Sumatra – Jungles and mountains

As I am writing this, I am in Medan and just loaded my bike on a ship to take it to Penang in Malaysia. All in all I spent just over a month in Indonesia, covering more than 5,000km. Longer than I had planned, but a very good experience overall (except Jakarta traffic and being stuck in the cyclone on Flores).

Updating the blog from Medan (and having a beer for the first time in forever)

This last week I have spent on Sumatra, which by far is my favourite part of Indonesia! The people are lovely, the scenery is stunning (mountains, jungles and lakes) and the climate is fantastic. I wish I would have had more time so I could have gone to Lake Toba, Bukit Lawang and Aceh in the north but since I have been before I had to sacrifice that to have more time for new places.

This has roughly been my route through Indonesia over the last month or so

Day 36 & 37 – Blasting through south Sumatra: After finally making it across to Sumatra on Monday night (Day 35) I had a total of 7 full days to explore Sumatra whilst making my way north to Medan to ship the bike out the following Tuesday. I spent my first half day on Sumatra drawing up the plan for the 7 days. As I had visited some of the key attractions in north Sumatra last time I was here (in 2010) I decided that I would focus on mid-west Sumatra this time around. And in general, jungles and wildlife are one of the main attractions on Sumatra so I decided to go for a 2-day hike in the Kerinci Seblat national park (the largest national park on Sumatra).

Now the plan meant that I had about 20 hours of driving to do in 1.5 days to get to the national park in time. So from leaving Kalianda on the southern tip of Sumatra it was basically ride, eat, ride, sleep – repeat for 36 hours. Unfortunately it was raining for a fair bit of the way, but at least there wasn’t much traffic so it was quite manageable. And stopping for lunch is always a fun experience, usually consisting of three steps:

  1. Owner of restaurant gets really excited, sends someone to find the best English speaker in the village
  2. I get asked to sit down, and get brought ridiculous amounts of food – “mister, try this”, “and this”, “also mister, try this”
  3. Photos of me with all the staff at the restaurant, their friends and anyone else who happens to pass by

Being served 10 different dishes for lunch (and still only paying for the two I ordered)

Mandatory photo with the restaurant staff

In addition to lunch stops, there are always other fun little activities along the way when you’re on the road in Indonesia. Like being stopped by the police for example…

Me: “Hello officer, apa kabar?” (“how are you?” in Indonesian)
Police: “Sorry mister, photo?”

Taking a photo with the police, again

Day 38 & 39 – Checking out the jungle: The reason I chose Kerinci Seblat national park for my hike is mainly because it has the largest population of tigers on Sumatra (which in turn is one of the few places in the world where tigers can still be found in the wild), and it would be pretty spectacular to see a wild tiger whilst they still exist. So that’s the plan and I arrive in the village of Lempur on Thursday morning (Day 38), meet up with my guide and get going into the jungle.

Me: “So what kind of animals will we have a chance of seeing?”
Guide: “Different monkeys, if we’re very lucky maybe siamang gibbons. And maybe if we go out tonight we can see flying squirrels and again if we’re lucky bearcats”
Me: “So. No tigers?”
Guide: “Oh, have to be very very lucky. I have only seen a tiger once in my 7 years as a guide here”
Me: “Wow! That’s really good, should be about time for another tiger spotting then!”

Energised by the very good chances of seeing a tiger, I more or less dance my way through the mud, vegetation and streams up to the lake where we are camping for the night. Half way there it starts raining but I don’t really care… a little rain won’t stop me from seeing a tiger. We see some monkeys. Some birds. The usual jungle things. It never really stops raining, so when we get to the lake in the late afternoon we basically just retreat into our tents and don’t come out. It rains all night. Still no tiger.

Generic jungle pic (it’s impossible to capture a jungle in a photo…)

The next morning it has finally stopped raining, so I go for a swim in the eerily blue little lake and then we head out off the track to explore the jungle around the lake. Tiger time? No, but we hear some gibbons calling from the treetops nearby and after sneaking like ninjas through the dense vegetation we spot a family of siamang gibbons (which is an endangered ape species only found on Sumatra and parts of Malaysia) some 15 meters up in a tree just above us. We watch them for a while and then we begin making our way back.

I went for a swim in the lake, super clear and full of fish!

Despite not seeing any tigers it was a really cool experience and I am definitely coming back to Sumatra in the near future to do a 5-7 day hike deeper into the jungle to have another try at spotting that tiger. Also, seeing apes in the wild is a really fascinating experience (I saw orangutans last time I was on Sumatra) as they are so closely related to us humans.

Day 40 – Chilling out with a Indonesian family: When I got back to the village after the hike I stayed with Zacky (who runs and helped me organise the hike) and his wonderful family for two nights before continuing north towards Medan. It was only supposed to be one night but it started raining just as I was about to leave the first time so I decided to stay another night and just relax in their front yard. So I spent the rest of the day reading a book, bonding with Zacky’s children and talking to various locals who came by to check out who the weird bearded man with the big motorbike was.

