Posted: June 23, 2016 in Mountain Bike Touring Central Java 2016
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Days 1 & 2

A 10 day solo trip into Central Java. Started at Semerang along Java’s north coast. A sizable city. a smaller version of East Java’s huge Surabaya, best seen from a slow bicycle, especially when city roads are choked with traffic, technically making cycling faster and saves one the hassle of dealing with public transport and the accompanying fare hikes for tourists.

Right from the city’s smallish airport, (2 immigration counters) I got a taxi booked from an airport taxi booth to my hotel 5 kms away. Rp 50,000 or $5.00. Initially wanted to fix the bike at the airport and ride into town, but the expected 40 deg C temps forecasted for the middle of May,  was deterrent enough. I could do all that in the comfort of my AC room.

Being in a biggish city, with a Dutch past and having arrived in the late afternoon meant that 2 nights in Semarang was a given. There was no way I could see the sights, check out at 12 noon and ride to the next destination. Well I could have done that but that meant not much time left for uncertainties like getting lost or dealing with inclement weather and reaching a hill side town in the dark.

I sort of got this bike touring thing down to a pat. Have ample time when in a strange city, or when leaving it.

Semarang has an old town feel, notwithstanding a few skyscrapers and glitzy malls. Spent quite a few afternoon hours in the actual old town itself. Crumbling Dutch buildings,with quiet neighbourhoods and back roads away from the choked main roads.

On this particular Saturday, there was a flea market and closed roads which made walking and slow cycling a joy. You could see the kids making full use of the peace without cars and other traffic in front of their homes.

I spotted a couple of chic coffee places with great air con and wifi. What more could I ask for?  Tokodeco was set in a 2 storey conservation building and the iced single origin Sumatran coffee I had was heavenly. $3.00 whole dollars.

Leaving Semarang was not easy. The city has mountains at it’s southern backyard. A bunch of volcanoes that separate it from Java’s southern coast. I was also not at my fittest. A case of too much input and not enough output. Hence one of the reasons for a bike trip. Ride a whole lot, and eat sensibly all I want.

3 big climbs loomed just as I left the city limits. They were not that steep but with luggage any cyclist would know that another 50% more effort would have to be put in, just so you don’t ride in the embarrassing single digit speeds.

I actually stopped and rested outside a palatial hotel. It was shady and sent in a posh residential district.  Immediately the winds here were much cooler than the lowlands. I was lucky too as not much later a convoy of Harleys zoomed by. I thought a thunderstorm was looming.

Nah, just your average moneyed Indonesian out to show the world their expensive toys on a Sunday. The convoy was led by of all people, the traffic police! An outrider would go ahead, stopping all traffic, so that the convoy could pass and even run red lights. This has sparked some outrage on social media as to why some are more equal than others to the extent of paying the police to clear traffic for them.

After 30kms I found my riding legs and stopped at a ‘milk factory’ It was jam packed and I guess a place to go for a family outing on a Sunday. Got a cold yoghurt and left.

The turnoff for the mountains was just opposite it.


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