This is a combined score. Obviously, we have criteria that vary greatly within any one country but Indonesia presented us with such widespread ratings that we’ve rated it overall as an average of our individidual ratings for Bali, Sulawesi and Java. All three of these are rated within the whole of Indonesia. Separately, Bali would be rated #5, Sulawesi, #14 and Java scores at 76, well below the top 25. In 2007, we have added a small area of Sumatra around Lake Toba, Sumatra scores a 61.

February 2007

Our riding was very limited on Sumatra as you will see with the route description. Any highway, especially near Medan, is chaotic and dangerous. The roads are narrow and busy and the drivers are aggressive. Around Lake Toba, the climbs are big but very rewarding. Once up and out of the crater that holds Lake Toba, the plateau is dull. The climate of Lake Toba at 900 meters is perfect, warm days and cool nights.


January, 1992, November, 1999, January, 2000

You can read all the tourist brochures about Bali you want. They’re all true. We first came here in 1970. On Kuta Beach, a remarkable strand of sand, we only found a single lady selling cold drinks. No hotels, no restaurants, no discos. The most beautiful palm lined beach with perfect surfing waves.
We returned in 1992, 1999, and 2000 in conjunction with other trips. Kuta has changed. In fact, all the tourist destinations of Bali have changed. But, on your bike, armed with the Bali Path Finders map by Silvio Santosa and with the attitude of a traveler rather than the compulsion of a cyclist, you will be overwhelmed by the unique beauty and culture of Bali. Go slow and savor this island. The rice fields around Blimbing and Tirtagangga are not to be missed.

The day rides on the back roads out of Ubud are very good. Not matter where you stay, there are great day rides around this area.

Lombak is less developed and has less traffic. The beaches are even better than Bali’s. The people of Lombok are less friendly and the tourist infrastructure is either more up scale or very basic depending on where you are.

Finally, our format is different for Bali. It’s a small island so you will interconnect different routes if you are there for any length of time. So we’ve attempted to simply describe the roads rather than simply describing a point A to point B route. They all interconnect.


December 1999 to February 2000

Sulawesi for the pure biking experience is the best bike tour we’ve ever taken in 25 years of biking. If it was only rated for the biking experience, here would be our score: Traffic 9, Roads 9, Road Safety 9, Winds 8, Scenery 9, and Weather 5 (we were there in the rainy season). We found this destination in our usual way—by talking to other cycle travelers. A Dutch biker we met in Bali told us about Sulawesi and the newly completed Trans Sulawesi highway that transformed it into a bicycler’s paradise. Other than the interesting variety of the culture, the other criteria really don’t measure up. The accommodations are very basic in the countryside and now general safety is getting to be a concern. We’re not sure if this is a place we’d be comfortable returning to in spite of the near perfect biking.

Java, Indonesia

December 1991 and January 1992

It’s kind of like the description of a friend of mine after he got out of the Marines. “It was a great experience, but I’d never do it again.” Java is a beautiful island steeped in culture and history. It has everything going for it as a bicycle destination except for some very important elements. Even for us (we love warm), east Java was too hot. There also was a lot of rain. But mostly it was the traffic. There are too many people. It’s one of the most populated places in the world and too much of this population is on the roads at any one time. It’s mountainous so the secondary roads are few, in poor condition, and basically unmapped.

How We Rate This Trip

Roads: 6


Bali rating 4.

In Bali generallly, the road surface is poor. There are many roads that need repair, most with huge holes. The road from Kintamani to Ubud is a great downhill, but is in such disrepair you must be very careful. On the other hand, the 30Ks downhill road from Pupuan to Pulukan is newly surfaced and you can enjoy views of the most spectacular rice paddies without worrying about the road. From a bicycler’s standpoint, this road is “heaven.”

Sulawesi rating 9.

The Trans Sulawesi highway is possibly the best 1000K stretch of highway in the world for biking. Just completed, the engineering is world class and traverses through a wide variety of scenery with almost no traffic. Off the highway, in Tamtataraja, for example, the roads were still good. Almost a “10”.

Java rating 4.

Usually the main roads in Java are very wide. Sometimes four lanes in each direction, but they treat them as two big lanes. They are seldom marked. Our attempts at back roads were very interesting but progress was very slow. Often we failed and had to return to the chaotic main roads we were attempting to avoid. There were only a few quiet back roads that we found.

Sumatra rating 2.

The biggest negative is that they are narrow with no shoulder. Also, they are often poorly maintained (potholes).

Traffic: 5


Bali rating 5.

There are definite rush hours around the larger cities in Bali. The backroad system is not interconnected, so there are times you have no choice but to take the main road with trucks, tour buses, etc. Ubud is a major tourist area and a detailed Bali Path Finder bicycle map is available. We often used the “cyclist bridge” marked on the map to avoid busy roads. Always remember to watch out ahead.

Sulawesi rating 9.

The Trans Sulawesi highway has just been completed and its commercial use is negligible. Traffic is only a factor near the cities and dies out quickly when you leave those cities.

Java rating 2.

We found in Jave that there is a completely different system of traffic here. The roads are chaos, but we seldom saw accidents or even dents in cars. They are polite but big busses and lots of little vans, (go between towns), motorcycles, some horse carts. Drive on the left. Heavy. Everyone looks forward. No one looks behind. You trust the traffic behind to get around you.

Sumatra rating 3.

Near Lake Toba, the traffic is light. Within 100Ks of Medan, it’s hellish. Fast, big and aggressive.

Weather: 5


Bali rating 7.

In Bali, it’s cold and rainy in the mountains, and hot and humid at the ocean where we would schedule a long break during the heat of the day. When we rode up to Lake Batur at 1,744 meters from Lovina Beach at sea level, we put on everything we could find in our packs to keep warm. From Kintamani to Ubud we flew downhill into the tropics again where everyone was dressed in minimal clothing, and we attracted more attention than usual arriving in our jackets.
December through February is the rainy season here and you can count on rain. It tends to fall heavily for a short time. On the coast, when not torrential, it is almost refreshing, but in the mountains it is very cold. Good news is that everything is dry within about 30 minutes.

Sulawesi rating 5.

The equator runs through Sulawesi so you know what to expect as far as temperature is concerned. In the highlands it’s cooler. The wettest months are November to march, but in central and northern Sulawesi the rainfall is more evenly spread throughout the year. The southeast is drier but the highlands are wetter especially later in the day.

Java rating 3.

In January, we encountered a lot of rain in Java. It is lush and rice is cultivated year round., but it rained so often and so hard that it impeded our progress. When the sun shined, especially in east Java, it was bloody hot. We needed AC at night in east Java.

Sumatra rating 6.

At Lake Toba, it might be the perfect climate. No AC or fan and warm in the day. Rain spoiled 3 or 4 days for us.

Winds: 8

Bali rating 9.

In Bali, the winds are a factor only during rainstorms. Otherwise, here in the tropics, the wind is mostly neutral.

Sulawesi rating 8.

In Sulawesi we had some helping winds down the coast toward UP. Otherwise, the winds were very calm.

Java rating 8.

In Java the winds were remarkably soft. They virtually were not a factor.

Sumatra rating 4.

Usually predictable. In February, from the Northeast. But we experienced variations for day parts and for 2 days at a time the winds switched and came from the South.

Scenery: 9


Bali rating 9.

