Oh hello!

It’s been a while since I’ve put finger to key and scrawled my usual ramblings across your eye holes. Rest assured I’ve still been getting up to ridiculousness across the globe. Some words regarding that nonsense will no doubt appear here as and when I have time or the will. Until then you can invent your own stories by looking at the pictures.

Since trying to drive a donkey across Morocco, I’ve been back to the land of mint tea, tagines and crazy footwear on two further occasions, a little wander over to Italy and a nearly cancelled trip to Serbia for the Guca trumpet festival. As if that wasn’t enough a meander down to Bosnia and a quick hop over the pond to Canada to go stay with some Iranians.

Click on the PHOTOS menu if you want your eyes mangled.

Dickie’s Dinky Donkey Dreams – Dashed

I had virtually given up on the idea of riding a donkey around Morocco. It turned out after some investigation that from a Western animal welfare perspective you should aim to have an animal that’s 4 times the weight of your load. That put me and my luggage needing a sturdy mule if I was going to ride it. The thought of having to look after something that strong and that expensive, about 900euros compared to 100-200 euros for an ickle donkey put me off for this trip. Perhaps another time with a bit more preparation.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I hooked up with Dinky. The auberge I was staying in happened to have a donkey and my next few days walking was going to take me through a pretty much deserted valley. The owner did me a one way hire and said without flinching he would come and get it from my destination with the taxi! Perfect!

I have no experience with horses or donkeys what so ever, I have now ridden a camel twice in the desert so figured walking next to a donkey would be a piece of cake…..Oh my God, how wrong was that.

Mohammed took me to see the Donkey in its field and to my eyes he seemed ok. We put on the padded back pad and created some panniers out of some shopping bags and bosh my load was no longer on my back… Easy.
It was soon after I should have realised what lay ahead. As Mohammed was writing out the name of a friends auberge for me and Dinky to stay at, another fully loaded Donkey came up the path. Dinky went to investigate and when the handler of the oncoming donkey made a fuss Dinky shot off down the road to much laughter from Mohammed’s daughter. 10 minutes later Mohammed arrived back dragging Dinky up the path. Mental note…never leave it untied.

My instructions were short and sweet. Say “Zid” to make it go and “Ssshhtor” to make it stop. Before getting to the piste to take me through the valley I had to walk 4km along the road. The first km was basically me dragging Dinky behind me until I saw someone else coming the other way with their steed. They walked behind giving it encouragement with a thin stick. So I acquired a similar stick and gave Dinky a tap on the bum, he walked into the traffic! I pulled at his rope and reigned him in and he just stopped. This happened quite a few times much to the amusement of the locals who were all offering advice in Berber speak. Most of the advice was the same though. Hit him harder and shout louder. I wasn’t too pleased about the hitting so I tried to balance it out with louder shouts of “zid!”
After being directed onto the piste Dinky tried to drag me uphill. I corrected him and arrived back at the road. I was pointed back up the hill, the donkey knew .

Now on the quiet track I could concentrate on technique rather than panicking about one or both of us being run over. Unfortunately I had to agree with the locals that a firmer whack on the arsenal was the way to go. It was at this point I realised donkey luggage carrying adventures were probably not going to be for me. Even though I’m sure the animal would get a lot better treatment from me I wasn’t really happy doing it. Fear not though there were plenty more reasons to put me off before the day finished.

I imagined our relationship would go well. I’d give it lots more food water and love than it usually got and in return he’d treat me well…..idiot! Donkeys like to eat and if you don’t keep whacking them on the arse and saying “zid” that is what they will do. Not only that but the dirt track had lovely green stuff growing on either side and little old donkey was only interested in going there and not up the track. After about 5km I was pretty knackered. It’s definitely easier to carry a 10kg bag than constantly cajouling a donkey to carry it.

