Indonesia by Folding Bike

Some people go to Indonesia for the beaches, some go for the parties, some go for the culture; I went for the insects. It occurred to me that despite my love for big bugs, and despite my frequent travels, I had still never been to a proper equatorial rainforest: the ultimate headquarters of weird invertebrates, where you can find millipedes as long as a forearm, praying mantises that look like a crumpled dead leaf and vicious spiders as big as dinner plates; this is my kind of paradise. I chose Indonesia simply because it was the cheapest way to get to the equator. I saved up money by working a job cleaning a pub in the early morning before lectures (which involved getting up at 3:45am five days a week which just about killed me).

This is to date my most far-away and exotic trip, and in some ways it was one of the hardest. Since I travelled a lot by bicycle over mountainous terrain in the equatorial midday sun, I experienced new heights of physical exhaustion. And as I was travelling alone in some fairly remote, obscure places, I also experienced new levels of isolation and solitude. But, of course, these are some of the very things that make it an adventure and not a holiday.

A common misconception about travelling in the tropics is that it’s really nice. Yes, the crystalline beaches do exist, as do the rainforest-clad mountains and the bamboo thatch villages from another century. But between every one of these places is chaos and squalor, destruction, crowds and poverty, traffic and noise, staring eyes, frustration and the relentlessly sweaty tropical heat. True there is some awesome natural beauty to be seen there, but often it feels a lot less like National Geographic and a lot more like Apocalypse Now.