Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Let me categorically state that these pictures in this article are NOT mine! I scanned them from The STAR which recently carried winning photos of the World Press Photography competition.

I felt it would be a gross injustice to these pictures to leave them in the mercy of the "SURAT KHABAR LAMA" Chinaman who will come a-calling weekly, buying up all the past newspapers.

I reproduced the caption from The Star for the following pics

A woman holding her child trying to stop the forced eviction of her people in Manaus, Brazil on March 10 las year. She is pushed away from her home by riot police. Image by LUIZ VASCONCELOS of the Jornal A Critical/Zuma Press - first prize. General News singles category

A Kenyan boy screaming as he sees a Kenyan policeman with a baton approaching the door of his home in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, by WALTER ASTRADA for AFP. This one won First Prize, Spot News stories category.

Usain Bolt winning the men's 200m final at the Beijing Olympic games on Aug 20 last year, by Australian photographer MARK DADSWELL for Getty Images. Second prize, Sports Action singles category

Image of an earthquake survivors rescue operation in Sichuan Province last May, by China-based Reuters photographer BO BOR - second prize, Spot News stories category

This one is self-explanatory.

Closer home, in Butterworth to be exact, a YEOH CHINN LIANG captured this shot. This shot did not win any award. But it won my heart. Do we now have any excuse not to cycle?

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Asm'kum & how r u en ramli? i am now at batu pahat to accomplish my mission to cycle m'sia solo @ 55, follow yr footstep. TQ 4 giving me motivation. This is my 12th day. Pls 'doa 4 me'. Tqvm, hj ariff

This morning I woke up to this SMS on my handphone. It came in last night at 11:15pm. I was already fast asleep. Immediately, I sent him a congratulatory SMS and later, I called him.

Who is this gentleman? He was one of the participants who attended the LMI programs I regularly conducted. I honestly can't recall his face, though the name sounded familiar.

He is 2 days away from reaching his goal. I request his permission to accompany him on his last leg tomorrow. I am anxiously waiting for his phone call.

I will doa for you Hj Ariff

Friday, February 20, 2009


18th Jan 2009

This would be our last day in Sulawesi. We would not be able to explore Makassar city. Makassar is Indonesia's seventh largest city. With the remaining hours before AirAsia's flight at 5:30 pm, we decided to explore the Losari area, where we stayed. The Losari area is by the sea. It's fully developed so we could not see any beach here, though there are numerous waterfront developments.

We decided to cycle around before packing our bikes. Today being Sunday, there were several activities around Losari. The first activity that caught our attention was a group of cyclists (obviously) congregating at the waterfront, waiting to start their off-road riding.

We became instant friends. They asked about our rides. We asked about theirs. For them, it is a weekly cycling outing on every Sundays, very much similar to what we do weekly back home. One of them promised to visit us at our hotel and bring some cycling jerseys for us to purchase as memories of Sulawesi.

I was attracted to this t-shirt. It reminded me of my cycling trip last year to Jogjakarta and my encounter with the ONTHELL, the old bicycle on this guy's t-shirt.

Indonesians loved their Sunday aerobic sessions. I discovered this in Padang, in Jogjakarta and now in Makassar. Young and not so young, slim and not so slim all enjoyed the swaying and sweating to the beat of some Indon pop songs. Main roads would be closed for such occassions.

What do Malaysians do on Sundays?

Along with the healthy activities, Sundays are also days for family outings. I noticed they start their activities early. I saw this ingenious mobile merry-go-round. More accurately, it was a mery-up-and-down. For a fee of-course, the babies would experience the thrill of up-and-down on the "motorbikes". The operator pedalled the mechanism that propelled the motorbikes up and down. You get 4 over-weight babies on these motorbikes and the poor operator would need constant carbo-loadings to energise his legs!

And if you think Makassar is small with no high-end hotels, you will be in for a surprise. Located within the proximity of Losari Beach, Hotel Pantai Gapura would surprise many visitors. It is a 4-star hotel built out on the sea. At IR600,000 a night after discount, it would be a great place for travellers with deep pockets. For cycling tourists, we were lucky we were allowed to take pictures of the complex.

Later in the day, the cyclists we met earlier came visiting. We had lunch together. Thereafter, we pillion-ride on their motorcycles to visit a Rodalink bike shop and later stopped at Bapak Ridwan Salam's workshop-cum-house. His parting word for me was "kalau datang lagi ke Makassar, ngak menginap di Hotel. Nginap aja dirumah saya". Well, Pak Ridwan, thank you for your hospitality. I will take a rain-check on that invitation.