Never mind it’s all part of the adventure. We stopped for a snack. I made a triangle cheese and tomato sandwich whilst Dinky tucked into green stuff. I tied the rope round my leg so he wouldn’t run off. As I’m tucking into my sandwich Dinky starts making classic donkey noises and I hear some other donkeys in the distance. Two light grey ones start coming this way and Dinky wants to go say hello. I hold on to the rope with one hand and eat with the other. The two get nearer and I get dragged off my rock and have to use all my strength to hold onto the rope and untie it from my leg!!! As I’m concentrating on doing this one of the grey donkeys bites my donkey on the neck and doesn’t let go. Then from nowhere two men appear on little “pedal and go” motorbikes and chase the attackers off. This lesson stands me in good sted for later. Blimey it’s all go when you’ve got a donkey. Now the men and the attackers have gone Dinky gives me a nuzzle. Ah! I was hoping for a bit of that :)

Another major drawback of donkey travel is its so slow. I’m getting museum fatigue from walking a lot slower than normal, it’s also taking longer. I had envisaged it freeing me of my load but I’m so consumed with getting the bloody thing to go in a straight line and stop stopping that I don’t have time for any photos or any relaxing. Which is a  shame as its a  beautiful valley to spend the day in. Up ahead the bike men have stopped. I think they are keeping an eye on me to make sure I’m OK. The dirt track turns to sand and Dinky drops to the floor and rolls about in it. Can’t blame him for that so have a bit of a play with him before encouraging him to get up!

Apart from the occasional nomadic types out with their herds of goats and sheep it’s pretty devoid of people. The dusty track winds off into the distance and on the horizon I see a couple of horses. As we get nearer they approach, they seem huge. I decide that attack is the best form of defence and raise my stick and shout at them, this puts them off a bit but one of them kicks its back legs in the air as it goes past. I can’t imagine surviving get a thwack from that. I whirl my stick around a bit more and do some more shouting and they stay away. Little old Dinky still wants to follow them though I have to use all my strength and more to dig my feet into a small ditch to keep him from dragging me off. I have no doubt if he wanted he could drag me behind him no problem. All the while perched up on a rock are my moped guardian angels keeping watch. I wave at them to let them know it’s all going ok.
A man rides past on a horse and says hello as do a few Berber ladies. Everyone is quite interested in the fact I have my own donkey, either that or the fact that I have no idea how to handle it.

Very early on in to this adventure I realised that doing twice the distance tomorrow was going to be beyond me. I made the decision to phone Mohammed when I eventually arrived in Bou Tharar and would get him to come and collect him from their instead of the original destination of Kalaat M’gouna.

Finally signs of human life start to appear. A long crumbly old wall with a small hut at the end looks as though somebody may have been here in the last decade. Then newer buildings (well probably less than a century old) appear and I can see the shape of the town. As I descend down beyond the city walls a pickup truck stops to say hello and the turbaned man invites me to tea. I pass on the offer as quite frankly my main objective is to get the donkey tied up and make arrangements for its collection. Once that’s done I’ll be able to relax. Town even though small means more attention somehow Dinkey seems to be happy trotting along all be it super slowly and with the help of a local I find the auberge of Muhammad’s friend who I’ve been reliably told will feed, water and house me and Dinky for 150dh. When we arrive I tie up the donkey to a log with the only knot I know. It’s not like the westerns I’ve seen. They always seem to have more rope and a sturdy fence to casually lasso the horse too before strolling off to the saloon to be met by saucy ladies with frilly skirts, large chests and kinky boots as a shot of red eye slides down the bar..Not so much as a tin of cheap lager is available to me. The owner is on holiday and the auberge is full with a group of tourists tonight. Shit! The local talks to the manager and they both decide to send me to Gite Tamalot. I untie the hooved one and trudge dejectedly the extra km to the next place. We pass a hotel, I think go in there and ask but my brains not working properly and the effort of tieing up and translating and organising donkey bedrooms is too much and decide to let the local do the talking at the next place.

At the next place the story is told, I’m shown a room which is fine and of course it’s double the price. All my bargaining powers are gone and the owner knows it. I try to contact Mohammed to make sure he can get here to collect the big eared one. I sit on the floor of the impressive but faded courtyard of the gite. I’ve been watching a few films set in Morocco over the last few days and the setting is conjuring up a feeling of days gone by. I grab a coke and the caffeine and sugar give me some energy to negotiate. As we discuss prices Dinky decides to piss all over the courtyard, the manager is not impressed. It’s then that he tells me that it’s more expensive because you are paying for two! I have to laugh. I get him down to 200dh and finally Mohammed phones back. I explain that his donkey is too slow and he will have to come collect from Bou Tharar. I’m not open to negotiations. He has no trouble with this. I unload my bags give Dinky a hug and watch him being lead out to the donkey bedrooms. Wow what a lesson. At least I haven’t had time to think about my aching feet.

