Here are some frequently asked questions many
cyclists have about their proposed trip through Toraja, Indonesia.
ROADS AND TRAFFIC
What are the roads like in Toraja, Indonesia?
The route is generally in good condition – the one exception
being the 40 km Bulukumba – Bira segment which has been potholed for
What’s the traffic like?
In Toraja, generally light, except around the Pasar Bolu markets in Rantepao where its crowded.
What are the drivers like?
Friendly, tolerant and accommodating.
What is the terrain like?
The first two days out of Palopo will be demanding because we’ll be ascending into Toraja. And it’ll be testing
when we circumnavigate Toraja. Most of the rest of the other days will be descending or undulating, short as well.
Will there be a daily ride plan?
Each day will be different in terms of distance, terrain and items of cultural interest. To keep the group together
there will be frequent stops, the frequency being determined by terrain, distance for the day, riding strength of
the group etc. These stops will facilitate re-grouping, replenish water bottles, enjoy a snack, have a stretch,
take photographs, yarn with the locals who invariably are welcoming and friendly.
Is the emphasis of the trip on cycling or touring?
We’re touring on bikes. I want to encourage a spirit of using the cycling to explore the culture through which we’re
passing, rather than cycling for cycling’s sake (which you can do anywhere).
When can I ride in the support vehicle?
If for physical reasons you’re genuinely unable to ride.
Do we need to bring our own bikes?
Should I get my bike serviced before departure?
Is hiring a bike an option?
There is a small range of bikes for rental.
Is buying and re-selling a bike an option?
Which style of bike would you recommend?
Hybrid or mountain bike are the go. I would not bring a road bike. Bike Fridays are fine.
Which tyres should I use?
If you bring a mountain bike, bring 1.3”-1.7” slick tyres rather than nobby ones. However you
may like to bring nobby tyres (and the right sized tubes) for the mountain biking that is
available in Tana Toraja.
How should we prepare our bikes?
Get your bikes fully serviced before departure. Pack them at home or ask your bike shop to do this.
Do not pack them at the airport. Don’t forget to deflate the tyres.
What do we do about spare parts?
Bring parts that you could need.
Our suggested list of parts and tools is: multi tool, patch kit, quick link in case of broken chain, chain
lube, 2 spare tubes. The bike shops in Sulawesi have very limited ranges of stock, so, if in doubt bring it.
Will we need lights?
Better to bring both front and rear lights just in case.
The support vehicle will have a pump that handles presta and schraeder (car) valves. But bring a small one
just in case you get separated from the group.
Do we need panniers?
Can we put our bags in the support vehicle?
Yes. But bring soft bags, not suitcases.
What sort of cycle shoes do you recommend?
I’ve worn regular cleated cycle shoes and found them to be okay. I now wear aerated cycle sandals. My son wears joggers.
What cycling clothes should we bring?
Cycle shorts, long sleeved polyester top, cycle sox, cycle sandals, Osama head scarf, sunnies, summer arm
Is there facility for re-charging batteries?
Yes, in most places but maybe not in the village stay. The power points take two pronged circular plugs. AA or
AAA batteries are available in most places.
Do we need bike locks?
No. You will never be far from your bike. If you are it will be stored away or support staff will be looking
What are the bike shops like?
There won’t be any outside of Makassar and we’ll only be there for a day.
What technical skills will the support personnel have?
1. Changing and patching tubes
2. Adjusting brakes and gears
3. Adjusting and greasing bearings
4. Wheel true-ing
5. Replacing brake pads
6. Bleeding hydraulic brakes
7. Adjusting handlebars, stem and seat
8. Bike cleaning
9. Chain repair and replacing
10. Headset adjustment.
NON BIKE GEAR
What non-bike stuff should we bring?
We’ll provide a WTBL (What To Bring List) some months before departure.
What clothing do you suggest we ride in?
Helmet, sunnies, cycle shorts, long sleeve shirt, cycle sox (dark color), cycle sandals / shoes, sunscreen.
What clothing should we bring for after riding?
Long baggy shorts, t-shirt, sandals, cap. Ladies are advised to wear long sleeves rather than short sleeves.
What are the "dress codes" that women, in particular, need to cater for?
Indonesians are more concerned with dress codes than Westerners are. However tourists are not expected to abide by
all their dress code. The most formal gear that you could possibly need will be slacks / modest dress and a shirt
with a collar and long sleeves.
Should we bring rain gear?
