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SOUTH SOUTH SULAWESI (August 2009)


JENNY ATTRILL

In all honesty, I found it a little daunting having had just signed up for the 2009 South Salawesi cycle tour, knowing of the Jakarta bombings and various political unrest in parts of Indonesia but cycling through the unique array of landscapes of South Salawesi, I found it anything but daunting.

For me, this was really a fantastic experience and I am very glad to have done it.

I learnt a lot and not only about the Indonesian culture. No lie, the assents, long days, traffic and the YOGA after the long days was DEFINITELY a challenge, but the support and encouragement of the group really got you through it.

The descents, the delicious makanan (food) breaks, beautiful and even parts shabby scenery, snorkelling, karaoke, accommodation, even toilet breaks and most memorably the curiosity, warmth and energy of the locals really made up for these challenges. Colin was professional, enthusiastic, knowledgeable which made it a HELL of a lot easier to interact with people of Salawesi and gain a feeling of the life in Salawesi. Oops nearly forgot, yes, the tour was well organised.

I’ll be sure to sign up again as I believe there will always be something new to experience when in Indonesia and why not do it on a bicycle!

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss my experience about this tour.

Cheers Jen

Jennie Attrill Email



SCOTT MAIN

I took this trip in August 2009. It was AWESOME. I'd be happy to talk to anyone about it. Just phone me on +61 2 6260 4200 or email me

Scott Main Email



PAUL NICOL

It was with some trepidation that I signed up for Colin's trip to South South Sulawesi. It took me just 3 hours on the very first day, when we pedalled from Makassar on the coast, to Malino in the mounains, to realise that all my fears were justified.

I'd just come out of a miserably cold Canberra winter, where all the roads are flat, and I'd not fully absrobed preparation suggestions in the trip website, particularly the bits that referred to diffciult terrain. The ascents that we faced on the first day were followed by even more serious ones on tsubsequent days.

I paid dearly for my lack of preparation. But, the scenery, support from the other riders, the daily ride planning and the inredible warmth and friendliness of the Indonesian people offset my aching limbs and over-worked perspiration glands. I'm not the fastest of pedlars at the best of times and on this trip every unit of energy was challenged but I managed to cycle all the way, apart from one small bit. I was able to 'make it' due, in large part, to how the rides were planned. First, there was an emphasis on 'touring on a bike' rather than 'cycling for its own sake'. There were no prizes for riders who came in first. And it was quite okay to come in last. Stops to re-group, replensih water, have a stretch, take pikkies, yarn with locals and enjoy local snacks, were frequent. The terrain certainly pushed me but neither the trip organization nor the other riders did. So despirte inadequate preparation I enjoyed myself so much so that I've decided to do another Sulawesi adventure.....to Toraja....but this time I'll be coming out of a Canberra summer and I'll build a few hills into my trip preparation.


Paul Nicol Email



ROB WILDMAN

I always struggle with the idea of reading a testimonial. In the first place it is someone else’s journey always written after the experience and, as we all know with time, you just forget the bad bits. I never ever write them but for this one occasion I have made an exception.

Colin, whose long experience in this part of the world, is very comfortable with the local customs and language, and in putting together this trip, has got it just right. The organisation of the journey is unseen and everything just happens, seemingly without being arranged. The trip simply puts you in a position where you can feel you have done it on your own and this is where it is very different from all others.

My aim on this trip was to absorb and enjoy the culture of the place as much as time would allow and to top it off, I could ride my bike to get there. What more could I ask? Now I believe you have to have some cycling experience (for example some Big Rides experience) otherwise you will not enjoy this - you have to expect to climb some hills (yes some very steep hills) and some longish days in the saddle (11-12 hours) but what the brochure doesn’t tell you is that you get plenty of rests and help. I found the idea of just stopping at convenient pondoks (little bamboo rest stops), where the assistants would rush over and take you bike, fill up the water while you had a cup of tea or coffee, were the highpoints. Every time you stop of the roads of Indonesia, you are greeted by faces and “hellos” you only think happens in the country. The kids are so alive and everyone has a great laugh at their efforts to speak Bahasa. Pure entertainment!

Of course there are the white sand beaches, coral snorkelling, waterfall swimming and other very pretty locations but there is also the drab and the dirty. Above it all though sours the welcoming, beaming crowd which is Indonesia. It is always the people which make this place the exciting and fascinating place that it is. This is not just a cycle ride - the cycling is just an excuse to get absorbed by the culture which hits you at every turn in the road.

