Thursday May 14, 2009, 15 km (9 miles) – Total so far: 72 km (45 miles)

Going into the crater for the 3rd time n 3 days

Today is a bit of a rest day.  That meant a later start, more fiddling with camera and video, a late breakfast, patting the village dogs, a late check out and generally trying to squeeze 15 kms ofcycling and a touch of laundry during daylight. Plan B was to do those 15 kms and another 75 kms of unknown territory to the town of Malang. I’d much prefer Plan A. It’s a nice appetizer for Plan B, tomorrow. Plus, we were ahead of schedule.

My intuition told me that Paul preferred Plan B. He is so much the stronger rider, always cycling out of the saddle on impossibly steep climbs, but seeing that I concocted Plans A and B, down to the last kilometer, I get to choose again. 15 kms it is, into the sand sea for the third time, up a steep crack in the crater walls and and easy 7 kms down through shady pine forests to Wonokitri.

Out on the sand sea, we stop by for coffee again after a grueling 1.78 kms. No dogs to pat here, but a bit if drama took place when some horses decided to mutiny and took off with their owners frantically chasing them. One rider was even thrown off and landed on his back, out cold. We feared the worse, that was until a friend came along offering a cigarette, and the slightly bruised horseman’s universe was in sync again. Today’s coffee was also on the house, as the donated clothes fitted the slim woman very well.

My GT Zaskar at the same spot in 2003

I had always wanted to return to Wonokitri. It has an allure of nothingness, if that can even be explained. Mist and fog, wet and rusting zinc rooftops, simple houses built small and close for warmth, forlorn, flickering 25 watt bulbs for lighting and more nothingness in places to eat or sleep. Maybe it was watching a friend, Victor ingeniously bolting on an 18 tooth cassette cog next to his 24 tooth granny gear, one chilly morning in Wonokitri in 1989. Viola! He could cycle up a wall.

Victor was an expat from Canada, an accomplished photographer hauling a medium format Pentax, and about 50 rolls of slide film in his front panniers. Working in Singapore as a geologist, he had merrily organised this trip for a party of 10 newbies (to cycling and camping) His slide shows, with slides painstaikingly mounted on glass, of his escapades on a mountain bike in far flung Indonesian islands were always a treat.

He weaned me off spending money on road bikes and their pricey Italian parts. In place of such wisdom, I now spend quite a bit on touring bikes and their huge array of pricey touring gear. More on Victor later, as on that fateful, first bike touring and camping trip of my life in Wonokitri, in January of 1989, I thought I met the woman I could marry. I didn’t, but it was nice to be back all the same, in a nice well kept guesthouse too.

Nostalgia aside, Wonokitri lies on a steep ridgeline, as do the neighbouring villages of Tosari and Ngadiwono. All three, and many more less accessible ones are remnants of the ancient Hindu Majapahit empire that prevailed over Java before Islam took hold over the islands in the 16th century.

Wild scenery on the way to Wonokitri

Finding the Bromo Indah Lestari Home Stay of a certain Dr Matius Soemarno was a bit tricky. There were no signs, but when we passed a pink 3 storey Miami Vice drug lord style mansion, I knew that must be it. It was. The good Doctor was in a real hurry. He and the wife had to drive overnight to Central Java. A death in the family. I was given the keys to the place, to choose any room while the caretaker could only come by during the night. We got to see the lifestyle of an upper middle class home. 3 motorcycles parked in a corner of the living room. A piano and organ at another end. Leather sofa set. Spotless ceramic floor tiles. A stairway with chromed banisters led to 5 rooms on the upper floor. The rooms were in great condition for a 3 year old place. New matresses and blankets, very clean floors and views down the mountains with twinkling lights of the lowlands 50 kms away on a clear night.

They were in the process of installing water heaters, so this meant a quick splash of icy cold water on vital body parts, while the sun was still up.

While in search of beer after dinner, we came across a Balinese style Hindu ceremony at the village temple. Village elders and some priests were seated at the entrance, chanting prayers and burning incense in a purification right before everyone could enter the dining hall. Rows of dining tables were full of sweet cakes and fizzy drinks. They were still there the next day, untouched. I figured this was the pura’s or temple’s anniversary celebrations. Giant speakers were set up outside dispensing sage advice from the priests and a while later, of all things we heard hip hop music long into the night. The women were nicely coiffured and heavily made up. See? Plan A always works.


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