Wrong Way To Kathmandu - A Sidecar Misadventure - Part 2 - Indonesian Island Hopping

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by bokad, Jun 21, 2012.

  1. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    Wrong Way To Kathmandu - A Sidecar Misadventure - Part 2 - Indonesian Island Hopping

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    June 2012
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    This is the second part of our trip. The beginning can be found here:
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=786099

    The synopsis is drinking, Bob Seger 'Kathmandu' song, free time, sidecar, and a highly theoretical route drawn on map with no regard for borders, roads, or laws.
    We began in Jakarta and promptly began driving the opposite direction of our destination.

    With the bike repaired and leaving Bali it feels like a new beginning. We're speeding West across the islands. Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Timor, Papua. We're going to see dragons, primitive tribes, multi-color volcanic lakes, and who knows what else. We're going to eat alot of rice and fish. We're excited!

    I hope that we will be able to make up for the slow beginning and cover ground at a faster rate. We still need to reach Nepal before winter arrives and there is a LONG way to go.

    As always:
    I write poorly and mostly for my own lossy memory. Some thoughts may be unrefined, blunt, offensive, or repetitious.
    I'm known to whine, whinge, bitch, and complain. I'm may also be opinionated and prone to stereotyping.

    Encouragement, comments, and angry rants all welcome and appreciated.

    Pictures
    --------------------
    Best Of:
    http://lotsapics.smugmug.com/Travel/Indonesia-Bike-Trp-Apr-12-Best/

    Best Of Shown As Pins On A Map:
    http://maps.smugmug.com/?feedType=geoAlbum&Data=22692948_pXW78M

    All Photos (too many to count):
    http://lotsapics.smugmug.com/Travel/Indonesia-Bike-Trip-April-2012/
    #1
  2. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    21 June 2012
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    Updating this from Larantuka on the tip of Flores, waiting for tomorrow's Ferry to Timor.
    The roads have be fantastic and the driving joyful. We've been making good time.

    We're getting further and further away from the normal tourist path. We know this because when a bus rolls by someone always hangs out the side, points, and shouts "Hey look, a white person!"

    A few weeks ago I had to choose between hot water and internet at a hotel. Now neither is possible and I'm just happy when the water barrel for the scoop bucket shower doesn't have dead cockroaches in it.
    #2
  3. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    A 4 hour ferry from Bali to Lombok then a short speed boat trip to the Gilis.

    Gili Islands, one of our favorite places in the WORLD.
    The Gili Islands (this is redundant as Gili actually means 'small island') are three (Trawangan, Meno and Air) beautiful droplets in the ocean near to Lombok (another larger lovely island). Each one is less than one square mile and has 360 degrees of beach. No motorized traffic so feet, bicycles, and horse transport only. Use of most machinery is prohibited so buildings are built by hand and pools are dug by shovel. This combines to make them a most relaxing and usually quiet place. Beautiful coral and tons of turtles (there is a local conservation program) make for great diving and snorkelling.

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    Satellite view. Beaches all around!

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    Your first view of the Gili islands.

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    Getting off the boat.

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    No motorized vehicles on any of the islands, just bare feet, bicycles, and dumping decorated horses.

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    Basically it is hell on Earth.
    #3
  4. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    Gili Islands
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    I would like to stay here a VERY long time. I know that eventually I'll end up doing the expat bar/restaurant/hotel thing. I always take note of establishments that I think are especially good so I can use their great ideas in the future :)
    Unfortunate that foreigners can't own property, only rent.

    By the way, most of the showers and tap water is very brackish and salty. There's no enough rain to make fresh water. The fresh water that does come is by boat from Lombok in large onboard tanks that are then connected to offshore underwater pipes and pumped to the hotel storage tanks.

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    Scallywags is an extremely well setup restaurant and hotel. Love this chair.
    Tried to find the owner to pick his brain but he was out of country.

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    Exploring the interior of the island.

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    A surprise solar farm.

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    Most of the island is empty.

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    What a cool idea and relaxing way to have dinner.

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    FRESH grilled fish every night.
    #4
  5. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    Gili Islands
    --------------
    Trawangan has become the party place with the most clubs, restaurants, and beautiful young people, but even it's coast is only 25% in use. The other 75%, like all of Meno and Air, is as still as the prairie.

