Testimonials from cyclists who havedone trips in Toraja, South, North, Flores and Central Sulawesi

Trans Flores 2017

Jo Lumay

Our recent 2 week cycle tour of Flores exceeded all expectations; the right mix of challenging and rewarding cycling, stunningly beautiful landscapes, crystal clear warm waters for swimming and relaxing, exceptional snorkelling experiences, sweeping vistas of volcanic mountain-ranges, friendly, kind and generous local people, simple tasty food, comfortable accommodation..what more could you ask for! We had a truly terrific trip. If you were to embark upon a cycle touring adventure with Colin you would undoubtedly have a superb trip infused with his guidance, in-depth knowledge of Indonesian culture and language and his years of well-honed organisational skills. Thank you Colin for all the support!

Gill Goddard - Aged 58

This is the 3rd bike tour I have done with Cycle Indonesia, Colin Freestone spends a lot of time finding good routes to ride with interesting cultural things to see and do. Previously I have been to Toraja and North Sulawesi . The tours have all been very different but I've loved them all . You can read about them in more depth in previous testimonials, however all 3 rides have been through beautiful mountainous scenery where the Indonesian people particularly the children are cheerful and friendly and excited to see us.

When Colin said he was taking cyclists to Flores and that the ride would go almost the entire length I thought it was a great challenge. The route goes over the width of the island as well, through the mountains and past volcanoes so you get to see and stay in different coastal regions and up in the mountains. Tourism has not yet spoilt Flores and the logging hasn't started as it has done on other islands.

Colin always selects amazing staff who support the riders and on Flores we were lucky to have 2 local drivers who loved showcasing their homeland. Marianus and Christian got to know our preferences quickly and it would be nothing to get to a rest stop and find your coffee\drink already made with a favourite fruit or biscuit. Our guide Inong spoke English and although she lives in Jakarta she had the personality to get on side with the locals which ensured we got the best of everything that was available { which could be quite basic} she had a wonderful sense of humour and loved a joke. The riding on Flores was on very good roads with occasional breaks where they were making improvements. The route has some very steep parts but also fantastic very windy downhills. All the riders stay together as well as fast and slow riders can! The faster hill riders would wait at the top of a hill with the lead vehicle and water until everyone arrived. The same in our rest time, no one was left out.

I had many new experiences from seeing the cashew, clove and candlenut plantations and peeling a very sticky and tart Tamarind pod, to viewing the wonderful blue Kelimutu craters at dawn, standing under a powerful freezing waterfall and relaxing in the thermal pools. Another highlight was our journey to see the famed Komodo dragons on Rinca Island and snorkelling on the trip back. Some of the other recreational things I got to do was swim, horse ride, trek and kayak.

Our accommodation varied greatly, but all our hosts whatever the standard were wonderful to us . The food was satisfying with fresh fish ,vegetables and fruits.

I recommend anyone who wants to cycle somewhere different, with like minded people to go to Flores and discover a culturally diverse and beautiful Island.

Toraja Bike Retreat 2017

José and Erik

The program was fantastic!!
We had a great time.
Special thanks to Ucok who was there for us all the time. He is just great!

The route was tough for José, specially the first cycle day, and the second trekking day.
But we knew that before we started and would not have missed it for the world.

We had a special tracing guide who knew the way and guided us from one beautiful place to the next.

We loved our stay at Salibayu very much.

The Toraja part of our one month visit to Indonesia was the best.

We can recommend, and have recommended already, to anyone who visit the Toraja's your help with Ucok as the guide.

Many thanks to you both!
José and Erik - erikjoseroks@home.nl

South Sulawesi 2017

Juergen S. (consultant, German, 66)

"Thanks a lot for the very well organized trip to Sulawesi/Toraja. I had a fantastic time, even if sometimes I was rolling behind. Indeed some poetic "ondulating" hill means going up steadily for quite some time. The guide was excellent and he managed to take us to a traditional Toraja burial ceremony. The drivers have a long record of bicycle tours, so they know very well were to fit in a stop. Toraja is mountain highland, the road quality changes, sometimes unexpectedly, but the Indonesian drivers were very cautious with our small bicycle group. A day hiking and half a day of rafting were a very welcome change and a great adventure. All in all: I can only recommend participating in one of the tours. My next target will be wonderful Flores."


