1. West Sumatra and Jambi 1998.

Posted: April 6, 2015 in Mountain Bike Touring West Sumatra 1998
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Why redux, you might ask ?

Webster defines it as ‘brought back’ or used postpostively. I think a retrospective says it best. This journey happened 12 years ago. There is a mountain bike and some small British made panniers involved, so it’s safe to say that the next few pages can equate to a journal, in the broadest sense of that word journal, unless a forum thread comes up to the contrary and I have to put on a flame resistant suit.

On the other hand, if I get some praises from the guestbook, I might be tempted to dig up more slides and faded photos from at least 5 trips to say exotic Indonesia and redux myself silly. But who am I kidding? Choosing, scanning and editing images, though a labour of love, takes so much time that re cycling the whole route with a digicam might be faster and stave off blindness.


Obviously any info a decade old is also really outdated. Photos are less outdated, but nice to look at and some may even stir emotions and induce a longing for bike touring, since winter has closed in, in the northern hemisphere.

While I wouldn’t mind reliving my misadventures for the benefit of others who need their daily dose of CGOAB, or researching a trip, it’s best that, someone else really plans and does a bike trip to say Sumatra and update some info on the ground for the rest of the good folks on this site. Just don’t take my word for it that Indonesia is a paradise for your next bike trip although it really is.

Someone whose journals I’ve been lurking, and then actually had the pleasure of meeting recently, even sweating together while cycling of course, has done this already.

We have ‘trail blazed’ (on CGOAB at least) the extreme ends of the province of Jambi in South Sumatra, the only difference being I was 12 years early, cycling in the highlands close to Mt Kerinchi, the country’s highest volcano, while he prefers the humid, mosquito infested swamps and riverside cities of Palembang and Jambi in the east, where the lay of the land is dead flat. This does not imply that riding flat roads are no less awesome. I just have an affinity for volcanoes, as long as they don’t erupt on me.

I must also add that as Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, in particular Sumatra which is a major part of that ring, it is prone to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. There have been so many I’ve lost count. On a particular geographic note, Sumatra is about the same size as California, which fringes the eastern Pacific end of the Ring of Fire, but Sumatra wins hands down on the number of volcanoes. There are 65.

Why Sumatra ? Well, why not. When I first read travel books on it, you delve into phrases like, ‘Indonesia’s Island of Adventure’ or ‘A Paradise Untouched’ or ‘Asia’s Final Frontier’ It was no wonder that I ended up with a pile of books that will keep me awake for nights.

I got so good at it that I could quote places, provinces, towns, routes, road markers and distances, heights of mountains, etc without ever having been to places like Padang, Bukittinggi, Solok , Kerinchi, Sungei Penuh and back to Padang. Then there are the mountain lakes of Maninjau, Singkarak and Sungei Penuh, see it’s all coming back that easily.

Distant relatives from Indonesia were surprised at my hidden talent, plus the fact that I would ride a bicycle there, their wonder turned into shock, while an uncle even slyly suggested that I had a mistress or two in those towns. How could I, being single and all?

So instead of sitting in an office and missing many a sunset, dinners and dates, trying to sue the crap out of the guilty, not so guilty and totally innocent alike, my mind would often drift off to Sumatra, that giant land mass of an island just, 2 hours away from our airport.

I could also take heart that the piles of paper on my desk was also home piles of Mountain Bike Action, Road Bike Action, Mountain Biking and Bicycling. These kept occasional thoughts of embezzlement, adultery, and sometimes, suicide at bay and meant that my 2 wheeled equipment was always top notch and ready to roll at a moment’s calling.

In those silly wonder years of biking, I worshiped money because then I could also worship anything titanium, but at least, I was tour ready and that’s what mattered. Getting away from work, and other filial obligations, that required the utmost cunning and tales of woe, deceit and lies that I could muster from the heart of my bottom.



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