Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Bicycling Down From Bandung
Celebrated the arrival of 2005 by tearing through preconceptions of 'act your age' by bicycling down from Bandung, where my shaky tenure at the dying University had been casually amputated.
Four months previously I'd purchased a sturdy [ugly] Taiwanese 21-speeder to get around the kunst kapital of West Java, on my weekly sojourns there to teach English. I'd ridden powered two-wheelers mostly over the past 40 years, riding and racing internal combustion whizzers. Now that I was approaching middle age (he he), I thought it more appropriate to make myself work to get from 'A' to 'B'.
I was being driven out of Bandung? So how to get the bicycle (not to mention half a ton of office stuff) down to Jakarta? Well, it's a fucking bicycle, so you ride it the two hundred or so clicks.
I cheated though. Bandung roosts at an altitude of some 750 meters above sea level while Indonesia's capital city is in fact tipping into the Java Sea. It's pleasant, though: "Bandung was a popular place to go in summer for the Dutch, since the climate is a lot better than in Jakarta. The city is located at an elevation of 750 meter. The Dutch left their traces and Bandung is one of the best places to find Dutch colonial architecture." Yadda yadda. I mostly like the dirty deco that is crumbling all over you as you tour this furiously green metropolis.
The big bridge above the chasm of the river whose name you don't really need and I've misplaced. The river, seen at the top, is like all waterways of Java best appreciated from a considerable distance as they are unbelievably fouled up close. Plastic, immortal plastic, festoons the shores. Heavy erosion (from unstoppable deforestation) leaves them brown and silty.
And if you're really lucky you can spot a local yokel squatting in the cool waters dropping a log. It really is quite pleasant and refreshing to take a shit in the river - you should try it sometime! Alas of course for those downstream, washing their pots and pans in the merrily bubbling waters, small kiddies splashing away. But after all they are strangers, not part of our immediate family, so of no concern. Ah.
This was near the end of my 'cheater' stage of the ride, heading into Cianjur. From Bandung one fights the traffic to Padalarang (nice because of the four "A"s), and then it's a steep, twisty drop on rough, crowded roads down to Rajamandala, whose new mosque I've added to the photo archives:
Sorry it was late afternoon as I passed through so colours are muted.
From Cianjur the party was over: a steep and steady climb past the volcanic Gunung Gede to Sukabumi ("love-land"), to Cibadak ("water-rhino", though of course no one but me translates it like that, and rhinos are relatively scarce), to Parungkuda (less the horses), where I packed it in.
Here's mean-looking Gunung Gede from the other side: beauteous and lethal.
This picture is something of a lie, as this road is normally crowded with high-speed trucks and busses and motorcycles and pickups jostling against one another. The lone cyclist stands not a chance.
Great fun was found in passing motor vehicles, choked in the traffic.
These shots are not staged: for the second part of the journey I had Sudiro ready with the video camera to catch the yellow fellow passing. He had ridden up from Jakarta with the yeller fellator the following Saturday to Parakansalak (love those five "A"s), my mountain hideout where the Swastika Tower is a-building.
Normally you see me at high speed, naughty 64-year-old racing the downtown Jakarta racers.
And now, as an antidote to all this screaming me me mes, other windows into infinity, shots from the Baron for you to orb at.
Another life, another world, memories swim beneath the surface.
Diptych of Bandung Station, cutting out all the trash and broken-up stuff and sad sack locals.
Rarely do I indulge in creepy imagery, and am supremely contemptuous of the Diane Arbus approach to the wavelength. But this one, in Banten (witchcraft, Dutch ruins, Chinese, local industries) caught me. Still gives the creeps.
Much prefer Sumatra, the west coast anyway, for shooting and for living. Hard to convince the boys of the miracle of homo-expresso though, alas.
You can't quite read the name of the textile factory atop the wall, by the road to Situ Gunung, Sukabumi. Today a paddy.
Gunung Gede blows and we're goners for sure. (Of course it will: it last erupted in 1750, five minutes or so volcano time). (Next time around it could easily take out Bogor and Jakarta - ha, property values into the toilet).
Catch it while you can! "Tanah Merah" ("red earth"), the open kampong area near where I live, is being walled off and will be "developed" into sleazo middle-class crypto-Greek/Egyptian/Chinese palaces. So much for cagar budaya, the "culture reserve" of Condet.
On the way down here by Honda 250 trail motorcycle with Saddam, I was politely advised not to dawdle on the road. "Well Mister, you should either plan on spending the night in Ujung Genteng, or leave in time to make Pelabuhan Ratu before sunset. Over the last two years six people have been lost."
Lost? What the hell?
Later, from another local, I hear of a favorite trick of the local Sundanese bandidos: stretch a cable between two trees, on either side of the road. Catch the motorcyclist and bring him off. Take the motorcycle and hightail it. Either kill or abandon the rider laying broken on the road, as you prefer.
I do miss Thailand, in spite of all the resentment I harbor over the way I was treated there (the way I was treated while working in Thailand being in reality not really different from the way just about any farang gets dealt with). I wonder whether they're still giggling mai pen rai after the tsunami walloped them.
Thai durian are the finest in the world. Narcotic for some, utterly repellant for others. I got so intoxicated on them during the 1985 season that I would smell of durian all day long (scrubbing myself diligently all the while); I would dream of durian.
The fruit they export is what they practically throw away in Bangkok. Nice durian there, such as these, go for $50. each, and you can only get them in special markets. Sigh.
Rajah Basah, the "Rain King Mountain" at the southern tip of Sumatra near Kalianda; locals get smeared up with sulfur in the mistaken belief it is good for the skin. Friends, it ROTS the skin. And it hurts too. Tell me about it.
More from the berserk recycler: rat-roadkill treated as art: "i, it's me[at]!"
More unsalable art from the Master of Images (Monster of Mirages).
One of the collections in the Image Lounge is oddities (another, more prominent, piracies). What to make of a brand of kretek ciggies called "Match Brand"? I bet the French could grind out some fancy theory around this one!
KontoLisa. Alas, the pun does not function in English.
A variation of Monkey Lisa, featured in the upcoming PrimeMates websites
Well folks, I guess it's time I rubbed on my Hollymoon Vanishing Cream. Blogback on ya soon! Copyalator!
Expatriate of convenience, ruthless
fruit Aryan born of the Strategic Air Command and Lysergic Acid,
this is one mean and fun-loving 64-year-old. He's for sale at the
right price, but the price is rarely right.
Formerly a hardened 1950s Liberal
Democrat by inclination, he writes bunga-bunga (hack ad copy) for a
living in Jakarta, while pursuing easy boys and riding one of his
collection of 2smoke Nipponese sports motorcycles very hard and
competitively. Cross him not, but humour him and he'll laugh you out
loud. Read on and comment at your peril, for here, dear Internet
friend, is 'a screw loose in Denmark'.