But just one more thing for the cyclists - on our second day we had a massive climb up and out of a waterfall valley. At a road junction halfway up, we could take the short flat route back to the hotel or the continual climb of 8kms round trip back to the hotel. We chose the longer route. Why? Because rolling down the country back lanes in the mountains of Sulawesi would have to be one of the loveliest cycling experiences you can get.

Remember, be open and willing to engage - that’s what this trip is all about.

Rob Wildman Email



IBI LOSONCZ

What better way to discover this beautiful island and its culture than by cycling your way from one village to the next? It is a unique experience not only for the traveller, but also for the people you meet along the way. Their curiosity and warm smiles are very welcoming and there are many opportunities for saying hello, exchanging a few words, or holding a longer conversation with the assistance of Colin (your tour organiser), who is bilingual and has an excellent understanding of Indonesian culture and customs.

The organisation of the trip was excellent. It was well planned, but with room for spontaneous activities. The group was well supported in every aspect; bike mechanics, refreshments including fresh local snacks at the stops, yoga classes, fantastic dinners, and accommodation.

It was an authentic experience and a real adventure. I can’t wait to do it again. There is only one thing I will do differently next time: I’ll make a real effort to learn the basics of Bahasa Indonesian, so that I can make more of the opportunities to communicate with the local people and children!

Ibi Losoncz Email



SOUTH SULAWESI (January 2009)


JOEL DIRINGER

An exotic trip with diversity of culture, terrain and food, all masterfully put together with wonderful support and encouragement. Locals are enthusiastically friendly, countryside beautiful, and new tropical fruits and local treats on a daily basis. Accommodations are always the “best available” but in the rural area they may be very rustic. Colin and the support staff made the trip easy and fun. Bring lots of sunscreen. Highly recommended.

Joel Diringer Email



DIANNE PONTA

I first heard of this trip from Colin Freestone, the trip organizer, at the annual Australian Bike Friday gathering. Colin had planned the trip after thoroughly surveying the province of South Sulawesi. The route took us through the best that South Sulawesi has to offer including the mountains and culture of magical Tana Toraja.

You often hear that Indonesia is a dangerous place. What I experienced couldn’t have been further from that. The local people, along the whole route, were welcoming, hospitable and amazingly friendly.
On our rides we’d stop and rest in the shade of pondoks, bamboo and thatch platforms where locals display their fruit, rest and gather to catch up on gossip. ‘Pondoking’ became one of the group’s favourite words. The food was great, I especially liked the village cakes and the exotic fruits such as the hairy rambutans, the snake skin salak and the juicy custard apple sirsaks.

The organization of the trip was tight but relaxed. We would ride as a group, there was a lead car and a sweep, and between these two vehicles we rode at our own pace. Sometimes there was tension between the gunho speedsters and those wanting to take it more casually, but these extremes can be expected in any group, but in our case it never got out of hand.

Besides the support vehicles the group was very well supported with a bike engineer, a logistics manager and assistant who doubled as massager. The group was able to interact easily with the local population because apart from there being lots of opportunities to do so, Colin’s wife and son, who came along, were also bilingual.

Led Yoga classes were part of the program that was offered and this together with swimming, massage and hot springs went a long way to easing sore limbs and aching joints. I’m an average cyclist, I’m not a racer, and this trip gave my confidence, strength and ability a huge boost. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to cycle in a non-tourist part of a developing counry but with a good level of caring rider support.

Dianne Ponta Email



SALLY GOODSPEED

Sulawesi is an authentic and charming Indonesian island to visit. Its friendly people were very welcoming of our group of cyclists and support vehicles as we passed through its villages, beside its rice paddies and over its mountains.

Colin and his team had created a journey around Southern Sulawesi that had a good balance of new discoveries and familiar comforts. We stayed in ocean fronted resorts where possible, and enjoyed a great variety of fruits and village cakes, as well as the staples of rice, chicken and fish.

The support was excellent. It started before the trip began when the bike mechanic worked day and night to make sure that all of our bikes were ready. It continued through the trip with ongoing maintenance of the bikes, daily yoga, and many visits to places of interest along the way. Side trips included visits to waterfalls and buffalo markets and building of traditional sailing boats being built for the European market.

The drivers of the three support vehicles were very helpful providing water at every rest stop, and generally being very responsiveness to other requests. For example, they often assisted with excursions on rest days. And the two staff who managed administrative matters were excellent - making sure that rooms were clean and ready for us at the end of each day’s riding.

