Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Last Post

And so it come to this. The final entry in a year and a halfs worth of rambling. First things i first i must say thank you.

Thank you to the hundreds of people who have helped me out in some way. Those who fixed the bike, those who fed me, those who put me up. I ditched the lonely planet long ago when i realised that these expereinces were the ones that i will most cherish from the trip. The deapth of kindness shown from the very begining of the trip to the end has been incredible and the trip would certainly not have been possible without it. There is no way i can ever repay my grattitude other than to offfer thanks and similar help to those in need.

Thank you for the letters etc i have received over the course of the trip. Traveling solo has it pros and cons but lonelyness on the road can be one the latter. The words of encouragement and even just news from home ( good and bad) was a huge help.

Thank you to those reading this. I have tried to keep it interesting ( and without too many sware words). I has been nice to receive your comments.

Endings and Begingings
The last few days of the trip were in fact quite uneventful. The bike held up to his pasting on the Oodnadatta track very well. The puncture count still stands at less than 20 for the whole trip. I mannaged to get a new trailer tire in Clare in the nick of time as i had worn the old one down to the tube. Whoops! I Met my Mum and Grandpa in Clare, north of Adelaide and we spent the night there which was great. I was joined the following day by my brother and we cycled to the last 98km from the Barrossa valley to Stirling together.

After 4 days of sleeping in a bed ( the longest in several months) i am slowly getting used to the idea. When i could get to the bed that is. I arrived home to a year and halfs worth of mail and other junk piled on the spare bed at mums' place. Not waking up and feeling like i have been hit in the legs with a cricket bat is also super.

And from here? The bike will not go rusty as it will become my shopping trolly back in Alice Springs. The next trip is brewing: A traverse of the James Range, round the world by rotary hoe, africa, south america, Lada adventures ( i can ask to get it repaired in Russian now) But i think it may be time to spend a little bit of time in the one place



Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A penultimate post

I will save the reminising for what will be my last post in a day or two. In the meantime its time for a rant....

This time it is roadhouses that need to incur some roth and, quite frankly, they really can all follow the lead of the one in Larimah and burn themselves down!. Its not for the lack of beutiful suroundings, most are very well placed, it's for the universally appalling level of service at almost of them. Perhaps i should make a special t shirt that says "I always feel so welcome in your shop when you grunt and scowl at me when i walk in, it really makes me feel like spending money in your store" OR "mmmm the food tastes so much better when its sat in the warmer for a week" The list (in no particular order) goes something like this....

Wyclife Well- no mater how many aliens you paint on your buidling you really can't disguise the fact that it looks and feels like a bombshelter.

Frans' pie shop in Larimah- The only reason she is still in busniess is thanks to a kind lonely planet listing. $17 for a soggy microwaved pie and a glass of red cordial. I almost regurigitated it on the spot wqhen she gave me the bill. It's hardly so remote you cant get fresh food when a dozen refridgerated trucks go past a day.

Renner Springs- Even the staff working there thought the manager was a rude prick. Now that says something.

Ti Tree- Just for the shear number of very strange people both in front of and behind the counter quote "when i lived in timber creek we always new whgen the cops were coming to raid our dope crop coz they came to see Parks fiorst" ( worrying when that was the guy who will try to make your food)

Cober Pedy- not a roadhouse but a camera shop where the guy couldn't bear to pull himself away from the telly to even serve me.

William Creek- for such an iconic pub to be run by someone with such an unfriendly attitude is a shame. This was in fact a discussion i have had with several people since passing through.

Now at the risk of sounding like a misery guts i must give credit where it's due.

Adelaide river does have one of the most profundly beautiful and moving war memorials in Australia and is a credit to those who so lovingly maintain it

The Wauchoupe hotel. Far from the bessa block roadhouse, this place actaully has a history and more importantly service that would actaully make you want to return.

The Beltana Roadhouse. Wedged between the Prarie hotel to the south and Leigh creek to the north this place survies mainly because the people than run it are nice and, strangly enough for that reason, people keep coming back!

The list could be augementd but i shall leave it at that for the time being. My time on the Jamestown library computer will shortly expire and so it seems will my time on the road. I will head to Spalding tonight and then onto Clare tommrrow. Hopefully i will be in Adelaide on Saturday night. Who knows i might even be there in time to watch the final episode of The Bill.... or maybe not!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Mt Agung

My final two days of cycling in a foreign country have been a relatively easy affair. From one of the most abysmal, roach infested hovels I have ever stayed in in Banyuwengi it was a short ferry trip across the straights to Bali. Denpassar was an easy two days ride from here.

Kuta barely deserves a mention in this story. A place for overweight Australians to behave appalling badly. "You are in a foreign country, show some respect you muppetts!" "And put a shirt on you beer swilling yob, nobody wants to see you beer gut, REALLY!" 'nuff said

So now there are two of us. I met Guy when I surfed his couch in Vientiane and he has met me here in Bali and we are off to Climb Mt Agung, at 3142m the 50th tallest volcano in Indonesia but the highest on Bali.

