15,134 km so far.
Since the plan for today was to go 85 km on the highway, we kind of knew it would not be any fun. Right we were. Hey ho, it’s all part of the experience, and cycling on Java certainly is an experience.
The highways across the island are not really highways so much as they are narrow two-lane corridors of death – at least if you’re a snake or other small animal. If you are a cyclist, things are not much better. The shoulder, where it exists, is a good 4 inches lower than the actual road, and it is unpaved, filled with fist-sized pointy rocks and sand.
Not ideal cycling terrain.
The Worst Of Times
The majority of the traffic is busses, big trucks, and scooters, usually coming in a steady stream from both directions.
When there’s a break in traffic in one direction, the faster cars pull out to overtake. All this leaves very little wiggle room, and even less oxygen, for us. If they’re not coming at you from behind, they’re bearing down on you head-on.
We have described some crappy days of cycling on this blog, and this was up there with the worst of them.
On a day like this, you play the edge of consciousness. You need to switch off your brain to numb yourself to the fumes and the close calls and the sheer carelessness of the drivers. But you also need to stay aware enough to make sure you don’t bounce yourself out of one of the many crater-like potholes and under the wheels of a large automobile. It’s nothing short of exhausting.
Tomorrow, we will take steps to avoid another day like today, by seeing what the (largely indirect) backroads of Java are like.
You Take The Good, You Take The Bad
Some good things from today.
- A little boy on a trike, looking up to see us and exclaiming “wow!”.
- A couple of friendly farm workers who waved me over to take pictures of their work.
- A mother in the back of a small pick-up, yanking her sleeping son awake so that he could catch a glimpse of us.
- Dozens of people giving us thumbs up, waves, and huge smiles as we rode by.
- The ubiquity of Alfamart and Indomart, providing us with air-conditioning and cold drinks whenever we need them.
And some (more) bad things.
- A tree full of tiny cages, each holding a single small monkey, contraband for sale on the side of the highway.
- Our overpriced hotel, which was apparently built in 2001, but looks like it was built some time in the 70s and never renovated.
- Lunch of rice and jackfruit, at a non-appetising random restaurant, where the jackfruit may have been sitting unrefrigerated for days.
- Feeling ill in the evening, hoping it’s just a passing phase, and not a harbinger of things to come.
Soundtrack: NO, El Prado | Radio Riddler, Purple Reggae | M.I.A., Matangi | Mark Lanegan Band, Bubblegum | Liam Finn, The Nihilist ♥