25th: GIVI: The Incredibly Kind and Helpful Company
Do you ever find yourself in a place where you feel like you don't belong? I've had that feeling a lot during this trip and today was no expection. We had been in contact with GIVI Malaysia for the last couple weeks and they invited us to the Moto GP world championship race that was set to take place today. GIVI, arguably our largest sponsor, is also a major sponsor of 2 Moto GP racers. They invited us to attend the race as well as join their convoy from the police station in downtown Kuala Lumpor to the F1 course in Sepang (~40 miles away).
Our alarms went off at 5:15, I found myself scrambling out of bed way too fast and nearly passed out from the head rush. We were told to be at the Wardorf Tower (near the police station) no later than 6:45 am so that we could leave for the police station at that time. We were at Wardorf Tower by 6:10 for fear of being late. It felt fantastic to be riding the roads of KL before the sun had risen without any other cars on the street. It had been too long since we'd last experienced empty roads.
The good thing about showing up early, is you don't have to stress about being late. We got coffee, relaxed and waited for everyone to get ready. Once the GIVI employees arrived, I was surprisingly intimidated by them, riding giant motorcycles that were perfectly maintained and could most likely smoke us in a race on the street. However I felt much better when we were joined by two Italians, Marco and Federico, who rode from Italy to Malaysia (in a similar route to ours) and looked much more like us. Their bikes weren't quite as dirty as ours, but they had the similar wear and tear that occurs when you ride a motorcycle across Eurasia.
We rode for 20 or 30 minutes with 4 GIVI employees and the two Italians until we arrived at the GIVI convoy at the police station in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
GIVI convoy in downtown KL at the Police Station
Hands down one of the most enjoyable experiences of the entire trip came once we left the police station. The convoy consisted of ~150 other motorcycles and scooters. Since we parked our motorcycles near the exit of the parking lot, we were at the lead of the convoy. GIVI was able to close down all the highways on our 45 mile drive to Sepang (where the Moto GP race took place). Meaning we were the only vehicles on the road. However there was one portion of the road that was improperly closed and there were two lanes of traffic. Instead of sitting in traffic (as I expected 150 motorcycles would do in such a situation), the police parted the lanes like Moses parted the Red Sea and we were all able to drive down the center of the highway riding 2 abreast. It was incredible. I cannot imagine how frustrated the drivers who had to move their cars must've been but it felt other worldly to be riding through traffic without any fear of being hit for the first time on the trip.
James captured an awesome selfie of the convoy. This was only a small fraction of the total bikes
The Moto GP event was like a Seahawks, Mariners or Sonics (RIP) game. Outside of the stadium there were booths for all the different sponsors, Kawasaki, Yamaha, KTM, Castrol, etc, etc. The booths were endless and the air temperature incredibly hot. Luckily for us, Joseph, the Over Seas Operational Director of GIVI was incredibly hospitable and invited us into GIVI's private lounge where we were able to cool down with AC and drink some much needed refreshments. Joseph was even able to acquire 3 "backstage" passes for us. This allowed us to visit the inside of the pit and see the stations where the bikes were maintained and built. I've been told that when we go into detail about motorcycle maintenance/upkeep a lot of people just gloss over it, so I won't go into detail. However, I will say that the technology (and cost) of those motorcycles is incredible (average cost per bike is 4.5 million/year).
I wanted Graham to move his head a little more to the right...
After touring the pit it was time to watch the races. I've seen clips of Moto GP on Youtube and other videos, but nothing could prepare me for the speed and noise of these races. Top speed for the Sepang track was around 300 km/h (the fastest I ever went on my bike was 120 km/h) and everyone in the audience was either plugging their ears or wearing ear plugs. We saw a few crashes, the most memorable being when Valentino Rossi (the crowd favorite in Moto GP) kicked Marc Marquez during a turn causing Marquez to lose control and fall, ending his race.
After the race, we were exhausted from the heat of the day and did not want to battle traffic back to Kuala Lumpur. As we were exiting our seats, two Sepang employees asked if we'd like free beers. Obviously we said yes, took two each, and decided we'd wait a couple hours before trying to beat the traffic.
