7.30.2009

CALCULATED CASUAL CARELESSNESS



















(riding with the tall bike kids of Yogya)

We finally get to Yogya, and feel like we're home:

- Getting in to Yogya late at night and meeting up with friend-of-a-friend Maya, who lives at the Performance Klub house. She welcomes us and promptly sets us up to stay at her place, which is really nice (open courtyard/garden thing, guest room).
- We meet her cat, who first bites you and then sucks on the spot he bit. We can't remember the cat's name so it's promptly branded "Viper Suckle."
- The next day Maya takes us on a tour of some ruins and an animal market. There are some crazy animals for sale: large white owls, a hawk, snakes, mongoose, ferrets, tiny squirrels, lizards, tons of birds and fish. Ira first witnesses a writhing weasel having it's teeth yanked out with pliers, and then one of the small fierce-looking owls being fed to a mongoose. He is traumatized, Greg and Conrad promptly collect the left-over feathers.
- We go to the tourist-shopping street later to look for a hat for Greg. As soon as we get off our bikes a posse of punk kids on crazy tall bikes ride past. We yell at them, but they just smile, wave and keep going. Later we head out on our bikes and pass the same group of kids hanging out at the end of the street. We stop and tell them how we had heard of them and came to Yogya to meet them. They had heard we were coming, but didn't know when. We rounded up a posse and went for a long nighttime ride around town.
- The next day, Atom (one of the local bike gurus) helps Chloe make her mountain bike into an Indonesian-stye tall bike.
- When asked why I am not on a tall bike, I explain that it is for comparison reasons: to make them look taller.
- A bizarre call to prayer distorted through a messed-up sound system sounding like something out of a horror movie.
- There are a string of bombings in Jakarta at fancy hotels aimed at westerners. We are not in Jakarta at the time, but it strikes a strange chord with us because everyone we have met has been so friendly and welcoming, it's just sort of like "huh? . . . really?"
- Riding bikes outside of Yogya to the abandoned water bottling station which has turned into one hell of a swimming hole.
- Wildlife in Java: cats, bats, rats.

Learn Indoneisan:
"Bule" = Whitey (literally means albino).
"Bagus" = Cool.
"Sip" = Cool (in Javanese).
"Pit dhuwur" = Tall bike (in Javanese).
"Tongseng" = not entirely sure, but probably dog meat.

Cruising Yogya on tall bikes at night.



Greg and Viper Suckle the cat.





MP3:

• Gamelan Gong Kebjar - Ketjak: The Ramayana Monkey Chant

A band's place at last.

7.20.2009

FIRELIGHT FINGERS IN THE RICE















(photos from riding on the north coast of Java)

We hit some flat land, make some miles and a few friends along the way:

- Seeing Bin Laden's name painted on a rickshaw.
- Having a bus start to leave while I am still partially buried in the luggage compartment below fitting our bikes in.
- Barbed wire used as a clothes line.
- Roosters battling on the side of the road.
- Passing through dark countryside at night punctuated by bare florescent tubes and scattered trash fires.
- They decorate their fishing boats here as much as their rickshaws.
- Wiping my face after a day of riding and it comes away coated in sand/dust/grit.
- Meeting Tomas, another bike traveler randomly at a quickie mart while we are riding. He's from Poland and he is doing a three year tour covering the whole world. He already had ridden all of North and South America, Australia, and some other places in Oceania. Needless to say, he had a bit more gear than we did.
- Watching a garbage fire get out of control and spread to the surrounding trees/bushes.
- The crazy frogger-style way of getting on and off buses (local and long distance), only slowing down enough for people to run out into the street (through traffic usually) and jump on/off.
- A lot of the buses have huge airbrushed themed murals on them, ranging from barnyard animals to the NYC skyline to Batman.
- Having my first equipment failure of the trip: one of the p-clamps that attaches my cargo rack to the frame breaks. Luckily I brought spares, but they turn out to be a smaller size. I readjust and hope for the best.
- While Chloe is waiting along the side of the road for some of the crew to catch up one night, a policeman shows up and warns her that it is not safe to be there. He gestures that someone might come along, kill her, and throw her in over the bridge she was waiting at. He hangs out for a while and keeps an eye on things. We're not sure exactly what he was warning her about, maybe people with an issue with a female out alone at night?
- The next day Chloe has a guy riding in an ice cream delivery truck pull alongside and expose himself to her.
- The day after that, a guy directing traffic with a flag on a wooden pole gives Chloe a hard smack across her ass as she rides by. His laughing turns to surprise as Greg rides up following Chloe and kicks the guy in the chest from his tall bike.
- CDs as mud flap reflectors.
- A concrete deer lawn ornament, with a muzzle on it for some reason.
- We'd been lucky with the mosquitos while traveling, going from a dense urban center to the cooler mountains. But in the north coast they caught up with us. . . bad.
- Meeting a friendly couple who follow us for a bit on their scooter. They invite us back to their home to stay for the night and then show us around town the next day.
- The sister of our hosts turns out to be a school teacher, she invites us to visit her elementary school, with the tall bikes. We are treated to a gamelan performance by the students (see below), then Greg, Conrad and Ira ride their tall bikes around the courtyard and let kids take turns on them (with a little assistance). When we leave a small riot breaks out and a few kids get trampled. We heard later that they were okay.
- Afterward we go to the "beach" in town, which turns out to be a weird concrete pier thing you have to pay to go on. the surrounding coast is covered in trash and weird big black bugs. When we leave we are ambushed by a video camera crew from the pier who want to interview us about our visit. "We love garbage beach!"
- A friendly guy on a scooter dropping his wife off to drive around and help us find a place to stay for the night. He didn't want anything in return, just to help.
- Chloe gets bad food poisoning.
- The weird fish-bus-rickshaw.
- Our last stretch of the north coast gets a bit hilly, but every up had a down before it to gain momentum on.
- Equipment failure #2: Some genius thought it would be a good idea to put a set of six large speed bumps right in the middle of a very long and steep road coming out the hills. When I hit them (going pretty fast) it instantly turned my bike into a bucking bronco. I came within an inch of losing control and landing on my face. With my brakes squealing my water bottle launched out of it's cage and off into the oblivion.
- Greg almost getting left by the bus while he was in the W.C. We couldn't stop the driver from leaving, even though I was hanging on the outside of the back entrance yelling at him to stop.
- Pigeon is frequently featured among the animals painted on signs for roadside food stands, along with chicken, fish and duck.
- Favorite dish in Indonesia so far: Gado gado.
- New fruit discovery: Snake fruit.
- This month (Indonesia): Can a man survive on nothing but fried rice for a month?
- Next month (Japan): Can a man survive on nothing but rice balls for a month?

