Sunday, November 11, 2007

ROAD TO MINANGKABAU COUNTRY

DAY 1 - Arrival and Ride to Padang (3 NOV 2007)


LAND OF THE MINANGKABAU

It's that itch again, to dump everything, pack the bike and go.



Wifey left for Dublin on 1st Nov for daughter's (Mimi) graduation. I was in cold Dublin for a month in Feb this year and that's enough. So let wife, another daughter and Mimi's aunt (wife's sister) to go this time.

My own new destination would be the land of the Minangs in Central Sumatera, known as the Sumbar region. A week of cycling, from the lowland of Padang to the highland of Bukit Tinggi. The plan was to ride to Bukit Tinggi via one route, overnighting in Danau Singkarak. Next day, I would ride to Batusangkar/Pagaruyung and Baso to Bkt Tinggi, my furthest point. From there, I would rolled down back to Padang, via another route, overnighting in Danau Maninjau and Pariaman on the way.


The route planning was greatly assisted by 2 cycling friends from Indonesia - Pak Eka & Pak Ardiman. I knew Pak Eka & Pak Ardiman through Bapak Ali Imam, whom I contacted via e-mail through and address in an Indonesian cycling magazine. All three of them had been of great help. All I have never met! We are, at this moment, cyber cycling buddies!

In my childhood, I sang the Minang song "Ayam Den Lopeh" which means AYAM SAYA LEPAS. Half a century later, I'm going to catch this ayam, cooked in Minang style (of-course) and enjoy it....NASI PADANG style. I know I would have to pedal hard everyday, or else I'd come home a few kgs heavier.


At 0630 in the morning, LCCT was full, full of people, hence full of activities. The check-in counter for Padang was not busy though. Good for me, no jostling for seats but not good for Air Asia, yet. The bike cost me an extra RM30, classified as sporting goods.


Everything was smooth and unhurried. Seated besides me at the waiting lounge was a gentleman also heading for Padang. He had an Indonesian passport but spoke fluent BM. Had been in Malaysia since childhood but never applied for Malaysian citizenship. Such rare patriotism on his part.


Borrowing the jargon from the current space travel interest, we have "lift-off" at 0815. Within a minute we were over Bagan Lalang and into the Straits of Malacca. I settled in to read Richard Branson's latest book "Screw It. Let's Do It". Sounds just like what I'll be doing for the next 7 days, minus the screwing.


In 5 minutes we were over Sumatera and I put Richard Branson away. I noted a huge river below. This must be the river which the ferries plied from Dumai to Malacca / Tg Balai to Port Klang. The Air Asia Nasi Lemak next got my attention since I didn't have breakfast. I had to leave early for the airport and didn't want to bother my maid, after all I was going to her country.




Within 1 hour, the plane landed. Helped 1 elderly couple to complete their embarkation forms. Husband a Minangkabau Malaysian but wife still holds an Indonesian passport. One customs officer insisted to have a look at my huge bag. "Speda Pak" I said. "Mau kemana?" he asked. "Pusing-pusing Padang sampai Bkt Tinggi Pak" I replied. "Seorang aja?" I nodded and I quickly looked for an isolated spot to assemble my bike.




A small group of curious onlookers started to gather. I felt like a medicine man, opening up my wares to peddle medicine. They were friendly and asked the usual curious questions, and I obliged their curiosities. With all the attention I got, it took me about an hour to fix the bike, but I became friends with the crowd very fast.




Ride into Padang was on flat terrain. Traffic built up as I hit the trunk road. The most challenging were the mini-vans picking and dropping passengers at undesignated stops, swerving in and out, each outdoing one another with blaring horns and rock music. It was noise everywhere. Stopped to photograph school-children just finishing school. They used the railway track generously, probably safer than using the roads.




Entering town, I chanced upon a Minang wedding. Can't miss this. Requested for permission to capture the event. It was a double wedding, a colorful one with full of tradition. I wondered whether they would allow a triple-wedding. Oops...my boss (mem) maybe reading this in Dublin.



I can't help noticing some huge congratulatory messages elegantly displayed. It's probably the rich who wanted to make themselves known, loud and clear.



