Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thin Air and not so Fat Tires - Bromo Day 5 "Freewheeling to Malang."

Bromo, the best workout ever for your leg muscles!

For once I woke up at 530am, not by choice really. Last night's party music resumed at 4am, and the resident Rooster got the morning off! I supposed if one has to rent sound equipment for 2-3 days, may as well enjoy it as much as possible. Perfectly understandable. I was dreaming of having breakfast in bed but that was going to stay a dream as the guesthouse owner who assumed we (& all his guests) were vegetarians, was probably still fast asleep.

It was fun to see everyone gathered in our hut all rugged up but in the highest spirits. At last I had a chance to see the sunrise and it was a sight to behold. It was special to just watch the day begin together. However with the music thundering on, it really put us in the mood....  the mood to leave!

When it was daylight, we packed up and got on our MTBs. Today promised to be a most exciting ride - 40km of downhill all the way to Malang. With empty stomachs, we said goodbye to Ngadas and began our descend. After all, the only energy we needed were our fingers to press the brakes. It was fun following 2 tourists going down too on their scooter, and they were holding us back!

Christoph and I just took our time to cruise downhill as we just wanted the moment to last. We were not in any hurry. It was our last day in the highlands. Also, the roads going down was also pretty rough and we have been pretty badly shaken for a few days already. The bad roads somehow jolted my Topeak multi-tool out of the pannier but it was a good thing Christoph behind me, could pick it up.

The gang stopped at the waterfall point where we regrouped and refueled. As expected, the only thing available were a couple of roadside Warungs selling instant hot drinks (choose your sachets) and instant noodles. But we were soon going to be in Malang, where good food await so we didn't mind it one bit.

From here onwards, it was an easy 30+ km downhill on good roads and after all the hard climbing, it was our sweet reward. Big smiles were evident everywhere and we were all happy as Larry. One thing that must be said about descending downhills safely is that it requires strict discipline and constantly planning an "escape" route. Zipping down so quickly with great exhilaration at 40-50km/h, one must always be prepared for the inevitable and for unexpected chicken, child or car that suddenly pop into your path. Also, it is important to maintain a comfortable distance from the other cyclist in case of any emergency maneuvers required. It was heartening to see George turn on his 1000w flashing headlight for visibility and we were like some police outriders!  I thank God that we all arrived down the foot hills in one piece despite some hair raising moments.

We were welcome instantly by the blanket of humidity and it was time to peel away our layers for the hot tropical weather. Chris our resident navigation guru led us through the heavy traffic towards Malang city and he did it as though he lived here, all with his GPS embedded in his head. In the city, Joni bid us farewell as she went off to stay with her friend.

Our destination was the very comfortable Kertanegera Premium Guest House and it didn't disappoint. After surviving in rather basic quarters, the 3 star hotel felt like a 5 star one and the first thing we appreciated was the bike friendliness. The rooms too were absolutely amazing and for the price we paid of US$40 a night, it was unbelievable. I was so glad we were going to be here for 3 nights.

After settling in and a good shower, we wasted no time exploring Malang. This is a historical town that prides itself as an educational hub of Java as there are many universities located here. Compared to other cities in Java, Malang is considered cool and many Europeans settled here during the colonial Dutch times. This is reflected in the many historical and heritage buildings dotting the city, and earned it the nickname the Little Switzerland of Java.

Pic from

Having a population of 800,000 plus a sizable Chinese living there meant many great eateries that abound. We had a celebration dinner at a wonderful Indonesian restaurant cum museum and that was very special, especially meeting up with Joni's friend, Thea.

One particular trademark in Malang is the handmade noodles and that was the first place we went for our meals. Now I know why our dear Sonny decided against spending the last night up with us in Ngadas!

Besides good eats, it was great to end our Bromo ride in Malang simply because of the many wonderful bike shops that sold stuff up to half of what we pay for in Singapore. Needless to say we all contributed significantly to the economy. Once again, trust Chris to know the exact location of these shops and he even knew one bike shop owner since the 1990s!

Our stay in Malang was made all the more special because of our wonderful host Sonny who had to work, look after his family and yet sacrifice his personal time to make sure we were well looked after. He even made sure we enjoyed a lovely Sunday ride the next day with his Ijen Cycling Club to the hills and that was most memorable.

We are also indebted to Sonny for taking all the trouble to arrange for our bikes and ourselves to be ferried 120km safely to Surabaya where we caught our flight home.

So from all of us - George, Chris, KC, Christoph, Joni and I, we want to thank you so much Sonny for making our Bromo trip one that we will always remember for a long long time. We look forward to riding with you again real soon. Meanwhile, God bless you and your 2 lovely gals!

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