"Do you guys want free beer?" -Best question. Ever.
We explored the booths a bit more, had two coffees each and finally, around 6pm decided to try and make our way home. There was a lot of traffic… However we brought enduro motorcycles for a reason. For the majority of our ride home, we road in the grass/dirt just off the highway. A ride that would've taken us 2-3 hours by car, took us less than 1 by motorcycle. Plus, riding through the mud keeps you entertained and awake. Once we made it back to our Air B&B, we immediately passed out and went to sleep.
Oct 26th: Coffee shops and Couchsurfing
I woke up a little groggy and dried out from the AC. The unit was placed perfectly at the foot of the bed so I got a blast of cold air right down my nostrils all night. Which sounds bad, but it is welcomed after spending an hour or so in the oppressive heat of KL. The main issue we needed to confront was shipping the bikes. I am also feeling stressed about the job situation when I get back, so a few emails and job searching were also on the docket.
I really enjoy the complicated logistics in making the trip possible, and since we arrived in Thailand everything has felt entirely to easy. The roads are great, everyone speaks English, accommodation and food are cheap, and borders have been easy. I was actually excited that we once again had a slightly difficult process left in the trip: getting the bikes home. We have all been emailed about 20 different shipping agents across Southeast Asia and the United States to see what our options are. Fortunately for us GIVI saved the day again. They introduced us to their shipping agent who has turned out to be incredible, and we have made some serious progress in the past few days.
The majority of this day was spent in the San Francisco Coffee Shop writing emails, job searching, drinking overpriced coffee, and rolling an occasional cigarette (only 1 or 2 mom don’t worry). The real exciting part of this day was meeting out Couchsurfing host, Brian. We have tried to do Couchsurfing in a few different places, but our hectic schedule and lack of knowing where we will be a few days in advance has made it nearly impossible to coordinate with people. We now knew that we would be in KL for at least a few more days, and we ended up meeting Brian.
When we rolled up to the entrance to his apartment complex the guards there seemed slightly confused, but a few minutes later a 5’3 young Chinese/Malay man with a cartilage piercing and short shorts let us in. His name was Brian, and he was a little overwhelmed by the size of our bikes, but incredibly friendly. We parked our bikes near the guard station so they could watch them in the night, (They were very concerned about the security of our stuff) and then headed up to Brian’s apartment. He showed us the room and there were three mattresses laid out on the floor with blankets and pillows and he had AC. This was incredible!
Brian is new to the Couchsurfing scene, and wanted to meet some new people. He didn’t seem all that interested in travelling himself (he hadn’t flown back to his home in Borneo in 10 years because airplanes terrified him), but he seemed to really enjoy meeting adventurous people and sharing his home. I can’t describe how incredibly gracious he was, intellectually engaged in the world. He asked if we wanted a beer and came back with three for each of us. I definitely wasn’t going to complain. The funniest part of the night was when we realized that the three beds were for the 4 of us. This was Brian’s room and he had put down a few extra mattresses for us to crash on. We had a big slumber party in his room, and it was a pretty great way to end the day.
October 27: More Motorcycles
I awoke laying at the foot of the three mattresses pushed together where Michael, Graham and our couch surfing host Bryan were sleeping. They were all still asleep so I rolled over and passed out again. When I awoke Bryan was gone and Michael and Graham were awake giggling and farting and doing things on their phones. After a shower and a bit of preparation we headed to a small strip mall in front of the apartment complex to get breakfast and meet our Italian/German friends, Marco and Federico from the Moto GP. Halfway through a delicious breakfast of fried chicken, rice, a massive pancake/flatbread thing and some coffee our friends showed up. Our newly formed mob (felt like a massive group) headed towards the Givi factory to get a rundown on their facility and production processes. The two newcomers were engineers as well and we were all getting excited to geek out at the factory.