Beauty is everywhere you look in Bali–emerald steps of rice paddies in constantly changing patterns, palm silhouettes against the ocean. Even the flat rice patties are gorgeous in their design and texture. We found the least beautiful road was more captivating than most places in the world.
Sunsets and sunrises from the beach or the mountaintops are breathtaking. Evening walks in the shadows of mystical volcanic mountains under star-filled skies are no less than enchanting. We watched our favorite sunsets from Sengiggi Beach on Lombok and from nearby Gili Air Island. One night the sun was setting orange next to Agung volcano on Bali and directly behind us was an electrical storm on Lombok’s Mt. Rinjani. We watched in awe as the tranquil ocean gradually darkened from clear aqua to black under the brilliant sunset and began to flash with silver reflections from the lightening on Mt. Rinjani.

Sulawesi rating 9.

Sulawesi was one of the prettiest bike rides of our careers. Of course, the coastline is spectacular. The hills give you new vistas with every kilometer. The inland sections of the road were usually differently beautiful from rugged green mountains to verdant rice paddies. Finally, Tana Taraja was tough climbing through gorgeous scenery. Only through the mangrove swamps and the occasional agriculture flat lands did the scenery not impress us.

Java rating 9.

The rice fields in Java are old and spectacular. They’ve been built up the sides of the volcanoes. The flora is very lush all year round. The volcanoes are many and magnificent. There are two issues here: (1) You are so involved with the road that you have little time to look around and (2) the rain and clouds are frequently denying you these fabulous views.

Sumatra rating 7.

Outside of Medan and away from Lake Toba the scenery was dull. Around the Lake, the scenery was very good.

Information: 4


Bali rating 7.

Around the main tourist areas in Bali such as Ubud and Kuta Beach, you can generally get good information about roads from local people and other travelers. The Bali Path Finder map is excellent for the area around Ubud. Roads are poorly marked, and this criterion would have been rated a 2 or 3 without this map. However, the full Bali map on the flip side is too jumbled to read accurately. Two guidebooks, one from Lonely Planet and the other from Moon Publications, each include a slightly different 200Ks bike tour with some detail. Our tours expand on this information.

Sulawesi rating 3.

In Sulawesi we had a full description of this route including guesthouses to stay in, in a guidebook—in Dutch. It helped a lot and it actually was fun to get translations from the Dutch tourists. The place, names, distances, and simple phrases like “Shwar Clim” (hard climb) or Vlek” (flat) helped a lot. We had a copy and lost it so I can’t tell you the name or how to find it.

Java rating 3.

In Jave lost our guidebook the first day but garnered plenty of information from the other travelers especially the Dutch. We often borrowed the guidebooks from fellow travelers. (A little advantage in that we didn’t have to carry it.) Local information was not reliable. Bike specific information was almost impossible to gleen.

Sumatra rating 2.

They often speak rudimentary English but their knowledge of places even a short distance from their area is unknown. To ask about the roads etc., the answers varied greatly. So nothing was reliable.

Road Safety: 6


Bali rating 5.

There is a spirit of cooperation in Bali. We are used to responding to traffic behind us as well as in front of us, and we had to change our thinking about this. You concern yourself only with traffic in front of you. A bemo (Balinese bus) may stop instantly, an ox cart might turn across your path. You calculate the traffic in front and respond with confidence that you won’t be rear-ended. At first, we almost caused accidents by hesitating to swerve past a bemo’s unexpected stop because we were concerned about the faster traffic behind us. The unwritten rule: respond ahead and those behind will take care of themselves.

Sulawesi rating 9.

Using only the purely biking criteria, Sulawesi is probably the best bike trip in the world. It’s safe due mostly to the very low traffic levels. Only near the cities do you have to take some care, but even then the roads are usually wider so you are not crowded by this traffic.

Java rating 3.

Indonesians drive on the left. In Java the roads are chaotically crowded but they move at incredibly high speeds. Only look out in front. Never look back. The traffic in back will avoid you. Squeeze left to pass. Don’t slow down. Really it does work but it’s counter-intuitive and it’s safer than you think. If something big pulls out coming toward you in your lane, simply merge into your lane. Others will make room for you. One more thing. A driver making a turn, will look forward and turn. All will avoid him. If he’s taking a right into oncoming traffic, he will casually cut across the traffic and everyone dodges him.

Sumatra rating 2.

The hellish aggressive traffic combined with the very narrow roads make them feel dangerous.

General Safety: 5


Bali rating 9.

We always felt safe in Bali. There is almost no violent crime on Bali or Lombok, and very little theft. We deducted one point here because the people in Lombok are not used to tourists in the smaller towns and they crowded around us uncomfortably close at times. Surprisingly, when we passed through one remote village in Lombok, the kids threw stones at us.

Sulawesi rating 2.

We were in Manado Sulawesi (the starting point of our trip) for the change of the millennia (1-1-2000). It was here that the rift between Christians and Muslims became a first hand experience for us. It was very tense with rumors flying around. The reality was people were fleeing from the off shore islands (Amban, etc.) They were worried and scored. Business people, missionaries, and N60s were crowding into Manado as the festivities continued. It was weird. This clash of religions and cultures was starting to affect Tana and Taraja too. This overlaid the usual third world city crime. Sally was accosted on the road up toward Tana Taraja by two young motorcyclists (see road stories). We had to deal with rumors of potential problems for us all along the way.

Java rating 3.

The usual caveat applies except it’s more exaggerated in Java. The cities, especially Jalsarta, can be dangerous if you don’t take precautions. The flip side is that the countryside, which has plenty of population, is safe. As an annoyance, the constant and aggressive attention of the kids gets old after awhile. I suppose it’s a derivative of their overwhelming friendliness.

Sumatra rating 7.

In 2007, with tourism down, we felt safe from harm and robbery.

Value: 7


Bali rating 9.

Overall value is very good in Bali. Accommodations and food are reasonably priced and you can find some great bargains shopping. In Lombok, the crafts are not as sophisticated, but they’re less expensive; places to stay are cheaper, but of lower quality.

Sulawesi rating 7.

Yes, Sulawesi is cheap but part of the value is the quality you get for your money. Because the guest houses outside the main tourist areas were so basic, we had to mark this down. The accommodations in the main areas and even the basic restaurants were good. Another negative was no refrigeration so everything we drank was warm.

Java rating 6.

Besides being one of Asia’s most beautiful countries, Indonesia and Java is also one of its least expensive. As usual when traveling by bikes, you end up in non-tourist places which offer basic but cheap accommodations and food. The more touristed areas have a higher standard but still you get good value. Water and drinks are cheap.

Sumatra rating 3.

It’s cheap but you never know the quality of the food or accommodations which varies greatly. So it’s a crap shoot.

Fluids: 5

Bali rating 6.

Do not drink water from the tap or use ice in drinks in Bali. We found bottled water available everywhere except in a very remote area on the north coast, and there we did find soda. Good cold beer is welcomed refreshment.

Sulawesi rating 4.

In Sulawesi we developed a taste for their energy drinks like Vitas. A real “pick me up”. Coffee and tea were variable in availability and quality. Bottled water is available almost everywhere in 1-liter bottles. Soda, beer, and water is almost always warm. Ice is iffy. We’d just be dying for something cold.

Java rating 4.

1 liter bottled water (piqua) is available everywhere in Java. Cold is not highly valued so you often drink warm water, beer, and soft drinks. Ice cannot be trusted.

Sumatra rating 3.

Always available except for alcohol which you must search for. The issue is that its never refrigerated so you drink warm drinks. Bottled water is always available. Sometimes we got ice, which was pure.

Food: 6


Bali rating 7.

The food is good and it’s safe to eat almost everywhere in Bali. Fresh fruit is available from stands and there is fresh fish from the sea when you’re on the ocean. We found that the food was not terribly interesting, missing the subtle spices of Thai cuisine or the zing that other Asian fare offers. We did enjoy pineapple jam with jimmies (chocolate sprinkles) on toast for breakfast, and gado gado (mixed steamed green beans, soybeans, potatoes, cabbage and bean sprouts, covered with a tangy peanut sauce) for dinner.

