Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
149Trip End Ongoing
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The coast road south of Padang was, once again, paradise. Low hills through semi-jungle, with views over sheltered bays with palm-fringed beaches to the Indian ocean. Even the port of Padang, Tanjung PXXXXXX, with an industrial plant and loading-conveyor, was still a beautiful sight. Apart from a couple of small, basic, deserted resorts immediately south of Padang, there were very few hotels on this road. Camping would have been ideal most of the way, but I had (unfulfilled) hopes of internet access where there were hotels. Consequently, apart from the first (80km to Painan), the following days were long rides: 130km (to Tapan), 170km (Ipuh), 170km (Bengkulu).
+++ Kapahiang - Lahat - Baturaja +++++++
From Bengkulu I turned inland again, climbing a pass to reach the small town of Kapahiang. From there I'd intended to follow a minor road south, which appeared to be the most direct route to the main highway. The main road looping north and east would have added 80km or more. I mentioned this intention to a local, after he'd been kind enough to direct me to a hotel.
-Oh, I would take that road
-Oh, why not?
-Yes, bad people there. You rob.
-Are you sure? Just on this road? Why are they bad?
-I don't go that road. They rob
-When was the last time you heard of someone being robbed?
-When has anyone actually been attacked, recently?
-I don't know, recently, but is.. you know.. rumour..
In general, I consider local advice to be the preferred source of information in most contexts. But, since setting off, I've found that there's one piece of advice that should always be taken with a pinch of salt:
'There's bandits down the road'.
There are, always, bandits down the road. Their hideout is at the end of a rainbow. Ask a local in Dartford for directions to Gravesend and they'll tell you to watch out for bandits, and vice versa. Anyway, bandits come out at night; in the morning they are sleeping and during the day they have jobs. I've never seen a statistical analysis, but I'd be surprised if there were a significant percentage of muggings, attacks and other acts of banditry carried out, worldwide, before 12pm. Who has the energy, first thing in the morning?
So I ignored my friend's advice, which therefore served only make me slightly, unnecessarily nervous and wary of everyone I saw. There were no bandits. Instead there were villages, coffee plantations and mountain roads with sweeping views. At one point the road in a village was blocked by a procession. A local was taking photographs, so I took this as permission and fished out my camera. The heart of the procession was a young couple, in amazing scarlet and gold finery, looking very serious and slightly nervous. At this point the penny dropped. After they passed I asked one of the other spectators
-Yes! They marry! Come, come and eat!
One of the houses was decorated, with a temporary stage, folding chairs and a buffet. Clearly the tradition was to invite the whole village to the wedding. Nonetheless, I declined the offer. Even if I hadn't planned a longish ride, I didn't feel comfortable gatecrashing a wedding. (I couldn't exactly blend in).
Eventually I joined and followed the main, arterial highway. While slightly busier than Rte.1 in Laos, it was of the same order of magnitude. The only comparative advantage to the minor roads was that the villages they passed through were more rustic and the road more integrated with the land, (one feels that one is riding through the country, rather than past it).
On the highway it was 3.5 days to the southern tip of Sumatra, where free (for foot passengers and cyclists) ferries depart half-hourly for Merak, in Java. I hadn't expected a free ride, so, feeling flush, I invested 4000Rp to sit in the air-conditioned area. I'd hoped to be able to see Krakatau (west of Java), on the way past, but it was too far away. Java was, as expected, an abrupt shift in pace. Twice the population in half the area, it was never likely to feel
+++ Bukitkemuning - Bandur Lampung +++
++++ Cilegon - Jakarta - Jakarta ++++++++
++ (truck stop-) Cirebon - (pekalongan-) Semarang - (Cepu-) Surabaya +++++++++==