The ride went smoothly and we were soon pulling through the gates of a large compound while two familiar faces from the Givi compound waved us in and greeted us. Our email correspondent Julian and another employee greeted us and took us to the employee lounge to get some coffee. We were soon starting the tour which began in a large warehouse where a line of clean Givi boxes were neatly arranged such that they could be used as storage lockers for the numerous employees. We were then ushered through the injection molding machines in which each and every plastic part was molded. The equipment and processes were very impressive and we were blown away by the quality control which was done to each and every box. We continued through the factory seeing the welding and steel bending areas as well as the assembly and painting areas which were all done by hand in a clean and very organized assembly line.
Some pictures from the GIVI tour
We finished by visiting the warehouses where both the raw materials and final products were shipped to and from and the sales department. All throughout the tour the five of us were examining the machines and processes and geeking out over how it was all done and how efficient it was. When the tour was over we retired to the lunch area for coffee and some social time with our hosts. Both were extremely entertaining and the back and forth banter about lady boys and boy friends kept everyone laughing. Eventually we decided to let our hosts get back to work and our gang departed together to go find a motorcycle store.
Upon arriving at the store which was a nice Kawasaki dealership we learned that Michael would have to wait an hour or so for his gasket that he had ordered so we went and got some lunch. When we returned from the restaurant we found that two of the bikes had been damaged due to what was obviously a fall. While my bike was unhurt, Marco's handlebar tip had bent preventing his throttle from turning and his plastic luggage had been severely cracked. When we inquired what had happened some guys from the shop said that they had found them on the ground and picked them up. They said that it was likely a "gust of wind." We were all very skeptical and a bit put off as there was no wind to be felt and the bikes had been very stable. The more likely possibility was that they had tried to sit on our bikes but as they were so tall had not been able to touch the ground and had tipped over. We also found that my bike had a flat tire. Upon pulling the tire off we found that the flat was clearly not their fault and they were very helpful in getting a new tube put in. We decided not to push the falling issue but were a bit irked at the obvious lie.
Changing my tire outside of the Kawasaki shop.
After the motorcycle shop we headed back to Bryan's where we were going to meet him for dinner when he got off work. We spent the waiting time working on job searches and shipping logistics and the time flew by. When Bryan arrived we headed to dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant. Bryan did the ordering for us and it wasn't long before 3 massive dishes of food and 4 large beers appeared. The food was absolutely delicious especially the sweet and sour pork and the fish. Over dinner we discussed typical Asian fathers and how much westerners love cheese among other things. When we had finished we attempted to pay for dinner as we were already staying for free with Bryan but he refused. After a small battle that including Michael running to the waiter and forcing him to take our money, Bryan triumphed and paid for the meal. We returned to the room and called it a night all snuggling up side by side in the small room.
October 28th: The Last Day with Hans, Seabie and Jolene?
Waking up was strange. I was in a bad mind set and did not want to get rid of our bikes. I couldn't help thinking that everything we did was the last time: last time packing up our motorcycles, last time parking our bikes for breakfast, last time turning on our bluetooths, last time riding in a foreign country, last time worrying about my bike starting properly, last time getting lost, last time for a lot of things. I had a lot of mixed feelings and was bummed at the idea of saying good bye to our bikes that day.
James got a little emotional saying good bye to Brian and potentially our bikes
We gave Brian a giant thank you for such incredible hospitality and headed out. We reached Port Klang (about 30 miles SW of Kuala Lumpur) around 10 am and began working with Wong Lee Wah of SL Freight System on the options for shipping our motorcycles LA. We had been under the impression that we'd be packaging our motorcycles that day, however it was decided that we would come back the following morning and crate them ourselves then. Meaning, we had the rest of the day with our motorcycles. What did we do with them? Found a hotel and parked them.
An incrediby friendly waiter gave us a surprise for lunch
There was a surprisingly large amount of organization that we had to do in order to depart with our motorcycles. We consolidated our med kits, tool boxes, clothes, cooking supplies, sleeping gear, and all the other miscellaneous things that would or wouldn't be necessary for traveling without a motorcycle. In the end, we were able to consolidate what each of us would be keeping into our 18L Cotopaxi day packs and 40L GIVI duffels. We split a shooter of Jack Daniels, compliments of my mom (delivered by my Dad), to celebrate the end of our time with our motorcycles, watched a couple episode of Archer and got money to pay for the shipping of our motorcycles. It was slightly depressing.
