Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kamikaze Cat

Indonesia the final test, in the way of traffic, its crazy, there are 225 million people in this country and I swear each person owns at least 2 motorbikes! There are millions of them, along with cars, trucks and an array of other contraptions which don’t fall into any of the already mentioned categories, its madness.

I got my bike in, well of course I did, what other option did I have but it came at a price. I tried my best to get it in without paying a penny but I failed and I tried everything, I tried all the tricks I used for other countries but failed every time. Basically Indonesia requires a carnet, that I did know but so did places like Iran and Kenya and I won in the end but not this time. With Akis and Vula waiting patiently I had no option then to pay what they call a security bond, basically if one does not have a carnet they can put down a deposit and then get the deposit back when you exit the country. When they asked the price of the bike I said 1000 dollars, I should have lied even more as this is the amount that I have left with the customs. I wonder weather I will see that money again, they assured me that I will, here’s hoping. The thing is I have not come this far to be stopped by the second to last country, please East Timor let me in, to be stranded here in Indo so I paid, I felt I had to, well I did plain and simple.

Along with the Greeks we headed north to Bukit Lawang to hang out with the Orangutans a while, wow these creatures are just amazing, I have seen them before but it was worth the whole 2 dollars to go see them again. Then the big decision, head north to Banda Aceh or just start the long journey across Sumatra. It’s all physiological not wanting to head north when its south that we wanted but we went north, why not.
Their feet are like hands.
Of course, bananas for lunch.
Amamzing creatures.
In one day it all went wrong, I first did a wheel bearing but with the help of Akis we fixed it in no time at all and then after our lunch break things went from bad to horrible, the Greeks car seemed to seize, the engine was locked tight, they were going nowhere. So that was that, out of all their options it was back to Malaysia to Kuala Lumper to get it fixed so after 2 nice days traveling together I was on my own again. As I rode into Banda Aceh I imagined the Tsunami that hit, the streets would have been as crowded as the day I was there and the people would have not had a chance, to think that over 200 000 people lost their lives here in one day! So now I was as far north as a could possibly be, as I turned the mother ship south I thought to myself this is the last time, its all down hill from here.

The Greek's getting towed to Banda Aceh.
Some evidence stil of the massive Tsunami wave.
Another Xmas on the road, it was my third, the first one Amy and I spent on the Niger river in Mali with Del and Leo, seems so long ago, my second one was in the Omo valley, amongst ancient tribes, with my Spanish and Dutch friends, and this one I was alone at Lake Toba, fortunately in the most populated land of Islam the little island on Lake Toba is Christian so there was a Xmas feel about the place. For me Santa bought two new tires, he could have fitted the bloody things! Well I bought them in Penang and now had to fit them, on Xmas eve I got a puncture so Xmas day I spent fixing the hole and fitting the new rubber but what a difference they turned out to make. Indo is lush and green, everyday at some point it rains, mostly in the afternoon. That has not stopped me from camping, I have managed to camp every night besides Toba, I have slept in a bank car park, under a mechanics tin shed, an old restraint and in the jungle one night. But this comes at a price, I smell , I don’t think I have ever gone so long in the whole journey without a shower and boy at one stage I did not think I could sleep in the tent with myself. I even had a conversation with a nice local, a lot speak ok English, and half way through the conversation he asked me if I wash, hmm I knew what he was coming at but I said, well yes of course I do, he then said "you smell" I had to laugh, aint that the truth I thought.

For the 5th and last time, accross the Equator

Oh and yes the title, how can I forget, even the cats here have mad road sense, on my last day in Sumatra I had been going no more than a few minutes on the wet and slippery road from the overnight rain and then it happened, a crazy cat ran full pace from the bushes, now I could see it had timed its run to late and I gripped the bars ready for my first feline casualty, I dare not break as that would have meant me sliding down the road with the cat, so it was the cat or the both of us and I already new what I wanted, sorry cat, so I held my line then at the last minute it launched at me like a Bengal tiger, well not quite but it leaped into the air and slamming smack bang into my engine bars with a great thud, I looked in my mirror to see how it fared and there it was walking a bit wobbly back to where it first ran from, I guess he was not on his last life……….got me thinking I sure hope I have not used up all mine in this chaotic, no rules, anything goes mayhem called Indonesian road traffic!

