Excellent. A broken bridge with a shaky, provisional bamboo replacement. 2 huge climbs, but stunning scenery. Dangerous downhill through rain forest and fields to sea level.
What else could one do on a sunny Sunday morning, having the choice to go to church or ride a bicycle up into a volcano? The final riding day in Java was a long one, but more than worth it. After about 12km we had a choice to cross a rive via a provisional bamboo bridge, or take a short detour on a bad road. No question, I wouldn’t take the bridge option – GoPro & DLR ready to record the passage. Shortly after the bridge I provided first aid to J. who was stung in her finger by a big, unidentified bug. She was quite shocked and in pain and couldn’t continue, thus I called the van for her. Thereafter the first ascend begun. This first 1400m climb brought me into a fertile crater region built from 4 volcanoes (1 still active). Coffee plantations, green alleys and lovely flowers made the immediate 400m ‘dive’ into the valley a treat for the eyes. No need to rush for the lunch. It was hot in the valley, but the locals were playing at a volleyball tournament in the coffee plantation. Time, for another 10 minute break, in addition to the many other stops to enjoy the views and take photos. Lunch was nicely setup and lots of treats waiting for us to stock up energy for the 2nd major climb to the final summit at 1880m. Fairly easy going, as it was not as steep as the ones we had the days before. It was just me and Chelsea who were building the tail of the riding group, which had left long time before. I enjoyed every inch and minute of the day. A view more photo stops during the climb did not slow me down too much, and I was never caught by the sweep. On top of the final summit in Java, I wrote a nice message for Chelsea on the tar. She was ‘TdA sweep’ all day and did a fantastic job to ride this stage with the long climbs. The downhill was kind of difficult to ride. The climate changed on the eastern side of the volcano. The dry vegetation changed into green rain forest, with giant ferns and palm trees. The low clouds or fog made the steep and curvy roads quite slippery. One corner was to fast for me and I slipped off the edge into the green ditch. No worries, only minor scratches on elbow and thigh, recovered my bike from the ditch, cleaned my wounds and continued slower, since my break pads started to give up, after riding for 30 days in the mountains. Road conditions got better the closer I came to sea level. After almost 10 hours since the start I reached the hotel where I immediately cooled down my body in the pool. In the meantime Andreas had already replaced my break pads, to make the breaks fit again for the future descents.
The provisional Bamboo bridge closed at Noon for 1 hour or someone told them to reject the German rider from crossing over it. So I had to recall my Doomsday Ride / Central America skills and find an alternative. Piece of cake, it is just water. Shoes off and into it, shouldn’t be a problem. Half way through the water was running fast and deeper., pushing the bike into my legs and almost causing me to totally lose my stand. But I did not really stumble and fall, and made it halfway dry onto the other side.
Roads mostly good. Some traffic on main roads. Chilling in the morning in the high altitude, hot in the lower regions.
A fast 2000m drop brought us to almost sea level on the first 25km. The ride was very scenic and partially steep and dangerous to ride. Photo stops slowed it down a bit and helped to cool down the breaks. It was a ride through several climate and vegetation zones. The green belt started right around the first corner out of the crater, with all sorts of agriculture; fruits, veggies, wood. Further down the slope of the mountain and in the valley we were still riding through patches of the volcanic ashes that rained down earlier in March this year, when one of the volcanoes erupted in this part of Java. The valley was irrigated by a water system that is fed artificial channels that carried water for the fields, but also for all kind of cleaning: body and motorcycles. Lunch was setup at 78 km at a bridge – or the leftovers of a bridge that existed in March, when the track was scouted. Now there was only a bamboo bridge, wide and strong enough for pedestrians and motorcycles. It was a logistical challenge for the vans to get there from both sides on alternate routes, to provide the catering and continue flagging the continuation of the route. For me it was excellent chance for a ‘Doomsday style extravaganza’ to get to the other side of the river (more later in a different post). After lunch there was a further 200m drop to sea level, with not always favorable wind. Still 70km and 1000m of climbing to go. For the last 40km we turned into a nice tailwind. A new road was built with nice switchbacks in a shady forest to carry us in a comfortable 4-5% grade up the 550m to the first little ‘summit’. Another fast 100m drop and a 180m re-climb before the final drop to Bondowoso. It was still a long day, almost 10 hours elapsed, due to the many photo stops and the extended lunch break at the bamboo bridge. Tomorrow is the last cycling day on Java; and guess what, another huge climbing day, riding into and out of a volcano. We will end only 5km away from the ferry, that will carry us over to Bali, our 3rd island, the next morning.
