Heading to Indonesia? Why not pack up your bike and explore some if the local rides. Today we follow the route taken by Stage 2 of the Tour of Bintan. Never heard of it… Be glad of that.
Words and Images - David Kennedy
This story starts in Australia some weeks before my departure… a quick search for ‘Indonesian cycling tours’ and up pops ‘Jacq Tours’, run by Singaporean Jacqueline Tan. A short time later abd the Bintan Island ride is booked
5 days before the ride a briefing lands in my email. This is fully supported riding, with resort facilities together with the anticipation of riding in another country for the day, what an adventure.
After a long cold winter in Melbourne the day of the trip came along all too quickly. I’d had three weeks riding in the Asian climate but was still getting used to the oppressive heat.
From Singapore we take a 50 minute high speed ferry to the Bintan Lagoon Resort. We’re fast-tracked through customs by being told to ‘just put the money for your visa in your passport and hand it over – don’t worry you get it back later’….
Bikes are quickly unloaded, bidons filled and the support vehicles identified and we were off!
Two routes were on offer, 89km or 129km. We always go long, so you’ll never miss out. As we rolling out of the resort we saw the luxury we were leaving behind only to wonder, ‘why were we leaving this?’
Our group included ten riders, a nice size. Stretching out the legs, the first part of the ride passed Komodo Park and Elephant Park… they looked like ‘questionable’ theme parks for tourists. Soon it became common to see monkeys playing beside the road, or crossing the road, and of course many mangy dogs.
Then it all changed. Amazing scenery, dense rainforest, scenic views and little villages – no time to stop and chat! We enjoyed the wide, well-sealed and smooth roads, hills, hills and hills, ranging from 6% to 8% followed by some great descents.
The never ending heat started to challenge, hills that I’d crusie over in Melbourne felt harder here. After about the first hour we were averaging about 30km/hr and were down to five riders: the strong ones and myself - the odd man out.
Some of the bunch were preparing for Ironman Langkawi and others for the Tour of Bintan; and then there was a guy in the polka dot jersey… We all know that’s for the King of the Mountain, right? You probably can’t buy a knock off of the Tour of Bintan polka dot jersey… so he won KOM!
So here I am, fresh from a cold Beach Road, rolling with Ironmen and Polka Dot Jersey winners, for 129kms, in the heat and the hills, sounds fun, doesn’t it? And it was, we worked together, waited at little stops for our tour guide on a scooter to ask if we wanted a drink or a banana. And, at intersections, he showed us the way, filling bidons, halting traffic and offering words of encouragement.
The kids in the villages along the way would always want a high five and screamed with excitement when they got one. I don’t think they see many riders on road bikes.
There came a point where I just had to stop, take off my shoes and drink cold water. And there it was, like a mirage in the desert, Ma and Pa’s Roadside Stop. My Indonesian was like their English – non-existent. Pa handled the goods. A large bottle of water from a domestic fridge, no Black Doctor (Coke) to be had. Ma went off in search of the change… that took a while! I didn’t check the price or even care, one of those times where you were just thankful.
Back on the road, we enjoyed dropping down along the coast and seeing some familiar roads as we wound our way back to the resort. The hills we spun up earlier seemed a lot harder, my feet hurt and I thought of the cold shower and buffet lunch. It was time to dig deep and push the last 20kms or so as the average speed dropped on the Garmin.
Soon enough, we rolled into the Resort, the land of fluffy towels and a pavilion overlooking the beach for our buffet lunch. Somehow I always think,“all you can eat” is a challenge, but it turned out to be easy after riding Stage 2 of the Tour of Bintan.
Find out more - www.Jacqtours.com
Disclosure: We paid in full for our trip and only mentioned the write up after the conclusion.