As is tradition, paying for shipping is expensive (but not even close to what we paid in Kazakhstan)
Oct 29th: Sad day
We woke up a bit depressed and anxious for what the day was going to bring. Today we would be shipping our bikes home. The motorcycle adventure as we have known it for the past 6 months is over. It hadn’t really settled in yet, but my mind felt a little fuzzy with a jumble of emotions. We packed up all our stuff for the last time on the bikes and rode over to the freight forwarders. Mr. Wong met us and showed us to the warehouse where the pallets had been prepared for the bikes. It was already stifling hot and the sun was just starting to heat up.
Bikes looking a bit barren and skeleton like
In the warehouse we set about the business of unpacking everything and setting it out to dry, taking off miscellaneous items that would make out bikes taller: windscreen, mirrors, front tire, front fender. Our boxes have been pretty consistently damp since we arrived in India, and we are a little concerned about what might be growing in them two months from now so we tried to dry everything as much as possible and then shove little bags of rice to soak up the remaining moisture in strategic places in the boxes. The more strenuous part was getting the bikes on the pallets and then setting them down softly without the front wheel. This lowered them considerably, and we were kicking ourselves for not doing that in Kazakhstan. It probably would have saved us a lot of money. All in all it wasn’t a very laborious process, but the heat made it substantially more exhausting than it should have been. Once we had everything strapped onto the pallet and condensed into the smallest possible volume we saran wrapped them up and stepped back to look at the bikes that just carried us across the world. It was incredibly sad, and I felt a little lost almost immediately. My bike has been more or less my home, my transport, and the only thing that has been constant in my life for the past 6 months and without out it I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. How were we going to get back to the hotel? We had to find a cab? This sucked.
Ready to go. :(
On top of the fact that the bikes were now going to be gone, Michael and James had decided to head back at the beginning of December to sort out job stuff. Although this was only 2 weeks earlier than expected it still kinda sucked. I think my own insecurity in my job situation, the fact that my buddies are leaving early, a recent split in my relationship of 2 years, and the loss of my bike started to really wear on me. As a friend put it “I’m floating, and all I want to do is dive.” At the same time though we were about to head into KL to meet a bunch of incredibly intelligent English teachers who had been teaching across rural Malaysia for the last year, a few days from now we would be travelling to the surfing nirvana of Indonesia, and I still had 2 months of adventuring to go. I was caught up somewhere between excitement and apprehension for the future, and nostalgic for the past.
Later that evening we caught a ride with Shanny into KL to meet up with Michael’s best friend from childhood, John. He has been teaching with the Fulbright Scholar Program in Malaysia with 100 other Americans for the past year. John was stationed in Sarawak on Borneo and had an incredible time. It was awesome to meet up with him and talk with some incredibly impressive young people. Everyone was really intelligent, and had some awesome stories to share from their time in the more rural areas of Malaysia. Maybe it was the 5 ringitt mojitos, but the apprehension from earlier started to fade away. We ended up somehow being a part of some bottomless beers, and everything got a little hazy. We took an expensive cab ride back to Klang at 3 in the morning and passed out emotionally and physically exhausted.
October 30: Lazy days
Today was a very, very lazy day. We awoke groggy and tired from the night before. We were feeling a bit stranded without the bikes and didn't want to leave the room. Michael getting money and plastic bags of coffee was the excitement for the morning. Eventually we got out our computers and began to try and finish booking our flights to Indonesia. This turned into a much bigger project then we expected and we were soon passing computers back and forth entering our credit card and travel information in an attempt to book the cheap flights. Eventually we came to the conclusion that the cheapest flights were fakes and settled on other more expensive flights. By that time we had passed our check out time so we quickly packed up to avoid any more fees and headed out for some lunch.
