Cycling Java 2023

Tutup, looks up. Looks up again. The morning breakfast of fresh greens falls out of her mouth. An expression of crosseyed bewilderment twists her face, followed by such an expression of joy that it almost looks like pain. Before she knows what her legs are doing, she runs. Runs, skipping and leaping wildly into the sewage canal and out again, then through a busy morning market where people try to grab her by the hair, by the neck, but she dodges them all. This is her moment. And she pursues it with focused determination. When at last Tutup reaches the road, she finds that despite all odds, she made it in the very nick of time. Out of breath, exhilarated by the chase, she opens her mouth and screams at the top of her lungs:


’Yes, yes. Hello-hello.’ I say. ‘Anyway, what was I saying?’



‘Did you just answer “Hello” to a goat?’

‘What? What are you even—‘ I look back. We’re going up a steep hill and it’s slow-going, so I can still make out the word Tutup engraved on the bell around the goat’s neck. Udders still swinging, eyes crossed, tongue out, little goatee beard wet with drool, she says it again, ‘Bleeeh!’ just so there’s no confusion on the matter.

I shrug.

‘The evidence is inconclusive…’

Ja ja ja ja!’ Ceci says, laughing in Spanish.

‘Fine. I said “Hello” to a goat. Just don’t tell your mom because she’ll never let me forget it!’

Ja ja ja! Va!’ she says, agreeing to my terms.

Java. We’re in Java now and we’re a whole lot less famous here. In Sumatra, we got 10,000 Hello Misters per kilometre travelled and now we’re lucky if we can get a ‘Bleeee!’ from a goat.

Then, it dawns on me.

’I’m my brother’s dog!’


‘Chulilla. You know how ever since my nephew was born, at every word of praise, at every hint of positive intonation, she would come running, wondering what she accidentally did right and where her treat was?’



And it’s true. Symbolically true, anyway. I’m so brainwashed that an Indonesian can’t sneeze in my presence without receiving a hello from me. So, I make a mental note, there and then, to quit the habit. Which is why, when I start hearing people cheering at the top of the hill, I’m so deep into trying to reprogram my brain to better reflect my new fame status (or lack thereof), that I don’t look up right away. We’re climbing up one of Java’s insanely steep roads, concentrating on one task only: keeping our front wheels from lifting off the pavement.

The cheering persists. A crowd of ladies in an extravagant array of hijab colours are hooting and whooping wildly at the top of the hill like we’re in the final stage of the Tour de France. We’re cycling on empty legs and coconut-water fumes, at this point in the race, and it’s all I can do to raise my hand in acknowledgement of their praise.

And, as I cycle past them, not a single one of the ladies even looks at me. I look back, fully expecting my brother’s baby boy making a cute face, or… or something. But there’s nothing there.

Just Ceci. Waaaay back in second place. Receiving high-fives from the ladies, posing for selfies, smiling that cute little innocent baby smile of hers.

And me? I’m my brother’s dog.

Today, I miss Sumatra.



Brooding Bromo towers over a sea of black sand, tufts of yellow swaying grass, fields of volcanic rock, great plumes of steam rising from its crater to shroud the whole valley in mystery. There is a Hindu temple halfway up and a set of steep red stairs leading to its narrow crumbling rim. We’ve cycled 50kms with over 2,000m of uphill, against the tide of volcano sunrisers in colourful Jeeps heading back from a long morning of waiting in the dark, in the rain, only to be rewarded with lousy uninstagramable foggy views. They look at us dejectedly as they are driven down the mountain, their Jeeps almost driving us off the steep narrow roads as they careen by.

Huffing and puffing we diagnose on-the-fly an acute lack of leg pain and heavy-breathing to their pre-packaged tour. What else could break the magic of experiencing this breathtaking monument of nature? It’s an easy mistake to make.

But maybe we’re biased. Because, meanwhile, this is the best day of our lives. Yes, nearly being driven off the road and all that. Still, we can’t help but feel supremely grateful for pre-packaged tourism which always conveniently bunches everyone together, at the same spot, at the same time, in such a way that, as they leave, the momentum of their conjoined mass leaves a vacuum behind for us to sneak into. And there are no better places in the world to be alone, than in landscapes that reduce humans to their rightful size on the celestial scale.

