Sunday, August 25, 2013

Volcano adventure in Bromo

Pic Jarkata Post

Pic Javaecotourism

Just finished packing for a week's trip to the volcano highlands of Bromo, Java, Indonesia. This ride, aptly name Thin Air and Fat Tires, was planned some time back by Mountain Bike Ace Chris Wee, who considers this rugged terrain one of his many playgrounds in this region.

I have restored my 94 Bridgestone MB3 recently for this purpose and tested it on a short tour of Lingga and Singkep a few months back. It performed really well then but Bromo is different. Its a no holds barred fast downhill freewheeling the rugged slopes of an active volcano with many difficult and painful climbs. Not forgetting those killer headwinds too. But when its tough, the scenery is usually breathtaking and the pics I've seen so far are impressive.

If ever there was an A-Team put together for this mission, this must be it. Legends like KC, Christoph, George Lim as well as some local Indonesian MTB experts present. I feel like a fish a out of water as my last serious MTB-ing was more than 20 years ago. O yes, there is a brave rose among the thorns on the team. Joni a keen adventurer, could not wait and have left 2 weeks earlier for secret ninja training I hear!

Stay tune for updates. Lovethefold - out!


I like to dedicate this adventure to our late touring buddy Paul Lim who did Bromo some years back with Chris. I sense somehow he will be riding with us...

Pics CW

Friday, August 23, 2013

Kundur and Karimun with LCSG - Going home!

Pic Loh

Pic Berenda

Pic Berenda

Pic Berenda

I woke up early to recce a route for the morning ride around Tg Balai. Its always good to make sure I don't lead the fold astray and it was nice to see the town wake up slowly. Perhaps this was Sunday and also a national holiday so the streets were quiet and most shops were shut. As I got out of town, I bumped into a very familiar orange colored Brompton and it was none other than Uncle Roland. He too had the same idea for an early morning exploration and shared that a very suspicious guy was hanging around him. Roland reckoned he was not going to be invited out for breakfast and took evasive action. Later on, I found out too that Ejin too went out to spin her wheels.

At 8am, the troop was all ready to go and we had a very forgettable coffee and noodles breakkie at our hotel's cafe. Just as we were about to set off, Audrey's front tire gave up the ghost and George Kee, her knight in shining helmet, came to her rescue and fixed it in 3 min flat.

Pic Berenda

We rode to a Chinese village just 2km out and the same wrecks along the coastline were still there after so many years. along with other boats.. They made for great pics and I felt like a Japanese tour guide leading his obedient tourists as everyone was clicking away.

Next stop was a bird/chicken seller who displayed his wares along the road. What intrigue was a very cheeky monkey who enjoyed showing us his bottom, and that got us laughing non stop.

For a workout, we all climbed up the steepest hill in town and made a turn into the old Dutch Naval Officer's villas with commanding views. The old tennis courts overlooking the sea bore testament to the good life the colonials enjoyed then. A quick ride back to town saw traffic really thicken and we headed for our real breakfast - Bak Kut Teh (stewed pork rib soup in herbal broth). There are at least 3 shops here right after the jetty but the first one is said to be the best and we were not disappointed. It was a real fitting end to our trip and apparently, this stall was famously featured on Singapore TV.

There was still time to make a quick dart into the bike shop and Audrey got the deal of the century, a mirror for less than $2, fitted. There were plenty of MTBs hanging around and indeed, Karimun has some very nice off road tracks that deserve to be explored in the future.

We went home in 2 batches as the ferries plying the Singapore to Tg Balai route are not very bike friendly. I led the 11am while Ejin took the 2pm one. It was sad to finally say our goodbyes to everyone as we entered the ferry terminal.

Pic Berenda

Group 2 continued their eating spree and when I looked at their pics later on, I could not but feel a bit jealous... Otak Otak, Laksa, Wantan Mee and more. O well, that just means another trip must be made to catch up on the food I missed!

Pic Berenda

All in, I was very happy to be able to share the joys of touring in the Riaus with these fine bunch of fun loving folks. Till we tour again, my grateful thanks to Kevin, Roland, George, Loh, Ejin, Cindy, Elaine Pan, Elaine DT, Audrey, Wendy and Berenda for a very special time in the Riaus.


I was very pleased touring with my Bike Friday Tikit. Although it is a commuter like the Brompton, it is fitted with double chain rings so that it can tackle the hills better. With its high pressure Kojaks, it really ate up the miles though one must be careful in the wet. It helps that it has full fenders and can take my Orteleib pannier with no issue.  With my trusty B17 Brooks to assure all day comfort, I must say this is the Tikit to tour.