Zacky’s house in Lembar

Zacky’s youngest daughter posing on the bike

Day 41 & 42 – Blasting through the rest of Sumatra: After spending a day more than planned in Lempur I had about 25 hours of driving to do in two days, so another two days of ride, eat, ride, sleep – repeat. Because I want to avoid riding at night, that means hitting the road around 6am every morning and basically riding until it gets dark around 6.30pm. Doesn’t sound very nice, but through central and northern Sumatra it is an absolute pleasure! Most of the road is up on in the highlands, some 1,000m above sea level so the temperature usually sits around 20 degrees (perfect for riding a bike!) and the scenery is spectacular! I wasn’t even very tired when I made it to Medan just after 6pm after two full days on the road.

The positive side of hitting a road by 6am, the scenery is even more spectacular

Taking a break somewhere along the road

Day 43 – Shipping the bike: I had arranged with a nice Malaysian fellow named Mr. Lim (whom many other bikers have used and recommended) to ship the bike on his boat which goes from Belawan (just outside Medan) to Penang every Tuesday. His main business is shipping fruit and vegetables, but he has established a solid side business of helping motorbike adventurers such as myself cross the Malacca straight. So I get up early and head out to the customs office to do all the paperwork (there is lots of paperwork!).

After finishing up with customs I call Mr. Lim’s Indonesian agent who picks me up at the customs office and we head over to the boat. Another little round of paperwork and payment for the shipping itself and it’s time to load the bike. It’s not exactly the boat I had expected. But I can’t exactly be picky, so we go about tying up the bike to hoist it up onto the boat with a crane. Last thing I saw they were tying it down onto the deck, so hopefully it will arrive in one piece in Penang tomorrow.

Meet the Setia Jaya, fruit hauler and occasional motorbike transport

Loading the bike onto the boat

Tonight I will fly out to Penang in Malaysia where (fingers crossed) my bike should arrive by tomorrow morning.

Welcome to hell

This will be my post about West Java. Like I said, it was a very different experience from East Java. Very very different. There will be hardly any photos in this post. I was in no state to take photos for most of the time.

Day 33 – Riding straight into hell: This day was supposed to be easy. Get up early and ride for about 7 hours to Jakarta to catch an afternoon flight to Singapore and back to get another 30 days visa for Indonesia. Basically a 4 hour ride on country roads with not too much traffic up from Borobodur to a town called Tegal and then a smooth 3 hours doing 100km/h on the newly built toll road to cover the last 300km to Jakarta. Easy. I had booked a 4.30pm flight to Singapore which I would easily make if I got going around 7am in the morning.

Day starts off great, I’m on the road well before 7am and I make my way up towards Tegal and the north coast of Java. Piece of cake. Going through Tegal I even find there is an even earlier entrance to the toll road than I had thought. Lucky me, just saved another 10-15 minutes. I turn on to the toll road entrance as most of the traffic (which is already pretty heavy at this point) continues straight on the regular road towards Jakarta. I roll through the automated toll gates, pick up a ticket from the machine and off I go.

The toll road is a magical place. Two lanes each way, never more than 3 or 4 other vehicles in sight and 100km/h speed limit. So I just turn on the cruise control, sit back and start looking for somewhere to get lunch. I keep going for probably 20 or 30 km, having the most delightful of times, still only seeing the occasional car or bus. Maybe a truck every now and then. No motorbikes. And when I go past a road work people wave and everything is just great.

Did I mention I saw no other motorbikes on the toll road? Well. After those delightful 20 or 30 km, a toll road patrol car (kind of police, but not really the police) catches up to me and signals me to pull over. So I do, assuming they just want to take a selfie as per usual. Turns out motorbikes are not allowed on the toll road. After a brief discussion where I try to argue that my motorbike is so big and has so much luggage on it that it is practically more like a small car than a motorbike they decide that they need to escort me off the toll road. Escort me BACK off the toll road, to the very toll station where I entered… so that happens.

Just before we get to the exit, we stop again and they explain that I also need to pay a fine for bringing my bike onto the toll road, 250,000 rupiah (~$25). I give them the cash and my ticket and when we get to the toll station they sort everything out for me, so that was great I guess. Then they finally escort me another kilometer or so back to the main road where we stop a final time. They do in fact want to take a selfie with me. They could maybe have asked before they ruined my entire day… but hey, who am I to crush someone’s selfie dreams just because I’m grumpy. Selfie it is.

So here I am. Side of the regular road which is full of traffic and pot holes. I pull up my phone, open google maps and flick the “avoid toll roads” setting. BAM! The last 300km is still just 300km, but the time estimate has gone from a leisurely 3 hours on the toll road to 9 hours on the regular roads. It’s 11am, my flight is 4.30pm. And as will soon become apparent, those are 9 hours of pure hell. Anyway, I stop for lunch and reschedule my flight to 10pm.

Of the next 9 hours, less than 3 hours are getting to the edge of greater Jakarta, the rest is crossing Jakarta from east to west to get to the airport. Jakarta was recently ranked as having the worst traffic in the world ( It is really really bad. Much worse than the video I posted from Jembar the other day. If you have a car and drive into Jakarta, you’re basically screwed. You will get stuck forever, might as well try to get a job close to where your car is stuck because you may never move again. If you have a bike Jakarta traffic is basically shifting between tightly packed cars and trucks whilst dodging other bikes. And it’s 35 degrees. And the pollution is horrendous.