Learn Indonesian:
"Minuman" = Drink.
"Susu" = Milk.
"Jeruk" = Orange.
"Teh" = Tea.
"Poci" = Pot.
"Ikan" = Fish.
"Bakar" = Grilled.
"Goreng" = Fried.
"Nasi" = Rice.
"Mei" = Noodle.
"Telur" = Egg.
"Ayam" = Chicken.
"Kambing" = Goat
"Secang" = Some weird sweet herbal bark drink.
"Selamat jalan" = Farewell/we're hitting the road.

The elementary school class performing the gamelan for us.

An elementary class performs the gamelan in Indonesia.



A traditional Indonesian dancer busking around Semarang.

Traditional Indonesian dancer - street performer.





MP3:

• The Residents - Kaw-Liga

A band's place in myspace.

7.16.2009

PLASTIC PATHWAYS THROUGH THE JUNGLE





















(photos from the mountains and area surrounding a volcano in Indonesia)

From Jakarta we ride into the mountains to climb a volcano. Not a very relaxing way to start a trip:

- If they don't have exact small change at the quickie mart, they give you a little piece of candy instead.
- New euphemism for a "special friend" = live blanket.
- Seeing traditional muslim head scarves being sold next to t-shirts with Avril Lavigne on them.
- Sitting in an alley eating gado gado from a street vendor while a stray cat takes a shit in a gutter four feet away and stares at me the whole time.
- While climbing the volcano Mount Gede, we see monkeys!
- Sitting in a natural hot spring river under a full moon watching the steam rise in slices of moonlight cutting through the surrounding jungle.
- Our guide Frans doing half the hike up and down Gede in flip flops.
- Crossing over slippery rocks on the edge of a steaming scalding waterfall.
- To climb the volcano takes two days, the night we spend sleeping halfway up is freezing. We all huddle in our tents and try anything we can to keep warm. The ground is really cold and just saps the warmth out of you when you lie on it. I only have a fleece liner for a sleeping bag, I'm wearing my warmest clothes (shorts and a rain jacket), and stick my feet inside my messenger bag. I dream intermittently of people bringing me blankets in between many hours of tossing and turning on the cold hard ground.
- Before going to bed, Greg and Conrad spent most of the night trying to light a fire. None of the wood would burn, even when made into little shavings. Frans interceded and tried the "Indonesian way," which meant burning a bunch of plastic. Even that didn't work.
- Spending half the second day climbing the rest of the way up Gede, to the summit and ridge overlooking the smoking and sulfurous crater. We are well above the clouds, and they surround us like a lumpy white sea.
- On our way down we find even better hot springs.
- Our mountain guide Aba was amazingly cheerful and energetic. He literally ran down most of the mountain on our descent, and at the bottom was doing push-ups while we rested.
- Both guides, Frans and Aba, were smoking a couple packs a day on the way up and down the mountain.
- All of our legs are destroyed after the hike. For literally three days we all grimace any time we have to go up or down steps.
- Conrad gets sick. It takes him a week to shake it, even though his eye is still messed up.
- Chloe serenades us in the morning with her violin.
- Playing dominoes on the top of some weird diving platform as the clouds/fog rolled in.
- Little kids LOVE to have their photo taken when they get to see it on the camera afterward.
- Skeletons of kites caught in trees.
- A little kid who wanted a photo with Ira's "Kill Your Television" tattoo.
- Having a crazy time trying to disassemble our bikes and cram them into the backseat of the bus to get out of the mountains and down to the coast.
- The people of Indonesia have been exceptionally friendly and helpful, more than anywhere else I have traveled.

Learn Indonesian:
"Apa kabar" = How are you?
"Mantap" = Perfect.
"Air" = Water.
"Rasanya enak" = Taste's good.
"Tambah" = More.
"Selamat siang" = Good evening.
"Gunung" = Mountain.

A little video of us riding along the north coast of Java, more on that in the next post:

Riding tall bikes along the north coast of Java.




MP3:

• Eddie Ray - You Are Mine

A band's place at last.