Published on July 28, 2019 at 10:00 AM
Published on July 28, 2019 at 10:00 AM
Even before we set foot on Javanese land, it already starts. It becomes a habit on Java: plan and adjust. It already starts on the ferry when we decide to stay on board, but if everyone leaves the ship and we are the only ones left, we also change plan and leave the ship. It is midnight and nice and cool as we cycle through the immense and busy port area, looking for a hotel. We stop at the first hotel and the awakened guard shows us the way to the reception. The hotel looks a bit expensive and is expensive. The next hotel (from the budget chain “Airy”) looks deserted, but when we are inside, a man rushes in from a dark corner. Airy lives up to its name and offers a spacious, fresh room with no fuss whatsoever. It is around two in the morning when we get to the bed after a nice warm shower. About six hours later we (really) start our cycling adventure through Java.
Can we first whine about cycling on Java? Then we can put that behind us and it will only become more fun afterwards!
As mentioned, our cycle tour through Java is characterized by daily plan and route changes. The eight-day delay in Batam puts us in time stress as to the duration of our 30-day visa, for which we have to start the bureaucratic procedure to extend it in one of the provincial capitals one week before it expires. We soon notice that we are not getting along on Java: the chaotic traffic makes our experiences in Southeast Asia pale in the past. We are repeatedly cut off, driven to a halt, or are we just standing still with all the traffic around us in a disorderly traffic jam. We have quite a few near collisions and always wonder when we are not that lucky to use the word ‘near’. The chaotic traffic is accompanied with the inevitable diesel gasses and a deafening noise. After the relative calm in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, there is plenty of horning again. But above all it seems that the motorized road user put money in a noise-producing muffler. Old barrels often have an outlet of the “drag-race” format. If we avoid the main roads and cycle on back roads, we have to use the brakes every ten meters because of a speedbump, which, as we think, is often laid on the road surface by the local residents themselves. The bumps are very unfriendly and can only be taken at less than 5 km / h.
Because whether it is a main road or a back road: people live next to these raods. West Java is actually a large ribbon development between the cities. You can safely forget a pee to a tree, you will not get the desired privacy (almost) anywhere.
In or near nature reserves and national parks it is a bit quieter but the roads are just laid perpendicular to the contour lines, probably to save costs. The result is that we have to deal with incline percentages of 15 to 20 percent. Sweating, sweating, sweating with the advantage that there is no need for a pee.
Along the roads, but also in streams and rivers we see an awful lot of waste. Not only disposable waste, not just plastic (which has been our travel companion since Western Europe), but also bags of household waste and bulky waste that make you sad as a bicycle traveler.
What is also confronting is that every day we see a number of totally neglected people along the road, in a degrading state. Fortunately it is not a large number, but it is harrowing to see. A young man walks along the street in only baggy pants worn down to the wire and way too large on his hips, so that his private parts are fully visible. A girl with the same bunch of dull dreadlocks is squatting along the road, staring out under a canopy and is so bizarre dirty. Her shin has clearly been broken and has grown completely wrong.
So that has been said. We can tell you that we have enjoyed Java! An island with a beautiful smile! Never before have we been greeted, encouraged and welcomed as often as we cycle past. “Hello Mister !!!”, it sounds everywhere. And many times they refer to Roelie just the same: ” Hello Mister!” The number of thumbs up eventually reaches the hundreds, just amazing. Incidentally, this time it is mainly the adults who cheer us on, the youth often looks at us somewhat shy.
