I told him that this club was more regimented and had a much stronger sense of identity than some of the clubs I had met in Indonesia and even in Australia.
Loosely paraphrased he told me that they really wanted to provide a sense of brotherhood, a family structure and social organisation that would be known for the good work they did. I guess the clubs back home do the same things with the toy runs.
They talked about their social work. The reality is that in Indonesia you needed to come from a certain section of society to be able to afford these kinds of bikes. The members were clearly more wealthy than the average Indonesian. After learning more about this, I felt that this felt more like a rotary club than a criminal organisation – a rotary club with tattoos, leather and motorcycles.
Enforcer asked me what I enjoyed. “Whisky, motorcycles and women”, I replied. It felt like an appropriate response at the time when surrounded in a biker bar. He laughed, slapped me on the back and passed me a beer and told me I was now a friend of the club and would be welcomed by anyone with that patch. I didn’t know though that I would now be known by that saying throughout Indonesia and I might come to regret it.
I was passed a large glass of orange juice. I took several large gulps – hmm vodka and orange. It was not the kind of thing I had imagined drinking in a biker bar but a drink is a drink. I downed what I thought was my share and the table raised their eyebrows at me. I smiled back. The glass was passed on and replaced with another orange juice from under the table.
I thought back to the strange nature of the drink in the bar. “Orange juice and vodka?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes…orange juice and vodka and mushrooms - we said before”. I had missed the “before”.
Urrrg. I have no patience for hallucinogenic drugs. I am just too much of a control freak and an over thinker to surrender my thoughts and vision to the experience that they require in a strange setting. I kept trying to tighten my grip on normality even as the drug pried my fingers away from my already loose grip of social interactions. Luckily by the time I should have been in the full thralls of a trip, I had only some mild sensations, but my companions were giggling. There is something incredibly hilarious about a dozen men, all tattooed, leather vested and patched - giggling like school girls. Large shoulders heaving, bouncing up and down while they cackled madly at any comment, sight or unshared thought they have. I was laughing with them in no time at all. Maybe, sometimes a looser grip is the way to go?
Unlike what we hear reported in the media in Australia, I never experienced any animosity between the motorbike clubs in Indonesia. All of the clubs appeared to get along fine (with a few small exceptions). While I was riding through West Java I was introduced to many different clubs, and chapters of clubs. Everyone welcomed me, and provided me with support and help. It made getting around Java pretty simple. I would ride to a checkpoint on the edge of town. They would welcome me and I would spend the night. They would then take me across town to the other side and I would ride in that direction to the next town where a different club or chapter would be waiting on the highway to take me through town or put me up for the night. Repeat until you get to the end of Sumatra.
I mentioned before that somehow along the biker grapevine it got around that I enjoyed “whisky, motorcycles and women”. I thought it was simply a throwaway line but Indonesian hospitality did not let that one slide. I learned this when I needed to spend three nights in a town near Bangdoung doing some repair work. I was staying at a guest house (very kindly provided by my motorcycle friends). I kept being told I could get a massage *wink* *wink* here. I let them know that it was ok, that I really wasn’t in need of a *massage*. They kept insisting and I kept politely declining before I finally told them I was tired and needed to sleep. I wished them good night and retired, showered and was about to jump in my silk sleeping bag liner (it helps with bedbugs) when there was a knock at the door.
Yep. There was a prostitute at my door. Like most Indonesian women, she was unquestionably beautiful - large eyes, high cheek bones and a slender smile. She wore a tight fitting dress. She kept saying “massage sir, massage sent. I had been on the bike for most of the day riding around the local mountains; I was tense and a massage would have been perfect. She stood there with a shy smile.
I looked towards my empty bed, back to her. Shook my head, apologised, slipped her a small tip and closed the door as slowly as I could. I kept reminding myself that I had made the right call. Lying there in bed, muscles sore and thinking of her shy smile, I had a chuckle to myself. How many people end up this situation?
I am glad I was able to experience all of these more unusual aspects of Indonesia but sometimes they do know how to test a man.
I rode into Jakarta at about 2am. Though only 70kms away, it had taken me 10 hours to make the ride. The traffic was oppressive. There was no room to squeeze a pedestrian through the gridlock, let alone a fully loaded Enfield. My bike was getting hot from the lack of air over the cylinder. The jam was so bad I spent several hours with the engine off, rolling it forward a few meters whenever a gap appeared.
I noticed the sticker of the largest motorcycle club in Indonesia (Biker Brotherhood MC) on the back of a guy’s helmet. I waved him down and asked him where the South Jakarta checkpoint was. He rode me there and called my friend who I was to meet. It was midnight and the traffic was still thick. He said that we should wait until 2am when it will clear. We sat around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, which did help me stay awake.
The two riders would take me into the city to my hostel that I had booked. They did offer to put me up but I felt like I needed a break from the Indonesian biker hospitality. My companion rode a cafe’d Buell while his friend was on a classic BSA. He was right about the traffic - like a light switch the roads were empty whereas only two hours before they had been gridlocked.
We rode fast and hard. If you ever want to see a city, blast around it on a motorcycle at 2am on a Wednesday morning. There was no slowing it down through traffic lights, just eye burning speed in the cool of the night. Riding so fast that I kept my weight on the rear wheel of the bike so when I would hit the pot holes the bike would lift right over them like a heavily loaded and slow Evel Knievel. I bounced, sped and likely destroyed my front end while loving every second of it.
We pulled in to get petrol and my patched friend filled my tank. There was no letting me pay for it. While this happening, a local custom Vespa club turned up. Now I ride with custom bikes back home but these Vespa guys take it to another level and make it something else. Extended, questionably welded unibodies and strange trike numbers that if they could pick up any speed would surely kill you faster than riding through the Java mountains with a head full of mushrooms. They explained that this is the only time they could ride their unregistered contraptions on the road. They smiled, waved, kicked their engines bolted on wheels and rode off. What a strange experience.