After some complaints about the not always satisfactory internet connectivity and speed at our camps, the TdA directors have decided in an emergency board meeting in Bromo, to permanently expanded the tour staff team. Two additional IT & network specialists are now being with us on the tour, always being sent ahead to the next campsite to install a dedicated highspeed internet connection for use only by the tour cyclists. Excessive internet users, like our E.B., A.W. and B.T. have voluntarily donated an essential amount of rupias to cover for the additional expenses … I hope the technicians are not being immediately expelled again, for breaking the tour rules and not wearing any security features.
Easy before lunch, thereafter steep and sandy, but worth every inch. Quick 40 km out of Batu. Good roads, mostly down. Some traffic in town, but thereafter quiet. 2400m of climbs, 1700 from km 43 to 67.
A must! Indonesia without cycling up to Bromo and through the caldera would be like Africa without animals. After the past 4 hard days this was the Kings stage, that lead us to our rest day in the crater. I had a companion, who travelled all day with me until his fatal end in the crater. The morning ride was easy going. Fast enough to advance to the start of the climb, but all about saving energy for the challenging final. A few stops to have the locals enjoy my companion ‘Bob’ and have cold drinks, as it was getting real hot. Lunch was reached at noon, after 58 km. It was setup at the entrance to the National Park. With 1200m already climbed to here, it was still only half way up, but with only 8 km left to the summit. This means: 15% consistent grade (25% at peek) for the next 90 minutes, if not more. The road was partially bad but I made it all the way up without walking the bike. Andreas waited for me 200 vertical meters from the summit. He drove up by van to inform everyone who already left from lunch, but now wasn’t sure to make it through the day, to return here and get on the van, as the cars were not able to make through the final 10 km of sand and volcanic ashes. At the summit Andreas and I climbed a tower to get a better view of the crater. Thereafter a steep descend started on sand, gravel and concrete. We quickly reached the bottom and made it through the first 100m meters of deep sand, before it was mostly impossible to continue to cycle, even after releasing air from the tires. 6 km of walking in ankle deep sand, filling up the shoes, made progress very slow. The sun was already disappearing between clouds and the volcanoes, quickly turning the air cold. We could see the destination from the distance, but it seems to not close up. And it was another 200m steep climb from the bottom of the crater to the hotel. Cristiano was all of a sudden in the middle of the ‘desert’ waiting for us to give us final instructions, about which non-existing ‘path’ to follow to not get lost. Finally back on pavement I first had to release 1 kg of fine grained black ash and sand from my shoes. Overall it took me about 4 hours from lunch to the hotel to cover for the remaining 20 km. Luckily there was hot water to warm up the beaten body and muscles. Food is great in the hotel, so I could reload lots of calories. An arrangement was made with some fellow riders to get up early in the morning (3am) for the sunrise in the crater. 2 Jeeps were paid and at 8pm the lights went of in my room.
The report about the sunrise tour will follow separately, in addition to the live ‘Sunrise @ Bromo’ post.
Perfect Cycling! Thx to the scouts for such a fabulous track. Fast 70 km out of town to lunch with nice supportive wind and almost flat terrain. The climb thereafter with a perfect grade. Easy to cycle and extremely beautiful along a river in a narrow valley.
Today was a cycling day you didn’t want to end. The ascend (I don’t call it a climb) was just perfect, both from scenery and from grade. Easy 3-5% constant, something one could ride all day long and in a beautiful, narrow valley along a sometimes white river, fed by roaring waterfalls. However before you get into this picture we had to cycle 70 km out of town. First thru dense morning commute, thereafter in a flat and monotone rural area. Average speed was at 25 km/h getting to lunch – opposite of a school (you know what that means) – in les than 3 hours.There was the promised tuna. However it cost some persuasion and charm to get the promised mangoes. I couldn’t resist again to go over to the school and entertain the waiting students. At the end I had them perform a ‘La Ola’ and did not leave without some extra ordinary posing photos. Now it was time to approach the 40 km and 1100m ascend. Stock up with Coke and water in an AlfaMaret and get into gears. Soon the road meandered along a river through a narrow valley, with bamboo and other trees. The higher I got the greener and more scenic it got. Picture time! One of the best riding days, so far. No fear to not get to camp, even with infinite stops. At the ‘Purple Gate’ suspension bridge I made a right turn, over the bridge into the rice fields towards a waterfall, I saw from the other side of the valley. What a refreshment to end in the spray of the fast falling waters, nicely located at a Hindu ‘temple’. On return to the main road I met a local family, pretty woman with lovely girls. Before I could ask if I could take a photo, she had already pulled her phone, gave it to the older daughter and asked me, if I allow her to take a photo with me. Minutes later, photos were taken, and facebook friends made. Andreas, the sweep rider, had long passed me. However I texted him, about my whereabouts and not to worry – Joe is in his element, taking his time on such a day. Too much to see, no need to rush through. Andreas was in the meantime waiting for me at the fruit market 2 km further up. We met there again, I bought some apples, he a bonsai tree, that he ‘mounted’ to his bike. 5 more km up and today’s summit was reached. Thereafter a fast 7 km downhill to another exquisite hotel. It was the first time in 6 week in Indonesia, that I felt good and healthy enough to jump into the pool and enjoy a refreshing bath.