Right in the center of Jakarta is an old Dutch colonial district, the heart of Batavia. We cycle past it and decide to take a closer look. We see large white buildings, most still with old Dutch names. We see, among other things, the ‘Gouveneurskantoor’, the ‘Nederlandsche Factorij’ and the ‘Javasche Bank’. Most of them are located around the large Fatahillah square, where Indonesian day trippers cycle on a real Dutch ‘omafiets’ (‘grandma’s’ bicycle). The bicycles all have a bright color and some male tourists wear an old tropical helmet and ladies wear a sun hat in a color that matches the bicycle. Soon Roelie in particular is asked to take a photo with him; sometimes in the form of a ‘selfie’, but usually someone else is asked to take the photo. Roelie finally manages to pull away from these photo sessions and we enter the chic ‘Café Batavia’. The interior exudes nostalgia and in exceptional cases we drink a beer, while we still have to cycle a bit. As will become clear later our last for a while.
After more than 40 kilometers we finally reach the limits of this gigantic metropolis and we know where to find an OYO hotel. OYO is a budget chain that we got to know in India. This hotel has very good reviews on the internet, but we find it a bit shabby and very basic. The staff does not speak a word of English. In the end, this sketch appears to apply to most hotels (in our segment then) on Java: strongly dated and somewhat dingy rooms and always without toilet paper 😉
Along the way we occasionally get stuck in traffic with our bikes. We have never experienced this before and it seems to be common practice in the hectic traffic in and around Jakarta but also other cities. To allow traffic to be inserted between the streams, we see ‘traffic controllers’ everywhere: by side roads, exits from companies or from a parking spot for a mini supermarket. They are not formal appointed officials, but people who gather their money that way. An insertor gives (usually) a little about of money to the traffic controller if he is helped. To get the contribution as high as possible, the men jump in the street to stop traffic. Very nice for the insider, the death blow for the flow. It is therefore not surprising that we often stand still and that every gap that arises in the traffic jam is filled by scooters.
Just ignoring the fact that we are completely the underlying party in traffic and that we have to adjust ourselves to the antics of all other motorized traffic, the Indonesians are quite bicycle-minded. Especially in the weekends we come across some tough-dressed Indonesians on a mountain bike or a race bike. In SE Asia still very unique, only in Thailand we also met people who practice cycling as a sport. These people of course greet us exuberantly, but when we stand still we also are often approached by people who say that cycling is their hobby. One of them is Dedy who invites us to join a whatsapp group of 30 Javanese cyclists. We are greeted enthusiastically in this group that has provided us with good advice a few times in the coming weeks.
Southeast of the major cities of Jakarta and Bogor is the Gunung Halimun Salak National Park. We follow a route that has been put together by Hein Raaijmakers from our former hometown in The Netherlands. We don’t know Hein, but he follows our journey and has sent us an email to point us to a route that he himself wants to cycle at the end of the year along numerous sights, campsites and charming guest houses in Java and Bali. Hein even made a route especially for us to get out of Jakarta and to hook it up on hier route in four stages. The routes come together in the National Park. We have seen that the second stage will probably be very tough (only 65 km, but> 2500 meters,> 15% slope) and want to cut it in two. Halfway through a campsite lies on a mountain top and we cycle to it full of good cheer. The narrow road to the top is nice and fun, but there is still a lot of traffic (it’s Sunday) and there are a lot of speed bumps. The most terrible thing is that we find the speed bumps that have been installed in a place where a descent turns into an ascent, so that you cannot use the speed developed in the descent. It is weekend and we are overtaken by day trippers in cars, 4WDs, scooters and motorbikes. The climb is getting steeper and on this part we have to push the bikes repeatedly. At a stretch of around 20%, we can hardly even walk, and at that moment we are helped by a scooter driver who pushes us up a few times with his scooter in the next few kilometers. He does that by putting his left foot against our right pannier and then gives a lot of gas. We fear for the still intact suspension of these panniers, but at the same time we have other concerns: we run our lungs out of our body at the left side of the bicycle. Ultimately, the scooter rider tells us that the worst part is over, and waits a little for us to pull our purse, let’s say for the wasted gasoline in providing this service. He seems to have hoped for a bigger bill.
