In the holiday zone

Thursday 29 Dec, 2016. Ende to Boawae. Stats for the eleventh cycling day of the trip. 8 hours 30 minutes travel time. 85.67 kilometres. Average 10.1 km/h. 1326 metres up. 857 metres down.

Yesterday was probably the best day of the trip so far. Everything (except perhaps the cycling) was effortless. It takes a while to get into any holiday, and then normally it’s time to go home.  I’m fortunate that I’ve still got a bit to go, around two thirds. I’m having a great time.

Today went swimmingly as well, and included a swim in the Savu sea. The initial ride west from Ende is along the coast, and while there are a few small hills there is also a nice amount of time riding on flat roads. The beaches consist of very fine volcanic black sand, and one beach is covered entirely of blue pebbles. For some inexplicable reason I didn’t take any photos. I think I was in a holiday zone. Relaxed. In the flow. Living the moment. I saw the blue pebbled beach. Thought far out man, that’s cool as…. And cycled on. The day was a bit like that. A little later on I wanted a swim, so I pulled over, leaned my bike against a coconut palm, undressed to my shorts and jumped in.  Beautiful temperature. Even waves. Black sand in my pants for the remainder of the day -that I didn’t notice until bathing that night, at Sao Asih guesthouse in a remote town called Boawae. They even fed me so I didn’t have to brave the evening shower to find dinner. 

Another great day. Plenty of food options. A manageable Flores hill climb with a couple of coconuts for snacks half-way up.  Beautiful riding at the top, twisting roads through farmland with women sitting roadside selling the world’s biggest mangos.

Content. 

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The case of the missing spray cover

Wednesday 28 Dec, 2016. Moni to Mt Kelimutu to Ende. 75 kilometres in 8 hours at 9.4 km/h. 1517 metres up, 2163 metres down.

When I was living in Brisbane I played basketball for the Suppos, with some current or ex pharmacists. Suppos was short for suppository. Suppose it was some sort of pharmacy joke. I remember waking up one morning and not being able to find my wallet. The last time I had it was the night before paying for the game, so before work that day I drove to the Auchenflower stadium to investigate. I didn’t even have to go inside. It was on the ground in the car park. It must have fallen out of my bag as I got into the car. Nobody had seen it. Cash and cards were still there.

Yesterday I lost a pannier spray cover. It slipped off some time between buying fruit and having a water stop, part way up the hill to Moni. I kept an eye out today on my way back to Ende, the only time in the trip I backtrack, and there it was by the side of the road. A little bit worse for wear but possibly fixable.

Back to the start of the day. Banana pancake for breakfast, ordered for 6:30 am to get a good start on the day. Got to the dining room 6.45 am, pancake arrived half an hour later. 

Testing climb out of Moni to the Mt Kelimutu car park, and a 150,000 (almost AUD $20) entry fee but the tri – coloured lakes (that change colour regularly) and views make it worthwhile. Incredible colours. Special experience. The locals reckon souls go here. The old folk go to the top lake, currently black, the young folk end up in the middle lake, currently a lightish blue, and if you are bad your soul will go to the bottom lake, currently a vivid aqua.

Pretty flowers on the ride up/down the mountain. This red one was on a poster about Mt Kelimutu I’ve just seen in my hotel. Rhododendron renschianum.

I also practiced with my gopro and tripod. In the video version (updated once back in Australia perhaps?) the cow turns her head to follow me, which I found amusing.

And saw a clever way to get water from a waterfall without getting wet.

I got absolutely drenched on the way into Ende, and then just like that, the road was bone dry and looked like it hadn’t rained for a long time. Talk about localised showers.

And finally, I got my bike repaired. I noticed a wobble yesterday. I bumped into a tour group and waved down the supporting car to have a chat. Nice chap. Told me the 8 riders that passed me going down the hill were from Poland. I told him about my cone problem and he recommend I drop into a motorcycle mechanic. Say what now? Bit different aren’t they, bicycles and motorbikes. What about spares? 

