One of the best parts of an extended bike tour is the luxury of time. Time to take it slow, drink in the landscape and stop for a chat.
But sometimes bureaucracy forces you to slow down.
That’s our current situation as we twiddle our thumbs in Surabaya waiting for extensions to our Indonesian visas.
Taking time off the bikes in a big city (over 2 million) wouldn’t have been our first choice. (Frankly, a beach on Bali sounds more enticing.) But we’re making the best of a frustrating situation.
The call of prayer from the neighborhood mosque wakes me well before dawn each morning. I crawl out of bed, grab my camera and head out the door to shoot some photos. Here’s a taste of what I find on the friendly streets of Surabaya…
As I roam the streets I’m greeted with a steady stream of “Hello Mister!” Women are mister, too. Even in a major city people are friendly and curious. This is early morning traffic in Surabaya…cars, motorbikes, scooters, rickshaws, bicycles and plenty of pedestrians plying the roads.
Cycle rickshaws are a very common mode of transport in this part of Indonesia.
This girl is headed off to school in her pristine white uniform. Highly impractical for such a dusty climate.
And some people get around under their own steam. Given the heat, pollution and level of danger on the roads, bicycles are surprisingly popular in Surabaya. The cool kids ride around on fluorescent fixies.
Rickshaw drivers have a pretty rough life. Many have no regular home and actually live in their rickshaws. You can see them at all hours of the day and night dozing in their machines. Fortunately, they are able to bathe at the local mosque.
As soon as a family gets a little money, they invest in a scooter. Scooters are not solo modes of transport in this part of the world. Babies are balanced in front and older kids grab on to the back. I’ve seen families of 5 darting around on a tiny Honda.
Surabaya may be a massive city of millions, but in the quiet neighborhoods knows as Kampungs you’re it’s a different world. In these crowded lanes children toss around a ball, housewives gossip and vendors go door to door plying their wares. Everybody knows everybody else and a Bule (how Indonesians refer to we foreigners) certainly does stand out.
There’s really no need to leave the neighborhood since everything you need comes right to the doorstep. There’s the bread man with his distinctive horn, the veg man who shouts out ‘Sayur, Sayur’ the donut guy, the recycling guru, the trinket seller, all the various food carts and of course the ice cream man.
There seems to be a mosque on every corner in the crowded neighborhood where we’re staying. I pass at least 10 on my morning walks. By 4AM many families are up and about preparing a meal (known as sufhoor) to break the fast at sunrise.
As I finish up this photo essay, it’s nearing 6AM. A late start for my morning walk. Surabaya’s streets will be busy now. It’s time to grab the camera and head out the door.