Monday, 20 October 2014

I had it ALL!

What an absolutely amazing day that was! 225 miles in 8 and a half hours, 7 of which in the saddle, lovely places and a lot of ... well, everything, really.
8AM is not looking promising
Mud guards have the purpose in the name! Bang on time, 9AM, as predicted by the BBC, the rain stopped and I hit the road towards Great Yarmouth.

My Gear - Don't hit me!

Bike checked, fuelled and set,
she really behaves badly if the tyre pressure drops just a tad bit.

Given the 1 1/2 hour delay induced by the weather gods, I had decided to skip the first part of the scenic route via Framlingham and to hit Great Yarmouth on a known route with good roads, A14/A143, to get to the coastal route quickly and reliably.

I could have gone across to the A140 but this is as much as a nuisance as the A12. Thanks to missing front mudguard I was still riding in rain despite the clear sky above me. If you can't see a lot it's nice to be on a big wide road that you know. Little tip: avoid running over road kill, very messy!

Whichever way, I managed to find my way to and through Great Yarmouth without electronic helpers and ... really needed a loo! And see what I found in Horsey! Just at the roadside the loveliest little spot for a rest. Parking, loo, tea room, what else to ask for?

Big parking lot and toilets behind the boats!
Is that blue, or what?

Yes! I am a bit greedy :)

yet well deserved after 85 miles!
Refreshed and well fed I set off to Happisburg. I love lighthouses and this one is pretty. There I had the first glimpse of the see, but somehow couldn't be tickled to have a walk and a closer look. So I just took a few pictures and moved on.Roads had dried up, the ride started to be fun.

Almost threw my bike over, uneven ground and all of a sudden really strong wind - scary!

And off I went to Cromer via Bacton along the coast road. I did not expect Cromer to be so pretty and grand.One comes from the top of the hill and all of a sudden there is the most magnificent view, and nowhere to stop to take a picture, argh! I definitely will go back to Cromer some time to explore a bit more. So I just rode on towards Wells-next-the-Sea.

This entire stretch along the Norfolk coastline is absolutely beautiful but a huge challenge for me, really strong winds, tight bends, bad road surface and a lot of farm dirt. It is a really odd feeling if one nicely leans into a bend and then feels displaced by a good few inches due to a gust of wind.

Just had to stop for this idyll
Rather stiff and cold I arrived at my destination and gladly recognised it from this year's trip to a bike show. It is a lively place and having fish and chips is mandatory. Of course I obliged!

There you go!

Last leg along the coast line goes to Hunstanton.Goodness me that was breezy. Loads of bikers there, and yes there is a cliff, just being on it one doesn't really realise. So a quick coffee and a muffin as antidote to the savoury food earlier and then off home for another of couple of hours ride.

there are loads of kite servers out there, mad mad people

Hit Kings Lynn on the way home which is not really the prettiest of towns, bit confusing to ride around, too, but from there everything was plain sailing except the low sun, silly me forgot the shades. On that leg it came from the side through the trees creating strobe light. Got lucky with the cars, all driving well so I could just nicely swim home in the bulk.

There is proof of mileage...

... and dirt. Goodness me we both were filthy

And my bounty... feeling a bit queasy now
Fantastic day, absolutely proud and happy, and glad that I massively enjoyed riding solo. With that insight the sky is the limit.YaY!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Naughty Weather Gods!

Great! The rain is shifting into tomorrow morning apparently, including weather warning and all.

I do not intend to falter, but thought it might be a good idea to put my front mudguard on only to find that the bolts are a few mill too long, so hey ho, again, let's get dirty then!


So there you go, still will have to fuel the bike and check the tyres, but for the rest of it ready to go.

Have a lovely Sunday and wish me luck!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Charging Up!

Ohhhh... getting excited now! It's the weekend and as promised yesterday I am preparing for a trip. Thus I shall dutifully report here what I am up to. You may have noticed that it is October and that I am talking about motorcycle trips, so you might be in for a lot of moaning.

For now the weather looks lovely, though, a bit breezy, yet with hope for some sunny spells. The thought that we might not have many more of those days made me decide to go out this Sunday.

Now! One might want to take into consideration that I only have my license since two years, that I changed bike twice, and that I don't have as many miles under my belt as I would wish, let alone country road miles and going solo. My baby is a customised, 1998, Yamaha Dragstar Custom, 650cc. I got her made by So-Low Choppers and got her in April this year. Her lifetime clicks stand on 21,113 of which only about 1.5k are my own. So, I might not present you with the World's Greatest Motorcycle Rides but hey ho, one has to start somewhere!

