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What Do You Do on a Bike Friday -
What Do You Do on a Bike Friday

BF riders on the Feb 2010 Toraja trip, near Watamsopeng.

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Colin Freestone with BF riders on the Jan 2009 South Sulawesi trip, near

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Cycling into the mountains of Toraja

Hallo Meester!! Hallo Meeses!! Selamat pagi!!!  Selamat Sore!!!

By Richard Walton

We heard these greetings throughout the day as we rode in the countryside and when passing through the villages of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Our intrepid leader, Australian Colin Freestone, told us we were biking in some areas where "albinos" rarely if ever venture.

The people were friendly, the scenery beautiful, and the riding ranged from leisurely to difficult and challenging. In fact, our group elected to label the experience: “Bootcamp with Beauty.”

Our group of 13 included eight Aussies, two Americans (my wife Laura and I) and three Indonesians who served as our guides, drivers, and helpers.

There was a lead van and a sweeper van; both had ample supplies of water, snacks, fresh fruits, tea and coffee. There were one or two breaks each morning and afternoon — very civilized. One of the Aussies, Scott, was a rider and also a bicycle mechanic.  His help was invaluable.

Riding through divers landscapes

The ride location was in the south of the island of Sulawesi,  that spider-shaped island north of Bali and east of Borneo. We cycled a loop that included the southwest peninsula, starting and ending in Makassar. The terrain varied from coastal plain to mountains, sea level to 5500 feet (1700 meters).

Indonesia is an interesting, diverse country. It is the fourth largest in the world in population, first in the number of Muslims, but with many other religions, including Christianity, and Buddhism. There are 17,000 islands and 700 different languages spoken with one official national language of Bahasa Indonesia.

The owner of the tour company, Cycle Indonesia, is Colin Freestone. Colin is the perfect leader. He is married to an Indonesian and has developed an obvious love and appreciation for the country.  

His fluency in the language was invaluable. But best of all, Colin shared his knowledge of the language and culture with the riders, teaching us rudiments of the language and imparting many insights about the people, culture, history, and the geography.

Our bicycle types were varied. Four of us were BIKE FRIDAY riders. Another couple rode the German folding BIRDYs (18” wheels). The others were two hybrids and two road bikes.

All brought bicycles from home as there were no rentals available in Sulawesi. As with all other adventure trips, our BIKE FRIDAYS survived the perils of airplane travel, and were assembled quickly and made ready to ride; always amazing!! Laura and I love our Crusoes. Colin was on a Gnu,  while Lesley rode a Pocket Crusoe.

Bicycling conditions were as varied as the terrain. Our FRIDAYs handled all conditions with ease. Roads were generally surfaced, but ranged from awful to very good. Traffic was steady on the major roads, but minimal in remote areas. Drivers were invariably courteous and careful; there were no reported problems with dangerous brush-bys. The predominate vehicle was motor scooters.

Surprisingly, we saw relatively few locals on bicycles.

Accommodations were as mixed as the bicycling. We stayed in a variety of overnight places, ranging from a 4-star resort to a small mountain village home where most of our group slept on mats on the floor, dormitory style.

Each day was very different as to roads, terrain, weather, and countryside or villages.

However, the one constant was the beauty. Our primary destination was the mountain region of Toraja, which was arguably one of the most stunning areas we have traveled. Terraced, shimmering rice fields climb into the clouds. Rugged mountains surround deep, green valleys. Toraja is very unique and geographically isolated. The region has its own language, culture and is predominantly Christian.

One day we did not bike, but hiked all day to a tiny and remote mountain village. There was a steady rain all  afternoon. We arrived soaked but were greeted warmly by the villagers and were housed in family dwellings. That evening we enjoyed our most memorable meal: delicious local  food, followed by Indonesians, Americans, and Australians in a circle in a small, dim room, eating and each singing some of their national songs and universal favorites.

The following day we hiked out of the village down to a river where we rafted for a few hours through white water rapids followed by a 25 or so miles of biking to our next resort hotel.Food in Sulawesi, like the rest of Indonesia, is spicy. Our group had a range of food preferences which Colin was able to cater for.

The usual fare was either rice, grilled fish (sometimes chicken) with stir fried vegetables or noodle and vegetable soup. Tofu (bean curd) figured frequently too. The food was always tasty and abundant;  nobody went wanting.

In sum, the trip was an amazing experience. Our leader Colin, the support staff, fellow riders-now friends, the varied activities,  and the wonders and challenges of this region of Indonesia made this a complete bicycling adventure. 

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