We found lunch at a small cafe that had been recommended by the lady who had helped with shipping. We ate a delicious meal while the skies opened up and rain came down in sheets. One crack of thunder brought laughs from surrounding patrons as Graham and I jumped with surprise. When the rain had stopped we got water at a small pharmacy and headed to the main street to wait for a taxi. We had waited maybe 5 minutes when the brother of the owner of the pharmacy came out and offered us a ride to the train station where we could head to down town Kuala Lumpur. The extremely friendly guy had studied in the United States in Montana and opened up about life story. We were once again blown away by seeing this act of kindness that was so simple yet so rare in our everyday life back in the states.
The train ride went quickly and we were soon booking a tiny hotel room at the Budget hotel. The room was just big enough for a double bed with a small bathroom that had a leaky shower. We cleaned up and showered before heading to the hotel to meet Michael's friend John for our second night out. Once we'd met up with him we went to a small area called the "Parking lot" for dinner where small stalls served delicious local food for extremely cheap. The food was good and the company even better as we had not talked with many westerners, especially those of our age, in quite awhile. The rest of the night went quickly as we bounced from bar to bar making new friends and trading stories of our experiences. We finished in a small bar where a bit of dancing broke out and Michael ended up dancing with a small Malay about half his size and dressed in what looked like a police uniform. I retired a bit early in order to catch some rest before our early flight.
October 31st: Happy Halloween…?!
I groggily woke up to Graham's panicked voice asking what time it was. HOLY SHIT, it was 6:30. We were supposed to be up at 5:00 in order to catch our flight that left at 8:10. For the first time in my life, I slept through my alarm. There was no excuse, we'd stayed up too late, drank one or two too many Singha's and were now paying the consequences. We grabbed a taxi and found ourselves at the airport at 7:30, the check-in counter was closed. We had missed our flight. Our only somewhat affordable option ($50/each) was to book a flight that would leave that evening for Jakarta and from Jakarta to Lampung (southern tip of Sumatra) the following morning. Meaning we would spend the night in the Jakarta airport. It seemed fitting. Two days after departing with our motorcycles and we make a major mistake with our new mode of transportation.
Sleeping likea princess
We spent the rest of the day in the airport working on job searches, resumes, research for Indonesia, blogging, booking flights home and various other loose ends that needed to tied up. It really wasn't the worst day. We were productive and able to get a lot of things that needed to be done, done.
Our flight left at 7:00 pm and we landed in Jakarta at 8 (1 hour time change). It was difficult to find a place to sleep, but we eventually nestled up between a glass panel and the side of a coffee shop. With our sleeping pads blown up, it was one of the more comfortable airport sleeps I've ever had.
Nov 1st: Wonderful Indonesia
**Annoying phone alarm noise** Confusion. Sit up and realize we are on the floor of the Jakarta airport and it is 3 in the morning. Ughhh this has been a shitty 24 hours. I feel like I could sleep on the floor for a few days, but missing our flight to Lampung would be infinitely worse than the few extra hours sleep on an airport floor. We make it onto the plane without any trouble and pass out immediately. Unfortunately the flight is only 25 minutes long, and we are awaken almost as soon as we fall asleep. I don’t think there have been many times that I wished a flight was longer, but this was one of those times. Garuda Indonesia continued to impress though and gave us a breakfast box on our 25 minute flight.
People have awoken in wierder places the day after halloween
When we got off the plane there were clear skies, posters of surfers everywhere, and a faint scent on incense in the humid morning air. Indonesia. Exactly as I remembered it. Despite the lack of sleep and unfortunate past 24 hours I was incredibly excited to be back here. In typical airport style we were almost immediately harassed by taxis for a ride into town. The past few days had been pretty hectic, and we honestly had no plan on where to go or what to do once we actually arrived in Lampung. “Where do you want to go? Are you here for surfing? Where are you staying?” were all questions that we had no answer to. We did a quick huddle and decided to go to the only guest house on maps.me: Wisma Delima. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of the whole trip.