If you hear something quite loud, looking like this, it might just be me!
I have planned my route, and it will be tough. Google tells me that continuous driving in a car will need 6 hours and 26 minutes. Assume, that me riding a choppery kind of thing and getting lost a couple of times will rather need longer then less time. And of course one wants to enjoy the odd cappuccino, ice cream or whatever else the local culinary joy might be. I have a good 10 hours of proper daylight, the neighbours promised to attend to the cat should I for some reason not make it home, all I need to do now is to get my gear ready.

Well... I will have to come back to that one. Some of it is not really thought through yet, especially not for the cold season. So, on future rides I will try a few things and let you know how it goes. For now I am trying two things as accessories:

Firstly, a mophie, which is an extra battery pack for my iPhone. I recon if the phone has to get me out of trouble, to help me find my way on GoogleMaps, to track my route and to take photos, this is a smart thing to have.

Secondly, I will take my camcorder. I will look into the purchase of a proper bike-cam but for now the clunky thing has to do. Any suggestions on little mobile cameras and how to fix them to a bike without scratching the paintwork are very welcome!

Charging up!

Additionally I am very tempted to use an App that will track my route via GPS. I shall not use a SatNav.  Navies are a big NoNo! You can't strip a bike to the minimum and then put weird stuff on. But for the sake of reporting, and a bit of smugness in case the trip goes well against all odds, it would be nice to know where I was. I am going to give EasyTrails GPS Lite a shot. No idea how it works and how quickly it will drain my juice pack, though.

I recon it makes sense to pack waterproofs, so a backpack it will have to be. Shame actually, there is nothing nicer than to ride really light. However, given that I have to carry that thing anyway, I might just pack a bit of luncheon to keep the cost down. And who knows I might stumble across something nice to buy on my way :)

So that's it for now, tomorrow I shall reveal my route before I will attend to a good night sleep!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Holidays in Tangkahan - Part 5: Creepy Crawlies

Hmmm... I don't like them, don't like them at all!
Snakes are still OK, but everything with more than four legs is just horrible. At home I scream for help, I can't even get close to spiders. So, what was I thinking when I booked a trip to Tangkahan, you might think. Would it all go away just because there are nice elephants?

Honestly? I don't know, I really wanted to see elephants and possibly Orangutans; one takes a lot to make a dream come true. The truth that I found was, that elephants and Orangutans are every single bit as amazing as I expected, and that creepy crawlies are actually quite bearable.

See, if they are coming into my house I consider them intruders, if I meet them in the wilderness and even in the lodge, I respect that we are sharing the same environment.

Leeches, those small ones are more a messy nuisance rather than painful.
My mum had a frog falling off the ceiling just the very moment when she wanted to go to the toilet, the little guy got lucky she hadn't opened the lid yet. At home she might have got a heart attack, now she just got the camera, took a picture and then ran over to my lodge to call me so I could have a look as well... how considerate!

Quite cute even with his big eyes

There is a bush in front of my lodge that seems to be a happy place for all sorts of snakes and lizards. Every time I visit, somebody finds another one in this shrub. Again, first thing is to get the camera out.
Well and spiders are just that tad bit bigger than at home. I guess the encounter that halfway cured my fear was a toilet visit at a camp in the middle of the jungle. As usual the door was hanging halfway open, there was no wall to hold on to - well the palm leaf panels separating the two cabins were already broken when mum tried to lean against it earlier, her fist went straight through... we never told anybody... - and I was not wearing glasses that early in the morning. 

So I was busily minding my business when I realised that some of the bamboo or palm leaf fixings looked funny, kinda more fuzzy than the rest. I decided that the 'open door feature' was actually very re-assuring should a quick exit become necessary, finished quickly, squeezed myself past it, got the camera and there it was revealed: the biggest spider I had ever seen in my life.

I admit that I still get goose-bumps as I write, but I am much better with spiders ever since. On my last trip I even through one out of my lodge all by myself.

Since I am half blind without glasses, and my vision adjusts quite slowly even with glasses on, I really despise of everything fast moving like cockroaches. I don't mind them as long as they are sitting still, but I had one running in my bed and from there into the suitcase and initially I wasn't sure if it were a spider... ah, what a hassle. I decided to get me a bit of help.

