Ciparay to Sukabumi 90km
The first 25km this morning were uphill, and even though I started out early, I was melting. Do you realize how much your hands sweat? My gloves were soaked at 8am, and the rest of my clothes may as well have come straight out of the wash. My hands were feeling prune like, so for the first time I rode gloveless, and buffless, no Fletch, not in the buff, but it might have been more comfortable.
I stopped at a roadside stall for some breakfast. As I dismount from my bike, I can see the owner thinking. Great a customer. Oh goodness. A Caucasian. He won't be able to speak Indonesian. I can't speak English......backing away, looking for support from somewhere, someone.....Oh no. He's coming to my stall. Can't he go next door? (at this point it is not unknown for them to disappear behind the sacking or tarpaulin back wall). Big smile. Hello Mister, and then the fun starts as I try to get what I want, and make sure it's freshly made, not going to poison me, and not too spicey. Surprisingly, I've been reasonably successful.
Breakfast this morning was with three truck drivers. They loved me being there, gave no help what so ever to the stall owner, and just laughed and joked as we stumbled through my order. I'm glad I'm providing so much entertainment.
I was stopped twice on the climb this morning. One guy passed me then stopped his car in the middle of the road. It was busy, but no worries. He climbed out and introduced himself, in his limited English. He works on an oil rig in the South China Sea somewhere off Vietnam, and his boss is a Kiwi. He saw my Silver Fern, recognized it, and wanted to chat. He told me that a Caucasian in this area is very unusual, thus so much interest from the locals, in particular the kids, who quite possibly have never seen a white person in the flesh....no Fletch, I still had my clothes on.....
My second time stopped was when four school girls on a scooter, yep one scooter, roared past me screaming in delight. They swerved off the road in front of me in their excitement, so I rode past, but was screamed at to stop. Talk about celebrity status. A couple of them were beside themselves. Wanted photos. Wanted to touch my hand. The do this little bow thing, lifting your hand to their forehead. I didn't think I was going to get my hand back. Touching, exciting for them, but I'm really glad I'm not truely a celebrity, because it would very quickly get tiring.
I keep seeing stuff that is "normal" here, but far from normal at home. Today, firstly, was the school kids going home from school, seven of them, yes seven, on one scooter. The rider was probably 12 or 13. The youngest on the bike probably 5 years old. They were all in uniform, and not one helmet.
Then the school bus. A small Suzuki van. At least 12 kids in the back. Back door is swinging open, with three lads standing on the back bumper. Then on top, at least six others, sitting on the roof. All in school uniform, all official, and not going slow, and not on lovely smooth tarmac roads. Just wouldn't happen at home, and if it did...oh my!
Another school camp today. Quite a few activities must have been off site because for the next few kms I saw the kids being transported back to the camping site.....a dozen kids hanging off the back of little mini trucks, sitting on the tail gate, standing behind the cab, others with legs dangling over the edge. Horror stories involving Barry Crump kept coming to mind.
I'm passing through what I think is the Palm Oil thing happening. Vast areas are being cleared, cut and then burnt. The air is thick with smoke. Then small palm trees are being planted. Very different from the jungle of the last couple of days.
So after the climb, a very very long descent, sometimes on fabulously smooth tarmac, a real buzz to ride, and sometimes on totally broken and smashed tarmac, a real challenge to ride. And the temperature as I descend into the valley rises at least 10°C.
This area if very industrial. One factory is pumping out very black smoke....they seem to be burning old tyres. There is oh so much more traffic, and so many more people. At one stage, at a very busy factory gate, there is a hold up. Not only is there heaps of traffic turning into the factory, but locals have set up stalls...food, drink, cheap shoes, t- shirts, saris, everything you might want coming in or out of a factory. It looks like chaos, but everyone just slows down, or stops, and we all squeeze through the narrow gap that is left of the road. Oh it's great being on a bicycle, and the scooters are able to sneak through small gaps as well.
Have been thinking about scooters in NZ. What a huge money saver for all. Roads wouldn't have to be as wide. Parking in the cities would be so much easier....how many scooters could you get in a regular parking building? Fuel costs would be so much less. All those people with double garages for their two cars would only need one garage for all six scooters, catering for the whole family. That would leave a huge spare garage for a Man's Cave..... The possibilities are limitless.
Anyway, I'm on the road into the centre (kota) of Sukabumi . The traffic is very heavy, and the fumes are thick. My eyes and throat are already sore from the smoke. And I'm heading up a long hill. It seems endless. At a traffic light, I'm weaving through the lanes, following exactly what all the other two wheeled vehicles are doing. I pull out between two cars, and a scooter jams on its brakes. He stops, with his front wheel pressed up against my front pannier. Ooops.
It takes a bit of asking around before I find a reasonably priced hotel. On my way, I spot a Pizza Hut........oh my goodness. I'm staying another night.....
I wake this morning, before the Call to Prayer, I've been programmed. After a long 30 minutes it stops, and I'm ready to snooze for another couple of hours. A different chanting begins, and a pounding of feet, nothing like I've heard before. It goes on and on. I get up to see what it is. The Indonesian Police Academy is just up the road. 500 recruits are out for their morning run....think the Burgen Bread add on TV, at 5am......
The lunchtime Pizza was amazing....just not big enough.....