Back on the road, I’m heading for Riung. It’s a little town on the north coast of Flores, picturesque, overlooking the corals and peaks of the Seventeen Islands national park. I’m suddenly impatient to ride.


I leave early but the sun is hot, hot, hot. I’m wearing my cooling underlayers under my protective gear, but sweating hard already.

I take a quick selfie before hitting the road – good morning world – and then finish gearing up: kevlar jeans, armoured jacket, a buff to keep the sun off my throat, a buff to cover my hair, then boots, gloves, helmet. Before I’ve even got the bike in gear, the internet spits back its response: I hope you don’t go to the shops like that. Apparently I’m a terrible slut because you can see my shoulders in this photo; but never fear, the keyboard warriors of the Western world know what women should be wearing in Indonesia, and they’re here to correct me.

There’s nothing quite like having appropriate dress standards for women in South-East Asia mansplained to you by a white man on the internet in Australia – except, of course, when they then proceed to also explain to you matters of female personal safety.

As if I don’t spend my whole goddamn life with one eye on my personal safety. They seem to think that I’m oblivious; that I swan around in a bikini feeling safe all the time.

I wonder if they ever stop to imagine what it’s like to never be able to let your guard down. Not in Australia, not in France, not in Indonesia. Do they ever consider how tiring it is, to be trying to live an independent life while always watching your own back, always trying to make sure that you didn’t ask for it?

I suppose they mustn’t ever consider this, if they think I need to be reminded.

For fuck’s sake.

So I put on my goddamn jacket – like I always do, because funnily enough I don’t ride around Indonesia in my underwear – and I get on the road.

I’m in a bad mood. Why do I even internet.

* * *

But the road is beautiful. Winding around the jagged edge of Flores, the road gives you sweeping views of sea in all the different shades of heartbreak blue. The beaches, the coconut palms.


I buy a couple of litres of roadside petrol on the way and cool(ish) drink. The younger kids are on their way home from school, and suddenly I’m surrounded by a miniature curious mob. They seem oblivious to the midday sun that keeps beating us all around the head. There are photos are laughs and eventually I’m on my way again, the wind drying my sweat and sending pleasantly cool shivers down my spine.


* * *

When I get into Riung, I ride until the road ends at the sea.


Behind me, there are houses on stilts, hovering over mudflats that flood during high tide. In front of me, the beautiful outcrops of the Seventeen Islands National Park.

Later, I will learn that the people living on the mudflats behind me used to live on the island in front of me, until the government decided to make it a National Park and evicted them all.

* * *

I have a recommendation for a cheap homestay but I can’t find the place. I ride the handful of streets in Riung again and again, but come up empty handed. I’m tired and frustrated now. It’s still hot and all I want to do is pour some cold water over my head and put my feet up.

Instead, I pull into Cafe Del Mar. It’s a chilled rasta cafe set back into a chilled garden. It belongs to Itchan, a friend of a friend, and he’s heard that I’m coming. Apparently the DR boys were here recently too, and they said I was on my way.

Itchan doesn’t disappoint – if you were trying to imagine the chilled out, poised, reggae-playing proprietor of a rasta cafe by the sea in Flores, you’d imagine Itchan in all his elegant equanimity.

He’s good to me, and I’m so sorry – because he doesn’t see the best of me. For reasons which we don’t need to examine, I’m almost in tears by the time I arrive at Del Mar. I feel like my identity is being taken apart and thrown away, piece by piece, and I hardly know what I’m fighting for anymore. I feel like I’m disintegrating from the inside out.

So I’m sweating, and struggling, and I’ve stopped on an uneven patch of ground where I can’t get my sidestand down. I need to back the bike up, but the surface is uneven; I need to get off the bike so that I can put my hip into it and get some proper leverage. But I’ve already taken my helmet off, and I need to put it back on so my hands are free, but people are talking to me now, and I can’t hear them properly with my helmet on, and… ugh. Sometimes the simplest things are so pathetically hard.

I eventually get the bike parked, and I’m asking Itchan where the cheap homestays are. I can’t relax until I’ve got that sorted. I know he has lovely air conditioned rooms here at Del Mar, but I also know that my budget is way too hobo for that kind of comfort.

You can stay here, says Itchan, you don’t have to pay.

May all the good things in the world come to you, Itchan.

* * *

For a couple of days, I take refuge at Del Mar. Out the back of the cafe, I sit with Itchan’s friends as we barbecue fresh reef fish over coconut husk coals, ikan bakar better than you ever dreamed. At night, I am safe and comfortable in a nice bed as I wait for the restful sleep that refuses to come.


We go to a wedding of a member of parliament: she’s from Riung and the whole town is invited.


I dance strange choreographed dances to the dangdut music, trying to mimic the footwork of the people around me as the bride and groom stand on the stage for hours and hours on end, greeting guests in elaborate head dresses and makeup that leave them veiled in sweat. Getting married in Indonesia is hard work.