Colin’s local knowledge and preparation was invaluable. It was fabulous to be with people who knew the Indonesian language and customs, and who were able to assist us in our day to day interactions. It helped make the trip an adventure I will remember fondly for many years to come.

Sally Goodspeed Email



TERRY IRWIN

Cycle Sulawesi 2009 was, as promised, an adventure. If you are looking for a Butterfield and Robinson trip (oh, to win the lottery and be able to afford one of their trips to the South of France), you will be disappointed. However, if you are interested in experiencing the real Indonesia without all the Western tourist trappings, consider joining the group. Do remember that you will be traveling in a “Third World” country albeit filled with welcoming and friendly people.

For me there were three stand-out features on this trip.

The people that took part in the ride. They came from America and Australia and were fascinating individuals. They shared a love of travel and adventure and quickly melded into a team. They offered support and encouragement and met the odd difficulty with gracious poise. They came from many different walks of life and the age ranged from mid twenties to seventy plus.

1. The ability to meet and interact with Indonesian people. In Makassar, the major city in Sulawesi, we were treated to a ride to the local fish markets led by the local head of the Makassar Bike Club. After our visit he took us to his favorite coffee house, and later his wife and sons joined us (well actually acted as tour guides) when we visited Fort Rotterdam.

2. After leaving Makasar there were many opportunities to meet the locals as we stopped to rest or to buy local produce.

3. The quality of staff that were involved with organizing and supporting the trip. Colin Freestone has the ability to attract excellent and loyal support people, who share his vision. They not only aided us to come to grips with a bit of culture shock, but always did so with humor and grace. Excellent support no matter what difficulty was faced.

The best tip that I can offer is to make an effort to learn the basics of the Bahasa Indonesian, so that you can try to communicate directly with the locals. It is an easy language, and there are several very good language packages available. Many of us have not accepted the challenge of a new language since high school, and my wife and I found we really enjoyed the challenge. The Indonesians loved the fact that we were trying to speak to them in their language and were very kind when we made horrendous errors. We also received encouragement and practice with the Indonesian staff, who after a chuckle would school us on the correct word to use. In short, the language challenge was fun and greatly added to the experience. My second tip is to come prepared for an adventure. You will be traveling as an Indonesian would in terms of accommodation and restaurants with only the occasional Western style break. Gear your expectations appropriately.

The locals loved the fact that we were trying to speak to them in their language and were very kind when we made errors. We also received encouragement and practice from the Indonesian staff who accompanied us on the trip, who after a chuckle would school us on the correct word to use. In short, the language challenge was fun and greatly added to the experience.

Terry Irwin Bermagui, NSW, Australia Email



CHRIS JONES

”The inaugural Sulawesi Tour was a blast. I went there primarily for the cycling and the scenery, not so much for the culture and yoga. Having travelled in South East Asia quite a bit, but not by bicycle, I was fairly in tune with Asian cultural diversity and what to expect regarding food and accommodation. Well, every tour has its pleasant surpris
The cycling was fantastic, with scenery varying from coastal plains to majestic mountains of dense jungle, exotic plants and carved out terraced rice fields. Without exception the Sulawesi people were friendly and welcoming, and the school kiddies fanatical in waving and cheering as we passed their schools during play breaks.

The tour management team was competent and efficient and their fluency in the language made travelling so much easier. Augmenting each day’s cycling with yoga was a coup with stretching and breathing techniques lending themselves perfectly to the needs of weary cyclists. Another coup was the relaxing art of pondoking, the explanation of which I shall leave for you next Sulawesi Adventurers to discover on tour.

You have to be in it to experience it. Leave behind your western expectations and absorb the Sulawesi experience. Whoever heard of pan fried yogurt? Enjoy a night in a rice storage bin. Appreciate that starting blocks for toilets can produce a laugh, and who could conceive that rice can be so tastefully presented in so many formats, from white and fluffy to mouth watering black and sticky? Add Sulawesi to your riding curriculum vitae and join Colin and his team for a ride with a difference."

I'd be happy to talk to anyone about this trip.

Chris Jones Carnavan, Australia Email


MAREK MALTER

To all those riders out there who are looking for a cushy 5 star ride … go look elsewhere!

This is for riders who can ignore a little discomfort and discover a world virtually free of tourists. A land rich in scenery and friendly people and roads of surprisingly good standard.