At the top of the mountain we are welcomed by a large group of Indonesian mountain bikers who all want to be photographed with us. Dripping with sweat and with a red head of effort, we manage to pose with a big smile: because we made it! In the back of our minds, however, we wonder what tomorrow will bring us. The route promises to be much heavier and it is also uncertain whether Hein’s route actually exists. Our route apps let you know not. We will see.
With great interest we pitch our tent in the pine forest on the mountain top. There are small platforms around the top on which photos can be taken and an amount is stated for each platter. A boy (from a platter or from the campsite?) brings two bundles of firewood. Yes nice, fire tonight! We are at over 800 meters and although it is still quite early in the afternoon we feel that it is considerably cooler here. When the tent is up we have to pose repeatedly for a group photo. There are quite a few day trippers, but only those weird guys with their bicycles put their tents up and spend the night here. Soon we have the forest for us alone.
At dusk we start to start our campfire. The boys who brought the bundles of wood arrives and sets up a big campfire for us. He works professionally; it is clear to see that he has done this before. Very unfortunate that this spontaneous helpful young man afterwards with his open palm makes it clear that he wants to be paid for this service. Okay, today we were helped “spontaneously” twice and twice we have to pay afterwards. We wonder whether this will happen to us daily and whether we should refuse more rigorous spontaneous help. Fortunately, we can report afterwards that this did not happened again.
We quickly let the campfire go out again, we are tired and leave the remainder of the firewood unused. We are the only ones in the forest and it is completely silent around us, with the exception of the noises of the night. After we crawl into our tent, we hear a scooter struggling up the mountain top. A moment later someone is shining a flashlight on our tent. Harry asks what the intention is and gets a question as answer: “ticket !?”. It is probably the night watch of the campsite who thinks we have set up our tent here in the dark. He then throws the remaining brushwood on the almost extinguished fire.
We wake up early the next morning, but the same goes for the villages around the mountain top. Indonesia is a Muslim country and you can see and hear that. In contrast to Turkey, where five times a day minarets are called to prayer through loudspeakers, the loudspeakers here on Java are used a lot more intensively. Both before and after the traditional call, long-lasting singing is heard, not only by the imam, but often also by women and children. It is all not “The Voice”-worthy, but very special. Because every mosque has its own singing, sometimes it seems that they are trying to drown each other out. In any case, it is unavoidable for anyone. After a few days, we can hum along the “popular” songs effortlessly.
We know that a tough route is ahead of us. Probably there is first half a kilometer and then a whole kilometer too steep to push, let alone cycle. We expect that the two of us will have to push one bicycle upwards on those parts, with or without the luggage still attached. But it is not far anymore (33 km) to the next campsite and we start with a nice descent. At least the profile on app Komoot shows that and it turns out not to be quite right. We descend 200 m in the first 3.5 kilometers, but after a stream, more than 100 meters of altitude have to be climb up again within a short distance. Again more than 15% and therefore too steep. We push the bike again while trying to catch our breath every 25 meters. After the first session of pushing, sweating and being out of breath we take a moment to reconsider: the route is already too heavy and we are actually officially in the descent and have not even started the big climb. We are also afraid that we will not find the route. In the 3.5 km there was already a route piece that turned out not to exist. Moreover, we still have that time stress. We only have 10 days to get to Yogyakarta to extend the visa and with a maximum of 40 kilometers in one day we will never achieve that.
We therefore return to the main road and may now study the 200 meters that we have just thundered down on foot pushing the bicycle, pulling and sweating. The new plan is to cycle along main roads around the National Park and to resume Hein’s route in the coastal town of Pelabuhanratu. We cycle through a very expensive street full of imposing villas in the suburb of the metropolis of Bogor. For a moment, Komoot takes us to a back road and cycle along the normal small colorful Indonesian houses and again a nice climb of >12%. We are proud that we both get to the top on the bike. It seems as if the Indonesian road builders do not take into account any slope percentages. The following main road also has steep parts and by the end of the afternoon we even have to push a bit on the main road. At the top we meet a cheerful Indonesian man named Muhter who gives us a short language lesson while we gulp down a noodle soup. We get his phone number in case we ever need help. Yep, free spontaneous help.