This is what it’s like (photo borrowed from Google)

Jakarta traffic is difficult enough if you are on a tiny 100cc scooter (which most locals are). On my 400kg (true story, bike+luggage+me) world-crossing behemoth of a bike it is really really hard. And a solid workout. The other down side of having a 400kg bike (and being utterly exhausted after about two hours going through Jakarta) is that when someone accidentally gives you a bit of a nudge trying to squeeze past you don’t just elegantly parry with half a foot in the ground and keep going. You fall. And because you’re on a road in Jakarta there is nowhere to fall but into something, like a car. You just hope the car is really cheap so the damage isn’t too expensive. It was really cheap, so I got out of there just $100 poorer. On my end I now have a nice streak of pinkish red down the front left side of the bike as well as no front left indicator and only half a clutch lever (great exercise for the two fingers that still reach the clutch)…

Through some sort of miracle I made it in the end. Exhausted, both mentally and physically. And caught my 10pm flight to Singapore.

Day 34 – Civilisation therapy: After the intense suffering that was crossing West Java and Jakarta I decided that 24 hours of civilisation therapy in Singapore would do me good. So I booked myself a late Sunday evening flight back to Jakarta, which gave me all of Sunday to just enjoy Singapore (I arrived late Saturday night) and all the civilised things it has to offer. Also one of my very best friends, Leilei, was in Singapore so it was a great opportunity to catch up with her.

Enjoying civilisation in Singapore, and trying out my newly bought hat

I had Swedish breakfast and fika (gravlax sandwich and semla), went shopping, had a really nice burger, went in several taxis without ever being stuck in traffic, had red wine (!!) and a very civilised time in all regards.


Day 35 – Leaving Java: After getting back late from Singapore on Sunday night I gave myself a slow start on Monday morning, taking the time to update the blog and make some high level plans for Sumatra. Then around lunch it was time to go back out to the hell that is Jakarta traffic…

It turned out much better this time, mainly because I was going out of the city and I was already in the western outskirts. Even so, it took me 6 or 7 hours to get to the ferry on the western tip of Java and another hour or so to cross over to Sumatra. Where it was raining. Really hard. So I found a guesthouse on the main road less than an hour from the ferry terminal and called it a day there. At least I’m on Sumatra now.

I’ll be back soon with some Sumatra updates, which will be much more positive!


Traffic and temples

As I am writing this, I have actually already left Java for Sumatra. For various reasons (as you will learn from my following blog posts) I wasn’t able to update the blog whilst on Java. But because eastern and western Java were such dramatically different experiences I will still split it over two blog posts. It will take us a few days to catch up to my current whereabouts but it will be worth it!

After leaving Bali my main destination on Java was Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Indonesia and home of two famous temples: Borobodur and Prambanan. The other main attractions on East Java are volcanoes (primarily Bromo and Ijen) but since I have visited those before I decided to skip the volcanoes to save some time.

Yogya is right here!

Day 30 & 31 – Making my way to Yogyakarta: Traffic starts picking up as you make your way across Bali and onto Java, so it ended up being two long days to get to Yogyakarta. On the first day leaving Bali I basically just stayed on the road until it got dark, and found somewhere to stay in a town called Jember. And the next day I left early (around 7am) and had a solid 11 hours or so on the bike to get to Yogyakarta. Not much to report other than that really.

Morning rush hour in Jember (video from my instagram, @on_the_scenic_route, check it out!)


Day 32 – Checking out the temples: This was a really great day. Not only the cultural experience of exploring the temples and colonial era city centre of Yogyakarta, but also the fact that I was staying in one place the whole day which meant I could leave all my luggage at the hotel and swoosh around the area with no luggage whatsoever on the bike. It was so light it felt like I was levitating through the streets.

First up was Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex built around the 8th century. I had a fun guide who explained all the stories behind each temple and the various Hindu gods they were devoted to. As expected it got very confusing very quickly. Many times I found myself thinking “Hmmm… is this actually a thing or is he just reciting the latest X-men movie now?”. Anyhow, it was a very impressive temple and I had a great morning exploring it.

This is what the main temple looks like

And look at that genius ancient engineering to keep the rocks sticking together!

And this guy’s beard.

Next up was the city centre with lots of old colonial buildings and a really cool vibe. But on the way I decided to stop by my hotel again to put on some sunscreen and give myself a chance to forget my camera. Which I did. But feel free to google some photos 🙂

The final stop of the day was Borobodur, a Buddhist temple from around the 9th century and also the most famous temple in all of Indonesia. It was a bit outside of the city but I got there just after 5pm, in time for seeing the sunset from the temple grounds. Whereas Prambanan is probably the more architecturally impressive temple, the scenery around Borobodur is truly spectacular.

This is Borobodur, it doesn’t look as spectacular as Prambanan from the outside

But watching the sun set over this scenery together with Buddha is amazing

There is actually one of those Buddhas sitting inside each of those cones

I will end this blog post here, and get back shortly with the story (which will be very different) of how I got from Yogyakarta through the rest of Java.

Hati-hati, kangaroo

Finally I am back on the road! Right now I am in Ubud on Bali, where I have had my first night in a nice hotel since I got to Indonesia (including my first hot water shower since late January. It was great. Truly sensational.).

