Tour de Singkarak 2012, West Sumatra, Indonesia
June 15, 2012

Yes, the Tour of Singkarak, 2012.  I guess I may have known it was cursed from the start – I went to Padang, Sumatra, two weeks before the race to relax, chill and investigate – but I barely did any of the three.  Had some of my worst sleeps ever, getting to sleep late, so waking up late, so not seeing much, and when I did, I lost interest pretty quickly.  Except for the gym, that wasn’t a bad experience at all.  Local, packed (in the evenings) and cheap.  You know you’re adapting to the heat of south east asia when you can workout with no air conditioning, but it’s a bit gross having everyone sweating bullets on the equipment.  And the music, Ive never heard as loud, or louder, in any gym, even in a class!  But I don’t mind that either.

My digs were fine – local owned and operated, it was a guest house x homestay.  For the first few nights, I went ‘cheapest option’, which was a single room up on the top floor, with only the big balcony as company.  Not bad, but with only a ceiling fan, it proved too hot and I cracked and went down a floor to a big, double room with air con, fan and an ensuite. 

I had two meals in a big, local restaurant. It was seafood, not my usual choice but I wasn’t going to be fussy (I hate the smell or possibility of a smell, of non-fresh seafood), and the restaurants situated across the road from the sea itself.  First feed, with a couple from Singapore who were at the same lodgings, was good – prawns cooked in coconut oil with garlic (though I couldn’t taste the oil, I think it was palm oil), and an iced coffee, which they got right on the 3rd go.  Were in the land of ‘added sugar’, and when you don’t eat a lot of sugar, you get plenty of sickly-sweet and nasty surprises!! Second time I went back to eat at this place, I was alone.  I decided to get the prawns again, and the crab.  One young waiter had a hold of the crab at my table, to tempt me. It was an easy sale! Why not.. and yes, id go for ‘randang’ style (not too spicy).  Prawns came out first, they were ok.  Crab came out second, and what came to mind was that saying of someone having a face like a ‘smashed crab’ – that’s nasty!! This poor crab had been destroyed!! Its top shell was still intact and used as a garnish, but that was a guise for the fact that what little meat was originally in this innocent crab, was now obliterated throughout the hideous sauce, and the underside of its body, quartered, so that I had the miserable task of trying to get tiny scraps of meat out of cavities. $15 AUD to top off the scene of this ‘food crime’.  What a waste of a crab!!

A better discovery was being taken out, by the owner of my homestay, for ‘Kopi Luwak’ – a local delicacy – coffee yes, but the beans have been through the digestive system of the ‘luwak’ (civet in English) cat, collected from the dung, and then processed as per usual.  It’s expensive, but not so in Padang – a third, apparently, of what you pay in the likes of Jakarta.  It was tasty, earthy, ‘dirty’, coffee like… I rated it!! (pity I waited so so long for the warm milk. First small jug contained sweetened condensed milk, no good!  Second go was cold milk, no good! The third go they managed, warm milk.. albeit UHT, but that’s about the extent of milk in Indo) 

So aside from some city wanderings and the likes, I didn’t do too much in spending my time, and before I knew it, it was time to move to the race hotel.  Another bike race loomed…. So lets start the Tour of Singkarak…

My second time at this event. This year was a different Padang hotel – it was so new there was still traces of ‘builders’ throughout – dust, filings, shavings.. brand spanking new.  And why so new?  It’s a rebuild after the big earthquake in 09 – when the old hotel was shaken to the ground, on top of the wedding of 300-400 that was taking place in one of the conference rooms.  No one survived.   It didn’t feel eerie but its massive, ginormous, and the rooms were nice.  The next two nights, we were in Sawalhunto – and that accommodation was very basic, but, I didn’t mind it.  Its kinda unique having the whole team under one roof.  What made it seem worse though, was the fact that half our team couldn’t start the race.  Yep… An Indonesian team including 2 Australians and a kiwi, and that was the problem right there.  You cant have a ‘mixed’ team in an Asian 2.2 event – but the even bigger problem, we weren’t a mixed team, we were a club team! With the support of the Indonesian federation… late to bed that night and a crap sleep, and trying to sort out that big old mess the next day, before the race started at 2pm, but, it wasn’t to be.  We got our three Indonesian riders started, thanks to being able to take the Indonesian rider who wasn’t allowed to start with the team that he was with – an Australian team..

Yeah, the accommodation.. I remembered one of the hotels from last year, but the rest – well, that’s the thing with tours, sometimes I can’t always recall details like where I stayed, days can blur into one!  And I had one shocker on this tour – I cant sleep in a mouldy room, or one that so filled with air fresheners that im sneezing and scrathing within 30 mins.  So that day, I booked in over the road, where the race police were staying, and they paid for me! (I wasn’t there when they did but.. my room was covered).  The balcony was insane! I could have executed and annexation from up there!  

The racing… well I saw very little of it!  Pretty standard for any soigneur, but I wasn’t even going to the starts. My team were incredibly low maintenance, and I just went where I was directed.  We had a rider do really well in Indonesian class, and some healthy stage finishes.  What more can I say, they raced, there were crashes, some rain, mist and yes, the famous ‘Kelok 44’.  Here’s what the race looked like on paper:

Stage 1 – Sawalhunto 78km

Stage 2 – Muara Sijunjung to Harau 124.5km

Stage 3 – Payakumbah to Istano Basa Pagaruyung 102km

Stage 4 – Anai Resort to Bukitinggi 157.7km

Stage 5 – Padang Panjang to Singkarak 149km

Stage 6 – Pariaman to Painan 143.9km

Stage 7 – Padang Circuit 99.3km


The food.  Hmm Lots of rice, noodles and processed ‘goods’.  Before you judge me for sounding like I’m judging the food, I remind you, I can only go by the experience that I had.  And although some of the hotel food was ok, yes, I struggled to find plain things (that I like) like, chicken!! (sounded good on the menu, but came out smothered in some sweet, sickly sauce).  Plenty of ‘food in a box’ which can be normal for lunches at a race, but we were getting it for breakfast and, one night, for dinner also.  And in Sawalhunto, where ‘dinner in a box’ was the offering, I went out to the ‘flashest hotel in town’ with the two Aussies.  We waited around 2 hours for our meals.  I got a whiff of seafood as he put my prawns on the table – NOT doin it! And my ‘New Zealand T-bone’ was a New Zealand disaster! Couldn’t eat it.  It tasted old, it had been cooked on a very low heat… but yes, I remember, theres probably not a huge amount of people coming through this town, to eat steak and prawns… well, maybe you adapt the menu..

Which doesn’t detract from the people.  Indonesians are very warm, friendly and open – and they (apparently) don’t see a lot of white people in Sumatra, hence, they almost fall off their bikes / drive into gutters etc when they see you, a foreigner, wandering.  If you don’t like being ogled (I don’t) then being here can be hard work! 


Would I go back? Hmm im not keen to go back to that race, no.  For various reasons. I had had a feeling not to go, ha!  Could have been hanging in Thailand instead! Anyway, another bout of character building, done and dusted!Image