Padang to Padang Pajang 115km
After two weeks and 1100km I feel a bit lost with out my cycling buddy. Having him along brought out the guide in me.....where is he? Can he see me? Can I see him? Are we going too fast? Are we going too slow? Is he suffering? Is he smiling? Did he follow me around that corner? Shall I let him take the pace? When shall we have a break? How far will he manage today?
But then I got lazy as well. Graham will take a photo of that, so no need for me to. Graham can respond to that question from that guy. Graham can lead.....I'll just follow. It was a fantastic system. I really enjoyed having him along. I don't think we mentioned "the time" once, until ordering a taxi for him to get to the airport. There were no hassles about where or what to eat, when to stop and rest, eat or take photos. It all just happened. A fantastic travelling buddy. I'm pretty sure Graham didnt think about work the whole two weeks. We were both too emmersed in the adventure, the meeting of the people, the cycling and all the other multitude of encounters each day.
Today I was alone. All decisions had to be made by me. All consequences were mine. I'd decided to head up the hill to Solok. It took a while to get out of the city. It was morning rush hour, and my route began on the other side of two rivers, so I had to ride three sides of a square before I was on the right road. The traffic was heavy, but I still love navigating through the traffic. It's a real buzz.
I was definitely going up hill from the hotel. Not steep, but small gears. That lasted for 10km. Then it got steep. 25km of "sweat fest" in granny gears. I don't know what proportion of your sweat glands are in your palms, but my hands were dripping. Mind you, so was the rest of my body. Within minutes, all my clean dry laundry was soaked. Where does it all come from?
I was able to ride the whole hill, but needed numerous rests. I noticed that many of the trucks were using the outside of the curves, because they are less steep, so I did the same, switching sides all the way up as needed. They have guys on the road directing traffic to allow this and make it safer. Truck drivers throw them a tip, 500R, or a packet of smokes.
A local cyclist powered up past me on his road bike. Caught up to him a little later when his chain broke. He is No 1 in Sumatra, and rides this climb every day. A monster riding machine.
At the top, finally, and there is a cool breeze. For the first time in Indonesia I am feeling cold. That's what sweat is meant to do I suppose, cool you in the breeze. And now the downhill. 25km of it. And it's fantastic. All the way to Solok. I'm passing everything. My top speed for the day is 55kph. I'm gaining on a small black Mitzi truck, loaded with water cooler bottles. Coming the other way is a big Green Hino, passing a bus. The Mitzi stops. For a second I'm pretty sure I'm going to join the bottles in the back of the truck, but my oversized rotors do the trick, and I stop as well. 50kph to zero, in a very short distance. Phew. YES!!! BRILLIANT!!! I'm loving this adventure.
I'm in a beautiful valley. There are rice paddies instead of Palm trees. Everything, the streets, the verges, the drains, seems fresher, cleaner. The road is in much better condition than along the coast. There are different house designs. The air is cooler, and appears cleaner. The locals are interested in me, but not in my face engaging like on the coast. I'm not sure whether this is because they are more shy, are more used to seeing foreigners, or that my tall good looking buddy was the drawcard on the coast.Two school girls pass me four times on their scooter before they get up enough courage to ask me to stop for a photo. They've just been to their English "Examination". The whole area adds a completely new facet to Sumatra. I'm enjoying the ride, the scenery, and the differences.
I eat in Solok, and not long after that start skirting a lake. It looks pretty scenic at a distance, but the rubbish close into shore is not attractive. But with the lake on one side, backed by reasonable sized mountains, and a hillside of rice paddy terraces on the other, and a flat, curving road, the riding is pretty idealic. I stop at a small market town for an ice cream ( or two). There is a junction here. If I turn right, in 45km I hit the main road again, perhaps saving 20km of riding. A few questions to a local lad suggest that it is rather hilly. I decide to stay on the main road.
Heading to Padang Pajang. Hopefully there is a hotel. 15km to go and I start climbing away from the lake. Bother. It's not too steep, but I'm on 100km already, and did a monster climb this morning. The road is wet. I seem to have missed the downpour. 5km to go and it gets steeper. Oh bother bother bother. And it starts spitting. Don't need either of these. It's also getting dark. Just as it starts to bucket down, just before my now reasonably dry clothes get saturated, a hotel. Yippee. See Graham. It's my timing. He will tell you, it's not the first time.
Five days of visa left. 400km to cycle. I love a challenge.