Updating the blog from Ubud

Those of you familiar with the geography of Indonesia will find it odd that I am on Bali, given that I said I was taking the ferry straight to Surabaya. Well. As with most plans in general, and plans in Indonesia in particular, the plan i presented in my last blog post didn’t survive even the slightest hint of contact with reality…

The first ferry to leave ended up being the one to Sape on Sumbawa (the one I was going to take in my very first plan), so I hopped on that one and then did a couple of long days on the road through Sumbawa, Lombok and Bali. More about that below.

My progress the last few days
Sumbawa lombok.jpg

Now I am off to Java, where I plan to make it all the way to Jakarta by Saturday night and fly over to Singapore and back to get myself a new stamp in the passport and another 30 days in Indonesia.

Day 24,25 & 26 – I found a friend: I realised that I forgot to keep my daily journal system going in my last post, so I’ll pick it up again here. You already know that these were the days that the ferry still didn’t run and the delay got past the point of messing up most of my plans. What you don’t know is that I found a friend!

Walking up the main street of Labuan Bajo on Thursday (after yet another visit to the harbour) I see a big motorbike with Australian number plates parked outside a guesthouse. I don’t see anyone looking particularly Australian around at that time, but on Friday night (Feb 10th) I see a very Australian looking guy on the street checking out my bike as I head out for dinner. His name is Richard and he is doing a similar trip (Australia to Europe) although he is going through East Asia and then Russia. But through Indonesia we are on the same route.

Me and Richard killing some time with bike maintenance

Day 27 – Finally leaving Labuan Bajo: Finally it’s Sunday the 12th of February, the day when the ferries are supposed to start running again. We (Richard and myself) head down at 7am to the terminal where the big ferry to Surabaya is supposed to leave from, but it’s still anchored off shore and the office is closed. Okay. Some breakfast and a nap and then it’s 9am. We try again. The office is still closed, ferry hasn’t moved.

Since we have nothing better to do, we head over to the other ferry terminal where the much smaller ferry to Sape is still sitting at the docks. The office is open (for the first time since I got to Labuan Bajo)! We head over to the counter and ask if the ferry is actually leaving today, “Yes, yes! Ferry leaving in one hour. Hurry, hurry!”. Richard and I have a very brief debate: wait for the big ferry to Surabaya to maybe leave today, or get on this one to Sape to at least get going. As my restlessness from being stuck is beginning to seriously impact my mental health, I argue for getting on the ferry to Sape just to get going. So we do. We head back to pack up our stuff and get on the ferry half an hour later. About 8 hours after that we arrive in Sape (the ferry took 6 hours, and an hour of random waiting to leave/dock on each side of that).

On the ferry, getting close to Sape as the sun is setting

Day 28 – Crossing Sumbawa in one day: To make up some time, we decide to get going at 7am from Sape to make sure we have enough time to cross the whole island of Sumbawa (~400km) make the ferry crossing to Lombok (~1 hour) in one day. We had heard that the roads on Sumbawa are supposed to be really good, and they were! It takes us just over 8 hours to cross the whole island including stops for breakfast, mid morning snack and lunch, averaging almost 60km/h* (!!).

Despite being one of the longest days so far (leaving Sape at 7.30am, arriving in Tetebatu on Lombok around 8.30pm) it is a really good day. Feels great to be back on the bike and the weather is really good for most of the day.

Really good roads

And a very normal traffic situation on Sumbawa (yep, that’s a horse cart)

One of the highlights is being stopped in a police checkpoint half way through Sumbawa. We come around a corner and all of a sudden there is a line of cars and bikes just standing by the side of the road, with a police officer standing in the middle of the road waving people in. He waves us in as well. It looks like they are checking everyone’s licence and registration so I prepare to pull all my paperwork out from my bags. Then we get up to the officer actually checking everyone. He barely speaks any English, but he is very friendly and asks “Where going, where from?”. We say we’re from Australia, and on our way to Lombok. He puts on a huge smile, says “Hati-hati, kangaroo” (roughly “be careful, kangaroo”), gives us each a high five and then we’re on our way. No paperwork.

Day 29 – Getting to Bali: Getting from Lombok to Bali is really easy, both islands are quite small with great roads (again averaging ~60km/h). It takes us just under two hours to get from Tetebatu in the centre of Lombok to the ferry terminal, the ferry from Lombok to Bali goes every couple of hours or so and takes 4 hours (which of course is Indonesian for ~5-6 hours) and then it just takes another hour to reach Ubud. At this point you can also tell you’re getting close to the more popular parts of Indonesia because the ferry is full of westerners, many of whom are very interested in mine and Richard’s journeys.

Luckily the ferry is really more of a floating karaoke bar, so it’s lots of fun!

* A few observations on driving in Indonesia: As far as I have been able to make out, there is no such thing as speed limits in Indonesia (exception: schools, passing a school the speed limit is 25km/h). Instead, the maximum speed is naturally set by the condition of the roads and the intensity of the sensory experience that is driving in Indonesia.

