Indonesia. Sumbawa and Lombok: A Ride to Remember. The Experience of a Lifetime “Johanniesen’s got the ball. He bursts off half-back. He’s a lively player. He takes a bounce. He’s got Bontempelli in the clear. He puts it out in front of him. He runs on to it. He paddles. He gathers. He closes. He’s thirty metres out. He goals! They’ve hit the front! The Bulldogs are in front!” It was without doubt one of the most exciting moments in my Bulldogs supporting history. When you’ve waited for 55 years to see your team win its way into the Grand Final for a shot at the Premiership, and your team’s champion player has just slotted a marvellous match-winning goal, the joy washes over you like a tsunami! I was a long way from home. I witnessed the game with my mate, Daryl, and a handful of other Aussies in an un-named bar at Hu’u Beach in east Sumbawa. Daryl and I had left Lombok a few days before to head east to Timor. We planned the trip in April; it was now September. I remember saying to him, “Mate, if the Dogs make the Grand Final, I’ll be turning back next day to head home.” And his reply? “That’s not going to happen.” And so it came to pass. I hardly slept a wink that night. A lifetime of waiting was over. The Holy Grail was within reach. We just had to grab it and I had to be at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to witness it. I’d phoned Serah, my wife, and she’d swung into gear to book me a flight. All I had to do was get back to Lombok without delay. I’d packed up the night before so, at first light I was gearing up and wiping the dew off the seat of my KLX. Daryl surfaced, back-handing dream residue from his eyes. “All set?” “All set. See you in a week. Somewhere in Flores. Keep in touch.” And with that I fired up the bike and headed out the hotel’s yard, encased in the cool dawn air. The plan was simple. Breakfast in Dompu an hour away, then hot foot it across Sumbawa to Kencana Beach Hotel about 6 hours distant for a coffee and food. Then two hours to Poto Tano for the ferry crossing to Lombok. All going well I’d pull into the home yard just before dark. And, because I love staging surprises, it would be a big surprise because I wasn’t expected until the following day! The road to Dompu starts as a four lane freeway in search of some traffic and then becomes a two lane blacktop at ease with its environment. It hugs the coast, plays host to settlements of Bugis fisherfolk and then climbs through low ranges covered in teak. The bends are many and sweeping, the traffic sparse. There’s a lot to like about slicing through the breeze in east Sumbawa on a bright Sunday morning. Dompu was up and about. I cruised down the main drag looking for an eatery. Shopkeepers were sweeping their verandas, the market was in full swing. A knot of pick-ups and horse carts was loading and unloading punters and produce, almost blocking the road adjacent to the entry gate. I pushed through the scrum and emerged intact. I spotted a cafe. Food, coffee, a break - just what I needed. Rich, black Sumbawan coffee and a pancake covered in honey, with a squeeze of fresh lemon, is tonic for the soul. I was buzzing. I paid my bill and complimented the waitress on her beautiful smile. She gave me a wave as I angled off into the traffic stream. I was quickly away and into open country. On both sides padi fields hugged the road, which ran gun barrel straight to Mangelewa and Soriuti. Green? The land was the essence of green - Arcadia in the Orient; a joyous landscape to inhabit. I reached Soriuti. The road took a sharp left. Corn country now. The fields stretched away to the distant hills. Blue tarps by the roadside were covered in drying cobs. My world was a riot of blue, green, orange and .... the red, white and blue of the Bulldogs, for the goal that set up our victory was playing on a loop in my mind’s eye. The sun was warm on my shoulders. I zoomed along making good headway in very light traffic. I reached a sweeping hairpin and began to climb a steep range by a series of switchbacks. Before long I reached the top. Far below lay the azure waters of Salleh Bay, its placid surface etched by currents, the sweep of the breeze and the wake of a solitary perahu making its way north. I took a break to stretch my legs, breathe in the beauty of Sumbawa’s spectacular north coast and bask in solitude of the moment. I gave the KLX a quick once over and took off again. I reached the coast after an exhilarating 10 kilometre descent that took me past the remains of numerous rock falls and landslides. Riding that road in the monsoon might turn out to be a bit hairy! Around one o’clock I pulled up at Kencana Beach Hotel for coffee and a break. This spot, about twelve kilometres east of Sumbawa Besar city, sits on a quiet bay and has