So this weekend, in the mountains north of Jember, is a Trail Bike "Adventure" and bikers from all over Indonesia have come here for the occasion. At 3.30am I was woken by the Call to Prayer. Then there were a couple of cats fighting, and it seemed I'd only just got to sleep, and the Trail Bikers decided it was time to rev the guts out of their bikes....I mean full throttle, and at least four at a time......and its just after 6am. I think the secret is to get early sleep, rather than expect a lie in....
So I'm heading to Tempeh, for no other reason than it looks about the right distance, and it means getting off the main drag for a bit. Before I have gone 5km, I have lost my direction.
A school teacher who teaches English, has stopped next to me at the traffic lights (yes sometimes people stop at lights) and asked me to come and inspire his English class. School happens on Saturday here, until 1pm....aren't you NZ kids lucky. The school is only 500m away, so I follow him on his scooter. Talking to the kids is a delight. I end up speaking to three classes, a load of teachers, and having refreshment with the Principal. The kids are very excited to meet a foreigner, and when given a chance many of them introduce themselves, tell me of their hobbies and dreams. They are nervous, speaking English, but do really well. I met a future President, and several aspiring soccer players. I feel honored and privileged to be given the opportunity to chat with them. I forgot to try and set up some sort of correspondence with a NZ school, so if someone from the Indonesian school is keen, send me details, and I will pass them on to a NZ School. The hospitality was amazing. I kept being given snacks and drinks, and was twice offered accommodation. Thank you very much. You are all very generous.
I slipped out of the school just before noon thinking I might have to get a move on to do the 70km today. Saw several kids riding pillion on scooters heading towards me with elaborate hair styles, and were pleased that I'd got past a festival parade. Then I started seeing similar head dresses passing me..... Luckily I slipped through the next village just as the parade was forming...... The crowds are emence. Hundreds line the street, most with their scooters, stretching for some kms. There seem to be just as many taking part in the parade, and twice as many trying to get by on their scooters. It takes about half an hour to get by, and I'm feeling pretty proud of my self.
10km on and all the scooters, trucks and Fiona and I, are directed off the main road. There are no follow up signs, so I follow the scooters. We scoot around a couple of blocks, and get back on the main road again, just in time to meet another Carnival Parade. A policeman tells me to go ahead and push through the parade...... Hahaha. Easier said than done.
This parade is adults, and the focus is on Dance. Each "float" is preceded by a big truck stacked with speakers, all amped up to full volume, and followed by up to 100 dancers. There is about 200m between dance troops, but each troop does a reasonably static dance routine for about 10 mins before I can get by. I'm not disappointed to have to wait. The routines are amazing, the music fantastic, but loud, and the costumes and routines incredibly varied. My Phone is now being used for its movie camera capabilities. Thank you Samsung.
After each routine, I sneak past the dancers, and the 100+ scooters following, and progress another 200m. Remember, the streets are lined with people, so I'm very very obvious. I'm getting Hello Mister from all quarters. Everytime I stop someone wants a photo. I have babies thrust into my arms, lovely young ladies snuggling up to me, and macho guys doing Eastie signs, and everyone wants to know where I'm going, where I'm from, and to shake my hand. I'm given water, dumplings, chocolate and fruit..... There are 29 floats/ dance troops in the parade. It takes me over 2 hours to get past, but I'm on the open road.
I don't believe it. The very next village has more spectators lining the streets, and they're cheering me as I ride past.....and then I see in front of me float no 1 of parade no 4...... Its close to 4pm. I reckon I've got 10km to go, and it'll be dark in an hour and a half.... I stop and ask about a hotel. Yes sir....In Tempeh...on the other side of the parade..... So I watch, and sneak. It's amazing. It's spectacular. It's long. The participants must be very very tired when they're done, as the crowds go for at least 5km.
Did I say how at home some of the Hanmer blokes would be in these parades? There are always a couple of troops of dancers almost exclusively made up of cross dressers......and they are great....very funny, extremely talented dancers. A hoot to watch.
So this parade only has 27 troops, but it's dark by the time I get past, and the last troop probably still had 4km to dance. Luckily I've got my lights handy, and it doesn't take long to reach Tempeh, but I can't see any signs, because there are no street lights, let alone find a motel. Then a guy stops. How can I help you mister, Follow me. He leads me to a homestay, but they are fill. Then he finds a hostel. He tells me if there is no room, I can come to his house, but there is room at the Inn for one.... The hostel is a longstay arrangement, and seems to be full of lovely young ladies......... Yes I'll be comfortable, thank you good sir......