Six have been the total of Islands in Indonesia that we have cycled, and as tends to happen each one of them has been a different world.
The landscape, the people, the experience… we could devote a post of the blog to each one but we decided to summarize and tell you a little of each, thus, as one of those cakes that in these Christmas days appears as dessert… a bit of each… so you don´t get indigestion, just a bit and… enjoy it!!!
Traffic!!! Yes, it was not a novelty.
Already other cyclists had told us, and there is so much traffic in Java (especially in the West) that the people have started to make a living with/from it, I tell you:
They stand in the middle of jam, at crossing point or traffic light, they bring a whistle form the house and they begin to try to organize it, free the cars here, stop those there, and so do the mess to dissolve.
The grateful drivers, give to them some coins, even notes, lengthening the hand out of the window while driving close to the guy. For his help, for his work.
Other guys(and this was confusing initially and humorous finilly) are more strategic: placed on the sharp curves of the mountain passes,on the steepest, those where loaded trucks climbing up the road have to open in the curve to be able to climb it, but can not stop, because if they do it would be a serious problem at the time of restarting : too much inclination for such loads.
That’s that are so useful these people that, placed in the curves when they see them arrive, they cut traffic in the opposite direction and give to the truck drivers the way. Truck drivers throw them notes, coins while to passing and whistle in gratitude.
Once we crossed the half of the island, began the good.
Until that moment what we had enjoyed of those days of pedaling were not the landscapes or the road cycling but, the people in general, and especially: the cyclist communities or cyclist associations , I mean, the cyclist clubs.
Through a facebook page: “Warmshowers Indonesia ” formed by cyclists, they pass to each others the information and everyone knows about the news in the island regarding to bicycles.
Like this all of them knew that we were crossing the island, that we were going to meet a friend who was going to joing us for few days, and about, almost of all our life. We became famous for all of them, and day to day they helped us, to gide us, to host us, to feed us, … everything, everything.
Several times they came 10 -15 kms out of the city to accompany us, in group, and together cycled to the house of who that day was going to host us.
At the time of departure repeated the same: all in group, we left until the usuall traffic of the cities decrease, and there, at that very moment they already were passing the information to who was going wait for us in the next city. This, has made us to keep a higher rhythm, to ride more kilometers and take less breaks.
In the morning to have already a place where to arrive that night was something really unusual, atypical for us but it has made us enjoy, meet a lot of people, and forget the traffic and the jams.
Somehow the relations with cyclists has made us more cyclists.
After crossing the center of the island, came the party, tough but… party.
In the east side of Java island are located two huge and spectacular active volcanos: We chose to visit and see Bromo and the Ijen volcanos even knowing that this route was very tough and much longer than to keep in line crossing the island, but, because crossing is not the aime which move us , the decision was clear: we want to visit and know the most interesting, natural and wild places, those are ours favorite places!! There we go!!!.
We had finally met Angel right before the first ascent.
We met first time each other when he hosted us in his house of Figueres (when we were cycling towards the east in the North of Spain around the year of 2011) and just when hist first bicycle trip was about starting. Since then he has already traveled a lot of kms around the world, and he has even wrote a couple of books about that. Clown (gestural clown) not only of profession but of spirit, he is working sometimes in circuses and when he has not anything to do, he take the bike and he cyles the world here or there.
At ascension we all suffered , the three of us suffered, it was expected, we all knew in advance what was coming: a memorable ascent, of 41 kms with a vertical drop of 2300 metres! not a small joke! exhausting but… it was worthy.
After sleeping for a while huddled all three in the tent right after the Summit, we woke up a couple of hours before dawn.
It was dark, cold too, we had no references and the 11 kms from the caldera of the volcano turned out to be sandy, but even with those obstacules, was the most special experience.
The full moon at the top, the silence, the alive volcano beneath our feet… amazing.
And so we arrived at some huts there, placed in the middle of nowhere, a place where a few people does business with tourists that are attracted by this spectacle of nature that is: Bromo.
