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Indonesia-Report IV

Ubud, Indonesia 27th Nov. 2007

Hi Folks,

Well now I am 61 going on 16 and wondering when I am ever going to grow up!

I see my last report was from the swinging city of Jogja where I was staying with Erik and the gang. Well, I watched some tattooing and went to play eight ball, drank coffee in the popular student hang out, watched movies and generally fitted into the student life. I let Erik ride Suzy around a bit with me pillion and we went to visit the local volcano, Maripo which last erupted a few months ago.

I finally tore myself away from the cheerful little scene and on leaving the bloody new camera decided to jam! Can you believe it, this is the 4th digital I have got through on this trip so now I am down to the Kodak click thing and have to remember to buy films.

Well the road along the south coast of Java was beautiful, windy and interesting and the only thing worrying me was a clackety -clack noise I had first noticed when I was riding pillion. Seemed to be transmission related and I thought I had better check the chain tension on the next stop.

I saw a wide sweeping bay as I came down from the high cliffs and turned off to find the beach for lunch. Was feeling a bit lonely after being with the boys but started exploring and was thinking of asking if I could camp in this lovely spot. Suddenly another foreigner rushed up to me, introduced herself as Flo from US and asked if I was looking for somewhere to stay. She invited me back to spend the night with her and her friend, Dr Chen and I ended up by going to  a circumcision ceremony with them, drinking the mix of vodka and beer being passed round (and it is was a Muslim do!)and I stayed another day to see Flo's block of land that she hopes to build a guest house on, watch the fishing fleet again and getting the bike sorted.

The noise turned out to be the connecting link on the chain which had worn. The small Honda shop which I took it to turned out to have a  really first class mechanic, Hari, who had been trained by Honda, Japan, in Jakarta and really knew his stuff. He spent several hours replacing the link and checking the bike over for me and informed me that he had filed the engine sprockets teeth as they were all badly hooked and I should get a new one asap. I hadn't checked it myself as I was thinking that the one I changed in Nepal would last till Oz. I keep forgetting all the extra miles I do.

My next stop was in the cooler, higher, university city of Malang where I had been invited to stay by a University lecturer, Budi, who I had met in Sumatra. Well, you can imagine the change from student accommodation to lecturer. Other end of the scale! What a lovely house and garden. Budi kindly showed me round the town including the fish, bird and flower market and we took a ride to see the Hindu temples and market gardens in the even higher volcanic area around Malang. Local food was pretty amazing too, sates, coconut flavourings and all sorts! Yumbo.

After instructions on how to get to my next destination of Bromo, I set off and I found myself going perpetually uphill to find the National park area of the volcano and camped at the spot where everyone congregates at 4am to watch the sunrise. It was pretty spectacular as the lookout point is higher than Bromo and the other volcanoes next to it and  in the distance . The sun gradually colours the  peaks and  heights, going from greys and purples to pink and yellow and accentuating the different contours and flows around the volcanoes. As you can imagine, it is quite chilly up there  at that hour and the locals sell hats and hot coffee and hire jackets.

After the sunrise I rode down to another point where I had to leave the bike and walk about 3kms down into the sandy 'sea' that surrounds smoking Bromo. Up to the lip of the crater passing a temple, and then I gave up and hired a horse back part of the way to the bike as the sun had risen and was blazing down on the sand floor.

I wasn't done with volcanoes yet though as Budi had told me of another which had a turquoise lake about another 150kms east on the Ijen plateau. Battling with traffic along the north coast road I only just made the camping area below the crater in time before sunset. A great ride up into the forested hill area though.

Another early morning walk to the crater. It is about 3kms up and en route are the welly booted sulphur workers carrying empty baskets up and full ones down. They go down into the hot , firey crater another km to dig the sulphur rock which is sold to make chemicals, medicine, makeup base etc.

The working conditions are horrendous. These men go right into the sulphurous fumes by the fires and carry 70-90kg loads in their baskets up the steep slope out of the crater and then the slippery 3kms down hill. They do this trip 3-4 times a day and earn a pittance. Needless to say their health suffers too.

The Ranger base was pretty and the men friendly so I decided to stay another night and spent the rest of the day chatting and then riding to a nearby waterfall and hot spring that I was told about. The waterfall was in a gorge simply hoping with fairies , elves and all sorts of little people, it was simply wonderful and the hot springs nearby gave me a chance of a hot bath for a change.

The next morning I set off early to go over the mountain road and down to the coast to catch the ferry to Bali. A smooth crossing and then when I stopped for petrol was short changed for the first time in Indonesia. Welcome to rip off Bali. However, it was a straight forward ride to find Linda's lovely house/studio in Ubud and I was glad to unpack and get into her great spare room for at least a couple of days rest. Her abstract paintings are lovely and she is a fun person.

Party time. We spent the next morning preparing for the birthday BBQ. The garden looked lovely with candles set into the bamboo holders and the jungle setting is great. Linda is setting up a dog refuge so she has several of them at the house. They let us know of new arrivals and soon the area was full of Linda's many friends, expats and Indonesian. We had a punch of Arak and fruit juice and people brought all sorts of food and drink too. A very pleasant evening but I did wish that some of you could have been there too!

My actual birthday, the next day, I spent watching movies and eating chocolate cake- in the morning and then Linda treated me to a massage in the afternoon. What decadence!

After another days rest, only being bitten by a monkey in the local park, I finally got my act together to go and find a bike shop to order a sprocket.

Now I am in the north, having spent a couple of nights with an Indonesian family I met in Malang, I have walked up another mountain and about to spend the night near the beach before returning to Ubud tomorrow and flying to KL for one night to renew my visa.

The countdown for Oz is on. Things get complicated getting down to Timor and across to Darwin but I am taking it step by step and the good news is that I have a contact in Dilli who will  put me up while I sort the bike out for shipping.

Once again thanks to all the lovely people who have hosted me and helped me on this part of the trip. And thanks for the birthday messages from my friends everywhere.

Love Linda

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