After successfully negotiating our way to Palu in Central Sulawesi (Indonesia), meeting our host & guide – Colin Freestone & his team, collecting our sim cards, and adjusting to the 39 degree heat, we bedded early ready for Day 1 with breakfast at 5 am.
Colin introduced us to counting off in numbers, Indonesia style of course. Phil loved it, though ED could never remember his and we had to keep starting again. At least we know how to say “Good Morning” (selamat pagi), and “thank you” (terima kasih).
Palu reminded many of us of being in Vietnam. There are lots of labour intensive concrete/maintenance roadside projects with not a machine in sight. The roads are filled with motorcycles, the streets are dusty, and there are stalls everywhere. As the sun rose, making for spectacular photos, we snaked our way along the coast for about 20 km before turning inland and then climbing another 20 km to the top of a 987m pass (uphill all the way) in intense humidity. The mountain bikes, that were provided, got an excellent work out on the gears. Mike thought he would catch a ride to the top by hanging onto a truck. With the roads being very windy, in good condition, and with a national maximum speed limit of 60 km/h, it was perhaps “thinking outside the box”. The downside was he had to wait hours for the last member to catch up!
With the heat, a large amount of water was consumed along with multiple stops for “morning tea”. A couple of members of the group were suffering from heat exhaustion, and those without training really felt the 79 km trip. Some of us could not “hang out” for lunch and found some excellent tucker along the way at the bottom of the pass. Going down the pass was a continuous downhill run for 15 km. The windy road and “unexpected” roadworks and break downs meant that the brakes got a considerable workout.
The Indonesian people are warm & friendly. You would be forgiven in thinking we are famous movie stars with the number of “selfies” that the locals have taken with us.
One flat tyre just before our lunch & rest stop kept the rest of the group waiting patiently. Well worth it though with a brilliant lunch overlooking the ocean. Quickly followed by a swim, afternoon siesta and, now, dinner has us now looking forward to tomorrow’s 135 km challenge.
You can see photos taken as we arrived in Palu & then us starting out early for this day by clicking here.
It was a surprise to us to discover that Colin Freestone is legally blind, cannot drive, but apparently it is OK to cycle around Indonesia. He is passionate about cycling, however was mostly the slowest member of the group. At times this was frustrating as we relied on him to organise the administration at the end of each day and often had us waiting patiently in the heat for him to turn up on his bike. The trip would have benefited if he concentrated on the administration, with just the occasional bit of cycling during each day. The cycle trip was organised by Colin (click here for overview & map). As an editor’s note, his website reports that Colin has not been cycling on these commercial trips since 2017.