Sunrise cycling on a beautiful tropical island is about as good as it gets. Soft pastels brighten into a blazing blue, a gentle breeze rolls in from the sea and the air is fresh with possibility.
I savor these moments of peace and serenity. Soon I will be left panting, my heart pounding, my legs shaking as I climb some of the steepest hills on the planet. But for now there is nothing more pressing than watching the clouds drift past, fisherman cast their lines and children trot off to school.
We island hop from Bali to Lombok to Sumbawa, each dot of land more beautiful than the last.
In the month of August, Bali is hectic and crowded with swarms of European holiday-makers. We give Kuta Beach a wide berth and head up to the highlands where the air is cool and crisp. This side of Bali is not exactly quiet, but bearable. The views out over the lakes are stunning and the Hindu temples intriguing.
In search of more serene surroundings, we push on to Lombok. Once past the busy beach town of Senggigi , tourists once again become a rarity (which is how we like it).
Rural life on Lombok revolves, quite naturally, around the sea. It’s a tough life, but the proud fishermen seem content as they paddle out to sea. Children frolic in the waves, old women herd cows along the beach and young mothers work hard to meet their family’s needs.
It gets even better
Sumbawa, a tiny island hardly anybody has even heard of let alone visited, turns out to be the highlight of the trio. After 4 hours on the ferry from Lombok we pull into the port during the worst of the searing mid-day heat. The land is scorched and barren but somehow beautiful.
Indonesia is shaping up to be on of my favorite countries in Asia for bicycle touring. Its scenery is incredibly diverse--it's got both mountains and the sea, desert-like landscapes and tropical ones, too. The Indonesian people couldn't be friendlier--they're always ready with big smiles and warm greetings. And the climate's not too bad either, the highlands are refreshingly cool and ocean breezes make for pleasant cycling along the coast.
Flores is next up. An island so hilly, says our Lonely Planet, it's suitable only for cyclists of Tour de France caliber. We'll see about that!