Feb 23, 2003
In my on going quest for new faces and new places, I decided to head down to Sumatra, Indonesia. Feeling a bit landlocked here in Thailand, since I cannot take my bike across into Mynmar, China, or Vietnam. Have had a few friends head down to Indonesia, but not many. So just wanted to take a look for myself. The bike of choice is my oldest Africa Twin. Figured if I lost it for some reason, it would not be too heart breaking....
The trip is in two parts. I needed to ferry down my newest Africa Twin to Pattaya in order to get a license plate on it. ( Long story ...) So phase one is to throw my small travel bag on the back of the bike and head south to Pattaya from my home of Chiang Mai. It is about a 8 hour ride. I am off !!

In Thailand by culture you are not supposed to lose your temper. I have been here a long time and generally abide by that concept. Basically you lose face here by losing your temper. However for certain special cases....So there I am traveling down the road about a hour out from Bangkok. Two lanes in my direction , a divided area with trees, and two lanes in the other direction. Doing about 120 KPH in the faster lane as there is a lot of slow truck traffic in the slow lane. Next thing I know there is a car almost touching the left side of the bike. He is slowly forcing me over into the divided area. I swerve over instinctively towards the center area almost going off the road, and then he zooms by in front of me taking my former space. He had apparently decided that I was not following close enough to the car in front of me, and he was going to cut me off, go in front, and get to Bangkok one second faster. So I fell in behind him. After giving the matter some thought, the little red road rage warning light started winking in the corner of my eye. My life traded for one second faster to Bangkok for him ???
My chance came about 10 minutes later as there was a red traffic light that blocked him in. I zoomed up on the shoulder of the road , jumped off the bike, and ran up to his car as it sat there. I started screaming all the Thai swear words I know at him. He looked out the window and shrugged his shoulders. I then tried to break in his window to drag him outside, but the elbow pads in the riding jacked worked against me. By then the light had turned green, and I was only able to get in a few good kicks on his door panel before he took off like a frightened rabbit. I may have over-reacted a bit, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. At least I was not lying in bed that night grinding my teeth about what I should have done. And maybe he will think twice before cutting off a bike again. Sorry no pictures !!!

Finally reach Bangkok at night. Bumper to bumber traffic always, some of the worst in the world. Not moving very much, and hot even at night. No place for an air cooled bike. I have routing software for Thailand, which makes going through Bangkok a snap. Otherwise it can be a bit confusing..........

My bike enjoying some of the vibrant Bangkok night life.

This is a elevated toll road that goes part way from Bangkok to Pattaya. One of the more bizarre public projects I have ever seen. There is room below to put in ten lanes in each direction. Instead they spent billions of baht for this elevated road that is barely used. It goes on for mile after mile. Somebody made a lot of money on this project.

Finally in Pattaya. Time to go over the old Africa Twin to make sure it will survive the trip. Rear tire showed about 70% left. Hmmm decision point. Have to order tires to get them down here. So decided the tire would make it. More on that much later...

I had put in a new clutch cable not a year ago. Having worked on the newer bike in Chiang Mai I decided that there was a better way to route the clutch cable. When I pulled it to re-route it this is what I found. Luckily had a spare. It was sheer luck I found this problem, as I kept thinking the cable was almost new.

Ok bike is ready to go I think. By the way I did NO preparation for this trip whatsoever. Just wanted to give a try at the " jump and go" system of traveling. My bikes are generally in pretty good shape so never much work there. Just throw some clothes in one saddle bag, tools and spare parts in the other saddle bag, and go. Always like to take a departure picture before leaving in case something happens.....

Giant bird by the side of the road on the way down to Malaysia. No idea why....Chalk it up to "Amazing Thailand" .

Many consumer products contain palm oil. Here is what they look like before they are pressed out. Malaysia is covered in palm oil plantations. They grow fast, and are a high dollar value crop. Am now starting to see more and more of these large plantations in Thailand.

The main highway south. A pretty good road by any standards in the world.

Many stands along the side of the road selling things. Yes, we have bananas today.

Now getting near the border with Malaysia. Weather is good, and the bike is running well with the exception of a slight high speed miss. More on that later. Decide it would be a good idea to get a extra liter of motor oil as I am not sure how much the bike will use in Sumatra. Stop in a medium sized town at a motorcycle parts place. Buy the same oil that is in the bike and off I go. Wait, what is that grinding noise I hear as the bike is starting off ? Sounds like a rear bearing. Center stand the bike, grab each side of the wheel and feel for looseness. Seems tight. Hmmm. Take off again. More grinding and a sort of lurch to the side. Ok now know it is a bearing. Travel into the town itself and find a small shop that has a couple of big bikes. He seems happy to see my bike. Pulled off the rear wheel, and ball bearings are dropping on the ground. He jumps on his small bike, heads off to some store somewhere and comes back with new bearings. About an hour, a total bill of about 20 dollars, and I am off down the road again.