Trans Flores 2016

Keith Forrest, rural doctor, Darwin, Australia

You can read all the other testimonials about Colins trips. Its true, the organisation, the food, the drivers, the accommodation. All fantastic.

For three months I anticipated this trip, with a mixture of excitement and fear. Would the hills be too steep; would I get on well with the other riders? Ilness? What if, What if...
I practiced for three months, riding up any hill I could find. The closest to my home was a three percent gradient... After a week in Flores, 3% feels flat. Try 7%... Try 10%. And when you get to the top, and all the riders did, every last mountain... Feel... fantastic!

Colin has a wonderful schedule for Flores … ride a few days and then take a break for a day. Brilliant side trip options on the rest days, Volcanoes, hot springs, traditional villages, or just wander around the town, meeting local people.

And Flores, now the name haunts me, magical, mystical, wild, welcoming. This is what people are like when they don't have their faces stuck in a smart phone! They look at you... and smile. Feel tired riding up a hill? Take a break on a house veranda, meet the family, drink coffee with them, people are so happy to meet you. Flores will take a part of you and hold onto it. You may never really be happy until you go back again. That's how I feel anyway.

Three days before the end of the trip I was discussing the unfolding of the trip with another rider. I told him, I just want to keep going, I don't want it to finish. Immerse yourself in the people, the culture and the language... and keep going.

I hope to keep going, next stop Sulawesi April 2017. Join me?

Keith Forrest (kforrest480@gmail.com)

PS: The trip inspired me to start learning Indonesian at Uni. Part of a Bachelor of Arts in Indonesian Studies.

Sylvia Noteware, dentist from Houston

How nice to be greeted by well wishers and a thumbs up when riding my bike. Cycling in Indonesia is unique for the smiling support and “hellos” of the local people. Whether struggling uphill or flying downhill, there is always someone calling out to you. This makes Indonesia a very special place for cycling.

The island of Flores provides plenty of good riding on good roads with little traffic. Yes, you go up, but then you go down. You ride through the lives of the local people, not just past them. You ride along the beaches and fishing towns as well as the rice farms and banana plantations. There is much to see, observe, and engage the brain. The cycling is not just exercise but experience, not just getting on the bike but discovering where the bike can take you.

Flores is a tropical paradise, as of yet, undiscovered by the world. It has not been changed by tourism and commercialism.

This is a challenging tour that is broken into "ride and relax" segments. Yes, I got tired and was glad to be done riding for the day, but then had no problem sleeping. Yes, I got wet which was refreshing, but then felt wonderful even after a cold shower. And, yes, I wish I had stopped more often to take photos.

Some overall thoughts:
I loved the riding!! Great ups and downs, scenic, lovely even in the rain, little traffic, friendly greetings, and super support from your staff. I enjoyed all the other riders very much - a very good group.
The cultural perspectives were very good and the insights into every day life, very interesting.
The support for the riders was good. Plenty of food, water an Pocarae Sweat (electrolytic drink). Loved the treats from Sulawesi. As far as I know, everyone's luggage and contents were safe and dry. Bike maintenance/cleaning was awesome. I was never afraid or felt unsafe at any time, even in the lesser accommodations.
I would do this ride again. I cannot say that about some of the trips that I have taken elsewhere. My (four) trips in Indonesia with Colin, have all been most enjoyable, which is why I returned for this one.
Colin and the Cycle Indonesia support staff are ever attendant and helpful, knowledgeable, and fun.