Nevertheless, I gave it a go. From previous experience I know this is a problem with me cones. Fixing a loose cone seems complicated. It’s happened before. My local bike shop in Oz wanted me to leave the bike with him, he had to order in a part, and he charged me $50. One reason I love Asia is the cheap services. This guy nodded. Told me to take a seat,  and had it fixed within 15 minutes for 20,000. $2.50!!!! I paid the cashier and gave him another 20,000 directly. I was the least I could do. I was ecstatic.

And finally, finally I had my first nasi goreng, words which every Australian associates with this. The man taught me how to say I’m an English teacher. Goo roo Bahasa English.

And finally, finally, finally I found a great hotel in Ende, Hotel Ikhlas. I don’t know why it’s got bad reviews. It’s awesome. A variety of room choices with prices on a board, clean rooms, staff that laugh, and a water well out the back to wash filthy bike clothes.

My zen moment of the day.

Moni doesn’t grow on trees

But mandarins do. New island, new fruits. I did love the mangos of Timor but citrus rocks when you are riding and so I’m happy to see little bundles of mandarins at roadside stalls, 4 for 10,000 (about a dollar).

As you might expect, I had very little energy cycling into Ende yesterday after the ferry trip. I couldn’t find the guesthouse my Garmin was directing me to, so stopped at the first one I found. Takes the title of most run down of the trip. Filty.

Start the day with something I associate with breakfast in Indonesia from a trip to Java with the family in, I’m saying 1990, congee. Made by a very friendly Javanese man who moved to Ende a year ago to escape the hustle and bustle of the world’s most populated island.

It looked like a real ‘welcome to Flores’ moment leaving town with steep mountains ahead but I was well prepared having conquered Timor.  Even so, the cycle to Moni was tough going. I wasn’t quite 100% after the past 48 hours. Flores is another couple of degrees warmer than Timor. Hot and dry, rather than overcast day. Lots of stops. But! My first hot shower of the trip at the lovely Arwanty’s Bungalows & Restaurant. Take a wander and check out the local waterfall and hot springs, meeting a group of Muslim teachers on holiday from Yogyakarta. Have you been? They asked. Yes! When I was 10. They were very impressed and said I must visit again sometime.

Have a couple of meals including one at Arwanty’s, and sample the local liquor Arak, made from fermented palm sap. Not too bad, certainly easier to drink than Chinese rice wine. One will do me though. 干杯! 中国学生好吗? 你们最近学习英文吗?

Good job I’m not aiming for sunrise at Mt Kelimutu tomorow.

Tuesday 27th Dec, 2016. Cycling day 9’s stats: 51 km in 6 and a half hours. 7.8km/h average. 1213 metres up. 534 metres down.

A very ferry Christmas Ende happy new year

Or,

The miracle at Christmas.

Maybe ‘miracle’ is a bit rich. When I was living with JH in Brisbane back in the mid 2000s ‘kissed on the …’ was an expression that was used amongst the boys to describe a lucky break.

I’ve just had a lucky break.

Oh mate, you were kissed on the…. right there.

I wouldn’t advise doing it my way. In fact, this is definitely one of the tips I hope to pass on somewhere like TripAdvisor and crazyguy because things seem to have changed from the research I read which suggested, like Edwin that you can get a Pelni ticket on the docks.

If travelling by Pelni out of Kupang purchase your tickets from their office here as soon as you get into town. Go here to check timetables and there is even an option to book.

So, my way. No prepurchased ticket. I cycle to the docks, arriving at 10 am, five hours before the ferry was due to depart, confidently cycling past the first security checkpoint calling out, “Pelni. Ende. Merry Christmas” before they could stop me to ask any questions. 

There was already quite a crowd outside the Pelni terminal, with their suitcases, bags, boxes, sacks and cockses. (For my English students – just playing around here, plural male chickens are of course……roosters and not cockses, but a single rooster can also be called a cock. But, er,  a cock, as you may or may not know can also be something else too. Just look it up in your dictionary.) Appears to be the theme slang word of the post….