Here is what a really chewed up bearing looks like.
Feb 23, 2003
Spent the night at the border town between Thailand and Malaysia as it was dark by then. The more you ride in Asia the less you are willing to ride at night. If you get caught by bad planning or bad bearings the trick is to go slow or follow behind a car.
This town is most notable for its sex trade. The entirety of the sex business there is from Malaysians that go up there looking for fun. The town is full of karaoke bars, and there are available girls everywhere. Think I was the only western tourist there !! One club was named the KY club in case you were not sure what went on inside...

Finally cross into Malaysia. I asked at the Malaysian side if they needed any paperwork to import the bike in. He smiled, said no, and welcome to Malaysia. I will bring this pleasant entry into Malaysia later on to customs people in Indonesia........
About a two hour ride from the border to Penang. It is a toll road but free for motorcycles. Love the special little bypass lanes that are just for motorcycles.

Malaysian is pretty tough on corruption. Here is the sign that is up in the customs office. 10 years in jail for an official who solicits a bribe, and two years in jail for a person who gives money in hopes of speeding things up. We need these kind of laws in Thailand !

When I came into Penang I met up with my older brother Mark. He had just sailed the boat down from Phuket. He had originally bought the boat in Calif. He then sailed through the South Pacific over to Thailand. Now he was in process of selling the boat so needed to take it to Malaysia in order to complete the deal. A truly beautiful boat.

The wind speed indicator was not longer working on the boat. So strap on a harness , and up the mast I go. Time for me to earn my " free accommadations" . Hmm, the boat looks a long way away from here. Did not look that bad from the deck....

Mast top self photo.

Amazing enough there is a full on KTM dealer in Penang. I always thought the closest one one was in Singapore. This one was KTM only.

The owner, Kenny, was the nicest guy in the world. He helped me a lot. He also has a regular shop name Planet Cycle.

They did a full service on the bike. Thought the high speed miss was from dirt in the carb. The mechanic took it all apart, and indeed did find a fair amount of Cambodian dirt in the carb. Fresh oil, all back together, and then I am off.

Goal now is to ship the bike by cargo ship over to Sumatra. This is the first of many many many pieces of paper generated by the movement of the bike. Went to the export company in Georgetown in the morning. Paid the shipping cost, about 280 ringit. The shipping agent kept asking if I had a carnet. I said no, that people who were going around the world had carnets. I was only going to one county and did not think I needed one. He just shrugged his shoulders and said I may have problems on Sumatra.....More on that later.Now had export papers in hand. Off to the container terminal where large items are shipped out. It was a short ferry ride across to the mainland.

Here is my bike patiently waiting at the warehouse to be loaded, with bags of onions and sugar as companions.

Here is the Indonesian freighter that was going to take my bike over in the evening.

Ok. US dollar for major backup. Check. Thai baht for return to Thailand. Check. Malaysian ringit for local expenses. Check.
Indonesian rupiah for expenses when I first get to Sumatra. Check. A lot of border crossings generates a lot of different currencies
to be changed. Ready to go in the morning.....
Feb 23, 2003
Have now taken the ferry over to the port of Belawan in Sumatra. Arrived too late to do any customs work. So off in a taxi to the city of Medan. About an hour ride away. A busy city of about 4 million people. With no trip planning ended up in a flea bag hotel that my brother found. He came with me in the hopes of renting a bike but that did not work out. He ended up going back after a couple of days in Sumatra. The hotel happened to be located right next to a huge mosque. The next morning at 5:00 AM was my first introduction to the call for prayer. Via very large loudspeakers.....
I needed my phone to get things done the next day. I had bought a simm card on the boat for my phone but did not have a power adapter. A little ingenuity by stabbing instruments into my fan cord, then taping to the charger.

The next day is the beginning of two straight days of hell. One hour taxi ride back out to customs at the port and hell begins.
" Where is your carnet?? "
Uhhhh I am only going to the country of Indonesia. Carnets are for travelers going around the world.
" Every other motorcycle that came here had a carnet"
That is because they were all going around the world....

Back and forth for hours, and the final answer is no. I then say no problem, I will ship the bike back to Malaysia and spend all my money traveling around Malaysia. Uhhhh wait. New answer is if I went to the US embassy they could issue some sort of guarantee letter that would work. However they are in Jakarta, a long ways away. I can see my holiday slipping away by the minute. Here I am being shown a carnet at the funky customs office at the warehouse. Am thinking so what??

So complete impasse. I am in a sort of amazed state. Here I am , coming to a country with almost no tourism, ready to travel and spend money, and customs is doing everything possible to stop me. Wonder if their tourism department knows what is going on. Ok when things look bad, time for lunch.
This is a type of Indonesian buffet at your table. They set out lots of dishes and only charge you for what you eat. But be careful, because if you eat a single bite they will charge you for the plate.

Time for the big guns now. I call a friend of Kenny's in Medan name Jusri. He shows up with some friends as well as some uniformed soldiers in the naval police. So now we all go back to customs in a big group. Back and forth and finally some sort of deal is struck that my friend Jusri will guarantee my departure through his motorcycle club. Payment is made of 170 US dollars.
Some of that was actual customs fees, and most of it disappeared somewhere. Hated to pay it but had little choice. So finally after two days, at the end of the second day I picked up the bike and left hell. Time to have fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here is the money changer and his charming daughter located next to my hotel in Medan. Now that the trip is on time to load up on rupiah. She had a truly beatific smile.