    There's no police or government presence on any of the islands which leaves everything up to the village council. The most difficult part of buying 'shrooms (magic mushrooms) on Trawangan is deciding if you want them mixed with pineapple or banana in your shake.

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    The beautiful people. Too many dudes in this photo! The real ratio was MUCH better. 2:1 girls to boys.

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    Good times, good vibes.

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    See, I told you!

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    Rudy's is famous and a great place to hang. They have classic illustrated t-shirts that says "I'm stupid and ugly but mushroom make me happy!"
    #5
  6. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    2 - 3 June 2012
    ---------------
    Across Lombok and Sumbawa.

    After returning to Lombok it's a short drive across the island and then another ferry to Sumbawa. On Sumbawa we find the best roads we've seen so far. Smooth and curvy new asphalt along the coast with very few vehicles. Eventually we find a sign explaining why we have been blessed with such great conditions. The roads are part of an Australian aid project. Not sure why Aussie tax payers want to build roads in Indonesia, but thanks! We appreciate it! Please make it to Java soon! The smooth roads, the sunset, the green, the blue. It's all just perfect. We make good time and take very few pictures.

    We reach the end of Sumbawa and find a hotel near the port. Early morning 9 hour ferry to Flores tomorrow.

    p.s. We are now officially "off the map". Google maps doesn't show any roads past Lombok so we're winging it until we can find another source.

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    Superb driving. No potholes, no people.


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    Superb driving. No potholes, no people.

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    Good roads make happy travellers.

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    Yo!

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    Even Ural is happy. Everyone loves a sunset trip to the seaside!

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    It always amazes me how different things look at high and low tide.
    #6
  7. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    3 June 2012
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    Ferry from Sumbawa to Labuan Bajo, Flores
    Man overboard!

    There is a once a day 9 hour ferry from the tip of Sumbawa to Labuan Bajo on Flores. It feels great to be pressing deeper and deeper in to off the beaten track Indonesia.

    On the ferry we met a super upbeat Swiss guy that was riding a scooter from Bali to Timor. He was a mechanical engineer and good company. Also ran in to him later in opposite directions futher on in Flores. By super upbeat I mean he was robbed 5 times at knife and gun point in recent travels (in South America) but was understanding of the incidents. "I know they didn't really want to hurt me, they were just poor and needed the money". That's not quite my view but I do try to learn something from people wo can remain positive in the face of negative events.

    This ferry was pretty cool, had a colorful kids play area on the top deck. We settled in for a day of sleep and reading.
    In spected the life rafts (at the edge of the top deck) and wandered what would happen if I fell overboard. Would they stop?

    My question was soon answered as a few people started to shout in alarm. At first I thought it was a fight but it ended up being that someone had fallen off the Ferry. I don't know how you manage to do that and never did find out.

    Once someone has gone in to the water the thing to do is to KEEP YOUR EYES ON THEM and shout for others. Once you take your eyes off they can be impossible to find again. Amazing how quickly a small dark dot disappears in to the vast of the ocean.

    After much uproar, some circling, and a few failed life buoy toss attempts, the guy was rescued. It took quite some time and we lost sight of him a few times. I really thought he might be lost. Thank god!

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    This is right after the guy fell in. He's still pretty close to the boat but damn hard to see.
    It takes the ferry quite some time to stop and turn and by that point it was really hard to tell where the guy was at.

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    Even with a 14x zoom on the camera he's hard to spot. We missed him on the first three passes but managed pick up on the fourth.

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    The overboardee was too panicked to grab the life buoy himself so someone went in to help.
    Rescue dude was a super powerful swimmer. Amazed at his speed.

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    Finally getting back on the boat. There is no way to climb back on the boat from the water line so something had to be improvised.

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    Whenever I see "safety first" written in Indoesia it's always in English!

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    Colorful top deck.

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    Trip started with the garden packed around my bike but by the time we rode off there was cabbage and other greens stuck in the luggage rack and everywhere else.
    #7
  8. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    4 June 2012
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    Labuan Bajo, Flores

    I think Labuan Bajo is a nice little port town. Just a few western restaurants, hotels, and hang outs. Enough to make you comfortable but not so many that it feels over run. It feels chill and relaxing. We stayed at the Bayview Gardens hotel on the hillside with a super friendly/helpful Dutch owner and great views.

