Padang Panjang to Pangkalan 112km
For the last two days I've climbed a hill for 25km, then descended for 25km. The up hills have been tough, and the downhills amazing. Trouble is my legs are getting weary, and I'm hoping this trend doesn't continue all the way to the northern coast.
When I'm grinding up a hill, I do have a motivator however. My mate Craig Tregurtha, has just recently "Everested" on his roadbike. This is when you choose a hill and cycle up and down it enough times that you complete the height of Mt Everest. Craig has done it twice. The second time, he rode up his hill 222 times without stopping, in 9 hours, to claim the world fastest time to "Everest". As I climb I think of Craig, and reassure myself, that I'm only climbing 1500m. But then I slip in a qualification..... Craig didn't have 35kg of luggage in his panniers, and it probably wasnt 35°C, and 95% humidity, and I'm sure Rebekha and the kids were feeding him yummy food and cold drinks.....and I feel good about my efforts. But he's still my hero. Thanks Craig. You are an inspiration.
Yesterday, when I reached the top of the first climb, for the first time in Indonesia, I felt the need for a extra layer of clothing. Last night was the first time that I was not offered either AC or a fan. In fact there was no need for either. And when I went out in search of food, I contemplated putting on a jacket. It was buried in a pannier, so I didn't bother, but others were wearing jackets. Such is the difference in temperature. It's quite pleasant for a change, not to be constantly sweating.
So this morning I put on that extra layer for riding, only to find that the gentle uphill from last night continued for another 10km, but this time through traffic....which city planner would build a city on a ridge? It was a relief to see the brow of the hill, with nothing but sky above. And then I descended into another world. This one was not like the clean fresh valley I had just left. This one was industrial. dusty, polluted, dirty, and busy, especially in the central city where they are building a huge fly over, directly above the traditional market.
I had now cycled 50km, so looked for somewhere to eat. Not easy. I still don't understand the "business" hours in Indonesia. There seems to be no consistency in when places are open or closed, especially eating places. It was at the fourth stop that I finally found food....chicken in grated, flavored coconut, interesting. It was here that the fire engines roared past, sirens screaming. All four of them had three guys sitting on top, manning the water cannons, ready to fight the fire. Not something that would go down well in NZ.
After lunch, the road began to gently rise again, and I entered a gorge, not unlike the Buller, with bush covered hills towering above on both sides of a narrow river. Too bad it was so smoggy, otherwise it might have been pretty. After 20km, I am suddenly confronted by an extraordinary engineering construction, that weaved and crossed the gorge four times. Not something you would expect to find in Indonesia. Maybe Italy or Switzerland. But it was amazing, and the gradient was amazingly rideable. Without seemingly any effort, I had climbed 2 or 300m.
And then the descent. Woohoo. 25km. Only trouble was the petrol tanker which was holding up traffic. Several times I dropped back so as I could rip down the curves at my speed and not risk trying to over take the queue behind the tanker. What fun.
But I've done 100km, and there is no town on the map for another 100km, so I need to find a bed. I stop and quiz some teenage boys. Mistake. They make no attempt to help. Really frustrating, as they just fool about amongst themselves, laughing at me and each other, claiming not to understand English. One even threatened me, telling me to give him my money.... He was told in very basic English where to go. He understood that. So I cycled on for a bit, and eventually was escorted to "motels" at the back of a service station. They wanted too much for a bed, but I managed to beat them down, because my room had no TV. I did need the AC. It's hot again.
Went in search of food. The guy from the motel turned up on his scooter. Jump on. He scootered me to a Nasi Goreng place. Nice. Mum and Dad running this little shack. I'm the only customer. Daughter is called out. She's 15, and they want her to practice her English. She is reluctant and shy, as so many are, but with coaxing from Dad we chat. By now there are several others stopped. They saw a white face and come to investigate. I repeat my story several times.
One of them is David. He is very keen for me to visit his home, so in the dark, with thunder and lightening, but so far no rain, we jump on his scooter. David wants to talk English, and does so while riding. I'm focused on the traffic, in the dark, and I wish he would. I am welcomed to his home by his mother, sister, nephew and nine year old son, and a plate of food, bananas, carrot and noddles in a coconut milk and palm sugar syrup, very sweet.
Turns out David is an entertainer. He writes and sings. He does a lot of MC work. He is also a Herbiologist and Reflexologist, specializing in Men's sexual problems. Interesting, but I assure him I am quite healthy. Never the less, he tells me some recipes that he prescribes for honeymooners, that he assures me ensure a happy marriage.
David offered me some potion, and a massage for strength, and then offered to provide me with a lady for the evening, to help me relax, ease my tension, and have a good sleep. It wouldn't cost anything, I'd just have to buy her a dress in the morning. Perhaps $25. Seemed like a good deal for a massage and a dress. I told him that I was feeling pretty strong tonight, and that my 112km ride today would ensure I had a good sleep, so thanks anyway, but no thanks. On the way back to the motel, David warned me about the unscrupulous individuals I would encounter as I went north. They will do anything to get your money or passport. Thanks for the warning David. I've met a few like that already.