There are 152 million people living on 124 413 square kilometers in Java. That would be like Switzerland having 50 million inhabitants. We were accordingly prepared for a lot of people and heavy traffic, especially in the greater Jakarta area, where we had arrived by ferry.

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The first day started with a lot of good company. Even before we had reached the café where we had arranged to meet members of the “Federalists” cycling club, we were picked up and escorted by four gentlemen. By the way, the Federalists are named after an Indonesian bicycle brand that had to stop producing its steel-frame bikes in 1996. Regardless of whether the members own a Federal bike or not, they go on weekly rides together. The focus is not on performance, but on the fun. There are Federalists all over Indonesia, they are organized in local clubs, very enthusiastic and excellently networked. International cycle tourists like us can hardly fall through this tightly woven net. And anyone who can present selfies with foreigners is mighty proud of it😊.

Over good, local coffee and delicious food, traditionally served on a banana leaf, we gratefully accept tips and contacts for our onward journey. Rico, where many Federalist contacts come together, had already notified the hosts along our route for the coming days and provided them with plenty of pictures of us. It wasn’t long before the first strangers contacted us via WhatsApp😊.

After a sociable lunch, the Federalist group from Serang showed us the way to the major junction and let us go. However, we didn’t stay alone for long, as the next cyclists, Om Gatot and Jimmy, welcomed us at the stage finish in Rangkasbitung. Our search for cheap accommodation ended at Jimmy’s home. We were allowed to spend the night in his room above the bike workshop. There was no argument: we slept in Jimmy’s bed, the two men on the mattress on the floor.

The next day’s distance to Bogor was covered unaccompanied in heavy traffic. When the usual afternoon rain turned out to be heavy and persistent, we had had enough and looked for accommodation nearby. Unfortunately, we offended a federalist who would have loved to accommodate us 15km further on. Sorry!
We could really use the rest and deep sleep the next day. The noise of the dense, smelly traffic was nerve-wracking. There was a traffic jam on the opposite side of the road for the entire 24 km over the Puncak Pass and from midday onwards it rained continuously. Cycling on Java up to this point was no fun at all! Not that we found the traffic particularly dangerous, because consistently looking ahead works quite well. People are used to different vehicles with imaginative payloads and, because of the narrow, sometimes potholed roads, they drive at a pleasantly considerate and moderate speed. What annoyed us was the constant noise!

Many people try to earn their daily two to three dollars on or near the road. Whether parking attendants, traffic controllers with whistles, food vendors, aluminum collectors, “musicians”, monkey trainers, umbrella sellers or people who paint themselves from head to toe with silver paint, making mascots on the roadside, etc…. everyone needs attention and money.
In addition, there are modified motorcycle exhausts, bus horn melodies lasting several minutes, police or ambulance sirens, mosques with megaphones blaring and the loudspeakers of karaoke bars that easily drown out any noise.

The supposedly beautiful route over the pass was not a pleasure, but what the roads and landscape didn’t offer, the people made up for! The local federalists were waiting for us at the entrance to Cianjur. We were well looked after in their clubhouse and could only return the favor with our presence, smiles for the camera and a simple communication via translator. The Cianjur group were so kind to us that they accompanied us halfway to Bandung. We had wisely booked accommodation there early enough, otherwise we would have been put up with someone straight away.

The very next morning, we were guests at the anniversary celebration of the local Federalist Association and were able to join our exhausted friends from Cianjur. They spent almost the entire night on their bikes to make sure they didn’t miss this event in Bandung😲.
After hundreds of photos, four hours of live music and moderation at maximum volume, we were glad for our private room in the guest house. We treated ourselves to a few days of noise and people detox and finally found time to publish our report on Sumatra😊.

The days in the hotel were so relaxing that we were ready to visit the Federalist Aep for a coffee on the way out of town to be handed over almost seamlessly to Asep in Garut. Once again, we were given incredibly warm hospitality and food in a Federalist home. Asep also accompanied us almost 30 km the next morning and visited the traditional village of Naga with us. Hardly had we said goodbye to him than we were at the Warmshower host and English teacher Henky’s place in Tasikmalaya. We were able to talk to him without a language barrier, which was very pleasant and relaxed.

Had we wanted it any other way, we would probably have stayed with someone every night. But we missed our self-determination and David’s stomach didn’t agree with tasting every possible specialty. He was plagued by nausea and lost his appetite for days. So invitations and troublesome food were not an option for a while. It was a good thing that the scenery became more exciting in the center of Java. We climbed the Dieng Plateau in two days over ramps, some of which were outrageously steep. The small road was lined with rice terraces in the valley, tea bushes and cocoa trees at higher altitudes and vegetable fields at the top. Even on the steepest slopes, vegetable beds are planted by hand, which makes for a beautiful picture in the sunshine. The tourist village of Dieng, on the other hand, did not inspire us at all. It is tailored to the needs of the local audience and plastered with wildly grown building complexes and selfie spots, which (in our eyes😉) disfigure the landscape.

A rapid descent, followed by another far too steep road through lush green tea plantations, brought us to the vicinity of Yogyakarta. We decided to skip the compulsory tourist program, which included a visit to the famous Buddhist and Hindu temples of Borobodur and Prambanan. We were put off by the expensive entrance fees, especially as the time and duration of visits are very limited. Instead, we decided to drive between the volcanoes Merapi and Merbabu to Solo and spend a few days there.

