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Last leg into Makassar

Cycling Day 8

sunny 30 °C

After a few issues with the water (plumbing is an ongoing concern in the rural areas), we had an early breakfast and started the final 93km (give or take several as you do in Indonesia) leg into Makassar. The journey was on an undulating road along the coast through rice, seaweed, corn and salt producing areas. We interviewed a group of seaweed farmers gathered under a blue tarp seeding pieces of seaweed onto blue rope. It was hot, stinky work being done by an extended family group, including some very small children. When asked what they were doing, they said they were growing seaweed to sell but had no idea where it ended up or for what it was used. We also interviewed a lady working in the heat by a fire making sticky rice in bamboo. We sampled this and salted duck eggs to go with our tea and then went on to meet and interview a salt farmer.

Further down the road, we stopped for a delicious rice noodle lunch at a roadside warung and finally rode on in to Makassar after 530km on the bikes. This gave us a fantastic sense of achievement!

After yoga, we had our final dinner with the group where the ritual tipping of the support crew and the speeches and presentations occurred.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 23:43 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Up to the Waterfall and on to Jeneponto

Cycling Day 7

32 °C

This was my day as the appointed LOP. A number of us (me included) had a bit of a tummy upset at this stage so we had a bit of a shaky start. Kerryn was the most affected of us but was determined and stayed on the bike throughout. The ride was hot, the country was undulating and we needed a few "nail and dipper" stops until we reached a very steep climb up to a waterfall. I was very proud that I was the only rider who stayed on the bike all the way up to the waterfall.

After a frolick in the waterfall and a picnic lunch, we rode on to Jeneponto which is on the sea and well known for the small horses that are everywhere in the area. We were all pretty tired and enjoyed the seaside hotel that Col had arranged.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 23:30 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

The Rest Day

Cycling Day 6

sunny 28 °C

This was our rest day and, although it was completely lycra-free, "rest" was probably not absolutely accurate. After a later start and breakfast on the over-sea platform, we all got on a boat over to a nearby island for snorkelling. Sonia and I have done very little if any of this before and, although we were hesitant at first, it was very enjoyable as we looked at the reef and saw some colourful fish, corals and the occasional octapus.

Following this, we were dropped on a sandy white beach near a small village. The warung owner had just built some rooms and Col had some of us helping to investigate this as a potential stopping point for future tours. His house was said to be the first on the island and was held up by stilts sitting on blocks of coral. After tea and snacks of pisan goreng (fried banana) and other delights, we walked down past the mosque through narrow beach streets. Sonia bought herself a locally made sarong.

Following the trip back to the mainland, we had lunch and went on an excursion to the area where the famous Makassar boats are built. These are amazing structures and the Buginese ones are built to pretty much the same seven sailed design as they have been for centuries. We watched two being built and interviewed the workers. Of the two boats we saw, one was traditional Buginese and the other was being built by request for a "blunder" (a real one) who lived in The Philippines. During the interview, we asked about the value of the Dutchmen's boat. The man working there said it would be worth one billion rupiah (around $130,000). This is not a lot given the sweat and danger that was obviously involved in creating it. I think that this "blunder" may be continuing on with the exploitative traditions of old. There was absolutley zero WH&S in place with a man welding without protection (well, he did close his eyes) and a man with a small drill on the end of a giant shaft that would have spun him into orbit if it were to jam. We walked all over the ships (obviously the union rep didn't mind) and left when part of the bamboo scaffolding fell down around us.

Again, the over-stimulation was tiring us and we returned to the "resort" for a nap before yoga, beers and dinner.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 23:05 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

On to Cape Bira

Cycling Day 5

sunny 30 °C

Although we were by now quite used to the dawn, midday and dusk prayer calls and generally found them quite atmospheric, what seemed like a competition between several amplifier equipped imams awoke us in time to wash and prepare for more cycling. To complete the cacophony, several roosters and a nearby cow joined in. After leaving our slightly unusual hotel, we were picked up by the entire local constabulary who gave a full police escort out of town. The cavalcade included officers on old Dutch-style police bicycles, at least five motorcycle police, sirens, more officers on point duty, and much interruption to local traffic. At the bridge on the edge of town , they stopped the road entirely for a round of photos with the important cycling delegation from Australia. I don't think there was a lot of pressing police business that morning in Sinjai.

After again being treated with far more importance than we really deserved, we continued to climb back up through rice fields, up and down valleys, and up some tough hills. I started to feel like I was on the Tour de France as every, village, town, rice paddy, house, workplace, buffalo and horse and cart seemed to include a voice calling out greetings on top note. We are able to go through the salamat pagi/seang/sore process and received many "hello mister", "blunder" and "bule" calls in response. Occasionally, we also would get "I love you" booming out from some unidentifiable source.

As the temperature of the day continued to rise in this coastal area, we stopped at another warung for some really impressive Buginese cakes and had a complex conversation with the ibu and pak. We also stopped at an area where the main occupation is breaking rocks by hand to sell for rp100,000 (around $12) per cubic metre. We also interviewed some clove and cocoa merchants and chewed the cocoa segments.

The very poor roads and embryonic maintenance procedures were again in evidence as we went on to have a late lunch at a Javanese style warung before finally descending after 104kms to reach Bira.

The accommodation facilities were cliff top cabins looking out at the sea, which was clear and still. We all had a swim which was marvellous at that stage of the day. The cabins were pretty rustic and were surrounded by goats, cats and barking geckos.

Following yoga on a platform area of the "resort" which started in the dark due to a temporary power failure, we all had some beers which were very welcome. Dinner was on a small platform constructed out from the rocks over the sea. It was wonderful food with the best BBQed fish I have ever eaten.

We then retired exhausted after another intensely stimulating day.

Posted by Neil-Sonia 22:10 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

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.

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.

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.

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)

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