We cross the last of the Jeeps as we ride down into the volcanic valley. Navigating the black mud pits, the makeshift trails through the grass, the geography washes over us like the end of the world. Like the earth’s very beginning.

Vestiges of the earth’s formation, the whole planet lives and breathes at the whim of these unpredictable behemoths, these fickle gods of nature. Hence the awe, hence our humble sacrifice of leg, of breath, to reach its foot.

The endless expanse of loose black sands leads us around the valley, clogging our gears, bathing us in volcanic grit, until Bromo sneaks into view. Gloomy, sulking in clouds of its own vapour, we fail, at first, to grasp what stands before us. The grandeur, the menace. Its slow but constant eruption hinting at a cataclysmic violence barely subdued, lurking just under the surface. Unable to take our eyes off it for more than a moment at a time, nervous, excited, we find our homestay, check-in, wash our bicycles, shower, change, eat lunch, cross the vast sea of sand, the Hindu temple, the red steps.

Then, Bromo. And us. Alone together. The deep rumbling of the earth underfoot silences any exclamation we might have for the improbability of our circumstances. Humbled into a reverent silence, we glance into the maw of the infernal beast. Unfathomably deep, the heart of the volcano grumbles, churns; we set our compass by it and start hiking the rim. We speak only in hushed voices like we’re in a temple and the god is present. There is no arrow, no warning sign, no guardrail, only pure undiluted adventure.

In the next minutes, the vapours will start to spread and diffuse in such a way as to obscure the whole valley for the rest of our stay here. And with every moment that passes wherein the volcano is hidden, our gratefulness increases tenfold for how fortunate we were that Bromo should have opened itself to us in the short window we possess. That we should be allowed such an intimate and exclusive audience with the earth itself.

Then, we are swallowed whole. The sulphur cloud stings our throats, our eyes, we initiate our solitary hike along the rim. Wondering whether we should even be here, let alone hiking the narrow crumbling trail between the abyssal heart of a volcano on our right and the steep skirt of volcanic stone on our left. Whether we should even be breathing in this harsh air that makes our eyes water, our throats close up. There are only a few steps separating me from Ceci and I can only barely make out her silhouette.

Who are we, here, in such a place? Living and breathing on a volcanic whim. A hair’s breadth from the very god of creation.



Sitting on the curb of an Indomart, 7am, 30kms & 2,400m of downhill into the day, Cecilia Campuzano Chavez Peon is feeding Pocky Sticks to a stray kitten. Ceci is a breakfast person. If breakfast is not breakfasty and, most of all, if it’s not shared with someone(s); it makes her feel sad. Nothing, in fact, is sadder to Ceci than seeing someone eat alone in a restaurant. But you see, I’m grumpy this morning and bad company. And breakfast being a box of Pocky Sticks, Ceci is depressed. She is miserable. Cue the skinny dirty kitten. Hope in her eyes, she cracks a piece of Pocky Stick off for the cat, just like a drunk cracks a beer for a fellow drunk, without even asking.

‘I know,’ the expression on Ceci’s face says, ‘life sucks. Here’s a Pocky Stick.’

The kitten, however, denies her.

‘Hoo-hoo-hoo!’ she says, impressed. ‘O-kay, have you some yoghurt then.’

It’s mango sticky rice-flavoured yoghurt too, so you know she’s not messing around. She needs a friend, bad. And now she might just have found one that’s just as into breakfasty breakfasts as she is. She squirts a little pool of the yellowy stuff onto the white tile, next to the uneaten bits of Pocky sticks.

The kitten? Doesn’t even notice her.

It’s looking at me.

‘What?’ says I.




‘You want some chips?’


And this is the part where a glimmer sparkles in my eyes. See, because there is nothing more fun to a grumpy person, in the whole wild world, than the opportunity to be cruel to happy morning people. It’s like… entropy. I think. The way negative energy transfers, and so on. It’s got to be.