  • The roads: Most of the islands that make up Indonesia are volcanic and very mountainous, so a lot of the time the roads are winding either up or down a mountain with hairpin turns every 100 meters or so. You couldn’t go very fast even if you wanted to.
  • The sensory experience: Driving in Indonesia is a truly remarkable sensory experience, involving not one but three senses (sight, hearing and smell). Even when the roads are nice and straight (which is usually the case for coastal areas) you need to keep an eye out for stray cattle, people coming the opposite direction who want to use your lane for overtaking (I’m on a bike, so it’s assumed I can get over to the edge of the road to let someone use half my lane overtake a truck coming the other direction). You also need to listen for people honking their horn in two friendly beeps (beep-beep) which means they are overtaking you, or entering the road in front of you, or just need your attention for something else. Finally you need to keep your nose sharp because there might be a fish market around the corner which most likely means the road is at least half blocked, and you’re better off knowing that ahead of time.

All in all, this means that when you’re going through the mountains the roads are so windy you can rarely go faster than 40 or 50km/h and when you’re driving along the coast there is a limit to how much sensory stimuli your brain can process at any given time (stray chickens, cows and goats sleeping in the middle of the road, opposing traffic using your lane – like motorbikes overtaking a truck who is overtaking a horse cart). Doing 70km/h on Indonesian roads is much more intense than doing 150km/h through Australia.

Still stuck…

Today was supposed to be the day the ferries started running again. Yet I am still here in Labuan Bajo, and my ferry is still anchored here in the bay. Not moving at all. And the weather still doesn’t look great (although we don’t get much wind here because Labuan Bajo is quite sheltered in a bay we do get crazy rain showers a few times every day).

That’s my ferry, the big blue and white one

Anyhow, the latest forecast now is that the ferry will leave on Sunday. This time the forecast sounds more accurate though so I am hopeful (granted I am a hopeless optimist, so you should probably take that with a grain of salt).

Now leaving on Sunday would mean that I am 8 days delayed out of Labuan Bajo and that is officially past the limit of messing all of my plans up completely. Basically the boat I am using to get my bike from Indonesia (Medan) to Malaysia (Penang) goes once per week (every Tuesday). To make the boat I was planning to take (Feb 21) I would have to drive ~10h/day for 7 days straight once I arrive with the ferry in Surabaya. Not only is that just straight up painful, it would also mean missing a bunch of cool things I want to see on Java and Sumatra. So I will aim for the next boat instead (Feb 28), giving me another week to actually have an enjoyable journey through the rest of Indonesia.

This complete collapse of all plans is great, because it gives me something to do now that I’m stuck here in Labuan Bajo with nothing to do. Some of the challenges (or propportunities, if you will) I am now facing:

  • Everything I have booked in Malaysia, Thailand and beyond will have to be rescheduled (bike service in Bangkok, various hotels etc)
  • My Indonesian Visa expires on Feb 26, two days before the boat leaves… so I will probably have to spend one day flying to Singapore and back to get another 30 days Visa in Indonesia
  • Because I will have to take a flight out of Indonesia and back, I am not able to send my passport away to the Iranian embassy to get my Visa for Iran (which was originally the plan since I don’t need my passport as long as I stay in the country) so I will have to build in time later to do that

I will do a full damage assessment once I get moving again, but this cyclone has probably added 2 weeks to my trip with all the knock-on effects accounted for.

Over and out,


Stuck in paradise (well, kind of)

So. Last time I updated the blog I was in Labuan Bajo, on my way to leave on a ferry for the island of Sumbawa. I am still in Labuan Bajo. There has been a tropical cyclone building up over the ocean just off northwestern Australia, creating strong winds and 4-5 meter waves off the coasts of Flores and Sumbawa, so all ferries have been cancelled until further notice. Today the core of the cyclone is passing over us here in Labuan Bajo on its way east, so the locals are hopeful the ferries will be up and running again by Friday.

I have a bit of slack built into the plan, so I am not too worried but I will have to do some long days on the bike to make up a few days through the rest of Indonesia. As a first step, I will likely take a ferry here from Labuan Bajo straight to Surabaya on Java (the capital island of Indonesia). Mainly because the ferry going to Surabaya is the biggest one of all the ferries so it is likely to get clearance to sail before the smaller one to Sumbawa.

The ferry I am taking to Surabaya arrived yesterday and is now waiting in the harbour here

In taking the ferry straight to Surabaya, I am skipping Sumbawa, Lombok and Bali. I have been to both Bali and Lombok many times before, so that doesn’t bother me too much although I was looking forward to Sumbawa (which is supposed to have great roads). But I guess it’s good to have some part of Indonesia not yet explored so I have a reason to come back.

Under any normal circumstances, being stuck here in Labuan Bajo would have been really really nice. The scuba diving here is some of the very best in the world and the town is not too bad a place to kill the last few hours in the afternoon after returning from a days diving. But with the cyclone all dive boats have also been stuck in the harbour since Sunday… I’ve tried to keep myself occupied as best as I can in the mean time.

Day 19 – Starting to figure out the ferry situation: My original plan was to take the afternoon ferry to Sumbawa on the 4th (which was day 19 of my trip). I had been warned that the ferries might not be running but I headed down to the harbour to check out for myself. I get to the ferry terminal and find a nice Indonesian gentleman who explains that the afternoon ferry is cancelled, and maybe there will be no ferry tomorrow either. But there is another long distance ferry coming through the next morning he says, which goes all the way to Bali but stops in the town of Bima on Sumbawa on the way. It leaves 7am, so he recommends I get up in the middle of the night to get to the harbour at 4am to get tickets. So I pack my bags and head to bed early.