While doing the photoshoot, I need not worry over my bike. I had good security coverage






The traffic grew heavier as I left the wedding and took a wrong turn into the market area. Traffic was at a standstill, choked up by the minivans picking and dropping passengers. I dismounted and pushed the bike. As I turned a corner, I chanced upon a hotel. Just my good luck. Checked with the receptionist. "Bisa Pak. 115,000 untuk standard" said the lady. "Saya mahu kamar yang dibawah" in my best Indonesian slang. "Bisa Pak". Woo...everything here is "poison". So, Hotel Garuda became my abode for my first day, and also became my abode on the last day. I had the bike parked just outside my room and in no time I was fully settled.


After a short rest, and refreshed after a good cold shower, it was off for a late lunch. Where else if not for Nasi Padang. Rup 30,000 got me fully satiated. Walked back to the hotel and when the sun had dropped over the horizon, I moved around the market place, which were only a minute walk from the hotel. Like any Pasar Malam, it was chaotic, and also disorganisedly organised. I mean it's jammed with vans, mini lorries, speda moto (motorcycles), horse-carriages and people with all kinds of activities. "Macet Pak, Macet" Yet, inspite of that everything moved, albeit slowly. VCD peddlars compete with one another with huge bass sounds that you could feel in your heart. Fruit sellers (mango was in season) were shouting for attention. Clothes sellers were not to be outdone, offering the usual 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 package. Horns from spedamoto offering transport service continously attracted your attention. Gave sign language with my head - no tq.



So, Day 1 cycling was easy. I rode a distance of 24km from the airport to Hotel Garuda, at an average speed of 16kph, arriving at noon.

DAY 2 - Padang to Danau Singkarak (4 Nov 07)


It was a cool Sunday morning when the real journey began. I left the hotel at 0600, missing the complimentary breakfast. Indonesians generally came out to exercise on weekends. I had also noticed this during my trip to Surabaya in May. It was the same here as I made my way out of Padang. It's really nice to see young and old walking or running, working out their cardio. However, I didnt notice any cyclists, yet. A few times, I asked for direction just to be sure that I was heading for Solok, which is a major town when one heads for Danau Singkarak.


AT 0630, saw a restaurant at Marapalam and decided that breakfast was now a necessity. Their version of Nasi Lemak was very tasty and I got a call from Pak Eka. Pak Eka reminded me that very few stalls can be found 30kms before reaching Solok and therefore I should stock up for the ride. I actually had. I had carried with me a packet of biscuit, a bun purchased the night before and 3 bottles of water.



Fully satisfied with my breakfast I moved on. Noticed a big signage for dental services. No thank you at this moment. I'm still OK. Don't think I need to be a member too. I'm just passing through.



The vibrance of Indonesia can also be seen on their gaily painted buses.



I could see the mountain range in front of me and little did I expect what was in store. The road began to climb, though rather gently. I was on my middle gears so I reckon I still had spare lighter gears as the climb got steeper. I was also continously watching my heart rate on my POLAR. As the heart rate moved higher, in the 160 bpm, I decided to take a rest. It was 0815 and I had cycled the slope for about 5 kms.



As I continued on, the gradient got steeper and steeper. Up ahead, I saw a steep incline and I was already down on my granny, i.e. the lightest gears on my bike and I made a quick decision to dismount. The heart rate was up again to 165 bpm. At this juncture, even pushing the bike was a challenge. There were loose stones on the road edges and I was losing grip on my cycling shoes and the tyres were slipping. The additional load of my luggage on the bike made the effort tougher. At the steep slope where it was also a sharp corner, a young man was directing traffic both ways - an unofficial traffic police who got paid for his services by the lorry and truck drivers.





I stopped several times to catch my breath. The pushing was very challenging and my progress was very slow. I managed a speed of 3 kph pushing the bike at a heart rate of about 150 bpm. Traffic was heavy too. Stopping at a lay-bye, a lorry driver told me there was another 6 kms of uphill. I had by then pushed 2 kms. At my pushing speed of 3 kph, that would be another 2 hours of huffing and puffing and pushing. With rest stops, it would be at least 2 1/2 hours. On my rough calculation, I still had about 80kms to my destination. I decided I need to simplify the situation. I prayed for some kind soul to give me a lift.