Finally the open road !! Out of Medan and heading south to Lake Toba. Thoughts about evil customs people fade away with the beauty of the country side. Light rain the first day and low clouds gave a kind of mysterious feel along with the endless greenery. I was riding with two friends from Medan, both on BMWs.

Down to Lake Toba.

Fish farming on the lake.

Of course a few of the local guys had to try the bike on for size.

All three bikes lined up at the lake.

They are planning on building a resort here at the northern end of the lake.
It was a small town named Tongii. Here is the site.

Here is looking down at the lake. Think BIG lake.....
This is only the tiniest part of it. It is the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia.

Here is an overlook point at about 1500 meters high looking down on the lake.

Some views from the overlook point.

Waterfall in the distance.

The AT admiring the view.

Loved the little villages nestled in the valleys.

My two friends has split off to go back to Medan so I was now on my own. After the loop of the lake I returned to spend another night there. There is the island located in the middle of the lake.
Although everyone calls it an island, there actually is a small land connection. So technically
it is a peninsula. Here is what 5 dollars gets you. A bungalow located right on the lake shore.
Here is the view looking in at my room at the Bagus Bay resort.


And the view looking out.

And way out to the front of the resort on the lake. Picture yourself in those chairs sipping
a cup of Sumatra coffee. Mmmmmmmm.
Feb 23, 2003
Ok, time for island tour! Sumatra coffee in the morning, and I am off. This will be a slow photo ride, so ATGATT is out the window. Sandals, shorts, and a T shirt was my choice along with my camera. With lots of stops riding gear would have been too hot. Now the odd thing about the Lake Toba area is the fact that it is heavily Catholic in a heavily Muslim country. No idea why. Every church I passed was Catholic. So all over the island are these tombs for people who have passed. They varied from fairly simple to elaborate beyond belief showing the wealth of the deceased. Here is an average one.

This one looked like a rocket getting ready to head to Mars !!

But the odd part to me was the fact that almost all of them were in proximity to houses or villages. In the western world we gather up dead people and stick them in cemeteries. When I asked a local about this, he started laughing and told me a perfectly charming answer. They believe when people die their spirit is still sort of hanging around. So they think the spirit is happier when it is close to the family. Makes sense to me !!

Saw a lot of these style of houses. On some of the elaborate tombs with a little house on top it would duplicate the same roof style. This style was unique to Lake Toba.

Ever go on a tour and feel you just did not bring enough stuff??? Missing that camp chair and big cooler?? How about the set up on this bike ? Now you could take a much stuff as you wanted !!

This is a hot springs waterfall located just on the mainland from Lake Toba.
Poor perspective but I liked the look of it. Normally hot water comes up from the ground, rare to see it falling down.

Rocks in the stream bed were colored yellow from the sulfur.

Of course below the hot spring waterfall were pipes taking the hot water down near the lake to tourist places with tubs and small pools. I parked the bike and walked into one getting ready to jump in the water. The owner comes over all excited and keeps telling me no, that I must go. WTF??
He leads me back outside to another entrance with this sign on it.

I am not much of an elitist but was willing to follow his program. Now up to the luxurious big pool. Yeah baby !!

One of the many many reasons not to go fast . This was around a blind corner. The bridge was out so a detour went around it. No signage.....

Here is another reason to go slow. When the trucks break down, which they do often, they simply walk back along the road and throw some branches on it to warn you. Then the truck spends the day blocking the lane while they rebuild rear wheels. Not a real problem on a straight away, but on a blind turn can be deadly.

Scenes along the way. Young boys keeping track of the family buffalo.
They were very excited to see pictures of themselves.

Pretty common sight along roads late afternoon when the buffalo are led from grazing back to their homes. They look fierce with big horns sticking out but are quite docile. You simply head directly into them and they will slowly move out of your way. Have never spooked one before.

Rice harvesting. You think your job is tough ?????

So there I am doing a loop of the island in shorts and sandals, going slow and taking pictures. For 2/3 of the island it was a perfect paved roads, and I was apportioning out my time based upon that. Suddenly the road turns into dirt and heads up the mountainside to go around the steep part on the southern end of the island. Damn !!!!! Sort of pick my way along the first part, thinking rough but doable. Now the road that looked straight on the GPS is doing endless switchbacks and looping all over. Dusk is approaching and I still have a long way to go on a road that is getting worse by the kilometer.....
Then I am paddling through big mud bogs, and on the pegs hammering up steep parts covered in loose rocks. My bike really hates big loose rocks......
Looking down at my mud covered sandals, and past my bare knees at the endless rocks, am thinking things have gone really wrong but just have to gut it out. Besides if I fell and hurt myself I could just edit that part out !! Just when the road is at its worst I started seeing filled in potholes as I am heading down to the city. So it slowly turns better and finally into pavement. Now I am whizzing down with a smile on my face. Made it to the hotel just at dark. Here a early portion of the road. No pictures of the bad upper part as at that point I was moving fast to beat darkness.