I happen to sit next to a university student who is going back to his home island, Sabu, stop number two of four on today’s voyage, for the first time in four years. He’s softly spoken and super polite but not very encouraging. He agreed with Chilean Ben’s version. There is no way to board the boat without a ticket. Mister, everyone here has a ticket. You have to buy it from the office in town. That’s what eveyone has done. Why don’t you have a ticket mister? Because the guy at the hotel told me I’d be fine without. He said I could buy it on the boat. But they won’t let you on to the boat without a ticket. What will you do when they say you need a ticket?  The hotel manager said not to worry, everything will be fine. Maybe he is wrong mister.

Maybe he is.

At about 12.30 pm the first lot of gates open and a mass of people push forward. Tickets are being checked. I fold a piece of paper and tuck it into my passport so just a fraction is showing. I wave that, and amazingly it’s enough for my bike and I to slide past.

The ship arrives at 2 pm and it takes an hour to get passengers off, and another hour before a second gate opens and we all push forward again. 

Another official is checking tickets on the gang plank to the ship. Every now and again he says something in Bahasa and everyone holds their tickets in the air and waves them at him. He wants us to have our tickets ready. I use the same tactic as before, and perhaps pretend to be struggling pushing my enormous, hard to maneuver bike, and it works again. I’m on board. After scrutinising everyone else’s paperwork I’m waved though.  I can’t help but think of how I’m trusted here, a foreigner in Indonesia, but that an Indonesian in Australia would be likely to be trusted less…

I find a free wall to rest my bike against and sit beside it on the floor. There are day beds but these are taken quickly. Almost every available space on the floor is taken up by adults and children, suitcases, bags, boxes, sacks and cockses. Yep, the guy across from me had a couple of roosters. Must be good ones. It was unpleasant, hot and stuffy with poor ventilation.

The boat doesn’t leave until 6:30 pm. The family beside me ask me to join them for (Christmas as it turns out) dinner of chicken and rice. I am carrying one blank Christmas card and use it now, thanking them. 

Afterwards, I pack my valuables and go exploring, finding a nice spot on the top deck, over a safety railing (but still safe!) where I sleep for a couple of hours in the sea breeze before it starts raining and I go back inside. I’m the only foreigner on board. Lots of new friends are made and I’m as polite as possible because I realise each interaction is new for the person opposite, but for me it’s almost always the same conversation. Hey mister. Where you from? Where you going? My name is, mister?

The trip goes ok. At each stop more people disembark than embark so it becomes possible to find seating and bedding. You get sweaty and stick to the vinyl in the stuffy conditions if you want to lie down, so that’s not a plus but I do it for short periods of time.

The toilets are horrific. There are hygiene issues all over the boat.

It’s a looooong journey, including a frustrating end when the boat’s motors stop literally 50 metres from the Ende pier. We drift for 90 minutes before they are fixed and the ship is able to be maneuvered so we can disembark, on land by half past eight, over 25 hours since I boarded.

Kupang it real

Friday, 23 Dec, 2016. 
While today won’t be my most challenging day in terms of terrain, it will be the longest this trip so far at over 100 kilometres. As I’m walking to the dining room for breakfast I think to myself how I’ll go at getting four bread rolls, instead of the expected two. I needn’t have worried.  It’s a buffet breakfast of rice, soup, omelette and coffee. I fill up. 

Take a photo of the hotel as I’m leaving and notice it’s got, like so many businesses in Indonesia, a cigarette company logo on its sign. And speaking of big tobacco somebody call the cancer council because today I was smoking. 107 kilometres in six and a half hours at and average of 16.5 km/h. Unfortunately I don’t have the ride logged as my Garmin froze literally seconds before I was about to press stop/save. Nooooo. Why????? Don’t fail me!!! I dig your work. There’s still so much more to log. 

(It appears to be ok now.)

