As the crow flies Puncak is a mere 80 kilometres to the south east of Jakarta. In the hills of Puncak lies Puncak Pass where a rustic institution for the thrill-seeker perches itself over scenic tea fields. Now for anyone who has embarked on a road adventure to Taman Safari amongst the traffic you may have come across bikers kitted to the max with self protective gear. The first time I witnessed this phenomena, I scratched my head wondering. Later I would appreciate the enjoyment one can experience with one bike, a dirt track and not a car, truck, ojek or pedestrian in sight.
Clearly for most, the early hour of 5am is extreme in itself, and for anyone who has not seen this time of day, other than through smoke and beer glazed eyes, the roads are surprisingly free. So we arose, hitched the bikes and set on our way. For this adventure you have been forewarned; it is not for the night owl or the light hearted.
After just over an hour from Jakarta (normally up to three if you departed after 7am) we arrived at the Royal Safari Garden Hotel where we were greeted by Pak Mahendra, not your typically built biker I might say, but a true character and founder of MTB Indonesia’s Puncak Explorer division, which makes him a guru of mountain biking in the area. Another 20 minutes via ‘angkot’ into the hills of Puncak and you reach MTB Indonesia’s home base. Now don’t be seduced into downing a plate of Nasi Goreng as the digestion process and the 600metre climb to the start point will not mix, my companion will attest to this.
Feeling more than a little overdone for protective wear I was confident that I would be plummeting over the front handle bars within minutes. Puncak Explorer offer tracks for beginners to experts and guided tours up to ten hours. We had pre-organised to tackle the Jalur NuRA course, rated intermediate, and estimated to take two hours. After reaching the start point atop Pucak Pass the excitement grows, not the kind of excitement you experience on the back of your favourite ojek mind you, it’s the rush of clean air and the promise of a heart pumping jaunt through outback Bogor that gets the blood going. It’s like eco tourism meeting the memory of carefree days riding your first bike, with some skin off to match.
The course is a handful and no doubt you will have ‘how did I get myself into this’ rush through your mind at some point. Fortunately Pak Mahendra has the track down and hazards for us ‘would be’ intermediate bikers are carefully navigated to avoid being stuck in the Bogor forest with a broken bone or more importantly, ego. With that said all members of the group, including our guide, made close acquaintance with the forest floor at least once. It’s now you realise why the helmet, knee and elbow pads are so highly recommended.
Your guide is well equipped, spare tubes and a virtual bike shop in the back pack has you covered for almost any unforeseen breakdown. Bring a small medical kit, better safe than sorry, and the Bogor locals will have you well hydrated and fed with make shift pit stops along the way. Grab a bike clean off the local kids for Rp5,000 or so if you’re so inclined.
After three hours, we had seen our way through thick forests, tea fields and what I would call real life Indonesia. We also managed a detour onto a track guaranteed to get your heart pumping “TW3”, take care on this one team. Wrapping up the ride you arrive back at your car without too much trouble. Ask security for access to a shower, albeit Indonesian style, and with a fresh set of clothes you’re on your way.
You can find more details about MTB Indonesia and Puncak Explorer at www.mtb-indonesia.com or call the crew on 0878786596. A guide for up to five people will cost you Rp.250,000, a course costs Rp.10,000 and a ride from the hotel to home base will run you 50,000/person. Of course you can have your driver drop you and meet you at the finish. For anyone without a bike you can rent one for Rp.350,000 (small /medium size only) and it’s strongly recommended that you have your own helmet.
The next trip to MTB Indonesia will be to sample a simpler track to really take in the sights and sounds, there are 15 or so available. So, from one self confessed urban jungle dweller to the next, make the call and take it all in, you won’t be disappointed.