Thanks. Sylvia sylviamaud@aol.com

Ps: if anyone wants to contact me personally for more info etc please feel free to contact

Edward Stow (Public Servant)

The bicycle tours of Indonesia offered by Colin Freestone are unique. They offer a tremendous mixture of stunning scenery including mountains, volcanoes, and seaside; the opportunity to mix with local people in their villages; the exposure to traditional culture and activities, all while making a journey on bicycle over excellent roads with traffic the respects your right to be on the road.

The trip to Flores is my second trip with Colin and I will be back for another in the near future.

Edward Stow ed.stow@gmail.com

Andrew Mcclaim & Jenny Allen

Colin and his Indonesian team have created a fabulous opportunity for cyclists to immerse themselves in the fascinating landscapes and communities of Flores. Their deep knowledge of the island and of Indonesian language and culture and their expert support of the needs of riders ensures a very authentic and memorable experience in a comparatively undeveloped part of Indonesia.

Michael Flynn (IT)

Colin does an excellent job of designing cultural experiences that are enjoyable and challenging from both the view of the culture and the physical bicycle riding.

The July 2016 Flores trip was the second cycling trip I have taken with Colin's Cycle Indonesia tours. The first being North Sulawesi in January 2013, though 25 years ago I also did two trips to Indonesia with Colin as a student teacher and he was a lecturer at the University.

The Flores trip starts travels the full length of the island. Travelling by bicycle is a terrific way to see the variety of Indonesian villages. The roads in Flores are generally in good condition and there is little traffic. What traffic there is, is very considerate of bicycles riding along the road. There were some uphill segments that test your fitness, however I found this trip less difficult than the North Sulawesi trip – though perhaps it was just that I was fitter, and knew what to expect.

The trip had 5 rest days providing an opportunity to see some different sights, including an early morning visit to a misty blue smouldering lake at the top of a volcano. A traditional village, with the houses built around a common square, all made in a similar wood style. Fortunately, there was a ceremony being performed at one of the villages when we visited and, we're able to witness the singing and dancing first hand.

On this trip, at the top of a long hill, deciding to rest a moment from the heat, a villager invited us to set in the shade of his houses front porch. He brought plastic chairs, from inside, for us to sit on, and another rider having just climbed the hill and the two support drivers, Julius and Ucok, joined us. The grandmother of the household made traditional sarongs, and we were shown a few that were for sale – they were handmade, good quality and beautiful colours. It was interesting to watch the negotiation, to agree the price for the first sarong. Julius held the Sarong, closely inspecting the weave, looking closely for imperfections – which he could use to drive down the price. Still respectful, still holding the garment, not wanting to put it back, as the grand mother made a counter offer, to his suggested price. Once the price was agreed, another four sarongs were sold. It was a simple, but interesting cultural experience.

The accommodation on the Flores trip was generally very comfortable. We stayed in a number of modern hotels that had comfortable beds, air conditioning and delicious food. There was also a night in a monastery. Where the local people put on a singing concert and some basic dancing. Involving the bicycle group in the dancing made for a great nights entertainment.

There were a couple of nights of basic accommodation, however that was all that was available in the particular areas and that made me appreciate the better accommodation even more.

The food on the trip is local to the area you are traveling through. There is always rice, and predominately fish and a variety of vegetable dishes. Colin will aim to accommodate people's preferences in food, and will request for the chilli's to be on the side rather than cooked with the main dish for those people who aren't that fond of spicy hot.

I want to thank Colin and the support drivers for making the trip a terrific experience, that I would recommend the cycle trips to anyone wanting a challenging ride and an experience of Indonesian culture.
Michael Flynn mic.a.flynn@gmail.com

North Sulawesi 2016

Gillian Goddard

This is my 2nd tour with Colin , previously I had cycled to the Toraja region.
The North is quite different as the Culture was not as varied ,the scenery however was stunning as we took coastal roads where we could . 2 of the nights were spend by a lake in a fishing village with a thermal pool .During the day we rode around the lake meeting and talking to some locals. We ask the questions then Colin translates ,he is very keen for us to be part of the conversation so we learn a lot.