Hitting the roads of South Sulawesi was yet another great experience. We cycled our way through flat coastal plains of vast padi-fields and corn farming. We spoiled ourselves in Bira, the coastal fishing village with clear crystal water and a home-stay like accomodation by a beach. We moved into the hinterland and highlands.
We survived the potholes at some stretches without any punctures (except once). We experienced torrential rains and bright sunny weathers. We visited the caves of the dead in Toraja and got invited to witness not one
but two Bugis weddings.
We discoverd the best teh tarek in Watansopeng and enjoyed (at times endured) our no-star accomodation. We loved the bridal suite up on the cool mountain of Makala and the raging waterfall of Bantimurung.
Above all, we loved its people. Poor generally, but very friendly and hardworking. Overall, it was another humbling experience.
Thank you Acid for being a buddy for 14-days. Thank you Hatim and Saiful for bringing us to Toraja in your rented Innova. Thank you friends who had dropped in on my blog.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009


17th Jan 2009

This is the view of the chalet by the swimming pool. An olympic size pool at your doorstep would be inviting, but not at the early hours of dawn when the water would be cold.

Makassar was a mere 50kms away. Again, we were in no hurry to end the journey. And today's ride would really be the end of the journey, for tomorrow we would fly home.

From the chalet, we walked to the National Park, paid the entrance fee and headed towards the waterfall. Earlier on, we were attracted by these blue trolleys parked besides a run-down tennis court. One wonders of what use would trolleys be here - no Carrefour, no Giant no Tesco here!

On weekends, scores of families would visit this park for a picnic. When families go for picnics there would be all kinds of equipment, cooking utensils, mats, pillows perhaps to carry. These trolleys for rental provided the transport they would need to carry the wares into the park. Pretty enterprising option.

I met this young ever-smiling boy yesterday evening at the chalet. He was asking us about our trip and I found him to be pleasant and well-mannered. This morning, he was among the elderly workers sweeping the leaves in the park compound, making a quick buck. He was the only youngster. He recognized us and waved. Later, when we cycled out from the park heading for Makassar, we met him again, perhaps on his way home after work.Gave him some cash and he was beaming with unexpected joy.

The strong rumbling sound of water pointed us towards the waterfall. We could not get near at all. The water was raging and had spilled along the walkway leading to the waterfall. We could just take pictures from a distance.

800 metres from the park was a cave, Gua Mimpi. The park attendant advised us against visiting during this period. It was wet and slippery and could pose some danger. So, the visit to Gua Mimpi remained a dream and the waterfall eluded us.

With little else to do, we left the park, a bit disappointed and headed for breakfast.

At 0930, we were still sitting out the rain. We've decided to go wet, meaning we would wear back yesterday's cycling attire. The clothes did not dry overnight. To borrow Lionel Ritchie's song, it rained "all night long".

We left Bantimurung National Park headed for Maros and onwards to Makassar. It was an uneventful ride. We stopped at Hotel Afiat near the airport. Hotel Afiat was our first night stop upon arrival in Makassar. We started our 14-day ride from this hotel and had left our cycling bags here. It made no sense to lug an additional 2kg on our bikes. So, we picked up our cycling bags and continued on to Makassar.

We stayed at a hotel within the China Town area, quite close to Losari beach and arrived just about noon. The 14-day cycling tour journey ended on this day. Tomorrow evening we would fly home.


16th Jan 2009

It would be a short 57km ride today to Bantimurung National Park. Literatures in the internet highlighted Bantimurung's Waterfall and its caves. This was the reason why Bantimurung was on our stop list

We had a wonderful sleep in our "honeymoon suite". It was cold outside, it was equally cold inside. Rain continued almost throughout the night. We felt lazy. The cold freezed our muscles. Weather was dull grey. The grounds were wet. So were the road. An excuse to start late.

While we waited for breakfast, we prepared for our wet ride. We water-proofed our panniers with the rain-cover, green for Acid and yellow for mine.

We said goodbye to the friendly lady Rahmi, the daughter of the caretaker. I jotted down the contact details of this hotel to recommend to anyone who might want to traverse this way. We cycled out of the compound to a gradual climb, and rear lights blinking for added safety.

The road twist and turn and at a particular stretch, I could hear the strong rumble of a raging river. The thick foliage prevented me from seeing the river. The continous rain the night before had massively increased the volume of the river.

There was a break in the foliage and I took a shot of the raging river. For white-water rafting, this could be either a Class 2 or Class 3 rapid. It sounded menacing. It looked menacing as well. Great that I was on my bicycle and not in an inflatable.

The road was wet. The road was narrow. The road had potholes.

The road had heavy traffic. With blind corners, I can hear the constant blaring of the horns from the huge lorries, announcing their approach from these corners. At one point, a lorry temporarily stalled while changing gears on a gradient. The driver of a van infront of me immediately stopped and put his van in reverse gear in anticipation. With no space to squeeze through, I had to dismount, also ready in anticipation. The lorry attendant quickly came out and placed a rock behind the lorry's rear tyre, to prevent the lorry from backsliding. I prayed it would hold. It did. At this time, Acid was ahead and took this picture as I temporarily pushed my bike.

At one stretch, heavy rain pounded us. It was just too heavy to continue riding. We managed to find a shelter at a warong. The owner invited us in into his small warong, instead of waiting under the tarpaulin.

But the kids were just enjoying the rain.