Somewhere halfway on a busy street between Bogor and Pelabuhanratu we stop and check in at a hotel with another shabby and dingy room. That’s where we conceive the plan to eliminate that annoying time pressure. We could cycle east to the city of Bandung instead of south to Pelabuhanratu. There is also a “Kantor Imigrasi” in Bandung and we can be there in two days.
The shortest route to Bandung would mean that we would have to return again and we would rather not do that, so we cycle along the southern foot of a volcano via the city of Sukabumi to Cianjur. Have we already told that the streets of Java are largely determined – in addition to the numerous mosques, which almost all look beautiful and freshly colored – by giant billboards, banners and banners? Villages are often inferior to cities; even though the billboards are generally somewhat smaller, the main road through a village is often “adorned” every ten meters by a road-wide banner. It is remarkable that these are (still) dominated by advertising for cigarette brands: at least over half of the billboards are occupied by cigarette brands. A small shop is usually hidden behind (but you can also recognize it) a large banner with cigarette advertising. The cigarette brand “Pro” dominates the crowd with tough young men “in action” (for example martial arts and adventure) and also has the most striking and special slogan: “never quit!”. Quite remarkebel…
In Cianjur we cycle to a large supermarket on the assumption that we might be able to score a beer. It soon turns out to be vain hope. We now know that alcohol has been banned pretty much everywhere in Indonesia by the Islamic parties. Beer is only available in large supermarkets and a few designated tourist resorts, especially in Bali. But not in the large supermarket in Cianjur.
In Cianjur we once again delve into the process of extending our visa. We already knew that for extending our stay in the country for another 30 days, some bureaucracy will come. Now we read from various sources that it is a lot of bureaucracy and (a little?) corruption. The “process” (the stamp) takes a lot of time. You must report to the immigration office at least 7 days before your visa expires. You have to appear three times at the office and usually have a few working days in between. You must also be able to submit an airline ticket, which shows that you will actually be leaving `Indonesia; which is not necessary for the first 30 days. To speed things up, consider taking some extra money with you. Pff, we’re not in the mood for this nonsense! We are finally cycling again. We are considering the alternative of flying back and forth from Bandung to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, then you will not be bothered by that bureaucratic mess and you will gain days and loose much more money. But we reject this option; it feels completely wrong. We finally take the plunge: we drop that extension and will leave the country at the latest on the expiry date of our existing visa (1 August), to Australia. This is possible by plane from Yogyakarta, although no direct flights to Darwin depart from there. But we feel good about this new plan, because we can fill in an extra month and (nevertheless) cycle in New Zealand.
What we do not change this time is the route: we cycle to Bandung. Bandung is a super fun city: the city is large but uncluttered, the traffic seems almost regulated. At the traffic lights – in front of the waiting scooters – musicians are playing and singing, after which they constantly move to the other traffic light that turns red. There is a cheerful, student-like and creative vibe in the city center. We must honestly admit that we have checked in advance on Google whether there is beer sold in the city. And yes, the center has a number of cafés that serve beer and a few liquor stores. And if we are honest, we must also admit that we have selected a hotel next to such a liquor store. The hotel turns out to be very nice and is also located in an old colonial neighborhood, based on principles of the “Garden City”: we are surrounded by houses and other buildings with a clear Dutch-Indonesian touch. The building next to us (not the liquor store, but the other side) is, for example, a well-preserved Art Deco-style building. On the facade of the building serving as a bank office, the name “De Driekleur” still stands out. Bandung simply appears to house the largest collection of still existing buildings in the world from the period of Modernist building. The neighborhood is a potpourri of shops, restaurants and offices and often in combination with each other under one roof. Very nice and definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area! Oh and, Bandung is located on a plateau at over 700 meters altitude and the climate is wonderfully cool by Javanese standards. No wonder that at the beginning of the last century the Dutch had far-reaching plans to make Bandung the capital of the Dutch East Indies, a plan that was abandoned again during the Second World War and the next independence.
