Friday, January 21, 2011


For visitors arriving to Yogyakarta or Solo in Central Java, one of the "tourism routes" that visitors can explore is this route which the BJCC Tuarers had completed. One can do SOLO - BOYOLALI - SELO - BOROBUDUR which will include Gunung Merapi and the Borobudur heritage. Taking this route will take one from the lowland of Solo to Boyolali and gradually climb to Selo. Then, it will be a descend to Borobudur. In an automobile, those climbs and descends will not be felt. On a bicycle, it's a totally different experience.

If one starts from Jokjakarta, then one can do the opposite direction.

Passing towards Selo, one will gradually experience the cool weather. On a bicycle, one will be profusely sweating in this cool climate, cycling or pushing the bike. The reward however, will be the magnificent view of the two mountains - Mt Merapi (2,911m) and Mt Merbabu (3,141m). On the map above, Mt Merbabu sits on the north and Mt Merapi on the south. The town of Selo sits closer to the foothills of Mt Merbabu

So there we were on Day 2 at the hotel that Shambo booked for our first night. It was a Pondok but of the indah variety - hence called PONDOK INDAH. Tugged 2 to a room, my roomate for the entire trip would obviously be my co-cyclist HATIM. On this Day 2, he would be playing a very prominent role.

Today's destination would be a small town aptly named SELO. No one in our group could agree more with such a name. The ride to SELO was indeed SLOW, very SLOW. It was climbing all the way. To add to the excitement, we even passed GENTING along the way. As if SELO was not tough enough, we had to have GENTING (and not just one Genting) to remind us of the climb.

From the word go at the hotel Pondok Indah, the road started to climb, albeit gradually initially. We tucked in a hearty breakfast, packaged in the night stay. First stop was planned for Cepogo. There were  however many rest stops before Cepogo though Cepogo became our first official stop. . We battled against the heart rate and stopped very often to lower down the heart rate. However, for my co-cyclist and on a kubcai, it was just "a twist of the wrist". 

The rope brought along for the trip became a life-line for most of us, in perfect combination with Hatim, my co-cyclist.  For the first time I learned the art of being "pulled" up by a kubchai. Must confess I enjoyed the opportunity! 

Cheers to Hatim

Arriving Cepogo, we were ready for lunch. Pak Karto made a roaring lunch business with the hungry cyclists having a go at the Sate Sapi. The neighboring warung also enjoyed our presence with their mie bakso. 

Sapu bersih dish after dish
Mie Bakso never tasted so good
We had a good rest, a well-deserved one at Cepogo. The final ascend to Selo was even much slower. The gradient was much more a killer and having spent a fair bit of energy cycling to Cepogo, Selo became a tough battle of the heart-rate against the mind. We often hear the saying, "mind over matter" - if you do not mind, then it does not matter!

On a uphill cycling, it does matter. The "mind over matter" needs to be weighted carefully. At the age past a century, it would be wise to monitor the heart rate against the personal desire to achieve. In my case, the kubchai became a savior on several occasions. The younger ones however, decided to stretch just a little.
The first climb after Cepogo
The signage FLYING FOX sums up the gradient. The drop from here was good enough for an entrepreneur to set up the flying fox business. 

Shambo tackling the slope

Zaba overtaking the kupchai on the treacherous slope (or so it seems)
A well-deserved rest thereafter for Shambo and Zaba
From this stop at the Es Buah 99 warong, Mount Merapi awaits at the background. It signalled another climb and for some of us, the "twist of the wrist" kubchai came handy once again. 

The upward meandering road offered some excellent views of the mountain, the valleys and the activities of the village folks that dotted the road. Maize is planted in abundance, along with vegetables, just like in Cameron Highlands.

The stops for breathers also allowed for some photo shoots

Shambo with Merapi in the background covered in mist
I recalled Selo is about 50kms from Boyolali. It was a short distance by cycling distance. However, the ride was tough and I must pay tribute to Affendi who cycled all the way up to SELO. We gladly called the climb up to Selo as doing the "Affendi Way", which only Affendi succesfully completed. Ah, the heart of a younger man!

Arriving Selo was pure joy and pure "smiles". The cycling for the day was over. The weather was getting chilly as the mist descended. Mount Merapi appeared on and off with the intermittent mist blanketing the horizon.

I should have asked the caretaker why the chalet is called BUNGALOW TERSENYUM. 

An  "accidental smile" welcome for the tired muscles

"Smile" - one for the road (Bungalow Tersenyum in Selo)
We had a good (and well-earned) rest in the afternoon but had another program of visiting the famous Ketep Pass. Ketep Pass is off our route to Borobodur, which would be our route the following day. Hence, we had arranged for a van to bring us to Ketep Pass. Googling Ketep Pass one can read numerous articles on this tourist site.

The next itinerary had to be dinner. Cold weather always enhances the appetite and the beautiful setting sun was just the right ambience for a hearty dinner in a bamboo restaurant.

Apart from the roof, everything about the restaurant was bamboo. Err...the toilet and sink were also not bamboo. However, if you expect bamboo shoots as the restaurant's specialty, you would be disappointed.

But the BJ tuarers were certainly not disappointed with the choices of menu, neither with the bills. We gladly paid the dues and after dinner proceeded on to burn the high caloric intake at a Karaoke bar. Tonight, we could sleep late.

