Continuing on, I was soon into sugar-cane country. I didn't realize the sugarcane plants could be so tall. It's twice a man's height. In my case, perhaps 2.5 times my height!
I saw this traditional house by the road. There weren't many of such houses. The roof edges had a "horn-like" finish. There were no one around for me to ask the significance of the horns. Back in Minangkabau country, the sharp ended roofs were symbolic of the kerbaus (buffaloes) horns. I could only guess that probably here the locals reared goats, hence smaller horns.
And there was this well-kept graveyard with vacant plot. It appeared that the vacant plot was prepared for planting, though there was still no sign of any plantings yet. For hardworking Javanese, tilling the graveyard for planting would not come as a surprise.
As I cycled on, I saw a sign pointing to a beach. I took the turn and cycled in, passing through a village. A Tsunami warning for evacuation was displayed. The southern coast of Java was also ravaged by Tsunami. This reminded me of my Phuket ride in Apr 2006 where Tsunami evacuation notices were also prominently displayed.
My first goal today was to reach Tg Karangbolong, which would be a promontory by the sea. I would decide from there whether I would proceed to Cilacap the same day or would break the journey here.
As I took a short rest, I saw a mountain range on the skyline. I was telling myself that the mountain range would probably tapered off before I reached Tg Karangbolong. Fresh from the killer mountain of Chiengrai in May, I was not too excited at the prospect of another climb so soon.
I was on a bridge when I shot the picture of this estuary. I was nearing Tg Karangbolong. I loved this view!
However, up ahead, the view was menacing. Beautiful but no thank you! The hope for the mountain range tapering off was merely wishful thinking. I sensed I would be going right smack into it. How high, how far was anybody's guess.
As I crossed the bridge, I entered a roundabout. The sign showed 40kms to Cilacap and about 10kms to Karangbolong and I had to turn left. It was past noon. The thought of overnighting at Karangbolong vanished as I arrived there. There were no indication of much activities. And no sooner had I passed Karangbolong, the road snaked upwards. The slope was manageable as I reached the first peak. Not so bad I thought though my Polar was already showing a higher heart beat. After a short downhill, I came to another uphill. I cycled on but it was getting heavier. Both the bicycle and the breathing felt heavy. Up to a point, I stopped for a breather. It would have to be a push from there on. I pushed and pushed, corner after corner and always hoping the last corner would be the last.
I finally reached this DESA SRATI, hoping this would be the last peak. Trying to cheer myself up, I told myself that I would find good food here - GULAI SRATI ! "Srati" in Kelantan dialect comes from the same family with "itek" or ducks. Srati is a delicacy in Kelantan and how I longed for it now.
But there was only one sundry shop. No Srati but plenty of Roti! Since it was pst noon, I decided to take a long rest here and "eat" the Roti. With each bite, I imagined it as Srati. I smiled. I was conscious that no one saw me smiling while eating Roti. My memories went back to 1996 on a train ride from Bangkok with my brother, bound for Golok. The cafe in the train served very delicious food. We saw mouth-watering fried chickens but they were non-halal. We were hungry. We joked that we would eat our bread and visualized that we were biting off the fried-chicken with every bite. Same scenario, different place. I wished my brother Mahmood was with me in Desa Srati now!
The sundry-shop owner told me there were 3 other hills that I need to cover before I crossed over the range. How steep would be a matter of perception. For the owner, quite used to tackling the hill on a motorcycle, it would still be effortless. I saw no bicycles on this road.
It was a great downhill for about 3kms and then I was again pushing the bike. As I stopped for a breather, there was this old passenger van from the opposite direction that stopped almost where I was. The driver reversed. He off-loaded old tree-trunks and was ready to go my direction. God send! I put my bike in and hopped in too. I was sure glad of the timing. We were speeding up and down towards Pantai Ayah. Who cares about the steep slope anymore. The driver could only gave me a smile when I asked why the beach was called Pantai Ayah (Father's Beach).
I could have over-nighted here as there were losmens availavable. However, I felt I should proceed on to Cilacap. Reaching Pantai Ayah and looking back at the hill that I had just crossed, I was more than happy to give an extra tip for the van ride.
For the extra tip, I got extra information. Buses to Cilacap were readily available but I first got to make my way to KROYO. After waiting for about 15 mins, the last bus to Kroyo arrived and I transferred myself from a van to a bus to Kroyo and onwards to Cilacap.