When we arrived at the guest house we were hot, tired and confused. We were in a small back street and it was pretty early in the morning so not many people were out and about. Fortunately a face popped through a window and asked us if we needed a room. This turned out to be an incredible human named Willy who would be crucial to our next few days. He showed us the room and we instantly passed out.
Didn't expect a boutique bakery in an industrial town
We woke up later in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day hanging out with Willy, and discussing our plans for Indonesia. Willy is fashion and travel journalist originally from Lampung, but has been living in various cities around Asia for the past decade. He has done everything from interview Rihanna to hang out with Mythbusters, and has an awesome perspective on the world. He showed us to some delicious local food known as Nasi Bakar that is essentially bbq brisket beef and rice wrapped in a banana leaf. While we ate we informed Willy of our intent to buy a boat in Lampung and try and sail somewhere in Sumatra. He seemed to think this could be a bad idea, but was instantly helping us get in contact with some of his friends who would know the best way to get a boat. We ended the day feeling like we somehow stumbled upon the perfect base camp to launch our boat adventure, and were optimistic about what tomorrow would tell. Before this point everything I had read seemed to point to it being incredibly difficult to secure a boat, but we already had a few leads. Tomorrow would be the true teller, but I fell asleep with a smile on my face!
November 2: Boats and brains
I stumbled out of the cool dark bliss of our room with a towel around my neck ready to take a shower. Graham was in the sitting area of the guest house talking with an older lady and our host Willy. The older lady introduced me as Willy's mother and I was told we were going to go get a treat for breakfast. I showered and dressed. We were renting scooters from some neighbors so that we could go boat searching once breakfast was done. After a round of rock paper scissors Michael and Graham crammed themselves onto the larger of the two scooters and we set off in pursuit of Willy and his mother in a car. Half way to our destination Graham and Michael's scooter gave a jolt and from behind I could see their rear tire flat. Pulling over we pushed the scooter to a Yamaha service station which was only two buildings away. It wasn't long before Michael disappeared to another shop with some of the employees. 4 dollars and less than 15 minutes later he was back with a fixed scooter and we were back on the road.
We arrived at a small restaurant where Willy's mother and father had gone on some of their first dates. The surprise which I had been told of turned out to be sheep brain soup. We ordered one of those to share among the three of us and ordered some other soups with sheep ribs and sheep meat. They all turned out to be surprisingly good. The brain was like an extremely tender, consistent meat and was surprisingly tasty. The winner of the meal was the regular sheep meat which was also very tender but had a bit more of stringy texture similar to a pulled pork. Along with the soups we got rice, vegetables and a delicious iced drink that was made from a fruit similar to orange. Willy's mom was strong willed and charismatic and made good company while we ate even though her English was limited.
We parted ways with Willy and his mother at the restaurant and went across the street to a market called the "long market" where it seemed a large variety of just about everything could be purchased. We kept an eye out for supplies that we may need for the boat adventure including rope, fishing supplies, knifes, tools, cooking supplies and tarps and made note of where we could find them. We also found some sad looking chickens and decided we wanted to get a chicken, but one that was a bit more lively then those. We then returned to the scooters and headed along the coast to look for boats. After a few stops that were unproductive and consisted of us looking at a boat, pointing and mumbling our best Indonesian and getting nowhere we found some help. We found a large docking area with some police boats and some helpful guys who showed us what boats they had available. These boats included a few zodiacs without engines and a very large motorboat for about $30,000.
Clearly this was a bit out of the budget but luckily for us the guys understood and were do-ers opposed to the usual nay-sayers. Throughout our journey we have met both kinds of people. Most of the people at more official or nicer looking shops are the least helpful and when they don't have exactly what you're looking for or don't understand they give up and say it is impossible. The other people have been the ones who have made the trip a possibility and if they don't have a solution they will find someone who does and go out of their way to make it happen. This was one of those guys and he hopped on his scooter to take us to some fishing boats.