Despite my reservations (“I reckon I can find my way") we have hired a guide for the exercise. We pick him up on the way to the temple that marks the start of the trek. Soon after we pick him up the battered old Kijiang (the same weight as a land cruiser with 1/4 of the engine capacity) splutters and stalls on the brutal gradient. We finally get out and walk the last five hundred meters and I am quite glad to get away from the smell of burnt clutch.

We begin the climb, past the temple and into the forest on the lower slopes. The trees eventually give way to smaller shrubs and then finally to rocks and lichen. Guy is doing a sterling job, given this is the first time he has been above 1000m. We are three quarters of the way up when he starts to really struggle. There is no track now and we are following our guide as he hops over rocks and boulders. Despite 5 weeks of training he finally reaches the point where he can't climb anymore and still make it down in one piece.

I face a somewhat awkward decision. Instinct tells me that we should all stop and not leave anyone behind. I also look at the conditions though. There is no snow, or extreme heat (it is the middle of the night) we have plenty of food and the guide and I can make it to the top in an hour. The guide suggests this and I trust his judgement. He has, after all, done this climb 15times in the last month alone.
And so we leave a cheerful Guy on a bed of branches with three jackets and three pairs of thermals.

The sunrise on the top of Mt Agung is incredible. As the sun rises I see the 300m drop off the lip of the caldera to the bottom of the crater emerge from the mist. The moon and stars slowly disappear from sight. To the west I can see Lombok and the second highest volcano in Indonesia rising out of the ocean. And to the east I can see as far as Java with Mt Bromo (another volcano) dwarfed by her two larger sisters. Below me I can see the run of the lava as it headed north to the Ocean. Mt Agung last blew her top in 1963 and still steams occasionally.

We have hot coffee and cake made by the guides' wife on the top. He teaches me much about Bali, mountains and life in Indonesia generally. Later on the way down he also becomes the first Indonesian man i have ever seen to pick up rubbish. An extra ordinary young man in many ways.

We find Guy where we had left him, sound asleep between two rocks. He wakes, a little cold but much refreshed and we begin the decent back down to the temple. When we finally reach the bottom we are both exuasted and even the guide looks a little tuckerd out. We had begun climbing at 1am and it is now 11am so it perhaps not so surprising.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Iggy's 6th and penultimate boat trip

And so it has come for the mad dash from the bottom of Sumatra, across Java to board my Bogan air flight from Bali. First there is the matter however of a rather deep stretch of water between Sumatra and Java know as the Sunda Straight.

I tried my hardest to get onto a cargo boat from Bandar Lampung but after several attempts i resolved to riding the hundred or so km to the very tip of the Island. I eventually arrived late in the afternoon and, after giving a rather aggressive homeless man my fried banana i had just bought, i rolled down to the ferry terminal.

1st, i try to get on the wrong ferry, without a ticket. Bad move! I find the correct terminal and pay the princely some of 10 000 rupiah for me and the bike. I look up and wince as i go through the turnstile- stairs. Lots of them. Thankfully one of the rather amused gate staff moves towards the trailer and pics up the wheel. We lurch, somewhat unsteadily up the stairs, up another set and then down the gangway to the hold.. Iggy is on board and i didn't even have to dismember him. Things aren't going to bad.
Igor catches the last of the Sumatran sun on the boat to Java.

Ramadan has started the day before. For those unfamiliar this is the month of dawn to dusk fasting from most things- water, cigarettes, food and sex. There are lots of hungry faces watching the beautiful sunset as Sumatra fades from view. When the sun finally dips below the horizon the food appears and so do the smiles.I soon meet a man and we begin to chat. His English out strips my meager Indonesian so we make do as best we can. He is an Engineer from South Sumatra on his way to Jakarta for business. He also has a van.......

I roll my thermarest out on the floor of the condo my engineer friend and his two colleagues have rented for the week. It is under the aircon and i sleep blisdfully until 2am when i wake to put more air in the slowly deflating mattress, every silver ling comes with a cloud i guess.

A 17% downhill gradient is not a nice thing to do to your brakes or your rims!

Bread vendors' van, Bandar Lampung

Fisherman casting his net, West Sumatra

Monday, 9 August 2010

Music to my ears


I am now up to my third Mp3 Player for the trip. The first was stolen by some drunk Kazak women in Aqtube. This one contained most of the "pop" music, if you can call it that.

The second was stolen by one of the Orphan kids i was meant to be helping in Bishkek. Ironically this was my "classical" one and also had my teach yourself russian lessons on it. Ah the little blighter that stole that was in for a treat- there was no way to change the tunes anymore! I hope you enjoy your Bartock string quartets, you little runt!

And so i am on my third, very cheap one that i bought in China. It is cheap, really cheap. There isn't even a way to pick the tunes so i have to have the music in the same order everytime. As such things can get a little repeative so once in a while i have to wipe it and start again.

Even though i wipe it once in a while some artisits seem to make fairly regualar apearences .

