And So To Java. We pedalled away from Jakarta’s bus station in the early morning. The Garmin did a good job of finding a quiet way out. Jakarta was quiet – too quiet. Our relief at being away from Sumatra’s hills, and then the end of Ramadan, was short lived. Ramadan is immediately followed by Eid al-Fitr, which is by definition a religious event, but substantially experienced as a transport event; everybody in Java is on the roads. Java’s land mass is structured around a few massive volcanoes, the main roads weaving through on the flat bits in between. Alas, the smaller roads often don’t join up, so to get anywhere, everyone, including us, had to use the main, but only 2 lane, highways. Really, it was madness to cycle at that time. Cyclists would be best off spending Eid holed up, especially if they can join in the festivities.
It calmed down after about three days. Java’s crowded, narrow, bumpy major roads are at least relatively flat, and still alive after a week of good progress, we took a couple of days off in the historic, and more or less geographical, centre of Java, Yogyakarta, before continuing on to catch the short ferry to Bali.
Java has a big population in a not-so-big space.. Drivers are not so deliberately homicidal as Indian drivers, and they’re more inclined to look where they’re going, but the traffic is a lot denser, as Indian main roads are hugely bigger. As usual, it’s the bus drivers who are most aggressive and unwilling to share space or time. Well, they’ll happily ‘share’ your lane if they’re going the other way and want to overtake something. But the drivers are mostly ok, it’s the motorbike riders who are nuts. Well, more likely they’re happy, carefree folks who have no worries about any possibility of collision. Overtake a truck on the inside on a narrow blind bend – no problem. Overtaking is probably the Indonesian national sport, and often would earn many points for artistic flair and imagination. On the whole it felt less safe even than India, which is saying something. However, it was a lot less noisy than India, with only brief blasts of horns used beneficially. It got a bit less hectic as we worked our way east, taking loops via minor roads when we could.
Dear reader, you might get the impression that crossing Java by bike is a dumb plan: That’s about right. Whereas Sumatra, whilst being very tough, felt a worthwhile adventure. Bali’s roads we only experienced from the ferry to Denpasar, the capital, travelling mostly on the main road. It was somewhat less hectic than Java, and, crucially, the road was both a bit wider and in better repair. The last 40km or so on Bali’s minor roads were lovely, full of things to see.
So where are the photos?