Tour leader Colin has over 30 yrs experience working in Indonesia and is a fluent Bahasa Indonesia speaker and together with his team goes to great lengths to look after your safety and wellbeing. Our ride in January 2009 was an experience to remember … the sights, the aromas, the food and the adventures in an emerging country of a very different culture.

Marek Malter Email

SYLVIA MAUD NOTEWARE

I am so proud to say that I rode my bike 800 miles in Indonesia. Wow! Yes, it was a little daunting to go flying off by myself, but having contacted Colin and other riders made me feel a bit more secure. Once on the ground I was swept into a caring group of staff and riders and never once doubted my decision.

Cycling Sulawesi returns to me as a sort of dream. Lovely scenery, beautiful people, luscious fruit, fun cycling and yoga all blend together in my mind. The Indonesian people were so gracious and smiling as we cycled through their villages and rice farms. And no worry about the weather, just hot and humid. We were pampered by the staff and offered as close to native experience as possible.

I am pleased to recommend Cycle Sulawesi to anyone -- experienced cyclist or not. There is cycling for all levels of riders -- but, note, one must ride on the left! There are few places remaining where commercial tourism has not tarnished the experience. What a thrill to be touring by bike where few foreigners are ever seen. I thank Colin and his excellent staff for a wonderful trip.

Sylvia Maud Noteware Email


CHARLIE PATTON

My name is Charley Patton, owner of The Yoga Barn, a studio in Ubud Bali. In January 2009, I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural Cycle Sulewesi Tour, organized by Indonesian Cultural Communications (ICC).

If you’re looking for an adventure that gets you off the beaten track, look no further. Indonesia is a vast and beautiful country with friendly people and varied cultures. Exploring by bicycle offers no better way to interact at a local level and truly immerse oneself in the experience. Colin Freestone, head of ICC, is uniquely qualified as a tour leader, having spent over 40 years throughout the archipelago.

Sulawesi, unlike Bali or Java, is still relatively unspoiled by tourism. Our group of 23 spent one month cycling through remote villages (teaming with excited children), incredible coastlines, spectacular scenery, delicious fruit stands, switch-back mountainous climbs, majestic waterfalls, and colorful butterflies. The highlight was the Tana Toraja region of South Central Sulawesi ... a region rich in culture and tradition dating back to ancient times.

Be advised this is not the kind of trip for the faint of heart or those with high expectations of creature comforts. We found ourselves cycling through the early morning hours, but at only 3 degrees south of the equator, it still got plenty hot spending 4-5 hours daily in the saddle. Accommodations were comfortable, but spartan ... the food was delicious, but you’d better like fried rice ... we ate as the locals eat.

Our tour was fully supported with a bike mechanic, translators, a yoga teacher (yours truly), three support vehicles, daily maps, etc ... we were well provisioned and organized ... especially challenging in a country where the only thing to always expect is the unexpected!

Of course, for those intrepid for an adventure outside the ordinary, this is exactly what we live for ... new life experience while pushing the cranks. Happy Cycling!

Charley Patton Partner, The Yoga Barn Bali, Ubud, Indonesia Email



JOANNA PHILLIPS

All my passions for travel, cycling and an erotic culture were well satisfied by my adventure holiday in Sulawesi. The organization by Colin Freestone was superb with good support staff including a yoga teacher and bike mechanic. I can’t wait to join him again.

The best things about this tour for me were the adventure element, that is, not really knowing what was around the next corner; loved the range of cycling, that is, some easy, some hard and lots in between; enjoyed being in another culture and observing the locals’ reactions to us and our cycling and the groups reactions to team; enjoyed observing the group’s dynamics; loved the landscapes, the food, seeing how Colin coped, meeting Colin’s family and staff; I enjoyed the daily yoga seasons immensely.

Joanna Phillips Email


DAVID RUSDEN

I went on the January 2009 Cycle Indonesia bicycle tour around southern Sulawesi with Colin. I am a fit and experienced cyclist, but I had never done a bicycle tour before. I had a great time on the trip, stepped my fitness up a few levels and got an insight into the culture of Southern Sulawesi.

Colin brought with him a very competent team which consisted of staff from his company in Jakarta and Sulawesi locals. Colin, with his decades of experience of Indonesia, was able to easily fit in with Indonesia's cultural idiosyncracies that had the potential to make the trip run less than smoothly.

Colin, with his past experience of cycle touring, started the trip with a good daily schedule and adapted it as we went to best suit the participants, weather and terrain. He also managed to accommodate the fast and slow riders. In short, I had a great time on a professionally run bicycle tour.

David Rusden Email



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