We lost about an hour here, but we were not in any great hurry. We thanked the owner when the rain stopped and continued on. We came across some rocky outcrop.

About 15 kms from our destination, the road zig-zagged downhill for about 5 kms. At some stretch, it was quite steep. My brakes were protesting as I slowed down the speed, careful not to lock the brakes on the wet road. Acid seemed to enjoy the downhill better and he was able to capture me negotiating one of the bends when he stopped at a clearing.

When we finally reached the bottom, we were ready for a late lunch. There was a restaurant with generous arrays of dishes and kuehs in this village, desa Pattunuang. As usual, we attracted a small crowd who wanted to see and feel our bikes.

We were then only 8 kms from our destination for the day. We took our time to enjoy the food. Then, we pedalled slow unhurried strokes to reach Bantimurung National Park and looked for accomodation.

There was one chalet within the national park, situated by the river. It had a great view of the river. But the water level was dangerously high, at some parts lapping the floor of the open area. The incessant rain had increased the water level. The keeper told us that the river might just visit the bedrooms while we sleep! No thanks. After our "honeymoon suite" the night before, we prefered something closer to that.

There was another chalet in a public swimming pool complex. We quickly agreed to take this one, a room each for IR75,000. The pool was fed from the running stream, acceptably maintained. We both dipped ourselves in the pool joining a small group of students on an outing.
Fully refreshed, there was nothing much to do. We planned to visit the national park after breakfast following day, before we finally cycled back to Makassar.
With my trusty notebook, I penned the day's ride and waited for dusk and a good dinner.

Monday, February 9, 2009


14 Jan 2009

The morning started on a drizzle. We had our breakfast of the usual nasi goreng with tea. Almost all the hotels threw in breakfast, and the breakfast is standard pink-colored nasi goreng.

We would be heading into the interior and into the highlands. Today's ride will be a 70kms ride to Malawa. Malawa is located at the border where Kabupaten Bone ends and Kabupaten Maros begins. Some locals in Bira told me that this stretch has no villages. So, I purchased extra buns in the event there would be no shops along the road. Both of us would bid good-bye to Hatim here. He would be travelling back to Makassar today, on the same route that we would take. But we would take 3 days to reach Makassar.

Before we left Watansopeng, we stopped to capture what is unique in this town - the bats! There were literally hundreds hanging on to several trees at one particular spot in the town. It had become a feature of Watansopeng. The locals do not disturb them. The locals told of an event several years ago when all the bats mysteriously left Watansopeng. Not long after, a fire broke out in the market. The bats later came back.

The first part of the ride was through many villages. We passed a busy market and thus far, we cycled on a relatively flat road. We made good progress.

Hatim later caught up with us after we have chalked 35kms. He was surprised that we were fast. We stopped at a stall for tea together, and enjoyed the spare buns I bought for emergency. There would not be any emergencies as the locals here told us that there are villages all the way to our destination.

We finally said good-bye again to Hatim. From here, he would overtake us and we would meet next only in Makassar, 3 days later. He took several shots and we waved him off.

The road changed from flat to rolling hills, but nothing heavy. By noon, our stomachs were croaking again. We stopped at a sundry shop and we had our maggi mee.

A lady was in conversation with us. Acid commented on her dress and she said she was attending a wedding as one of the "pengapit". Acid was quick to request to digitise her.

As usual, when we came to a junction we would ask the locals for direction.

We usually received friendly attention. These group of boys were very excited to follow us. Amidst their laughter, some would give the common greetings "HELLO MISTER". One would be surprised to note that this is a common greeting we received along the road. And we usually returned the gesture with a wave of our hands, and at times with the peace sign. Occasionally when I came across school-children by the road side, I would offer my hand for a high 5. I would always get a few high 5's.

Acid saw this wooden bridge with a fast swollen river. It looked dramatic. We stopped for a photo-shoot. No, we did not cross this bridge to go to our destination. Posing aje.

After this, the road began to climb and we quickly used up our energies. Aren't we glad when we came across some jagung stalls? The lady owner said she was born in Tawau, but came back to Sulawesi. During the journey, we discovered that many people from Sulawesi migrated to Sabah, mainly to Tawau. They went by boats there and majority had settled down in Tawau.

The road continued to climb as we neared our destination, Makala.
We were on our grannies, and if the road got any steeper, we would be pushing our bikes. To add to the excitement, there were also many heavily-laden lorries occupying the major portion of the road. We were careful.

All the hard climb paid-off. Mutiara Sari welcomed us. It is a beautiful cozy home up on the highland. It is a home, a weekend retreat belonging to a succesful local. He let the rooms out for travellers at IR150,000 (RM50) a night. We reached here at 2pm, early but we were ready to call it a day.

And for that price, this is what you get! You get an open space.

You get this balcony where you relax in the cool breezy weather.

If it is too cold outside, warm yourself up in the living area.

And when it's time for bed, the "honeymoon" suite as Acid dubbed it, awaits your tired body.
How I wished I had an extra day!