The room has really got character with landscapes painted on the walls and psychedelic roses. Coloured glass windows open onto a large terrace where I drink ginless gin and tonic and watch the sun set behind the hills in the valley of the roses through the intricately carved arches of the facade of the balcony. Down in the street below a group of girls (eldest aged about 12) sing and dance and juggle pebbles in the hope of my throwing down a pen or a dirham, I sadly explain I have neither, so they ask for a cheese triangle or even the remainders of my bread I’m making a sandwich with. I don’t think they are starving, I just think they want to be rewarded.
It had only been a 10 mile walk but it seemed like a truly epic adventure. It’s not the miles travelled or the speed but the journey. Always the journey. To then arrive at this town felt so cinematic as to be laughable. I’m still up for actually riding a mule around Morocco but I’m definitely going to get some practice in before disappearing off on my own.

Dinky , it’s been emotional.

Moroccan Snow Petanque

Moroccan Snow Petanque
Good evening sports fans, you join me for a fun packed program. It’s currently 8-14 with Mohammed and Yussef making a dramatic comeback versus Said and Richie. One more point and S&R are declared champions!
We are playing petanque or boule with 7 metal boule and 1 plastic one.
The pitch is a strip of dirt at the side of the road outside the hospital near the roundabout opposite the police station. A large crowd of school children have gathered to watch the bearded European in the Jedi outfit play with his partner who also happens to be the owner of the boule set and the owner of my bedroom for the night……oh! and were 2000m up a dead end mountain road and its snowing!

A few hours ago I was riding a camel back to civilization from the Sahara Desert in the shadow of sand dunes bigger than office blocks. However there is only so much organised fun a Richie can cope with and around lunchtime I instructed the package tour minibus driver to let me out at the next roundabout. Freedom! Within 2 minutes I had met a man called Said by the side of the road and it was off to his house in a public bus we went.

I’d only meant to come on a last minute holiday to Morocco for two weeks but it looks like it’s going to be two months minimum now.
No bicycle this time, my bum is still not fixed and I haven’t ridden it since September when I got back. I’m awaiting a hospital appointment to have a cortizone injection and hopefully that should get me back in the saddle. That said, having just spent 4 hours on the back of a camel I’m unable to sit down any more…ouchy.

I didn’t think I’d be mentioning my little Marrakech trip as I thought it would just be a quick bit of sunshine and souks and back to Blighty but the fact you can get a flight from the UK to Marrakech for £25!!!!!! Means plans changed quickly.

Having acquired a brown djallaba in the souk and also having grown a rather delightful beard not to mention the pair of matching chinos I picked up at the Brighton Oxfam shop for £3 I’m now floncing around Morocco looking like Obi Wan Kinobi.
Having spent a week in Marrakech it’s time to move and in full Jedi outfit I head to Imlil to the mountains and look pretty much like every local man up there, that is except the majority that are wearing climbing gear. After a few days trekking I ended up at a Berber village homestay. This was great but I hadn’t come equipped for mountain weather in winter and after the 3rd day of snow decided to get myself South for sun and sanddunes.
Getting out of Imlil is a trick in itself if you can’t fill an old Mercedes taxi with 6 people as the tourist is expected to pay for the empty seats. I wasn’t having any of that and I got on the bus which appeared as I tried to hitch hike my way out of town. The bus has to fill up before departing, this took about an hour, we got 20metres down the road , the call to prayer sounded and everyone got off and went to the mosque! 30 mins later and everyone has returned ,with shopping or haircuts or packages they didn’t have before. Half an hour later we reach our destination. I could have just walked it.

I’d already been on an organized trip to the Sahara a week ago but apart from the camels and the Kasbah it was pretty disappointing, not my image of the Sahara Desert at all, no sand dunes and no camp fire and you could still see the lights of the town from the tents we slept in. Don’t bother with Zagora go to Merzouga instead for what you think the Sahara is like. Wear some padded shorts for the camel ride though. I was in so much pain by the end of this morning’s sunrise trek, I did the last half side saddle to change my cheek rash position. .

The Vietnamese Midnight Mountain Top Trouser Swap Casino Scam

At midnight I got in a car with two Vietnamese women I had met on the internet. Sixty kilometers later I was swapping trousers with the taxi driver……meanwhile back in Indonesia.