We arrived at a more touristy looking beach and after paying for parking we were taken out to see two boats. The boats were tied up in shallow water about 50 meters from shore so we waded out to inspect them. The boats were in decent shape although one didn't seem to have a working engine but were above our price range at around $2,000. We returned to shore and moved farther along the beach to check out some other boats. We were greeted by a group of cheering children while a small group of fishermen looked on and laughed at the white boys who just showed up to buy a boat. After giving the kids a round of high fives we were taken out to see two more boats. These boats, while also out of our price range, were in much better shape. One of the boats had very nice new looking honda engines. We were excited hoping that we could possibly barter the price down as it was only slightly out of our price range. We traded phone numbers with the owners of the boats and told them we would give them a call when we could communicate better via our host Willy.
One of the better looking engines on the boats.
We parted ways with our temporary guide and headed towards home. We were all exhausted from riding around in the sun all day and the AC at the guest house was heaven. After some showers and a small dinner we were feeling much better. We settled in to get some work done on our laptops when the power got killed. The area which is having an extended summer is hurting on water and thus their primarily hydro-powered electrical grid was hurting as well. Each night the power was killed for a few hours leaving us cooking in our small poorly ventilated room. To distract ourselves we turned on some tv shows on our computers. When the power turned back on a few hours later we were all exhausted and quickly fell asleep as the cool air from the AC dried our sweaty bodies.
November 3rd: Are we Really Going to do This? ~Michael
After Willy told us the incredible news about the two potential boats that were for sale, our imagination and determination started to grow. We woke up and walked around Lampung in search of boating supplies. We ended up with a tackle box, candles, 40 packs of Ramen, spices, a portable stove, cooking oil, and beach mats. Not nearly all we needed, but we decided once we saw the boats we'd get more. We wouldn't be able to visit the boats until 4:00 so we spent the next couple hours anxiously exploring the city waiting to go see the boats.
Willy drove us to the fishing village where the potential boats were and we excitedly jumped out of the car to shake hands with the boat owner. Despite the rats running through green oily mud that covered the trash laden beach and the smells of rotting fish mixed with spoiled egg, our excitement was higher than it'd been in weeks. For the last couple weeks (essentially since we got into Malaysia and stopped motorcycling long distances), I feel like I've been in a funk. It's been a strange transition going from seeing and experiencing new things every single day to slowing down and still experiencing new things, just not as quickly. The thought of buying a boat immediately got me out of that funk. We would be doing something completely new, putting ourselves well out of our comfort zones and working to learn an entirely new skill set. With that mindset we went to see the boat.
The Cheng Ho, soon to be renamed!
I fell in love at first sight. The boat, currently named Cheng Ho after the Chinese General who came to Indonesia in the 1800's and converted to Islam, has a crank engine (like the Model T). It runs on diesel and therefore when started emits a giant plume of black smoke before it starts purring like cat and vibrates the entire boat. The tide was too low and we weren't able to take it for a test drive, but we told them we'd be back the next morning to give it a try and negotiate prices. They were asking 10 million Rupiah (~$720).
The plume of diesel smoke
We left the fishing village in Willy's air conditioned car and went back to Wisma Delima to discuss our options. We called (Willy talked and did the negotiating) the guys we had met the day before to see if they'd be willing to drop the price of their boat from 30 million to something more in our price range, they weren't. This solidified our decision. The next day we were going to buy the Cheng Ho. I was out of my funk and incredibly excited (and slightly nervous) for this next major adventure.
Nov 4th: Did we just buy a boat?
Salt spray on my face, crystal blue waters, smooth waves rolling across an untouched reef. This is what I dreamed about all night. Today we were going to go test drive our potential boat, and pending everything went well we would be boat owners by the end of the day. Throughout this whole adventure I have thought of different kind of adventures that would be as exciting as traveling by motorcycle, and one that constantly comes to mind is travel by boat. Now we might actually be doing that! I was giddy.
