Monday, September 15, 2014

Sumatra, Indonesia

June 1. Ariving in Medan
The sun was setting as the plane was landing in Medan. The reflection on the water in the rice patty was really interesting and I wish I could have filmed it. Picture would not have done justice to the patterns of light moving from rice patty to rice patty. I waited for my bag for a long time. And I thought they lost it. Until an official asked me "is this your bag?" I thought.. "No, that's not my bag, the one I bought to day is all black." Apparently I'm an idiot and the cheap Chinese duffle I bought in Malaysia is grey and black. Interesting how your memory changes things. An Indonesian guy started talking to me and said he had a cab. It wan't to much so I had him take me to a hotel. Just so happened to be the hotel he said his band was playing at later. So later that night I met him in the hotel bar. Music was already playing so he and his friend and I got a pitcher. He said it was $45 for a pitcher after he bought it so I chipped in 1/3. I thought this was very expensive for a pitcher so when it was done I said I was going to the bathroom. I went to the bar and ordered another pitcher. The cost was $23 which is till stupid expensive. Bastard. I went back and sat down with 2 guys. He said "oh, you must have gotten a discount." as he reached to pour himself a glass. I told him to get fucked because I don't like being lied to. So I proceeded to drink the whole pitcher in front of them and not share. We had talked about his cab giving me a ride to Belewan but I told him that wasn't going to happen either. He was making excuses about the other pitcher but it didn't really matter. I looked him straight in the eye and told him what I thought of dishonest pieces of shit like himself. I went to bed thinking... is this how everyone in Indonesia is? I guess I have to be more careful. I am happy to say, this was a isolated incident and Indonesian people are quite amazing.

June 2. Medan to Belewan
I found a different taxi to bring me to Belewan and it turned out to be cheaper then he had quoted me. I found the office for the shipping agent and we got started on the paperwork. I jumped on the back of his scooter and we bottomed it out down the road for the afternoon. Going from one customs office to another. I had to pay $100 on this side but the ATM wouldn't give me money.. I asked him if there was hotel in Belewan and he replied "Hotel My House... You stay at my house and pay me in the morning when ATM works." So we went to an internet cafe and I sent some emails to my bank about why I couldn't draw from an ATM. At 8:00 I was able to pull money when my bank in MN opened. At this point it was to late to get my bike from the warehouse so I chilled there for the night. I got my ass kicked in chess 2 times by a toothless local dude. It had been a very long time since I played and these local dudes were good. I think they sit around all day playing chess.

June 3. Belewan to TukTuk. Lake Toba. 262 km.
I was on my bike early and headed back toward Medan. I tried to get on the tollway to go around Medan and they said "no motorbike". I told them.. this isn't a scooter. Its probably faster then most of the cars here. Didn't matter, they weren't letting me through. Even when I tried to pay the same price as a car. So back to the shit traffic. It took a while to get through Medan but it was still shorter then I expected. A bike is always quicker then a car. In short time I was on small 2 lane roads twisting through the hills on the way to the mountains. The roads were a mix of brand spanking new tarmac to 1 lane blocked by tree branches because a culvert caved in. I was just about to drop down into the Lake Toba crater from the south side but I was out of TP so I bought some. I got back on the bike and she wouldn't start. I tried to listen for my fuel pump but I couldn't here anything over the shit music blasting from the cafe I was close to. So I pushed her down the road next to a small store that had a nice slab of concrete to work on. It was my fuel pump not working. Time to tear her down. 20 minutes later I had the pump out and the multimeter on the leads. I had voltage but the pump wasn't spinning. This was not the original but still an OEM pump. It had lasted about 80,000km. I put my spare in and put the bike back together. Not before attracting the attention of some locals. The police shack was next door so I gave him the extra fuel I could not fit in my other 3 tanks. He put it in his Chinese Honda copy 150 moto. I figure pre-bribing the cops in a country like this is a good idea. So after another 1/2 hour of entertaining the little local kids I got back on the road. The ride down into the crater was breath taking. Sumatra is a very beautiful place. I found a place in Tuktuk. I thought I would stay the night and move on in the morning. Easier said then done in a paradise like this.