Blimey! Where did the months go?? Bali, that’s where. After getting a ferry to Bali and arriving in the middle of the night during a storm which had caused a power cut I was unable to see any hotel signs as the lights were out. I sailed straight past the street with all the hotels on and as the rain poured down I took shelter under the roof of a shop front. The owners let me put my tent up on the porch and I headed towards Candidasa the next day. I found a bungalow on the beach and a visiting massage lady who charged £2.50 an hour and there I stayed. Three weeks later I moved 20 metres up the beach , lost the use of the pool but gained one extra meal a day and a cheaper rental. I also lost the services of Putu my massage lady. This turned out to be a “blessing in the sky” as the new massage lady took a shine to me and was happy for the company and supplied her services for free. Needless to say I stayed there a while and occasionally took the odd day trip on a moped I hired. Not a lot of cycling got done.

The world cup started and although I had a TV in my room the signal was so bad it was like watching Argentina ’78. England went out in typical pathetic style and the real business of getting my snorkel on could take place with a decent nights sleep.

It was only because my visa ran out that I decided to leave. The plan was to head back to the UK on July 30th flying out of KL, so I found an amazingly kind man on http://www.warmshowers.org who let me store my bike at his house in Kuala Lumpur . I then spent my remaining weeks flitting between my old residence in Bukit Bintang in KL and Peter’s house between BB and the airport.

As the days passed my need to be back in the UK was not so urgent. A quick enquiry to the Vietnam Airlines office told me I could change my ticket for 100rm. So now I’m hanging around Malaysia for another 6 weeks.

Being a lone traveller and a single guy and enjoying the company of a lady now and then I was intrigued when a guest at the hotel told me about an app called Wechat. For those that don’t know it’s a bit like Whatsapp and Viber. For those that still have no idea what I’m going on about it’s a bit like sending a text message but with lots more possibilities and it’s free. The guest had told me how many girlfriends he had because of wechat and I was intrigued to see what he meant and also what his idea of a girlfriend was? The thing that makes wechat interesting is that it tells you who else is using it nearby. Set the search to “female” and up pops a list of females within a 1000 metres. Usually a photo is next to the name and also a little introduction of a few words. Fifty percent of these are in Malay or Chinese. A considerable amount are older ladies who will tell you they are married or given to Allah and they are just seeking friendship. The rest tends to be local prostitutes and shemales offering a good time. Then you have the guys who have put their status as female. Some are gay and some it seems are just desperate to make a friend and they know that other guys will be searching females. Very occasionally there is a woman who is not a prostitute , a man, a man that wants to be a woman or a woman that is taken by her husband or god. I wasn’t impressed and deleted the app straight away. A week later someone I got chatting to over lunch asked if I used wechat as they wanted to stay in touch so I reinstalled it. Curiosity got the better of me one night whilst drinking Japanese single malt into the daylight hours with a few expats who had just arrived from Tokyo. When I woke up the next day I had various replies from people I don’t remember contacting and realised how much booze I must have drunk. I went back to sleep and forgot about it.

A few days later around 3am a Vietnamese woman contacted me asking if I was awake. I was and we started chatting. Looking at the chat history I could see she was one of the people I contacted whilst getting Japanesey. One thing lead to another and I thought she was inviting me over for a nightcap, because of slight language difficulties I decided to cut to the chase as I was a bit tired. I asked her if she wanted me to come to her hotel? This received an embarrassed response and the grey area was now clearly white. We said good night and I went to sleep. Clearly bored and awake she just wanted someone to talk to . I thought no more of it. A couple of days passed and at 10pm “Che” calls me again. Asks me what I’m up to etc. I suggest we go out for dinner and she says she would love to but needs to call me back later. If there is one thing that I’ve learnt from my time in Indonesia and Malaysia it’s that people and especially women love to arrange to meet up and have absolutely no intention of doing it. Now that I’m used to this I take no notice what so ever when someone arranges some sort of meeting. So once Che had gone I forgot about our dinner plan. Thirty minutes later she contacts me again and explains that she is sorry but can’t make it. It barely registered with me and I went back to watching my movie. One hour later she’s back chatting. She tells me to call her on a number, she wants to go out. I phone her and she tells me her and her friend want to go to the casino in Genting Highlands.