The next day we cycle out of the city, still content with our new plan: to Yogyakarta! First we cycle through small back streets (yes, of course with hundreds of traffic bumps) approximately parallel to the railway through neighborhoods with small colorful houses directly build at a narrow path. It is wonderful to experience the start of the daily life of the “ordinary Javanese” and be careful that we do not collide with the locals getting out of his house. When we cycle out of the city we see that the plateau is surrounded by mountain ranges. Due to the smog, these mountains are merely shadows in hazy distances. Our goal today is Garut, about 70 km away. When we finally reach the limits of this city, we are approached by an Indonesian on a mountain bike, his name is Syarif. After the usual photo session, we start talking.
Syarif invites us to come to his house and we gratefully respond to that. He and his wife offer us peanuts, mandarins and typical Sundanese snacks. No idea what we eat but it is tasty, exactly what we need after a strenuous stage. Syarif speaks little English and we speak even worse Indonesian. Syarif calls a friend and gives Harry the phone. It appears to be someone who speaks Dutch. Harry first thinks he is talking to someone from the Netherlands and wishes him a good morning. But the man in question, Anton is his name, also lives in Garut and it is late afternoon. Anton invites us to come to his house and Syarif bring us to his house. We arrive at a nice building on the border of the city between the rice fields, where we meet the owner of the house. Anton is 73 and has lived in the Netherlands for 45 years and then returned to his birthplace Garut. He has a lot to tell about his Dutch grandfather, which forced him to leave Indonesia at the age of nineteen, about the Holland-America Line for which he had sailed for years, about the Batavus bicycle factory in Friesland, his next employer and about five marriages. We get to know him as a very amiable, full of life and active man. We are invited to spend the night at his house and he takes us out to dinner at the famous food court in Garut. In the meantime, the police visit him for a formality in obtaining an Indonesian Identity number. The agents are excessively interested in our journey and bicycles. The “how-much”-question is of course asked again and although the bikes are sponsored (thanks Pilot!) We dare to give an honest answer this time; after all, we are dealing with police officers. The men almost fall out of their seats and point to their police car which, according to them, costs about the same. They propose an exchange (they get the bicycles and we the police car) while the other tries out Harry’s bicycle and dares to cycle a bit wobbly with it. Well that is because of the luggage (and the saddle way too high for an average Indonesian).
In the morning Anton serves coffee and a lot of things to eat. His hospitality is unprecedented. When he brings up a story about his expired Dutch driver’s license and says he is afraid that he would have to take another driving test, we are happy that we can give something in return. We consult the internet and see how he can extend his driver’s license without an exam and request the forms. After this we really have to leave because we have a tough stage with 1300 altitude meters ahead. At the top of the first climb, 11 kilometers from Garut, we take a break and eat ice cream at an Alfamart store. The Alfamart and Indomaret are supermarkets that we encounter very often and where we often take a break. Okay, we are now at an altitude of 1000 meters; the first 300 altimeters have been completed. And yes, Harry suggests the umpteenth change of plan: “shall we just try to cycle to the coast?” Well that means more than 100 instead of something of 70 kilometers, but the number of remaining altimeters remains about the same. “Lets do it,” is Roelie’s response. Roelie keeps in mind that the policemen have warned that due to the high unemployment in the mountain area it is better not to be out on the street in the evening.
The route today is beautiful. Along the way we are asked by scooter rider Adryan if he can briefly ask us some questions while he is filming. Of course he can. A bit further on Adryan is waiting for us again. This time he gives us a bag filled with water, bread and chocolate bars. How nice. What are the Indonesian people sweet! Immediately after this repatriation post, we have to work hard. We have descended a kilometer or five too far and that means an extra 100 meters of climbing. Then we drive on “roads less traveled” through the mountains and enjoy the “real” Javanese life that often stays out of sight of the average tourist.