I give the kitten a chip. It eats it. Wants more. Receives more. And now? We’re best friends for life. Just like that. And it’s simultaneously the worst day of Ceci’s life and the best day of mine.



Ceci & I smile back and say, ‘Hello.’


Ceci & I smile back and say, ‘Hello.’

‘You missed the sunrise…’

Ijen crater is uphill, but somehow we’re the only ones hiking up. Against the tide, again.

It’s a planes trains & automobile kind of moment. Ever seen it? John Candy & Steve Martin driving on the wrong side of the highway and a couple on the other side screaming: ‘You’re going the wrong way!’

John Candy then waves back with a million-dollar smile while he mumbles to Steve: ‘Must be drunk… How do they know where we’re going?’

Like that.

Except, when this Russian man, hiking down with his two cameras around his neck says, ‘You missed the sunrise.’ It makes us wobble a bit.

Not many travellers visit Indonesia during the monsoon season, much much much less do so on a bike. In fact, we’ve seen precisely 1 cycle-tourer so far. One. In 1½ months, over 2000kms and across 3 islands. And so we must be doing something right. Right? Or is it wrong? I can’t tell anymore.

By this point, it’s kind of one and the same. The timing of our trip is out of our hands anyway. And this relinquishing of our fate to providence is freeing in a way. What we get to see is what we get to see. So there is only space for acceptance and gratefulness.

‘You missed the sunrise’ sticks a wrench in that mechanism. It fills our heads with what-ifs.
We keep hiking, an extra spring of anxious apprehension in our step. Because, what if? We count 50-60-70 tourists and their guides hiking down as we hike up. Some pay to be carried down in silly two-wheeled carts with breaks. And then the strangest sensation starts to build between us. The more tourists come down, the more current to swim against, the more we start feeling at home.

When by 7:30am we arrive at the crater rim, there is no one in sight but us.

The crater yawning wide, the pale turquoise lake at the bottom, the thick sulphuric plumes. Ijen. Us. Home.

A steep trail snakes down into the inner-rim. Ceci and I glance at each other. Glance around. Glance back at the narrow call-to-adventure winding down into the crater, where a man the size of an ant appears, carrying two baskets full of sulphur blocks, using a length of wood strung between the two, to balance them over one shoulder. As national geographic as it gets. And we can’t believe our eyes.

Big dumb smiles of disbelief stretch across our faces.

All this… for us?

Why, Indonesia, you shouldn’t have!

There being no one around, no guide to tell us not to, we follow the pull of adventure downwards into the crater.  Down the serpentine trail towards the vapour-gushing heart of the volcano, towards the impossibly blue-green acid lake, towards the sulphur mine and its improbable workers.

Maybe it’s the sulphur we’re breathing in, stinging our eyes, our throats, but the deeper we venture the more giddy we get. Below, we catch another glimpse of the man and his baskets of sulphur. And the thing is, the sight is even more impressive up close because now the man is no longer ant-sized, so how can you explain the disproportionate burden he’s carrying?

And, as we watch, the man shifts the weight onto his other shoulder, leaving the other hand free to… well, to light a cigarette, of course. Ceci and I watch in disbelief this most unlikely interlude to the superhuman feat of hauling such heavy loads up a sheer cliff.

It’s like someone turned the page of the NatGeo magazine we were living, onto an ad for Surya cigarettes. In Indonesia, 63% of men age 15+ smoke, and 36% of boys ages 13-15. Not exactly surprising considering that, as of 2021, Indonesia is the only country in the world allowing ads for cigarettes. A dubious claim-to-fame that nonetheless allows for such creative opportunities as ads with basketball athletes slam-dunking and boxers punch-facing with the slogan ‘Never Quit!’ or ‘Never Give Up!’ written in broad letters underneath. In English, mind you. Because it’s not just subversive, it’s also an attempt at trademark infringement. Which, coincidentally, is a national hobby. As made obvious by the whole alphabet of KFC rip-offs. JFC (Jaya Fried Chicken), Kentaky Fry Ciken, and so on. Or such inventions as Just Do Eat restaurant ads.

The page turns again.