After about 15 mins, I saw an almost empty pick-up and waved. It stopped. "Mau kemana?" "Tumpang ke puncak Pak" in my best Indonesian slang. Some young boys were occupying the rear and they were more than happy to make space for a bike and for myself. It was the right decision. The slope never relent. This place is called SITINJAU LAUIK. I believed it meant "Meninjau Laut" because from the summit, one could see Padang and the Indian Ocean. One can't get good pictures shooting from a moving pick-up. At the peak, the driver didn't stop for me to disembark. He probably didn't hear that I only needed the lift to the top. Neither did I made any strong effort to stop him!


All in, I probably gained about 10kms from the ride on the pick-up but more importantly I saved about 2 1/2 hours of time. Now I understood why a pick-up is called a "pick-up". Gave the driver Rup50,000 for his help. He seemed very happy with the generous tip. He didn't realize I was happier!



KOTO BARU

I cycled on towards Solok though I would turn-off before Solok for my final destination to Danau Singkarak. I was now on gentle rolling road and it was a pleasant ride. Then, I was in KOTO BARU. Yes, I was in KOTO BARU. But the populace here spoke Minang, not Kelantanese dialect!

Here I chanced upon a traditional Minangkabau house, my first encounter. I stopped to ask a gentleman for permission to capture the house. "Ya, bisa Pak". "Ada kenduri kahwin Pak?" I asked noting the activities and people around the house. "Ngak. Ada kematian seminggu lalu. Ini hari ke 7 dan keluarga semua datang untuk majlis doa selamat". "Oh maaf, kalau gitu ngak apa Pak" I said apologetically. "Ngak apa-apa" and he literally escorted me into the house. He obliged and showed me a piece of cloth hang along the interior wall as a sign of mourning. Food were lavishly spread out and the aroma was tantalising and he offered me to eat. I refused profusely, noting the occassion but his offer for me to eat was very genuine and he probably would feel disappointed if I didn't. So, we did not disappoint each other! I got more than I bargained. I had memorable photos and memorable digestion. Terima kasih Bapak YOS LADIMIR and Bapak TOSKANINI.






I cycled on and then stopped at a sundry shop to replenish my water. By now I had chalked 57 kms and time was 1450 hrs. I was advised by Pak Eka, my cycling cyber friend to use the village road to reach Hotel Sumpur on Danau Singkarak, my night stop. The lady manning the shop told me I should branch off from the main road at Sumani. At Sumani, I branched off into the villages and Pak Eka was right. I was into padi-filed country, as far as the eye can see.


Danau Singkarak was on my right and it was harvest time. The smell of burnt husks filled the air and I inhaled some as the smoke crosses the road blown by the wind.


I could not have found a better season to come here. Harvest time would mean money time. Money time would mean good time. Good time would mean happy time. Happy time would mean celebrations. Now I know why there were so many wedding functions along the route



Even the birds were happy. It's all in the air. I was happy too. I was soaking in the occassion. Ah...the freedom from it all. Alhamdulillah.



As I cycled on, this picture postcard subject caught my eyes.







While it was harvesting time, it was also planting time. I didn't ask but I suppose planting must be an all year affair.




Danau Singkarak is huge. I cycled 26kms to reach the hotel, on the other side of this lake. I passed several villages. Rain started to fall and I cycled in the rain, soaking in the coolness and the wetness. My panniers had been water-proofed as soon as I saw dark clouds.

I arrived at Hotel Sumpur at 1752, after a total ride of 83kms with a slow average speed of 14.5 kph and burning 3651 kcalories along the way. All in, it was a great ride today. I gladly paid Rup250,000 to settle in for the night, to be followed by a well-deserved dinner.




DAY 3 - Danau Singkarak to Bukit Tinggi (5 Nov 07)


I took my leisurely breakfast at Hotel Sumpur's restaurant by the lake. The view was so peaceful. Earlier, the rain made the horizon misty and cloudy. As the sun rose over the horizon, the mist and clouds made way for golden patches of the sun's rays. Capturing the moment with a camera would never be the same as seeing it with the best God-given camera - your eyes.