This starts the alarm bells ringing as now money is involved. Random woman in cyberspace wants me to go with her to the casino sixty kilometres away, ummm. So I start to make some excuses. First off I point out that I don’t have any trousers which is actually true. I sent all of my clothes home or gave them away thinking I would need to make the weight limit for the plane. Che assures me this wont be a problem. Then I go to my de-facto line for testing anyone to see if they are just after cash. I explain my ATM card has been eaten by the machine and I only have a small amount of money until the new card arrives. Che says its not a problem, she just wants some company whilst her friend plays the tables. They will pay for the taxi and don’t worry about money. I’m still suspicious but what have I got to lose. So I get ready in my shorts, take 90rm (£18) with me and meet their taxi outside. The girls are in fine mood, a little drunk and me and Che cuddly up on the back seat whilst her friend is flirting with the Malaysian taxi driver. The casino is in Genting Highlands miles from KL and it takes about an hour to get there. As we go I get to see the huge gold Buddha at Batu caves which I have been meaning to visit and so I already consider the night a success. I joke with the girls that I’m half expecting to wake up in a bath of ice with some of my organs missing. We arrive at the casino after an hilarious drive up to the top of Genting Highlands which sees me and Che rolling about from one side of the car to the other as the driver navigates the hairpins.

Of course as expected as soon as I try to walk into the casino the security guards point to the sign reminding patrons of the dress code. Red shorts with penny farthings on them are not considered appropriate. The girls are unphazed and we ask if their are any shops still open. By now it’s past midnight and everything is shut. Then Che phones the taxi driver who is waiting for us to take us back when we have finished, she convinces him to swap trousers with me. We go back outside and me and the driver swap clothes in the car park! I’m quite a bit bigger than him, the trousers are a 32” which I definitely could have got into after some heavy months of cycling but the dim sum and stout and lack of exercise have seen a few lbs added. If I don’t do them up I can get in them and try to ignore the fact they nearly come up to my knees. We go back through the maze of 5 star hotel and posh shops back to the casino , the guards give us a smile and let us through.

Che’s friend goes straight to the electronic roulette tables and starts piling in cash. We go for a walk around and Che sits down to play blackjack. I go off for a walk in this huge casino and see what there is to see. I’m not too keen on spending any money as I still have a sneeky feeling I might be going home on my own at some point. I find some fruit machines that are 2c a play. I ask one of the security guys about something and he tells me I need my passport or some ID in order to cash out if I win anything. Apart from 90rm I have nothing on me except my phone. I deliberately left everything at home. I go and find Che and she’s lost all her money without even winning a hand. We go off to the cafeteria restaurant and I end up buying us food as the card terminal is broken and che wants to pay with plastic. So far so good, a fun random evening and I’ve still got most of my money left and all my vital organs. We go back to see how her friend is doing and I have a quick go on one of the roulette tables. I win so have another few plays and come away with 100rm more than what I came out with. I’m happy with that and we call the taxi and go to leave.

On the way back home more cuddles in the back until halfway down the hills and Che starts to feel sick, we have to pull over so she can get rid of the plastic bag. She goes to sleep on my shoulder and we arrive back at my hotel. She asks If she will see me again tomorrow and I say sure give us a call.

It’s now 5am and Khalid on reception wants to know where I’ve been. I give him a quick rundown on the story and he tells me to be careful.

Next day I send Che some messages to arrange to meet up for dinner but I’ve been blocked I don’t get any response. I try the phone number and again nothing. So what’s it all about??

Of course it could be a genuine situation and my company just wasn’t what they wanted for a second night. But after talking to a few people it seems the scam probably goes like this.

The casino pays for girls to bring in men to gamble at the casino. If the girls think the guys will spend big they will go to any lengths to get them to the casino. Sometimes over the course of a few days if they can’t get them to come or to spend big the first night. Was I being tried to see if I would come again once I had some money. I mean I told them up front I didn’t have any cash. Who knows.? A lucky escape or just plane jilted…who cares, it was a good night out. It’s nice to know the adventures are still happening even when I’m not on the bicycle.

Having had some adventurous fun I decided to move neighbourhoods. From a road full of prostitutes , she-males and massage parlours with happy endings to a road full of family run brothels, massage parlours operated by blind people and lots of Indians. Let the vegetarian feast begin :)





Fear and Loathing in KLIA2. Arse Cream no more

Goodbye Kate. Goodbye Sri Lanka. Hello Malaysia.