The cigarette is for our benefit, of course. Here in Indonesia, there is a term widely used for tourists. Bule. Which roughly means Güero. And in Ijen, it’s a long-standing tradition that Bule offer a healthy tip for taking photographs of the local sulphur porters, although you’d never have to twist my arm. There’s an ethereal bridge that connects me to this man. My life too is built on arduous physical labour. Travelling with heavy loads over steep treacherous terrain, my sulphuric vapour: wildfire smoke; it is only providence that dictates that my winnings should fly me across the world to visit him and not vice versa. Just the whim of fate. Symbolic at best, perhaps even just a conceit, but I choose never to take these things for granted. Never to read less when I can read more into these unique moments of life.

But you try and convey this sentiment with google-translate. It’s too forced and besides the ephemeral bridge between us would never bear the weight. So, I hand the man a generous tip which he pockets with a wink and a tap on my shoulder and wordlessly carries on his ascent. The moment passes. It is not perfect, not all it could be, but it is acknowledged and sometimes that’s enough. The bridge between us vanishes. I’m one more Bule with money to spare.

I run to meet up with Ceci who is waiting for me below and together we carry on our descent. On the way, we find a set of baskets loaded with sulphur blocks which I can just barely lift up to my hips using all my strength, never mind carrying it up a mountain! Ceci and I glance at each other in disbelief, shaken by this revelation.

At the bottom of the crater, we cross a rickety bridge over the turquoise acid water of the lake and quite unexpectedly find ourselves a few meters away from the raging furnace of the mine, spewing a vast continual plume of volcanic gases. The miners use ceramic pipes to condense the deep red molten sulfur until it drips and pools onto the ground, turning boiled egg-yolk yellow as it cools. A 7minute egg-yolk yellow at first, and by the time it reaches the top of the mountain, a 10minute, overcooked, egg-yolk yellow.

And just like that, our window of opportunity closes. The pillar of sulphuric vapour which had shot straight up until then, began diffusing, slowly saturating the entire crater and surroundings in a thick unbreathable fog. We put our gas masks on and head home. Just kidding, don’t you know us? We ended up hiking most of the rim, off-trail and through the impenetrably thick vapours.

Finally, stupid smiles across our faces, sulphur in our every pore, in our mouths, hair, clothes, we hiked down through the clouds, unable to stop chatting excitedly about how lucky we were!

Next morning, cycling past the entrance of the park at sunrise, Ceci & I exchanged a glance. The weather was foul, everything shrouded in a dense fog. And the words remained unspoken between us.

‘You missed the sunrise…’


Shrink a bicycle down to the size of a pair of glasses and place it on your nose, carefully aligning the wheels with your eyes. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Why would anyone look at life through the lens of a bicycle? Like peeping through a motionless zoetrope to the tiny image of a horse. More work than it is worth. And besides, there’s all the spokes in the way.

No matter. Bear with it.

Now, look out over the world. Look at corners of the world where the culture, the religion, the customs, food, people, landscape, flora and fauna are as different as possible from what you know. Even with clear eyes, it’s hard to comprehend how one travels to such places. Now, book a ticket. Every single step until you land, having a bike for glasses makes the process even more complicated. The small print getting ever smaller, the details ever easier to miss, mistakes ever easier to make. Somehow, you’ve now spent months with a bicycle for glasses and it stopped making any kind of sense a long time ago. But also, you sort of don’t notice anymore. Hasn’t life always been full of spokes?

Then, all of a sudden you land. Indonesia. And that’s when you remember, at last, why you have a bicycle for glasses. So, tentatively at first, you pinch the tiny little pedal and rotate it half a turn. Then another. Then another. It’s not clear at first what exactly it is that changes. Just that it does. The zoetrope is set into motion, the magic lamp is rubbed. And little by little everything does. Change. The spokes blur into one and a new window into reality reveals itself.