After 105 kilometers we reach the coast, tired but satisfied. Our goal is a somewhat run-down resort on the beach, but on the way there we see a very simple mini-motel where we find a place to sleep. The landlady is a super sweet lady, who first asks high prize for a room, but without a shower and with a squad toilet we don’t want it. Soon we come to a better price. We wash ourselves with cold water (bucket shower) and are then pampered by the lovely lady. She makes a delicious nasi goreng for us and we immediately ask if she also wants to prepare this for us as breakfast the next morning. We settle the four large plates of rice with crackers and tea with the equivalent of four euros.
We cycle further along the coast towards Batu Karas, a tourist resort near the Green Canyon, where you can body raft. We cycle into Batu Karas and suddenly see western tourists and surf dudes again. Ah, tourists … will they be allowed to sell a beer here? The answer comes quickly as we cycle along the beach and encounter the “Salt Cafe” with a large Bintang sign on the facade and a nice terrace in front of the door. Time for a beer!
We sleep in the nicest OYO hotel we’ve been in since the first OYO (Silliguri, India, about 7 months ago). Apparently this hotel also attracts other guests, because Harry wakes up at night from something that first tickles his cheek, then his shoulder and then tries to crawl under his back. When Harry gets up, he sees that we are sharing the bed with a cockroach! With a Tarzan cry he manages to protect Roelie by heroically killing it (version Harry). With an inhuman cry for fear and a remarkable high jump out of bed, Harry puts himself in safety (Roelie version).
The initial plan was to visit the Green Canyon the next day and then cycle to Pangandaran, only 30 kilometers away, which is known as a surfers’ mecca and we want to see and experience that. Harry comes with the new plan in the morning. It rains hard and is rather cold. We skip the Green Canyon and want to go a little further than the surf hotspot and go to a camping or glamping where we could once again set up our tent. Not a long stage either; it is 50 kilometers away. Before we leave the village is hit by a power outage. Around us we hear the aggregates coming on, but our hotel has none. Then no coffee and immediately on the way. The power failure appears to extend over a large area, including the tourist resort of Pangandaran. We cycle further towards the campsite. It comes to mind that we have run out of cash and we have get to an ATM somewhere! But if there is no power, the ATMs do not work either. Also not in the stores with an aggregate, with which they at most hope to keep the freezer and the cash register working. We check Google Maps and see that we will not encounter an ATM on the way to the campsite. We decide to turn around and cycle back to Pangandaran. There we book a room “on the puff” while there is no electricity. In SE Asia, this generally also means that there is no more running water because the water is supplied by a pump. We try to refresh ourselves a bit with wet whipes and wait until there is power again. That will eventually take up to around six, when it starts getting dark again.
The next day we continue our way to Cilicap, once – it seems a long time ago – an intended place to extend our visa, should Yogyakarta turn out to be too far. The route continues to follow the coast, but the last part we have to make a considerable circular movement to bypass a delta just before Cilacap. Today the landscape is nice and varied: first a climb between the tropical plants, then extensive flat rice fields and finally a kind of dune landscape. Cilicap does not have much to offer in terms of tourism or it must be the island of Palau Nusa Kambangan that was already used by the Dutch as a prison island and is still used as such. It is called the Alcatraz of Indonesia. To reach our intended hotel in the center we have to cycle ten kilometers through the busy city on a road that we then have to use again the next morning to get out of the city. Harry is not really looking forward to that and looks around when we reach the city limits. He soon spots a small hotel that doesn’t look much from the street, but offers an excellent, clean room for little.