Relaxing on the ferry ride from the island back to the mainland.
Feb 23, 2003
Now am leaving Lake Toba and heading south on the main Sumatra Highway. My friends recommended I detour over to Silboga. Here are some kids doing some sort of dirt gathering for their school. As you can see they are willing subjects as they are fighting to get in front!!

I then sort of lined them up for a more orderly shot.

The apex of a lot curves looked like this. Sumatra is no place to be playing Ricky Racer leaned over into turns.

Speaking of curves take a look at this one handed shot I took following behind a truck. Think carefully....... Now think meeting the front of this truck around a blind curve......Riding is on the left side. After a few near head ons with these huge trucks, I quickly learned to go around curves on the inside 1 meter of the road. No swinging wide to the painted line here!! Then I was prepared to jam the left bar to counter steer me into the shoulder, a better place than the front bumper of a truck. Also a lot of horn application into the blind corners helps.

Moving sand around using small boats. No idea why or where it was from.

A fairly common street scene through small to medium sized towns.

School bus a bit full?? No problem jump on top !

For some mysterious reason every tricycle type cab in this town used a Vespa to power it. Think that would be my very last choice of a bike !!

Close up.

Gas stations are everywhere so no problem to fill up.
From big ones...

To small ones...

That same day riding at a reasonable rate of speed I had three near accidents. Here is the first one. Riding through a construction zone I spy this fair size rock on the other side. Think no problem. Next thing I know a big truck comes flying through on the opposite side towards me. His front tire catches the rock PERFECTLY on the edge and sends it flying like a bullet towards me. It hits exactly at the front of my wheel, all but knocking me down. With some wild gyrations I manage to stay upright. WTF ?? What are the odds of that ??

Then I am following behind a small truck on a straight section of road. I speed up getting ready to pass him. At the exact moment I am about to go past him he violently swerves over into the side I was about to pass into. He apparently was dodging a pothole I could not see. I jam the brakes and his bumper goes past my front wheel by inches. If I had come up a couple of seconds sooner he would have knocked me right off the road.
Next I going down a long straightaway. There is a long line of trucks coming my way. Suddenly a big bus swerves out into my lane coming straight at me. It was not even a bad pass on his part. It was get off the road or die. Sort of a might makes right in the real world. I had to come to a sudden stop and pull over on the side of the shoulder while he zoomed past in my lane. I figured out the planets were aligned against me, so went slow the rest of the day.

Sights along the way. Here is a sort of wild hot spring in the jungle. No bathing pools here.

This is a small guest house I stayed at in this small town. No sign to indicate what it was, had to follow taxi instructions. As I am unpacking my bags there is a huge crowd politely waiting for me to finish. They then told me I was very happy I was staying in the town. I asked in a puzzled voice why. They said they were proud because I was the first foreigner to stay in the town. Somehow that struck me as very funny.

Here is my breakfast spot in the next small town of Panti. By the time I finished my meal there was 40 kids in a crowd outside the small restaurant watching every move I made. Part way through the meal I made as if I was going to get up and lunge outside at them. They all ran screaming like the very devil was after them. When I smiled to show I was joking around they all came back laughing as well.

Little Muslims on the way to school.

Was ambling down the highway when I saw this equator sign. Did not realize I was crossing it till I looked down at the GPS.

Sure enough !! A whole lot of zeroes.

One horse power versus 55 horsepower.
Feb 23, 2003
Have now reached Bukittinggi, sort a center of tourism in that area. Spent three days there. Did contract a tour guide named Ame to ride around with me to show me some of the more obscure spots. Here we are are a nice cave system full of noisy bats. You can see the cave openings in the back ground.

Here is a royal palace outside of town a fair ways.

One of the royal bed chambers.

This old lady was selling some sort of tree based liniment. In order to sell it she would give out samples, and then sit you in this chair while rotating the rollers along the calf of your leg. Felt pretty good !!

When I came back that day I stopped at a beauty salon for a haircut. The two girls that worked there were so funny I asked them what else they did other than haircuts. Why facials of course! Ok bring it on. Felt pretty good actually. Just so you do not think all this road travel is rough and tough.

Giant moth outside my room.

All these girls were from university, and spoke excellent english. When we went outside they all wanted to have their pictures taken with the giant weird western man. I told the one in the white scarf she was pretty small. All the other girls were laughing their heads off. She looked hurt for a second, then her face lights up and she tells me she is small but cute. Had to agree.

The clock tower in town. Everybody was very proud of it, as it sort of defined the town much like a town in Europe.

Snack seller. Had no idea what any of it was....

Sort of a canyon overlook at the edge of town.

Here is your first Indonesian lesson. Awas means be careful.

Hati-hati is an elevated threat level, closer to danger. Kinda nice to be able to sort of read the signs. Unlike Thailand where all the signs look like they are covered in worms.

Always lots of monkeys crossing the road. Ain't in Kansas anymore......

A lake near to Bukittinggi that was pretty scenic. Here they are bagging up live fish raised on fish farms. I assumed they were going off to market. The bag would be 3/4 full of fish and water. They would then blast in air to fill the bag, tie it off, and then pitch it into the truck.

Think the Weber brothers could ride this?? Rice paddy trail riding..

My lunch spot on the lake. Spent a long time talking to the owner who had worked overseas
in America. Very nice man.

