If you asked me to ride a bicycle from Jakarta to Bali, I’d laugh and say you had rocks for brains. For one thing, the roads in Java are populated by a wild band of asphalt outlaws pushing freight from one end to another for little money, armed with a smidgeon of proficiency and even less regard for others who traverse it. They are focused on getting there and back. To be in their way, say on a bicycle, well you are not part of their solution, that immediately puts you at odds with them.
But that is just one obstacle, even though it was the biggest in my eyes, it didn’t phase Alex and Ivan in the slightest. Two Belgian high school friends who happen to now call Indonesia home. They started this journey when they came upon the condition of the livelihood of the people that exist on Bali’s Rubbish Dump, Suwung Village. It was shocking, there are little or no sanitary conditions. The entire school shared on near obsolete computer and they knew they wanted to do something about it.
The dilemma, the one that drove them to this absurd gesture was one we hear quite frequently. In this age of instant gratification and social media short attention spans, how do you draw a response to the problem for long enough that you can snag people’s eye to explain the issue and to get them emotionally invested to the point at which they dig deep and throw some cash into the can to help improve things? The gesture had to be big… it had to be fool hardy… it had to err on the side of down right stupid!
1,800 kilometers separate Jakarta and Canggu Bali. They had fifteen days to do it. It might not sound that hard but let’s not forget those roads, here in the fourth most populated country in the world, riding along the arteries that feed the beast, is one hell of a thing to do. You quite literally are playing chicken in the traffic.
But that wasn’t the only hurdle they ended up facing. Innocuous things flared up in a way that no amount of foresight could have revealed. An invitation for dinner from a sponsor along their route led to a disastrously debilitating take away. Alternating between the fetal position in bed and dashing to the Kamar Kecil (which literally means small room in Indonesian) Alex slept less than a little, smelt worse than bad, and made sounds that would put a wounded bear to shame, which in a small shared room meant no one slept much that night.
Ivan, who had been nursing a dodgy knee prior to leaving, had it flare up after around day five. Unfortunately to the extent that by the end, he was popping Ibuprofen’s like they were breath mints just to get through. We just heard he’s had to go to hospital, he has torn his meniscus.
There was actually three of them on the ride. Chucky, was the all smiling support guy. He drove the scooter but wore the hats of mechanic, gofer, videographer and drone pilot. He shadowed them the entire way. He was also the target for Alex’s practical jokes. Alex, a practitioner of the dark arts of comedy, went to great lengths to make sure Chucky felt included. The first night on the road after a long day that included an early start, Chucky tiredly pulling back the covers wanting nothing more than sleep only to find snake to greet him. After an initial shock, a second glance told him it was made of rubber. He got on his scooter one day and was about to pull out only to find smoke pouring out of it, his first thought it was on fire. Turns out a well place smoke bomb was the culprit. Eating lunch one day Chucky bit down on something hard, he pulled it out to find a food covered cockroach. Again made of rubber. One morning Chucky was ripped awake by the booms of fireworks let off beside his bed.
Not all his pranks went to plan. Alex was at their accommodation one day and asked housekeeping which room was Chucky’s. He went in and cling wrapped the toilet. Next morning he saw some total strangers coming out of the room. He’d mixed the numbers up, being a little dyslexic, he had wrapped up the wrong loo! He tried that one again further down the road. But Chucky discovered it and only thought it was a brand new toilet still in it’s factory wrap. Another morning Chucky came out of his room to slide on his Flip Flops. They’d been SuperGlued to the floor, that one is always a fan favourite. They also superglued his lighter to his cigarettes, one way to make him give up smoking. In the end they didn’t have to actually pull any pranks because Chucky thought everything was one. He should take the medal for the most suffering on the journey.
They came into Bali via the Gilimanuk ferry and headed along the north coast past Menjangen and into the resort of some friends at Sumberkima. They were ahead of themselves and it gave them a day out of the saddle. From there they rode along the coast towards Lovina before turning right to head over the hills that run through the middle of Bali. Their last night on the road was in the mountains up around Pupuan.
They’d arranged to meet a few friends and likeminded at the Margarana National Monument Park and take a slow ride down the hill back to Deus and enjoy the finishing party.
Alex and Ivan had done what they set out to do. There was a number of flat tires and a couple of mechanical malfunctions. They were indeed run off the highway on one occasion, but nobody got hurt. They’d covering the distance and they’d grabbed people’s attention. And by doing that last part, they had managed to get donations and sponsorship of over two hundred million rupiah to help build a school at Suwung, the village on top of Sanur’s rubbish dump.
But they aren’t finished yet and could still do with your help. If you would like to donate to the BicycleTourForCharity please hit one of the links below. You money will go directly to the building of a school. Bettering the life of some amazing kids.