Sulawesi rating 5.

In Sulawesi breakfast is almost always included with the room and includes eggs. We loved the soup, Bakso, for lunch. Dinner was always a crapshoot. Often we just hoped that we understood what we were getting. In the small towns, the restaurant food could be bad, but usually we were surprised by how flavorful and spicy it was.

Java rating 5.

In Java we found fruits everywhere, great new tastes, i.e., rampi and mangosteins. We usually ate dinner in Chinese restaurants and it was okay. (Indonesia is only 3% Chinese but there are a lot of Chinese restaurants). Breakfast included with the room is tea, fruit, bread and egg. We often ate sate and gato-gato in the Indonesia restaurants. Good.

Sumatra rating 3.

Either you choose the Chinese hot and fresh from the Wok (but boring) or the Indonesian at room temperature and held all day long (healthy??)

Accommodations: 5


Bali rating 8.

In Bali, we chose to stay on the beach where you can find a nice, clean room for $25-$30 U.S. Basic accommodations have thatched roofs, bamboo walls, and modern plumbing. Ceiling fans serve as the air conditioning. Bathrooms are usually connected to the room but sometimes have no roof over the shower. Outside the major tourist areas the shower is simply a water tank called a mandi. Splashing standing water from the basin with a large plastic scoop felt marvelous on our salt-caked skin after a day of riding. Ask for a mosquito coil to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. The sun peeking through the bamboo woke us in the morning.

Sulawesi rating 2.

We were forced to stay in some real “pits” in the smaller towns along the way in Sulawesi. At one point, the basic guesthouse had burned down so we stayed in a below basic place. Nights were often hot and the mosquitoes were flying. There were many restless nights. There are some good places in the larger cities.

Java rating 6.

The usual hotel in Java offered a bed with only one sheet, no towels and only cold water from a bin. It was usually clean but basic. Usually a fan. AC rooms are dearer. Sometimes the AC is worth it when it’s especially hot. We gave into our comfort instincts frequently in the east port of Java. It can be very hot even at night.

Sumatra rating 4.

Around Lake Toba and in the bigger cities, the rooms were good quality. Out of the way towns offered variable quality. Cleanliness is not a value here.

People: 6

Bali rating 8.

People in Bali are always friendly, helpful, and interested. They have fun, smile, and enjoy life. If they speak English well, they will approach you. We were forewarned that the people are sometimes “too” friendly, and it’s true.

The people of Lombok are different. The Moslem culture is so restrictive that we tended to be a spectacle. When Peter was fixing a flat in a small town on the road to Sengiggi, we had the entire village crowding around us watching.

Sulawesi rating 4.

In Sulawesi the kindness of 99% of these people, Moslem or Christian, is overwhelming. Their helpfulness and generosity were truly a highlight of the trip. That being said, there’s an edginess that bubbles to the surface on occasion. The intolerance amongst themselves is palpable. Some will take advantage of you and the greeting of “fuck you” is heard especially near the cities.

Java rating 6.

When we hitchhiked in Java, they helped us get rides. The kids constantly greet us with “Hello Mister.” Some ( especially small) are too enthusiastic. Everybody smokes. Very kind and helpful people. Some rice workers are getting a little fat (good times). All ask “where are you from and where do you go?” Always a crowd, but they are polite. Especially in the non-tourist areas, the people are curious and will surround you.

Sumatra rating 5.

People are friendly but aggressively so. The kids overwhelm you. Even the adults are too excited to see you especially in the non tourists areas.

Culture: 9


Bali rating 10.

In Bali, we saw processions to the temples being led by dragon heads with ten or more men forming the body. Women followed carrying beautiful platters of fruit and cooked chicken balanced gracefully on their heads. We were often invited to join them, and if someone spoke English, they would explain the ritual to us. We attended a cremation. The Balineses perform their ritual dances for tourists in the city, but in the country they dance for themselves. In every village we found artists working on crafts—batik, woodcarving, painting, engraving.

Sulawesi rating 9.

In Sulawesi there is a highlight only discovered by the outside world in the 1970s, Tana Toraja. This is a unique culture in the highlands setting. The swirl of Muslim and Christian cultures was problematical but interesting. The Ramadan experience was curious. The light festival in Gorontalo was visually stunning at night.

Java rating 8.

Borobudur is one of Buddism’s most immortal shrines. It’s a massive pyramid with countless sculpted Buddhas and carved relief panels. Taman Mini Indonesia is an interesting cultural center showing the various architecture of all of Indonesia. The cultivation of rice is an art form style. Traditional ways are still prevalent.

Sumatra rating 8.

Around Lake Toba, the highlands are inhabited by the Batak people who are Christian and animist. All their customs and architecture are distinctly their own. Outside of this area, the people are strict Moslems.

History: 5


Bali rating 6.

In Bali history is not evident in everyday life. The only places we felt a sense of history was at the religious shrines

Sulawesi rating 4.

As is so often the case in Asia, there’s not much left of the old and historic buildings. There are some remnants of the Dutch colonial time but not a lot. The Europeans were mostly after the spices that were grown here. There’s very little of historical significance even in UP.

Java rating 6.

Java is a very ancient society but its not always readily observable. At Borobudur, the entire set of Buddhist scriptures and images of ancient Javanese life are told in a beautiful narrative of stone. Yogya has been the home of the Javanese sultanate since 1775. Also there’s Kraton.

Sumatra rating 4.

There are few remnants of the colonial times that are well preserved, only churches, mosques and occasional palaces still are maintained.



Sulawesi TOTAL SCORE 89


Route Descriptions and Maps

Sumatra February 2007

Penang, Malaysia to Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia Port by ferry

(5 ½ hours, no charge for bikes)

Port to Medan 27Ks

2-lanes mostly, no shoulder, sometimes 4-lanes. Flat, urban, busy, hairy road. On shore wind (tail) . Into town, follow the 1-way system but turn right after the R.R. tracks on the first major road. This takes you to the hotel Area. Straight. Survival riding. Bikes not allowed on the toll road.

Medan to Brastagi (1700 meters) 68Ks

Urban riding for 20 Ks then narrow 2-lanes. Traffic. Not good. Start to climb at 23Ks. Light winds. Then rolling. At 38Ks, the big climb for 19Ks. Switch backs. Traffic comes in bunches. Difficult. At 57Ks, good views back. Down a little then climb again to 62Ks. Despicable traffic. Then rolling down into town at 68Ks.

(so far, so bad, too much traffic)

Brastagi (1700 meters) to TukTuk (900 meters) Lake Toba 115Ks

11Ks gradually down to Kehanjahe. Stay left toward Tongging. Smaller, more narrow and often potholes. Gradually climbing. Good scenery. Less Traffic **but still hairy. At 35Ks, junction at Merek. East winds. Narrrow, mostly good road, rolling then gradually down to Pemalang Purba. Much less traffic. So so scenery but culturally interesting. At 62Ks, right. At 70Ks, climb for 5Ks, into fog and rain. And down 5Ks. Rolling to 86Ks then down steep for 3Ks. Great lake views. Still down to 92Ks then hilly above the lake. Great riding along a quiet road. Sometimes rough. Long hills up. Junction at 106Ks, right. Busier. 8Ks down to Parapat. Then 1K into ferry at 115Ks.
**A truck breakdown stopped traffic – we got lucky thru here to Parapat.

Riding around the Island is not possible. The road south from TukTuk is paved for 15Ks with a climb of 9Ks, steep. Very quiet and excellent views but then the road is unrideable. Big rocks and ruts. I was told it’s this way until Nainggolan then the road is good again.

