Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bali Rides

I've been around a bit for various types of 'adventure' trips, sometimes guided, sometimes not.  Every once in a long while, I'm lucky enough to find a top-class guide.  Ramang Kristian from Bali Rides is one of those guides.  Needless to say, we had a great trip.  The rides were great, transport and accommodation more than comfortable, and we were well taken care of with plenty of snacks and drinks.  Ramang showed us the riding around Bali the way only a local can, with hidden singletrack and bits of local culture and sights thrown in.


Our seven day trip had about 42km of riding, with about 600m of climbing each day.  Every trip is customized to the riders skills and fitness, so if you want to ride more or less, technical or easy, it's up to you. The video above should give you a good idea of the type of riding there.
Riding in rice fields with Mt. Agung
Bali is an island just east of Java, Indonesia, with a few active volcanoes.  The soil is rich, and the landscape is lush.  On Day 1, we started up on the crater rim of active volcano, riding the slopes before dropping down into the lava fields, finishing on the shore of Batur Lake, where we took a dip in a local hot springs.  Sadly, my footage of the lava fields and hot springs were lost.  I can only say that they were both very special and spectacular.
Fishing boat returning to shore after a night out at Amed, Bali.
Each riding day offered something different.  On Day 2, we finished our ride on the white sands of... White Sands Beach, where we took the opportunity to wash off the grime of the day with a quick swim.  Day 3 ended with a nice massage, courtesy of Bali Rides.  We had one rest day on Day 4, which we spent in Amed and took the opportunity to dive the famous Liberty Wreck.  We spent each night in a new location, and got to experience the uniqueness of a new place each night. 
Leaving the hotel in Sanur for the day's ride...
The last day was very special.  Although it was supposed to be dry season, we had quite a bit of rain during the trip, but the last day was super sunny, and the ride ended with a delicious BBQ at Ramang's beautiful Balinese house, cooked by Ramang's mum and sister, who were visiting at the time!
Google map of our first day's ride
The best time to ride Bali is during the dry season from June through September.  Contact Ramang at bali-rides.com for more information.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Riding Mt. Bromo

Last week, a couple of friends (Chow Kok Yeang from Malaysia and Ramang Kristian from Bali) and I got together on the island of Java, Indonesia, to ride the volcanic trails of Mt. Bromo.


At 2,329 metres (7,641 ft), Mt. Bromo sits inside a caldera called the 'Sea of Sand'.  It's the most famous, but it isn't the highest or most prominent peak there.  Gunung Batok (or Mt. Batok) is the most prominent peak in the caldera, and the peak is easily confused with Mt. Bromo.  Gunung Semeru, visible a little further away, is the highest peak on Java.

The best time to go is during the dry season from August through November.  Mid-August, the transition between the wet and dry seasons, is the absolute best.  That's when the sand is still compact with moisture from the wet season, but the weather is dry and skies are blue.  I went last week, and was lucky with the weather that it didn't rain on us, but had some overcast and cloudy days so the views weren't as good.
Mt. Bromo is the one puffin' smoke. Gunung Batok is the big one to its right.
We flew in to Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, and from there, it's a 4-5 hour drive to Cemero Lawang, the base for exploring Mt. Bromo.  Cemoro Lawang is at 2217m, so although it's in South East Asia, it does get pretty chilly at night.There are a few small hotels and simple homestays in Cemero Lawang.  We stayed in one of the local homestays, but the Lava Cafe Hostel looks pretty good.  The food is decent at Lava Cafe and there's free WiFi.  Otherwise, there are a few small local eateries where meals $1 and up.
Meals start from about USD$1...
The riding itself was good.  The first day, we rode the 'Bromo Classic Track', which includes the 'Sea of Sand' through 'Teletubbies Hill', up 'Jembalong Hill', 'New Zealand' Trail, 'Kechiri Hill' and back down to the 'Sea of Sand' to Cemoro Lawang.  The second day was a fast downhill ride through various farming tracks; and Day 3 was the famous B-29 singletrack, which was supposed to be ├╝ber scenic, but we got clouded in.  The video should give you a good idea of the type of riding you can expect.

My Sandman Hoggar fatbike is the near perfect bike for Mt. Bromo, not only because the additional float and traction was welcome on the sand or down the steep, slick, muddy trails, but the tough titanium frame proved impervious to scratches as the bikes were crudely strapped onto the back of a pickup. 
Some enterprising kids took our bikes down to the river to wash.  I guess child labor and environmental laws are different here ;)
We engaged a local guide at very reasonable rates, and although you don't need one if you have the GPX tracks and a GPS, it simplifies logistics as the guide can probably arrange accommodation and transportation cheaper than you can.  If you need a guide, I can recommend our guide, Anom, who can be reached at anomharyawicaksana@gmail.com.  Alternatively, Ramang from Bali Rides can arrange a high quality trip to Mt. Bromo for you. Contact Ramang at ramang_kristian@yahoo.com


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sony and Olympus Share To Share Technology

I just read on 4/3 Rumours that Olympus will be sharing it's 5-Axis Image Stabilization technology with Sony, in exchange for their Phase Detect Autofocus sensor technology.
Sony NEX-6 with 16-50mm lens
Interestingly enough, Sony marketing has gotten in touch with me and will be lending me an NEX-6, which has the phase detect hybrid autofocus system.  Combined with Sony's APS-C DSLR sized sensor, this should be capable of some superb quality pics, and I'm super excited to be able to test the NEX-6 and compare it to my OMD EM5 next month.

If the rumor is true, then we look forward to more capable mirrorless cameras in the near future.