  • Tom waits seems to always wangle his way in there in some form or another.
  • Strangley the Haydn cello concerto has also made several appreances.
  • Paul Kelly, when i can find him, has been a regualr too.
  • Rufus, Martha and Loudan Wainwright are all fairly regular attendees though this is mainly because everytime i ask Matthew to send me music that is what i get! Great stuff though and eminently cycleable.
  • Luansa's crazy Irish fiddle playing and Bela Fleck's Banjo goodness to take the cake for cycleability though.

There are those who have been and gone but may yet return...
  • Demis Russo and Nana Muskoori. Not sure what on earth possessed me to download them but it ( wince) wasn't so bad
  • Soursob Bob. Comic genius though go a little overplayed at the start of the trip
  • The Idea of North. Wiped, alas, and nobody puts them online.
  • Slim Dusty and Chad Morgan. Slim in small doses, Chad even smaller doses.
  • Chet Baker. If i ever need reminder that trupet players need teeth ( Chet lost his in a bar fight and a nasty heroin habbit) then this is it.

And then there are those that made a hasty exist......

The Mars Volta- talentless aurual masturbation!
Bartok string quartets- Beutiful, just not on a bike.
Lady GaGa- as per the Mars Volta. Though in an interesting twist my malfunctioning mp3 player cut her songs after 3 seconds, replacing her with Bach Chorals. Nice move Mr Mp3 player!
Mahler 9th Symphony. Likewise beautiful, if i was cycling in a coma!

Surf Dudes

As so it comes to how i am sitting and writting this from the west coast of Sumatra. Yesterday had some of the most brutal grandients i have had in a long time. I even snapped a chain trying to get up them! A nice camp on the beach last night turned into an abosolute deluge this morning which lasted much of the day. Stopping in the first town, Krui, i met an Australian surfer. The thought of my first decent conversation in a month and the torrential rain was more than enough to convince me a day off was in order. And so i am off to enjoy an icecream and a Beer, if i can find one. (Ramadan starts tommrrow) Volcano Swim, Central Sumatra

Volcano Swim, Central Sumatra

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A Batavian Adventure

My time in foreign lands is fast drawing to a close, at least for the time being. In deciding to go to Indonesia i had to make a choice. There was the easy way- through the center of Sumatra and then to Java. Or the harder but much more interesting way over the mountains to the west coast of Sumatra meaning i would have to miss cycling most of Java. With a fairly high population density and, by all reports some seriously manic drivers and traffic, i decided i wouldn't mind "cheating" a bit through Java if it meant a nicer experience in Sumatra. Indonesia wasn't initially on my radar anyway but it seemed to tempting to miss. 

And so it is that i sit (almost) on the coast of West Sumatra. Gone are the calm waters i had in Malaysia and Thailand. It's a big heavy Indian ocean swell here. Even the water has a temperature less close to urine and something to actually cool off in.   The last 7 days have been quite a contrast. At 2500m i actually slept in my sleeping bag for the first time in months. Camping on the beach yesterday and listening as the breaker thundered i was rolling in my own sweat!  

I have until the 20th of August to make it to Bali. There i must give Igor and Bobbie and really good scrub and put them in a box. They will travel by freight ( hopefully) and i will meet them in Darwin. I then have a few days to climb some volcanoes and give everything i posses a though clean. I can sense the Quarantine dogs at Darwin airport as i write and i know the 2nd the inspector sees where and what i have been up to for the last year i am going to be in for a grilling. The plane arrives at 3am so hopefully its goes for long enough i can walk out into the daylight! 

What a beast! 

10000km from Bishkek
Ever wondered where cinnamon comes from?

Monday, 26 July 2010


And it's time again for an edition of " what is that weird stuff you are putting in your mouth, Emrys?"

China definatly raised the weirdness quota a few notches. I think perhaps the duck tounge or the sheeps udder and mint soup take the cake, so to speak. The yak butter, yak cheese yak tea weren't to bad. Though the yak cheese did give me a dose of the runs.

Laos threw up every possible combination on the cooked bannana. Roasted, fried, curried and with coconut.

Almost every petrol station in Thailand has a 7/11 shop. In each of these is an ice coffee dispenser. Its amazing how well a litre and a half of cafine and sugar can make you cycle. It becomes slightly addivtive though as the only way to avoid "coming down" is to keep drinking the stuff!

Malaysia with its mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese certainly had choice. Though the choice was great it was all somewhat santised, rather like the rest of Malaysia. Good, flat roads but kind of boring too.

And now i am about to have another dose of Indonesian fried goodness. Last night my hosts ( a young man and his family) gave me Redang- kind of like beef jerky in Tamrind juice. The was also the ubiqutus chilli fried fish. Its slightly disconcerting when the catchfish looks at you!

Bon Appetite


I have just crossed the Equator which runs thorugh the middle of Sumatra. I am headed for Bukatingii, some volcanic lakes and a day off. From there i will head to the west coast and down towards Bandar ampung on the very southern tip of the Isaland. I will catch a ferry from there to Java and some more manic traffic. There is cycling in Indonesia and there is death....so far i am staying on the right side of the line!