TukTuk to Pangururan 45Ks

Out along the shore to main road at Ambarita. Right at 6Ks. 2-lanes, narrow. Great views. Rolling. Quiet. Closer to Pangururan, it’s flatter and less pretty. Town at 45Ks.

Pangururan to Tele 23Ks

Rough mostly dirt road along the lake for 6Ks then head up for 16Ks. One lane road. Light traffic. Great views until into the clouds. Paved, mostly good for the whole climb. Long switch backs, sometimes clinging to the side. Junction at 23Ks. What a ride!

Tele to Sidikalang 49Ks

Somewhat broken narrow 2-lane highway with light traffic. Gradual descent with dips to river bridges. Dull scenery. East winds (tail). A bigger dip at 23Ks. Rolling down to junction at 40Ks. Right up 2Ks, better views, then down on busy road 49Ks.
Our original plan was to ride to Ache but it was a hassle for a permit which was no longer the rule but no one knew that. Then we were told to take the bus. Also: bad guest houses, lousy food, warm beer, screaming kids, etc.

Sidikalang to Tonging 55Ks

Back to junction at 9K then steep down to bridge over river at 13Ks then up a 2-lanes older road, narrow. Moderate traffic, trucks. Good scenery & views. Up to 29Ks. More gradual toward top. No views. Turn right to Silalahi. Narrow paved road that snakes down to the lake . Great views. Quiet road, broken parts. Mostly steep. Estimate a 1000 meter drop. At 41Ks, junction at lake. Left on 2-lane good road that slowly deteriorates to rough. Hilly along shore. Slow but rewarding with lake views to Tonging at 55Ks.

Tonging to TukTuk 65Ks

Climb on 2-lane quiet road which has a moderate start, steep in middle and moderate at end. 6.5Ks at top then gradual into Merck at 9Ks. Great views. Junction right. See Brastagi to TukTuk (previous). From Merek to Parapat. (2nd time with clear views of the lake).

Parapat to Balige 63Ks

Up to junction 1K, right. At 2Ks, the Hwy, right. 2-lanes, moderately up to 8Ks. Great scenery. Moderate traffic, some trucks. Rolling to 20Ks then mostly gradually down for 20Ks. Slightly rising then down to Balige. More traffic as you go. Beautiful rice fields, we had rain. Northeast winds (tail). The traffic disrupts what could be a great ride.

Balige to D. Sanggul 52Ks

Climb moderately to 17Ks. Great views. Moderate traffic. Northeast wind. (tail) Rain. Then gradually descend. 2-lanes narrow. Siborougborong at 24Ks. Right at junction. Very narrow. Dull scenery, slightly climbing to 41Ks then down 2Ks. Then climb 4Ks to gradual down to D.Sanggul at 52Ks. Right at junction.

D. Sanggul to Tele 40Ks

Wider road. Some log trucks but quiet. Rolling to 18Ks then generally climb or curvy road through a forest. Then straighter and dull to 33Ks then gradually down to Tele at 40Ks. Variable quality road but mostly OK. Head winds (northeast) and rain.

Tele to Pangururan 23Ks

Down steep, switch back curves. 1-lane road, often broken. Fabulous views. At 6Ks, better road to 13Ks. Then rough but rideable. At 15Ks, down along stream. Less steep lower. At 17Ks, along lake. Mostly flat but bumpy. We just beat the rain.

Pangururan to Tuk Tuk 45Ks

(see TukTuk to Pangururan above)

Parapat to P. Siantar 48Ks

Up 8Ks to junction, straight rolling for 10Ks then mostly down. Easy grades. Very gradual near P. Siantar. 2-lanes. Moderate traffic but quite a few big trucks. Busier as you go. Narrow. Thru a forest at first. Bad at the end. No more.

Bali and Lombok

Gilimanuk to Lovina 78 Ks

From the Java ferry, go 3 Ks south, then left to the North Coast Road. (The South Coast Road is very busy and not recommended.) There is no traffic until Seririt, but there are some stretches of rough road. After Seririt, expect a smooth road and a lot more traffic on a narrow road.

Lovina to Ubud Via Penelokan (Lake Batur) 85Ks

Rain develops around the tops of the volcanoes at midday so get an early start. Ride a flat 20Ks on a busy road to Kubutambahan, then turn right at the sign to Penelokan, Kintamani and Penulisan. Climb 25Ks to 1,660 meters. There is very little traffic and the road is smooth. Enjoy excellent vistas back over the palm forest, black sand beach and ocean. Continue for a nice 10Ks across the top and then 30 Ks down to Ubud. There are three routes to Ubud and all are beautiful. (We took the middle route via Tegallalang which was steep and in poor condition.) The best way to Ubud is via Tampaksiring. The road is well-engineered and has a good surface.

Around Ubud-North

Buy the Cyclist’s Ubud Map put out by Bali Path Finder. There is little traffic on any of the roads north of Ubud. The north roads go up, the south ones go down, and those running east and west have radical ups and downs. Enjoy riding around Ubud to visit the many different artist areas that make this such a special place. The road to Sakti is a tropical heaven except for the hills. Out of Ubud take Jalan Suweta (Street) north from the center of town. The walking paths on the cyclist map are frequently non-existent.

Around Ubud-South

Quiet roads take you to Goa Gajah (elephant caves) and Sukawati (market center). In 1992, the cyclist’s bridge was hard to find, but made a handy connector to the south. By 1999, it had been replaced by a road and a bridge. Ubud to Candidas VIA Nongan
Main Road 50 Ks/Scenic 95 Ks
For the scenic route, use the Bali Path Finder map to Bangli. Leaving Ubud to the east you encounter a severe climb. The road swings north to Tampaksiring. Continue 28 Ks up to Kayuambua (just above Seribatu on the Path Finder map). Turn right (south) and ride 15 Ks to Bangli. This is a great downhill with good roads. Go north 2 Ks out of Bangli. Turn right and ride 9 Ks to Bangbang and Nongan. This is an obscure road with severe hills ending at Nongan. Turn right (south) for 16Ks into Klungkung. There are spectacular vistas after 8 Ks. In Klungkung, turn left (east) at the main intersection and ride 26 Ks to Candidas. This is the main coastal road. It’s well engineered, relatively flat, and has moderately heavy traffic. The ferry to Lombok leaves from Padangbai. Turn right (south) 10Ks before Candidas. The road is 3 Ks downhill to the ferry dock.

Ubud to Tirtagangga (3 options)

  1. Ubud to Nongan and Rendang 84Ks,
  2. Main road to Klungkung, north to Rendang 68 Ks,
  3. North at Takmung to Rendang via Bangbang 72Ks
  1. Ubud to Nongan 52Ks. Turn left (north) 4 Ks uphill to Rendang.
  2. Take the main road to Klungkung and go north to Rendang. You’ll find steep, uphill serpentine curves. (Better to go down this one.)
  3. Take the main road to Gianyar/Klungkung, turn left (north) 4 Ks west of Klungkung at Takmung, and go 17 Ks to Bangbang. This is a more gradual climb, but the views are less dramatic than on the Klungkung to Rendang route. At Banbang, turn right (east) to Nongan (one severe downhill and one up), and turn left (north) 4 Ks uphill to Rendang. From Rendang, turn right (east), and ride 16 Ks through Selat, Putung, and Sibetan to Bebandem. This road winds along the volcano with grades less severe than other eastern routes at that altitude, and there is no traffic. At Bebandem, the road descends to Amlapura. Just before Amlapura, turn left (north) and ride 12 Ks to Tirtagangga. There is a slight shortcut on a minor road before the main turn into Tirtagangga, but it’s difficult to find.