We left the bikes there and we started walking trying to arrive on time: We had to find the place where to climb the walls of the volcano and thus, from the top to watch the Sunrise: Dance of lights, colors and shadows with the dense clouds of mist that sprouted from the center of the volcano, although we got lost and scratched our skin with the plants and got wet, we arrived on time.
It was worthy, all that, was simply majestic.
The next day was the turn of Ijen volcano, here there is no truce, another climb up similar to to the bromo´s one, this time what was waiting for us up there, made us to be silence but also to swallo saliva and feel a hole in the stomach.
The greatest part of the tourists that come until here, come attracted by “the blue lights”: around 2-3 a.m. in the night, they getting into the volvano`s caldera can be witness of a magical effect that the volcano`s gasses generate. Blue lights, yes, blue as the gas fires in our kitchen, a blue that dances and dances between the smoke that emanates the volcano and is moves from side to side. Something like an aurora borealis inside the crater.
But there, there is something else.
There are people, people that works as hard as never we saw before.
Down there the environment is hostile, inside the caldera of a volcano eyes sting, throat also, you have to cover your face with masks or as in our case with a wet cloth but, most of these miners are unprotected, without gloves, footwear… we hear them cough, cough, cough. They carry around 70 -80 kg on their shoulders while they are climbing up the slopes of the caldera, step by step, sweating, giving it all.
Around tourists, speak, they take photos. Tourists come, make pictures and leave, but they will be here today, and also tomorrow, this is the only thing they have.
The dawn,the workers,the tourists, the sweat, the photos, those eyes, the laughter, the cough… to have all this in front of our eyes brought silence, deep and heavy silence, a silence that fell on our shoulders loaded with questions unanswered, of powerlessness.
Sometimes in all this years travelling the world, we have to swallow saliva, saliva that tastes bitter and which burns, there are moments that make you rethink everything, moments that hurt and to whom… nothing we can do, just swallow and learn.
We could say more, much more about Java, there are always more stories that remain that can come out but… let´s continue, let´s move… and cross together by ferry to the next Island:
Sincerely we did not expect much from Bali… an as touristic place, for so many years that… well, it is known what there is in those places… normally not something that we enjoy (although we understand and respect who does… all depends onmany things, always everything depends).
But Bali this time came to teach us again we shouldn`t have expectations, and, we liked it, not only for the short week that we stayed in a hotel that seemed a paradise: wooden straw huts , gardens and flower that are taken a lot of care in every corner, flowers, flowers, so many that even we could see them floating on the swimming pool… a resting place for the sou,l for the eyes, for the spirit and the most surprising thing, at a price of laughter, and is because we went directly to cycle the north coast, just opposite to the most touristic and popular part of the island.
From there we decided to cross it through the center, that meant ascend again, as there is a volcano located in the middle of the island, a long ascension and then, only descend to the other side, that night we were hosted by a family in one of the villages that we foundon at the other side, going downhill.
The hotels were expensive and we didn`t want to pay just for sleeping few hours…. look, sleep, what is sleep… we… sleep anywhere! and we kept going on.
After leaving the main road, knowing that the direction to follow was always down road, we decided to stop because already it was dark and everywhere was populated and there was no way to find any place for camping. We asked to some people who gave us good vibration for a place to pitch our tent that night, and so, it was that a neighbor heard us and came out to see what was happening.
A gentle Balinese who had worked in the past with tourists for many years, down on the coast and therefore spoke very good English, much better than us.
Finally wee spent the night at his home, chatted, ate with the family, and even visited the social Center behind the house, where were playing traditional music. Friendly, open and simples teached us again to remember that it is better not have pre-opinions, nor to form judgments of something until you know them.
In another day of pedaling, we arrived at the harbour. Bali is a small island, we didn`t even cycle 200kms and already, we had finished it.
We arrived without Angel because this was the ending point the coexistence, we had said bye-bye in the hotel because from there he headed another route.
