Sumatra 1

Another beautiful map from Sandalmelik. Malaysia to the right Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 2.31.29 PM

Preamble: We have a visa expiry date to beat. This is a little complicated because we have to get Lucinda cleared by Customs, at which point they need to see my passport, otherwise we could be late and pay a daily fine of about $20. If we get it wrong, all hell breaks loose. So it’s a firm date, and there’s only a little slack. We have to ride methodically with only one day of dallying (today). A bee-line, unfortunately, but not on the major highway.

Plus, the below is scary given the distance ahead. Thrashed by hard braking on Java, but some life left. How much, who knows. We’ll be keeping a close eye on it, not using our front brake except in emergencies, and keeping our fingers crossed since there’s no choice and as yet no back-up plan DSC00796

Features of riding in Sumatra: They have what they call ‘pirates’ here. So no riding at night. The robbery-or-worse rate is high. If you’re solo. Because of this, we’re sticking to a specific destinations plan which makes for some short days and some long. The roads are supposed to be very rough. Although after 5 days of riding them we’d say they’re fine, just not great at times, so they must be bad ahead. Lastly, despite the rainy season being over, when it rains here late afternoon it’s an apocalypse. So we’re planning accordingly.

The first short day out of Java, across on the 2 hour ferry and into Sumatra Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 6.45.42 AM

Then to Kotabumi Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 5.40.29 AM

Nothing to write about today, a fairly busy day of traffic through continuous towns. ‘Sumatra’ sounds nice and countryside-like, but the latest headcount in 2010 was 50 million, so maybe 55 million now, on this island with so few roads DSC00562

Lots of chickens around DSC00566

The next day to Lahat Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 5.41.05 AM

After the first few hours, this was a beautiful and interesting day. There are still trucks continuously. You can see an overtaker here coming down the open lane. This is what it’s like whether you’re riding at him or not. You just have to get out of the way, off the road if need be, but 99% of the time there’s just enough of a gap on the shoulder, often never more than inches. I have no idea what people do with panniers wider than their barsDSC00580

Into the country for a while DSC00575

Through our first traditional village. Very creative DSC00578

Wow! DSC00577

So most of the houses are drying things out the front. We stop and ask these ladies if we can get a close photo, in the usual charades way. There’s a misunderstanding. Or my riding suit smells. Which it does, but I thought I was far enough away DSC00585

But we get a close shot anyway. Coffee. Or copi, here. I eat one and it’s a bit tasteless DSC00589

We think they lay them out and rake them daily, taking them in at night DSC00592

Through more towns DSC00597

Riverbank DSC00601

An imposing avenue, not sure of what DSC00608

Wild banana. The fruit are about 4″ long DSC00615

There are loud explosions going off in the distance, sometimes many at once, very interesting. At the next town there’s a large military exercise going on somewhere in the valley beyond we can’t see from here. People are gathered in groups watching the troops and trucks DSC00617

Cool DSC00616

As we ride out-of-town a half-dozen gunships pass overhead going in our direction! DSC00620

I recognize them at once DSC00625

Soviet MI24 or MI35 Hind. Wow, nice! A fierce gunship. I’ve played this helicopter a lot in C.H.A.O.S., an MMO, often remotely with my eldest daughter IMG_2841

The Indonesian Wiki. They have 6 and they’re all here! Must be a major exercise Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 6.58.09 PM

But now we play World of tanks Blitz, a much harder, very sophisticated, MMO. Below is my favorite tank, the tier 10 Soviet IS-4. My game name is wages_of_sin, so if you friend me on the Asian server we can platoon a game if you see me online! Notice my clean, stripped-down HUD IMG_0971

We’re in Indonesia so we can play when we want to. They have free fast wifi everywhere, even in darkest Sumatra. Kind of the opposite of New Zealand and Australia, where the internet is like debt is to Greece: they kind of understood the critical importance of not cocking it up, but cocked it up hugely anyway, and are now on the knife-edge of being banished from the modern world until they get their shit together. Which nicely ties into this photo. I guess cable hasn’t made it this far quite yet, so every home has a huge dish. Go Sumatra! DSC00632

Then miles of this DSC00636

At about the midpoint we climb twisties up and over some mountains for an hour DSC00644

And more miles of this DSC00656

We think these are rumah gadang but without the spires (later), traditional homes owned by the women and passed down to their daughters DSC00657

The next day to Sarolangun Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 4.09.35 PM

Lovely, though very hot and humid DSC00660

Ox cool off in the water. They can sort of swim with just their nostrils showing DSC00667

More dredging, this time for rocks, possibly the same rocks as come up here in a sec DSC00671

This is a fish farm with the most enormous water lilies we’ve ever seen DSC00673

The blooms are at least a foot across, the whole plant maybe 15 or 20 DSC00675

A couple of locals who we think own the farm DSC00676

Later on we see these guys with troughs full of rocks and water, next to a river DSC00690

The rocks DSC00683

They make jewellery from them. So I bought a small rock from them for 10,000 rupiah (about 90 cents, I got ripped off but whatever) which if we don’t loose it we’ll make three things out of one day DSC00688

Another big town. We never stop at towns for lunch because of the crowds Lucinda draws, really DSC00693

This was a water break and look what happened, arrggh. Except they’re the nicest kids you could ever meet DSC00697

Another town. Tiring, because they’re big DSC00703

And back into the country. This looks just like El Salvador DSC00717

To Muara Bungo Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 4.40.00 PM

A horrible day. No scenery to speak of, tons of traffic. A bus off the road. We’ve seen a few of these. The buses are the fastest vehicles and are the most aggressive. To be feared DSC00723

But on the main street of Muara Bungo, an orchid in a tree DSC00729

Up close. A beauty DSC00728

Then to Bukittinggi Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 4.57.13 PM

A difficult first half, then through some hills for about 30 miles DSC00742

Gassed up with a nice view DSC00743

Rice in spaced rows, we haven’t seen this before DSC00749

This building is the classic Sumatran spired rumah gadang. For more on this, here’s the wiki DSC00762

Then it flattened out to this DSC00771

Along a lake for about 10 miles. There are very few lakes in Sumatra relative to the amount of rainfall. We haven’t found out why yet. It just drains out via the rivers without gathering anywhere. But this is a big one DSC00784

People stopped DSC00789

to see a truck that shot off a corner into a field. Lots of these DSC00792

And into Bukittinggi DSC00794


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. researchinthenews,

    Don’t know if I’ve already entered this comment , but anyway here goes again – fantastic blog post and pics. I love to read them and follow your travels, such great commentary and images. Thanks! Happy travelling, Nicky x

Leave a Reply