On my way, while taking a rest by the side of the road eating pineapple and mango and handing out stickers I’m passed by another cyclist! I wave, he waves, and that’s that. As I’m cycling into Kupang I’m wondering whether he was headed to the same hostel, the Lavalon run by Edwin, an Indonesian movie star from the 80s with an extensive knowledge of all things touristy in not just Kupang, but Flores, Komodo etc.  

The cyclist was headed there, arriving slightly after me having stopped for food. Chilean Ben spent 2016 living in Melbourne and had done parts of the same route I had in arriving here. It was great to compare intel, share stories, and to just have a chat in English. 

Saturday 24 Dec, 2016

I try and visit the NTT museum but it’s closed. Successful in finding a screw for my cleat though from the bike shop two doors down from Lavalon. He gives it to me for free. I say I’ll buy a spare tube. He says he doesn’t have my size. I say you might want to stock it and some other parts because you are in a good position to piggyback from the city’s #1 hostel. He agrees.

Ben catches a ferry to the east of Flores. He has more time than I do and is spending the next six months making his way to Mongolia. I’ll be keeping up to date with his journey through his Facebook blog. He texts me saying he ran into difficulty.  Edwin had assured us you just waltz up and pay for a ticket as you get on the boat but this wasn’t the case. The port masters weren’t letting him in without a ticket. They sent him back to the Pelni ticket office to buy one.

At this news I immediately jumped on my bike and rode to the ticket office. I was told tomorrow’s ship to Ende was fully booked but that there were still tickets for today’s. Ben’s. Leaving in two hours. Going to Larantuka. 215kms east (remembering I’m traveling west) of where I wanted to be, Ende. 

I had a decision to make. Race back to Lavalon, pack my bags and ride like the wind to make today’s ferry or…. Well,  I wasn’t sure what I’d do. The next ferry to Flores after tomorrow’s isn’t for a week.  I could fly to Bali perhaps. And backtrack some of my journey. I told Edwin the situation as I was packing. Relax, he said. Just rock up and buy your ticket tomorrow. It won’t be full. 

What to do? What to do? His information was clearly out of date and directly contradicted Ben’s experience. On the other hand Larantuka is not really where I want to be. I decided to stay, and test my luck tomorrow at the wharf.

I was a bit anxious and had a beer (for $5!) at Lavalon and then beautiful bbq fish at a night market walking distance (keep going past the bike shop, 200 metres on your left) for dinner.

And there you are. All caught up.

I’m writing this Christmas day and in a couple of hours will cycle to the ferry that will take me to Ende. I haven’t got a ticket but Edwin assures me they never say no to people. A ship is not like a plane, he says. There is always room for one more. I hope so.

Merry Christmas to all. 

Simon

Leaving the highway (again)

Wednesday, 21 Dec, 2016. Rest day. 

A good day to put my feet up. Major rain for most of the day. Pop into town for lunch and buy an Indo USB charger. I have an adapter with the right pins but the plastic around it is too big to fit into the sunken sockets that are prevalent here. Looked at buying apples but they were 60,000 (AUD $7) a kilo. Chose to stick with mangoes which average about 30 cents each.

Back to the Hotel Cendana for an afternoon rest. Have a Kramer-esq moment while bathing/ doing hand washing. Somehow a sock falls into the squat toilet hole without noticing and my rinsing bucket washes it down the drain. At least that’s my guess at what happened. I was washing four socks only, only three left the bathroom.

Back into town for yummy savoury and sweet pancakes for dinner from a vendor who wanted to take a selfie. That was a sign of things to come because on the next day’s ride more people did (but none have to this point).

Tuesday, 22 Dec, 2016. Kefamenanu to So’e. Day 7’s stats: To Octo’s house. 9 hours 14 minutes. 60.93 kilometres. Average 6.6km/h. 2236 metres up. 1586 metres down. From Octo’s house. 58 minutes. 13.34 kilometres. Average 13.7km/h. 168 metres up. 346 metres down.

An early start, cycling by 6.15am. Beautiful omelette and rice roadside on my way out of town. 

I chose to take the road less travelled, taking the back roads instead of the highway to So’e. It made for an interesting day.

