October 2009
Hi there fellow BF riders and owners! 

2009 has been the inaugural year for two brand new cycle tours, both on the spidery shaped Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The first trip (1200 km 27 days) was in January. On this trip there were 10 BF cyclists (See here)

Inspired by the enthusiastic responses of riders to this ride I ran a second trip in August (525 km 9 days), sad to say, no BF riders. I’ve planned two rides for 2010. The first (625 km 13 days) in February, to mystical, magical Toraja Land. The second, to South South Sulawesi (a repeat of August 2009).

For the February Toraja trip there are already three BF riders and two Birdies, so no shortage of little wheels. There are four places left and I’d really like BF riders to take at least some of them.

I began thinking about cycle trips to Sulawesi in 1996 when I was working in Indonesia’s spice capital, Makassar, largest city on the island.

I travelled down to the southern coast past the home of Indonesia’s wooden sailing boats and on to the white sand beaches at Cape Bira. I was struck by the charm of the timeless villages and the beauty of the agricultural and coastal landscapes, the quiet country roads, the un-conjested towns and the distinct lack of commercialism. I thought this’d be a great place to cycle around, even though at that stage I was not yet into cycling.

In 2000 Rendra (son) and I did just that. We took Bromptons and soon found that as good a folder as the Brompton is, it is not up to mountains and long distance touring. Luckily I met Roger Covell, an Australian BF owner. This led me to Margaret Day then David and Bronwyn Laing who allowed me to try, in January 2001, a New World Tourist. By February I was the proud owner of a brand new yellow NWT. To get up to BF speed I attended a Margaret Day Australian BF gathering in the Barossa Valley.

In 2005 I traded my aging NWT for a new red one, while attending, with daughter. Pactour’s Arizona Desert Camp. The camp was a knockout. Held in the clean, clear, cool air of a mountain desert, there were well planned day trips, good talks and a supportive community of people. Fondness for my decision to buy a BF and become part of the BF community grow rapidly during that week in Arizona...and continues to grow.

I don’t drive, due to an eye condition, so my NWT was both functional and recreational. I took it just about everywhere. Desert Camp inspired me to get serious about organizing a trip to Sulawesi for other cyclists, hopefully BF ones.

In August 2006 son and I returned to the island to explore the feasibility of taking a group there. We were thrilled with what we found. Every day brought surprises and delights. Most visitors to South Sulawesi fly into Makassar in the southwest and then take the road north to Tana Toraja, in the middle of the island. On our first trip we too took that route. On our second trip we took a circular route: went south to the bottom of the island, turned east, north up the east coast and then westwards back inland to the mountains of mystical Tana Toraja.

On the return to Makassar we cut down the middle of the island thus avoiding the the busy roads that most people take. On this trip we had the needs of a group in mind. Accommodation? Food? Muslim culture? What to do apart from cycling? Traffic? The roads? The people? The toilets? Could every day be a good one? We discovered a terrific range of ever changing scenery, mostly uncrowded sealed roads, cycle respectful drivers, warm hospitable people, very friendly towards foreigners. We got to really like the custom of villagers selling fruits in season from roadside stalls, where tired, thirsty and hungry cyclists can lie down, rest and enjoy mango, watermelon, rambutan or durian.

I want to share, through cycling, my love, knowledge and experience of Indonesian life and culture. I are bilingual and bicultural. I’ve had 45 years of work, family and recreational association with Indonesia. I’ve lived and worked in Central Java, Jakarta and Sulawesi as well as having worked as a volunteer teacher in Malaysia for two years.

This 13 day trip will include mountain trekking, white water rafting, over-nighting in a Torajan village, cultural talks and formal Indonesian language instruction.

The route is 525 km, average 85 km plus per cycle day with 4-5 days of hilly to mountainous terrain, through non-tourist Indonesia.

I could be on a blue Genue – left in Australia by Peter Barra after the Cowra weekend - which I’m about to start trailling.

Best wishes from Sydney.

Colin Freestone

There’s heaps more info at www.cycleindonesia.com.au