Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Discovering Singkep with the Fellas - Day 3

Pic Mike Khor

Pic KC

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After such a hard day of riding yesterday, we all deserved a later wake up. Our only appointment for the day was to visit Hardiono's bike shop at 10am so it was an easy morning. Unlike Lingga, Singkep is a bit more relax in Ramadan observations and we could find breakfast without much difficulty. Our favorite coffeeshop was thankfully opened but with half its doors shut for good gesture. Also, the noodle stall outside was not operating but most of the food and drink sold inside remained the same.

We ordered soft boil eggs (which seem to be how the locals like their eggs), Nasi Lemak packed in quaint banana leaf and had lovely local coconut jam on toast. Washed down with local coffee/tea and all at an unbelievable price of US$2 each. It was really special to observe that this was obviously more than just a coffeeshop, and was a regular meeting point for the local older men, many who came by vintage bicycles.

Our ride to Hardiono's was a short and pleasant one - 2km or so north of town. We rode leisurely soaking in the sights, riding pass Masjid Alzzufa and numerous old Dutch houses, standing proudly as reminders of its colonial past. Over 100 years of mining has left Singkep with very good infrastructure in the form of an airport, hospital, ports, good road etc.

One pleasant surprise was to see a Cuci Moto shop. This was where the local cowboys go to have their motorbikes washed and it is done with a high pressure jet spray, plenty of soap and then towel dry. They even had wax and tire shine included. As our bicycles were rather muddy from yesterday, I enquired if they would do bicycles and the answer was yes, at 5000 rp or 50 US cents. We were elated that our precious steeds were going for a much needed spa treatment and we enjoyed seeing the local lads pamper our steel sons. Mike on the other hand, preferred to do it himself and remarked, "Im paying him so that I can wash my bike!"

With our bicycles all sparkling and new, we rode to Hardiono to get them oiled. Once again, we were greeted warmly by the boss and his lovely fiancé Devi. I was looking at getting a front suspension fork but they only had a basic one. Very rarely do I leave bike shops empty handed, and today was no exception. Managed to get a puncture kit made by Rodalink for 40000rp and Finish Line Chain Dry Lube for 80000rp. Prices here are definitely cheaper than in Singapore. I was grateful to Hardi for fixing my bike computer too where the sensor got loose. They kindly made arrangements to take us our for dinner at a newly opened joint in town at 7pm.

Hardi recommended us to visit the Air Panas or Hot Springs and since we did the waterfall the last time, it sounded like a good idea. 10 km only - how bad can that be? As we rode round Singkep Island 6 months ago, we encountered very good roads. The infrastructure here is good because of the mining boom that Singkep experienced. Little did we know that we were in for another rough and muddy ride. At least part of this was because of the construction of new roads to the Hot Springs. So here we are again, shaking our way slowly. Negotiating our way through mud pools, the fear is always to loose your balance and fall into the brown waters. Fortunately, as in all things, it gets better with practice and we got lots.

Do note how the camera changes hands on the move... Impressive don't you think?

At exactly 10.3km, the Hot Springs appeared but it felt like 30km as we had to ride gingerly. Being Ramandan, there was not a soul in sight and only a black dog sleeping in a hut was there to greet us. We wasted no time to have a rinse and then soak ourselves in the hot mineral waters.

Pic KC

It was not easy to get used to it and Mike just pretended it was a Japanese Onsen. It was fun hearing his stories of Onsen etiquette but here, it was free for all! This experience did Ravi wonders especially for his sore bottom as later, he was cycling like a TDF champion.

We just rested and enjoyed the tranquility of the place in our little hut, munching on buns, fish crackers and rice cakes until it started to rain. This was the usual afternoon downpour and we didn't mind it at all as we had no agenda for the day but to relax. It was special just sharing stories and experiences with each other, and getting to know new friends better.

When the rains cleared, we made our way back to Dabo town but this time, the trail was even more soggy and muddier. That meant our recently washed bikes all got another mud spa again and this was a real bummer. Nevertheless, the ride was rather cool thanks to many shady trees and cloudy skies and that made for an enjoyable ride until I foolishly rode on the side of the road and got bogged. That made me lose my balance and thank God I came out with only a sore shin.

Pic KC
All this while, only the 3 of us were riding together and Ravi was way ahead on my Bridgestone MB3. The soaking in hot mineral natural water did wonders for his soreness and he was like a brand new man. When we finally popped out into decent roads once again, our bikes looked like it went for a cross country mud race. It was good to see Ravi waiting for us, with big grins.

So it was back again to Cuci Moto shop and we wondered if we could tell the cleaners that they had to do it again for they missed a spot, or ten. The cleaning guys must wonder what crazy chaps we are to wash our bikes, then messed it up and return in 3 hours for another wash. But at 50c, we didn't mind at all and enjoyed playing with the water spray gun.

We went looking for lunch and it was already a late 3pm as we entered Dabo. It wasn't too difficult to find a Nasi Padang eatery surprisingly, and we settled for that. This is a famous Indonesian meal where they bring lots of dishes to your table and you are charged for what you eat. Hungry us enjoyed the lovely curries and spicy fish. To make the meal taste even better, we all ate native - and used our hands just like the locals do.

It was then coffee and local cakes at our usual coffeeshop before we spent the rest of afternoon in our hotel. Ravi and KC got some sleep but Mike and I were so excited sharing adventure stories and touring tips. One thing I've learned from him is to roll up your clothes - as it makes for easy and more compact packing.

Just before Hardi came to get us at 7pm, I went to settle the hotel bill.  I was shocked to learn that the hotel wanted another 100,000k for some sort of passport fee for the Police. I have been to Indonesia frequently and was disappointed as they tried that with me the last time too. This is simply a way of corrupted people trying to use the Police name to scare people for more cash. I gave the recep a piece of my mind and told them to go fly a kite. So please note that if you ever go to Armanda Hotel in Dabo, make sure its crystal clear to the recep that you won't stand for this nonsense! It was also very unfortunate that Mike lost his faithful GPS in this hotel, and that was another disappointment.

It was good to see Hardi coming so punctually and we went to The Best Food Court which had its opening ceremony that very evening. Mike, Hardi and I had cold beer finally and were happy as we ordered everything that could be ordered. One exotic dish that came was Terrapin Herbal Soup and I gave that a miss. We learned that Hardi and Devi were also going to Batam the next day, so Mike had the privilege of their company once again.

Pic KC

After dinner, Hardi brought us for an excursion in his SUV and it was indeed very privilege to enjoy the warm hospitality of our new friends. With a car, Dabo was even smaller than we imagine! One place he brought us that impressed was a nice beach resort just 2km out of town. They only had 3 villas but one that really stood out was perched literally right in the sea. At only US$20 per night, it is a steal. The owner told us how popular it is with Westerners and I can see why.

As we had to get up at 430am to catch our 7am morning ferry, we retired early for our last night of our adventure. It was hard to say goodbye to Hardi and Devi, and thanks to Facebook, we are connected and able to stay in touch. I learned that they are going to get married in September this year, and feel very happy for them indeed.

All good things must come to an end and our little excursion down at the equator was fun filled as expected. I felt so grateful to God for giving me such wonderful friends to enjoy our passion together, especially in exploring new exotic places. And of course, for His protection and divine provision as always.

Till our next trip, its adios for now from the jolly good fellas - KC, Mike, Ravi and Al! May the good Lord guide you in your own travels and adventures.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.  Psalm 32:8

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