After our first two-wheeled adventure in South Africa last Fall, I’ve been banging on about the sheer awesomeness of going on an epic long-distance cycle tour. Sal needed a break from too many airports and global traveling especially after for months of Middle East and African travel last year alone. She’s been to Indonesia and many countries in that area, I haven’t. I hoped to find some local biking tours as I was traveling so I took a chance and went ahead to do some serious training here at home such as daily long bike rides plus two metric century bike rides (each over 63 miles).
In Jakarta, a local government tourism service office was able to locate an Australian company, Cycling Indonesia. There, by a stroke of luck, the next cycling tour was to begin in 5 days in Manado, North Sulawesi, over 1350 miles away. This 13-day biking tour has a distance of about 400 miles with a whopping elevation gain of over 26,000 feet.
I was to meet Colin, the 72-year-old owner/bike guide, at the Manado Airport, and other two bikers, Gil, a 58-year-old Australian lady and Rick, a 69-year old American and Ucok, a local sag wagon driver/bike mechanic. Best of all, a decent bike was waiting for me!
Gil couldnt resist kissing this handsome four-legged feller!
Along the route starting from Manado ending at Gorontalo, we stayed in nine types of accommodations, from International hotel, and quality village homestay to beachside guesthouse and cottage by the beach. We slept under a looming, still active Gunung Lokon volcano (erupted last May 2015), as well as shoreside on Tondano Lake, by the warm Celebes Sea up north toward the Philippines to soaks in hot thermal water. We ate a variety of meals from family homes to amazing local restaurants along the way.
Speaking of food, there are many plantations including coconuts, pineapples, clove, chocolate, chilies, and coffee. Best of all we enjoyed many types of fresh fruit, our favorites were the mangosteen, round, apple-sized, deep purple fruit easily cracked opened by pressing between both palms and the snakeskin fruit, with a sweet and slightly starchy consistency, a cross flavor between pineapple and sweet apples. My favorite was rambutan/buluan, especially the reddish long-haired types with very juicy flesh. Yum!
At times with high heat and extreme humidity, the climbs were very uncomfortable, accomplished with team support and with borderline insane amounts of humor. As an example, Gil (below) had to try that 15-plus pound bag out!
The best part of this amazing trip is the local people, young and old, greeting us with warmth and enthusiastic smiles. Riding through large minority religious groups, inter-religious harmony is the norm, with many mosques and churches everywhere. While riding, I enjoyed reaching out to give high-fives to least a couple of hundred children and always exchanging loud greetings, “Selamat Pagi!” (Good Morning) and “Selamat Siang!” (Good Afternoon). Already, I am missing their infectious giggle fits!