Candidas to Lovina 107Ks

This tour starts with a 12 Ks climb to Tirtagangga. You’ll ride through rolling hills full of beautiful rice paddies for 6 Ks, go downhill 15 Ks to the coast, and then the road is basically flat for 80 Ks into Lovina. There are good roads to the coast. They become rough until Kubutanbahan, then excellent for 21 Ks to Lovina. Traffic is light until Kubutanbahan, becomes moderate, and then heavy in Singaraja. Food and water stops are limited from Tirtagangga to Kubutambahan, but the views on descent to the north coast are fabulous.

Lovina to Ubud Via Bedugul 82Ks

There is one steep uphill ride to the pass at 1,400 meters, but the road down to Ubud is more gradual. You’ll encounter light traffic, becoming moderate at lower altitudes. The back roads to Ubud are hilly but reasonably surfaced. From Lovina, ride 9 Ks to Singaranja, then 15 Ks up a steep hill to the pass. Watch the beautiful vistas to the back. Go 6 Ks down to Bedugul (2,333350 meters). The next descent, 30 Ks down to Mengwi (128 meters), is excellent. Of the three routes that cross the island north to south, this route has the least spectacular views. The Bali Path Finder map shows back roads about 12Ks before Mengwi. About 4 Ks before (north), there is an alternative back way through Dukuh that joins the road east to Ubud at Gulingan. Next ride from Mengwi to Mamba, and then up a hilly 12 Ks stretch to Kengeten. At Kengeten, go either north or south (there is no bridge straight). Turn right (south) 4 Ks to the cyclist bridge, go left on a dirt road over the bridge for about 300 meters, and then ride 200 meters to the road. Turn left (north) for 10 Ks to Ubud. Or go left (north) at Kengeten to Peneslanan for 6 Ks, then right (east) for 4 Ks to Ubud. This is a steep up and down route.

Lovina to Lalanglinggah Via Pupuan 83Ks

The road west from Lovina is flat for 11 Ks to Seririt. Turn right (south) to Pupuan. This is the lowest of the north/south road passes. The descent from Pupuan offers the best rice paddy landscapes on the island—absolutely gorgeous. It is 52 Ks from Seririt to Anosari where you join the main road. Go straight (south) for 18Ks to Lalanglinggah. This is an excellent road with fabulous views and moderate to heavy traffic. It connects with the main highway and there is no alternative.

Lalanglinggah to Kuta 62Ks

The main road to Kapal has moderate hills and heavy traffic. The surface on the back roads is good from Kapal to Kuta and there is little traffic on this flat stretch. Retrace the main road north 18 Ks to Antosari, then another 23 Ks to Kapal. There is hellish traffic from Antosari to Kapal, but there is no alternative. At Kapal, refer to the Bali Path Finder map. Turn right (south) to Abianbase, and continue on to Bukuk and Dalung. Out of Dalung about 200 meters, turn either right or left. If you turn left, turn right after ½ K. This road runs 21 Ks straight to Kuta and traffic builds as you approach the city. If you turn right out of Dalung, turn left after 5 Ks and ride 2 Ks into Krobokan, then turn right (south) into Kuta. This route has less traffic and is only slightly longer. For a nice change, you can ride on the beach at low tide from about 7 Ks north of Kuta. It’s easier to ride out of Kuta on the firm, moist sand and then find the road.

Kuta to Ubud 47Ks

The back roads on this tour are quiet; the surface and engineering are both adequate. Out of Kapal, the road slopes gradually up hill. Retrace the 21Ks route in Tour #10 from Kuta to Kapal with help of the Bali Path Finder map. The alternative is to take the beach at low tide, then cut up to the road where you see buildings after about 7 Ks. This is fun but your bike will get dirty. At Kapal, turn right (east) at the busy main road for about 2 hellish Ks. Where the main road turns south, take either the minor road east or the minor road north. The road to the east goes 5 Ks to Peninjoan, then left (north) 7 Ks to Mamba. The road to the north goes 8 Ks to Cemenggon, then right 4 Ks to Mamba. The hills on this route are west to east. From Mamba, refer to Tour #8 for routes to Ubud.

Lombok – Lembar to Sengiggi 37Ks

After arriving on the ferry from Bali, we recommend that you wait for traffic to subside, then head north to Gerung (8 Ks) and continue on to Mataram (13 Ks). Turn left (west) on any main road and ride through the city 5 Ks to the road to Senggigi. Go north 10 Ks into Senggigi. All of these relatively flat, smooth roads are well marked and have light to moderate traffic, except around Ampenan, Mataram and Cakranegara. The last 5 Ks offer views of the coast. Alternative back roads with no traffic are available after Gerun (10 Ks from the ferry), but they’re rough and hilly. After being lost, we came out east of Narmada on the main road. We then took the main road to Mataram. There was moderate traffic until we reached Cakranegara.

Senggigi to Gili Air, Gili Memo and Gili Trawangan 30Ks

Head north on the new coast road out of Senggigi. Expect tough gradients on the mountainsides along the coast. In places, the dirt (sand) road is unridable, except for on mountain bikes, but the vistas of the coast are magnificent, and the trek is highly recommended! The road is being paved from the north, and in January, 1992, there was pavement for about 10 Ks before the turn off to the ferries and the Bilis. Turn left for 2 flat Ks to the beach. Riding is limited on the islands because there are no roads, only paths. Ferries will take bikes. There is an inland route for the return to Senggigi, but we recommend retracing the route along the coast for another look..

Senggigi to Lingsar, Suranadi and Sesaot to Senggigi 56Ks

Ride south from Senggigi for 6 Ks and turn to the left (east) on the first paved road. There are no signs. You can ride east climbing moderate hills on rough, but quiet, roads as far as Suranadi, or take one of several roads to the south, eventually coming out to the main highway running between Ampenan and the east coast. We went to Suranadi (20 Ks), then south to Narmada (5 Ks), down the highway back to Ampenan (15 Ks), and returned north to Senggigi (10 Ks).

Senggigi to Kuta Lombok 57Ks

Ride 15 Ks from Senggigi to Cakranegara and turn south off the main highway in Sweta at the bus terminal. From Cakranegara to Kediri, the short, 5 Ks trip is on a good road with moderate climbs and some traffic. There is less traffic out of Kediri, and you’ll find reasonable climbs to Puyung (16 Ks). Turn right (south) to Sukarara (2 Ks). Just south of Sukarara, there is a multiple intersection. Ask directions to make sure you take the correct road south to Sade (14 Ks) and Kuta (an additional 9 Ks down hill). Browse the interesting villages around Sade.

Kuta to Lembar 45Ks

Climbing north out of Kuta, retrace Tour #15 to Batujai (18 Ks). Out of Batujai, turn left to Gerung (17 Ks). This is a smooth road with little traffic and rolling hills. From Gerung to Lembar, the 8 Ks trip is flat and the road excellent. Traffic builds at the time of ferry arrivals and departures.

Day-by-Day Itinerary Sulawesi 1999-2000

Manado to Tondano

Road toward Bitung then right to Tondano. Slow climb, little of interest, busy road. Rain and cool at night. Through Airmadidi after A, light to moderate traffic, steady climb, good scenery.

Tondano to Manado

West side of lake, great winding road along the lake. Mostly flat, good views, very little traffic, narrow but good road (east side is also good). At Kakas, away from lake on good, flat road. Toward Sonder, flat, wide, busier road. After Sonder, rolling hills and better scenery. To Tomohon. To coast. (Can take main road to Manado, much shorter, busy). Great ride, narrow quiet road, no vistas, but good scenery. Mostly down a couple little climbs.

