Sunday 29th August to Monday 5th September 2016
The ride to Gilimanuk, ferry port to Java, was a nice short ride. Ferries go every half an hour and only take around an hour. You know it when you hit the port Ketapang, Java, the pace steps up a peg. The port is choka with ferries coming and going and lined up to berth. I headed off to Jember. Not much good I can tell you about Jember. I found it a rather dirtier than normal city. I was lucky again with a young chap and his mother who escorted me to my booked hotel. A rather aged establishment. My biggest problem was that when I plugged in the computer the whole thing became live. Freaked me out. After trying several nieghbouring power outlets with similar results, a young boy found a power board with a surge control which solved the problem. Like I’ve said before “you build it but don’t ever fix it”.
Come Monday morning I was happy to leave Jember. Like everyone told and warned me, Traffic is fast and furious in Java. I managed, however to negotiate the curious traffic customs on the roads. Unlike what we are used to, the trucks and slower vehicles tend to stick to the centerline with faster traffic undertaking on the inside, or as I have always known is as “the suicide”. This is of course is only a general rule. Mainly because there are no rules, no speed limits, no traffic police. Only time I see these guys is controlling traffic outside schools at the start and end of the school day. My goal for the day was to reach Malang. From here I would explore Mount Bromo and then head up to the north coast.
Next morning I was standing next to the bike trying to figure the route out of Malang, like this is a large city. I wasn’t very confident of following the route on google maps. I only take a while before someone can interpret my predicament and offers assistance. These two lovely guys decided the only sensible solution was to guide me through the maze until I had a clear run and could easily find my own way. This was such a generous coontribution of their time as it took good half an hour and then they had to do the return journey.
The boys had told me to follow the road to Purwodadi and turn left to follow the road up to mount Bromo. It turned out that this was probably the longest route to take. I had to keep on checking on google maps to see that I was still heading in the right direction. My only real indication was that I was still heading uphill. I passed fields, or should I say vertical gardens of cabbages and leeks, at yet another episode of thinking I have taken a wrong turn. I came across a small school which I assumed was the end of the road and stopped. After being literally surrounded by a sea of smiling happy excited children, a teacher directed me around the corner of a building and the road continued on. I eventually reached a point where a group of young men pretty much ordered me to stop. The route I had inadvertently chosen would take me through the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. The fee for this privilege was for me, a foreigner, would be $21.50. For a national $3.00. I did try to reason with them that this was totally out of wack. In the end I wasn’t going to turn around and find another way, so I paid, reluctantly, plus the 50cents insurance fee. I was still a good way from my goal and the roads were getting narrower and the fog or mist was closing in around me. I thought ” that would be right I’ll have come all this way, paid my entry fee and I’m not going to see a thing”. Just after that thought I broke though the cloud or mist into a sunny sky. After riding along this knife edge of a mountain range which i found found a bit scary. At last, the view point down into the extinct crater, the “sea of sands”, and the active Mt Bromo in the middle of it all.
Off to the left was the road leading to the sunrise viewing point where they take all the pictures you see when they are advertising Indonesian travel. No use to me it was a long time since sunrise.To the left another road, this led down to the crater floor and the sand. I met and talked to a couple of dirt bikers whist having a break, as you would. They had come from Joga exploring new trails. One of the guys acted as a negotiator with a “guide” who would escort me down the mountain and across the sands. We agreed to a price and away we went down the steepest road I think exists in the whole world. I was convinced my brakes would fail. They didn’t and I survived with that nagging thought that keeps on resurfacing “What am I doing this for?” No other rider seemed to have told of this experience. Was it not dramatic enough for them? Am I really a wosse?
My next trick was to ride my heavily laden BMW through the sand, past the temple, (yep they have built a temple down in this hole), to the other side of the sand, and to the way out. Typical of me, I managed to kick a tussock of sand on the way and jarred my leg so almost with relief I renieged on the climb up Mt Bromo to check out the molten lava. I’d seen molten lava and smelt the sulphurous fumes before. When I reached the other side I thought I should take a photo looking back
My guide let me know he had done his thing and requested his $10 dollar fee. Probably all he would earn all day, but he did have to pay the guy he borrowed the bike from. Funny world this. Well I was now thinking I’ve got this huge steep hazardous climb in front of me the extricate myself from this volcano crater. T’was not to be. A slight 2 minute climb and I was amidst a sea of restaurants and hotels. From there it was a cruise down though a winding road of villages and and vegetable crops. Looks like there was an easier way to get to Mt Bromo. I was heading for Surabaya for some unknown reason, however, the day was long and by the time I reached Sidoarjo it was time to look for some accommodation. Always easier said than done. In my efforts to reach the hotel following google maps on the iPhone I ran out of charge. This meant I had to charge it off the bike before continuing. It’s often the little this that go wrong at the wrong time that drive you nuts. I finally found the Hotel Walan Syariah. Despite its rather obscure location it was a very presentable hotel.