Farewell and resume our rhythms, which had varied as also our friend`s one, thus be able to cycle together.
Yet despite the many differences in our forms of travel, the wanting to be together, made us adapt to each other to create a middle point in common. A great character, a good friend, tasty experience, tasty to pedal with him.
A small island in which we cycled only 92kms.
Traffic again but this time adding to narrow roads, nothing nice. At a stop i wrote in the journal something that explains very well the feeling that both shared… “Lombok is like a woolen jersey those ones hat itch, that as soon as you dress it you want to remove it as soon as possible”.
So, the good thing is that the experience lasted a sigh.
About this island everyone had told us that it has nothing, that it was not worthy, but just arrived, and made us realize something:
Since we began cycling in Indonesia, have been quite a few times that we have had the feeling that, yes, it is a beautifull country, beautiful islands of course, very nice but… we don’t know… it was like … something was missing, we felt something that… we don´t know… missing. Here we realized:
Nothing is missing, it has too much: people and traffic.
The fact that there was so much of one and other, we couldn`t feel that tranquility of cycling, of camping, of which both are in love to the core and which makes us continue enjoying and choosing this way of life.
Sumbawa provided us of it, that silence, that calm, nature and tranquility, sea and coastline to ride.
Beautiful and peaceful Sumbawa, quiet and humble in the midst of the sea.
To be able to cycle the profile of Flores Island you have to become wild, you have to wish to do it, you have to be able to suffer and endure, to climb up for climbing down and keep going up-hill and down-hill all the time, all the island is like that: A cluster of volcanoes, lots of them, one after and another, in the midst of the sea.
Here don`t work the doubts, nor the words, this island is made of actions, if you are not willing, better to skip it.
Literally, we fell in love with Flores because in his 600 kms long of the route has all we had seen in Indonesia: forest, volcanoes, beaches, terraces and paddy fields, quiet people friendly and simple, delicious and inexpensive food and, yes, lots of flowers but truly, if I was one of those Portuguese that colonize it, gave it the name , I would had named it, not flores (it means flowers) but mountains.
Even so and again: It was worthy to suffer physically to cycle it.
This island is our favourite one.
As you can imagine, at this point we were really fit, after all the mountainous islands that we had ridden the past months, the legs rolled without needing rest, we were ending the days without believing the amount of km that we were traveling. We were prepared for the final challenge in this country, for which we had to take a boat, this time would be for two days.
The last visit to the next island, it had a unique purpose:
bringing us to test ourselves in the jungle, just jungle.
We were going to make a journey fully in the pure jungle that, we knew for two cyclist that had passed the information to us. We knew what was waiting for us and although honestly, I feared it so much… we knew that were the fitest possible we had been in long tome so, if there a right moment for it…
It was this one and by boat we left towards sulawesi.
Cradled by the sea, accommodated in the hammocks that we managed to hang from the ceiling and attach just above the bikes, in one of the side terraces of the boat, we reviewed mentally moments that we had lived in these lands of Indonesia…
.. .the moments lived in the days of crossing the forest,
… the cries of those monkeys that answered us when we imitated them,
… discover curiosities as to the trunk of the leaf of papaya (the tail that attaches it to the branch) that piece, is used as a straw to drink coconut water for example, although it may not seem it, is completely hollowed inside.
… following feeling so clearly, daily, that after so many years of cycling and traveling the world, are still both enticed, captivated by the trip at pedal pace.
…all those people, those new friends that we meet.
And personally… some tears fell through my cheeks at the same time that my heart became so painfull remembering the moments when my parents informed me online about the death of my grandfather… that has also the trip… one sees not much to those who are far away and sometimes…they leave forever.
In those moments one feels suddenly so far, each metro hurts, and the impotence seizes your hands, gagges you.
My grandfather had something like a mantra that he repeated often and, that I take with me and I will take in his memory, in his honor:
“Although if it hurts, walk!!” -He said gritting his teeth.
-Yes, Grandpa, we keep walking.