Cycling out of Jakarta

The view from our hotel room on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Admittedly, we could be die-hard cyclists and get up at 3:00 am to avoid rush hour to exit a mega city like Jakarta. Early departures might save ourselves a lot of headaches. But taking the easy way is  just not us. We prefer to wake up without an alarm, linger over that second cup of coffee, and start pedaling around 9:00 when we think rush hour should be over.

Unfortunately, rush hour never ends in Jakarta. After two days of riding (30 km yesterday and 65 km today) I can honestly say that I think now we are FINALLY out of Jakarta.

Jakarta is a huge metropolis ruled by the many cars, ancient, underpowered mini-bus taxi things, huge diesel trucks, and large old city buses clogging the roads with thousands of motorcycles and scooters and several (including ours) bicycles filling in the space between.

Jakarta is a mixture a gleaming sky scrapers, tree-lined boulevards, lovely traffic circles with sculptures and fountains to admire for hours while waiting in traffic. Squashed between these architectural wonders are some of the dirtiest and smelliest shanty towns, rubbish piles and canals we’ve seen on our entire SE Asian adventure.

Yesterday, for most of the day we were sitting in traffic with one foot on a pedal and the other pushing our bikes forwards towards free space in the traffic where we would cycle for a few feet, come to a complete stop and then repeat the entire process again.

After cycling around the city center through wealth and poverty for about six hours and seeing the road we wanted calling to us across eights lanes of traffic, we and pushed our bikes up and over the pedestrian overpass and headed east. Another 30 minutes of push and stop traffic was reason enough to check into a new hotel exactly 10 km away from the night before.

A delicious thin crust pizza with a glass of Australina cabernet merlot, a night at the movie watching “The Imitation Game” which we really enjoyed, and a good night’s sleep on a really comfortable bed, we felt recharged for day two of “cycling out of Jakarta.”

Thinking the side roads might be a better choice, we let our Garmin 810 choose the route for day two. It directed us to one-lane motorcycle roads, blocked-off pedestrian alleys, and across highways that have long since between converted to one-way with jersey walls blocking the intersection. But, we saw a lot of the Jakarta that many people never see.

We saw moms carrying babies strapped to their sides stepping across heaps of trash on their way to or from the market s We saw men wearing white hats going or returning from the mosque located across from the dump. We saw bustling markets with scraps of food, old produce and trash squishing under our bike tires. We heard noisy school children, saw old men sleeping on cardboard, and appreciated school-aged boys who were earning a few rupiah by acting like traffic lights and directing traffic.directing traffic so we (and others) could cross busy intersections.

We cycled under mega-highway overpasses, choking on the fumes from hundreds of 2-stroke engine motorcycles. We waited at railroad crossings with the blaring ding, ding, ding and the flashing of the red signal lights indicating a train was approaching. We watched in amazement as scores of vehicles scooted under the descending RR crossing arm just missing the approaching train by seconds.

After about an hour seeing lots of local culture but still being no closer to our destination than when we started, Eric’s patience was wearing thin. I actually thought we should stop and take some pictures. Anyway, we pulled out our cell-phones and opened Google maps set to the “fasted driving route” and headed to the highway.

Once we finally found the road east towards Bali we needed a break. That’s when we discovered that McDonald’s in Indonesia  really brews a good cup of Java. We felt revived.
We survived our two day ride to the east only to check in to our dated, needs paint, gaps in the wood for mosquitoes, we’re-not-in-the-city-any-more, hotel room.

Thank goodness for the sunrise prayer call from the minaret located just across the street. We’ll be on the road a lot earlier tomorrow.