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Published: April 11th 2013
Bukittinggi (Sumatra, Indonesia) – Bandung (Java, Indonesia): Distance covered so far (since 20 Dec): 6927 km
We have made it through the plantations, the jungle, along the coast and over the mountains to reach the southern-most point of Sumatra! With one final cockroach infested hotel (Mel squeaked whilst on the loo, as a cockroach scampered over her legs), we rolled into the port of Bakauheni and onto the boat – Java bound. What a relief! What pride! Cycling hot, hilly, humid, bumpy, sticky, insecty Sumatra, as the subject of everyone’s curiosity has been the hardest thing we have ever done – it has roasted, poached, smashed, pummelled and drained us. Sumatra turned out to be MUCH bigger than it looked on the map, and it has a climate apparently designed to upset cyclists. A truly beautiful place, with wonderfully wonderful people, and happy happy memories, but thank goodness it’s a little easier from here!
So... what happened... Apart from the chaos inflicted by the POTHOLE OF DOOM which gave Mel 6 punctures in one go, everything seemed to be going rather smoothly as we set off on this stage. Since our last blog we had become better
at surviving the heat, hills, and ceaseless attention. However.... this was not to last... when we reached the MOST BORING TOWN IN THE WORLD – the town of Bengkulu, and had to stay there for 4 days.
Waking up in Bengkulu, it became clear to Andy (confident in his medical skills following 20 minutes on the internet) that not all was rosy with Mel. Looking at Mel’s throat it could be seen that Mel had tender anterior cervical lymphadenopathy. This arose worrying suspicions which were confirmed by the presence of tonsillar exudates and her slight fever. The prognosis was obvious – Mel had tonsillitis. Whilst we knew that patience and rest would be key to recovery, it did seem that a tonsillectomy might be both beneficial and an interesting diversion from the boredom of the town. However, given that our surgical instruments (a multitool) had bits of tinned tuna in the hinges of the blade and was slightly rusty, this plan seemed perhaps a little reckless, and was shelved for next time. The good news is that she recovered with miraculous speed, and was begging to set off again before we both imploded with boredom.
Elsewhere on this
stage in the southern half of Sumatra, we have been inspired (and shamed) by Indonesians with a thirst to self-educate. It has not been unusual to find a chirpy chap creeping alongside us on his moped for 40 minutes (driving in a direction he has no interest in going), purely so that he can practice his English. We try our best to be engaging, though this is difficult when huffing and puffing up steep Sumatran hills.
In addition to those that have mastered conversational English, every other Indonesian knows a handful of English questions. Bizarrely they know none of the answers to such questions... “How are you?” is asked regularly, but very rarely replied with an answer other than “Hello Mister”.
Mirroring their linguistical knowledge of questions (and lack of knowledge of answers), the two of us have improved our grasp of the Indonesian language, such that we now know a handful of answers, although do not know the questions which the right answer should match up to. The conversation is occasionally something like this: Indonesian (speaking in Indonesian):
“Hello, where are you going?” Andy (replying in Indonesian):
“England! London! Near to Chelsea Football Team!” Indonesian:
This bridge did not look safe!
One of our dubious route choices!
Where have you come from?” Mel:
“By bicycle.” Indonesian:
“I see.... Are you married?” Andy:
“Yesterday the town of Mukomuko.” Indonesian:
“Do you have children?” Mel:
“Me – thirty one, Andy – thirty three.”
Every now and then we meet someone who speaks good conversational English in one of the small towns we have been moving through. Naturally we enjoy being able to talk with another person in English, but whilst they understand most of what we say, they do not understand what we are doing.... A typical conversation: Indonesian:
“What are you doing in this town?” Mel:
“We are cycling through Sumatra.” Indonesian:
“You are crazy. Is this a holiday?” Mel:
“Actually, it is our honeymoon.” Indonesian:
“Your honeymoon, and you are cycling through the jungle to THIS town? You are crazy. Why didn’t you just go to Bali like everyone else? It‘s nice there!” Mel:
“We ARE going to Bali, but we are cycling there... we started in Thailand.” Indonesian:
“But I don’t understand. There is no reason to come here. You should go straight to Bali. Why are you in this town, in the jungle?” Mel:
“We are on bicycles, this town was on the
Friendly locals practising their English
This chap was with us for 40 minutes and he didn't even need to go anywhere! He kept nearly knocking Andy off by swerving into him!
way for us.” Indonesian:
“But you don’t need bicycles to get to Bali. You are crazy.” Central Western and Southern Sumatra in a Nutshell
· Plantations, plantations, plantations! We have cycled through endless Kilometres of them! Rubber and Teak plantations are here too, but it is Palm Nut that is bringing in the big money (for Bio Diesel). 1000’s and 1000’s of acres of Palm tree plantations
· Southern Sumatra is relatively more developed than the mid and North. We’ve cycled through many twee little villages - a touch smarter and cleaner than those we saw earlier on this stage.
· It’s searingly hot, and unbearingly humid. When the road hits the sea this is marginally more bearable, but that is invariably combined with massive hills.
· Some hills are so aggressive that trucks can’t get up them – we have seen a number of trucks that have made it half way up a hill, not been able to get any further, and then rolled back down / over the cliff with devastating consequences.
· We have taken to cycling between the hours of 0600 and 1200 (then we collapse because it
gets too hot). The 5AM call to prayer wakes us EVERY DAY... no need for alarm clocks here!
· Beautiful beaches adorn these western and southern coast lines. Amazing surfing, though the breaks are massive and formed off reefs that are not suitable for the unskilled likes of us! Key Stats:
Distance covered in this stage: 1272 km
Distance covered so far (since 20 Dec '12): 6927 km. This is the same as cycling from London to Peshawar, Pakistan!
Cumulative Mechanicals: Sheared Pannier Rack x1 (Mel); Snapped Bike Chain x3 (Andy); Puncture x8 (Andy), Puncture x 29ish (Mel); Explosively Burst Tyre x1 (Mel); Tyre worn through x1 (Mel), Tyre worn through x 1 (Andy); Superglue repair on slashed tyres x1 (Mel); Snapped Water Bottle Cages x2 (Andy), Pannier bag rail snap x1 (Andy); Snapped sunglasses x3 (Andy), x1 (Mel), Broken Tent Pole x1
Tot: 2.505s; Tpl: 0.022s; cc: 13; qc: 69; dbt: 0.0323s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb