A Travellerspoint blog

Over the Mountains to Sinjai

Cycling Day 4

overcast 30 °C

We left at 6:30am for the climb up to around 1500m to visit a tea plantation. Although it was not processing at this time, we went up into the fields and took in the views back towards the sea at Makassar from where we had ridden. Sonia went on a horse ride which was a nice diversion from her group responsibility as "leader of the pack" or LOP for the day. A system had developed where we would have a daily appointment as group pacesetter and Sonia did brilliantly in keepng a caring eye on all of our progress as the day went on.
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Climbing on further from the tea plantation we stopped to witness the ritual slaughtering of a goat and some chickens. This was part of preparations for a "cutting the hair" ceremony for a newborn baby. Although it was all pretty gruesome, Charlie's farming background allowed him to assist with the skinning process. The ibu (lady) of the house invited us to stay for the celebrations the next day but we obviously had to press on.
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Following more discussion about the state of the road, it was decided that we could cycle the intended route but the support vehicles would only go some of the way and double back to meet us at the other side. It was obvious why this was the case as we went along the mountain road as there were numerous landslides where we had to carry the bikes through. This was not without some difficulty but, at various times, local children would assist with these crossings. A local group even used water from a mountain stream to wash the mud off the important bits of the bikes. We also saw an albino child as we went through one of the areas.
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Col had told us how the people here would see very few Europeans so we were quite a curiosity. Part of the calling out from the locals all along the way included the words bule (pronounced bool-ay) and belanda (pronounced blunder) but this was particularly frequent in this area. Col explained that "belanda" was the Indonesian word for Dutchmen and "bule" meant albino. Both terms are used to describe people of European appearance. Blunder had already become the group nickname for Marty who was born in Holland.

Following another delicious lunch at a village warung and much chatting with the ibu, we went up some more steep inclines before starting a series of long descents. The views of rice paddies and various farming enterprises were fantastic. Unfortunately, Phillipa and Marty took a tumble on a slippery surface and Sonia was called in to nurse duty to attend to Marty's cut arm. Marty hopped straight back on and Phillipa took a short respite in the van before getting back on when the gradient of the descent lessened a little. Overall though, this beautiful 20 km descent was a reward for the punishing ride up into the mountains.

Due to the road problems, it was on dark by the time we completed the 100kms into Sinjai. The hotel looked alright but was afflicted with some of Indonesia's famous plumbing issues. At first there was little water in the rooms but we managed to splash enough out of the big tub that is in all wet bathrooms to wash ourselves up a bit after the muddy ride. Marty was unsure of how it all worked and announced at dinner that he had, in fact, hopped in the plastic water container in the bathroom. This tended to re-affirm his Belanda(Blunder) nickname and provided for a lot of good-natured banter.

After dinner, we all went for a walk around Sinjai and shouted ourselves an ice-cream in this fairly strictly Muslim "no beer" town.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 21:09 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Into the Waterfall

Cycling Day 3

all seasons in one day 28 °C

After a later start, we headed off on what Col described as a ride that rated 9 out of 10 in terms of difficulty. We started with some steep gradients to the markets where the girls took on the job of doing the vegetable shopping for the evening "sop" meal. Lalu, the omnipresent local police sergeant who was certainly very proud of his community profile, was particularly taken with Charlie, our 6' 4" policeman who had just returned from a stint in the Western Australian desert. Charlie and Paul were a little taken aback as Lalu proceeded to engage in some low-level graft as he took various goods from the stall providers to give to his new friends. Lalu had quite a well-developed ego and enjoyed being photographed in his beret with the ladies in our group.
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Following this we went down a steep and poorly surfaced road through a number of villages. Col had said earler that "roadworks in Sulawesi are at an embryonic stage" and we were beginning to understand what he meant. We stopped to talk to a rice farmer's wife who only spoke Makassarese and had to conduct our interview through Lalu who spoke this local dialect. At another village we stopped to interact with a coffee seller where we sampled the product, raked the beans and bought some bags of arabica beans for roasting later on.
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Eventually we arrived at a small village located at the base of an enormous waterfall. Col led us all off to the bottom of the falls. Lalu the local policeman told Bapak Colin not to go in but Col simply said "he doesn't know anything about water" and led us shirtless into the rocky pool. The noise was deafening and it was difficult to see but Col did know what he was talking about as it was reasonably safe once you got in and very refreshing in the heat. It was, however, quite probably the most insane thing I have ever done.
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Following lunch in the village, we made the very steep ascent back to Malino. There was much talk about the state of the roads for tomorrow (there had been quite a bit of unseasonal rain) and conflicting reports as to whether they were passable or not and how many bridges were down.

In the afternoon, we visited Lalu's police station where Charlie was very much the honoured guest and then returned to the hotel for yoga (more pain) and beers (no pain).