Manado – day ride

In town, chaotic traffic. Nice, short 15K ride north along the coast. Quiet. Hills. Traveler states the motto of trip “don’t get your hopes up.”

Manado to Amurong

On New Year’s Day of 2000, coastal longer) road out. Today it’s very quiet. Stayed along the coast. Sea views. Everything closed.

Amurong to Lolak 100Ks (est)

A beautiful and hilly route along the coast. Hotel on the beach. We were the only guests.

Lolak to Bintauna 75Ks

Hilly, some big hills and some great views of hills and sea. The basic hotel had burned down. We stayed at the lower than basic guesthouse.

Bintauna to Antinggola 78Ks

Our book in Dutch said the road hugged the coast, but the hills were frequent and steep. Fabulous views. Hard riding but worth it.

Antinggola to Kwandang 46Ks

Hills and beautiful views.

Kwandang to Gorontalo 68Ks

Now inland and hills. 13Ks to Molingkapato. Then 24Ks to junction in Isimu. Road through Limboto is pretty flat. Rain. Busy and wide.

Gorontalo to Tilamuta 110Ks

Out of G, wide to Isimu through Limboto, busy road. After Isimu the road goes inland. Moderate rolling hills. Very little traffic. The road is narrow. Easy grades up and down. Okay scenery and interest but great pure biking. Hot night.

Tilamuta to Marisa 62Ks

Out of T, 2K steeper climb, down then flat. Quiet, narrow. After 16Ks, along the coast. Climb inland then mostly flat. Almost no traffic, occasional small climbs, easy grades, so-so scenery. Great biking.

Marisa to Montong 124Ks

Mostly flat. Occasional scenery. Some mild hills, great riding. About 20Ks before Marisa, along the sea but mostly through Mangroves.

Ontong to Tinombo 135Ks

at 35Ks, a climb to 300 meters. Mostly steep. Then flat. Excellent, narrow road. Very quiet. Okay scenery. Through mangroves again but occasional sea views begin. This was the time of Ramadan. Hard to find places open. Also no traffic. Mosquitoes.

Tinombo to Ampibabo 124Ks

Not as pretty. Mostly flat. 25% along the coast and beautiful. 75% inland or in mangroves and boring. The road as usual is excellent but broken up occasionally. Narrow, quiet road, but the area is more built up, so there’s a little more traffic. You cross over the equator at the half way point (62Ks from Ampibabo).

Ampibabo to Sausu 96Ks

Flat. The same 25% is good along coast. Good views. 75% inland or in mangroves and uninteresting.

Sausu to Poso 95Ks

Mostly inland. Through settlements of immigrants from Bali. Good scenery. Good road. At first it’s flat then hills (some steep). Rice fields, some sea views. Good ride on quiet road. Traffic into Poso. A little rain. Mist. In Poso, beer had been banned. People a little edgier. Heard “fuck you” on occasion.

Poso to Tentena 70Ks

Gradually up along river to Pandiri. Then river branches and road climbs. Finally stair steps up. Good scenery. Section of the road was under construction. Mostly easy grades but occasionally steep. Quiet but some trucks. This is the last section of the Trans Sulawesi highway to be completely repaired.

Tentena to Pendalo 70Ks (along lake) or 90Ks on main highway

  1. Along the lake route. This route is hilly. One very steep up and down. Often away from the lake. Road is bumpy and part is not paved (SKs). Same short steep hills. Some lake views. Poor road, slow. Light traffic. It’s 3Ks into the waterfall. Good but not great.
  2. On the main highway (described by others). This is the Trans Sulawesi highway. Multiple climbs. This is the last section of the highway to be fully redone. Under construction.

Pendolo to Mangkutana 93Ks

28Ks to BATAS (basically the high point) gradual start. Steeper as you go but grades are okay. Good quiet road. A few trucks. Occasionally some broken spots. After BATAS a little more climbing then a great gradual descent for 25Ks. A few small rises. Jungle. Very few facilities. After waterfall, 2K climb then down again. Finally switch back descent down to flats (actually rolling along the river). Good scenery. Great views back to lake and then forward to the sea.

Mangkutana to Palopo 140Ks

this route is mostly flat. Not so interesting. Easy riding. Traffic into Palopo was heavy. Augmented because school starts after vacation.

Palopo to Rantepao 61Ks

Leave the Trans Sulawesi highway for Tana Toranja. Its 37Ks to the top of the pass. Long gradual climb. Great views back to the sea from time to time. Down 4Ks bridge then up again for 10Ks. There’s a radio tower on top. A relatively easy 1700 meters up then 500 meters down to Rantepao. Great scenery. Down is steeper than up. Through Taranja villages. Busier toward R. A few short steep ups within the descent. Excellent ride. R is in the Christian area.

Rantepao to Enrekang 94Ks

Some rain. 18Ks down river to Mabale. Main road busy but wide. It’s possible to cross the river and take minor roads for 5Ks along river to avoid the traffic. Nice scenery. Out of Mabale, climb for 10Ks down a little then up another 2Ks. Finally a gradual down with some hills. Last 20Ks to E is a descent. Great vistas. After Mabale, the traffic is lighter. It’s 76Ks from M to E.

Enrekang to Pare Pare 80Ks

It’s 47Ks to Rapang along a river but hilly. Choppy terrain. Some traffic out of E then light traffic. Good road. Nice scenery. Vistas from hilltops back. Grassy hills. Gradually flatter and generally lower into Rapang. Berno traffic jam in downtown Rapang. Then it’s 33Ks to Pare Pare. A narrow flat and somewhat busy run for 12Ks to the Trans Sulawesi highway which is busier. Through some small mountains, up and down right into Pare Pare.

Pare Pare to Ujung Pandang (Makassar) 155Ks

Flat, along the coast for 53Ks to Barru. Good views, good road. Light to moderate traffic but continually increasing toward Ujung where it is bumper to bumper. It’s all inland to Pangkajene (54Ks before Ujung) but good scenery of rice fields with limestone cliffs as a background. Then a wider road but with fast traffic on straight roads. After Maros (30Ks before Ujung), it’s a four lane road. Lots of traffic and a few small hills. Nothing interesting. We had a tail wind. In Ujung there was a short rain but it was a torrent.

UP to Bantaeng 123Ks

Bit’s a busy urban flat 10Ks to Sungguminasa then the road narrows but is busy so it’s poor riding. Flat to Takalar 45Ks. Hillier to Jeneponto 46Ks through vegetable and rice fields. Traffic level thins and countryside becomes drier. So-so scenery. Then it’s 32Ks to Bantaeng. Some hills, okay scenery and a narrow road.

Bantaeng to Bira 74Ks

Out of Bantaeng along the coast more to Bulukumba 32Ks. At intersection right (left goes to Sinjai). It’s a narrow, quiet road to Bira 42Ks.

UP to Airport

Don’t take the toll road. Full of traffic.

Java Routes

Airport (Jakarta) to Bogar

We took our bikes on a bus to the train in Jakarta. The train took bikes in passenger car with us. Third Class. Then we jumped off and took small one lane roads along the RR tracks. It was quiet and interesting, until the main road just before Bogar. The main road was incredibly busy.

Bogar to Bandung

Climb out from Bogar. More and more traffic. Club through towns and then tea up the switchbacks. Some rain. Top. Good down hill off the mountain. Then rain. Bikes in back of a truck. Gorgeous scenery through the Chanlk Mountains and rice fields. Muddy road. Lots of rain.

Bandung to Pangandaran

Chaotic traffic out of town. Another ride in a truck to 30Ks before Tasikmalaya. Now less traffic, good wide road on rolling hills through rice fields. Then road changes to narrow and very busy. Took a bus in rain to Banjar off main road. Right to Pangandarin 65Ks. Beautiful and interesting. A lot less traffic. More rain.