A lone sampan made its way from the shore to pick up the catch, the net left the night before.




I left Hotel Sumpur at 0745 heading towards OMBILIN. Pak Eka suggested this route. It would take me back to the main road which I had avoided yesterday. At Ombilin, I took the turn that will lead me to Batusangkar. There were some fishing activities, notably the famous Ikan Bilih catch.



The lyrics from the song AYAM DEN LOPEH goes something like this:

Pagaruyuang Batu Sankar

Tampek bojalan orang Baso

Duduik tamanuang tiok sabanta

Oi takana juo

Ai...ai...ayah den lapih

.....and I would finally visit Batusangkar and Pagaruyung. And I would pass Baso to Bkt Tinggi. The lyrics now had meaning!

By 0930, I was resting in Kampong Belimbiang (Belimbing), 12 kms to Batusangkar. The road was rolling hills with some stretches under construction. So far, more downhills and there were villages all along this route. Stretches of padi-land dotted the land-scape and its terraced characteristics was similar to the terraced padi-fields found in Bali. I had duly noted the industrious people of Indonesia. No empty plot of land is left vacant. A small patch would still have padi planted on it.

I reached Batu Sangkar in good time and continued on towards Pagaruyung reaching at 1100hrs. I had chalked 33kms by then. There were a few traditional Minangkabau palaces and I stopped at one, called Istana Silindungan Bulan.



A caretaker told me that this building was reconstructed in 1973 after the original palace was burnt down in 1961. It belonged to Sultan Taufik Taib. Entering the palace, one was immediately attracted to the vibrant colors of the interior, highly decorated right up to the ceiling. A feeling of history and I wondered whether the royalties then were living such a colorful life that matched the decor!


Potraits of the the current Yang DiPertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan and his Permaisuri caught my eyes. The descendants of Sultan Taufik Taib I guessed




The caretaker told me the Negri Sembilan royalties visited often, a fact duly supported by a tailor from whom I "borrowed" a needle and a button in Batusangkar. A button on my 3/4 pants I wore over my tight cycling pants came loose earlier. I did the stitching myself as the tailor and his 2 other colleagues were too busy finishing a contract to supply uniforms to a government dept.


I also noted a crooked coconut tree trunk near this Palace.

Batusangkar is just like any other towns and I did not stay too long. I left Batusangkar just after 1pm and headed towards Baso, about 30 kms away.


The sun was beating hot and I was perspiring heavily. Again the road began to climb. Sweat was trickling down my face and the heart rate was on the higher side. My progress was slow. 8kph was the max I could do. I labored on for a few more kilometres. At this rate, and the uncertainty of the terrain, it could take me about 4 hours to arrive Baso. Yesterday's ride had drained some energy off the body. While it was hot, there were dark clouds in the sky ahead, probably 10 kms away. I stopped at a Police beat base in Kg Sungai Leman for a rest and for a decision. By the way, there is also a Kg Sg Leman in Tanjung Karang. There is also Tg. Karang here. And there are Minangs in Tg Karang, Selangor. See the connection?


15 mins waiting in the hot sun, a mini-van pulled over. Up goes the bike on the roof. I bundled in with my 4 pcs of luggage, occupying some space in the rear most seat. As more passengers piled in, it was obvious my luggage was occupying valuable seating space. The conductor was not too happy about it. He pushed one pannier under the seat and I squeezed the rest on top of one another.


It was a right decision to take the mini-van. The road continued to incline over a considerable distance. Reaching Baso, I got out, gladly paid Rup10,000 and cycled on to Bkt Tinggi, 7kms away. Stopped for Nasi Kapau along the way. I don't know the difference between Nasi Kapau and Nasi Padang. I doubt my stomach knew the difference either.

Entering Bkt Tinggi, trafic came to a crawl. I chose to push as the traffic was just too heavy. I was scanning for a hotel but saw this signboard.


