Cycling Java – living the life!

Cycling into Banyuwanyi, getting closer to the hostel where I would meet my friend, I hear somebody calling my name, loud and clear. So I stop. The sound is coming from the back and it sounds very familiar: there was no doubt, it was Hugo! Three kisses on my cheek, as the Dutch way of saying hello to a friend, and he tells me he’ll be right back, he’s just on his way to get his bike from the strain station. Alright, I say. So I continue my ride to the hostel, with a warm welcome of the family and some guys checking out my bike.  I have to admit that every time man are more impressed by the appearance of my bicycle than me, I kind of enjoy all the eyes being focussed on my companion. Only men can check a bicycle in this way; with a very serious look, a technical look maybe, who would tell. Either way, they can look at my bike for a long, long time and I cannot do anything else than smile when I see this scenario. Over and over again.

After my daily routine of taking a shower, washing my clothes, checking the map for the next day, there’s still no Hugo. So I decide to take a rest. He said that he was coming back, right? So just be patient. After a long time Hugo is back. Without a bike. And he starts his story about his journey from Jakarta to Banyuwanyi, and how they told him to leave his bike behind and how they promised him ‘it will be there in the very next train’. ‘Tomorrow’. ‘Maybe’. Isn’t it cool I thought, how you can catch up with a friend on the other side of the world, and just start your story from the moment that you meet. How’s life in Holland? How is everybody doing? Did you enjoy your summer-holiday?  Nothing of all that. The conversation starts with the exchange of the very first impressions of Indonesia and for Hugo this means; his very first problems with trains and transporting bicycles, with a first-hand-experience of a bit of bureaucracy combined with a special policy for tourists that are not yet capable to speak the language or know the rules. All we can do is be patient and hope that the bike will be here tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

In meanwhile our neighbours arrive and the story gets more interesting. This guy is the kind of backpacker with big story’s about his traveling life. He’s the kind of ‘yo dude, yeah freedom type’. The ‘I am living the dream type’. ‘I am traveling the world, telling big stories about my adventures, type’. (Just for two moths because then I have to go back to my job at the office-type, but that we don’t tell type – because for now we are living-the-dream-type). Wearing just a singlet, showing his muscles, with long hair  and a beard, looking like he didn’t wash for a week and just ‘living the life’. You know. With lots of blablabla and a complete lack of interest in the others, except for them to be his audience to share his big story’s. And so we listen.

They just arrived by train from Yogyakarta to Banyawanyi (they, because he was with his girlfriend, who was also part of the audience) and he said ‘it’s a hell of a ride’. ‘What a big distance it was!’ ‘Unbelievable!’

After his stories about his very hot-topic-tourist-information-excursion-experiences he asks us if we are also going to climb the volcano by night to see the blue moon. He said it’s THE reason all people come to Banyuwanyi. He said it’s THE most impressive volcano to climb in the whole of Java. We (Hugo and me) look at each other with the question (you tell him or I do) and then we say; yeah we heard about it but we are not going to climb this volcano by night, because we will start riding our bicycles early in the morning (just assuming Hugo’s bike will be there tomorrow as well). There is a silence. Bicycle? Yes, Hugo answers, together we will cycle from Banyuwanyi to Yogyakarta. We can see this cool guy thinking ‘this hell of a distance – with a bike?’. Followed by more silence. And so Hugo continues his story and tells him that he is just visiting me for two weeks. Me who is traveling the world on a bicycle. For one year now.  More silence. And I have to admit that I kind of enjoy this moment. As it happens more often. When these stereotype-freedom-living-the-dream-backpackers feel impressed and as you can see, also a bit overwhelmed or maybe intimidated (perhaps that’s a better way to describe) by the fact that you can travel the world on a bike and meet ‘real people’ and have ‘real adventures’, without booking a tour or excursion, without checking any guidebook or lonely planet, just to go out on your bike and explore life. Just like that.

As you can imagine, this was the end of our conversation. And that was alright anyway, because we still kinda assumed that we would start riding our bike in the early morning next day. Lessen one while traveling; aways keep faith and think positive. especially when there’s nothing you can do about the situation. And so our prayers were heard (even without having a god) and this very next morning when Hugo was calling to Harry, THE man of THE office, he was told that HIS bicycle ARRIVED!


And so this little adventure on a bicycle could start!


As we would cycle in an Islamic country, we would see many mosques on our way. All different colours, different shapes.