It is still almost 200 km to Yogyakarta; too far for two stages in our opinion, at least here on Java. We plan three. The first stop will be Gombong, known from the fort Van Der Wijck where we have set our mind on spending the night. The fort dates from 1820 and now serves partly as a hotel and partly as a training center for cadets. The route to Gombong first goes over a number of back roads but halfway we arrive at a busy and narrow main road. Now you have to be extra careful, because the road has an extreme track formation in which the asphalt has been accumulated to the side as a kind of dams due to the heavy traffic. Together with the rushing freight traffic, these asphalt walls make cycling an almost perilous undertaking. On the other hand, we get so many smiles, exhortations, greetings and especially thumbs up on this road that we take the bumps with a smile.
Although the 8-cornered fort was “renovated” in 1999 (and painted red for unclear reasons), it is quite dilapidated and not worth a tourist visit. Or you should like to roll over the roof in a children’s train, but we will let that pass us by. The fort seems to enjoy renewed interest through the movie “The Raid 2; Berandal’ and fans would therefore like to visit the filmset location. But not today, the fort is abandoned. Unfortunately, the hotel is not located in the fort itself, but is located in the surrounding barracks. The hotel has also apparently not had a facelift in the last 20 years. Although we are apparently the only guests, we are led past dozens of empty rooms, all on the ground floor in the barracks, before we can move into the room intended for us. As mentioned, it is all quite dated, but our room is ok and without major defects. We are, however, setting a new cockroach record.
At the fort we are again devising a “change of plan”. We have some nasty gut feelings, not from eating another nasi goreng but from the upcoming flight from Yogya to Darwin. There is no direct flight, it costs a lot (we do not yet know the rate of the bicycles), but what we find most disappointing is that it is operated by two different airlines. We fear “hassle” with our bikes, which is actually always the case with a bike on a plane. Roelie suggests the possibility to travel by train or bus from Yogya to Bali. We still have time and we have more control over the transport of our bikes. Train seems the most attractive, but after we have consulted our friends from the whatsapp group, we know that the bicycle cannot (just) be taken on the train. They probably have to go with another cargo train. You can only take folding bicycles with you on the train. Okay then the bus! It costs little and the journey to Denpasar takes a little less than 20 hours. Lit by our enthusiasm about this idea, we decide to bridge the remaining 120 kilometers in one go. The headwind will be a problem, but we don’t have to cross any mountains.
Indeed the drive to Yogyakarta is tough, the wind makes it very difficult for us, especially along the straight stretch of the coast where the wind has free rein and wants to blow us back to Jakarta. For the last 20 kilometers the road to Yogya is flanked by countless giant flags, we have no idea what the intention is, but it is nice now that the wind is blowing them all tightly. We also see children here in central Java, but later also in Bali, with kites coloring the sky. Fortunately, the drone has not displaced the kite here …
Late in the afternoon we reach Yogya and check in at a super nice hotel that is located in a former colonial home. Like other cities on Java, Yogya is busy, noisy and chaotic, but this hotel is located in a tiny colonial neighborhood with a green square with no through roads. Although it is right in the heart of Yogya, it is an oasis of tranquility, with the exception of air traffic just above us that ascends from or descends to the airport located in the city. We book two nights, because tomorrow we will see if we can score bus tickets somewhere for us and our loyal two-wheelers.
We walk through the Malioboro shopping street in search of bus tickets and are referred by the tourist information to an office 3 kilometers away. We take our bikes and the office appears to no longer exist and we then cycle on to the bus terminal another 8 kilometers away. We manage to get tickets for the next day and we return to the oasis of tranquility of Taman Yuwono Heritage Malioboro. The flight tickets from Bali to Denpasar is a bit trickier. Unfortunately the cheap Jetstar flights are no longer available and at Virgin Australia it is impossible to include the bicycles as “oversized luggage” in our booking. Why does it always have to be so difficult if you deviate from the standard booking? We assume that after the standard booking has been completed and paid, we can adjust our booking by including the bikes. But that appears to be impossible. We email Virgin Australia and fill in online forms, but we get no response. We have to call but only have data and no calling credit on our SIM cards. This doesn’t feel relaxed, but we can’t do anything about it anymore, because we have to go to the bus terminal. hopefully we have an answer from Virgin when we are on Bali.