2nd from the right was the agent.

Apparently the boat crew had a sharpy


Watch out for those.

He wanted to help

My workshop

My awesome batak house. 

June 4,5 TukTuk
There is an island in Lake Tobo that takes about 3 hours to ride around. It would probably only take 1.5 hours if the roads were clear of trucks.. and they were better. The town of Tuk Tuk is on a small peninsula off the island. It is a very chill village and very cheap. I had a traditional Batak-house for $7 at the Merlyn Guesthouse. Just down the road you could get an amazing pizza. The cheff is from Europe and has mozzarella cheese shipped in from Italy for the pizza. This same pizza place has an amazing avocado salad. Its a huge avocado (7 inches long) cut in half with the pit removed. The hole from the pit (3 inches long) is filled with tomato, onion, cucumber, basil and olive oil. It was very epic. Lake Tobo is a christian area of Sumatra so finding beer and a local moonshine/palm wine. I'd say its more of a wine then moonshine because its not refined and its is less then %10. Its not like the raki or chacha I had in Albania and Georgia. After 2 days the rain finally stopped enough for my laundry to dry and it was time to keep moving.

The amazing owners.

Great for swimming

June 6. Tuk Tuk to Sigumbang. 263 km
My GPS maps of Indonesia are sketchy at best. But I knew there was a road the went around the whole island. I never want to backtrack on the road I came in on. The road I was on got smaller and smaller until basically split into a driveway and the lake. I must missed the turn. On the way back I stopped to take a picture and met a bunch of nice school kids going home. They were all smiles and very giggly about me and the bike. The correct road wound its way up to the rim of the island. On the way up I found a wedding party. They wanted me to stay and party with them but I had to keep going. After a few hours I got back to the road that leaves the island. It was more fun climbing then coming down. On a loaded bike with good power, climbing is much better. Easier to pass cars and much more forgiving when braking. At the top of the hill I met a guy from Java on a push bike. He had a few weeks to peddle from the north end of Sumatra to the south. When he said he wasn't going down to the island on Tobo I understood. Would kill a few days on the bike. We ate some food and I kept going. I wanted to take a route to the ocean but again, my GPS maps were limited. I took a wrong turn and found myself on some very small mountain roads. I figured I could keep heading south, south/west and hit the ocean but after about an hour, the road dead-ended in a small village. No wonder everyone was looking at me crazy . At least I got to snap some good photos of the local people... and the scenery was amazing. I backtracked to the last "big" town and went the other way on the paved road. It took me to one of the main Trans-Sumatra roads. I stopped at a cafe and asked which direction had a closer hotel. North. The wrong direction. In town I fueled up and forgot to put my gas cap back on my spare rear tank and when I left, I lost it. I noticed at the hotel. Unloaded my crap and went back to look for it. The rubber gasket was still in the road close to the station but the plastic was no where to be found. I didn't have another spare so I needed this one. I told some local kids I'd give 50,000 RP ($5) to the kid who found it.. and I'd check back in the morning. I had satay from a street cart and went to bed in my shitty smoke smelling hotel room. Did I mention EVERYONE smokes in Indo?

Kids like my bike.

A wedding

Just here for the party

Gotta watch out on the corners. 

Town at the end of the road.