I got so used to her sleeping on my legs, I didn't even noticed anymore
A friendly little cat who had been sneaking through the open window and sleeping between my clothes initially ran from me, but got very tame and cuddly. So, I made sure she was around when I went to bed and invited her to join me under the mosquito net - one never knows if creepies might not find a way into and underneath the net, but this little cat was always hungry and I could be sure everything moving would be hunted down by her. 

And I have my trusted torch. It is not very big and not very suitable for nightly hikes, but it has a wrist tie and I always have it attached during sleep. When I have to get up I always check the floor first and if I don't wear flipflops then the shoes as well. There is nothing worse than to hear the crunchy noise of a flattened cockroach during a nightly bathroom trip, or to find a scorpion in your shoe. And I don't like frogs and geckos falling on me either, so I check the ceilings,  very much helped by my little friend who is hoping for prey.

Geckos are the creepies I actually really like. I watched them once trying to catch a moth. They really keep other crawlies at bay. They make funny cackling noises, though. I needed a couple of nights until I realised that such a tiny thing can create such a commotion.

The conclusion of the matter? I still don't really like them, but as soon as I arrive in my lodge I am starting to take things with a grain of salt. I see elephants, I eat wonderful food and I meet great people, it is warm, I hear the river, I see monkeys jumping off the roof while I have my breakfast sitting underneath, and at night, when I have a little rest in my hammock before turning in, the noise of the jungle makes me sleepy and a gazillion fireflies add their light to the stars, and all is good!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Holidays in Tangkahan - Part 4: Bathroom Business

Understanding each other's culture is key

I think I found this on FB, and I have no idea who owns it! Please get in touch if it is yours, I really would love to keep it here :)
This bathroom business is only a problem because nobody talks about it. Only in recent years some TV shows became outrageously open about colon therapy and those sorts of things, but there are still a lot of taboos. I even wrote a blog about 'How to go to the bathroom' some years back, but to follow those tips you need a seating toilet. When you travel, you will be faced with a rather different set of issues. Travelling  to developing countries can be daunting, and information usually comes in horror stories from the ones who had learnt the hard way. So let's put some perspective to the subject.

Which one is mine?
So embarrassing to run into a guy with his pants down. This even happened to me in London, but for other reasons than language barriers. Even if you are not planning to learn the language: you may want to look up the words for 'toilet/bathroom', 'male' and 'female'.

Bathroom = Kamar mandi (Indonesian)

Indonesian for 'man'

Indonesian for 'woman'

Seating VS Squatting
I really didn't trust my eyes!

While the locals get quite visually educated, nobody ever told me how to use a squatting toilet. At times I am still confused which way round I have to stand. I guess all boils down to me being a really stiff Westerner and the right way round sometimes does not allow for enough space or has no wall to hold on to, but I am getting better. On my last trip I used the airport squatting toilet in Medan wearing a big back pack, a heavy belt bag - very inconvenient when letting your trousers down - while my computer bag was hanging from my neck. Sometimes I think this would make good material for a comedy movie.

However, in the meantime I prefer a clean squatting toilet to a dirty seating one. All it needs is a bit more preparation. In squatting toilets the floor usually is wet, so I roll up my trouser legs before descending to business - don't forget to roll them down again... - don't laugh, happened to me several times, it is hot, one is used to shorts, one has enough to do getting sticky trousers up on sticky skin... one forgets a few things...

Rule number 1: Develop a routine!

Door locks - Get over yourself!
Really - it's the only thing you can do! Ever so often they don't exist, if they exist they may be from the outside - beats me! Probably a re-used door the wrong way round - or locks are funny contraptions made out of household items. 

General rule seems to be: if the door is open, then it's free; if it somewhat ajar there might be somebody in. Usually the rooms are small so I can reach if somebody pushes against it, or I might need the door to hold on to anyway, if the room is big then all I can do is to sing or whistle, or to create some sort of commotion.

Rule number 2: Be noisy!

Paper VS Water
I know... if you have very modern toilets then you have 'paper & water'. I had a chat with a friend and although she lives in South East Asia since a while, she has no clue either on how the toilet routine is meant to happen.

So, we have established the first bits of the process: you find the right one, you go in, you decide on how to deal with the door and which way round to use the basin, you do what you need to do...

... and then there you are... what next?

All there is is in the best of cases is a bucket or basin with or without water, a ladle kind of pot thingy and a water tap which usually is already running/trickling - no paper, though!