We have been asked to arrive at the terminal half an hour earlier since we have bicycles with us. After useless waiting for 45 minutes, the bus arrives. The crew of the bus consists of three men, of which one gets very angry when he sees our bikes and starts to moan. We know stories, although in South America, where a driver refused to take bicycles, despite a paid ticket for this. But in the end, with visible displeasure, he tries to murmur the bikes in the luggage compartment. Three times we have to take them out again to 1. get the front wheel out. 2. remove the rear wheel. 3. take the saddle off. There is still a lot of room left, but apparently a lot of luggage needs to be added along the way.
The bus trip itself is okay. We have adjusted ourselves to a long sit and it will be. Most of the time is lost in leaving the Yogyakarta metropolis and in the area east of Soerabaja. On the way out of the city we catch a glimpse of the great ancient Hindu temple Prambanan. Behind the city of Solo is a toll-loaded highway where the bus thunders over 100 km/h. After Soerabaja, the fairly relaxed driver is relieved by his colleague, who thinks himself “Max Verstappen” and carries out impossible catch-up actions. We deliberately no longer look through the windshield, because that is bad for the heart. Harry hardly sleeps. When his eyes get really heavy, we stop to roll the bus to Bali on the ferry. On the boat we can stretch our legs and get a fresh nose (it’s pretty cold) under the moonlight. The ferry is chock full of buses and trucks, all of which move dangerously on the big swell. Unlike the bus, the ferry moves very slowly and takes almost an hour to bridge the stretch of strait of less than five kilometers. Once in Bali, the driver is unfortunately not relieved and his race starts again. Yet we both manage to fall asleep and wake up when the bus stops at a bus stop with another 15 kilometers to go to the Denpasar bus station. Everyone gets out except for a few unbelieving passengers, including us, who assume that we are being taken even further. The line man is busy calling and gesturing at us, but we don’t understand much about it. But when we see that our bicycles are also being unloaded, we get out. We are still claiming that we have not yet reached the end bus station, but we are simply told that this has now become the new end station. In the dark we assemble our bikes under great interest and we cycle into Denpasar at dawn. Along the way we visit the surprisingly complete bike shop “Rodalink” and reserve two boxes there that we will pick up a few days later.
We book a night at a hotel in Kuta, the tourist center of Denpasar. We are assigned a basic but compared to Java guesthouses an excellent bungalow and we like it so much that we book the remaining three nights and score a nice discount. After a jump in the swimming pool and a shower, we fall asleep around noon.
We spend hours the next day getting our bikes booked on the Virgin aircraft. As mentioned, we cannot change our booking and add the bikes. Virgin does not respond via e-mail, contact forms and the telephone number is not working from the reception. We don’t know what to do anymore, until we use our trump card: our cycling cousin Stephen, who lives in Perth. He manages to get in touch with Virgin and he books our bikes on the same flight. What a hero! We are very relieved, because a few doom scenarios had just doomed up.
The remaining two days are characterized by the usual things we always do on rest days, including of course writing this blog. We look back on a special journey through Java with its lovely and cheerful population, colorful houses under red tile roofs in densely populated cities and along the roads between the rice fields. Of course we found it funny to come across some Dutch colonial history and influences on our journey and there was always something to see on our stages. Even if we had a break at a mini-market with an iso drink and / or an ice cream; we never got bored. It is a shame that extending the visa is such a bureaucratic hassle otherwise we could have admired and experienced a lot more, including the tourist highlights as Borobodur and Bromo. Maybe next time? The Dutch-Indonesian Anton from Garut is for sure willing to help us if we live up to his advise to emigrate to his city!