Posted by Neil-Sonia 20:34 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Up the Mountains to Malino

Cycing Day 2

rain 23 °C

After a 5:30 breakfast for a 6:00 departure, we cycled out of the city through rice fields and villages for a fairly easy 30 kms before we started the climb up the mountains to Malino which sits at an elevation of 1000m. We passed farmers or traders drying rice, coffee, and cocoa on tarps beside the road before stopping at a warung (roadside cafe stall) for some delicious cakes where we "interviewed" the ladies who ran it. We also stopped to rest at pondoks (bamboo platforms by the side of the road) as we climbed through many ranges. At this stage, our preparations proved to be sufficient as we were able to cope quite well with the gradients. On the last steep section, Sonia took the yellow jersey and disappeared ahead and, being a little concerned as to her whereabouts, I passed all the others to finally catch her relaxing at the next refreshment stop. The two drivers, Acok and Ucok (who are Toraja men) as well as the mechanic, Anto and his off-sider, Ridwan, were absolutley brilliant. As soon as you stopped, your water bottle would be refilled, the punctures and repairs were attended to speedily and proficiently, and Acok was able to source some wonderful fruit and snacks as we went along.
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Following the heat, gradients and poor condition of some of the roadway, the cooler, rainy weather in Malino was something of a relief. After cleaning up, we had a late lunch at a local warung before a rest and yoga at 6:00pm. As it was raining, Col commandeered the central corridor of the hotel for the yoga. There was more entertainment as the hotel staff walked over us as we tried to tie ourselves in knots as per Col's eccentric instructions. I thought I was going reasonably well until Col's "... put your right hand in front of your ..... genitalia ...." instruction caused a minor collapse amongst the group.

Following another rice and vegetable and chicken soup meal, we had an extended chat with a family group at a shop before retiring for a well-anticipated sleep.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 20:08 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Riding Around in Makassar

Cycling Day 1

sunny 30 °C

This was the first day on the bikes. We left at 5:15 for a visit to the fish market. Although it was still dark when we arrived, the smell certainly let us know where we were. It was fascinating to see the boats coming in and the variety of fish being laid out as the sun came up and the market activity picked up. The sun also allowed us to realise that we were sometimes standing on a layer of maggots. This did wonders for those of us who were already feeling a little queasy from the change in diet. We were something of a curiosity wandering around the Makassar fish market in our cycling gear and there were a lot of photographs to be had.
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From the markets, we rode out of the city to a South Sulawesi village museum which displayed the different housing and other cultural aspects of the area and returned to the hotel for a rice porridge breakfast. We also passed a large local cycling event that was travelling in the other direction with accompanying sirens and general pandemonium. After breakfast we rode to the old harbour area where we saw the famous Buginese sailing ships and had some entertaining interactions with a group of Makassar stevedores who were loading sawdust. The boss, who looked about 25, explained through Col how he didn't have any English as he had only attended the "school of the wharves". As the afternoon wore on and the temperature increased, we rode back to Fort Rotterdam which was an ancient fort taken over by the Dutch in the 1600s. A very well-informed English speaking guide gave us a comprehensive tour of the fort and its museums.
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Following lunch at a southern Sumatran resaurant where the randang was sensational, we returned to the hotel where Col negotiated with some of the local becak proprieters for us to ride their becaks while they sat in the passenger seat. This was great fun as we completed a city block riding these contraptions with a fairly nervous passenger in the front. Sonia had always wanted to ride one of these and in her excitement zoomed past the rest of us with an enormous grin on her face.
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In the afternoon a few of us went for massage or reflexology where Charlie and I managed to confuse ourselves entirely and not-quite fit into the frilly little robes that were provided. After a massage that involved some back-walking, I ended up in a hot and cold spa area and managed to also go through some steam and sauna rooms. While this was going on, Sonia was in with all the blokes having an extended reflexology session.

On the way back to the hotel for yoga, Paul, Charlie, Sonia and I went to a sports and music equipment store where we attempted to buy some yoga mats. After being shown every exercise mat in the place (which were all the same) we bought some and went back for the session. Col responded with, "those mats are absolutely useless" but we managed to proceed with the session. After trying to avoid fits of laughter at Col's comments as we tried to get into the various postures, several of us completely lost it when a coconut fell on the cement beside us all and rolled into the sea.

After dinner at a soup restaurant, we went to a kind of hardware store that sold everthing from industrial cement mixers to motorbike frames where we found the last two proper yoga mats in Makassar.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 19:18 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Preparation Day

Meeting Charlie, Phillipa, Kerryn, Paul, and Marty

sunny 28 °C

After meeting the rest of the tour group during breakfast, we all assembled for a meeting on the hotel terrace overlooking the still and quite picturesque waters off Makassar. The group consisted of Charlie, a policeman from Perth; Paul, a tourism consultant from Sydney; Phillipa from Sydney and Kerryn from Canberra who were both occupational therapists; and Marty who was a fireman from Adelaide. Although one of the booking documents had listed Charlie and Paul as requiring a cottage with a double bed at our our first hotel, one of the first things that they explained was that this was an error and that they were actually lifelong friends who were reconnecting for a trip and not a couple as we were all assuming. This set up a fairly humorous vibe within the group which was to continue throughout the whole trip.
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At our meeting, Col went into great detail about many issues. One of the more memorable bits of information was his description of what to look for in a remote Indonesian toilet. These are always wet and notoriously basic. He said that you needed to look for two things; a nail on which to hang your shorts and a container of water with an intact dipper. He then went on to describe the processes involved in using said nail and dipper and the reasons that you don't proffer your left hand in personal interactions in Indonesia. He also gave an insight into his deep understanding of Indonesian culture and described the ride as ... well, a bit harder than we might all think.

We then went off to lunch at a Javanese restaurant before going by van to a waterfall where we joined hundreds of locals in hiring a tyre tube to float down the stream. There was not a WHSO (Workplace Health & Safety Officer) or a rule to be seen and it was great fun. After a walk and a visit to some bats on the way back, we went to our first yoga session with Col (a challenge for the posture and flexibility deficient amongst us) and went for dinner at a restaurant that Col described as "a local fish institution" where we learned how to eat with our hands (only the right one of course).
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Posted by Neil-Sonia 05:30 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

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