This leads to the assumption that Indonesian people wash, something which comes close to the French bidet solution, just with the difference that there is no PAPER for crying out loud... Maybe things are easier when you are flexible in your legs and actually can operate things like ladles for such purpose rather then needing your hands for balance and grabbing hold. And maybe things are easier when wearing sarongs and light, calf length cotton trousers which look a bit like sleepers. I however never saw anybody look like having wet themselves just from pulling up trousers over a wet buttocks... I have no idea how it works... maybe there is somebody out there who can enlighten us.

I for my part am always prepared now; I never go without my trusted belt bag which I modified with two hooks so it actually goes into the loops of the trousers, otherwise the belt has a tendency to slip as soon as it is opened, and I can use it without wearing a belt. This little bag contains wet wipes and tissues. Initial worries of blocking the drain have left me. I am very resourceful in my paper use, as it is hard to get hold of,  and a big scoop of water will flush it away. Additionally this ugly little thing allows for plasters, deet, money, teatree oil, small torch, all the stuff appropriate for the respective day trip. The front pockets are always equipped the same way and I find stuff in my sleep, the big part gets tailored for the day. I hope it never breaks!

Rule number 3: be prepared!

How2... Deep Clean!
Oh well, I just don't! I do things to get refreshed, but as soon as I sit in the car to Tangkahan I throw my Western standards in the bin. Jess, the director of RAW, always looks like a lady, well groomed, fresh and radiant even in the middle of the jungle. Like the majority of people however, I have given up and it works fine for me. I so far only stayed for two weeks at a time and that is just OK for survival in clothes which are always a bit damp and without a shower. See, this is not a complaint, not even a challenge, for me this reflects what this kind of trip is all about.

Don't get me wrong: I love going to a long spa weekend as well. Here however, I am going back to my roots. When I was a child we had one bath every week, and for the rest of it it was a wash cloth and cold water. I got lucky when my grandma prepared a kettle of warm water in the evening before she scrubbed me down. And my skin was less itchy and allergic back then. Our culture of having a shower every day might make us appear very cultured and clean, but actually it is harmful: for the environment and ourselves.

At my lodge I have a tap, a big bucket and a sitting down toilet. A little shelf allows for storing some soap, toothbrush and paste, and I have a nail to hang a towel. This is perfectly fine. I only need half of the big bucket for washing my hair and scrubbing myself down - I am a wash cloth girl, I just can't get myself to pour cold water over my back - and this water I then use to flush the toilet. I feel fresh and I actually am clean, just that it feels differently.

The only concessions to the Western lifestyle I do is using my own shampoo - not really good as it is not bio degradable, but my hair became really bad last time when I used the bio stuff - and I use stay in conditioner spray, which I only use if needed, rather than the wash out stuff. I let my hair dry as it is, no power for blow dry anyway; body lotion I skip, the humidity puffs up my skin nicely, and a few minutes after washing I will be sweaty again, which together with cream would make things extra sticky.

In summer when the river is nice and clean we used to bath in there. This is fun, but one has to keep clothes on while washing and I find that a hassle. I rather do everything soapy in the privacy of my little bathroom and use the river only for refreshment. 

Rule number 4: Less is more!

What if there is Nothing?
Using a bush in the cultivated Western world already is a bit of an ordeal, in the jungle it is even more challenging. This is the only occasion which induces penis envy in me. Don't despair though, there is a thing called 'Shewee' and you get it in outdoor shops. I haven't used it yet, but I diligently put it into my suitcase just in case. The idea is to use it in conjunction with a bottle, preferably a wide neck one, so other stuff can go there as well, and nature is safe from human stink and wildlife will be undisturbed. I guess this is more for hard core trackers, on our tracks we did use bushes. 

It is more a matter of timing rather than availability of shrubberies. After lunch for example everybody all of a sudden is strolling off, which somewhat compromises privacy. I tend to try and get ahead of the game, especially if the travel group is only newly formed. It is amazing how toilet issues tie a group together over time. Things one is quite squeamish about initially get freely shared for the benefit of the group a bit later on. 

One tip I have right now is: Use Deet (insect repellent) all over before you put on your clothes, be careful not to get it on soft tissue. It is rather nerve wrecking to see leeches reaching up while you are not in a position to run. Whatever you leave, cover up and mark with a little stick or so, then others will be able to avoid the spot.

Rule number 5: Take things with a grain of salt!

Coming up: Befriending creepie crawlies