Went past several Japanese sounding hotels, Hotel Nikita and Hotel Yuriko. Passed Hotel Bagindo and then U-turn back to Hotel Bagindo. Rup150,000 a nite and I settled in, no further search. Neighboring the hotel was a huge sign-board RESTORAN SEDERHANA and beneath it the all too familiar "masakan Padang". You guessed where I had dinner, and nothing sederhana about the restaurant and the dishes served. Spanking clean and over 10 dishes to choose from, laid on the table nasi padang style. One person can only eat so much. Chose two dishes, daging dendeng (my all-time favorite) and gulai ayam for Rup24,000 including a Coke. A small celebration of sort.
My itinerary included a one additional rest day in Bkt Tinggi. After washing my cycling attire, I settled in for the night early and looked forward to a relaxing day tomorrow.
Day 3 - In and About Bukit Tinggi (5 Nov 07)


I took it easy. It's R&R day. A leisurely breakfast. I planned to go to PANDAI SIKEK, a village about 15kms away, reknowned for its songket, fine embroidery and wood-carving. Pandai Sikek is NOT pandai sedikit. "Sikek" is a Minang word for SIKAT or comb. No...no...not combing the hair. Why should I go there otherwise. It's "combing" the fine embroidery and the songket.

The weather in Bukit Tinggi was pleasant and cooling. Even the hotel rooms had no air-conditioning. Taking the mini-van I left for Pandai Sikek. Just like two verses from the song "Ayam Den Lopeh"...

Mendaki jalan Pandai Sikek

Manurun jalan ka Palapuah


....I walked down for 1 km to Pandai Sikek when the mini-van stopped at Palapuah.


It was still early, about 1100 hrs and a slow pace of life. A wood-carving shop was opened, so was a songket outlet. I walked around the village, took some pictures of the wood-carving activities and then walked into the songket boutique. Ladies would love this place. Their men would not necessarily share the same enthusiasm.



The lady manning the shop must have entertained a lot of Malaysians. She was quick to add "Banyak Tan Sri datang disini beli songket". Hmmm...she must know more Tan Sris than I did. "Saya bukan Tan Sri, ngak bisa beli yang mahal-mahal", trying to haggle for some massive discounts. If my wife was around, she would probably have added "Puan Sri dan Datin-Datin pun suka membeli disini". So, even a non-window shopper like me can't resist to buy a songket sampin. Also bought materials for my wife and that's the passport for future trips !!!! The damage? Er....shall I say 3 more round trips on Air Asia to Padang.

I took a spedamoto and paid Rup2,000 for a trip back uphill to Palapuah on the main road and back to Bkt Tinggi. Looked for a Internet cafe and settled in to check my mails and answered some. Then, it was lunch at another Nasi Padang restaurant. Well, what else do I eat in Padang?


Later part of the evening, I walked towards the centre of Bkt Tinggi. By the way, Bkt Tinggi is the twin town of Seremban, proudly displayed on one of the pillars. It was a small fiesta, families with children in tow, some playing in the park where the Jam Besar was located, next to a small shopping complex. Down below in the valley, you could see the other part of Bkt Tinggi with an imposing mountain as a backdrop.

Day 4 - Bukit Tinggi to Danau Maninjau (Nov 6 2007)

As I hooked up my panniers to the bike getting to leave the hotel early morning, a hotel staff enquired my destination. Noting it would be Danau Singkarak, he suggested the back roads through some villages instead of using the main road. Splendid. Noted in my head the route to take and left the hotel at 0600.


It was very cooling and refreshing and the road took me passed Novotel, the largest hotel here. It was a great downhill. I went passed Kg Ngare Sianok (not sure of correct spelling) and at the lowest part, crossed a bridge with clean running water below. Immediately thereafter, it was an uphill that I needed to push. I asked a motorcyclist from the opposite direction. "1km ke atas". Ok, I can push.


Children were going to schools found along the route. I passed several villages - Kg Selambah, Kg Pisang, Batu Hampar and Matur. The road was generally rolling hills, very much like the old Gombak road. Occasional drizzle and I water-proofed my panniers. I stopped at an incline where several workers were repairing a landslip which was a result of an earthquake in March this year.


Reaching Matur, I stopped at a Bakso shop for breakfast but food was not ready yet. Ordered hot tea and gobbled in a banana to wait out the drizzle. I was in no real hurry as the journey to Danau Maninjau was under 50kms. I proceeded on as the sun came out and soon reached Kg Embun Pagi at 0915. Had my....er....early Nasi Padang breakfast here before the descend down to Danau Maninjau.

