Thursday, 30 October 2014

So what about Sumatra?

Lovina Krui Surf bungalows appeared out of the dusk in the nick of time. It was the end of another very long day in the saddle. I had been riding for 11 hours, the light was fading and I had eaten enough dust to give Dyson a run for it's money. 

It's nearly two weeks since I got Rhonda back and hit the roads of Sumatra and it's not all together been plain sailing. 

The GPS has completely given up now and so where as before it would switch off when things got complicated, it now switches off as soon as it has booted up. It's like it wakes up realises it just can't do Sumatra and shuts down again quickly. Too tired to care anymore. My Poor overworked GPS has finally decided to call it a day. I call him Marvin! RIP Marvin! He just couldn't take the pace. 

The maps app on my phone has no detail for Indonesia and the map I bought here just shows straight roads in between the cities when they are far from that! You can't calculate distance as it doesn't include the bends. Road signs are sporadic and asking directions takes time and patience when you don't speak the language. 

Despite all this, we have covered a lot of miles this last week. Working my way through the swarms of killer step throughs in each town requires much concentration. Particularly the ones that are being ridden by 10 year olds who want to race you or just stare at you instead of the keeping their eyes on the road! It still amazes me to see these youngster zipping in between the trucks with such confidence. They have been pillion on these bikes since they were newborns of course and holding the bars whilst mum or dad steers from 8 months old or less. 

Whilst riding the quieter roads I have spent many hours pondering the age old philosophical question - "Why did the chicken cross the road?" I still have no tangible explanation aside from having a death wish. Much the same as the dogs, cows, goats and lizards! They certainly keep you on your toes.

The roads are rough here and break up with no warning. It may take a long time to get anywhere but
The laughing policemen
these are my best bits. This is when I can stand on the pegs and get the suspension working it's magic.

Sumatra can be tiring but it also offers some real gems in the way of it's countryside and it's culture.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the people here are very warm and friendly. 

The girls generally seem quite shy at first and I am a great source of amusement whenever I approach one to ask "How much?" or "Can I have tea please?". They tend to run away giggling only to be replaced by a colleague who attempts to decipher my request before they all find their confidence and conspire to ask for the photo! Suddenly they are draping themselves over my shoulder for the shot before running off to fetch the children. They bring them out and ask again "Photo?" I reply "Yes no problem" before the child decides I'm too scary and runs back inside crying! And so it goes on! 

Quick top box repairs
Lake Toba was a wonderful place and very beautiful. You are guaranteed a warm welcome. I was suprised to find here and in several of the villages in the North that there are many Christian areas with their churches and large white crosses on the mountain sides. They fade out as you travel further south and give way to the mosques and hijabs. 

Lake Toba is where my top box fell off for the second time on this trip! I was checking out some trails on the island when it hit my back and then fell off. Luckily I had some straps with me and managed to secure it enough to get it to a workshop where it was repaired beautifully in the time it took me to have a cup of tea! 

Meeting Onkel from Germany
I have met many interesting people on the road. Onkel, the German who was riding his 15 year old Yamaha 650cc home from Australia. The 3 laughing policemen who stopped me for a go on Rhonda and best of all was the ice cream man on his motorbike on a quiet jungle road just as I was wishing for an ice cream. I thought I was imagining it when I saw him come towards me with two Walls boxes strapped to the back! He even had the ice cream music playing! A vision indeed! He found it hilarious that I should be so desperately flagging him down like my life depended on it! 

Crossing the equatorial line from North to South was completely uneventful as I totally missed it! There is supposedly a sign but perhaps it wasn't in English because I looked and looked but did not see anything remotely resembling what I had expected to see. Slightly disappointed at a photo opportunity missed, I continued and vowed to catch it again in South America.

Riding through the Royal tea!
After coming down the middle lane to Sungai Peneh and riding through the oldest tea plantation in the world (providing tea for the British Royal household apparently), I decided to cut across to the coast. I left at 6.30am and spent several hours riding along dirt tracks through the most spectacular rainforest I have ever seen. Sadly my GPS was not the only thing giving me trouble and the video diary I recorded here turned out to be corrupt and so lost forever! This has to be the highlight of Sumatra and one I am very glad to see intact and protected along with the Sumatran tigers that live here. Sadly acres of rainforest all over Indonesia are still being destroyed along with it's inhabitants to make way for more palm oil plantations. It was an emotional ride on many levels. 

Finding the Krui Surf resort was rather unexpected and here I have found the perfect place to rest up
for a couple of nights.  It is a wonderful spot and hidden away on a little dirt track that sits in front of a long stretch of white beach teaming with turtles and coral. I have actually found some fellow travellers hiding away here too. The first since Lake Toba. Not suprising as the bungalows are basic but beautiful bamboo construction with a simple bar in the centre and 3 wonderful meals a day all for around £10. There are 5 of us here as well as the family who run it and I must admit, it is wonderful to be able to communicate freely without having to resort to hand gestures!

I am making the most of my time here before I head for the Chaos of Jakarta. Here I hope to find a Garmin expert to revive Marvin before I head over to Borneo and lots of off road action! 

Is so much riding alone getting to me? Is the helmet time too much? I don't think so! Don't we all have a name for our GPS?????


  1. Hmm. I use an app on my iPhone for GPS but it feels so vulnerable on my bike. So, I've just arranged to pick up a nearly new Garmin from a friend. I also ride with a paper map, but I guess one can never be too prepared. Kudos to you for getting to your destination without Marvin!

  2. What type of Garmin do you have -- I'll make some inquiries (but no promises). By the way, are you staying at Donni & Shinta's place in Jakarta, or some where else?

    1. I use a Zumo 660. Yes staying with Dono for a few days before my ferry.

  3. Lets Try some magic for Marvin. see you soon Steph. ;)

  4. Still a great read about an epic trip, Steph.
    Hope you get your Zumo sorted.

  5. Hey Steph -- if you start your Bornean leg in Pontianak, you have an equatorial crossing 5 minutes out of town. And there is a sign!

    1. Thanks Sean. Adi just told me this too! Hooray! A second chance at that photo shoot! Now is it now tradition for me to take a photo of me Naked???? Did you do this? Ha ha! I might just photoshop!!!!

  6. You can try download Indonesian map from

    It is free and the map is rather reliable.

  7. good that you are still making progress even without the GPS. I enjoy reading your blogs you have a way with the English language. sunny side up.