Btw. I spent so much time on the bike today, that I got sunburnt on my thumbs, that are mostly unprotected and all day exposed to the sun.
One more cycling day left in this week’s series. Who thought, that we had already done enough climbing is wrong. Tomorrow will be ‘only’ another 2400m up to reach the rest day camp in the Bromo volcanic national park … Stay tuned for photos and other stories I’ll prepare during the rest day.
Another ‘climber’ with 2 rewarding downhills. Roads partially bad, especially in the 2nd part up and down. Very scenic and a totally different Java than before.
125 km and 1700 m climbs sounded doable. Even after an ‘energy-eater’ like yesterday. However it turned out to be another of these stages for which the scout injected extra spices.
I had a late start, and was the last rider out from the hotel, taking early morning sunlight photos of the surrounding mountains. So I was riding with Chelsea and Henry and had many more stop on the fast 1000m downhill. The air was so clean and clear and the sunlight perfect for photos. Java in this area is so different, different topology, vegetation and less dense populated. It reminded me of some parts in Africa, like Zambia, where you could ride for hours without seeing a human. I did not recognize how much time passed, dreaming into the day. It was not until km 50 before I caught up with Dara. A quick Coke stop and off I was on my own. Climbing started at 60 km. Although very smooth (max 3%) it was a tough 12 km to lunch. Strong head and cross wind and higher temperatures slowed down progress. And the steep climbs were to come after lunch. Hurrah, again potatoes and eggs for lunch. I stocked up with Coke at the first fridge in town. The first of 3 major hills was around the corner, each 200m to ascend on just 2km, means an average of 10% for 6km. Well, in the meantime we know, that 10% average means 25% at peek. The Javanese did obviously cut these roads into the mountains prior of the birth of the smart guy who invented the switchback roads! They look more like skiing tracks than cycling roads. Nevertheless, there was no option than to get over them. Andreas was waiting for me on the 2nd climb. He was the afternoon ‘sweep’ and was in the van until it passed me, because after me no one else continued cycling. So I had company for the rest of the day, which turned out to be a good one, especially during the final 800m downhill, as Andreas has exactly the same fun I racing on rough roads and around sharp corners. On the steepest part of the 2nd climb I had to get off the bike and walk. It was just too steep and my speed too slow to maintain a controlled ascent. The ride on the ridge was a treat. The villages built into the mountain, the lush vegetation and a bit of a drizzle from the upcoming clouds. Between the 2nd and the 3rd climb were approximately 4km of flat or downhill. Good, bad and none existing pavement made riding an all time concentration game. Trucks or motorcycles could ‘ambush’ you in every corner, means usually cutting corner, leaving not much space to pass. At 100 km we reached the top of the last ascend and were ready to ‘free fall’ into the valley. We could have used parachutes to fly down, but decided to ride it to our fun. My Garmin later told me it was my quickest 40 km ever; the last 25 km was 800 m downhill and a high speed chase. Reception in the Crown Victoria Hotel was exceptional. Too bad, that it is only for a night and I couldn’t use the Gym with the stationary bicycles. However I found the first scales in the country and took my weight before I had a real good dinner.
After dinner I had to change a tire, which was more-or-less destroyed on the sharp gravel today.
Tonight’s rider briefing disclosed another tough climbing day tomorrow. Who would have thought different?!
This was the announced ‘all day climb’, except for the last 8km down to the hotel at the lake. Cooler morning temps, busy roads in Solo.
