Curves, Corners and Classrooms

May 19, 2012 View Comments by

We had had such a good day’s ride yesterday that we were all looking forward to getting on the bikes today, despite still feeling a bit tired. The road to the town of Bukkitinggi had been a stunning nonstop ride. We spent most of the day throwing the bikes around the road, which twisted and turned around the mountain ranges in this part of Sumatra. Each mile seemed to take double the amount of time it should.

We decided to take the inland route as we thought it might be a little quieter than the coastal road, which is the main tourist jaunt through Sumatra. Stopping for some photos of the three volcanoes surrounding Bukkitinggi (Merapi, Sago, and Singgalang), we reached the small town of Singkarak and stopped to take some photos of the amazing Batik houses. I decided to have a rest (poor-old-lady tired after yesterday’s riding!) and pulled up outside a school. After a few moments of waiting, a man on a moped came to talk to me; nothing too unusual about that, but then he said he was a teacher at the school, and the headmaster, having seen me outside, had invited me in for some “refreshments.” I explained I had to wait for Andy and Simon, but then we would all love to come in and visit.

The next couple of hours saw the three of us spending time with the school kids, who were so very excited by the three big bikes being at their school. I think the girls loved that a female was riding such a large and powerful bike! We were taken into one of the classrooms, stood in front of the class, and answered as many questions as we could. The questions ranged from the general—“How long have you been in Indonesia?” “What do you think of it and the people?”—to the more personal—“How old are you, and do you have any children?” Finally, religion and politics came into the mix. One young boy stood up and nervously but sincerely asked, “During your time in my country, have you been intimidated or frightened, and is it true that people in the West think that Muslim people are terrorists?” Wow. What a question to be faced with, and before lunch! We answered as best as we could. Simon replied carefully, “Far from being intimidated, we have received nothing but generosity and warmth from the people we’ve met.” He then continued, “There are only two kinds of people in the world: smart people and stupid people. Stupid people believe everything they are told. Smart people use their own experience to form their own opinions. We have met thousands of people who follow the Muslim faith and have only ever received support and friendship.” A roomful of beaming smiles was the result of our reply.

After enjoying an amazing local West Sumatran drink, a “tea” that had a sweet, almost meringue froth on top just like uncooked cake mix, we were put on a photographic roll call. I think we had photos taken with every schoolteacher and almost every pupil in the school.

After almost two and a half hours in the school, we decided there was not much hope in covering many miles today. In fact, as it approached 5 p.m., we were around 100 miles short of where we wanted to be. But hey, flexibility is the word! We eventually found a dump of a hotel. Actually, I think the term hotel is loosely used. The guys here are nice and friendly, but the room . . . eeewwww. Don’t wish to dwell on it, really. I have just got out my own liner and pillow—it’s that bad. I saw something small and black jumping about in the bed too. Sigh . . . I really hope it’s not fleas! I will itch all night just thinking about it.

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About the author

In May 2003, we left our jobs, sold everything, and on 2 BMW motorcycles, set off to see the world. Nothing but a motorcycle can get you to the places and in touch with the people we have had the pleasure of spending time with. We’ve turned what was once a weekend hobby into a way of life that we wouldn’t trade for anything, and have no intention of ending anytime soon.