So all good things come to an end, including my Indonesian visa. After exhausting the monthly extensions available, I had to get myself momentarily out of the country.
I was nowhere near done with Indonesia, however; the longer I stayed, the more I began to feel that I was just getting started. So Beastie would be staying, while I caught the cheapest international flight that I could find. Surabaya to Kuala Lumpur and back again.
I’d put the word out on a WhatsApp group chat – indigent motorcyclist needs place to park bike! – and as always, Indonesia’s motorcycling community had my back. Soon I had a map point in Surabaya where I could park Beastie, and a couple of days to get there.
On the flanks of Mount Lawu, while buying satay from the street vendor, I’d run across some of the guys from the local chapter of the Kawasaki Z Owners Club, and gotten talking about motorbikes – as you do.
By the next day our chance meeting had morphed into lunch further down the road at Madiun, an interview with Motomazine.com (famous, la!) and a whole bunch of new friends.
Is there anything better than talking rubbish about motorbikes with a bunch of mates? I realised suddenly and viscerally how I’d missed the easy company of the loose group of friends I used to ride with on weekends. The easy banter, the stupid jokes, and all of us talking endlessly about motorbikes and never getting sick of it. That feeling of being with people who totally accept you for no other reason than that you ride. You don’t need to be or do anything; you’re family.
It was like a salve to the soul. I found myself laughing like I hadn’t in months. It turned out that Mount Lawu was a favourite weekend run: up the smooth bitument twisties, nice corners. Oh, I said, so you head up there to get your knee down on a Sunday morning? They laughed and said, ‘oh yes, knee down, elbow down… whole body down!’
We stickered Beastie up with a Kawasaki Z Owners Club of Indonesia logo and pretended KTM stood for Kawasaki Team Moto. After lunch the guys rode halfway to Surabaya with me; there was food and more friends waiting for us along the road, and we cut up the traffic in fine Indo style.
We’d been talking motorbikes earlier and I’d been saying something about spare parts for the KTM being prohibitively expensive when my Indonesian and my English started getting mashed together. ‘So expensive!’ I meant to say, but it came out in Indo-English: “So mahal!” The guys laughed hard; don’t worry, they said, in Indonesia you have friends, and everything is no mahal.
When we finally parted ways after darkness had fallen – me to finish the trip to Surabaya, them to head back the way we’d come – they wouldn’t let me pay for my food, or my tank of fuel. I was so touched by their generosity of spirit, of joy, of what I would come to recognise and love as Indonesia’s totally inclusive bikers brotherhood. The shared jokes, the companionship, the good spirits: they’d given me back the song in my heart.
The last six months had been difficult. I left for Surabaya, literally singing inside my helmet.