The announced ‘short’ but with an ‘all day climb’ to 1870 m over the shoulder of Mt. Lawu (3265m) should prove, if I slowly can get back to my former fitness level. I was taking the first 30 km through busy Solo and thereafter less busy and more scenic roads through rice fields and little villages very easy. At 9 am the first part was done, 50% of the distance, but only 10% of the elevation gain. Now the tough part should start. From the issued profile it could be seen, that the next 10 km will gain only about 400m, leaving the major part of the climb – the remaining 1200m to the following 12 km. This translates into a 4% average grade for 10 km and a 10% average grade for the final 12 km to the summit – ouch! The road continued in an almost straight line into the slope of Mt. Lawu; no switchbacks that were built-in to reduce the grade. The smallest gear was used for most of the time. Legs were fine, heart rate at low average, all fine. I had to wear my mask for most of the day, as there was the usual noisy and stinky traffic. Some Coke and photo stops added to my elapsed time, but I felt strong enough to make it to the end. Henry and Gerald soon closed up to me and we were cycling long time close together and into lunch at 41 km. Great catering again! Boiled potatoes for more carbs, fresh fruits and nuts. It doesn’t take much to make us cyclists happy (at least some of us). However we were only about 50% through the climb. Still 800m vertical elevation gain on the final 8 km before the summit and the fast downhill thereafter. Continuing the climb with an average speed of 7 km/h the end was not too far away. However the little ‘smiley’ that Garmin draws on the profile page, seemed to not move at all. More photos of the scenery, with fields of various kinds built into the steep slopes, and luxury houses in the holiday resorts. Unfortunately no time (energy) to detour to the 2 Hindu Temples with the erotic pictures and sculptures. Finally the summit was reached, no turning back into the hazy view from where we came. Downhill was quick, short stop at a strawberry field and the merchant shops. More photos from the view into the target valley and the village at the lake. My breaks were on fire by the time I finished the 700 m drop and turned into the hotel grounds.
I was so looking forward to get a hot shower – the air is much cooler up here in 1280m – but to no avail. Long pants and long sleeved sweater will keep me warm, as I lost most of my natural body insulation, thus hi-tech fabrics come into play. At least my body seem to quickly recover and get back to power to tackle the following tough days until we reach Bromo, again high on a volcano.
I passed one of the many bridges in Java and thought to myself ‘Worth a stop or similar to the others?’ I already had stopped earlier on another bridge, where people were busy building a dam in the river, thus I decided to continue, leave the camera in the bag and use the momentum to start into the climb thereafter. However, on the other end of the bridge I recognized some students on the railing and sitting at the banks of the river. From the edge of my eye I could see, it were all girls and they seem to be doing some training. So I decided to use my breaks and turn around to have a closer look. An I was not disappointed. Already one girl was fixed to a rope and on her way over the edge of the bridge. The ‘joy’ was great when the saw me. And soon photos were taken from both sides. All of a sudden the group sitting on the banks under the bridge got loader. They seem to shout something to their instructors. I should soon learn what they demanded: ‘He must do it, too’! And so I was asked, if I want to try it. What chance do I have other than to say ‘Yes’? Although I was already a bit exhausted, late and not fully free of ‘drugs’ I agreed and soon I found myself in an harness and dangling in the rope. A talented young girl took my camera and made the nice shoots shown below in the gallery. A great experience and a lot of fun for all of us. The unforeseen adventure did not end before I was recorded on many of the student’s smartphones. And so I continued my ride my first ‘Abseiling’ tour, after I Bungee-jumped the Victoria Falls Bridge in Zambia.
Roads exceptionally good. A view road works with loos gravel or potholes. A steep climb n the morning (up to 20%) and several smaller thereafter. However the afternoon after lunch easy on the plain with favorable wind.
The reincarnation of a cyclist, after a 6 days knock-out.
I knew, it wouldn’t be easy for me after my energy taking sickness. Riding most of the day with my mask, made breathing not a pleasure, especially when temperatures raise into the upper 30th °C. However I badly wanted to be back on my bike and ride. The van is no option; and my fellow cyclists and staff wanted to see me back cycling, too. So I started with Eric as the last out from Yogya. A quick 12 km through town, then we separated and I sent Eric ahead on his faster mission. At 13 km the steep ascent to 400m started. I was remarkably strong and already passed the first riders walking their bikes, and had left much earlier. There were many local cyclist on the road, too. This must be a popular cycling track. I could feel, that I was strong, but far from the strength I had before. I therefore took it slow, stopped a few times for photos. I even added an extra activity stop (more in the ‘Over the Edge’ post) which delayed me for another 30 minutes or more, but was worth it. The emptiness in my stomach increased and power level decreased in the starting midday heat. Lunch was a few kilometers before the last short & steep climb of the day. I let it last very long, until today’s ‘sweeper’ arrived, but ate with more appetite and rested before I left for the 2nd part. The final climb was consuming my last power level, but the immediate downhill helped me recharge a bit. The final flat 40 km were simply a matter of not giving up. Should I save energy for the next day or shall I go and ride the whole day? Favorable wind and my will to complete the day, carried me into the Iris Hotel in Solo, where I had a hot shower and a nice intermediate meal to bridge the time to dinner and compensate for not eating (much) for the last 5 days. Hope I get the carbs loaded quick!