Indonesia, With a Side of Adventure

The weather was hot and sticky. Sweat dripped down my brow. Inside my motorbike helmet I had a glimpse of what life in a fishbowl would be. Indonesia’s climate is unforgiving. Cooling breezes are as rare as straight roads. Everything winds around and along the sinews of Java. I’d been traveling these sinews, thin strips of tarmac, on motorbike for 2 weeks now. When riding a motorbike long distances, weather is as much of the experience as the country or people itself. Unlike traveling my car, motorbike travel forces you to become part of the place you are visiting.

I took off my helmet, wiped the sweat from my head. I looked ahead at my challenge — a bridge made of nothing but bamboo and vines. Was I supposed to cross that? Even on a small motorbike like the trusty Honda 250 I had rented in Jakarta, could I do cross this? Would it hold the weight?

The worst thing you can do in situations like this is wait. So I did. Nerves grew. The sweat was no longer the result of the tropical climate.

Something buzzed behind me. I turned and watched a local in shorts, t-shirt and flop-flops riding a dented brown Yamaha, pull up beside me. He smiled, laughed and said “No problem. Safe.” then sped across the bridge. The span sagged, then bounced as the bike ride the rollercoaster before disappearing on the other side.

 

I put my helmet back on, turned the key. The engine thuck-thucked beneath me. I tapped my left toe placing the bike in gear, and gunned it. I lurched forward onto the bridge. It sagged, feeling spongy beneath me, like when you walk on sodden grass. As I neared the center, the bridge swayed, rippling from behind. I could feel my rear tyre rise on the crest. I changed into second, eager to get off the span and back onto solid ground. My world was now a bubble 2′ around me, traveling at 10mph. Nothing else matter except this moment. Travel does that to me. I rid myself of all distractions. I do what I need to survive. Nothing is guaranteed. It’s all up to you.

I raced off the other side, the bridge offering a final attempt to knock me over as a piece of bamboo snapped as I passed. I pulled off to the side, grinning from ear to ear. That’s what life is supposed to be about! I grabbed my camera and watched other riders, all local and all vastly more confident that I was at my warp-speed of 10mph, zoom back and forth across the bridge without a second thought.

After a few minutes, a local rider pulled over assuming I was preparing myself to cross the bridge. “No problem,” he said pointing down, “There is a bridge for tourists over there”. I looked down the river in the direction the local pointed. Just beyond a bend, I could make out the end of a modern, concrete span crossing the river.

Maybe next time. Probably not.