Here is the road leading down to the lake. Endless hairpin curves.

And here is what it looks like on the GPS.

Need to dry some stuff?? Just use the road. Another reason to go slow...

Apparently there is a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer who uses the name of KTM. They must
be flying under the radar, as I am sure the real KTM attorneys would make short work of them if they
knew !!!

Close up. If you know someone at KTM be sure to pass this onto them. Seems a bit unfair to simply
steal the name of a well known company.
Feb 23, 2003
Now need to backtrack up north to see Banda Aceh. Always hate to see the same stretch of road twice but in this case have little choice. Here is a wedding being held on Sunday. I saw this a lot where they would make up these elaborate hand made signs congratulating the couple.

This was the singer in the wedding band. He kept wanting me to come over to the wedding as a special guest and sing something in English. I laughed and told him if I started singing everyone would leave.

This is back on the main highway connecting north and south Sumatra. The section of road is so steep that buses and trucks make a run up the hill, then the guy you see runs behind and puts rocks under the wheel. Then at the top of the hill is a Catepillar bull dozer with a long cable going down the hill.
They then hook up the bus and drag it to the top. Seems a bit odd for a major highway.......This from a country with a GDP nearly twice that of Thailand. Have a feeling a lot of the country's money is sitting in Swiss bank accounts, as they sure as hell are not putting it into the roads.

Smiling bike wash girls. Cost of 1 dollar. Worth all the smiles.

There were many spots on the road in small towns where they would solicit donations to help build a mosque. Just slow down and pitch the money in the net.

Ok I will donate some money.

Now have left Medan to ride direct to Banda Aceh. It is about a 12 hour ride with limited stops. Things are going smoothly until about 3 in the afternoon. The rear end starts feeling a bit mushy. Damn !! Flat tire. Right across the highway is a tire repair place. Hah ! A bit of good luck...

He immediately lights some diesel in a small piston and lets it heat up. He seemed pretty impressed I had a spare tube. But I did want to fix the old one. It was a pinch flat from hitting one of the endless pot holes.
He takes the hole, dabs on some black mystery product, and put what looks like a small squard piece of inner tube. He then puts it in his home made press and leaves it there for about 20 minutes. It looks good but I have not tested it yet. Total charge was .50 cents. I smiled and paid him 2 dollars.

Finally reach Banda Aceh. Late....... Next day time to tour around. I stopped at a couple of outdoor sort of cafes for a cup of coffee. There were some pretty tough looking guys there. I told them I had heard all about the rebels in Banda Aceh, and for them to please not shoot me. They are about dying with laughter, and start asking me to please sit with them and have coffee. Fun loving guys....Here is a site out by the harbor.

Some foundations out by the coast. Locals told me the whole coastline had changed.

Second story was still not safe.

The power of the wave that hit here was amazing. It was like a nuclear blast, leveling everything.
I have seen a lot of the video footage of the tsunami hitting Phuket that tourists filmed. It did not seem that violent. What hit here just cleaned everything out. Here are bridge stanchions with steel
poles that were simple wiped off.

Here is the new breakwater they are building. Does not look strong enough to stop another tsunami.

They have built lots of new housing. So if you donated money it seems to actually be used
to build houses. Once away from the immediate coast you can hardly tell there was a tsunami.
Pretty good for only two years.

Now here is a sight that chaps my ass. These NGOs ( Non Governmental Organization) solicit money to help third world countries. Then they give themselves fat salaries, and buy $ 70,000 SUV like this one. I see this a lot in Cambodia and it really pisses me off. The value of this car could buy 10 new homes there. They should be driving around old beat up pick up trucks.....
Feb 23, 2003
Let's see...Time to log some island time !!! North of Banda Aceh is the island of Pulua Weh. So decided to take the ferry up north to check it out. Here I am patiently waiting for the ferry to board.

While moving the bike to get ready to board I ended up sort of backing the bike up. There was a sand hump that my rear wheel hit perfectly on the edge making the bike go sideways and then down. There are about 60 people watching and laughing when I hit the ground. Somehow I hit my shin as I fell over. Uprighted the bike, joined the line ,and tried to look nonchalant as blood is pouring down my leg and a walnut size lump is forming on my shin. This picture is taken 5 hours later. ( Note to self. Do not back up
heavily loaded tour bikes)

Some of my traveling companions.

More traveling companions. These young guys were traveling over to Sabang to work on a construction job. They kept asking about Arnold the governor of Calif., and if I knew any rap songs. They were truly funny, and kept me in stitches for the whole trip. When they demanded I take a picture of them, I yawned and said why bother ??? Just wanted to even up the leg pulling!!

Yeah baby ! On the island. If you are looking at snow outside your window now, maybe you should skip this part of the report.

Here is the village of Iboh where I stayed for three days.

Sunken ship in front of the village. Not sure if it was tsunami damage or somebody punched a hole in
the side.

This girl's job was to pull up water from the well so the older women could do the washing. When I started calling her the Water Girl she was laughing so hard she could hardly pull the bucket up.

The million dollar view out the front of my bungalow in Iboh. I could almost but not quite jump from the front of the balcony into the sea.