We set off to the small fishing village with Willy who would be our translator and key negotiator. He was very apprehensive about us bringing to much money to the village, and to just be careful. This was where most of the crime comes from in Lampung, and we were pretty prime targets. We pulled in and were greeted by a welcoming smile from the boat owner. It really was pretty hard to imagine him being hostile with such a genuine smile, but they say there is a smile for everything in Indonesia. We walked through the trashy tidal zone surrounding the coastal houses to the boat and hopped aboard. The engine started up just fine and we were on our way until we accidentally ran straight through a guy’s fishing net and cut the engine abruptly. This flooded the engine and it took a few minutes to get it started again. This was a little concerning, but didn’t deter us. *mental note: engine doesn’t idle and rapid deceleration floods the engine* This boat sure has character. As the engine fired up again the thick black diesel smoke billowed out of the muffler and she roared to life. This thing is one of the noisiest boats you have ever heard. The sides of the boat sit low to the water, and the tiniest wave sends a salt spray straight up the bow. We were sitting in the front and we were soon pretty wet with salt spray. Willy was not stoked and we scrambled to the back of the boat where there wasn’t as much spray and the cover of the tarp. Unfortunately this was also right behind the muffler so it was deafeningly loud and smelt like diesel. *mental note number 2: gonna need some earplugs* I fell in love with the boat almost instantly.
Test ride on the new whip
The thing I love about this boat is that at its core it is the same as a high end Mastercraft. It has a big engine with a direct drive shaft out the bottom steered by a rudder. The throttle is a little stick on the right side just like a high end boat, but this is a pulley system to the throttle on the engine directly behind you instead of a complicated electrical system. To set the throttle you jam a second stick into the first one so that it doesn’t move. It is a perfect blend of craftsmanship, and brutal simplicity. This thing was made for us.
Some of the other boats we saw weren't quite as workable
After the test ride we all felt the same way, and Willy negotiated a down payment. The rest would be transferred by bank accounts so that there wasn’t as much cash involved and there was a clear receipt of payment. We all shook hands, and both sides were incredibly happy. We just bought a boat!!!! The next step was to figure out what exactly we need, and how we are going to bring everything that will be necessary to survive. For the rest of the day we rode the microlette busses around Lampung and gathered various supplies. These busses are actually incredibly efficient. There are thousands of them throughout the city, and the different colors represent different routes. You won’t find any sign detailing these routes, because everyone seems to be born with a sense of where they go. These buses are completely gutted and most of them have spoilers on the back, beefed up stereos, and an aftermarket exhaust. Inside it is a loud cacophony of rattling parts, crappy electro jams, and loud accelerating mufflers. I loved it.
One of the busses in the background and a goofy kid
The funniest thing about exploring Lampung is the reaction from the girls. The people here are anything but shy, and it is pretty hilarious watching all the girls freak out. The reaction is something similar to a Justin Bieber fan minus the screaming. The giggle and their knees go weak and they run away, but then come back to get a second look. When we were buying our fishing equipment this one girl literally could not stop staring with adoration. I think she almost peed her pants when we said we would take a picture with her. She cuddled up pretty close so I figured it was alright to touch her and put my arm around her, and she lost it. Just screamed with happiness and looked super stoked. The constant looks of adoration boosted our confidence, and propelled our courage for the upcoming boat adventure. Tomorrow we have a few things to tie up and prepare and then we will be on our way. Sailing through the big ole blue!
November 4: The calm before the storm
I'm sitting here enjoying an iced Americano in the blissfully cool air conditioning of our favorite coffee spot in Lampung: El's coffee. Yesterday we decided leaving on our voyage was too much of a push and we needed to get this blog off and prepare a bit more. We're all trying to take in the luxuries that will be absent the moment we push off from the dock tomorrow morning. The idea that in less than 24 hours we will be chugging along the west coast of Sumatra in a small diesel fishing boat with nothing except what we can fit on our boat seems oddly removed. Even as we research the weather patterns and currents along our route and discuss our method of packing and double checking our supplies, it's hard to believe it is actually going to happen. This will likely be one of the bigger adventures of the trip as it is so far removed from all our adventures to date. Stay tuned for our next blog post and when you hear from us next we will likely be seasoned fishermen and seamen!