    Everyone is here for Komodo national park, either diving or dragon sighting.


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    Great view from our hotel.

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    Love all the sailboats.
    #8
  9. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    5 June 2012
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    Live aboard dive boat in Komodo National Park.

    We spent four days on the boat. Met lots of fascinating people. Everyone had an interesting history, diverse background, and story to tell about how they ended up here. That's one of the things I like most about travelling.

    The currents in the national park are strong. Basically all the water rushing from one ocean to the other has to pass though a narrow channel that is blocked with many islands. This means that to move a great volume of water it has to go FAST. Sometimes you were really flying underwater. The scary part is that the currents push you not only right and left, but also can suck you down DEEP. The currents were out of our league and we gave up on diving after the first day to just enjoy relaxing on the boat and the incredible views.

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    Stunning views

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    Fascinating fellow travellers

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    Our boat.

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    Some Anna

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    In the morning and evening, island kids paddle up to sell souvenirs. Wish I bought a dragon claw!

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    This boarding party is friendly!
    In the morning and evening, island kids paddle up to sell souvenirs. Wish I bought a dragon claw!

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    In the morning and evening, island kids paddle up to sell souvenirs. Wish I bought a dragon claw!

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    Giver of life underwater.
    You never think about air until you don't have any!

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    Headed out for a dive.
    #9
  10. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    6 June 2012
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    Komodo national park, Rinca and Komodo islands.

    Komodo national park is the only place in the world to see Komodo dragons in the wild. Wikipedia has a nice write-up about the species. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komodo_dragon
    Westerners didn't even know they existed until 1910.

    The teeth, tail, and claws are all deadly. Even with the protections in place, a tourist or local gets attacked/killed occasionally.

    What makes them so deadly (beyond the obvious) is the vicious bacteria in their mouths. All they have to do is bite a water buffalo then wait a few days for the infection to kill.

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    Nice claws!

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    Thhhhhhhhese touristssss look very tathhhhhty

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    In case you survive the claws and teeth, the tale is a big powerful smashing machine.

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    If that's outside my house, I'm staying inside!

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    Tale a trois.

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    Buffalo soup for dinner. How convenient!

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    Canoe fisherman frying up his small catch for sale.

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    Dragons aren't the only interesting things here.

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    Some budget live aboards. Scary in bad water.
    #10
  11. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    10 June 2012
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    Labuan Bajo, Flores to Ruteng

    Ruteng clan!

    We need to get across Flores so we can take the boat to Timor.
    Today we're destined for Ruteng in the mountains. Up hill all the way!
    Travelling along with our dive master from the boat. Cool guy.
    Not much specific to see in this part of Flores, just enjoy the road and natural scenerey.
    Theoretically there are some spiderweb rice paddies but we never found 'em.
    The Ural works HARD going up all those hills and we take a few breaks to let it cool down.
    Eventually I decide to just stick with 1st gear. We go slow but the temperature stays down.
    Towards the end of the day we see people walking along the road with blankets wrapped around them. Ruteng is a cold place!

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    The shuttle boat ran out of gas offshore. Nothing to do but laugh (or maybe break out the laptop and listen to tunes) as we might be here awhile. Dive master is the grinning guy to the right. One of the few Americans we've met here.

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    Arrived in Ruteng.

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    There are questions to which I will never have answers. This gas station has been open for over a year. Did they not know that you are supposed to peel the protective cover off the panels? Did they know but just didn't care? Did they think it might help it last longer? Anyway, the whole station look like this.

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    Rice fields near Ruteng.

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    Rice fields near Ruteng.

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    House and rice fields near Ruteng.
    #11
  12. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    11 June 2012
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    Ruteng to Bajawa
    Swing arm failure.

    Furthering our trip across Flores we're headed to Bajawa. As Ruteng was 99% uphill, Bajawa will be alot of down (and then some up again)! Most of the day we don't need the engine at all, just the brakes. Road is smooth and curvy. Weather is nice. A real pleasure.