This is the 5 dollar view to the inside. Seems like they did not match up very well. This area is pretty well known on the backpacker circuit, so accommodations are a bit weak. Price is right anyway.

The walkway to the front door. Could be dicey if there was some heavy drinking involved.

This is the front of my bungalow. Needless to say I tried to minimize the time I spent close to the front railing...........

The common shower area. I liked the sign about peeing on the floor.

This is dinner at Moma Mia's restaurant. There was only one table. As I entered the " resort " area
I see this woman yelling that she is Moma and for me to come and talk to her. Sure !! After an enjoyable
chat she demanded I come for dinner. I had this sense she had to ask you to come or you were not eating there. ( Am not kidding. There was only one table in front of her house) I ended up eating there every night I was there. One of my many many many many enjoyable encounters in Sumatra.

Next day is island tour time. Hey, new objects in the road to run in front of me. Cute little goats. Had a feeling if you hit them they would be pretty dense.

The tourist map was promoting a hot spring on the south end of the island. I am a bit of an addict for hot water in exotic places so off I go. This had to be the worst hot springs in the world. The water was tepid making it perfect for growing algae.

Great view though out to the ocean.

I liked this tree stump stuck in the middle of an intersection. Another reason to go slow. These sort of mysterious objects are all over, and the best reason not to drive faster than your line of sight.

Drove up the mountain next to the main city of Sabang. At the top found this military camp. Think they were guarding the communication equipment at the top. I was just going to turn around and head back when they ran up to the gate and invited me in. Fun to talk to them. I said the one soldier in the tropical camo outfit looked like a real soldier, and the other guys looked sort of scruffy. They all got a big hoot out of that!!

Next item of interest on the tourist map is " the volcano". Ok, I'll bite. Up and down the jungle road but could not find any trace of it. I could smell sulfur but could not see anything. Nice road anyway.
Liked these big leaves.

Finally stop an old man on the road and show him the picture of the volcano as he does not speak a word of english. Big smile, and he gives me the universal signal to follow him. Up the road a ways by bike, dismount, and then we are beating our way through the jungle. As in no path whatsoever. And these palm fronds have hooked thorns on them that keep catching my flesh. Only time I wished I was a lot shorter.

Finally we are there. It looks like the side of the mountain blew out. I was a bit disappointed given the work and thorn scratches I had suffered to get there.

Now I see all these sort of sulfur tinged vent holes so of course I have to walk out to investigate.

As I am walking around out in the open part the ground feels sort of soft and mushy in areas. I look back and see my " guide" sitting in the safe area next to the jungle. Hmmmm. Maybe he knows something I do not??? Suddenly have visions of myself falling into some sort of lava pocket.....Now I carefully retrace my steps as best as I can to solid ground to rejoin my "guide". Here he is cleverly sitting in the safe area.

Next day time to go back to the mainland. I get up at daybreak to get to the ferry dock an hour before departure. While driving out of Iboh half asleep I see a giant monitor lizard at least five feet long go across the road right in front of me. I come to a stop and grab my camera just as his tail is disappearing into the jungle on the other side. Damn !!!!! Missed it. So I continue on to the ferry dock. The big trucks had already been loaded at nightime, and they were loading the last few cars when I pulled up. The motorcycles were being kept to the side like wild dogs.

So they save a small space in front for the motorcycles to fit into. Let the crowding begin!

Hey wait!! What about me??

With small quiet sobs escaping my lips, and tears running down my cheeks I watched the ferry leave without me. Think I need to work on my crowding aboard skills.......

Not to fear! It is coming back in 7 hours. Time to wash the bike to kill time.

And of course check out the local fish market at the port.

All is now well in the world of Rob. Managed to get aboard the second ferry. Chinese love story? Check!
Vanilla wafers? Check! Crummy plastic seats ? Check! Ok , cast the dock lines and let's go !!
Feb 23, 2003
Hit Banda Aceh off the ferry at about 4 in the afternoon. I wanted to knock some time off the ride to Medan so I headed down the road to Sigli. I got there just at nightfall. Now time to find a hotel. Hmmm. Am being directed all around but cannot seem to find one. Finally stop at a gas station where a motorcycle tricycle with his family aboard took pity on me and said he would help me find a hotel. His wife and maybe 8 year old daughter were with him. We went to three different places and they were all full. Was feeling sort of tired from getting up at 5 AM, and things not going well were sort of getting me down. After the last full hotel, his little girl who had been dying to practice her school book english,
turns around , and in perfect english shouts out " ok mister, let's go !" in her little girl voice. A funny and unexpected moment that cheered me up.
Finally found a guest house. Whewww. Now out to dinner. While sitting there the brother of the restaurant owner comes over to sit with me. His english was excellent. I was talking to him about how much I liked traveling in Indonesia, and how friendly all the people I had met were. He said no, he was not really Indonesian but rather Acehenese . I saw this over and over in northern Sumatra. So there may not be fighting anymore but they still see themselves as different. Here is one of the very funny restaurant workers.
Everybody said they were former rebels , not sure if they were joking or not......

