Monthly Archives: June 2013

Still don’t like Kuta

Kuta is the only place in Indonesia where I have seen any serious effort to clean up litter. I love that. It’s also one of the few places where you can choose a non-smoking area to eat food. I love that too. And the beach is really a delight.

But it’s still my least favourite place in Indonesia.

To put it bluntly, if I wanted to see busloads of westerners (mainly Aussies) eating and drinking to excess, and behaving generally like slobs, I wouldn’t have to go overseas. Kuta is all of the Gold Coast’s excesses and vices distilled down to one town. The souvenir shops are full of “genuine Bali dildo key-rings”, t-shirts with high-school humour, beer drinking accessories, and lots of other really classy stuff. It is completely at odds with everything else I’ve seen in Indonesia.

I could happily never go to Kuta again, yet away from Kuta/Denpasar, Bali has really beautiful countryside. I did not see a single mine site or palm plantation. Just lots of healthy, productive farmland. It’s a real pleasure to go for a slow ride through it. Which we did!

It’s only 30 km from Kuta to Udat, which my GPS indicated was a 30-minute drive. Yeah, right. That’s what happens when driving time is based only on speed limit and distance. It took 1.5 hours and that involved a lot of “Indonesian” riding. We swung by the Green School on the way back, which is one of my favourite places. It’s really inspiring and recently was nominated by Forbes magazine as the greenest school in the world. It is constructed almost entirely of locally grown bamboo, including the three-storey admin building.

The school produces a lot of its own food and all of its own electricity. It also recycles all of its waste (and I don’t just mean litter, either).

The worst thing about the Green School is that it’s insanely hard to find. I believe they want it that way to improve security of the international students. The discreet network of security guards also helps – they are located at strategic points around the site. We stumbled upon a less-used access lane, where there was a dude with a two-way radio who politely asked where we were going and why. He happily directed us once we passed the credibility test. There’s also a couple of traditional guards with machine guns on the site, but they are pretty discreet. No worse than banks and some hotels.

Out of respect for the school and the students, I am not going to publish GPS or other navigational data for it. I’ll leave the adventure of discovery to other travellers.

One of the marvellous but frustrating things about Bali is that the minor roads are so low-key, they look like driveways. You could ride past nine that really are entrances to private home clusters, and the tenth one is actually a laneway that goes for 5 km to an intersection. Riding past, they are indistinguishable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Samarinda 34 degrees plus traffic

Met with Lucas of Di’ Gigant Tours Borneo in Samarinda. He has given me some amazing options in the year or so we’ve been discussing it. For example, I was dead keen to hike in the forest and see wild pygmy elephants, but it was the wrong season.

Still hoping to do a homestay.

Very happy for the assistance Lucas gave us navigating out of the city. 34 degrees, helmet, jacket, gloves, dead-stopped traffic = not fun.

I have been to Samarinda before and found is really easy to ride through. In general I’m finding traffic everywhere a lot worse than last time, and travel times slower.

The bike had it’s first failure here too – I think the wheel speed sensor which apparently is connected to numerous systems.

Crossing the equator

I have ridden over the equator once before and didn’t even notice. I was determined not to miss it this time, so I was watching the GPS all the way.

There is no sign heading north, although there is one heading south. In the end I knew we were there because of a big monument set back off the road.

The gate to the carpark is closed but it’s easy to ride around it.

Let’s face it, you’ve got to get this photo…

One foot in each hemisphere

A bike to trust

The Tiger has earned its stripes. The bike has been 100% mechanically reliable in pretty tough conditions.

It managed OK (just) on 87 RON fuel, heavily loaded in tropical heat.

It crashed through deep holes and put up with hundreds of km of corrugations, rocks, gravel and steps.

Not perfect, but what bike is ?

Sampit to Banjarmasin

Sampit to Palangka Raya 4:00, 219 km
Palangka Raya to Banjarmasin 3:30, 195 km

The first leg is quite a decent road in most parts, but of course there are the usual patches of dirt and loose gravel.

I filled up with petrol out of bottles just outside of Sampit, then passed a Pertamina station with Pertamax in 5 km. D’oh! In fact there are plenty of stations along the way.

Signposts at PR are useless. Go straight through in the first roundabout, then right in the second one, then left after about 500 m. From here on it is fairly obvious, but anyway there is a sign post of 3.5 km, then most of the way has signs.

The second leg has similar road conditions but s lot of buses. I saw one bus literally run an oncoming car off the road while overtaking. That bus and another consistently ran scooters off onto the shoulder when overtaking.

A very dangerous stretch of road.

The Bario bridge, about 30 minutes out from Banjarmasin, spans a vast river (one of several in the area and dozens in Borneo). I was stunned to see that one lane had been occupied by street vendors!

At the western city limits, the streets branches out in every direction and there is no obvious main road. This is in contrast to my earlier trip where I approached from the east, and the main road goes right past the ferry terminal.

Banjarmasin to Balikpapa

639 km, 13.5 hours including about 1 hour of rest and one hour on the ferry from Penajam to Balikpapan.

This route is around the outside of southern Kalimantan. The other route goes straight up the middle through the mountains and offers better roads, as well as being shorter. They converge near Tanah Grogot.

For the first three hours there are fairly regular and busy towns so progress is slow.

The route eventually reaches and follows the coast, with pretty scenery and mostly good roads.

When it turns back inland, much if the route is through farmland with 1.5 m grass overhanging the road, sharp rocky mountains that come very close to the road, and some clear streams. I saw people swimming in one creek. Most rivers and streams I’ve seen are far too dirty for that.

The road between Pagatam and Tanah Grogot is pretty bad. The usual thing – mix of dirt and tarmac with thousand of deep, sharp-edged holes. It took about 3 hours.

There are no Pertamina stations along the way and I had 314 km on the trip meter when I reached Tanah Grogot, after topping up 160 km out of Banjarmasin.

Grogot to Penajam is 130 km and took 3 hours.

Took the easy option

After waiting for three days in Banjarmasin for a ferry to Surabaya, we were dismayed to find that the KM Satya Kancana has only “Ekonomi” class, which means sleep on the floor.

So we wimped out. The bike has been sent on the ferry and we flew.

We’ve just heard that there’s been a big storm in Banjarmasin and we are feeling pretty happy that we are not out there.

An observation about ferries: the posted sailing time is “earliest” rather than actual. Today’s sailing time was supposed to be 4:00 am. I arrived at 3:00 am, along with Iwan of the Honda Supra riders club and other riders who kindly turned up to help.

Bikes were finally loaded, with trucks and cars to come. I didn’t hang around but I’d be surprised if it got away before 9:00 am.

Its always about the tide. The ship can’t load or unload unless the tide is high enough. That makes sense, but why publish sailing schedules that are wrong?

Tide charts are published months or years in advance. Can’t they be considered when publishing schedules?