WOW! Cultureshock is not the word. After 5 months in Sri Lanka I had no idea what was coming when I touched down in Kuala Lumpur. Bright lights, skyscrapers, the 2nd tallest building in the world (i think),  mono rails, crazy kids up to their hairbands in technology, shopping malls the size of small towns and food,food,food….oh glorious food, different food, choice of food, more dishes than i can get through in one year and still not have the same thing twice. A week into Malaysian life I found myself walking round Bukit Bintang thinking  that my flight had gone through a time warp and taken me 20 years into the future. A drizzly steamy day walking under the monorail with skyscraper size advertising screens showing models on catwalks and music pumping into the street. People and faces from every part of Asia and the middle east, dimsum and sheesha pipes next to Lebanese food and Guinness happy hours with the twin towers of the Petronas building pointing up to god above, whilst the prostitutes stand amongst shoppers in the clothes emporiums. He males and shemales and ladies form all corners of the globe asking if you want a massage or more. Where am I , how did I get here? It took me 6 visits to the Lower Yat Plaza to get over the shock. Six storeys rammed full of technology and every shop front has three people trying to get your attention to try and buy a smart phone, tablet, camera, powerbank, laptop or selfie stick. The escalators only ever take you to more floors and escape is futile. A labyrinth of technology filled with pensioners on twitter, housewives on facebook and kids on we-chat. Powerbank, powerbank,powerbank..no one has enough power, must get more battery, too much screen time for inbuilt supply, shiny pink, hello kitty, doughnuts, jelly tea, bread rolls called Tuna Turner but no exit, never, just consume, stay ahead, latest model, wickedest colour , share, upload upload. This amongst a backdrop of haircuts and long thin legs in tiny shorts, every woman wears tiny shorts. Even the airline coming here had a uniform that was so super futuristic & sexy I couldn’t relax the whole flight. It’s a dream, it’s a dream but no. It’s Kuala Lumpur and I love it.

After spending three lazy weeks in Kuala Lumpur doing nothing but eating dimsum, smoking sheesha pipes with Pakistanis and Algerians and generally enjoying the delights of a true 24 hour city for the first time in 18 months it was time to move on. Not a happy football experience though. A rollercoaster 2nd half to the football season every last bit of nervous energy extracted from me and LFC finished second in the league. No need to come home and so what to do next. A quick trip to the airline office round the corner and pay the 100RM  (£17) to change my flight back to the UK to the end of June. Which was a nice surprise as the website had told me £75.

Liverpool didn’t win but what do I really care. I’ve got two more months on the road. I had cycled a bit in Malaysia but after chatting to a few people and my own experience I decide that I didn’t want to spend my last few months cycling on fast busy highways. A quick look at the map and the budget airlines hatched a plan. Rather than try to do too much too quick I decided to fly to Lombok in Indonesia, an Island east of Bali and try to cycle back to KL for my flight home.

Goodbye Malaysia, Hello Indonesia

Budget flights out of KL now fly out of Kualur Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2 now. KLIA2. When I flew it had been open 5 days. Never ever fly out of a new airport, nothing works, nothing is finished and everyone is stressed.  Before flying to Lombok I went and visited a friend in Medan for a few days. This involved me leaving my bike and luggage at KLIA getting myself to KLIA2 fly to Medan fly back to KLIA2 back to KLIA get bike and luggage get back to KLIA2 fly to Lombok. All this could have been avoided if the left luggage company had updated the website and told me that KLIA2 has got a left luggage as well.

The shuttle bus took an hour to arrive, the walk to the departure gate took 30 minutes and the only restaurant open at the the gate was a Mcdonalds that involved another 30 min queue with staff that looked like they would rather be anywhere else in the world except serving customers. This is all set amongst every high end shop you can imagine, I’m sure there are more shops in KLIA2 than there are in Westfield. Selling everything from a £20,000 diamond tiara to an 80″ plasma or some garden furniture but no f**king food.

On returning things didn’t get any better. I discovered that there was a train that is not only more frequent, quicker and cuts down the walk by half but will also take my bicycle. I discovered this because I asked three different people working at the train counter on my way back to KLIA. I saw a sign on one of the counters saying no surfboards. Phew. Lucky me. Of course when I arrive back at the train terminal to take my bike back to KLIA2 a new sign had appeared with a bicycle crossed out!!! And they wouldn’t let me take the bike on the train. I had a little bit of a tantrum demanded a ticket which they refused to sell me and jumped the gate when the cleaner came through the other way and refused to budge. The train was empty and I had a flight to catch. If you want to get something done in this situation you have to take a chance so I started shouting and said call security if you have a problem. The manager came down, realised I was not a happy or more importantly nice bunny and allowed me to put the bike in the goods compartment providing I buy a ticket.