Pangandaran to Batu Karas

Day rides. To ferry and to Batu Karas (nice quiet beach). New roads so nice ride. Rode to ferry (crowded). Boat to Cilacap.

Cilacap to Purworejo

Small roads for 25Ks to the main road. Again on main road we got a ride.

Purworejo to Jogyakarta

Started up through rice fields. Rain has stopped. Big climb into Borobudur which rises out of the surrounding flatlands of rice paddies. Then gradually down most of the way to Jogya. The traffic was wild. Since it was clear we could see Mount Merapi (active volcano) in the background. There was only one busy road. You must be very aware of the different traffic types. Very hairy ride! In Jogyakarta we rode around town. More rain.

Jogyakarta to Solo (Surakarta)

There was a bike path out of town. An endless stream of bikes were riding into town toward us but they would part to let us ride through them in the Indonesian manner. We stopped at a cultrual cisplay for all of Indonesia called Prambanan. Entrance fee 2000 ($1.00). It was under construction in 1992. The bike path went to Klaten. By the main road it’s 40Ks to Solo but we took small back roads. We crossed to the other side of the railroad tracks. The roads were mud. A bank teller led us for 8Ks on a motorcycle through a maze of paths. There were no signs. We made it to 10Ks before Solo on these tracks. 10Ks of traffic to Solo.

Solo to Ponorogo 110Ks

Nice day, clear and hot. First toward Wonogari. The road is narrow and the big traffic crowded us. Forced off the road a few times. After Wonogari, the road had many rolling hills. 25Ks before Ponorogo, the road mostly descends all the way to town. Friendly motorcyclists often led us and recommended places to stay. Needed AC in room because it’s so hot. Not a tourist town.

Ponorogo to Blitar 105Ks

Climbed slowly at first then steep for the first 28Ks. Then down to Trenggalek. It’s 32Ks to Tulungagung. Easy riding. Finally it’s another 30Ks to Blitar. More easy riding. Less traffic. Hot again even at night.

Blitar to Malange 75Ks

Main road was full of traffic (even saw an accident), so we tried the backroads again after Popoh. We set off into a forest and up a mountain. Met an American living there. He directed us but warned that the road was rough and hilly. We saw the ocean in the distance. We crested the hill and saw the lakes we were trying to go around. Down on switchbacks. Crossed one of the lakes on a dam. Then back to the main road. Lots of traffic.

Malange to Jember 144Ks

Out of town on a nice quiet road. To Turen 25Ks. Traffic is intense on the main road. Got a ride up a mountain. Then road down and then up and down through hills on a beautiful curvy road which was well surfaced. Then there was road construction. We hitched another ride. It poured rain. Got out at Lumajang and rode again for 25Ks. It poured again and we got another ride in a truck. Kids now call out “Touris” instead of “Hello Mister.”.

Jember to Ketapang (ferry to Bali) 100Ks

Across bridge. Traffic as usual. Climbed 35Ks. Some easy and then switchbacks up the hill. Then we spent the rest of the day enjoying a gradual downhill. There was rice, corn, and sugarcane. It rained again but not all day. More of a drizzle. We could see the volcano from time to time. It was quieter and easier riding into Ketapang. Also a good road.

Malange to Jember 144Ks

Out of town on a nice quiet road. To Turen 25Ks. Traffic is intense on the main road. Got a ride up a mountain. Then road down and then up and down through hills on a beautiful curvy road which was well surfaced. Then there was road construction. We hitched another ride. It poured rain. Got out at Lumajang and rode again for 25Ks. It poured again and we got another ride in a truck. Kids now call out “Touris” instead of “Hello Mister.”.

Jember to Ketapang (ferry to Bali) 100Ks

Across bridge. Traffic as usual. Climbed 35Ks. Some easy and then switchbacks up the hill. Then we spent the rest of the day enjoying a gradual downhill. There was rice, corn, and sugarcane. It rained again but not all day. More of a drizzle. We could see the volcano from time to time. It was quieter and easier riding into Ketapang. Also a good road.

Itinerary from VeloAsia for Sumatra (We did some of this in 2007 – see above)



Arrive Medan. Airport transfer to hotel. Afternoon sightseeing in Medan, a former Dutch plantation center, and now Indonesia’s third largest city. Sites include the Great Mosque, Parisada Hindu Temple, street bazaars and colonial architecture. Orientation dinner.

Medan to Bukit

Medan to Bukit Lawan Orange Sanctuary. Ride from Medan to an Orangutan sanctuary set in the richly rain forested Gunung Leuser National Park. After viewing the apes, ride through the area’s lush jungle and along its clear streams. Meals and accommodations in guesthouse.

Bukit Lawan to Berastagi

A dramatic ride high into the Karo highlands to Berastagi, home of the Karo Batak people. Volcanoes rise up in the distance as we climb past tropical forest. Berastagi has a nice cool climate and peaceful setting. Accommodations in hotel with swimming pool. In Berastagi, a day hike up Gunang Sibayak Volcano with a pause to dip in the hot springs. Batak traditional dinner.

Berastagi to Lake Toba

Scenic ride with several stops in Batak villages, markets and waterfalls along the route. Descend into the crate holding Lake Toba. Ringed by steep mountains, Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and also the center of Batak culture. Afternoon boat trip to Samosir Island. Accommodations in guesthouse.

Samosir Island

Explore by bicycle Batak culture and beautiful natural scenery in the less visited areas of Samosir Island. Optional sixty-mile ride around the circumference of the island. Also, rest time to swim in warm lake and laze on the sand. Accommodation in guesthouse. Ferry across the south end of the lake followed by a challenging ride up the crater wall into the lush mountains on the way to Sibolga. Overnight in guesthouse.

Sibolga to Hutanopan

A beautiful ride ending with an exciting descent into Sibolga onthe shore of the Indian Ocean. Seafood dinner and accommodation at hotel.

Sibolga to Bonjol

Ride beneath the volcanic peaks and vast stretches of immensely varied plant life of the Sumatran rainforest. Amidst the ferns, palms, orchids, bamboo, fruit, spice and rubber trees roam Indonesia’s last surviving wildlife. Our destination, Bonjol, lies exactly on the equator. Overnight in hotel.

Bonjol to Lake Maninjau

A short ride through lush bamboo forests ending with a dramatic 44 switchback descent to Lake Maninjau. Swim and raft in the warm waters of the crater lake. Overnight at hotel overlooking the lake.

Lake Maninjau to Bukittingi

A short but steep and dramatic ride to this comfortable tourist town. A former Dutch base, Bukittingi is now the cultural home of the Minangkabau people. Afternoon exploring Bukittingi’s vibrant market known for its rich inventory of tribal crafts. Accommodations in hotel overlooking the town.

Bukittingi to Padang

A scenic ride past the towering Merapi and Singalang volcanoes with a stop in the Lembah Anai Nature Reserve. Sunset in Padang, overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Road Stories

This is My Story

Sulawesi Indonesia, 2000, is a crab shaped island that was colonized by the Dutch and known as one of the Spice Islands because of the many coffee, vanilla, and coco trees. We learned, in 1999, that there was a newly constructed 1200-mile highway that runs the length of the island from Manado to Maccassar so we flew into Manado to begin this journey.

We found a booklet at our hotel written in Dutch by two cyclists that described the route in great detail. We do not read Dutch but because Indonesia is a popular destination for them; we didn’t have difficulty finding Dutch tourist to translate as we went along. We had the book for about two weeks, and yesterday, after we had ridden over thirty miles we discovered that Peter left “the book”, at the breakfast table after a very strong cup of “Celebes” coffee.