The next day at he behest of my eldest, I was directed to check out the Sidoarjo mud flow. A result of a mud volcano. Erupting since 2006 and reported to be the largest in the world and now covers around 10 square kilometres and probably will not stop for another 30 years. Levees have been erected the retain the mud and are constantly being improved. I found that it wasn’t high on the locals knowledge base and had to find it using google. Upon arrival there were many spots with their accompanying parking boys and fee to use their very rickety stairs to atop the levee bank. I eventually agreed to this and at risk of life and limb negotiated the stairs. I was confronted with a flat plain of mud. Not very scenic. In the distance was the oozing mud and a few half submerged houses. I was now asked to pay an even higher fee to jump on the back of a motorbike to go out and check it out. I wasn’t happy about leaving my bike and all to the curious parking people and their hangers on, so I declined the offer. On my bike again and now heading south, having given a dangerous journey into the bowels of Surabaya, a miss. I had mapped out a route down to Pandaan, then turning right to Prigen and to Pacet with my final destination for that day to be Batu. This would take me over a mountain range, through some stunning scenery interspersed with mountain resorts and along some very steep and twisting roads. All very popular with local sightseers.
Java has some really wonderful scenery and not all of it is overpopulated and congested. Despite the tight uphill hairpin bends and the propensity of the road workers blocking half of the road without the use of stop go men, it was a beautiful ride. Upon arrival in Batu I had to stop to check out available accommodation on Agoda, I was approach by an english speaking passerby with all the initial questions and a love of motor bike. His name was Adam. He would eventually end up being my life saver. Adam was a university linguistics teacher and working in Batu for 3 days away from his home in Surabaya. We chatted for some time on the side of the road. He was interested in my blog to show his students and we exchanged phone and email details in case I could use his help. He had to go as did I, so we parted company. I found a good value hotel, The Grand View, which it probably did have on a clear day. Batu is at a fair altitude so it was pleasantly cool. At one point I was sitting in the lobby waiting for the reception staff to figure out why my computer was not hooking up to their wifi, when a young man, who worked at the hotel as a room boy, approached and asked if he might join me. His story was that he had been learning English at school for 5 years and had never found a white person with whom to have a conversation. What could I do? We exchanged chat for about half an hour before he had to dash off for pray. Didn’t get to see him again. The end of a most enjoyable day.
FRIDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER 2016
You may wondered why this date is in red and capitalised. let me tell you. This day started out well. checked the bike, oiled the chained. Everything looked and felt good. Nice cool morning with another mountain ride toward Blitar. I been on the road for probably half an hour, little traffic, beautiful cultivated countryside, beautiful day. Riding along thinking that this is what it is all about. Possibly only one of a few foreign riders to under take a journey on this road for a while. I just felt good. I shouldn’t have. On negotiating an outside blind bend in the road, out of nowhere I had a small Hyundi rocketing toward my in a straight line. for some unknown reason he had just not turned the corner. On my side of the road and heading straight for me. No time for any sort of reaction on my part, except for some foreshortened expletive. I only remember the car heading toward me and then me laying flat done on my stomach 3 meters from the bike which was several meters from the car, which had come to a halt on my side of the road. I really could comprehend what had just happened. I just could not believe that after all the planning, preparation, the expended money. the arrangements and the miles previously travelled, that it had come to this. A momentary lapse of concentration on the part of another driver and all that hard gone down the drain in one split second. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t have time. By the grace of whom or whatever, I was relatively unscratched. While lying there on this road in a foreign land and before I would let anyone drag me off the road, the bike had been pushed of the road, soon followed by the car. Once I figured I wasn’t in too much pain I allowed people to assist me in clearing the road so traffic could continue on their merry way. Wouldn’t want a foreign biker to disrupt the flow of traffic for any longer than necessary. My normally pleasant disposition was gradually turning. I just couldn’t believe it. People were very helpful. I was offered water, My first aid kit was recovered from one of my now ripped to shreds side bags. I had spent hours making these. One kind girl found the benatine and some gauze and plaster to cover a small chunk of skin which was hanging of my hand. I started check out the damaged and of course the more I looked the more I found, More of that later. Suffice to says it was definitely not going to go anywhere in a straight line. I think i probably let out a few more expletives, despite such language being particularly frowned upon in this part of the world. It was around about this time that I realised my predicament. Here I was the adventure riders nightmare. I am in a foreign non English speaking country, in a reasonably remote area of Java, if there is such a thing, surrounded by people who can’t speak English. I now have a destroyed BMW bike the likes of whichI have not seen since I left Australia, ie no parts, no trained mechanics. My second priority was to find the driver of the other car. I did. He didn’t seem too stressed and he was able to converse with all the locals gathered about him. I think it was at that time I started yelling to the crowd to call the Polisi. One young chap understood and took on the task. I don’t think it was too much later, but it is a bit hard to remember the correct sequence on events, while I was still demanding the presence of the police to be on the scene, that an old man who I think may have been a self appointed representative was trusted toward me.