KELOK 44 (44 corners)


This was a highlight I was waiting for and had been told and advised by Pak Eka, Pak Ardiman and some Malaysian friends who had been this way.

This would be an 8 km downhill to Danau Maninjau, with 44 sharp corners and steep downhill, hence called KELOK 44. A banner at the starting point in Kg Embun Pagi reminded me of this, including an advise "BERHATI-HATI". Yes, I was a bit nervous and I prayed for safety and that my brakes won't fail me. It had not so far and I had checked them too before I left the hotel this morning.


I said my prayers and started downhill. A signboard KELOK 44 came into view, the first corner. 43 to go, I affirmed myself. I did not know what to expect as I free-wheel down.


At Kelok 43, I braked and stopped to capture the landscape below. I would not come this way any time sooner. That done, I concentrated on the downhill. With both hands on the brakes, I maintained the descend to no more than 30 kph, with alternate braking to prevent overheating of the brakes.





With the unknown sharp corners, wet and several uneven surfaces especially around the bends, I progressed on, corner after corner ocasionally taking a glimpse of the valley and the lake as it got closer and closer. Then, disaster almost struck. A bus climbing uphill had "eaten road" (makan jalan) at a bend. There were potholes to avoid and I had to brake hard. The bike almost stopped and I would have fallen if I had not released the brakes on time. Missed the bus by about a foot! Alhamdulillah.





No further incident after that and it was quite a relief to reach the foothill and Danau Maninjau was there, welcoming me. Stopped just to soak in the experience. Next, was to look for a hotel. I chanced upon a small 9-room family run hotel TAN DIRIH, by the lake's edge, hence a great view. Rup130,000 done! I had the whole place to myself as a family on vacation was about to check out. If I had more time, I would have stayed an extra day here.




I was enjoying the lakeside experience, right at the water's edge. I was taking it real easy but I had also planned to visit a historical landmark in Danau Singkarak. The late DR HAMKA was born here and his house had been converted into a musuem. In my younger days, I have read his fiction "TENGGELAMNJA KAPAL VAN DER WIJCK". He wrote this fiction when he was 31 years old (1938) when his young blood was flowing and was sentimental in outlook.

MUSEUM BAPAK HAMKA



I cycled 7 kms to Pak HAMKA's museum. It began to drizzle lightly when I reached the museum. It was already closed but the care-taker was there by the road-side waiting for transport home. My luck and he gladly opened up the museum for me. ABIM had part-financed the construction of this museum, where HAMKA's house once stood. Rows and rows of books in the cabinet filled the small museum. Old pictures of HAMKA, his parents, his teacher who was also his brother-in-law adorned the walls. It was on high ground, overlooking the lake. One would imagine that this was where Pak HAMKA got his inspiration to write 182 books, all in. Not true. He left Maninjau at an early age of 9. However, at an early age of 7, he had already written a story book, Siti Sabariah. I guessed it must be a puppy love story.In his life time, Pak HAMKA wrote 182 books, the bulk of them on Islamic philosophies.



This information was told by the care-taker, who himself was a joy to have conversation with. At 62, the caretaker, Pak Hanif Rasyid obtained his degree in Islamic studies. He himself is a writer and a relative of Pak HAMKA. His scholarly and I must add, philosophical approach to life must have been greatly inspired by Pak HAMKA.


The rain that continued to pour was a blessing. Neither of us could leave so we chatted on for a good one hour. We both believed in continous learning, and continous learning means continous reading. I had also made a note to buy Pak HAMKA's books when I get back home. One on my list would be DIBAWAH LINDUNGAN KAABAH.


We parted company and I promised to write to Pak Hanif upon my return. The rain got heavier after I left the musuem and I was soaked by the time I returned to the hotel. Had a warm shower. Refreshed, I was back at the terrace overlooking the lake. The gentle breeze from the lake was welcoming. Come evening and after the prayers, I dozed off real quick, without dinner. Another fulfilling day.