In my torn kevlar jeans and Giant Loop shirt, I feel ill-attired for a wedding, but I’m welcomed anyway. In recognition of the special occasion I wear the hand-woven tali given to me by my friends in Marobo, Timor Leste, all those miles ago.

Towards the end of the night, plastic water bottles filled with arak appear around the dance floor, but it’s not my thing. Still, by the end of that night, I have I drunk enough beers to finally sleep.

Selamat berbahagia, and goodnight.


0 thoughts on “Shut Up and Ride

  1. Geoff says:

    OMG you terrible slut! Ha ha ha ha funny shit, love it!

    Looking forward to the end of next week when I’m taking 2 weeks to go ride, climb mountains and trout fish.

    Not even comparable to what your pulling off there, but for myself, I’m just glad to get out!

    All the best to you!

    1. Trout fishing! Hope you’re having a blast out there, and who’s comparing anyway. I have aspirations to learn to fly fish.

  2. ozemarketeer says:

    Several times the temptation to comment has raised it’s head and my peace has prevailed.
    But this offering from you: “Shut up and Ride” has tugged on my ‘say something’ indicator.
    And so thus I write . . . I am so proud of your accomplishments; honesty; raw guts and ability to put your thoughts and emotions into the Universe; and your attitude and determination to see each quest; each day; each challenge through . . . and to never say it’s too hard!
    Why some Aussie bloke (or any nationality really) feels that giving advice to a strong, independent woman about her choice and/or style of clothing when travelling solo on a motorcycle when she’s fully aware of her gender and the environment, totally does my head in.
    Poor bastard is probably lost in his dream of lost fortunes and denied entries to big people’s drinking areas.
    Enough of my pandering and all the best for your continued adventure. I wish you well and may the Universe give you Blessings and uncoditional good health. Until then . . .
    Do you have a Go Fund Me set up?

    1. Phil – thank you. Just, thank you.

  3. geoffkeys says:

    Riung is a great place. Dan and I stayed there for a few days and went out on a boat trip around the 17 islands. And …. we stayed at the same place that you did. It was great. Fabulous food.
    Grace, just keep pushing along. Fuck all the naysayers and other wankers.

  4. Shawn says:

    Never forget your a rock star to all of us out here following you. It may not sound right to an Aussie but here in Texas we would say you were a tough bitch and mean it as the ultimate compliment. Keep being you!

    1. That translates perfectly in Australian. I’ll take it! Thanks Shawn, you put a smile on my face. On the days when I don’t feel ten foot tall and bulletproof, reminders like these go a long way. 🙂

  5. lynnegee says:

    Thank you for taking me to places I shall now never be able to experience. Thank you for the tough times, and I hope you continue to find the jewels and kindness which make it worthwhile. Enjoy the ride. @GL650_LynneG

    1. Lynne, thank you for reading all about the good and the bad, and thinking that it’s worthwhile.

  6. Jeff says:

    Oh my goodness Grace, this post screams “emotional rollercoaster.” I’ve tried to give you positive comments over the last couple of months and even sent encouraging emails, but someone in your life has really got you twisting in the wind.

    The latest selfie is just one of a dozen or so showing you wearing your sleeveless Klim. The first thing that popped into my head was “not” provocative attire, but rather, “hey… Grace looks pretty thin, I hope she is getting enough to eat.”

    So based upon what you said, (and didn’t say), the “man” in your mansplaining sounds like a boyfriend. Could be a Dad or a brother, but I don’t think they would cause you to fixate so much on a conversation that you are practically riding and crying at the same time. Anyway, he needs to get over it. If he is that concerned, then tell him to get his butt on a plane and join you.

    And you are absolutely correct about men not understanding the fears and precautions that go through the mind of a woman on a daily basis. If a man were traveling the same route as you, he would be concerned with packing mouthwash, cologne and condoms. For a woman, she is wondering how many cans of pepper spray she can carry and if a Taser is considered a concealed weapon.

    However you decide to handle this, I’d recommend that you do it sooner rather than later. The countries you are going to traverse in the near future are not known for “out-going hospitality.” You need to have your wits about you and not preoccupied with critical comments from home.

    Lastly, if you need someone to talk with Mr. Mansplaining, feel free to share my email address. And let me know “if” and “when” you get to a country that feels threatening. I’d consider flying over there and riding with you for a week or two. 

    Have fun, please be careful and stay safe.

    1. Jeff, you summarised it so well with your “mouthwash, cologne and condoms” comment. Yes, that’s it exactly! And you’re right that the last thing I need is to be preoccupied with stuff like this. Honestly, Indonesia is an incredibly friendly country but this sort of preoccupation would get me a run over by a bus in Sydney, too. Nevertheless, knowing that you need to let go of something and being able to stop thinking about it are two different things. It’s a work in progress. As always, I do my best; it’s not perfect but I’m always working on it and that has to be enough.

  7. Darin says:


    You have our respect and support! Thank you for bringing us on your adventure! Inspiring us!

    1. Thank you, Darin 🙂 That’s really nice to know.

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