(I remember, at one stage, standing on the edge of the road yelling to the passing traffic for someone who could speak English to come to my aid). Why I don’t know he could do anything to allay my fears that shortly everyone would disperse and I would be there on the side of the road with my busted bike and that would be that. I managed to get a sort of conversation going with a young fellow via google translate. Not easy to use when in a very stressful situation, you just forget how to spell simple words. The owner of the other vehicle had no hesitation in admitting that he was at fault and via the google translator was offering me $100.00 in compensation like my bike was a 20 year old 80cc step though. I declined his generous offer. I desperation I sent of an email to Adam, the guy I had met on the side of the road the day before.
In time the real police from Batu turned up in trucks and utes and a tow truck. Do any of these gentlemen speak English…not on your sweet bicky…they did, however, have smart phones and we managed some conversation via translator. Thank you google. After pictures were taken and the car was attached to the tow truck and with by bike loaded on to the ute, with the help of about ten men. They tired it down with lots of rather light rope, seemed pretty secure. I was told we would all head back to the vehicle accident department of the Batu police compound. At least I wasn’t going to be left on the side of the road. The tow truck went first followed by the ute with the bike and then us in the police car. We had only travelled a couple of hundred meters when we caught up with the ute pulled off the side of the road. This was the sight I was greeted me
I pulled out my tie downs from the panniers, righted the bike and the boys had another go. This time it worked and we completed the journey to the cop shop with not further dramas. Bits of me were starting to hurt. My right wrist, left shoulder and hip and left hand must have taken a bit of a hit. At the police compound I was introduced to many more police officers. The main officer who was to help me and spoke English was Karrel… Karrel was great. Over the next 4 or 5 hours negotiations were done, memorandums of understanding written down by hand by the other guy and painstakingly translated into English by Karrel and his team for both of us to sign. This mainly amounted to the facts that it wasn’t an intentional act to run into me and that he would pay for all repairs. During all this I think half the constabulary walked in and out of the office many of them taking photos. I was given my first feed of meatball soup (basku), along with many bottle of water.
The police would impound the car until I returned with the bike fixed as a guarantee that the memorandum was adhered to. Although it was not very airtight and not the way of Australia, it was as good as I was going to get. I doubt that there were any charges for neg driving imposed. With handshakes all round and photos taken of the signing and me with the helpful team and the commanding officer, I was free to go to the hospital to get checked out, just in case.
The wrist and leg were starting to give me concern. On the way to the hospital I had to ask the liaison officer driving me there, to stop using his mobile phone, when we nearly had a head on with a bus. I thought that two in one day would be a bit too much for me to survive. The baptist hospital people were good and I was shortly seen by a doctor, my wounds with given new dressings and the doctor ordered an Xray of my wrist. All was done, and as night was setting in I was taken to a very fine hotel in the middle of town, along with the the bike, which had now been transferred to a private ute for the trip to Surabaya. Adam had got back to me during the day and had insisted that the bike could not be repaired in Batu and should be taken to Surabaya where he knew of a big bike shop that could handle repairs of this magnitude. I had not long been in my room when there was a knock at the door and the guys son and daughter in law and another relation had turned up with a few cans of Bintag. Yes. The main purpose was to ask, thought the english speaking daughter in law, if I would reconsider and have a local mechanic perform the repairs. So I had to go though the explanation again that this was not your average little honda and it needed specialised help. That sorted, they left and I proceeded to drink two cans of much needed beer, despite the fact that it was warm beer. Upon getting undressed I found that my shins must have tried to go though the crash bars as they were also grazed and sore. So with the bike under security surveillance in the hotel garage and me tucked up in my room, the day had finally come to a close, except for all the ongoing concerns racing around in my brain. Even that, however, could not stop me from falling asleep. It had been a bloody long day.