    After 7335km with this big air cooled beast I discover that I can use the hot jug to roast peanuts whenever we stop for a break.

    At 7358km I discover that the swing arm was made poorly and we come to an involuntary screaching halt on the side of the road. The large truck behind us swerves and barely avoids crushing us. It's the end of the day and will be dark soon.

    Im surprised at how well we handle it. Not much panic. No cell reception here so Anna jogs up the hill to call for help and I begin dismantling the bike as it will be easier to move that way. We even remember to throw some branches and rocks on the road behind the bike (that indicates broken down here so people don't ram you). I'm pretty darn good at all this wrenching now and I have the sidecar off the bike in less than 20 minutes. An off duty cop from the next village up stops his scooter and asks if we need anything. I let him know we should be able to take care of it and he gives us his number to call him in case it doesn't work out. Nice guy. Later on he helped with loading the bike in to the truck and when I offered he $5 for his help wouldn't take it.

    We ended up flagging down a dump truck and negotiating a decent price to take us to Bajawa. Conveniently the tail gate makes a strong ramp. Which is good, 'cause that truck bed is high and there's not many of us around to lift.

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    That's how long it took me to realize I could use this machine to roast peanuts.

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    Hot peanuts, a most welcome road side treat!

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    Wonderful driving all day!

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    Shortly after the peanut discovery.

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    Involuntary stop

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    Im just a noob but I don't think the swing arm is supposed to look like that!

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    Damn, dark already!

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    Not the best packing job but you gotta work with what you're given!
    #12
  13. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    12 June 2012
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    Bajawa, Flores, Indonesia

    We're staying at Hotel Happy Happy, which aught to bring some luck!

    First priority is fixing the bike. Second priority, have a strong drink and relax.

    The main reason people come to Bajawa is to see the traditional villages.

    Everyone under 18 in Bajawa SHOUTS "Hello mister!" at us. I feel bad that we can't possible reply to all of them. Sometimes they do it with ninja like stealth, popping out from behind something and get us unexpectadly. At night when they go by on scooter they don't realize it is foreigners until the last moment but manager to squeeze it out in the millisecond before they pass. Truly amazing.

    Another thing to appreciate about Bajawa is that many of the restaurants serve Arak (a strong palm wine) and it mixes very well with lemon and honey tea. There is only one bar in town and I'm told it's filled with 'business ladies'.


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    The bright purple hotel Happy Happy took us in the night before and helped unload the bike.
    Hot water, internet, clean, friendly hosts, I like this place!

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    A couple of sharp local guys welded up the swing arm for us.

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    And also brought some tools we didn't have.
    #13
  14. legasea

    legasea Ape on wheels

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    Hanging on in a garden by the sea
    Delighted.
    Lurking since the beginning, living the adventure by your apretiated view and eyes.
    Stubborn you are.
    Guess you'll take that URAL to the end, just don't know how far in time it will be. If you have plenty, the better. For you and for us.
    Sure you both will enjoy as your eyes get wider.
    The best for the rest.
    #14
  15. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    Thanks! Until the end it will be, the only question is when and where the end arrives! I'm not sure if summer or patience will give out first :)

    #15
  16. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    13 June 2012
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    Bajawa, Flores, Indonesia
    Traditional villages.

    Around Bajawa there are a few traditional villages hidden in the trees and hills just off the main road. The people in the villages keep their old religion, traditions, houses, and way of life. The villages are shrinking as the young adults are drawn away to the city by school or marriage or money and never return.

    We went mid day so most residents were working out in the fields and it was only the betel nut chewing old ladies left behind. Betel nut is a mild stimulant and it has the nice side effect of turning your mouth and lips red while you spit out great gobs.

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    Lady

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    Weaving

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    Smiling

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    Something with thread

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    Red lips and mashing up the betel nut in a pestel (needed when you don't have any teeth left).

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    Drying betel nut.
    #16
  17. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    13 June 2012
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    Bajawa, Flores, Indonesia
    Traditional villages.

    One aspect of the traditional culture is separate huts and offering places for male and female family members. Each male and female family lead (clan chief) had their own offering pagoda-ish thing and also a totem on top of the house. The male totems in particular looked interesting. The totems are mounted on the roofs of the houses.

