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Indonesia: Wedding Coffee at Sumbawa




August 2014

The strong smell of fresh coffee is accompanied by the smell of deep fried snacks. It takes me just a few seconds to identify the house from which the smell is coming and I push my bike the last few metres along the dusty road. Children are playing tag but now they stop to look at the strange visitor. A group of women is busy roasting coffee but my attention is now taken by a bowl full of rice.

Here the coffeebeans get grinded


My stomach growls for quite a while. Since I saw the first huts among the trees I have been looking for a food stall. Or at least a small shop to buy some biscuits.

“Bisa makan nasi di sini ?” (“Can I get some rice here?”) I ask one of the women. “Bisa, Bisa” (It is possible) some of them reply and laugh. A plastic chair is fetched and someone hands me a plate of rice with some green vegetables.

I haven´t eaten since I left the Construction Camp this morning. The last hours were exhausting and I`m really hungry.


While I shovel the rice greedily with my right hand into my mouth, the women let me know that they are preparing for a wedding. One of the traditions is to prepare special coffee. The coffee beans are roasted together with coconut and ginger pieces. Rice grains are used to toast them and stop them from burning.
Even before I finish eating, a steaming cup stands in front of me. Coffee is drunk here black with lots of sugar and this one is particularly delicious. Much better than than the instant coffee which I otherwise usually get and the ginger gives the coffee a very special flavor.


The women have been asking me about my family and of course my marital status and they are all united in the belief it would be time for me to marry. `Of course a girl from Sumbawa, here are the most beautiful girls in Indonesia`, they say. Fingers point from all directions to the unmarried girls, laughter from the older and shy giggles from the younger. Time to go I decide, but first I have to pose for some photos. I pull a few notes out of my pocket, pointing to the rice and want to pay for the coffee, but it’s more of a gesture. No one here will accept the money, it is no restaurant and people probably had more fun than me and have things to talk about for the next few days.


The people on Sumbawa are outgoing and very open. I noticed that yesterday when I was invited to sleep with some construction workers in their camp in the jungle. The day before I had left the famous surfing beach at Maluk, one of the few places which attracts tourists here. I was determined to cycle a route which was shown on one of my maps but not on another. One hundred kilometres to Lunyuk, that can´t be so bad, I thought.

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Early in the morning I set off, the road is paved and winds its way through the jungle. I saw myself already in Lunyuk in the evening where I wanted to treat myself to a hotel after the past few nights camping. But then suddenly it’s over with the good road, it’s only a dirt track but still driveable.

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But eventually the mountains become steeper and higher. More and more often I have to get off the bike and push. This sounds easier than it is, because to push a 50 kg bicycle up a bad gravel road of about 15% ascent is not really easy. My shoes have no traction on the gravel and I have to pause every few metres to catch my breath. It takes me almost half an hour for a distance of about 200 metres.
Then it’s back down to the coast and down to my right I see a long path through the jungle and two thick tubes. It´s a pipeline of the Batu Hijau copper and gold mine, which has desecrated a large section of the jungle.



The pipeline transports tailings from the mine to be pumped into the sea.

Suddenly the road is paved again and in good condition, but only for a few kilometres. The only traffic is a few trucks from the road construction. In the evening I’ve just managed to do 50km and climbed over 1000 meters of altitude. I don´t have much desire to camp alone in the jungle and still hope to reach a village. It is dusk when I arrive at the construction camp. It is the headquarters of the road workers who clear the way for the asphalt machines. They greet me in a friendly manner and I can pitch my tent.


It is again these encounters with people who make all the hard times on the bike rewarding. This warmth and openness with which I´m welcomed everywhere still impresses me time and again.

Worker at a corn field at lunch break

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Sumbawa has more to offer than just jungle tracks. The interior of the island is very mountainous, the north coast is much drier than the south and agriculture is difficult. Many people have cows and horses and let them graze freely in the wide valleys. I continue to the east where the next island Flores, is already waiting for me. There I want to take a ship to Timor which only runs every two weeks, so I shouldn´t miss it.

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Auch die günstigen Hotels bieten Frühstück an - sogar einen Kleks Butter gibt es
Even in the cheaper hotels a breakfast is included. Not really enough for a hungry cyclist.
I met Lieke from holland and we cycled together for some days.
A secret message for me?
left side rice fields – right side onion fields
making coffee in the morning
take-away food stall at the market
salt production


This pool table is a meeting point for the youth.
The owner of the pool table and a small cafe. I met him on the ferry to Sumbawa and a few days later at his house

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