Friday, January 30, 2009


Again it was drizzling when we prepared for our Day 6 ride to Watampone. The hotel we stayed provided tea and cakes for breakfast, certainly inadequate to start off on our 100 km ride today. The staff informed us of a food outlet that usually opened for breakfast. I have observed
that having breakfast in eateries is not a culture of the locals, unlike here in Malaysia. I think this has got to do with their level of economic prosperity.

So it was a welcome sight when we saw this stall opened for breakfast.

The choice though is very limited - Nasi Kuning. We have no choice. I needed the carbo to fire up my old engine!

The road was slightly wet from the early drizzle. We were ready for a wet ride and had our panniers water-proofed. Fortunately, the weather was in our favor. We came across this colonial-looking landmark of 6 horses pulling a cart. I was unsure about its significance and there is nothing written about it either. So we took pictures and moved on.

Up to this point of my ride, I have noticed digging of trenches on the left side of the road. Hundreds of kilometres had been dug, manually. It was tough work. It was a project to lay fibre-optics across the country. Tractors would make short work of the job. However, one must again remember that Indonesia is a land of plenty - plenty of people. So, manual labor is the way to go. This project helped put food on the table.

This project also explained the lack of internet facility in the towns we have overnighted so far. Today's ride was uneventful and the landscape became all too familiar, padi-fields, maize growing, villages dotting the roads.

We reached Watampone about 4 pm and started looking for a hotel. We passed this hotel WISMA AMRACH but did not know that a Wisma is a lodging house. We stopped at a hotel further up which cannot accept foreigners as their guests. This was my first experience of being turned away from a hotel, because we were were not Indonesians. The receptionist though told us to go to Wisma Amrach. That was when we knew that a Wisma is actually a hotel.

At IR11o,000, Wisma Amrach offered a reasonably clean hotel with an acceptable lobby to relax. It was close to a mosque and we went there for our Maghrib. Later, ACID as usual befriended some undergraduates. Two of them agreed to bring us on their motorbikes to see one of the largest ports in Indonesia. In exchange, we would buy them dinner. Fair exchange.

This port had the longest wharf - 1km long. Unfortunately it rained so they came with a van. First to dinner, then to the port. We could not see much of the port at night though we literally drove "into the sea" on that 1km wharf. The pictures we took was rather disappointing, The drizzle and the wind made the weather cold. To cap the night, the van decided to kaput on us.

It took a while before a tow-truck arrived. We were literally "towed" back to our hotel.

So, we look forward to tomorrow's ride to Sengkang.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I have aptly titled this Day 5 ride as "The Many Roads to Sinjai". Indeed there are several. There is the "jalur utama" trunk road from Bulukumba (yellow) and the smaller roads (red). When I asked some locals about the coastal road to Sinjai, I was told there was none and yet it showed on the map. Do I trust the map or the locals? I chose to trust the locals. Maps can't talk!

One of them drew me a map, very simple and certainly not to scale. I reproduced here his artwork. We must first head for Kalimporo from where we would branch off to Pattongko. He said I would have to pass his Kampong Bua to go to Sinjai. We would cross 3 wooden bridges, according to him. No problem, the road is good he said.

So, we said goodbye to Bira. Paid for our 2 nights homestay which included 2 breakfasts and 2 dinners. Cost to us, IR380,000 (RM115). We gladly gave Nur, the lady who cooked for us IR400,000. She was all smiles. In her 26 years in this world, she had not set foot outside Bira.

I had earlier made the decision, that we would take the van to Tanah Beru, about 10 kms away. I wanted to avoid the steep climb at the start of the journey. I sensed that Acid was a little disappointed that he could not attempt the climb - a younger man with a younger heart! I wanted to stretch my safety limit, i.e. not pushing the heart beat too high before giving it a good warming up.

We were dropped off at Tanah Beru after paying IR70,000 for our taxi trip. We asked for direction to confirm the local map. Someone then drew another map for us to supplement the one I got earlier.