We had a fantastic driver in the back up car who is also the bike mechanic . Ucok always made sure we had enough water, coffee, and snacks during the day.

The riding was very challenging and hot as we rode over mountains but the it was worth it for the views.
We rode through coconut groves , coffee plantations lots of rice paddies and clove trees . We got to swim in the sea several times and had great fun playing on the beach with the local kids. The food was plentiful but too spicy for me so Colin asked if the chilli could be toned down! I cannot convey through writing how great the Indonesians are ,the kids trailed after us (but not begging) and everywhere we were stopped for photos.

The 3 of us had never met before and I was the only female again ,but we got on great and encouraged each other up the steep gradients.
I would encourage you to try the yoga as it helps with any soreness and is also part of the whole experience.

The fitter you are the more enjoyable the riding is ,even though Colin goes quite slowly so no one gets left behind.

Toraja May 2016

Sharon Rayner

Thanks so much for organising Euge and my trip to Sulawesi. We had a really fantastic time, and really appreciated Ucok and Yulius taking such great care of us, including catering for my preference to not eat meat, and teaching us so much about Sulawesi and Indonesia. Their knowledge of Torajan culture really helped us to understand the sites that we visited, and we especially valued the opportunity to visit a funeral ceremony.

The hike through the mountains gave us a great opportunity to see beautiful countryside and remote villages, as well having fantastic discussions with Yulius about Indonesian and Sulawesian politics and current affairs.

The riding was a great mix of distances and required effort. Everyone we rode pastwas very friendly - we will miss the motivating calls of "Hello Mister" when we are back riding in Australia.

After all of the hills we rode up, we are quite sure that we have come back a lot fitter!


(husband & wife)

We really appreciated Colin's personalisation of the Toraja tour to fit our timeframe. Our guide, Ucok, looked after everything we needed, including lots of cold water, delicious fruit and stops to cool off. He answered our questions well.
The culture of Toraja is very unique and quite a contrast with the more southern parts of Sulawesi where we began our adventure. The trekking allowed us a different perspective of rural life and the rafting was a nice break from riding. The variety of accommodation (all very clean, including when staying in villages) was really interesting and made for some great photos.
I would highly recommend the cooking class, delicious food cooked in an authentic family setting. I would suggest this trip if you are looking to see a completely different part of Indonesia.
Best wishes for 2016.
Kind regards


Andrew Taylor (nurseryman) & Louise Clinton (public servant)

We both had a great time on Colin's cycle tour around Central Sulawesi.
It was a challenging trip full of hot sun, beautiful beaches and mountain backdrops and coconut plantations.
The other members were interesting people - offering good conversation and plenty of mirth after a hard day in the saddle.
One of the highlights of the trip was our sojourn to the Togian Islands, where we snorkeled and took some time out to relax.
The big plus with Colin's tours are the meals - just excellent.
We'll be back to try a new challenge next year.
Thanks Colin. Andrew TAYLOR tayland1@bigpond.com

Chris (medico) and Bev (teacher)

My wife and I (both fit 66 year olds) joined Colin Freestone's bicycle tour of Central Sulawesi in September 2015. The description of the trip on the Cycle Indonesia website was a good reflection of how the trip ran, with some minor variations, at Colin's discretion. We were well briefed for the trip, with both emails and phone calls, although in the event, family events meant we didn't train enough.

The accommodation was great with variation from international to local village hotels. We enjoyed the local food, especially the treats the drivers bought from the local markets for our riding snacks.

The Indonesian people were very friendly and helpful. In particular, we found the local motorised road users very considerate of our needs as bicyclists. The roads were generally good, although we had some roadworks to negotiate and had to work around some road closures.

The cycling was challenging, with high temperatures, hard climbs and long distances. We appreciated the rest days, which were well spaced.

Rest days offered alternative activities: a jungle walk, two restful days on the shores of Lake Poso and a boat trip and overnight stay to the Togean Islands, with some great snorkeling over coral.