Day 6 - Maninjau to Pariaman (8th Nov 2007)


Slept early last night, and woke up early too. Received a call from Pak Ardiman just as soon as I finished my prayers and packing. We had a long chat. At 0610 I left the hotel, as usual in the cool morning air. Again, I passed hectares and hectares of padi land. The soil must be very fertile here and the clear streams fed clear running water from the catchment high in the mountain, to finally end up in Danau Maninjau.



Danau Maninjau is surrounded by mountains all round and could be once a huge volcanic crater. The fertile plains could be the ashes from a volcanic eruption. At least that's what I could recall from my Geography lessons.


Aquaculture is also a major activity. Along the banks of the lake, one could find numerous fish cages. Hence, the populace here would be self-sufficient. Fish from the lakes, rice from the fields and veges from the foothills.


As I exit out of Danau Maninjau, the road began to dip. I was now cycling "down" to the plains as I headed for Pariaman, a coastal town. The excess water from Danau Maninjau formed a cascading stream that hugged the road for many kilometres. It was a real pleasure to cycle this stretch. There were no hills to tackle and I was getting good speed. I passed TIKU.




Children had always fascinated me. A kindergarten teacher was guiding the children to recite some prayers. Some had problem concentrating. Well, no difference with adults!




Indonesians are creative. Often, creativity is a result of necessity. I may experiment with a steering wheel for my bike too, someday.




Somewhere along the road, I had this "lady" giving me direction. I better follow her instruction



don't want to end up in this ready-made grave!




I pedalled on and by noon I arrived Pariaman.




My ride time was 4hrs 27mins, with average speed of 19.6 kph covering a distance of 88kms. Pariaman is a coastal town, hence fishing is one of the economic activities though I didn't notice any large-scale fishing industry. I headed towards the beach to relax, took photographs and again, a small crowd came to chat me up. Again the usual questions and I gladly answered them. They were also asking about my bicycle, asking the price and knocking the frame for a "feel" of the bike. When I enquired about a hotel, one of them suggested a Wisma, a house converted into a hostel-like accomodation in the town.


I made my way to the Wisma and a middle-aged receptionist, the home owner I presumed, offered me the only room available for Rup50,000 (RM20). This would be my cheapest accomodation on this trip. I wanted to experience this. She showed me the room, next to the living hall. No TV (of-course), a box fan and the room was about the size of my maid's room in my house. The shower and toilet is communal. The bed creaked as I sat on it but I later got the hang of it to reduce the creaking. There's an art to everything! OK, done.


Towards the evening, I toured the market area and as usual, the music from the VCD peddlars filled the air. Perhaps this would be the right time to bring home the nostalgic AYAM DEN LAPIH song. Told the man what I wanted and he fished out an Elly Kassim Karaoke VCD which included the song. The cover had the pictures of Elly Kassim and my one time favorite Tiar Ramon. I've never seen pictures of Tiar Ramon before but I used to be a fan of Tiar Ramon. I purchased 3 CDs - 1 Elly Kassim and 2 Tiar Ramon and got him to try out my all time favorite, Fatwa Pujangga. When I get back home, I hope for someone to invite me for Karaoke. I would be ready with a few songs. I would be Tiar Ramon for the night!


And as night fell, it began to drizzle. I jamak my prayers at a nearby mosque and had Murtabak Mesir for dinner and walked back to the lodging house, ready to sleep the night out. But sleep would not be easy. The other lodgers were happily enjoying their coffee at the living area and chit chatting the night away, while watching TV. I bore the brunt of the noise as my room was next to the living area. I wanted to experience it, didn't I?


Day 7 - Pariaman to Padang (9 Nov 07)


It continued to drizzle on through the night and when I got ready to leave Pariaman for my final ride to Padang. I had water-proofed my panniers and was ready to cycle out in the wet. The drizzle stopped, though the road was still wet. I left early as usual at 0550 and headed towards the coastal road which brought me to ride through some villages along the beaches. Traffic was still light and I covered good distance quickly. Exiting back to the trunk road after about 15kms, traffic began to build up and school-children were leaving for schools.


I saw an interesting subject. From a distance, school children were walking in single file in the padi-field to the school. I didn't stop immediately and hoped to capture the subject further ahead. Not to be, the view was blocked by houses and trees. Pedalling on, I felt a great loss of an excellent subject. Not satisfied, I made a U-turn. The school-children had already crossed the road. I had missed that "single moment". Peeling an orange to prop my stomach, I waited for another opportunity. I wasn't disappointed though the earlier scene was better.





