Bengkulu to Seblat 124km
If your "Norm" is to pack all your worldly goods on to your bicycle every morning, and cycle all day through foreign lands, you might be considered in the "real" world to be slightly "unnormal". That's why it is always such a highlight to meet other cyclists on the road, because your "norm" is also their "norm".
Yesterday, we meet three other cyclists: Steve from Switzerland, cycling from Hong Kong to NZ in Jandals, averaging 140km a day; Tom from Germany, 47, taking one country at a time, enjoying having sold up everything in Munich, having no ties, and having an adventure, riding at least 100km each day; and Sebastian, 34, from Germany also, taking the bus or train at times, skipping areas that he isn't interested in riding, or that will result in his missing special places because of his visa running out, who has 47kg of gear, so finds 80km a day enough. It was fantastic meeting them all, exchanging stories, exchanging hints and contacts, about routes, visas, big hills, accommodation availability, traffic conditions, weather, other cyclists...... These guys speak my language. Their "Norm" is my "Norm".
When I first suggested to my friends that I was cycling around the world, their reactions were pretty standard...."Oh my goodness. Frithy has another crazy idea. That's just not a thing a normal person would want to do".
You see, I've seldom been "normal". When I first moved to Hammer Springs I was strange, because I ran, biked, hiked, kayaked, and swam. I was a "fitness freak". Very, very few others in the village did any of those things. I didn't drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee or tea, eat meat. I was a "health nut", weird, strange, not normal. I was happy to go up on stage and prance about being a doof, and singing, even though I couldn't remember the words...not normal. But I live with it. I'm happy to not be "normal".
What I do love to do, is challenge myself, and to challenge others. So I've been doing that for years, teaching PE, instructing in the outdoors, guiding, organizing events, directing plays, teaching First Aid. I'm now challenging myself with a huge adventure, and challenging others to join me, to try something new, to try being "Not Normal" for a short time, to get out of their comfort zone. Brendan, Ryan and Lyn came to Bali with me, taking up the challenge. These last ten days, my friend Graham Allan has taken up the challenge with me in Sumatra. Today, he cycled 124km, carrying all his worldly possessions, through a foreign land. "Not normal", but he is stoked with his achievement.
The road was gently rolling for the first 90km, with a slight tail wind. The sun was an orange hazy thing, in a smokey gray sky, so as long as you kept moving, creating a breeze, it wasn't too hot. The scenery kept changing, from beach, to palm oil plantation, to rubber plantation, to brick works, to linear villages.
The traffic was often busy, with coal trucks, trucks with palm tree pods, even a convoy of buses, accompanied by police cars with sirens blaring. At other times there were only us and the scooters, although when the school day finished, that was a lot of scooters.
We stopped for a short break, a drink, an Ems Power Cookie Bar, a Teh Manis (sweet tea), every 10km. We stopped often to take photos. Whenever we stopped, we were joined by locals, sometimes kids, sometimes adults, wanting to chat, wanting to take photos.
We were joined by scooter riders, who wanted to chat as we rode next to them, or take photos of these foreigners doing this "not normal" activity. Others just "escorted" us, for a while, then took off.
At 90km, the rolling hills became a little larger and longer, the climbs a little steeper. But that meant the downhills were also longer, larger and steeper....what fun.
The last 10km is always hard, The last 5km is always the hardest. Today it started at a bridge, and climbed up to the village. Just as we reached the market area, a huge downpour, lightening and thunder included, began. Luckily, we were able to scramble into shelter in a restaurant. For an hour it fell. The street turned into a river. Scooters, most, had disappeared. Cars and trucks were axle deep in water. Power in the shops and stalls was going off and on. It was spectacular. And we were only 200m from a hotel.
Tonight we have gone upmarket. $25. AC, TV, a flush toilet. We're celebrating a great day, a fun day, a fantastic achievement, another day of being "not normal".
Why don't you join me sometime. We might even make " not normal" "normal". Or maybe you should not worry about "normal", and just go out and have fun.