Tomorrow's journey would be a downhiller!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The famous Mount Merapi on the island of Java erupted on 25th October 2010 and continued on for several days. Mount Merapi sent hot air and rocks high into the sky, causing thousands to flee their homes.

Three months earlier in July 2010, a group of us was somewhere in its vicinity, admiring the majesty of Merapi. Then, I saw a trail of smoke at its peak but thought nothing of what lies ahead. So did the countless villagers dotting the foothills and its surrounding.

The cool weather and fresh air were just the right tonics for us city dwellers from Malaysia. The lush green vegetation along its foothills and the plains in the valley,  was a by-product of the fertile soil that Merapi spewed out in series of eruptions, latest being 2006 prior to this eruption.

We started on this tour some 6 months ago, precisely on July 13, 2010. Six of us from Bkt Jelutong Cycling Club flew in to Jogjakarta for a 6 day tour. We had the experience of Shambo (in black in the middle) who made frequent trips to Jogjakarta and could easily passed as "one of them". Shambo made all the ground arrangements. Razak (on extreme left) goes wherever Shambo goes, almost classified as non-identical twins. Then we had Affendi, sandwiched between the two non-identical twins. Affendi is a strong cyclist who can proudly claim that "there ain't no mountain high enough". Third from right is  Rambo Zaba, a real photogenic guy that gets photographed with SYT's. To Zaba's left is Hatim, a buddy we could not leave behind. He doubles as my co-cyclist, a role he played very efficiently on the fast downhills. Last but not least, and the oldest of the lot, would be yours sincerely on extreme right.

The planned route would take us direct from the airport to Boyolali, passing through the historic site of Prambanan, onto Klaten into Boyolali on the day of arrival. Day 2 would have us cycling to Selo, the mountainous region where Mount Merapi would welcome us. Day 3 is a downhill to Borobudur, much loved by several of us in the entourage. We called these buddies "the downhillers". I can be counted as one of them but did not have a chance to experience much downhill on this trip.

Day 4 would have us cycling the village routes into Jogjakarta. Day 5 is the touristy part of visiting the Kraton and shopping for souvenirs to bring home. We flew back on Day 6.

Back in July 2008, I had made a solo cycling trip to Jogjakarta, covering the coastal areas towards Cilacap. With a day free prior to heading for home, a local boy I befriended at Borobudur offered to bring me to the foothills of Merapi. Then, the mist of the foothill was too thick and I left disappointed without capturing the majesty of Merapi.

This time around, Merapi was in its full splendor offering itself to be photographed, visited and climbed if one has the appetite to do so. It was indeed a perfect period to visit. If only we knew what would happen three months later, we would probably spent half a day hiking up Mount Merapi.

Fast forwarding to the present, this is therefore a much overdue blog. One can call this write-up as history. My other cycling colleagues who went with me on this trip rightly had given up, not on me, but on this blog. Even Merapi has returned to its slumber.


I always looked forward to begin any cycling trip at the point of arrival, literally speaking. The point of arrival would be the airport. Upon claiming the panniers (bags) and the bicycle, we proceeded to assemble the bicycles, choosing a space and corner with the least disruption to other passengers and visitors. Usually, the activity will draw attention and questions from curious but always friendly onlookers. I can predict the usual question of "mau ke mana Pak dengan speda?" and have my ready made answer of "jalan jalan jelajah ....... (depending where my destination would be).

As I said earlier, this is a supported trip, arranged by the veteran Jogja visitor, Shambo. A van would follow us on parts of the trip and my co-cyclist Hatim would be on a motorbike.  Hatim would take over my bike on the difficult section, the downhill rides.  Hatim would proudly claim such rides as his all time favorite :-))).

Several kilometres out of the airport, Zaba had to abruptly stop. His bike's rear derailleur broke. It could have happened during the air transportation. I had never experienced this mishap in all my previous air travels with my bike. Bike shops along this route are very small and would not carry spare derailleurs.

Zaba thus had to get a taxi to find a bike shop in Jogjakarta while we waited for him at Prambanan. Visitors visit Prambanan to look at the Hindu relics that abounds in its vicinity. Even as we cycled passed Prambanan, we would occasionally see temple relics in the lush padi-fields of the villages.

From Prambanan we cycled through Klaten. My mind raced back during my trip to the Minangkabau region where I passed a village called Kota Baru. Now I almost passed through my own birth state of "KLATEN". Pray there is no Desa Dalam Ru along this route, or I will faint! (Dalam Ru is my birthplace in Kelantan)

We would also pass the locals of both gender, carrying bales of cut grass presumably to feed their cows. Such are the livelihood of the less fortunate. We remained thankful for what we have.

At one stretch along the village road, Mount Merapi was on our left away in the far horizon. We captured Merapi in the failing lights, with the knowledge that we would be quite close to Merapi the next day.

We cycled in the early part of the night to reach Boyolali, stopping over for dinner at a warong before proceeding to the hotel Shambo had pre-booked prior to the trip. Boyolali is 50kms from the airport and the journey was mainly on flat land.

Tomorrow would be a different story as we head for Selo, at the foot of Mount Merapi. We expect to climb and therefore, a good night rest would be the order of the day