Making friends in Sumbawa

Sally waiting on the ferry

Sally waiting on the ferry

Half hour after we boarded the ferry to Sumbawa, Sal reminded me that there is NO BEER in Sumbawa…

As I ran off the ferry and back to the closest shop I heard the rumble of a group of big capacity bikes headed towards the pier, and there they were, about 10 Harleys and a few GS1200’s!!

I made it back to the ferry with some Bintang in hand, still in time for departure, and quickly made friends with the group, an organised tour mostly from Jakarta.  We chatted a bit about the ride through Flores, took some pics and then settled in for the 6 hour crossing to Sumbawa.

Which was predictably held up at the terminal for an hour, so by the time we got to Sape it was almost dark and we still had about 60km of very windy road to the next town – Bima to find a room.  Usually I’d love to join a group of guys on a ride, but the inclement darkness had me in a hurry so we said our goodbyes.

We arrived in Bima as darkness settled in, and tried a few hotels in town before one would let us stay.  Being told “full” at an obviously empty hotel has happened to us before in Indonesia, and we’re still unsure why.

There was a religious ceremony being held in the town square that night which made for an interesting walk around.  We knew that Sumbawa is more strictly Muslim than most of Indonesia, but seeing primary school age girls wearing a hijab was pretty strange.

Next morning we set off early hoping to beat the heat for the ride through Sumbawa.  We stopped at a little hut for a coffee mid morning, where Sal tried to make friends with a bunch of small rabbits running around the place…

“Sal they may have fleas…” i said as she scooped up the smallest one for a cuddle.


Back on the road and 5 mins later we buzzed through a town where there were 5 GS1200’s and an 1190 Adv parked on the side of the road, I confused them for the group we’d met on the ferry, and stopped to say hello.

“hi guys, where are the rest?”

“there are no more, just us”

“what about the harleys?”

“different group…”

“oh well, hey enjoy your ride, see you at the ferry terminal!”

We continued on for another hour before three of the bikes flashed past us as we rolled through another village.

Being passed by someone is not something that happens to us very often, and when it does it’s usually by a teenage kid on a local bike riding like his life depends on it, but being passed by 3 BMW’s hasn’t ever happened before.

I turned around and looked at Sal, she smiled… which I took as approval to join in, so we dropped a couple of gears and set off.

Now before anyone gets upset with me, we had been going very slowly at this point, proven by Sally’s comment later in the day

“you were going so slowly today was going to take forever, i was glad you sped up”

this is taking forever!

this is taking forever!

Ok so now we’re a group of 4 bikes snaking our way through Sumbawa, which was really fun.  So much fun that when my fuel light turned on about 25km before the road met the coast (and started to twist and turn again), I was a bit disappointed.

But we were all low on fuel, so the next Pertamina (fuel station) saw all of us pull up for a short break.  Before we knew it, we had a cold drink in one hand, and a slice of watermelon in the other.

“gift, lady first, take, drink!”

We sat and talked bikes with the guys for ten minutes as the other three of their group arrived before setting off again, bound for another roadside stop on the coast for lunch.

The next 30mins riding was rather spirited, but I managed to pick my way past all of the guys and shadowed a funny guy from Jogyakarta named Didier, who was the fastest of the group, for about 10km.  I showed him a wheel every now and then while trying (unsuccessfully) not to piss Sally off too much!

When we stopped at a little restaurant, Didier was wearing a broad smile and quickly suggested that he and I should leave the rest of the group and go out racing each other…

“ok no problem, but do you mind if I leave Sally here?” I asked a little tongue in cheek.

This was met by raucous laughter from the rest of the group.  We joined the guys for lunch, which they insisted on buying for us, grilled fish, steamed chinese broccoli and sambal, delicious and very generous!

The guys were great company, fellow motorcycle travellers with plans to visit Patagonia later in the year, so we had plenty to talk about.

After that we rode more or less as a group to the ferry terminal, where they managed to buy our tickets for us, refusing my attempts to work out who had paid, and how much it cost.

waiting for the ferry with our new friends

waiting for the ferry with our new friends

The group of Harleys we’d met the previous day were there too, so we made quite a sight, 30 enormous bikes rolling onto the ferry.

This crossing was quite short, 45 mins later we were looking at the terminal in Lombok, waved goodbye to all our new friends and set out to find a room for the night.

This part of Lombok is quite remote, so we were lucky to find a homestay just before dark and with no restaurants in the vicinity, the pasta, tomatoes and bintang we’ve been carrying since Flores were turned into quite a nice meal 🙂

I’m sorry but I cant remember all 6 names, (and I don’t think I can spell some of them), but Didier, Jimmi, Richard, Mesha and friends, a big hello and thank you to all of you guys, keep in touch and I hope you aren’t too cold in Patagonia!!