Arriving at KLIA2 I pack up my bike in shrink wrap and trolley it to the check in. I ask if the bike is OK and the check in woman says yes. As usual it doesn’t fit through the x-ray machine and so I spend another hour trolleying the bike to the cargo bay of the airport and back to the same place where I started when they say it’s not their problem. In the end I’m told to leave the bike on the trolley and they will deal with it. (This is what should have happened at the start)

I arrive in Lombok at 8pm the flight was delayed by nearly 2 hours but the bike doesn’t appear. Everyone else has collected their luggage and I’m the only one left. Various people get involved and no one can tell me what’s happening. I’m all done on getting upset. I can’t go anywhere without my bike and I’ve got no plan so I just sit on the conveyor belt. Every time I’m asked if I can move or go to customs to check my bags in I refuse. I say I’m not budging until you tell me where my bike is. This goes on for an hour or so. Various people come and go. I’m very calm and say I’m happy to go to prison or you take me to a hotel. Either way I’ll have somewhere to sleep. Another hour goes by in which I’m given dinner on the conveyor belt and it is finally confirmed my bike is still in KL but will be arriving on the first flight tomorrow. I accept this but still refuse to move. After a few phone calls back and forth to various bosses an offer is made to me to take me to a guest house (Losman). This involves the manager taking me on his moped and two other staff carrying my luggage on two other mopeds. They pay.

The next day I receive a phone call from the incredibly helpful Suparman (name of manager) to say my bike has landed and he will have it delivered to the guest house. He tells me he’s never met someone like me and that I’ve taught him a valuable lesson. He says he’s very grateful for the experience.

What I think he meant by that was that he had never met a more stubborn, obstinate little bastard who was so laid back about it all.

Although not his fault in any way he was a true gentleman the whole time.  Reunited with my Nomad I was a happy bunny again and got back on the road. Lombok is not very big so I just decided to do a clockwork loop of the Island and see what happened. Usual stuff, camping on the beach at a fishing village of ten that was only accessible by a 2km muddy puddle between two paddy fields. I knew it would have good vibes at the end and it did. The next day the street was full of kids on mopeds with spray-canned shirts. Last day of school…ever and everyone was out celebrating. I didn’t make it far that day as I saw the perfect place to stop. A restaurant with garden down to the beach with a huge gazebo to hide away from the sun. The Garmin was now showing 43 degrees and my body was feeling it too. Although never that long some of hills were getting in to 20% plus gradients and I actually had to stand up to get up some of them. I very rarely stand up on my bike. I stopped and ordered some food. Had a swim and relaxed under the gazebo. I asked the two friendly ladies who ran the place if it was OK to sleep there for the night. No problem at all they said. With a showerin the toilet block  it was my perfect place. In the evening the owner and his wife came down and invited me to stay at their house. The two other women Rus and Remy where sisters of Joh and As was the husband. I left the bike with girls and they locked up for the night. I hopped on the back of As’s scooter and off we went up into the Lombok hills to their house. I love my bicycle but I have a lot of good memories of just being sat on the back of a moped somewhere tropical just lolling along not a care in the world looking up at the perfect starry night time sky as the breeze cools you. Admittedly my eyes aren’t normally able to focus very well on those nights ;)

When we arrived we were greeted by As and Joh’s seven kids. Before long Dinda their eight year old girl was my new best mate with the most incredible piercing eyes and I knew she was full of charm and full of trouble in equal doses.

Joh came home with Remy and Rus each on their own scooters and had brought supplies of Tarang Bulan with them. A crumpety cakey spongey thing about 8″ in diameter and 2″ thick cut into slices and topped with chocolate and cheese. Oh my god its so good. I don’t think the NHS will be encouraging it, health wise it’s probably worse than a deep fried Mars bar but it tasted amazing. Every time I find a stall selling it I have to get one.

Morning and As took me back to the beach and fed me till I burst then I tried to get to Oble Oble. Someone had said it was the way to go. As wasn’t too keen on me going as he said it was a dangerous place and It might have terrorists. I think he was as much worried about my welfare as he was setting me up with Remy or Rus who both had 3 or 4 kids and a husband that had disappeared, which incidentally they both seemed quite happy about. I resisted the temptation of a ready made family in Lombok, which is quite hard, the people are so friendly here and you get an equal amount of tactile love from both the men and the women. But ventured on into the sun.

I made it to Oble Oble after more extreme hills, not surprising as I was cycling around the edge of Mt Rinjani an active volcano and Indonesias 2nd uppiest hill. I found the beach I’d been told about and asked the owner of a small wooden hut selling food if I could camp out back between the veggy field and the sand.

