaving now, say hello to family"

Posted by HoYing 07:07 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

7750 km: SINGAPORE AT LAST

Party, party, party, we made it!!!

No time for stories now, we''l wrap up the last stretch in unemployment from Holland...

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Posted by HoYing 01:05 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

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