No. If we get wet when cycling after the rain has stopped we’ll dry out quickly. If we’re not cycling umbrellas
are usually available so no need to bring one.
Should we bring a swimsuit?
Yes, but you can always swim in your cycle gear. Women, to avoid un-necessary attention are advised to swim in
long sleeved loose fitting tops.
Should we bring lightweight, quick drying, bug-proof clothing?
That's the go.
What will the temperatures be like in July?
Will there be mosquitoes?
Yes. Bring mosquito repellant. You will be supplied with mosquito coils.
Will the mosquitoes be malaria bearing?
Will there be cooler weather anywhere (that we need to pack for)?
It will be cool in Batutumongga. So bring a light sweater.
Are there any Indonesian food regulations that we should be aware of?
What sort of food will we be eating?
There will be an effort to provide authentic Indonesian food. There will be an extra effort to provide local
specialities. No effort at all will be made to find or provide Western food. Western food will not be available
outside of Makassar and Rantepao.
In Makassar and Rantepao the hotel breakfasts will include international food. Breakfasts in other places will
be nasi goreng (fried rice) or sweet breads, tea and coffee.
Lunches will be at warungs (small roadside cafes) along the way. They will be rice or noodle based.
Dinners will generally be fish, beef or chicken dishes. A big effort will be made to always have vegetables in the meal,
The support crew will be scouring the countryside for local fruits and local village snacks (kue kampung). There will be
very little or no western food. Fresh dairy produce will be available only in Makassar but tinned milk is usually
How will vegetarians manage?
IF you let us know WELL AHEAD OF DEPATURE vegetarian needs can GENRALLY be catered for, but not always. Sulawesians
are not vegetarians.
Will it always be possible to get clean water?
What extras should we bring?
I never take any "extras" but if you expect you’ll have cravings for this or that then bring them.
What’s the drinking water like?
You can get bottled water just about everywhere. It’ll be available on the support vehicles. Drinking
water is always supplied in hotel rooms. As a rule Indonesians boil water before drinking it.
What nutritional supplements should we bring?
None. Electrolytic drinking powders are available in Indonesia (Pocari sweat).
Will there be places to buy nuts or high protein snacking food?
No. We’ll be making an effort to provide kue kampung or village cakes. These are usually made from cassava, or
sticky rice, palm sugar and coconut flesh. Easy to pig out on. Lots of carbs, pretty low on protein.
Should we bring our own protein bars?
If you think you’ll miss them or need them, bring them ‘cause you most probably won’t be able to get them on the
way. In Makassar, yes.
Will I be able to get boiled eggs?
By the kilo.
Do we need to bring a first aid kit?
No. There will be one in the support vehicle.
What inoculations do you recommend?
Please consult your GP (as soon as you can because some of the vaccinations need to be taken months before departure)
who in turn should consult the most recent Health Department recommendations. Be aware that these change from time
Has anyone gotten sick on any of your trips?
Yes. The two most common complaints are diarohea and the common cold. Everyone should be prepared to have a short
bout of diarohea as our foreign digestive systems need to get used to the Indonesian environment.
What medicines do you suggest we bring?
Medications for diarohea, cold and flu. If you forget to bring them there are plenty of these medications available
How should we prepare ourselves physically for the trip?
First, make sure you get necessary vaccinations several months before departure. Second, have a dental check up.
Third, start your build up sooner rather than later. Build your strength and endurance slowly over the months before
the trip. Include good doses of hilly terrain in your preparation. As a target I’d suggest that sometime early in
January select a 3 day period when you do a sequence of a 30km, 40km and 50km day rides. Cycle touring is like exams:
you can’t cram the night before.
If you can do these rides, 3 days in a row, without rest days in between you should manage well in Sulawesi. If you
need rest days in between the actual ride will be just that much more of a challenge. In your preparation don’t
forget to do lots of stretching, and swimming, to relax the muscles.
Should we bring any Yoga gear?
Yes. Yoga mat and suitable bottom for Yoga such as baggy shorts or track suit bottom. Yoga pants if you’ve got them.
What is the best way to get to Makassar?
Regardless of where home is you will need to go to Jakarta, Denpasar or Surabaya. You cannot fly direct to Makassar
from either Sydney or Singapore.
Can we do any better than the 20 kg limit on our baggage?
Garuda has a 15 kg dispensation for cyclists plus 7 kg cabin.
How useful is Bahasa Indonesia in Sulawesi?