Day 20 – Continuing to figure out the ferry situation: Up bright and early, I pack all my stuff back on the bike and roll down to the harbour just after 4am to get tickets to the big long distance ferry. After waiting in line for the ticket office for some 20 minutes the lady kindly explains that I cannot take my motorbike on the ferry, because it’s not a car ferry – humans only. I try to negotiate a bit to try and get them to use the crane in the harbour to lift the bike up on the ship and strap it down to the deck but in the end they got tired with me and simply said “crane broken, sorry” and that was the end of it.

They did however say that the regular ferry may in fact be running that morning after all, so I hope for the best and ride over to the other ferry terminal where the ferry is sitting at the docks with the gates open to the car deck. I ask a gentleman in an official looking t-shirt if the ferry will sail the same morning and he explains in very poor English that “yes, yes, ferry running” but “not now, maybe later” and finally recommended “best go on ferry, wait there”. Said and done. I ride onto the ferry where there are already a couple of cars waiting on the car deck. I park the bike and lock everything down and then head up to the passenger deck to wait on a bench there. It is now 5am.

I fall asleep on the bench, wake up around 7am. There is a comforting number of locals also hanging out on the ferry so I start getting my hopes up, knowing that the scheduled departure time for the morning ferry is 9am. I head down to the car deck to see if there is anything going on down there, but still just my bike and the couple of cars. There are however a few guys loading big sacks of rice onto the ferry so I head over to them to see if they know when/if the ferry is leaving. One of them speaks a bit of English. A conversation ensues.

Me: Hello, do you know when the ferry is leaving?
A guy: Hello mister, don’t know. But ferry delayed
Me: Do you know how much delayed the ferry is?
A guy: Not sure mister, maybe five days, maybe ten days

At this point, I am so glad the guy earlier in the morning recommended I drive onto the ferry and wait there… for five days. Or ten. Just to make sure I wouldn’t miss it. Anyway, against his recommendation I decide that maybe I will be less miserable if I go back to Blue Marlin (the dive shop I have been staying, and where you should also stay and dive if you go to Labuan Bajo and Komodo) and wait there where there are luxuries such as a bed, coffee and other humans to talk to…

Day 21, 22 & 23 – Killing time and checking ferry status every day: Every day starts with going to the harbour at 7am to check the latest status of the ferries, and then figuring out things to do for the rest of the day to kill the time. There isn’t really much here beyond the diving. But we managed to find a nice fresh water stream a bit up in the mountains where we went swimming and I also took the bike to the local bike wash shop as it was getting very dirty from riding through all the rain and mud so far in Indonesia. But other than that I’ve mostly hung out in the café at Blue Marlin reading a book.

Hanging out at the café at Blue Marlin, between the rain showers

Fun and games in a local stream

Bike getting a wash – before

Bike getting a wash – after 

Doing some actual tourist things

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the lull on the blog, internet has been hard to come by these last few days. Anyway, I’m now in Labuan Bajo on the western tip of Flores (which is the same island I just arrived at when I wrote my last blog post). This is actually my first multi night stop since I started, and it’s been delightful to rest a bit.

Writing the blog in Labuan Bajo

Day 14 & 15 – taking it easy: So after arriving in Maumere in the middle of the night I took it easy for a couple of days, reading a book and just napping away the hours by the beach. To make myself feel somewhat productive I did ride the 2-3 hours up to Kelimutu, a nearby volcano (which was also on the way west, where I was going anyway) to check out the volcanic lakes up there. Apparently the lakes shift colours all the time depending on which minerals are coming out of the volcano, only when I was there it was foggy and they where all the same colour… still worth going though.

Volcanic lakes on the summit of Kelimutu

Day 16 – Longest day of riding so far: Because I had been so lazy the last couple of days I ended up having a solid 400km to ride to get to Labuan Bajo where I was booked in to go scuba diving in Komodo the next morning. That doesn’t sound very far, but the roads on Flores are a constant winding up and down mountains sprinkled with short stretches along stunning volcanic sand beaches (I am uploading a video on instagram, @on_the_scenic_route, check it out!). All in all, google said 9 hours which would probably have been about right if the last 100km hadn’t been covered in dense fog. So it ended up taking closer to 11 hours, but I made it to Labuan Bajo in the end!

Riding along the coast outside of Ende

Then this happened and I was going 20-30 km/h for the last few hours 

Day 17 & 18 – Diving in Komodo: Spending a few days diving in Komodo was part of the plan all along, and it turned out to be just as spectacular as last time I was here a few years ago. Now unfortunately I forgot my camera the first day, so I don’t have that many photos but you’ll have to take my word for it. Komodo is spectacular. Just the amounts of life on the reefs. The fact that you see manta rays (many of them) every day. I can strongly recommend going if you’re into diving (Blue Marlin is a great dive shop, so is Wicked diving).