You put in a bit more effort, turning the crank like an old movie projector, and this new world reveals itself a bit more. And you begin to realize, wait a minute, is anyone else seeing this? Does everyone else’s food taste this good? But you’re in a world of your own, now, with its own rules and the deeper you plunge into it, the deeper your experience. The spokes blur your vision, but only enough to infuse the world with wonder, with a sense of discovery, purpose, pride. Your connection with the people you meet, the books you read, nature and wildlife, it all takes place on a deeper emotional level for all the effort you put in. And beds. Beds! And the cold rain on hot days. And the food! The food! And the breathtaking scenery rushing past, the smiles rushing past, the eyes, the colour…

The experience is dense and will take many years to unpack, but you push on through the fog of exhaustion confident that now is the time to live. Now is the time to live! A day in an hour, a lifetime hiding in every little moment, insignificant moments made significant by their being entirely yours to explore and at your own pace, in your own unique way, with your own special outlook on life, by your own means.

The zoetrope spins spins spins and suddenly you’re the horse running inside, you’re the genie in the magic lamp, the magic is inside you now. The spinning wheels somehow become this two-way portal granting you passage into a new magical world but also granting the world passage into you. It’s a lot to carry, a world, and luckily yours is but a small corner of it. However, you will soon learn that the responsibility is more worth than it is work. That now, you can look inside, any time you like, and look: there it is. The world. You can take the glasses off now, or put them on, but the world is yours to keep.


Log entry  #32                                           04/02/23

A most sweaty year reached its pinnacle today. And the list includes some pretty wet contenders:

Running for dear life from a cloud of angry wasps on a 40% slope dragging a brushsaw with the motor running in 30°c heat dressed from head to toe in long sleeves, boots and a hard hat.

Getting lost running shirtless in the Baja Desert at high noon, in a dry 38°c without a cloud in the sky, no hope of shade and not a drop of water left to drink.

Racing 60km through the Puerto Vallarta jungle in 98% humidity, not an ounce of wind and peeing blood from dehydration.

And yet somehow, the award for most perspiration/second goes to: This wrong turn we took on purpose on the road from Pacitan to Trenggalek.

Navigation in Indonesia is a mess. If we want to know the type of day we’re facing, we go by vertical gain & loss, which is only available on the Gmaps walking function for some coconut reason, but only the car instructions are available offline. And to top it off, the walking instructions never exactly match the driving ones. Ergo: A mess.

And it’s while looking at the walking instructions that we make our best, most glorious mistakes. It’s the little blue walking man, see? The symbol for Gmaps’ walking instructions. He whispers to us.

‘Hey, pssst, yes you, you look like you’re up for a challenge, wanna try something different? Hey, it’s even 5kms shorter!’

To which we invariably answer: ‘Of course, my horse!’

As though traversing Indonesia isn’t enough of a challenge.

So here we are, not even 100m into our voluntary wrong turn, in full cyclo-cross mode, navigating wet stones, slipping and sliding through mud pits and puddles the size of lakes. We can still go back to the safety of the car instructions, of course, but at this point, it’s simple arithmetics. Ceci + Etienne. Our stubbornness compounding into the stuff of legends. In other things, we compensate for one another, in stubbornness we compound. Next thing we know, we’re hiking our bikes up 40% slopes, doing that thing when you: push bike, jam breaks, take a step, push bike, jam breaks, step; gaining more than 600m in less than 3kms through tobacco plantations and rice fields. The humidity is 120% and not a single drop of our sweat evaporates. We have to stop to wring our shirts because they’re getting too heavy, while our eyes are being pickled in sweat like hard-boiled eggs but there’s nothing even semi-dry to wipe them with. Our handlebar tape, our dry bags, the rim of our helmets, everything is drip drip dripping. And the thing is, we’re completely lost now, asking locals for directions, every one of them confused, telling us to go back the way we came. But, Etienne + Ceci. We push on.

A fantastic miscalculation that led to one of the cycling highlights of the trip! Worth it, even if only for the claim of being the first crazies to ever have cycled through this impromptu uncyclable mountain pass.


