Biking Southeast Asia with Mr Pumpy!
Home From Denpasar, the capital of Bali, to Jangkar on the east coast of Java, a moderately easy 250 km, 5 day ride.



Updated 1 Feb 2000

Temple and idiot Photos: all under 25 kb


Capital: Jakarta
Population: 210 million
Language: Bahasa Indonesia
Religion: Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian

Roads: Very good
Traffic: RHS
• Bali: Moderate
• Madura: Light
• Java: Heavy

Bike shops: Plenty
Food & drinks: Every 10 km
Weather: Tropical

As the crow flies:
Greatest length: 1,800 km
Greatest width: 5,000 km




Animal Mr Pumpy!
Or why the Balinese are so tolerant of Australians

My friend Degung Agung tells me that in the Balinese cosmology anything that comes from the south is considered inferior, as is anything that comes over water. Australians come both from the south and over water, so they are doubly inferior. This explains their uncivilised behavior, which is only to be expected after all.

Ride 5 Indonesia: The Volcano Tour!

Leg 1: Over Bali and into Java
Leg 2: Across unknown Madura Island
Leg 3: Over frightening Mt Bromo

The Ride: From Denpasar, the capital of Bali, to Jangkar on the east coast of Java, a moderately easy 250 km, 5 day ride.

The Road: The roads are paved, in good condition and excellent for riding.

Traffic: In Bali the traffic is light and manageable and the whole island oozes ease and tropical ambiance. The cars, trucks and taxis are pretty well behaved.

The traffic in Java is heavy, dangerous and not for the faint hearted. It's the worst I've encountered in Southeast Asia.

The Hills: There's only one, but it's a big one; MT Batur (1700 m - 5,600 ft) on Bali. It's pretty much uphill all the way from Denpasar to Kintamani beside Lake Batur (the crater at the top of the volcano). It's actually not overly steep, the road is good and the traffic light, so all up this leg is not as difficult as it may seem.

Town to town: The road up from Denpasar to Ubud (20 km) is a gentle slope, and makes a nice morning's ride. Ubud is a pleasant enough tourist centre, and worth a day or two's R&R.

From Ubud there's a 35 km climb up mighty Mt. Batur (1700 m - 5,600 ft) to the little town of Kintamani on the edge of the volcano. As I said above, the road's good, the traffic's light and a little persistence will get you into Kintamani for a well earned lunch. There's a heap of cafes along the road edging the volcano.

From Kintamani you should get an astounding view south across to Mt. Agung and the rest of the island. Unfortunately the day I was there the clouds dropped and all I saw was a white-on-white wall, but they assure me it's normally spectacular.

It might be time to get a cup of tea before you hurtle down the north side of the mountain to the coast at Singaraja about 40 km away. It's an absolutely luscious downhill plunge through tropical forest and you can stop off at little drink stalls along the way to prolong the pleasure.

Mr Pumpy Bali animationSingaraja itself is a pleasant untouristed town and worth an explore or overnight stop. If you're hanging out for swim ride the 8 km onto Lovina Beach where there's mid-priced accommodation, good food and beaches.

The 80 km of coast road around the north of the island to Gilimanuk is surprisingly dry and population free. There's an interesting Buddhist Temple 10 km west of Lovina and a 'Diving & Snokling Center' (sic) just before the village of Pemuteran, about 40 km further on. The 'Snokling Center' has motel style accommodation if you need it.

The ferry across to Ketapang shuttles back and forth every 20 minutes and you can take your bike no problem. By the time you unload you'll realise you're in another world, and it's a bit of a shock. The traffic here is atrocious.

It's probably worth it to ride the 8 km back to Banyuwangi as Ketapang is small and unpleasant. Banyuwangi is an interesting Javanese town with a bit of everything; good cafes, plenty of back alley ways to go zipping along and just enough sin to spice it all up. Worth a look.

The 63 km run up to Asembagus is pretty unpleasant due to the traffic, but the road is flat and good.

If you want to catch the ferry at Jangkar for Madura Island you will need to set off early from Banyuwangi, as the ferry leaves Jangkar only once a day at 1.30 pm There's nowhere to stay the night if you miss the boat.

In fact Mr Pumpy did miss the boat, and after much asking around rode into the Asembagus Sugar Factory and asked to see the manager. Striking up a conversation about the Sugar Commodities Index he slipped in that he was looking for a place to stay. The manager, only too happy to accommodate an international visitor of intellectual standing, gave him the run of the adjacent executives' guest house, an old Dutch colonial mansion complete with maid.