We would see at least as much motorbikes on our way:



There would be all kind of decoration to make this beautiful country even more beautiful:



We would try all kind of different food. The perfect fuel for cycling. And this seem to be Hugo’s favorite! As he kept on (accidentally) ordering this sup with little chicken feet ;)


We would make friends with the owners of little restaurants and all the people out there that made these hungry cyclist a perfect meal.


We made also made a lot of friends at our favorite rest point at the local supermarket



We would stop for a cold drink or some cookies and most of the time: for both.


We would end up in the most little villages, asking people if there was a place to stay for the night and then sometimes (if there was no place to stay in this little village) we would end of sleeping in the home of a women that decides to take these two strangers in.


Like this very friendly lady: Leeya


It was always a question where we would end the day, but without a question there was always a bed available to stay.

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And we would always turn this tiny room into a complete mess in just a fraction of a second. This happens when you let two cyclist in:



There would be traffic.



In many ways…

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… in all ways…



We would cycle trough places where the road conditions were kind of ‘under construction’. But the people working on them were always very friendly.


…Just like the rest of the Javanees. We would cycle, surrounded by smiles.


Most of them very friendly and heartwarming.


Some of them very loud with pointing fingers, right in your face. Like being laughed at, for a good one.


But some of them, just smile like no other can.


There would be girls on our way assuming that we were married, and there would be me that wouldn’t even make the effort to deny this assumption.


And then there was Hugo, coming back from the toilet and then slowly it became clear that yes, in this fraction of a minute that he was away and I was just talking to this girl it all happened… we became husband and wife. Priceless. The look on your face as well Hugo!


Also priceless; the beautiful surrounding to cycle in. With lots of respect for the many hard working people on our way.

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And some very scenic places with mountains or volcanos (of course from a distance, since Hugo was carefully checking the elevation of our route)

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We would pass many kids going to school by foot or by bike.

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There would be many small children running for us as I was trying to make a foto.


There were some brave guys with the right attitude to accept the challenge and pose for a picture.


And then after school time, we would be surrounded by kids playing outside. Just like the two of us: riding a bike.





We would be asked for many pictures in return. “Mister can I take a picture?”


‘Foto, Foto’?






Cycling in Java. We would become celebrities ;)


And then, after all those kilometres of fun and hard work on a bicycle: we would reach our destination! After 750 km we arrived in Yogyakarta and celebrated this achievement with a visit to the two famous temples that Yava has got: Prambanan and the Borobodur. And that’s worth a picture!


Or two ;)


And that’s exactly what everybody else was doing…


Taking pictures…


But although it was kinda touristic….


…it also was kinda beautiful…







So we tried our best to show us from our best side…

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And while I just entertained myself by observing people, and seeing how children could entertain themselves playing with some sand and little rocks…


… while grown-ups were taking selfies.


For Hugo… the most entertaining part of this touristic circus was probably the acknowledgement that since there were so many tourists… there might be a chance to find a beer in the end.


And so there was! Just one beer to say cheers to my friend. You did well! You suffered, you laughed, and we made it to the end. Thank you for accepting the challenge, thank you for being a friend!

Now we have ourselves a big story to tell in the end ;)

Ohhh and before I forget; we did see the train. Even more than ones. And we can imagine… That must have been ‘a hell of a ride’! :)


“living the life!” Yeah baby! ;)



p.s Hugo, I hope you don’t mind, when people ask me if I am married, I still show our picture! ;)


10 thoughts on “Cycling Java – living the life!

  1. Great description Janneke. It reminds us very much of our experiences in Indonesia. Lots of smiles, lots of foto foto mister and lots of chaos!

  2. Mooi verhaal Jannie!!
    De foto’s maken het af,ik kijk en herbeleef de geuren en kleuren in mijn brein.
    Het gaat je goed lieve Janneke!

  3. Lieve Jann!

    Wat een geweldig verhaal weer..zoals jij vertelt “fiets” ik gewoon met je mee tijdens je avontuur, echt super!
    Tot “snel” weer, succes met alles & pura vida!
    Big hugs and kisses your “longest” friend ?

  4. Wat leuk dat je ook in Indonesie bent geweest Lucienne. Binnenkort meer verhalen, in geur en kleur, speciaal voor jou ;) Veel groetjes!

  5. Hi Jane, nice to hear from you! It’s so funny, speaking about chaos, I really didn’t realise how chaotic it was until I reached Singapore. This massive big city feels just so organised, peacefull and quiet, that I then would realise; jeps it was kind of full-on. But oh so beautiful! Sending some sunshine from Asia to NZ!

  6. Mooi dat jullie met me meefietsen Kim! ;) Dikke knuffel voor mijn ‘grootste’ vriendin (op Hugo na uiteraard) ;)

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