If you ever visit Australia come and stay with us in Adelaide!



Riding in Flores

I throw three gears at the bike in quick succession, 4 then 3 then 2… the motor makes that glorious sound that only a twin can make as it pops and growls under hard deceleration, with this much weight on the rear of the bike I can really use the gearbox to slow us down.

It’s making me smile, but this is another one of those uphill hairpins that Flores seems to have a monopoly on, so we get right back to first to make the turn, then it’s a short shift to second and we work back up through the gearbox again, not killing it, just riding the fat torque curve until it’s time to brake again for the next turn.

flores road

On a trip like this you cant ride like a lunatic, you can’t even ride moderately quickly, there’s always a goat, some roadwork, gravel or oncoming traffic just around the next blind corner so you have to be careful, so we always travel with plenty up my sleeve so to speak.

“chi va piano va lontano” is what an italian once told me in Africa, but then he quickly backed it up with “ma non andare troppo piano!”

(who goes slowly, goes a long way… but don’t go too slowly!)

That said – I’m having fun.  Fun… tinged with guilt.  For everyone of those hairpin turns that we roll into, I know that poor Sal on the back needs to hold on pretty hard not to fall into me, and given that we’ve been at this for about 5 hours now, I can sense that she’s getting tired…

Another turn, this one’s a little tighter than I expected so I need to brake right into the apex, which helps to turn the bike, but puts an awful lot of stress on the passenger… on the exit I tap Sal on the leg to say ‘sorry about that’, she take a deep breath and we continue.

Riding in Flores is about as good as motorcycling gets, particularly on a Sunday as everyone is at home, and the usual truck traffic is absent so we have the whole place to ourselves.  I’m tired though, and my left foot is actually hurting from all the gearchanges, so when we flash past a little hut with satchels of coffee hanging from a piece of string out the front, I make the “shall we stop for a coffee?” sign, and Sal gives me the thumbs up.

“Oh my god, how much more of this have we got left?”

“I think the worst (best!) of it is over…” I reply.

About 4 hours later we roll into Labuan Bajo, find a place to stay and skull a couple of longnecks of Bintang watching the sunset over the bay.

We’ve come from Larantuka in three days, that’s only about 550km  in three long riding days with no traffic at all.





Shipping Australia to Timor

Shipping the bike is the least exciting part of a trip, can be very frustrating and usually takes longer than you want.  Other people’s blogs have helped me with this in the past, so this is my turn to pass on some experience.

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Australia (Darwin) to East Timor (Dili) was very easy to organise, not particularly cheap, but as a RORO service, very convenient.

I chose to ship by sea cargo because it costs half as much as air, and in this case is much easier as you don’t need to crate the bike.

Here’s how:

Prices were in August 2015.

1) ANL organise the shipping from Darwin to Dili, currently running 2 boats between Darwin-Dili-Singapore.  The sailing schedules and contact details are published on their website, they have a boat roughly once every 7-10 days.

Beware that the schedules are prone to change with no notice, i.e. they run late, never early.  Ours progressively changed by 8 days between booking and delivery.

Call them and they will send you a booking form to fill in and return to them.  They will reply with a booking  confirmation which you are to print and take with you to customs and PJ’s (see below).

2) When you’re ready to drop off the bike, visit customs in Darwin, 21 Lindsey St, Darwin, (GPS -12.458359,130.840225), and have them stamp your carnet.  They will want to see your ID and booking confirmation, which should take about 10mins.

3) Drop off the bike at PJ’s Freight yard, Export Drive, East Arm NT 0822.  (GPS  -12.469490, 130.922875).  This is about 10km from the city centre, if you drop it off late in the day with a bit of luck one of the guys at PJ’s will give you a ride back to the city.  This literally involves riding into the shed, parking the bike and walking away.

4) Go somewhere else for a week or 4 until the bike has been delivered to Dili.

5) Book your flight to Dili – (Sriwijaya Air or Air Timor) booking in advance may leave you in Dili for longer than desired if your boat is delayed.  By SE Asian standards Dili is very expensive, factor US$30/night MINIMUM for a terrible room, but you can eat cheaply on the street if you’re game for a couple of dollars, otherwise restaurants will range from $5 for a cheap meal up to western prices.  We stayed in a barely habitable room, with a broken toilet that was at the end of a pile of construction rubbish for US$30/night.

6) Once in Dili, get a taxi from the airport direct to the ANL freight yard, (GPS -8.559512, 125.532399).  This should cost $2.  Give them your booking confirmation, Passport and about US$70 and they will give you your Bill of Lading – which proves the cargo belongs to you.