An old man was praying at the time , kneeling on his mat on the platform of his Gazebo. The rather stern lady owner said it was ok though and so I set up between the trees and watched the man weave palm trees to make new sides for the hut as the woman took her turn to pray to allah. Plenty of the women I’ve seen wear the veil but mainly casual clothes to go with it, plenty don’t wear any thing that would make them stand out as muslim. It seems to be a fairly libreal country from that point of view. The most liberal dressing place I’ve been to for a majority muslim country. I bought a water melon off stern lady and gave half of it back to her in the morning as I couldn’t finish it. In return she whipped out a machete on a 10ft long pole and craftily (good skill, not cunningly) nipped off some fruit from the tree growing above her hut. I never did extract the name from her, not sure what to make of them but I was grateful all the same. I was more grateful however for the coffee I bought from her. A few spoonfuls in a cup and mixed with sugar , no fancy dan apparatus here but by god was it good. All the coffee I had so far has been good here but definitely on the strong side. This had flavour that just didn’t knock your socks off. The only time I’ve had coffee like it was in Turkey at Bora’s house. That was coffee from the west of Turkey that took in the flavours of the Cyprus trees. Anyway, its probably the best damned coffee I’ve ever had. A few more cups and I was fit for the road and another 40  degrees plus day climbing steep hills.

About 3pm I came across some guest houses that were located for the ferry crossing over to a small Island (gili). Looking back the first one I rejected was fantastic value on the beach but I was trying to stay cheap. The cheapest one I got shown was awful so another night in the tent it was only before I knew it it was dark. No camping spots were making themselves known to me and the custom of burning ones rubbish in the evening gave a three pronged attack to my eyesight. I can’t see anything wearing glasses at night because of the glare, I can’t see if I haven’t got them on and the smoke and dark just make it seem like you are in a pea souper. Seeing car lights disappearing into the distance I decide to take the first side road I could find which happeend to be a farm track. I heard some voices and parked the bike. Shouted hello and it went quiet, I shouted hello again and walked in through the gate. Half a dozen men were just cleaning down from the days work and a woman lurked in the background. No one spoke English so I got the camera out and showed them a picture of my tent on Oble Oble beach and pointed to their field. Immediate recognition of the problem and I was shuffled off in the direction of a gazebo. Perfect.

That evening after having a wash with more frogs than I’ve ever had a wash with the men sat smoking strong stinky Indonesian cigarettes and I told a few stories to an English speaking man who had been drafted in. Along with the village chief apparently.

More strong coffee and photos in the morning and off onto the busy main road to Martaram the biggest town on the Island. I had gone past the half way point on the island circuit  and it was mainly down hill. Stopping for food I discovered Bakso. Noodles and chicken or beef dumplings in a tasty vegetable broth. The key is to cover the dumplings in the super rich sticky onion ketchup. This gives the dumplings more flavour but also turns the broth into a rich soup at the end ready for draining from the bowl when you’ve finished the big bits. I learnt this from watching a Japanese film one night called Tampopo…watch it.

In Sri Lanka the horn on my bike made people think I was an Ice cream man. Here its the sound of the Bakso man. He goes around on his moped with his food on the back ready to dish up a tasty snack to anyone who stops him. And so it was that shouting  “Bakso” as I beep my horn is my new catch phrase, and the shouts of “arse cream” are no more.

Too Much Lanka

I have a lot to say about my last spell in Lanka but I don’t have the energy to write it. Too much negativity with bad experiences that I need to let fade away and write about after time to reflect.

On the plus side Sri Lanka won the T20 cricket world cup and the fireworks went crazy, but then if you live in an area prone to roaming elephants the fireworks go off every night to keep them away, so no different really. I’d love to say I watched it and drunk in the full flavour of what it’s like to be in a country when they win something like this but Liverpool were playing at the same time and you have to prioritise things sometimes yeah. LFC won again. Which of course is all due to me wearing my lucky Indian LFC boxer shorts and the fact that I stopped shaving and cutting my hair. This is a FACT and I’ll be writing to Norris Mcwhirter to tell him.

That was about a month ago in Anhadupura. Since then Kate & I have traveled back to the West coast, enjoyed a few luxury days in an eco lodge in Kalpitya before heading back to the relative civilization of Colombo. 

One day I’ll update this…but not today :)