This island is mostly Christian, with pockets of Muslims. I don’t like to ride where there is a large population of Muslims because they assume a female on a bicycle wearing shorts is a risqué woman. I have been harassed by men groping me in Muslim countries. So far our encounters here with Muslims were a man who gave us a gift of rice in banana leaf saying, “I want to be friendly.” And a family that invited us into their home to eat because all stores and restaurants were closed due to a holiday. People here speak a little English, and most none, so most of our communication is tone of voice and body language; which I learned long ago is 84% of communication anyway. We are practiced in exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures.

I wake with a quite Tap, Tap, Tap before first light. I hear the clink of the teacups as the young houseboy places our breakfast tray outside our room. Peter pops out of bed and I bury my head under the covers. Today, we remember from “the book,” we have two mountain passes to climb. Peter loves to climb; he’s strong and stands on his pedals most of the way. I like the flats and am a snail in the mountains.

Peter is animated enjoying his tea and eating quickly. I slouch across from him. He starts nagging “ we won’t make it if you don’t get moving”. I hate him, and I hate myself for not being strong enough to keep up in the mountains.

We are almost half way to Maccasar, and we know this is our last and biggest climb. We have to complete both climbs to get to the next town with hotels. We are prepared physically, and we changed $300 US at an ATM, which left us with two million Indonesian dollars. I carry all the money. Our theory is that the world is full of macho men who wouldn’t dream that the women have the money.

We leave our cool air-conditioned room with first light and enter the sauna like morning that the night tried to cool. We climb zigzagging slowly up the first mountain, watching the coast pop in and out of view. At mid morning we have a long decent into a valley and start to climb again. This time we climb through a fog and come out above the clouds. I’m working hard and Peter slows, so we ride together. I’m feeling a little better about myself and therefore about Peter. It’s two o’clock and no sign of the top so we stop for lunch in a small village that is hugging the mountainside. The restaurant has a panoramic view of mountain peaks above the clouds. There is a counter along the porch railing, where we sit, and eat looking at the view. We order our favorite vegetable soup. No one else is in the restaurant. There is a group of 6, dark haired, brown eyed, slender young men watching us from the door. This does not concern us because we are used to being a novelty in this part of the world.

After lunch the route is very steep. My morning effort is taking its toll. I’m getting slower and slower. I’m working hard but Peter is slowing more than he likes, and we have several false turns when we think we will see the top. We remember that our lost “book” explained that a radio tower marks the top. We finally see the tower. Peter figures it is about two miles. He says, “I’m going for it. See you at the top” and he stands up on his pedals, quickly he disappears around a bend. This is my opportunity to slow down to my usual snail’s pace and enjoy the vista. We are so high there are no trees and I see the blue ocean in the distance through big puffy clouds. This new road is carved out of a rock wall hugging the mountainside.

I hear my first vehicle, put, put putting very slowly behind me. It sounds like there is a problem. My mirror shows two teenage boys on a small yellow motorcycle. They slowly pass me and disappear around a bend. This is the first vehicle, beside the 10 AM bus, on this road all day. As I round the bend the motorcycle is stopped and turned facing downhill. I think they are going to try a jump-start. I am on the inside of the mountain, next to a shear rock wall and they are stopped on the outside of the mountain, next to a steep rocky drop. I nod to them and stand up on my pedals to get some speed, and I keep my bike as far away from them as possible.

I pass them and see the smaller boy on the back of the motorbike slip off. I think he looks nice, khaki pants, zipped blue jacket, dark hair slicked back. I see him head toward me in my mirror and feel him pull at my back pannier; which is securely attached to my bike. I throw my weight up hill away from him and fall on the ground. He loses his grip and fells downhill on his butt, legs spread out. I scramble to get up, and stand over my fallen bike with a foot on each side of the crossbar. I see the motorcycle driver head turned back, watching. Khaki gets up and lunges toward me and grabs the map holder attached to the front pack on my handlebars, he demands, “Give me the money.” The Velcro on the map holder releases, the front pack falls to the ground, and Kaki plops down on his butt again, holding my map case. I keep one leg in the crossbar and move my free leg to the side of the fallen pack and crouch in a Karate stance, elbows bent and hands stiff. I yell, “Mister has all the money!!”
Motorcycle says something. Khaki shakes his head, eyes fixed on my sunglasses, and stands slowly. He makes a grab for my front pack and I threaten with an aggressive karate chop. He ducks back a step. I scream at the top of my lungs, I know Peter is out of earshot, maybe they don’t. I stand frozen, screaming, and my hidden eyes search for something, a rock, a stick, there is nothing in this barren place. I can see far down the road, no traffic. Khaki haughtily raises his chin and slowly starts unbuttoning the neck of his blue jacket, eyes never leaving me. I see the blond wooden handle of a machete. I’m desperate. I grab my water bottle. I hold it in both hands, pointing it, like a machine gun, fanning it from Khaki to Motorcycle, as if to spray bullets. I crouch slightly helmet tight on my head and muster my most authoritative low voice, growling, “Special, Special!” Khaki’s eyes get wide, he runs and jumps on the back of the motorbike and they fly down the mountain.

I kept growling watching them disappear. I stop and start shaking. My ears ring with silence. I pick-up my bike, and put my front pack in place. I shakily get on and start up the mountain. “I’m O.K., they’re gone,” I say to the mountain.

I see Peter standing at the top, cheering me on, his water bottle thrust in the air as a reward. I break down, and tell him the story and we both notice the cuts on my hands and legs. I put the muzzle of my machine gun in my mouth and drink.

Lake Toba Sumatra

Greetings from the Tut-Tut peninsula, Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. We got side tracked at the very least. Let’s just say the ferry from Penang, Malaysia was leaving for Medan, Sumatra and we got on it. From Medan to Lake Toba was 2 days of crazy catawampus biking then a day of tranquility along spectacular Lake Toba. Sumatra is mountainous, Lake Toba surrounded by mountains, and the villages with their church steeples from afar make it feel like we are on a lake in the Italian Alps. The climate is perfection, warm sunny days and cool nights. This area called North Sumatra and home of the Batak people who are Christian with a mix of Animism. Here they ask us “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” We ask “What are you?” and whatever they answer, that’s what we are. Our attempt at riding into Ache was a failure. Ache is at the northern most tip of Sumatra. The epicenter of the 2004 Tsunami was 50Ks off it’s NW coast. They lost 300,000 people. Before 2004, Ache was trying to break away from Indonesia. It is very strict Muslim. We were willing to put with the low standards and hassles to at least spend a little time in Ache where it’s now pacified because of all the foreign aid that has flowed in after the Tsunami. The stop before Ache, Sidikalang, we were told we needed a permit to enter Ache. We meet with the police but communication was limited so we waited for our permits, which never arrived. Any questions we had about Ache (only 50Ks away) went unanswered because nobody has been there. It’s like a foreign country. We gave up and returned to beautiful Lake Toba, which is a great reward for a couple of losers.

Later we learned that all the rules have changed and we could ride into Ache without permits but the information was not known 50 Ks away.

For What It’s Worth

We always hear the same two questions, even from the most sophisticated people. The questions are, “where do you go?” and “where are you from?” In the small villages these two questions are ususally the extent of their English. We met a man named Gooday in the mountain town of Kintamani. He is a mountain guide and guides trekkers from all over the world. He is funny and smart. He told us how to handle these questions in their language. When the people yell “where do you go?” we say, “chu chi ma ta,” which means “to clean my eyes,” or to go sightseeing. When they ask, “where are you from?,” we answer “dary bulon,” which means “from the moon.” Our answers would bring surprise and then laughter.