been a constant in my travels over the years. I always get a warm welcome, a rich black coffee and a plate of the best banana fritters money can buy. Re-energised, I bade goodbye and set off for Poto Tano. This section of the cross-Sumbawa Highway, which was constructed as part of an Australian Government Aid Program, saw the most traffic and it had begun to deteriorate. Large potholes, contortions, washboards, severely broken shoulders and increased traffic called for a new level of “mind-on-the-jobbery”. I passed through the busy market towns of Utan and Alas and on the strike of three o’clock I reached the port. My luck was in. There was a ferry ready to depart. I rode up the ramp - last bike on. The winches whirred and the ramp locked home with a clang. A kid on the dock un-hooked the securing rope from its bollard, the skipper engaged the screws and we churned away from the dock - Lombok bound. I sat back to enjoy the crossing. The experience of gliding across an aquamarine millpond -sliding past rocky islets, being pursued by flying fish and cawing sea birds - is the essence of tranquility. My stream of consciousness reprised the events of the past twenty-four hours. Johanniesen’s run, Bontempelli’s goal, Macrae’s sealer, Dicko’s mark at the death, the roar of the supporters, the ecstasy of victory against the odds - these were the thoughts that had accompanied me on the day’s ride. All being well, I’d reach home before dark. My heart sank when Kayangan Harbour came into view. There were two ferries ahead of us waiting to disgorge their payloads. We dropped anchor five hundred metres from the dock and waited - and then waited some more. Time dragged. How much longer? The sun goes down quickly in the tropics. When I exited the port gates it was already past six. Damn! It would soon be dark. And it was drizzling rain. And the traffic was heavy. Sunday evening and the traffic was heavy! I couldn’t believe it. Where had all these lumbering, black-smoke-belching-behemoths come from? Had they sprung from a fantastic underworld to magically appear in Pringabaya township? After a dream ride I’d lucked out. It was fully dark now - and raining lightly. My googles, smeared with a patina of diesel emissions, were not coping well. And every second on-coming driver seemed oblivious to the existence of the head light dipper switch! Could conditions get worse? Did I mention the greasy road? I couldn’t believe the traffic. Every town I passed through added more to the stream. I longed for the Kopang turn-off and the final run home on a secondary road. Each overtaking move took time. Although my eyesight is super sharp, my night vision is a bit ordinary so I won’t take any risk when overtaking. For example, I won’t overtake when there’s another motorcycle heading my way. Local riders do this all the time, but I won’t. But that was about to change! I’d been stuck behind this truck for ages, chugging along at 45 kph looking for an opportunity to get by. Several locals had taken the bit between the teeth, gone for it and got by. As time passed I figured I would have to follow suit. I saw my chance. A rider was coming my way but dammit - there was room for two of us in the right lane. I dropped a gear and pulled out to pass. Next moment I couldn’t believe my eyes! A lunatic with no lights on his motorcycle had pulled out from behind to pass the bike that was approaching me! I slammed on the anchors alongside the truck to let “Deathwish” speed by. He missed me “by THAT much.” It was one of those sphincter tightening, heart pounding moments that we’ve all experienced. They leave an indelible impression and are an invaluable reminder of the axiom: Expect the Unexpected. I made it home just on 9.00pm. The surprise was complete but the tale of the last couple of hours was kept under wraps. A couple of days later I landed In Melbourne. My daughter, Melissa, joined me for the game. Excited? Is the Pope a Catholic! Just shy of 100,000 people watched the Western Bulldogs triumph over the Sydney Swans in an epic that went down to the wire. What a day! Fifty-five years is a long time to wait - you only serve 25 for murder! I know it’s a cliche but words really are inadequate to describe the emotions that engulfed us in the days, weeks and months that followed. Four days after the match I was back in Lombok. The following day I headed east again to catch up with Daryl. Eighty-two hours later I spotted him standing by the roadside sign that pointed the way to “Sunset Cottages” at Waiterang Beach in Flores. I pulled up alongside him.The smile on my face must have been a metre wide. “Welcome back. How was it?” I took off my helmet. “Mate it was epic. Let’s get a beer and I’ll tell you all about it.” Here’s the link to Bontempelli’s goal.