Author Archives: colintraveller

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 marvelous but frustrating things about Bali is that the minor roads are so low-key, they look like driveways. You could ride pas 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.



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 ?

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?

Tyre wear

Here are photos of the tyres. This is with 6000 km, every type of surface, two-up, with luggage.

For most of the trip I have run duel-sport pressures, 22 psi front and 24 psi back. Aside from grip on loose surfaces, this also made for a smoother ride over rocks, rubble and corrugations.

The riding was really hard on tyres due to getting hard on the brakes when I came upon holes in the road, and rapid acceleration for overtaking on intercity roads.

I think the minimal wear is amazing. I’m really impressed with these tyres.

First lap – completed

And I think we will leave it at one lap!

That was a fine adventure – a real challenge, quite difficult at times, but every day brought something new. But I doubt if I’ll try that again. I’d love to come back and just do some local rides, and have a decent look at a few towns instead of arriving at dinner time and departing after breakfast.

I’m not sure what the total distance was, since my trip meter and odometer failed on the second day. I’ll have to get busy with maps, the track logs that worked, and other sources and stitch it all together.d we are happy to leave it at one lap.

I estimated 6,000 km and I think it will be pretty close to that.

I am way behind with reports and data. Due to disappointing performance of my phone/GPS, I have lots of work to do with mapping software to get a complete GPS route. It’s not going to be ready for some time, but at least the photos are good to go as soon as I get access to a computer.

Floating markets of Banjarmasin. The river current is balanced by tide during Ramadan, so the vendors spread across the whole river.

Floating markets of Banjarmasin. The river current is balanced by tide during Ramadan, so the vendors spread across the whole river.

AnAnd we are happy to leave it at one lap.

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 500m. From here on it is fairly obvious, but anyway there is a sigh 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 bud 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 branch 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.

Nagyar Tayap to Sampit

1:00, 47 km to border of West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, but we detoured through village of Tanjung Assam to meet friends.

Then 8:30, 399 km to Sampit

Almost immediately after the border, the dreadful bridges are obvious. I saw two that had a truck upside down in the river below. They are not motorcycle friendly, especially the transition onto the bridge.

However, every one of them had a work crew building a nee bridge. So in six months this will be a much easier ride.

The route is not very easy to follow, with many intersections lacking signs. There are many deep holes and unexpected dirt latches in otherwise good roads, so ride with caution.