These activities were all low key, with plenty of time to rest, read and catch up.

Colin led a support team 3 others, including 2 local and experienced drivers. All were very supportive and knowledgeable. The support vehicles allowed us the option of getting off our bikes on a couple of occasions. Despite being physically challenged by the cycling, we would both recommend this trip as a great introduction to Indonesia with plenty of exercise and good company.

Take care to follow Colin's advice for pre-trip physical conditioning.

P.S from Bev
I concur with all Chris has had to say but as the slowest rider in the group, I feel that my experience was quite different to others. I am aware that my lack of speed would have impacted on the faster members of the group but no matter how hard I tried, I could not change this. Therefore, I was always playing catch up; I came in last to all rests and meals and so had a shorter rest time as well as I felt that I was not entitled to stop to engage with the locals or take photos when I wanted to because I would be even further behind. I was nevertheless buoyed by the friendliness of the Indonesian people, the support of the leader and the drivers of the following tour vehicles.

My aims for the trip were to be fitter than when I started, to engage with the local people, to learn some of the local language, to enjoy some wonderful scenery and to meet with new and interesting folks. All these aims were met to some degree.

I certainly am intrigued with Indonesia, it's language and people and look forward to my next trip with Colin.

Rooth MacMillan (architect, Canada)

The Central Sulawesi 2015 was my first bicycle tour of any length and I have to say that I'm hooked - what a great way to experience a new place. The people of Sulawesi have set the bar for being warm, welcoming and considerate. It was a real privilege to be able to get off the regular tourist track with no worries whatsoever.

This trip was well organized and well supported. It was a reasonable itinerary with enough flexibility to accommodate the different interests within our group - all one had to do was show up and ride. Accommodations were clean and comfortable. Meals were quite tasty, on the spicy side which suited me fine. There were plenty of local snacks and hot and cold drinks available at the rest stops. Ucok and Acok (our drivers) always kept my water bottle full. Roads were excellent, traffic was light outside of cities but everywhere motorists were extremely considerate. I even felt safe enough to listen to my iPod from time to time (in Toronto this would be suicidal.) Rest days were well spaced – my favorite was on the Togian islands – fantastic snorkeling in crystal clear water. Do take pre-trip training seriously because the hills are challenging.
Thanks again to Colin, Ucok, Acok and Alex for such a terrific introduction to Sulawesi!


Friedrich Rinehart (Obstetrican, Garmany)

Cycling the Island of Flores from east to west is an incredible experience. The scenery is breathtaking, the cycling is wonderful (the roads are in excellent condition),the food is amazing. The accommodation reaches from international hotels to minimalistic but pleasant monastery-accomodation, since there is hardly any tourism in most parts of the island. Due to Colin's background in Indonesia you connect to the local culture quickly and can experience this part of the country in a very special way. At the end of the trip in Labuan Bajo, in the Komodo Nationalpark you can experience some of the best diving in the world (which I would very highly recommend!). All in all, on this trip you discover everything Flores has to offer, and so much more...
If you're even remotely thinking about cycling any part of south-east-asia, this trip is highly recommended!.

Russell Holiday

This was my fourth trip with Colin to Indonesia, and every trip has been excellent and well organised which unlocks access to the culture and people of Indonesia.

But for something different to Sulawesi, the last trip I did was to Flores. Six months after, I still muse on what a fantastic experience it was. The spectacular scenery of mountains, volcanoes, caldera lakes at high altitude, hot springs, red sunsets over the sea and rices terraces.

Colin's culture and Bahasa language skills opens up an enjoyable experience enhanced by being on bicycles which allows easy engagement with the locals.

The roads are well maintained and a lot quieter compared to Sulawesi. Although there is a bit of climbing accomplished over the two weeks,the gradients are easy and there are plenty of non-cycling days for rest, exploring local towns and sightseeing to hot springs, Homo floresiensis cave and other attractions.