Solo is famous for its batik art, which we were able to admire in excess on a guided tour of the batik museum. Superfluous, however, was a visit to a traditional theater performance, which was highly recommended in the travel guide, but was not intended for an international audience. We waited for almost two hours for the right moment to be able to leave the theater unnoticed😊. Without any language skills, we found our way around the busy, chaotic morning market and the questionable bird market. At the latter, we were able to move around freely and take photos, which really surprised us. It seems there are no unwanted animal rights activists here, although there would be plenty of work for them.
Before we left the city, we headed for a nice bar with our packed bikes, where we had a coffee chat with Miranda and her friends from the women’s cycling club and plenty of photo documentation.

Strengthened and motivated, we set off on the unexciting ride to Blitar. Here we ventured to stay with the Federalist and Warmshower host Ovan. We spent a pleasant evening with him and his friends and were able to sample many specialties (as we had for snack). David paid for this experiment the next morning by completely emptying his digestive tract in record time🙈. On the first 25 km, which we were accompanied by a large group of federalists, David made a good impression, even though he really wanted nothing more than to check into a nearby hotel. But even after we had said goodbye to the cyclists, the hotel room had to be earned. As so often in Indonesia, a higher price was charged on the spot than on the booking platform. Well, we’ll just book and pay online. This time, the friendly receptionists told us that we would have to pay extra because the prices on Agoda were too low. They couldn’t understand why they should increase the prices on the booking platform and not simply charge us more. It was only when we explained that they wouldn’t pay more for their cell phone than the price on the price tag that they understood our objection😉. Anyway, we paid the small surcharge and David was finally able to get some well-deserved rest. This was also necessary, as the next visit to Muhammad and his family in Pronojiwo was already planned. Neither the nearby Tumpak Sewu waterfall nor the sunrise behind thick clouds were really spectacular. Instead, David was allowed to take part in a Muslim memorial service in the evening (a purely male affair) and Muhammad brought us into his sons’ school for two hours to teach English, which was a fun and fascinating insight.

After so much hustle and bustle, we made it back to Malang without incident thanks to Imodium. Here we were supposed to meet Adi, a Warmshower host. After postponing our arrival several times, we canceled our appointment with Adi altogether in order to give David’s stomach a rest in a hotel. We also had to take care of the visa extension, which had got stuck in the online process. At the immigration office, the ladies rejected all responsibility. We had stupidly given an address in Bali in the initial visa application, so the immigration office in Bali was responsible for us, they had no access to the data and couldn’t help us any further. A phone call to the colleagues in Bali was out of the question. They were only able to give us the WhatsApp number of the immigration office in Bali. The Balinese did answer, but not to our liking… My visa extension application seemed to be approved, but there were problems with David. Although we had submitted the identical documents for both of us in the same application, it was the arbitrariness of the person in charge that a letter of guarantee ( officially not required) from an Indonesian citizen was necessary for David. Discussion was pointless! So we took a copy of such a letter and took it to Adi, who kindly filled everything out for us.

The next morning we didn’t feel fit enough to continue our journey, so we turned off the alarm clock and slept in. This turned out to be a stroke of luck, as the visa drama kept us busy for another day. The template from Malang was not accepted in Bali and we had to resubmit the letter in the Bali template. Furthermore, we had to attach documents that we had previously downloaded from their e-visa portal… bloody annoying!
Another day later and with a changed route, we drove out of Malang in a northerly direction. This way we stayed connected for a while and kept the option open to either climb the Bromo volcano as we wished or, if necessary, pedal to Bali as quickly as possible. Fortunately, David’s visa extension got one step closer and was just waiting for the approval of the chief officer.

Only many meters of altitude separated us from the longed-for view of and into the Bromo crater. The tough climb over roads, some of which we could only manage by pushing, was well worth it! After staying in the most expensive and worst accommodation of our trip through Indonesia, we walked to the nearby viewpoint. Wow, the view of the crater was really good that afternoon! Without much hesitation, after lunch we walked down into the sea of sand and up to the bubbling Bromo crater. The natural power of the volcano was very impressive. So were the crowds of people who, like us, wanted to admire the sunrise the next morning. We were lucky and were able to get a good spot and witness the spectacle of the breathtakingly surreal view from the front row.

This magical morning was followed by two unspectacular days up to the foot of another volcano, Ijen. The crater can be hiked to in two hours, but since a death occurred, you need a health certificate and a gas mask. We quickly obtained the health certificate, which required a WhatsApp message and two francs per person😉.
With the necessary paper in our pockets, we pedaled to base camp in a day on a beautiful little road. The many meters of altitude made us tired enough to fall asleep at 7 pm. In order to have a chance in the race to the blue sulphur flames in the crater of Ijen, we had to get up at 1:15 a.m. and join the uncoordinated queue at the ticket counter. Most of the guided groups were already on the ascent (apparently they don’t need a ticket and are all perfectly healthy) when we finally exchanged our health certificate for an entry ticket and set off.

With speed and consistency on the ascent, we gained more promising positions in the battle for good photo spots. In fact, when we arrived at the Ijen crater, the scramble was limited. The gas mask we were able to borrow from the guesthouse was more for show, marketing and good business than a real necessity. Still in the dark, we climbed out of the crater and were able to enjoy the sunrise under a cloudless sky. 

It was only another 30 km downhill to Banjuwangi, where the ferry to Bali departs… Then we achieved what we hadn’t always believed we would: crossing the island of Java by bicycle without a traffic accident or bus transfer. However, we haven’t yet managed what seemed so easy: getting a visa extension for both of us…