Cycling in East Java: Banyuwangi to Bangil
I left Banyuwangi to start cycling in East Java. How would it be? East Java is an area which is mostly visited by tourists to do the Bromo trekking. That was not my intention. I would like to cycle along the north coast and see what there was to see.
My experience is that every area is worth to visit, regardless what guidebooks tell you. Since I started cycling, I realized guidebooks are great if you visit a country/county/province shortly but if you want info about a country, leave the tourist trail and see what the country really is. Traveling is more then seeing a few sights and then go home. The sites are the cream on the pie. And East Java is no different.
Cycling in East Java starts with arriving at Ketapang jetty. The ferry took longer then I had expected but I didn't care much. It was nice to be on the water (which was also very blue too). In Ketapang I cycled another 9km or so to Banyuwangi. The city had little to offer but I found a nice little restaurant where staff and a few guests were very interested in why I was here.
I left Banyuwangi in the morning after a nasi pecel breakfast to cross the Baluran National Park. This is a rarely visited area by mainstream tourists but you can only wonder why.
There was hardly traffic and to my left the 2800 meter Mount Merapi dominated the scenery. For a while I followed the coastline with some views on the west coast of Bali.
It was followed by a view on the Baluran Park peaks. This would be the first challenge in East Java. From the map I expected some climbing after Pandean town. So I stopped for some refreshments. While I was resting I chatted a bit with some local travelers from Situbondo.
"It's very easy, only one climb, and all were laughing". "That must be a serious climb", I thought. But in the end, it was a really nice hill through the forest with hardly traffic around me and a long descending on the other side that lead to a military base.
On the way I saw soldiers busy with rope courses and other training facilities. All I had to do now was follow the coastline to my next stop: Situbondo. While I cycled to Situbondo the clouds darkened and just after I found a hotel, the rain was pouring down.
My next stop would be Probulingo, a city travelers use to visit the Bromo volcano. I had no plans in hiking up though. Probulingo would a 100km easy cycling from Situbondo all along the coasts of the Straits of Madura. I had been thinking of visiting Madura too, but lack of time on the visa made rejecting this idea.
Because quite some travelers visit the city for trekking to Bromo, there's a couple of good hotels in Probulingo.
The road to Probulingo was nice enough, with Argupuro on my left and the Straits of Madura on my right. At one point some Indonesian cyclists passed me. The cycled up with me for a km or 2 and then asked permission (!) to continue with much faster speed! I decided I didn't want to stay in Pasuran (despite a few very nice hotels I saw in town) but continued to Bangil. I cycled through town to search for some colonial building which supposedly were interesting but the only "colonial building" I saw was in total ruins.
So I passed Pasuran and the junction to Lawang and Malang for an additional 20km or so to Bangil. There I could anyway decide to cycle to Malang if I wanted.
There seemed to be only one hotel in Bangil, a forgettable town. Still, I have fond memories as the hotel owner of the Al Hambra hotel, right in front of the local Mosque spoke a little Dutch.
And of course right after my arrival it started pouring down! Nothing much to do then wait until the rain would stop.
So far cycling in East Java had been very pleasant and to my surprise, without a lot of traffic. However, I was just in Probulingo.
Accommodation had been cheap so far, but food had been a little problem. Breakfast was always good and easy but in the afternoon the shops all closed only to re-open at about 4pm to cover the heat of the afternoon. It made sense but it was inconvenient to get a lunch.
Everywhere I went the "hello mister" followed me. And despite the rain in the afternoon, that seemed to follow me, I had an excellent time so far.
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