Friday, December 19, 2008


I am now in Belawan, Indonesia, without my bike...........well its here and I have seen it but there is a problem, 'no carnet' as I expected. The Greeks and I arrived late in the afternoon and Customs had closed for the day, so we set about trying to find somebody to help us, eventually we ended up in the right place and it was here I was told I now have to wait til Monday, its Friday night now, for Customs to open and try to sort something out. The answer may be a cash deposit that I will have to front and then receive it back once I exit the country, hmm I don't like the chances of seeing that money again, now if its only a few dollars then great but I am sure it will be a fair sum, its to stop me selling the bike in Indonesia, if they only understood how badly I want to get this bike back home after all I have been through!

So looks like a nice few days in the beautiful port city of Belawan.......................yes beautiful and port city do not go together!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Mother Ship sets sail

Although today was a long day it all went quite smooth, after all the paper work was completed it was off to the Port in Butterworth to load Akis and Vulas 4WD and my bike, both bound for Sumatra.

The consignment waiting at the dock in Butterworth.
Hmmm I sure hope the wooden boat does not sink.
The first impression of the boat was a little worrying, old and made from wood but then I thought back to the boat I took across from Djibouti to Yemen, this boat was the QE2 compared to the Yemen boat, so I assured myself very quickly.
First the Greeks 4WD.......

.....and then the mother ship.
The boat left immediately and will arrive to Indonesia in 16 hours, as for us we will catch the fast ferry in the morning and arrive tomorrow at about 3, then begins solving the great mystery of the carnet problem or there lack of. The last country I have to get through with out the carnet, can I do it?? Well of course there is East Timor after Indo but I think it will be OK.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Waiting for the boat in Penang

Only three more countries to get into, including Australia. I made it into Malaysia with out having to produce my rego documents, was the easiest of border crossings, I wish they were all like that but then again where would the fun be if they were!

I travelled down the coast of Thailand with a short stay in Ao Nang to experience more tourists than I have ever seen, was not for me that's for sure, I was in the same place 5 years ago and boy has it changed since then, makes me miss the adventure of Mongolia, the unknown that Africa presented, the wild scenery of central Asia, its more of a holiday now. So that bought about a quick trip down here to Penang, Malaysia where I have been for a week. I sorted out the ferry to Sumatra for the bike, it leaves tomorrow and me the following day, Friday, the same day as the mother ship will dock, fingers crossed I can pick it up on Saturday, but I have been informed that the port is closed on the weekend so Monday is when I will be able to fetch it from Customs, which also is a questions, I was also informed that without a Carnet Indonesia is not possible and that the last guy that tried to take his bike in without a carnet was fined 600 dollars!! But I have heard all that before, remember Iran, Kenya I think was another place I was told I would never get in without the carnet, so again a little fun awaits me across the strait of Melacca, can't wait.

Its a small small world, I have bumped into my Greek friends, Akis and Vula who I first met in Mozambique then again in Ethiopia and recently Cambodia and now staying at the same Guest House on Penang island, they to are heading across the water to Indo so we may head across Sumatra together, at least some company for Xmas and the new year, which I did hope to make Bali for but alas the waiting for the boat has changed my plans.

Rickshaw in front of the Hong Kong Bar, Penang.

I am all ready for the last and final two countries to Oz, it's a long way across the length of Indo to East Timor, around 6000 k's and all of that is windy roads and of course I here millions of bikes, so I think it will takes around 4-6 weeks to cover, so around the start of February I will be on home soil.

For those of you who have asked, the mad Belgium, brother Dirk has arrived today in Dili, East Timor and will be in Darwin as soon as he gets his bike on Perkins Shipping. And I am sure he will be in need of a very cold beer once in Darwin. Merry Xmas everyone