7) Take the Bill of Lading, a copy of your passport, your ownership document and your carnet to Customs in the Port in Dili.  Avenida Salazar,  Díli, Timor-Leste  (GPS -8.553605, 125.573624).  They will stamp your carnet, keep the lower portion of that page and send you on your way.  Should take 5 mins.

8) Return to ANL, show them the stamped carnet, and they will give you a cargo release form, which you take to a small customs hut across the compound and give to the customs officer, more stamping and passport checks and you can take your bike away.  This took me an hour as the bike was still in the container.  If your’s is at the back of the container instead of the front it could be several hours.

9) Fill the bike with fuel (the petrol stations on the way out of town charge much less than the one in the middle:  US$140/lt vs US$1.05/lt) and ride away!!

Cost – The KTM950 cost AUD$925 to get to Dili, (paid to ANL Australia) and another USD$68 in local fees in Dili, paid in the ANL office.  Customs should not charge you.

Crossing from Timor to Indonesia is overland, and all the islands in Indonesia are connected by RORO ferries, that normally leave daily.  The exception to this is from West timor (Kupang) to Flores (or elsewhere), which leave a few times a week.  Ask at your hotel in Kupang for more details.

We’re going all the way to Medan in Sumatra for shipping to Penang, Malaysia.  I chose this option because it’s another RORO service, no crating, and the customs and port process is very simple and also cheap.  More on that in the next post on shipping.

Hope this helps someone!

Building the biceps

Before I speak about my bulging biceps I would just like to comment on deans last post re the boat trip. He did fail to mention that I get sea sick and a 14 hour boat trip was something I’d had to prepare myself to do (again) and the only comfort I had to get me through was the ‘vip’ ticket where I could basically just read, sleep and be cool…and not see the sea moving up and down….up and down…vomit.

So when dean insisted that it would be fine to spend 14 hours in a haze of cigarette smoke, on a steel chair/dirty floor with people and litter all around us I was not happy….furious actually. Luckily for dean I had some travel pills and wasn’t sick, and the sea water that was coming in about a metre from where we were sleeping didn’t touch us….and it didn’t rain…luckily…And we had blow up airbeds…lucky for me dean is a very patient, forgiving man and coaxed me out of my angry mood and we made it, it was an experience and I never want to do it again 😊

So, we have just spent the last two days riding the long windy roads of Flores…some beautiful scenery and lovely people with excited happy children and cute little kid goats…but the roads are so windy that i have spent the last two days holding on to the bike so hard that my bicpes are rapidly ripping themselves into form!I’m just hoping they don’t get as big as they did in the last trip but we have a long way to go yet! We are spending the nights at altitude so it is cooler which is great as it’s pretty hot in this part of the world at the moment! Tomorrow we head to Labuan bajo for a few days of diving…and tonight we are watching the MotoGP hoping for a win from Rossi…!

The ferry to Flores

“No VIP tickets, finished”

Yelled the man “No problem, normal ticket ok.”

Now I’m sitting on a deflated blow up mattress on the cargo deck of the ferry to Flores.  Around me in no particular order of importance are:

About another 20 people who were also too late (or too poor) to get a seat or bed upstairs.

7 small ponies

12 boxes of chicks (as in small chickens), all “cheep cheep”ing their miniature hearts out.

One very irate girlfriend

Lots of trucks

Many small motorbikes

Hundreds of sacks filled with everything from garlic, to used plastic bottles…


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sally enjoying the cruise…

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the view from the top deck

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ponies to keep us company

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just about to disembark.

Fast forward 18 hours.

On the upside, we did manage to make it to Kupang in time to ship the new tyres we’re carrying to Bali, and then catch the 4pm ferry (which actually departed at 2pm).

The plan was to get a VIP ticket, which while it sounds great, just means you get to lay down in a cooled room full of bunk beds with another 40 people, mostly snoring, or playing different music on their phones at maximum volume.

The other class of ticket is “not VIP”, where you get to sit on a metal chair, in a hot room with 200 other people, most of whom are smoking, with bizarre music being played at eardrum shattering volume.

We arrived at the terminal at 1:55pm, and the loading door for the ferry was already being closed, so in the panic to get tickets and get on board, I missed the rising hysteria in Sal’s voice at the prospect of a 16 hour ferry trip in “not VIP” class.  It may have been more complex than that, but let’s not get bogged down with details here…

Once on board however I did pick up on some fairly clear signs that all was not well.

Anyway, we opted to sleep down on the cargo deck where at least no one was smoking.  The blow up mattresses we still have came in vary handy, and aside from the wind blowing a fucking gale, the horses screaming in panic every half hour or so, the chicks screeching all night long, the blindingly bright lights that were left on all night, the lack of any food or water and the 100% humidity from the fog that we passed through, it was quite nice night.

Did I mention the sea water running across the floor?

Never mind, it can’t all be white sandy beaches and Balinese villas can it?