Hanging out on the dive boat in Komodo national park

Underwater selfie 🙂

Fish everywhere

An eagle ray, to provide some variation to all the manta rays

Next up I’m getting on a ferry to Sumbawa, and from there cross over to Lombok where hopefully I should have internet again to keep y’all up to speed with what’s going on.


Boats and new friends

I’m now sitting by the beach near Maumere on Flores in Indonesia, taking a nice relaxing day after very intermittent sleep over the last 24 hours as I spent more than 12 hours on a ferry crossing over from Kupang and then another few hours driving through the night to get here.

Writing my blog

Near Maumere on Flores, which is this Island right here

Day 12 – Getting to Kupang: Woke up early to get some things off my to do list in the morning (write the previous blog post, finally mount the GPS on my bike so I know where I’m going etc).

Since I was making such good time, and Kupang was only supposed to be a ~4 hour ride, I decided that I could just as well take the scenic route through the mountains instead of just going on the “highway” (highway in rural Indonesia doesn’t mean what you think it means, it’s basically just a road where two cars can barely meet, the only other difference from other roads is that they actually repair the road when it has been washed away in a landslide…) all the way to Kupang.

Anyway. The scenic route turned out to be a great and delightfully challenging idea. Spectacular scenery, some super fun locals who wanted to hang out and really, really, really bad roads. Great opportunity to hone my yet to be perfect offroad riding skills!

Great scenery and fun locals

Really, really, really bad roads (check @on_the_scenic_route on insta for video 🙂 )

About 4 hours later, I actually made it to the highway and after another 2 hours I was in Kupang. I stayed at a hostel called Lavalon (where you should also stay if you ever visit Kupang) and spent the afternoon having a few beers and chatting to the super cool owner Edwin about my trip and his marketing strategy for his little hostel.


Edwin was a little bit confused as to why I had chosen this time of year (the rainy season) to cross Indonesia by motorbike, because “it rains all the time and the ferries don’t always go because of the weather” so I also got a chance to look up the word ‘ignorance’ in Indonesian… (Indonesia was part of my “it’s South East Asia, easiest place in the world to travel, no planning required” group of countries)

Day 13 – I’m on a boat: As I had decided to expect, my (unknown) gamble in the weather paid off and the ferry did go as scheduled on Sunday noon. So I squeezed the bike in with the other bikes and strapped it down and prepared for the 12 hour ferry crossing over to Larantuka (locking all my gear in or onto the bike, buying some water and rice with chicken for lunch).

Bike loaded onto ferry

The next 12 hours was a combination of reading, napping and watching dolphins play next to the ferry. When we finally arrived around midnight, the tide was too high to unload the trucks that were blocking the exit ramp so while I was waiting on the car deck I started chatting to a nice local guy who just came onboard and who spoke decent English. Turns out he was the captain of a local “special police” garrison and had come with his troops to pick up some supplies shipped over from Kupang.

He was very amused by my trip, the inconvenient size of my bike and all my gear and in the end he convinced me to come with them to the next town (Maumere, 3 hours drive away) instead of staying in some shabby guest house in Larantuka where the ferry arrived. Even though it was getting close to 1am there was no arguing with his main point “It’s good. We use siren. Much faster”. Said and done, I rode the 3 hours from Larantuka to Maumere in the middle of the night in a caravan with my new friend in a police car and 6 of his troopers each on a police bike.

My riding crew for the night

When we got to the guesthouse just outside of town that I had booked for the night the reception was obviously closed (it was 4am). But before I figured out what happened my new friend sent one of his guys over to the next door neighbour, woke them up and kindly asked them (kindly, yet armed and in a full black police uniform clearly designed to be intimidating) if I could nap on their porch whilst I waited for the guesthouse to open. That was fine, no problem at all actually. I apologised as best as I could for the inconvenience, but they seemed very amused about the whole thing so I didn’t feel too bad about it in the end.

Back up and running!

Hi everyone,

I’m finally back up and running, a few days later than originally planned. My passport ended up being stuck with my visa application at the Iranian embassy a bit longer than expected, so I only managed to get to Dili in East Timor on the 26th. Which turned out not to be an issue anyway since the container my bike was in wasn’t processed by customs until the 26th anyway, so I wouldn’t have been able to get the bike earlier even if I was there.

Right now I’m in Kefamenanu in Indonesia, just across the border from East Timor, having a refreshing breakfast of rice and noodles.

This is where Timor is on a map

Day 10 (Jan 26th) – arriving in Dili and picking up the bike: I arrived in Dili around 7am on the 26th after a delightful 10pm flight from Melbourne to Darwin, an equally as delightful 1am to 5am layover in Darwin and then a quick 1h 30min hop over to Dili in East Timor. First things first, I went over to the hotel and dropped off all my stuff before starting to figure out how to get my bike.

The process of getting the bike was roughly: Go to ANL (shipping company) depot in the eastern end of town to get shipping documents stamped, then go to the Dili customs office in the western end of town to show them the stamped shipping documents and get the bike Carnet (basically my bike’s passport, more about that in a separate post on trip preparations at some point) stamped, then go back to the ANL depot in the eastern end of town to collect the bike and get more papers stamped. Which was fine by me, because there is nothing I love more than processes and paperwork…

Luckily Dili is tiny (especially by Asian standards) with a population of just under 200 000 people and the weather was great so I went for a nice walk along the waterfront from ANL to customs.