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    Male clan chief totem.

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    Male clan chief totem.

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    Male clan chief totem.

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    Male clan chief totem.

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    Male clan chief totem.
    #17
  18. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    13 June 2012
    --------------
    Bajawa, Flores, Indonesia
    Traditional villages.

    The traditional dwellings have large tall roofs. They are empty. Has something to do with smoke collection and ventilation. Building a village house is expensive. The materials and labor are cheap but each day of the construction you should sacrifice an animal for food and good luck. The heads or horns of the sacrifices made during construction will be displayed at your home forever.

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    I'm level, the ground is crooked!

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    Volcano photo-bomb! In Indonesia there is always a volcano in the background.

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    Village vista

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    Large gender separated family dwellings. So you live in the same house as your cousin, but not your mother or sister.

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    Big roof. Nothing in here, just empty space.

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    Offering hut, drying coffee.

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    What was sacrificed for this house.
    #18
  19. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    14 June 2012
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    Bajawa, Flores to Ende

    Flores is a small world in terms of tourists so you keep running in to the same people. It's a nice and frequent coincidence. An interesting couple that we shared the dive boat with is also now in our hotel.

    Ural has sent us a replacement swing arm but it will take a week or more to get here. From Bali I know how hard it is to get moving again once you lose momentum. So we decide to have the swing arm shipped to our future (Kupang, Timor) and we'll keep moving one way or another. There should be a ferry from Ende to Kupang. We just need to get to Ende. I'm not sure about the the strength of the weld that the locals have done and the road to Ende is not a good place for a breakdown so we decide to truck it instead. Also there's a big difference between crashing by yourself and crashing with your girlfriend. We rent another dump truck to bounce us along the way. Getting the Ural apart and loaded and secured is 95% less cluster than it was the first time. Practice practice practice!

    Before going though I take advantage of a new-ish tire on the rear to enjoy the local curves in a solo configuration. Anna tries the same with the sidecar but doesn't get far.

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    The freedom of two wheels! I enjoy the local curves a bit.

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    Anna tries the sidecar as a solo but has less success. Maybe with some snow and a hill?

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    Packed and ready to go.

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    Most construction here is done by hand without power tools. Rocks sorted, concrete mixed, ditches dug, stones placed, brick packed, etc...

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    Public transport

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    Mini-bus
    #19
  20. bokad

    bokad Difficult Child

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    The Roads on Flores Post
    -------------------------------
    I'm getting ahead of myself here. We've reached Larantuka, the end of Flores. We only felt the need for the truck from Bajawa to Ende and the rest was a smiling sidecar slide.

    As I may have mentioned once or thrice, driving on Java was a special sort of hell. Most likely designed by the dark lord to punish you eternally for past vehicular sins.

    Flores roads though have been a dream. There is one great 800km highway that snakes from one end of the island (Labuan Bajo) to the other (Larantuka). It's fresh smooth blacktop courtesy of an Australian aid project. A dream ride. Curvy, empty, and with amazing scenery. Winding along the sunset coast with it's sweeping views and crashing waves, through forests of coconut and palm, and a cool breezes in your face as you pass towering volcanos. The road is almost empty, you see a small bus or truck maybe once a day and even cars are 15 minutes or more apart. No horses or peddle carts. None of the monolithic mega trucks and busses that try to lumber over you on Java. An occasional wild monkey. These are some of the best bike roads I've ever seen. All elements in place.
    It reminds me why I ride and what I love. Any day on these roads would be a good one.

    The two best sections were Ende to Maumere and Maumere to Larantuka.

    Ende to Maumere is very curvy, taking you up and around the mountains.
    Maumere to Laurantuka is straighter with long sweeping curves as it rushes along the coast. I even sustained 90km/h for a bit. That's a first for us in Indonesia!
    The driving was so good, the scenerey so beautiful, the entire experience so pleasant, that I didn't want to stop for gas or pictures.

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    Around Bajawa. There be curves!

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    A less curvy section.

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    Amazing views.

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    A rest stop.

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    Maumere to Larantuka

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    Maumere to Larantuka
    #20