After a very pleasant night it was very hard to get Mr Pumpy back on the road in morning. "Ah, this is the life!" he said.




Javanese Road Rules

There's only one worth remembering: Might is Right!

Leaving Bali, and crossing into Java at Ketapan, all of a sudden thrusts one into a world gone crazy. It's like a bad acid trip. Trucks pass within inches, buses come down the wrong side of the road and cars belch smoke. The 60 km run up to Jangkar is not pleasurable and makes one think about doubling back to "good old Bali".

The Bike: You can ride Bali , Madura and most of Java on a racer easy enough, but you'd need a tourer or mountain bike to get across Bromo and down the other side to Malang without doing some damage (see Leg 3, above).

Other Cyclists: You might run into a bunch of Australian cyclists doing a group tour of Bali, and the odd one or two independent cyclists in Java, but that's about it.

General: Indonesia is an archipelago made up of many different 'countries', and each leg of this ride reflects this diversity of people, land and attitudes to Westerners on bikes.

Bali, despite the impact of thirty years of Australian tourism, has maintained a surprising ambiance. This says a lot about the Balinese themselves, who are racially and culturally distinct from the Javanese and come from the opposite end of the gene pool to the Australians. It's a beautiful place, easy to ride if you don't mind a few big hills and has great food. (If you don't like hills, a little week long loop around the coast might be nice.)

Java, as I've said already, is a world away from Bali. It's very crowded and a lot more hassley. It does, however, have it's own unique brand of culture and the basic Javanese fare of spicy fish, rice and eggs is one of my favourite Asian meals. At the time of writing (Oct 99), Java's perhaps not a good place to go owing to the East Timor developments.

The Indonesian Monetary Collapse: The Indonesian monetary collapse of 1998 has caused great hardship throughout the country, and things are a quite unstable politically and economically. The fall of the Indonesian rupiah has made things very cheap for Western tourists (the rupiah fell 90% in value in 1998), but also a little more dangerous. In parts of Indonesia, including Jakarta, where some folks don't have enough to eat.

Is it dangerous? Since the monetary collapse, Bali, from the first hand reports I've received, is still safe and easy for the tourist and it's actually a good time to go. The Balinese need tourists, and work hard to keep them happy.

Java is probably worth avoiding until things settle down a bit. Thieves are targeting rich tourists and locals alike in the big cities.

Mr Pumpy gets taken down!
The old switcheroozie trick!
It can happen to the best of us, even Mr Pumpy! He was paying for a drink in Ubud, Bali and handed over a 5,000 rupiah note. The man behind the counter took the note, handed back some change, then asked Mr Pumpy to change a note out of his own pile, and so on, till poor trusting Mr Pumpy was totally confused. He worked out later he'd been ripped off 10,000 rupiahs. He went back to his hotel, sat on the bed and felt bad.

Getting ripped off usually hurts the ego more than the pocket, but not always (see 'Angry Mr Pumpy' in Leg 3: Over frightening Bromo).

Language: The Balinese speak Balinese, the Javanese speak Javanese and each is broken up into regional and class dialects. However, Indonesian Bahasa is the official language throughout all of Indonesia, and it pays to get a little of it under your belt. It's an easy language to learn, actually a strange Creole, originating as a trading language between Javanese, Malay, Chinese, Arabian and European traders some four hundred years ago.

In the tourist areas especially and throughout most of Indonesia a lot of people speak passable/fluent English. You will also find the odd Dutch speaker, but they tend to be older generation Indonesians who were active during the Dutch colonial period which ended soon after WWII.

Places to stay: You can get very decent digs in Bali and Java for as low as 5 or 10 dollars. Hotels and losmans (guest houses) abound. Check your Lonely Planet guide for details, and you should never be caught out. Your money will go a long way.

The Locals: The Balinese economy revolves around tourism, both national and international, and they are on the whole very friendly. Take care with your money all the same as robberies and scams are common enough.

There are a lot of locals in Java, which has one of the densest populations in the world. Stay alert.

Food, drink & transport: Heaps of terrific food, drink and local transport throughout the whole trip. No need to take any supplies.

Bike shops: Lots of bike shops all over. Cheap and reliable.

Bike security: Always lock your bike. Take it into your room at night if possible and make sure you lock it to the roof of the bus if you hop one.

East Timor

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East Timor Action Network/US:
Up to date coverage.

East Timor Information Service
Latest news. History and information resource.

The Australia - East Timor web site
Latest news, action, up to date coverage

East Timor Human Rights Centre.
Rather disturbing but necessary web site documenting extreme human rights abuse in East Timor.