The trip from Batam to Jakarta took the form of a 31-hour ferry ride. With hundreds of people all sleeping in one room, it got quite hot and sweaty. I found a quiet corner in a stairwell, set up my sleeping mat and spent the crossing there. I did have a few people stopping by to stare at the white guy, but it wasn’t too bad.
The ferry arrived in Jakarta in the evening. The hostels were quite a distance from the port, and in the wrong direction. Instead I checked into a nearer and cheaper (£3) hotel. The ride there didn’t go through the nicest of areas. A tightly packed slum with roads barely narrow enough to take the bike through. At one point I ended up on an unlit section 1.5 metres wide, between two walls three metres high and topped with barbed wire, dodging the rats scurrying across the ground.
I reached the area where my hotel was and asked a policeman for directions. He hopped on his bike and kindly led me to the hotel.
I set off the next morning, joining the horde of motorcyclists that congest Jakarta’s streets. It was a slow start to the day as everyone swerves around to try and pick a path through the traffic. The city seemed to stretch on forever, and it was several hours before I first reached any farmland. If Java was a country, it would be the most densely populated large country in the world.
After about 50 kilometres I reached the edges of the city, and the surroundings turned to rice fields (and rubbish).
All the rubbish and rice was great for the rodents, so I saw lots of those – many of them flattened by passing vehicles.
Even though I was out of the city, there were still people everywhere – and, thus, shops. I didn’t carry much food and simply made sure there was a shop every time I stopped, so I could have something cold to drink.
The one time where I couldn’t see many people around was during one of the five daily prayers – this part of Indonesia is predominantly Muslim.
After a while I reached a dual carriageway. The trucks here were both low powered and heavily loaded, a slow combination. That worked out well for me as I was able to draft behind them!
There was a torrential rain downpour in the afternoon – this was the wet season, and it showed.
I stopped in the town of Cirebon and checked into a hotel. It was hot, humid and way too densely populated to find somewhere to camp on the coast.
My second day on Java was much the same, making fast progress on the busy roads.
I finished the day in Semarang, just before the rain started. A guard at a nearby factory kindly showed me the way to my hotel.
From Semarang, I headed inland – and uphill. The rode out of town was so steep that I was actually passed by a jogger on the way up.
The next few days were hot and hilly – and therefore sweaty. At last I reached Mt Bromo, the main site I wanted to see on Java. I stopped halfway up and ran into an issue I had several times on Java. I booked (and paid for) a hotel online, but the people there refused to honour the booking. This meant I had to do extra work trying to get a refund when I was already tired after a day on the bike!
The next morning I continued my ride up Mt Bromo. After an easy couple of kilometres, the route averaged about an 11% grade for 10 kilometres. It wasn’t particularly consistent either, so there were some sections at about 15% – a decent challenge!
The end of the climb came at almost 2400m above sea level, at the rim of the crater around Mt Bromo.
I descended into the crater. The tarmac ended at the same time the descent did, as I reached the so-called “Sea of Sand.”
The Sea of Sand was less of a challenge than I expected. As long as I stayed away from the main route taken by the jeeps, it was easily ridable.
The one exception was the last hundred metres of sand before the tarmac resumed for the climb out of the crater. I had to push through this section of loose sand. Then came the steepest climb yet – or maybe I was just feeling a bit tired. Once back up to the rim, I started descending down the other side of the mountain.
Clouds clung to the mountainside, limiting the view but keeping the temperature pleasantly cool. When I got back down to about 500m, I emerged from the clouds and was suddenly hit by the hot and humid air that I was used to in South East Asia. After reaching sea level, I cycled along the flat coastal road before stopping at a cheap hotel – at £2.56, with air conditioning, one of the cheapest I’ve stayed in!
I continued my way along the coast, making a short climb up through a natural park in the early afternoon. This was when the daily rain struck, and I stopped to wait it out.
Once the rain stopped, I started again.
I rode down into a port town and checked into a hotel for a couple nights. I wanted a rest day before getting the ferry over to Bali.
Once I was properly rested, I headed to the harbour and got the ferry for the short crossing.
Bali is a small island so I planned to make it to the centre of the island in one day. I set off on a pleasant ride with views of volcanos, lush rice fields and lapping waves.
Quite by coincidence Robin and Sabina, with whom I’d cycled the Annapurna circuit, were in Bali too. They’d flown from India, and were planning on staying here a few months, due to the COVID pandemic. That got me thinking about my own plans….
Mar 6: 235 km
Mar 7: 232 km
Mar 8: 166 km
Mar 9: 109 km
Mar 11: 135 km
Mar 12: 106 km
Mar 13: 137 km
Mar 15: 132 km