Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tele-climbing and beyond

Winded after 21km of climbing... another 2 to go. Thanks for the pic Chris.

Inspirational or what?

Landslide is not a problem for bicycles

Steep hills are!

Worth every pedal

Fitting in with the locals - butt style!

Innovative use of the iconic Vespa

Taruntung - faster out, the better

We left Nothingsville enthusiastically at 0700 as it was a long day of riding ahead. The 23km climb out of the crater basin to Tele promised to be the most scenic and provided for some great photos. Being Sunday, we passed by many villagers going to churches all dressed up. It was also the first time I heard the famous singing of the Bataks as I rode passed packed Sunday Services - hymns I instantly recognized beautifully sung in their language. It was unmistakable that this day was set aside through the atmosphere of worship, even in the distant rice fields.

The road was unpaved, pot-holed and muddy and I was starting to get worried. The few motorbikes that came in our opposite direction warned us something about the road being closed due to a landslide - 'Jalan tutup!' How bad was it? Could we pass? No one could give us a proper answer so we cycled with great trepidation to find out for ourselves. Soon, the path in front of us disappeared into huge heap of earth. Nothing could get through, nothing... except bicycles, carried by foot. Fortunately, 3 keretek smoking guys were hanging around and they kindly offered us much needed help to cross over the 40 x 3m natural disaster. We were so grateful to these nicotine addicted angels!

If that was an adventure, the twisty climb up to Tele was even more so. It was almost double the 10km climb out of Harrunggoal but the morning sunlight, green lush plains, sparkling waters and of course, imposing highlands made it worth every hard pedal. Think Lord of the Rings here! I was truly struggling here while Chris seemed to be flying. Our energy gels and chocolates were eagerly consumed and when the top was finally reached, a sign that said, "Feel the miracle" greeted us. It was apt.

Lunch at Tele was at a typical Indonesian roadside warung serving cold curries with lukewarm rice. The curry chicken head with comb intact did not make for a satisfying meal but we had to replenish our spent energy, one way or the other. The road to the next town had to start uphill for another 7km but we were rewarded with high speed downhills which was exhilarating. Top speed hit was 53km/h!

As it was getting really late, we had to jump onto a public minivan to make our destination, Taruntung before sundown. 14 folks sardined together in a 30 year old moving rusted can is bad enough. Add all the fellow male passengers lighting up in closed quarters, Chris and I breathed in enough secondhand smoke to last two lifetimes.

It was raining as we entered Taruntung. The sky got dark, and we were so glad to be out of the smoke can and on our bikes again. Nothing going for this town as well - just a sleepover place for us. The Bali Hotel we crashed in had a helpful guy recep who looked very much like Gurmit Singh, a famous TV star in Singapore. It looked promising but with dark stained, grimy toilet with broken fixtures, I didn't spend much time on the 'throne'. Perhaps it was the bleak weather but Taruntung with its unlighted, dirty streets and run-downed dingy shops, felt like we were slowly but surely beginning our descend into the armpit of Sumatra.

Heading West was beginning to look like a bad idea...

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