The heat sizzles above the black asphalt, as I line up my little juice boxes. All chocolate milks. But that’s where the similarities end, see? There’s your classic chocolate milk, of course, always a favourite, always a favourite. Then you’ve got your sea salt and salted caramel, for re-hydration purposes; choco hazelnut, choco cashew, choco almond, if you’re into nuts; tiramisu, Marie Biskut, choco malt, if you’ve got a sweet tooth; choco mocha if you’re feeling sleepy; then, of course, there’s banana, strawberry and so on, if you’re a health nut and have something against chocolate for some inconceivable reason.

And if you look carefully, there’s a little drawing of a cow on the side of each with different colour skin depending on the flavour. For people who don’t read good, I guess. But, I also like to look at them. I don’t know if it means that that’s what they feed the cow or how else on earth do they manage the flavour so good, but hey, that’s more than I’m paying to know.

Now, which one first. I’m halfway through lining them up in a new, pretty daring order, when I notice, between the milk cartons, a policeman looking at me.

Looking at me like there’s something missing in the picture. Praying to कामधेनु, the divine bovine-goddess, that what’s missing isn’t handcuffs or jail bars, I slurp my choco malt and gulp anxiously. When you don’t know, choco malt’s the safest choice to start with. Eases you into the choco-experience.

The policeman smiles, then. Looking dangerously like he’s finally figured out what’s missing in the picture. Suddenly, he jumps off his motor bike, and runs towards me.

I have to look at what I’m slurping by then, I’m so nervous… Salted caramel, nice. Sweating, sipping like it’s my last beverage as a free man, I gulp, gulp, gulp..

The thing is—short story long—as it turns out, what’s missing in his picture… is me. A selfie. Which I agree to instantly. Did I even have a choice?

Then, I relax into it. Partly, it’s because I’ve done the selfie thing before, a million times. But also, sipping choco-hazelnut has that effect on me. Reminds me of Nutella which reminds me of breakfast, so I relax.

Excited, he hikes his pants up by his belt and calls over to his police partner friend across the street who instantly breaks into a silly guffaw and saunters over. Giggling like a little girl. And for the next 10 minutes, we’re trying out different poses. Let’s see, there’s the arms-crossed one, all tough and serious; the fist-up one, like we’re power rangers; the “We keep your streets safe” thumbs up one… and the thing is, I get it. I get it because it’s just like ordering the milk cartons by flavour. It’s crucial to get it just right.

Down the road some 50kms, Ceci is sipping her Kelapa Muda, multi-tasking a TikTok video with the lady who just finished chopping our green coconuts with a machete. There’s a beauty enhancing filter on the camera, which, as I understand it, puts a whole lot of beauty on their faces. Ceci still has her helmet on, the lady, a purple hijab. They’re dancing to some Arabic dance song, making kissy faces, duck lips, showing one cheek, the other, peace sign, turned-around peace sign, downwards peace sign, they’re running out of things to do now, but the thing is on a timer, they have to complete a certain amount of time for the video to work, so then the camera turns to me. Somehow, the beauty it puts on my face, it doesn’t quite have the same effect.

Still I’m on TikTok now, look me up, and if you like what you see, hit the like and subscribe.

This is the second time they go through the whole affair. The first time Ceci couldn’t stop laughing because, well, it’s the most embarrassing day of her life, she being as sweaty as a wet fish, and the lady hugging her tight like Ceci’s the catch of the day.

The thing is, we’re like children in their care here, in Indonesia, as we fumble and meander along through their confusing country. And there have been ample, ample opportunities for them to profit from our blundering ignorance. And yet, not once.

At first, every time someone would home-in on us “just to talk”, or sell, or offer services, or help; we would batten down the hatches. And every single time, they dispelled any doubts we might have as to their intentions. If someone asks us wherewhywhowhatwhy at dizzying speeds, it’s only out of curiosity that we should come from so far across the whole planet to their little humble corner of the world. If someone offers something we don’t want, a simple ‘No thank you’ concludes the interaction. At the entrance of national parks, the very guides whose services we refuse, offer us a few tips about where to go and how.

Like concerned parents, they’ve guided us through the process of Indonesia, while we sip our little juice boxes and dance our little TikTok dances. The men disarming us time and again with their goofiness, the women with their ease and confidence. We love this place.

And in case you’re wondering? The choco sea salt one is the best.



‘After this, everything is extra.’