June 7. Sigumbang to Bukittinggi. 426 km
I went back to the little store where I told the kids I'd give them money if they found my cap. No one I talked to the night before was around so I figured the answer was no. About 5 minutes of searching in the daylight and I found it on the gravel shoulder. It had been run over 1 time, had one crack but still was able to tighten enough to make a seal. Day started with a success. I spend the day riding on the main road and I wanted to make it to the ocean but that wasn't going to happen. In about a 20 km stretch, I saw 3 accidents involving trucks. I didn't see them happen, but I saw the trucks still there. I'm not sure if they don't have any wrecking crews here? Or this shit happens all the time? Probably a combination of both. In Bukittinggi I found a place that let me bring my bike inside, had wifi and was cheap. I walked around the town and saw a few outdoor stores with tents, "camelbacks" and sleeping bags. So I made a note of it. I went to be early and was woken up by some fierce itching. My forehead was swollen like half a golf ball above my left eye, my legs and arms were itching. I did not know why. I went back to the bed and pulled back the covers.. nothing. I lifted the pillow and saw 2 huge bedbugs. Like 1/4 inch in size. These little fkers were probably about to lay eggs.  I lifted the other pillow and saw 2 more that size... so at least 4 were feasting on me for about 1/2 hour till I woke up. Little bastards. I got another room and moved my shit out as fast as possible. In the new room how am I supposed to sleep?
Step 1. Don't put anything on the bed or floor in case there are bedbugs in this room also. Keep everything in waterproof bags or hanging from hooks. The bathroom is a good place to hang stuff.
Step 2. Take the blankets and sheets off the bed. Inspect EVERYTHING.
Step 3. Take the pillow out of the case and inspect.
Step 4. Inspect the whole mattress and bed frame. We learned earlier these fkers can live in wood.
Step 5. Put everything back together.
Step 6. Sleep in a sleeping bag if you have it.
Step 7. Take some antihistamine for the previous bites.
Step 8. Watch a movie on your laptop until you can sleep.
Step 9. Refuse to pay full price ($15) or at all in the morning.


Seems like an ok place to dump rocks. 

She liked my beard. And she was 92.

This is how  you get coconut out of a coconut

Take your pick

Some things don't change. 

I missed the equator. 

June 8. Bukittinggi to near Mukomuko. 404 km
I picked up a shit tent, a shit camping pad (about 1/4 inch of foam) and a shit sleeping bag ( 15 degree C) for about $100. I figured it would actually be needed in Sumatra and Java. Or father if I continued to Timor Leste. Indonesians are great at making something that looks like the real thing but performs like crap. I'll get into that later. The main highlight of the day was going to be Mt. Kerinci, The highest peak in Sumatra at 3805 meters. Of course it started to rain in the afternoon and Kerinci was in the clouds so I was not able to get any good pictures of it. Near the base of the mountain there are many tea fields and it is quite beautiful. I also met a Kawasaki Ninja Club. They were all on Ninja 250s but they insisted on lining all the bikes up for pictures. One of the guys literally took the shirt off his back and gave it to me. They were very proud of the slogan "Get The Enjoy". It might be the best free shirt I've gotten in a long time. We could all "Get The Enjoy" more often. I took the next road to the coast. I turned out to be quite a gnarly road over the mountains. I didn't stop to take many pictures because the sun was going down and I was not sure where camping or hotels would be available. I rode for about 30 minutes in the dark. I didn't want to make this a habit.. especially in a country like this.
Indonesian theory of lighting cars, trucks and motos:
-Lights don't matter it doesn't matter if you have noting at all, even at night.
-Colors don't matter. Red in the front or white in the back. Blue, green, and purple.. Good luck figuring out what light you are looking at.
-Brightness doesn't matter. Very common to see a huge truck with 5 watt blinker bulbs in the headlights. Just as common to see a scooter with what seems like 4000 watts worth of rally lights. Don't expect that same scooter to have a tail light though. Especially not a red one.

Hmm my bike looks slightly bigger. 

