Monday, 22 February 2010
On the 15th of this month Leana and I took the ferry from Malaysia to Sumatra, Indonesia - a two and a half hour trip from Melaka to Dumai. From Dumai the narrow busy road was in a rather poor condition, with steep ups and downs at times (the frequent heavy rain showers didn't make things any easier either). However, after we'd passed the city of Pekanbaru conditions improved, and we crossed some impressive rivers and mountains in the process. Sumatra, the 6th largest island in the world, straddles the equator which we also crossed, but unfortunately we missed the sign indicating the spot. Now I'm back cycling in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time since crossing to the North in Kenya. We also crossed from the East of Sumatra to the West, and are now in a mountainous area in the town of Bukittinggi, close to the West coast of the island. There are a number of active volcano's in the region, and the area is also prone to earthquakes, having suffered two great shakes recently. Perhaps the greatest crossing is the cultural divide, and I've found the people of Sumatra to be quite different to any of the other SE Asian countries. Perhaps a recipe for Sumatra could be as follows:- Mix generous portions of Africa and India together with daily heavy rain; Add a pinch of colonial and other Asian influence, and bake in a hot humid oven. Season with plenty of cheerfulness and friendliness towards foreigners. Wherever we've gone so far in this country we've been welcomed with "Hello Mister", "Hello Friend", "Selam", and "Welcome to Indonesia", etc. Another peculiarity is the traditional architectural style in the area - strange curved multi-pitched roofs. From here we intend to continue to the city of Padang on the West coast, and then head South from there. Daily distances cycled in Sumatra have been:- Dumai 18 km (plus ferry crossing); Duri 85 km; Minas 110 km; Bangkinan 89 km; Pangkalan 85 km; and Bukittinggi 86 km. Total distance cycled so far on this journey is 55 301 km.