Pic Cindy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kundur and Karimun with LCSG - Day 2

Pic Bro Loh

I scampered down to the lobby at a few minutes past 6am, half regretting my decision to wake up from a truly blissful slumber. My room mates Roland and Kevin were comfortably snoozing in dream land when I left the room.

Ejin, Cindy, Audrey and Berenda were already at the seafront ooh ooh arh arh-ing away at the magnificent view before us. The golden red and orange hues were just starting to fill the dark sky and it reminded me of who truly is the Master Artist. Such a living and amazing portrait before our eyes made my heart burst out in song of praise and awe.

We moved to the main jetty in town and had fun photographing our bikes and each other. Its all about lighting and we had perfect conditions. I shared what little I know of shooting foldies and we all had a great time of experimenting.

Before going back to meet the rest of the gang at 730am, we visited the old jetty which is now closed. The 007 Police patrol boat that has seen better days is still rotting away there, with its sister #006.

We visited the Dutch part of town too and shot a few more pics before returning via Teochew Street, where all the hawkers were out selling a smogasboard of delectable food. We were tempted to just have our fill but good manners prevailed.

Everyone was ready to go on the dot and I appreciate the punctuality of this group very much. I believe they all must have seen this sign at the hotel to be discipline and silent, thought I'm not sure how quiet we can be as 12 excited and gaggling cyclists!

The breakfast did not disappoint as we were spoilt for choice. When in doubt, order everything seems to be our preferred modus operandi. If I recalled correctly, the following were ordered. Nasi Lemak, Kuey Chap, rice porridge, soft boil eggs, Char Kway Teow, Chai Tow Kuey (we had 5 plates of that),
washed down with soya bean milk, coffee and tea. It was truly a breakfast for champions!

Pic Roland

Pic Berenda

Pic Berenda

The highlight for me though was to sit with some of the local wise old men to listen to their stories. It helped that we had our own WOM in Roland so I just sat with him, with eager ears and many questions. They were all born here in Kundur Island, with ancestry from China. I learned that eking out a living is not easy and many people just do whatever it takes to put food on the table. Many of their kids have gone to the metropolis of Singapore to work but the oldies preferred the tranquil lifestyle here. There are success stories though and one WOM I sat with is a Bird's Nest tycoon. Yet he seemed very humble and shared that prices have fallen from $300 to $70 per 100 gram of this "gold" produced from Swallows. This was due to strict import restrictions by the main buyer, China no thanks to fake Bird's Nest on offer.

We set off reluctantly and bade the friendly people there goodbye.  Our target was an easy 20km along the East Coast of Kundur to the coastal town of Urung. With 12 bikes in tow, we were quite a sight as we rode out of Tg Batu. The morning was sunny but not hot, and the fresh breezes made for a most pleasant start. 

It happened to be Indonesia's 68th National Day and as we rode 5 km out of town, there was a big celebration in the field. All the school kids were there at the stadium, smartly dressed all ready for the big show. We hung around and decided to form the Da Brim contingent, much to the entertainment of the participants there.

We took turns to lead as we rolled very quickly towards Urung. I was very impressed at the cruising speed of 23-25km/h for such a big group and I enjoyed riding alongside different people to have chats and exchanging riding techniques. Traffic was very light save for the occasional motorcycle and that made for cycling heaven.

At some stage, the sweepers were no where to be found and that got me worried, However, they were distracted by the abundance of red, juicy Rambutans and I don't blame them one bit. The gang took just about an hour to reach Urung and we congregated at the jetty. Urung is a charming small town with limited ferries connecting to Tg Balai (10am daily) and Tg Batu. 

When everyone arrived safely, we had drinks at my favorite cafe just overlooking the waterfront. What surprises is that there is very decent satay, grilled meat on sticks, served with peanut sauce and that makes for a very satisfying morning tea at prices from the 1970s.

We were all enjoying this quaint little cafe and no one was in a mood to move out. But heh, we were not in a hurry at all and times like this are scarce in the urban jungle of Singapore. It took me a herculean effort to get the folks back on the saddle and we were off again, this time heading west right in the middle of the island before making a right turn north to Kg Asam at the 10.5km point.

As schools were dismissed early due to the national holiday, we encountered many happy school kids and a bit of traffic on the road. That was fine as I enjoyed Hi-5-ing with the kids I passed by and their brilliant and generous smiles really make anyone's day.

While I was enjoying the ride, someone shouted for me to stop. I turned around and spotted a rider down on the road and immediately rushed there. For some unexplained reason, "Daisy" on her MuP8 skidded and fell, causing Bro Loh on his MTB to lose his balance too. These are moments that really cause me great anxiety as getting injured on tour is not fun, especially if its serious. We were 5km from Urung so it was not too far to call for help if needed. 

