Firstly, thank you all for your emails with all your news: it is great to hear about your worlds and see the photos. Let me apologise for not being able to give you the lengthy, individual replies that I would like, but
it is very difficult to send emails here, takes forever if and when I can find an email cafe so I have to be brief and just rely on the reports to fill you in. Also, I cant always open your photos so just send one or
two for me.
Just before I wrote the last report I crossed the Equator so to you folks in the north I am now officially upside down and to you in the south, we are at last on the same plane after nearly 18 years!
did a bit of sightseeing in the hill town of Buckittingi, it reminded me a bit of Ronda, in Spain, as it had a gorge that you viewed from above. Nearby was a village that specialised in Silversmithing, so you will see a
picture of a little silver motorbike. I also went for a ride through the smoke to see the kings palace and other traditional houses. With all the slash and burn going on it is hard to see the lovely scenery of Jungle
Despite dire warnings of the rush of travelling over the Islamic holiday for the finish of Ramadan, I braved the busy roads and followed the south coast toward Bengkulu, an old fortress town of the
British run by the Duke of Marlborough. About 100kms short of the town my clutch went slack, just like when the cable broke in Pakistan. I managed to keep going in low gear till I found a spot by the road where I could
pull off and change the cable. There were plenty of bemused watchers as I took off the tank and seat but fortunately, when I went to undo the cable at the lever, I found it was the lever itself that had fractured on the
pivot, probably due to all the falls on that side. So, relieved, I put on the spare and continued, a large crowd cheering .
Arriving in Bengkulu I found the fort and was approached by a nice young man who took me on a
beach run for the hazy sunset and then treated me to dinner. Back at my guest house we played music and the owner, also a musician, insisted I played with him for a couple of hours too.
The next day I was exhausted
but felt that I would prefer to get up into the hills again for a rest. I saw that there was a hill town about 80kms away so headed for that. Just out of Bengkulu was one of those wooden plank bridges that you have to
aim and ride without stopping. I chickened out and promptly fell, blocking the whole bridge.
I was shaking with fatigue and embarrassment and knew that I really needed some rest. Fortunately, when I arrived in the
hill town a young girl on a small bike found me and took me back to her family house where they fed me and I fell asleep on their floor for the afternoon. Rika then took me on a tour of the village where there are old
wooden stilt house. She and her friends wanted to practise their English so I was able to talk and sing for my supper.
Feeling much stronger, I headed higher into the mountains to find a small village, Pagarlarem,
where there are several megaliths and dolmens. Unfortunately they are difficult to find without a guide and, as it was Idul Fitri, like Xmas for the Muslims, no one was around to show me but I got invited in many
houses for lots of food so I was happy. I did see one site so that appeased me a little and it was a cool and quiet little town. I went for a swim in a popular waterfall area and the kids plagued me all day with
"hello Mister, where are you from?"
I carried on the next day to see how far I could get toward the south of Sumatra. It was a hot ride and my bum was suffering. Eventually stopped in a small town where the
hotels were far too expensive so I asked the police for help and they said I could stay at the police station. Unfortunately no loo or water so I had to forgo a nice cool wash for the sake of a free floor. Had a wash
the next morning in local cafe en route to the final fishing village of Kalianda, before the ferry. There I stopped early in an old Dutch style guest house and there was lucky enough to meet more Overlanders, Billy and
Trish, from Broome, west Oz. They had come via East Timor so were able to give me all the info on how to do the shipping from Dili. We swapped maps and stories and it was great to meet more like minded souls. I was
specially impressed when they told me they didn't have a toilet at home, but went in the bush like I used to!
Billy and Trish were continuing on their trip the way I had come the next day so, after helping me with a
minor repair on my gear change lever, off they went. I was especially impressed with Trish's 250 Kawasaki Sherpa. It is a much easier size and they used another one for 70,000km around South America with no probs. Have
thoughts on one but don't tell Suzy! Billy has the old R80GT, tried and tested Overlanders bike.
Well, goodbye to Sumatra and hello to Java. Some people had said that it was far more dangerous, with lots of theft, etc
but I was just going to find out for myself.
Sumatra started off badly with the police probs over riding my bike, but once that was sorted and I was on my way there were some great things to see, if you could
manage to through the smoke. The roads were not too good and lots of potholes and hardly any sign posting, but people were friendly and that was the main thing. I think the Batak area around Lake Toba was my
favourite place there.
Apart from the rain my main problem was, being Ramadan, it was hard to get food during the day and I ended up getting too tired and hungry and therefore my energy was on the wane. I resolved to
try and rest and eat more on the next part of the journey.