June 9. Near Mukomuko to Benkulu. 328 km
I rode into Mukomuko which was a relatively large town for Sumatra. Maybe you could even call it a city. I passed a fuel station on the right before town and kept on riding. I thought for sure there would be another. I was wrong and had to backtrack. At the fuel station there are 5 or 8 attendants standing around and there is no fuel. They are out. I'm not sure why 8 people need to be working if the station doesn't have any gas or diesel... and that's the only thing they sell. I back-backtrack to find a guy with jugs on the side of the road. 12 liters of fuel and he writes down 120,000 Rp. Normally shit fuel is 6,000 Rp per liter, not 10,000. I smile and laugh a little. He knows hes got me, just like he has everyone else in town who can't buy fuel from the station. $1/liter is still better then many countries though. The bike was running a little like poo and I figured it was the airfilter and injector being dirty. Not so bad at the high rpms but it was dying when it was hot at idle. And starting it took opening the throttle some. After stopping at 4 or 5 different small moto shops. I figured at least one of these dealers would have air filter oil. About 20 minutes trying to translate what I need at each shop, no one had any. They must just rock the paper filters or no filter at all? For lunch I grabbed some fried chicken from a food cart and ate next to the beach at what seemed to be a popular picnic area. The teenage local girls were giggling and smiling. They were to shy to practice their English, so I would hear "hello", "How are you" "I love you" from the group of them. When I would turn toward them they would giggle and turn away like they didn't say anything. Some of the little kids were less shy and came to hangout with me. That night I found a can of carb cleaner and I was able to clean out my injector by cycling it with a 9v battery and back pressure from the carb cleaner bottle. It helped a little but didn't quite solve the problem.

June 10. Benkulu to Tangjung Jati. 364 km
Along the coast the road was small. Most of the time, the road was twisting in the hills among the Palm plantations. But as I got further south, I got to ride along the coast. I started to realizes why Indonesia is a surfers paradise. The waves looked amazing. I can only imagine how surfers look at waves like this the way I was look at snow covered peaks in the Pamirs and Japan. "I wonder if anyone has ridden that?"...
In the late afternoon I stopped at a suff spot and had some coffee with some local surfers. They were pretty stoked about taking pictures with me, just like most people in Indo. Then the rain clouds started forming and I figured I should find some shelter for the night. Just down a dirt road was a surfers paradise. I met about 20 chill Australian surfers who were staying at the bungalows and loving the reef break. They all agreed it wouldn't be a good place to learn to surf. Just like backcountry isn't a good place to learn to snowboard. After a few to many Bingtang and some good games of darts I slept good to the sound of the rain.

Everyone wants a KTM

Smoking adverts everywhere


Indonesian road cone

Amazing  beaches.

This doesn't seem like a good place to play. 

Indonesia coffee isn't filtered.

June 11. Tangjung Jati to Bandar Lampung
One more small mountain pass then I was back in heavy traffic. The main trans-Sumatra road is on the east side of the mountains. I'm really glad I stayed on the west coast most of the way. In the evening I met a girl from the UK named Lucia who was piloting a pushbike. We chatted for a bit and exchanged contact info. We wouldn't meet up again till about a week later in Bandung Java. $2.00 street food spicy chicken curry stuff in the hotel while I tried to decipher the news about the upcoming Indo presidential elections.

Future GP racers.

Not much of a sholder

Another whoops. 
June 12. Bandar Lampung to East coast of Java. 184 km.
It was a quick 90 km to the ferry to Java. We had to wait for the ferry to unload for about 35 minutes. The first truck in line didn't have enough power to make it up the ramp out of the ferry. So we all had to wait while another truck pulled it out. The crossing itself took maybe an hour. But we waited for 2 hours to dock. Maybe the other ferries had problems with trucks exiting also? This seems to be a common trend with the ferries here. More ferries then docking space. So you load and leave quick, but you wait at the other side to unload. I rode down the coast looking for a place to stay and kept passing places that looked acceptable. Then I rode past a hotel and I caught a glimpse of European woman drinking Bingtang by a pool. Hard brake and u-turn. This is where I'm staying tonight.

Overloaded or underpowered. Couldn't leave the ferry.


  1. Amazing story and pics... Waiting for the next chapter about Java and Bali :D

  2. Great adventure Noah. I have really enjoyed the blog and the photography. I look forward to seeing more of your travels. Wonderful job!