The trip concluded with a cruise to Rinca Island to see Komodo dragons. I'll be back next year to Sulawesi Selatan.
Russell Holliday russell@holliday.id.au

Charlie Farren

A wonderful way to see this beautiful, fascinating island. Organised by someone with a deep understanding of the Indonesian culture and way of life. The riding is superb - yes it's hilly but except for the last day, the gradients are modest and enjoyable.

Alan Twomey

What a cycling trip! Challenging 'uphills', long thrilling downhills; beautiful ocean, mountain, valley, forest, and rice paddy scenery; gorgeous sunsets; a fascinating cultural transition from Melanesian to Malay influences as we cycled east to west; friendly villagers greeting us with calls of 'bule' (white people), 'selamat pagi', 'good morning' and 'Hullo Mister' and gathering around us whenever we stopped, eager to interact and encourage photography; healthy, varied and tasty local food; interesting but spartan monastery style accommodation mixed with some international hotels; mist rising on beautiful crater lakes of varying colours; and visits to the home of the 'hobbit' (Homo Floriensis) and its beautiful surrounds, to the 'spider terraces' and to traditional mountain and fishing villages...
All this on an island barely touched by tourism, that is predominantly catholic in mostly Muslim Indonesia and which has an intriguing history involving Portugese and Dutch colonialists.

Along with leader / organizer Colin's easy manner, unique, casual leadership style, laconic humour, in-depth knowledge and experience of Indonesian language, culture and society, and the fantastic support provided by his crew, these amazing experiences made his inaugural cycle tour across Flores, a trip to remember. Added to this are opportunities to visit nearby Komodo dragons, go snorkelling and dive with manta rays.

Flores is an astounding place to visit and cycling through it was both a challenge and a thrill. Thanks Colin.

David Hockey (Mining accountant, Indonesia)

A challenging but great long distance ride through some of the most geologically active (and therefore scenic) areas in Indonesia. This ride is an incentive to ride the other islands in the Archipelago Thanks!


José Maria Dias da Cunha (car factory owner, Portugal)

Our trans Sulawesi tour was quite an experience. There was a great variety of different sensations in terms of sights, sounds and foods. Crossing the island from South to North also brought us to different ethnic groups with different religions (Muslim, Christian and Buddhist).

With their distinct origins and customs. The riding was also diverse, from very busy and crowded roads to quiet and peaceful mountain and lake roads,the road surfaces were mostly in average condition and we found same nice challenges in terms of elevation gain and distance. We recommended to the tour leader (Colin) to make available GPS tracks and also distance and elevation gain daily maps with major highlights.

The support vehicles and drivers were always available to meet our needs with lunch stops and small coffee stops. The food was diverse and mostly also a new experience, I am now a fan of Nasi Goreng / fried rice and Indonesian coffee for breakfast. The accommodation was diverse,from medium international hotels to local domestic basic guest houses, We had one or two that were a bit decadent and we suggested Colin to change, to my surprise most of beds were big and comfortable. Our Tour leaders were profound connoisseurs of the local language and customs and were always available for any queries. We definitely experienced another reality which enriched our minds and souls.
"R. DIAS DA CUNHA Maria Teresa" teresinhadc@mail.telepac.pt


Russell Holliday (electrical engineer)

This was my third trip with Colin and Cycling Indonesia, and I will be back again. The riders on Colin's trips have been easy going bunch, if you ride a bike you are half way there. The scenery on this trip was through volcanic active areas, hilly terrain, lakes, coastal scenery. The roads were in good condition. The riding was physically demanding at times but there is always the support vehicles to fall back on.

You will enjoy these trips if your are prepared to go with the flow and absorb the local ambience.

You never know what's around the corner: the local chief escorting proudly through his patch and organising water melons; the school teacher proudly showing her house; visit to a farming family home in the highlands; waiting in a local hardware shop for an hour or so (lots of sweet coffee) and then invited through the back door to reveal a huge coffee factory. Who would have known?