Fortunately, poor Daisy was more shocked than injured and I was glad to hear from Dr Kevin Soh that her injuries were not too bad, just some road rash and cuts. Moments like these serve as a good reminder to always ride with safety gear and a helmet + a good first aid kit. It was also great seeing the team in action, everyone helping out from directing traffic, repairing her bike and even plucking juicy rambutans (?). With all the attention focused on Daisy, poor Bro Loh got none! He told me that later and we all had a good laugh, and I told him to consider wearing a skirt the next time. Glad though that he was fine.

Despite the fall and feeling some pain, Daisy put up a brave front and insisted on continuing. That won my utmost respect at her sporting and determined spirit. We went on a really easy pace just to make sure everyone stayed together and took breaks every 5km just to make sure Daisy was ok. 

At our 2nd stop in a sundry shop, the dark clouds broke and we experienced the full force of a tropical monsoon. It was a good thing we were properly sheltered and had lots to eat and drink. One bonus was the presence of a pineapple farmer who was preparing his goodies for sale. We asked if we could buy 2 but the nice man brushed us off after insisting we took 2 fruit. Roland impressed us with his cutting skills and within minutes, we were all enjoying freshly cut pineapples.

Pic Berenda

We just waited for the heavy rain to ease and spent the time just chatting and laughing. It was good that everyone was wet weather ready and had bikes with fenders. One thing I learned is to waterproof my Da Brim cum helmet by using a shower cap and I'm grateful to Berenda for lending me hers. The ladies were so well prepared that they even had color co-ordinated rain gear,

After about an hour, the weather improved and we braved the rain. There is something special about hearing the rhythm of water splashing due to fast moving wheels and feeling the light drizzle hitting our faces. Refreshing! Kevin on a Brompton rode with me and it must have been that special drink, Teh Telor, he had last night that seemed to give him boundless energy.

We all arrived in Selat Belia, some 50+km on the northern tip of Kundur feeling somewhat famished. It didn't help that there was a killer hill we had to climb before reaching the jetty but almost everyone managed it. I am glad that more parts of that muddy road has been completed since I last visited, but progress here is at a snail's pace. That mucked up our pristine bikes but heh, part and parcel of touring is mud and dirt, and they added to the fun!

The ferries at Selat Belia leave for Tg Balai at 30 - 45 min intervals so we didn't have to wait very long for ours. At $2 per trip, this must be the cheapest 20 min ferry in the world and there was plenty of space for our 12 bikes. I think we hit the lottery on this one as we got the bigger boat. However, the cabin was full of smokers (welcome to Indonesia) and the best seat in the house was outside.

We wasted no time to have our lunch when we landed on Karimun. I always liked this Nasi Padang restaurant in town near the Naval HQ, just look out for the anti-aircraft gun. The gals took the opportunity to have some fun here.

Pic Bro Loh

Simpang Raya and the jolly owner had nothing but bright smiles for us 12 hungry cyclists. There is a saying that you know how good a restaurant is just by looking at the owner and we were not disappointed. We must have had nearly 10 different dishes and if you like spicy, you are in for a treat.

Pic Berenda

You can tell that we are folks who love our bikes as the first thing we all did upon checking in at Paragon Hotel was not to jump into the shower. Even though we were by now, all smelling of salted fish, we had to make sure our bicycles were all nice and clean first. It was nice to see how everyone just helped each other here and truly, the camaraderie among this group is awesome!

It was nice to have a little rest and snooze at the comfortable aircon rooms in Paragon Hotel as we all felt a bit worn out from the day's ride. Kudos to them for allowing us to park our bicycles safely in their lobby. As the heavy lunch was taken rather late, dinner was lightish - bits and pieces of various noodles, rice, satay etc at the night market. We walked to the Tg Balai Esplanade and it was throbbing with people due to the National Day celebrations. The carnival atmosphere just put everyone in a very good mood and we enjoyed coffee/tea under the stars. There were lots of tricycles all lighted up like Christmas Trees and it was quite a sight.

Save for Roland, Berenda, Elaine and I, the rest retired early but we went across our hotel for a light supper. Entering a hole in the wall was our best discovery as it was a chinese chi char seafood place, with tables out in the sea on a wooden pier. It was too bad that we were all rather full but we managed to taste just a small plate of seafood noodles and this is definitely worth a visit the next time.

It was with a bit of sadness that I crawled into bed as our trip has come to an end. My room mate was already in the land of dreams and there was a big smile plastered on his face. I felt that too as it had been a most glorious day and I thanked God for watching over us all, especially Daisy.