We’ve repeated these words so often by now that it has become the mantra for the whole trip. Indonesia has so much to give that extra always gets pushed further and further along. Sighting an orangutan in the wild Sumatran jungle on day 3 was the first this of the trip. But then, no no no wait. Cycling up to the base of Bromo Volcano, then hiking along its rim without a single person in sight? Ok, after this, everything else is extra. But then, cycling up to the base of Ijen Volcano, 2 days later, then hiking up to its rim and down into the crater to visit a sulphur mine?? Ok, after this, everything else is extra.

And every day, when a new this arises out of the mists of extra, the meaning of the mantra shifts. At first, it shifted from: It was worth the flight/investment/stress/time. To: The trip already gave us so much that if we went home now, it would already have been worth it. But after so much this-ness, the meaning, now, has to be a blend between: It’s so good to be alive. And: Okay, we can die easy now.

Now, about halfway through our trip, we live in constant suspension above a densely woven cloud of deeply meaningful extra, glancing back at the towering volcano peaks of life-changing this-es. Half of our conversations consist of finding new ways of expressing how grateful we are. At once at peace with what has come to pass and at peace with what is yet to come.

Perhaps this is just what happiness feels like. This grounding equanimity. I’ve certainly begun recognizing its pattern in more and more strata of my life.

On a smaller scale, ‘After this, everything else is extra’ means that by moving ourselves by bicycle, we receive our reward long before ever reaching any destination. Even if everything was to be just extra, the feat of crossing Indonesia alone would prove in itself the trip of a lifetime. Testing our mettle against the monsoon, the stifling heat, the vertical mountains? Sign me up.

These cycling trips have an inherent philosophy to them which I’ve come to call Precise Suffering. This profound sense of fulfilment arising from focusing your daily allotment of mind & body towards a singular purpose. The same daily exercise we would do regardless, channelled in such a way as to yield more. Allowing us to reach and discover a new wondrous place every day. This in itself is a source of meaningful happiness.

On a medium scale, ‘After this, everything is extra’ manifests as enjoying the work that I do. Planting trees over the years has become such a meaningful part of my year that it is no longer the sacrifice it once was. Freeing the off-season, the extra, from the expectation that it should be worth the sacrifice. Freeing it to become more than extra.

On a larger scale, ‘After this, everything is extra’ can also be applied to a life that has already given me so much more than I could ever have hoped for.

It’s not just happiness, though. It is more the discovery of what happiness looks like for me. The pursuit of happiness makes it sound like it’s out there somewhere; but to me, it’s much more of an inner-pursuit. It is about cultivating the receptivity, the humility, the wonder to know happiness when it arises.

It’s a curious feeling being at peace with life. Because, in a way, it also means being at peace with dying. An acceptance that, well, after this, everything is extra. And from this peace, this gratefulness and acceptance, is born the constant shifting equilibrium of the present moment. Looking forward from birth, and backwards from death, situates you firmly into the now, in such a way that you can both live and know you are living; be happy and recognize in real time that you are happy.

After meaningful happiness, everything is extra.


For me, the best person to spend the rest of your life with is someone who, through the simple fact of being themselves, helps you become who you want to be. And the greatest gift I am granted through my relationship with Ceci is the restoration of my capacity for wonder. Wonder and cynicism exist on a scale. And away from cynicism is who I want to be.

It has been my experience through many of our trips together that restoring a sense of wonder for the natural marvels of this world trumps any thousand depictions of the end of the world, which can only breed cynicism and indifference towards our ailing planet.

The power to change even just one mind is something very special. To help Ceci continue the good work of changing minds, please consider donating… Just kidding!

That’s all, folks. See you in Bali!


Yogyakarta -> Pacitan 135km 1,758m

Pacitan -> Trenggalek 120km 1,509m

Trenggalek -> Malang 140km 737m

Malang -> Bromo 50km 2,100m

Bromo -> Bondowoso 137km 824m

Bondowoso -> Ijen 61km 1,532

Ijen -> Bali Ferry 50km 1,100m

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lo says:

    Truly Impressive!! ________________________________


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