The food is plentiful and there was time to explore the markets and talk with the locals in the market to buy fresh fruit such as Manggis (Mangosteen), Rambutan, Semangka (watermelon), the best tasting nanas (pineapple) and pisang (bananas).

Being a bule (albino) in Sulawesi you tend to be a novelty and are warmly greeted in every village and town. Everyone is extremely friendly and wanting to practice English with you. Also a good chance to practice Indonesian.

We were travelling on election day which was an experience. The best man won! Colin has assembled an excellent support team of locals who make things happen and liase with various authorities and government department to make for a smooth running tour.

This region of Indonesia is changing rapidly, they are building their NBN now. Colin makes this accessible which would take you twice the time if you were to do it yourself.

Travelling on a bike you experience the authenticity of the country.
Russell Holliday russell@holliday.id.au

Petrina Quinn (Owner, Aussie Butt cream)

This was a 25th wedding anniversary gift to each other - and revived those memories of adventure and excitement we earlier enjoyed. A group of foreigners cycling in remote and less touristy places of North Sulawesi clearly enjoying the countryside and people resulted in unparalleled reciprocation by locals. We were treated like ROCK STARS, often escorted through villages by the Chief or Police. Often too attempts were made - sometimes successfully - to "come to my place", and of course many photo opportunities involving school children to Elders ensured. This is a place of joy and friendliness.

If you are searching for an alternative break away - and are flexible to absorb and be interested in cultural immersion, some physical cycling hardship, local amenities and food and a fit in attitude - you will have an unforgettable experience. The power of the volcanic equatorial landscape also is breathtaking.

I enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow cyclists, our wonderful drivers U-chock and Ba-chock who despite limited English were able to share something of their modest family lives, and of course the wisdom and organisation of tour leader Colin Freestone. This trip is not possible as a solo rider and is not possible without extensive knowledge of Indonesian affairs and regulations.
As for bikes, the roads in North Sulawesi are surprisingly good. A touring bike would be optimum.
Interested riders are welcome to contact me at Petrina.quinn@aussiebuttcream.com

Carol Felbermayer (Physiotherapist,Canberra)

I did the North Sulawesi tour with Colin in July 2014. Prior to the journey my apprehensions were the heat/humidity, possible tummy upset, malaria bearing mosquitoes, dogs with rabies, hills and being left behind unable to keep up with the group.

Happily none of the above was realized. The weather was hot and sticky at times but we were always well catered for by our 2 very efficient and friendly drivers with fresh ice water and pocari sweat together with fruit, cakes, biscuits ( even gluten free biscuits were available) at frequent stops. There were often cool breezes especially in the mountains and shady areas through which we rode, of course the downhills created their own relief. And for the very steep uphill areas the car was very welcome.

Our food for the most part was tasty and satisfying with fresh vegetables, BBQ'd fish or chicken and sometimes meat with the hot chilli as a side rather than over the food. I did not have any tummy issues on the trip. Bushman's insect repellent proved very effective against mosquitoes (malaria bearing status unknown), although mosquitoes were not always a problem in every area.

We certainly passed many dogs (unknown rabies status) mostly sleeping in the middle of the road and we rode around them.

The scenery was breathtaking, it was big scenery, the mountains loomed, the jungle terrain was extensive, lush, alive and the ocean views were stunning. In order to appreciate this the hill climbs were inevitable and sometimes beyond my capability. Riding in the traffic was a thrill to experience, I felt safer there than in Canberra Australia. Although there was no apparent road rules or road signs all road users had equal rights and were respected by other road users. I never saw any irritation of motorists while I was there.

The people were friendly wherever we went, the children were an absolute delight. We had an insight into the life of the Indonesians who live in Sulawesi and it was a most enlightening experience, we were not disappointed.

Colin gave us an excellent introduction to Indonesian culture and for a short time we were able to live the experience. It was adventurous, unpredictable, sometimes exhausting, and never dull, every day was different with new encounters with the environment, the people, and the animals. It was a wonderful learning experience, socially, historically, culturally.
I was never left behind, our trusty bike mechanic was always there as tail ender.