I found some hills. Two serious climbs that beat me and forced me off the bike to push. Meh, training for Flores.

I found a fair bit more interest from adults and lots of requests for “selfie, ok?” with me, when I chose to stop for rests or scenic photo opportunities, or in one case, flagging me down.

I found children running away from me! Normally, they see me from their houses and come to the fence or to the road to greet me. I’d say at least half of the kids I passed today ran inside their houses when they saw me. The others were very cautious and only approached after an adult had.

I found a lady wearing an Australian t-shirt. I had to stop and ask for a photo. She was a bit shy and reluctant but agreed.  I had hoped she would be beaming a smile in the photo as she was a betel cheewer with a red mouth. She wasn’t.  

I found a patch of dirt road, that thankfully only went for a kilometre. 

I found beautiful views at the top of the mountains I climbed.

I found very simple traditional houses.

I didn’t find anywhere for lunch. I asked at a few shops and also houses but no offer for some home made local cuisine. 

I found the cheapest mangos yet. Five for 5000 (about a buck).

And I found Octo.

An East Timorese with dyed hair in a Bulls singlet who approached me when taking the panorama photo below and offered to take me in for the night. I said a coffee would be nice at this stage and we went back to his house, which was just across the road. He was boarding with another family and had one room. The room was decorated wall to wall with Jesus, with some photos of his family. There were two beds in the room. His, and in the other his 104 year old mother curled up clutching a battery powered radio. I drank coffee. We talked. He was the organ player at a church in So’e. I shared my photos and told him about my family and my trip. We prayed together, on three separate occasions. I was debating whether to take him up on the offer. My lilo would fit on the floor (and it would be used for the first time this trip). And he was very friendly. But it was a little awkward.  His English wasn’t great and he couldn’t answer my questions. We ran out of things to say to each other. I think if it had been 6pm rather than 4pm I would have stayed and it would have been fine. But I was still 14kms from town and tomorrow was a 107km day, and so I was happy when he suggested I’d better get going.

Rock up to the Bahagia 2 – Hotel and restaurant, karaoke, café and garden. It was relatively expensive at 220k ($25), last night was half this, but for the first time this trip I had pressed white sheets and little soaps with wrappers with the hotel’s name. No hot water, I wonder what that costs? No matter. A feed and a good sleep. It had been an exhausting day.

When speaking to grandpa on the phone as a child (and as an adult) he would work down his list of conversation topics. Without fail he’d ask, “I suppose you’re pretty fit, are you?” After today’s efforts I would have no hesitation in saying, “Yes grandpa, I suppose I am.”

https://www.strava.com/activities/808489763/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-GB&v=1482400680

https://www.strava.com/activities/808489772/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-GB&v=1482400681

Day 6

​​Tuesday, 20 Dec, 2016. Atambua to Kefamenanu. Day 6’s stats: 7 hours 58 minutes travel time. 84.38 kilometres. Average 10.6km/h. 929 metres up. 822 metres down.

https://www.strava.com/activities/806885640/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-GB&v=1482229156

I didn’t take many notes today. Or photos. Let’s go through them quickly.

In the first one I’m having one of my rest stops and across the road I see a nun, dressed in white with a black habit. She was sitting still, on a chair outside her house. It looked like we were looking at each other. An aberration. Certainty for me, maybe for her too. I’m able to take a better shot as she soon walks to the road and neatly sits on the back of a motorbike. The shop owner tells me she is fluent in Italian having lived there and is off to church. 

The third photo is a neat example of embracing new technology while keeping a traditional style. Many houses in these parts had gazebo type huts in front of their homes. A good place to chillax in the afternoon heat, I’m presuming. Some were traditionally thatched, others were corrugated iron – with some sort of insulation underneath?? I didn’t think to check. As soon as I stopped I got swamped with kids.

Arrive late into Kefa. Hotel Cendana perfectly reasonable. A lovely fried chicken with lime and chilli sauce and a mango smoothie for dinner.

Very tired. Decide le tour needs la rest day tomorrow. I’ll be here for two nights.