We FINALLY arrived here in Larantuka at about 7am, and staggered into town to find another room, eat some food and crash out in another mosquito infested, then poisoned room.

Today was spent walking through town looking for some bits and pieces, getting a local sim card (our number is +6781337026357), eating some more and trying to find some vacuum hose for a minor repair on Betsy.

They don’t get many tourists in sleepy traditional Larantuka, so walking into a mechanics workshop with Sally in her short summer dress, while we tried to explain ‘vacuum hose’ in sign language – caused quite a stir.  Especially after I drew a picture of a piece of tube (that Sal said looked like male genitalia), and Sal made a sucking face complete with sucking noises to complete the mime.

The look on all the boys faces was priceless.

“Must be time for a beer” – Sally.

On that note, bye all!!

We finally get moving

Many amazing things have just happened. For possibly the first time ever, a shipping company was on time, and definitely for the first time ever, a shipping company charged LESS than they quoted. WTF?

There was also the taxi driver who took me to the shipping yard, he managed to make the 5km trip at no more than 35km/hr in top gear slipping the clutch the whole way there.  (Something to do with saving petrol I assume).

Then after being stored for a month, Betsy started up right away, we rode to the border, and (technically) entered Indonesia with invalid visas (YEAH BABY!!).

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cutting the customs lock, and…

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lucky Betsy was at the front!!

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tank full of fuel, and we’re off!

‘Technically’ you aren’t allowed to apply for 2 visas for the same country in 2 different passports.  However if say for example, a friend of mine… wanted to fly to Indonesia while a bike was being delivered to Timor, and then go get the bike and re enter Indonesia over the land border, ‘technically’ he would have to get a visa on arrival in Bali, but then apply for a second visa from the Indo consulate in East Timor (ten days turnaround) to then cross the land border (visa on arrival is only available at an airport).


Well anyway, if that friend instead applied for one visa at the Indo consulate before leaving home, but then entered Indo the first time with a different passport, then that person might get away with using the now ‘technically’ invalid visa at a remote border crossing where they couldn’t match the two passports as all they have in the way of technology is a mobile phone and a generator being propelled by three goats.

Back to the amazing things that happened today… At a town 100km from the border we found a room for $10, 2 single beds, no bathroom, toilet down the hall with a mandi (traditional Indonesian wash room – i.e. insect infested damp filthy room with a shallow water tank in one corner, a squat toiled in the other, and a plastic scoop to deliver the water to either the toilet, or your body while washing. And… Sally used the mandi.  Let’s not dwell on that though, as there will be more mandi’s before the end of this adventure.

Then… “ Hello my name is Jeffrey, how are you?”  said the random young Indonesian guy standing at reception “I’m good thanks, my name is Dino.  How are you?” “I am very well, but I need to go to my English class now, I will return afterwards” “um OK…” Our ten dollar room was of course insect infested, so I asked the guy at reception if he had some fly spray (in sign language).  He nodded, and went off to get what I assumed would be a can of fly spray…  But no!  He came back with a thing that looked like the garden sprayer that my nonno used on his fruit trees – you know the sort, big long brass tube with a plunger and a jar of liquid screwed to the bottom of it.  Um OK. He went into the room and pumped the hell out of the thing, spraying “I cant believe it’s not Diesel” all around, then closed the door and told me to come back in 5 mins.

“Sal that guy just sprayed our room full of Diesel, I doubt we’re going to get any sleep tonight”


So off we went to find dinner and let our room fumigate.

“Hello Dino, this is my friend Mary, and this is Stef, is it ok if we join you, we want to practice our English?” We spend the next 2 hours finding cold beer, eating dinner and then just chatting with the three lovely guys from Kefa in West Timor. We taught them a little English, and they taught us some Bahasa, pretty good deal all round.

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Sally with her new admirers “how can she be so beautiful?!”

By the time we returned, our room was considerably less stinky, although it still smells like a  mechanics workshop, but the mosquitos and cockroaches littering the floor are evidence that whatever it was worked. Lovely. What else?

We actually had a nice time in Dili, drank some beers at the seaside bars, watched a movie in the Dili Cineplex (for old times sake), ordered cocktails at the rooftop bar next to the cinema, and then ate Thai for dinner before going to bed rather early last night.

Oh and I took a wrong turn just after the border and we ended up on an alternative road to get here, which took us up a little in altitude, which is really nice because it’s much cooler up higher, it also took us through some very remote villages where they don’t see too many tourists on motorbikes, and in a brief photo stop, we were surrounded by a big group of children wanting their picture taken, the kids on this end of Indonesia are really cheecky, lots of fun!

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For our first day on the road things are going swimmingly.  Tomorrow we head to Kupang city hopefully in time to get the ferry to Flores.