I continued on my journey, noting that I would soon reach the junction that would lead to the airport. I chanced upon a rather huge restaurant, with a huge billboard "RESTORAN LAMUN OMBAK". Automatically I steered towards the direction. Somehow I realized the orange I had earlier was too light for breakfast. See how the mind worked? Another sumptious Nasi Padang, probably the last one before leaving for home tomorrow. I deliberately took a long rest here, Padang was only about 30 kms away and a leisurely ride would take me 2 hours and I had plenty of time to kill. I wrote part of this article for my blog in this restaurant.


Full and fully rested, I continued on for my final lap back to Padang. Traffic had build up and the stop-and-go mini-van became the vehicles to look out for. No near misses but certainly needed full alert and hands constantly on the brakes.


I had booked the same Hotel Garuda and when I arrived at 1030 the receptionist did not ask for my ID. I pushed the bike straight to Room 104, the same room I occupied a week ago. I'm back and it's good to be back. And it'll be good to be home tomorrow.


Till we meet again. Bye



SUMMARY OF THE TRIP
  1. The itinerary was perfect. Tackling the hills to Bkt Tinggi on the way there was right as one will be rewarded with a downhill on the return journey.

  2. Expect to hitch rides on lorries or pickup to clear the steep hills on the way to Solok

  3. Hotel rates are cheap. Under RM50-60 will get you a decent room with air-cond

  4. Food (Nasi Padang) found everywhere

  5. People on the road are VERY FRIENDLY

  6. Milestones are rare and far apart.

  7. Road signage not very good but seeking directions from people on the road was never a problem

  8. Great view - lakes and country side, especially since it was during the harvesting season


  9. See the Minangkabau life up close, including Minang heritage buildings


TRAVEL FACTS

Day 1: Airport - Padang : 28kms Av Spd 18kph Hotel Garuda Rup 115,000

Day 2: Padang - Danau Singkarak : 83km (part pickup) Av Spd 14.5kph Hotel Sumpur Rup 250,000

Day 3: D.S. - Batusangkar - Bkt Tinggi: 55km(part bus) * Av Spd 12.8kph Hotel Bagindo Rup150,000

Day 4: Bkt Tinggi (R & R) Hotel Bagindo Rup 150,000

Day 5: Bkt Tingi - D. Maninjau: 32km Av Spd 12.5kph Hotel Tan Dirih Rup 130,000

Day 6: D. Maninjau - Pariaman: 88km Av Spd 19.6 Hotel Wisma Rup 50,000

Day 7: Pariaman - Padang : 62km Av Spd 18.9 Hotel Garuda Rup 115,000



OTHER INFO
  1. Taxi to airport from Padang - Rup 60,000

  2. AirAsia had different policies from Padang for sports good. I was charged extra RM200 for excess baggage, in addition to extra charge for sports good item. From LCCT, I was charged RM30 for sports good item with NO EXCESS BAGGAGE. I plan to complain to AirAsia of this differing policies

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderfull trips, Chik.
Wish someday we can cycling together. May be in SJN-8 in Makassar @ May '08.
Find their blog in this link:
http://groups.google.com/group/penggemar-sepeda-jelajah-nusantara
Salam,
Eka - Duri

Reza Pahlavi said...

Assalamu alaikum,
I am not the Shah Iran, I am just a participant or EPP program. But 'my website' is authentic :) Just 2 comments:
1.Appreciate if this blog shows the milestone / signboard for Koto Baru, and
2. I like to have the ready-made grave, just to remind me where I will go next!
In my opinion, the people here are not just friendly but also religious.

ARZ said...

OK Reza. Noted your views. Will update blog and put in Koto Baru signboard. Milestone are very rare and far apart. Thanks for dropping in

oops did I just say that? said...

hahahhaha...so funny lah u dad..i wonder where you got your blogging style from....hehehe...to top it all, i was hearing a jazz tune, it made the reading pleasantly enjoyable!!! so enjoiceeee(bak kata ella)