Dili waterfront

Anyway, after I got all the paperwork in order the people at the ANL depot asked me to wait until “the afternoon or tomorrow morning” before a customs officer would come to the depot so they could open my container. So I went back to the hotel and had the first of what will likely be one Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice) per day for about a month. There I met Patrick, a stellar Aussie who is also the country manager for ANL, who was celebrating Australia day with a bunch of other Aussies at the bar. He asked me to sit tight whilst he had a few beers and made some phone calls and less than an hour later I was on my way back out to the ANL depot to pick up the bike. Thanks again Patrick!

Bike delivered in one piece at the ANL depot

After that I hung around the bar celebrating Australia day with a bunch of other Aussies who showed up while I was picking up the bike, and a quite a few Bintangs later I went to bed 🙂

Day 11 (Jan 27th) – crossing the border into Indonesia: I had two days total to get from Dili down to Kupang in Indonesia to catch the ferry over to Flores on Sunday 29th, so the first day I would have to make my way through East Timor and a bit into Indonesia to get half way on the ~9 hour journey from Dili to Kupang.

I had heard from the folks at the bar the night before that the road to the Indonesian border will be okay for a bit, then bad for a bit, then really really good for a bit and then absolutely horrible for a bit. It was. All of those things. And it was raining the whole time.

Good road

Bad road

Really really bad road (or perfectly good lake, whichever way you want to look at it)

I did make it to Indonesia eventually, wet and muddy. Next up is another 4-5 hours ride to Kupang and then a 13-15 hour ferry from there to the eastern tip of Flores. Will keep you posted!

Australia: Done

Hi everyone,

Sorry for a few days of silence, there is basically zero internet between Alice Springs and Darwin. Anyhow, I finally reached Darwin and I am now celebrating having successfully crossed Australia. For those of you who are not familiar with the vastness of Australia, the distance from Melbourne to Darwin (ca. 3800km by road) is actually slightly longer than Istanbul to Stockholm.

The journey through Australia:

Since my last update from Alice Springs, it has been raining pretty much the entire way. Pretty hard as well at times, so much it even made the news.

Day 6 (Christmas Eve): I had a bit of a sleep in in Alice Springs and left around lunch time when the rain stopped for a little while. Still, I got maybe an hour of no rain and then it started again. In the end I randomly decided to stop for the night at the Devils Marbles Hotel, which turned out to be an absolutely delightful decision.

Fun fact: In the Australian outback a hotel is not really what you would typically call a hotel. It is more a one stop shop for all your driving through the desert needs: pub, diner, gas station, caravan park, takeaway liquor store. They also usually have a couple of rooms or cabins. Crossing Australia from South to North these hotels will be spread along the road 2-3 hours apart, usually in the middle of nowhere with nothing else nearby (actual towns are often 6-10 hours apart).

As you can imagine, it was very charming. Especially in the rain.


Day 7 (Christmas Day): As I was the only guest they had (Christmas is the low season in the Northern Territory) I ended up staying up quite late drinking with the staff on Christmas Eve, and because they were so nice they invited me to celebrate Christmas with them on their only day off in the entire year. I was originally supposed to leave in the morning because of the fact that they were closed.

Anyhow, I ended up having a great Christmas with the staff at this outback hotel. Hanging out in their lovely garden and having a fantastic roast for Christmas lunch. And because it was again raining all day I was quite happy not to be on the bike.

The garden:

The lovely staff at the Devils Marbles Hotel:

Day 8: So. Cause and effect. I had spent a full day eating and drinking, making no progress whatsoever towards Darwin. Which means I had to cover some 800km on Boxing day to get back onto the schedule, whilst nursing a pretty epic hangover… And having had zero internet or phone reception for a few days, I was all out of podcast documentaries.

After way too many snoozes on the alarm, I got on the bike around 9am to head towards the nearest phone reception in Tennant Creek an hour north and download myself some new documentaries from P3 Dokumentär. From there on it’s just a steady blur of straight, drizzly roads until the late afternoon. I had about an hour left to Katherine, which was my destination for the day, when the mother of all storms rolled in and it became dark as night.

Into the storm (this was late afternoon, it was supposed to be almost full daylight):

So the one hour became two hours going 60km/h through torrential rain and flooded roads. Gear and bike all held up though and except for my gloves I was fairly dry by the time I got to Katherine.

Day 9: Last day of the Australia part. Checked out Katherine Gorge quickly (it was pretty cool) and then hit the road for the last 2-3 hours to Darwin and finally got there in the afternoon around 4pm. A colleague from Darwin met me and showed me around the town during the rest of the afternoon (thanks Elisse!), beginning with the mandatory glass of celebratory sparkles 🙂

Unfortunately I never did see any crocodiles in the wild, but luckily Darwin has a city centre crocodile park called “Crocosaurus Cove” (yes, it is really called Crocosaurus Cove) so I headed there the next morning to tick that box.

Celebrations in Darwin:P1000067.JPG

A croc:

That’s it for the first part of my journey. There will be some down time now as the bike is getting a service and new tires, then getting shipped to East Timor. I’ll see you all again mid January.

Happy new year!