Very useful. As useful as French in France. Bahasa Indonesia is the official national language of the country. It
is spoken throughout Sulawesi. There are many other languages spoken in Sulawesi but none are as useful as
Indonesian. Indonesians warm quickly to foreigners who make the effort to learn Bahasa Indonesia.
How can we learn about the culture of Indonesia?
Several things 1. I’d like to ask group members to share websites, book titles etc that they’ve found useful.
I’ll be setting up a mechanism to do this. 2. The Lonely Planet guidebook on Indonesia is good and I’ve received
reliable recommendations for their phrasebook as well.
How can we learn some basic phrases?
The Lonely Planet Indonesian Phrasebook. Berlitz Indonesian Phrasebook with CD is also a good option.
Do we need to take out our own insurance?
What sort of insurance should we have?
Comprehensive travel and medical insurance.
Is there any civil strife anywhere near our route?
No. In the late 90’s, early 2000s there was some civil strife in Central Sulawesi. This no longer exists and in
any case it was several hundreds of kilometres away from our route.
How safe is it to leave our things in our rooms?
I’ve never had anything stolen from any hotel room in Sulawesi.
Is it necessary to lock our bikes when we stop for a drink etc?
No. As a general thing our support staff will look after our bikes when we’re not riding them. In any case, out
of Makassar most restaurants are open air and afford a view of where bikes are left. Also ‘street security’ is
usually available to look after parked vehicles (including bikes).
Can we leave surplus cases and baggage in a secure place in Makassar?
Yes. Our hotel will allow us to leave bike boxes etc there, for no charge.
What do you mean the trip includes police approvals?
These need to be viewed as "insurance". That is, you don’t need it until you need it. If anything seriously goes
wrong the police will need to be involved. If the police now about us before such an eventuality there will be no
hesitation in providing the required assistance. If they don’t know about us there could be un-necessary delays.
What currency should we bring in cash?
You should get Indonesian rupiah as soon as you can at the last international airport. Outside of Makassar it is not
likely that vendors will accept anything else.
How much cash do you recommend?
I would not change more than USD 200. I’d get anything more from the ATM.
Would you bring travellers’ cheques?
Do they have ATMs?
Yes. All of the towns that we stay in will have ATM. I’ve never had a problem with any of my VISA cards.
CARGO, POST, COURIERS
If we make purchases on the trip, can they be transported back to Makassar for us?
Is it difficult to arrange shipment home via post or some other way?
There is a courier service in Indonesia called TIKI. I’ve found them to be most reliable for shipping both inside
Sulawesi and internationally.
How do I pack my bike for shipping?
I strongly suggest you get a bike box from your local bike shop. You will need to take the pedals and front wheels
off, as well as deflating both tyres.
Is the internet available on our tour?
In Makassar and Rantepao, yes. In other places, most probably no, but internet services are expanding as I write.
Can I buy an Indonesian cell phone sim card?
Will there be landlines where we’re going?
Yes, but not for pubic use.
Will accommodation for the first and last nights of the tour be booked?
Yes. I recommend that you arrive Friday 1 July.
Can Colin arrange accommodation if we want to arrive early and / or leave late?
Yes. Sometime before departure riders will be asked to complete a form setting out travel plans and needs.
Is accommodation booked for the final day of the tour?
Do we need visas?
You will purchase UPON ARRIVAL VISAS at the airport. If you are planning to stay more than 30 days you should
arrange a two month visa before beginning the trip.
What’s the accommodation like?
In Makassar and Rantepao it will be close to ‘the best’. In all other places it will be ‘the best’ but, just in case,
bring some silk liners if you’re concerned about bed sheet cleanliness.
What are the toilets like?
In most of the accommodation the toilets are of the sit down variety. In most places along the way they will be of the s
quat variety. Some of the toilets will have automatic flushing facilities. In most places along the way the toilets
will need to be manually flushed. In Makassar toilet paper will be supplied. In most of the other places water will
be the cleansing agent.
What are Indonesian toileting procedures?
In essence water is used instead of paper. The traditional toilet is a squat toilet with a small tub of water and ladle
beside it. The ladle is held in the right hand and water is poured into the cupped left hand. The left hand is then
used for cleaning. The operation is finished off with a soaping and rinsing. There’ll be further explanation at the
orientation before we start cycling. In the meantime you should get VERY used to squatting because in many (most) places
sit down toilets will not be available. Those who have hip and knee flexibility will find squatting easier than those
Soap is not always supplied, so bring your own or consider bringing along “wet-ones” or anti-septic hand cleaning gel.
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