Now leaving about 6:00 in the morning to be sure I reach Medan by dusk.
Turns out that dripping sound I heard all night was not leaky pipes but rather rain. Oh well. Into every life a little rain must fall...Only the second rainy day of the trip.

This is a pretty typical stop. I pull over for some Sumatra coffee and sweet rolls. The little cafe had maybe 5 people there. Somehow word gets out on the bamboo telegraph and next thing I know half the village is crowded in watching every move I make. Then a very pleasant young man who was apparently the best english speaker comes over to ask me many things. Clearly he was a Muslim as well. He also told me his dream was to go to America. I tried to keep a straight face, and told him America did not want him to come because he was a Muslim.....Then I started cracking up. He translated the joke for everyone in the room and they all started laughing as well. Every single place I stopped was like this. A lot of fun every time.
If you come be sure to bring your sense of humor, as I have never met a more fun loving group of people in the world. Here the village is seeing me off.

Sights along the way. Think you can fit a living room set on your bad ass
adventure bike???

Rice paddy work in the rain. My back hurt just to watch them.

This paving problem was right on the main highway. No signs, absolutely nothing to show what was ahead. If you were traveling at night and hit this you would be down for sure. Or if you came around a truck on a high speed pass. Another reason to go slow...

The end of my tire. Back in Medan so no problem. Greg, you can skip this part.....Knew it was going to be close but not this close. The rough roads and endless turns ate up my tires a bit faster than I thought. Had arranged for a new set to be put on when I arrived in Penang so it worked out perfect. Had a lot of
fun getting rid of all that rubber stuck on the tire......

Yes, it is now time to re-enter customs hell at the port to exit the country. Now you would assume that all the paper work would have been generated by the entry, so the exit would be to just sign a few forms and leave. You would be wrong. It took one whole day of running around with papers in hand going from office to office. The whole time I kept waiting for the candid camera guy to pop out and say all this nonsense was a joke. But he never did....... More papers , more money , and finally I am free to drop it off at the secured customs warehouse. Some of the endless papers.

This is Harris the naval policeman. He did a lot of the work in getting my paperwork processed. Without him I do not think I could have made the trip. Thanks Harris !!!!!!!! Told him he was free to take the bike for a spin around the docks but he passed.

The ferry ride back. These boats are not plugging along at 10 knots. According to my GPS we were
doing about 29 KPH.

Being a former ship captain I happened to notice that the cable holding one of the ship's life raft to the water release was rusted away. This meant that rough seas might have knocked the raft out of the cradle since there was nothing holding it in. I took this photo and then went up to the bridge and showed it to the first mate who immediately showed it to the captain. He thanked me profusely and sent someone to fix it immediately.

Yes, it is back to reams of paperwork to clear the bike back into Malaysia. My favorite part was where I was escorted in the office of the head guy. He then pointed out that the engine number on my Thai registration document did not match one of the twenty documents on the desk . A typo error done over in Sumatra. I looked at him and said I basically had no frigging idea who filled it out, why it was wrong. But that the Thai original document was correct and he was welcome to go out to the dock area to look at the bike directly and check it. Then the woman in the office hinted that perhaps I had changed the engine. ...... That is when I started to lose it a bit. It was the ultimate paper work job justification mill, and I was being ground up in the middle of it. Remember this is the same country that when you enter from Thailand they stamp your passport and smile as you drive into the country. Now they were acting like I was importing a nuclear submarine....
After five straight hours of this nonsense, I leaned over the counter, wrote my telephone number on a piece of paper, told them to call me when they got through the complex process of importing a motorcycle that they had just exported three weeks earlier, turned on my heel and headed for the front door.The customs officer looked nervous and kept saying I could not leave. I started laughing , said I always did what I wanted to do, and left. As I was taking the ferry back over to Penang they frantically called me begging me to come back to pick up the bike. Told them I would be back in the morning.
The next day I showed up at the customs office at 8:30 AM. It was almost completely deserted.Damn !!
Then I look at the same counter I was at the day before. There the same guy is, the only guy in the whole office, clutching my customs release papers in his hand. He seems very happy to see me, hands me the paper work, and says everything is done. Think they realized they had gone way too far. I really do not like to get that aggressive, but sometimes it is the only way to get the ball rolling. Sadly the more passive you are the less it seems things get done. Here totaling up handling fees, and then done !!!
Feb 23, 2003
Trip summary...................

One of my most enjoyable trips. Once I cleared the hellish barrier of customs I had the time of my life. Never in all my travels have I been met by strangers with such friendliness. If I needed help they would gladly provide it with nothing asked in return. Thailand is called the land of smiles. Yet I would say that Indonesia would be the hands down smile winner.
What struck me most about the people was their curiosity about the world outside of their country. To me that is always a sign of intelligence. I answered endless questions, but felt happy to provide them with a look at a life other than their own.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. If you received your world outlook from the popular new media, you would have thought that traveling there as an American would have been a death sentence. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Everywhere I went I was asked where I was from, mostly because there are so few tourists traveling in rural areas they are sort of amazed to see me. When I replied I was an American it had no meaning to them, they only saw a very tall polite person in front of them. There was no nationalistic anti-American baggage carried by anyone.
I received more comments about Arnold the governor of Calif. than I ever did about President Bush.
If I sat down to eat in a restaurant, invariably after waiting for me finish someone would simply come over to talk to me. I thought it was sort of cute after a while. I now know what it is like to be a movie star. I had endless pictures taken of me. ( Sort of liked that part too...)
So get out, travel , and form your own opinions about people from other countries. Smile a lot and be your own good will ambassador from your country.
Cheers to all. Next up China in April !