As we cycled, on the opposite direction we saw several cyclists on a group cycling tour of South Sulawesi. This group tour was fully supported. They had a Van upfront with a banner telling traffic of the cyclists approaching. They had a lorry at the rear, fully laden with luggage.

One of them, David made a U-turn to catch up with us. Obviously he was one of the stronger riders and he could easily catch up with the rest. David hailed from Melbourne and he said there were 22 of them (I think). They were doing a longer loop than ours. Their trip was close to a month! What made David do a U-turn to greet us? That was because we were the first two guys he saw doing a cycling tour since he set foot in Makassar. We exchanged emails and hoped to communicate upon our return.

As we continued on, the road was getting bad and rolling. We had to slow down. Acid had to be extra careful with the potholes to avoid punctures.

At one stage, we overshot our route and backtracked a few kilometres.

This was a Friday and we planned to do our Friday prayers at one of the numerous mosques we passed. I have never seen so many mosques in my journey in Indonesia, for that matter, even in Malaysia. Here, there are mosques at almost every kilometre interval. We stopped at this one. Initially I thought this mosque was still under construction.

Even nearing prayer time, there were only a handful of jemaah. This could be due to the mosques being at close proximity to one another. So, I really do not see the need to renovate and expand the mosque, as this one.

We exchanged pleasantries with the village folks and continued on our journey. We were getting hungry but could not find any warong. We stopped at a typical retail shop for some roti and drink. As usual, we attracted attention.

The road began to climb from here and it was pretty steep. For the first time, we came across a rubber plantation. I had never seen such a well-kept rubber plantation in Malaysia. Should give credit to the workers of this r plantation. We make it a point to capture this well-kept plantation. We really can't do much justice from this picture. You got to see it for yourself!

While tackling the uphill, I can't help but take the picture of this old bicycle. Neglected and old. It must have served its master well. And the master had no further use and left it to "die". What a sad story.

We reached Kajang. Yes, there is also a Kajang in Sulawesi.

We stopped to ask direction at a shop. Here I was, talking to some local youths.

The conversation with the youth on the right goes something like this:

"Bapak dari mana?"

"Kuala Lumpur"

"Kuala Lumpur di mana?"


"Subang dimana?"

"Subang Jaya"

"Oh, saya pernah kerja di Subang Jaya. Kawan saya disebelah kerja di Shah Alam, tempat pasang kereta Ford"

So, there you are. You were no strangers to these boys. They went on to say that in Selangor, there's also Kajang, and that there's Satay Kajang. Confirmed, these are boys who used to work in our country.

The group of youths went on to say that in Kajang here, there's actually another Kajang not far away. It's called Kajang Dalam. Kajang Dalam is occupied by a group of Muslim families who are practically living in their own world. They dressed in black, lived in the old ways, no electricity no modern facilities. Outsiders are not welcomed in their community. Reminds me of the Mormons in America.

We said good-bye and moved on. The road got worse and we continously seek direction to ensure we were on the right direction. These are some of the roads we passed through.

These are the wooden bridges refered to by the local who drew me the map.

This is the better one

At some points, we were hugging the coastline and it offers a breath of refreshing change.

By then, we were only roughly 15 kms from Sinjai, our destination for the day.

We were hungry of-course and certainly looked forward for a hearty late lunch in Sinjai. But before that, I cannot miss to take a picture of this M-Studio which provide various services, including "shouting" VCD/DVD.

This is a skill I have yet to learn.

Monday, January 26, 2009


We woke up early, as the saying goes, "at the crack of dawn". We had planned to capture the morning sun as it rose from the horizon. The gentle breeze coming from the sea made the morning even fresher. We soaked in the moments.

Acid captured this just outside our homestay. A beautiful morning indeed.

I moved out to the village and captured fishermen preparing to go out to sea. They went about doing what they usually did, my presence hardly captured their interest. In their daily grime to eke out a living, what seemed unique to a foreign eye, was just something ordinary to them. But I saw beauty in the simple environment they lived in.