Mar 5, 2006

A truly fascinating report with really good pix. The trip sounds terrific - going really off the the normal SEA m/c track.
The infrastructure bares no comparison to the LoS - perhaps this explains why there was a fight for Aceh's independence?
I wonder though if the Sumatrans are a kinder more hospitable lot when compared with the Javanese whom Balinese say are a lot more mercurial & aggressive?

Brat & Nat's trip report also dwells on bureaucratic nonsense when clearing Malaysian customs. Their belief graft was behind it all?
Do you think that there was anything with hindsight that would have ensured easier passage both into Indo & back into Msia - a carnet or any other document?

This report should satiate our Kafe-bound FL, for a few hours, at least. Thank you for making such an effort and giving us another destination to consider.


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Excellent report & it made me truly envious, especially when it seemed to go so well & be so enjoyable.
What you did not mention though, was the bit about the perfect bike:.......

Now I cant wait for your next adventure, going "the wrong way" & into China on the next cult bike, that Chinese 200/250.
I sincerely hope you make it, despite our little bet that you refused to double last time we sat together inebriated in a bar off the moat in Cnx; because if you dont make it I am going to get extremely good mileage out of it.

Glad you're still out there riding & enjoying life.
Keep the road & trip reports coming in.


Dec 6, 2005

What a story...

It does seem like a shame that so much time is eaten up dealing with bureaucratic nonsense... The amount of stuff that is moved between countries, you would think that temporarily importing a bike would be simple... but I guess nothing ever is...

I loved the story and the photos, thanks for taking the time to write it all up... I know how time consuming it can be...

Jul 6, 2004
top story Robert, great photos.
When I crossed in 2005 I couldn't get thru to Achai because of the Tsunami.
But Lake Tobo and Bukattingi are great places.
Hope to catch up with you guys later in the year.
Keep riding



Nov 7, 2005

If I had known about it I would have joined you...I did Sumatra 10 years ago and it seems that the customs are the same as are the smiles of the school children. Now that you are in Pattaya pls try to brake 100 m. before your condo on soi pattaya park and come in for a beer and a chat. HIKO
Feb 23, 2003
Why David, your bet money will be the first bribe offering I give to the border guards. That way I figure I will be in for free!!![:)]


Originally posted by Davidfl

Excellent report & it made me truly envious, especially when it seemed to go so well & be so enjoyable.
What you did not mention though, was the bit about the perfect bike:.......

Now I cant wait for your next adventure, going "the wrong way" & into China on the next cult bike, that Chinese 200/250.
I sincerely hope you make it, despite our little bet that you refused to double last time we sat together inebriated in a bar off the moat in Cnx; because if you dont make it I am going to get extremely good mileage out of it.

Glad you're still out there riding & enjoying life.
Keep the road & trip reports coming in.



Oct 6, 2006
A pleasure to have met and chatted with you, last week, at Joe's bike shop in Pattaya.
You suggested I look at your 'Sumatra' I'd not previously seen. is the longest, most detailed of any pictorial post I have encountered on
any subject, much less cycling. Congrats on your perseverance to organize and create that tome.

Good luck on that Chinese bike and your adventures to Lhasa....

cdrw 'jay'
Nov 14, 2004
Roby,Boby, what a great report, M8 that is adventure riding to me ,so many corners to see around and so little time.
Hows the @ after the trip, an whats next?
Feb 23, 2003

Originally posted by scot harper

Roby,Boby, what a great report, M8 that is adventure riding to me ,so many corners to see around and so little time.
Hows the @ after the trip, an whats next?

Damage to the AT:

1. Speedo drive gear broken
2. Wore out rear tire
3. Rear wheel bearing completely died
4. The missing of the engine was caused by one of the coil
wires being loose. Fixed in Penang when I got back
5. Broken wiring for rear turn indicator
6. Wore out the brake pads. To be expected with endless turns
7. One flat tire
8. A few dents in the skid pan from bashing down the island road
at Lake Toba

Otherwise the bike performed perfectly. It was my first really long trip on the bike, so I expected a few things to show up........
Nov 14, 2004
Rhieky, nothing that a man of your bore an stroke can't fix!!
daveFl has a war horse standing idle, go for it,he's an accomadation sorta guy ;-) or was it share the Fem fatale, an hands of the @, or your Ass is grass an my names Victor!!! Scott.
Mar 20, 2007
Thanks Robert, most enjoyable read.

BTW, I decided to skip the sandbox trip to take an extended off period in the LOS.



Mar 8, 2004
I'm sitting here in an internet shop on a rainy day and reading this highly interesting report makes me itch to pack my bags!!
By the way, I've been living the last six years in a village between the "Big Bird" and the "banana place" (photos at the beginning of the report). - Stop by next time!
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