There is usually only a short window of opportunity to capture moments of sunrise and sunset. This day, we were pleased with this opportunity.

Today too would be just pure R&R. We took our time to breakfast, occupying the terrace overlooking the calm sea. Acid decided to take his bath in the sea, and why not. I prefered to just laze around and stared into nothing. The German lady in her 60's decided to snorkel. She was out snorkelling for more than an hour, something impossible in her homeland Germany. The German couple also had an inflatable. Later in the late afternoon, they went out boating with their grandson, Adam.

Late morning, we explored this fishing village.

Known as PANGRANGLUHU, as the signboard said, it is also a Pelabuhan Rakyat. So, it is a port for the community, accomodating the fishing boats both big and small.

The map of Bira's location below revealed Bira's strategic location on the southern-most tip of Sulawesi. While Menado in Northern Sulawesi is well-known for diving, there are numerous diving spots off Bira too, relatively unknown and therefore probably less spoiled. Of late, there had been some increase of diving tours to Bira. What is lacking at this moment is the infrastructure - dive shops (I saw only one), dive boats, and slightly upmarket accomodation.

In this close-up map of Bira, Pangrangluhu is on the eastern side of Bira. The sea here is very calm, in comparison to the western side of Bira. Since Pangrangluhu is a village, we selfishly hope that this village will not be developed to retain its rustic charm.

Because of its calm sea, a port is also located in Pangrangluhu. A ferry, much like the Penang ferry, plies between Bira and the Island of Selayar. It carried both people and vehicles.

Many Phinisi boats were also moored near the port.

Our first stop in the village was meeting this fisherman who had just came back early from his fishing. In monetary term, his catch today was valued at IR70,000 (RM21), hopefully enough to feed his young family. He offered the young coconuts which we politely refused while telling us about dwindling catch. The big boats with their big nets are their competitors. He now had to resort to using smaller nets to catch the smaller fishes - a common problem I guessed, everywhere.

Then we visited the boat yard where several Phinisi boats were in repair. This green boat belonged to a Dutch. It was sent in to replace parts of the wooden hull and some refurbishment of the interior.

We were allowed into the boat. It offered a certain amount of luxury. It come with 4 bedrooms, a dining room, modern bathroom, electricity and I assume, fresh water.

Hauling the boat out from the sea for repair must be a gigantic task, and certainly a very skilful art. We were told the boat was hauled up using the simple mechanical pulley, tied to several coconut trees, cm by cm. Such feat.

I was admiring the toned muscle of this man as he expertly sealed the joints of the wooden hull. Modern guys would spend thousands of RM toning the arms in Fitness First. That includes my son, Raqim. Ha...Ha...

Children, as usual, are one of our favorite subjects. They were more than happy to be photographed. With digitals, they too expect to see what we captured. So, we have instant connection with them.

I can't help noticing this ice-crushing machine. Back in Tumpat where I grew up, we used to have an ice-crushing machine too at home. My late father was a fish-dealer. The catch had to be boxed in ice before transported out to the market. I used to start the engine, certainly not by a flip of the switch. It was raw strength, muscle pitting against the heavy "pleweng" (fly-wheel) as I cranked the fly-wheel to generate enough turning speed to start the diesel-powered engine. The noise of the ice being crushed and the diesel engine could wake up the deepest of slumber.

We moved up the cliff to capture these shots from a higher vantage point, offering another view of the crystal-clear water of Bira and the Phinisi boats in mooring.

Satisfied with our cycle-about, it was time for lunch. We agreed to spoil ourselves and proceeded to the Bira Beach Hotel located on the western side of Bira. A great lunch, yet another great view.

Sadly, we had to leave Bira tomorrow to continue our discovery of South Sulawesi.

As I said in my earlier posting, it would be tough to put our butts back on the saddle and move on.