Alan Twomey (retired pCanberra)

What a fantastic experience your inaugural Bali ride in April/May 2014 was - a lot of good thought had obviously gone into deciding where we would go, how we could best get there, our food arrangements and what accommodation we would stay in...

And it paid off, as the views were beautiful, accommodation was spot on, the food was both tasty and healthy, experiences with the locals were terrific and the ride down those hills and through the villages and landscapes made my first visit to Bali especially memorable – and more than made up for the up-hill challenges getting to the top.

The attentiveness and helpfulness of the support crew was also much appreciated. Thanks Colin.


Andrew Taylor (nurseryman, Sydney)

I would like to say that the Toraja trip was an amazing holiday filled with everything I thought it was going to be and more !

There was never a time on the trip where I was not feeling great about being in Sulawesi enjoying the experiences unfolding before me.

The knowledge you were able to share with us of the people, their customs and culture was truly an enlightening and wonderful insight into a beautiful island with so much to offer.

I will be keen to see more of Indonesia on your trips in the future, to sample the wonderful cuisine, meet the friendly local people, take on the challenging cycling routes and enjoy the camaraderie that you bring to the days ride ! Thanks so much again for those wonderful memories.
Andrew TAYLOR tayland1@bigpond.com

Alasdair (retiree, Canberra)

I was on the Toraja ride in January 2014 and had a great time. The roads were rutted and potholed as a result of recent rains, best suited to a bike with front suspension and wider tyres. Nuts and bolts need to be tightened daily!

The climate was less oppressive than I expected but the distances and the ascents still made cycling hard work on several days. The cultural experience was excellent - the people, the language, the food, the environment.
I would go again.

Lorraine Tomlins (Canberra)

Although I have done many long supported bike rides in Australia, the Toraja bike ride was the first overseas one for me since cycling in China in 1982. I found it challenging because of the heat and humidity and because the first few days were long and up hill. But I enjoyed it and found that it fulfilled my objective of experiencing the culture, food and environment close up. It was also challenging because our accommodation for about half the time was quite basic with squat toilets and personal washing arrangements that involved a dipper and large container of water.
Despite or perhaps because of these factors, I found the trip a very enjoyable and memorable experience.


Russell Holiday

I did the Central Sulawesi trip in May 2012 and the Toraja trip in May 2013. On the Toraja trip I enjoyed the varied scenery (although the rice paddies are everywhere) particularly the mountains around Rantepao and Batutumong.

The culture you are introduced to in Toraja is unlike anything you will see anywhere else, and was interpreted and explained by local tour guides.

Everyone we met was so friendly and always up for a chat in Bahasa or to practice their English. Being westerners and on bikes we were a bit of a novelty.

The 1100 metre descent into Palopo was exhilarating with many stops to admire the views.

The food was a highlight, Colin chooses establishments that give you a good representation of the various cuisines in Indonesia. You will also not go hungry or thirsty riding as you are well looked after by the support crew with fresh fruit, Pulpies and water.

Colin has assembled a top support crew of locals who make sure every thing runs smoothly. The organisation of the trip, tour management and accommodation was excellent. After the trekking and rafting the luxury accommodation in Rantepao was just what was required.

The group dynamics on each trip were excellent. I was even introduced to Rugby by Melbournians no less.
Russell Holliday

Dick Coldham (retiree,Melbourne)

This was so much more than a bike ride! The riding was wonderful; challenging hills, exquisite scenery, intriguing geography and long enough days to feel you had done enough exercise. But really the cycling provided us with the most appropriate mode of transport to see and interact with the people, to find out about their lives, to learn at least something about the complexity of their culture and customs and to sit quietly in a warung or pondok enjoying our coffee and watching the world go by.
Dick Coldham

Gill Goddard

If you are reading Colin's website and wondering whether or not to sign up for a trip "Go for it!" It's a heck of an adventure, something to do and cross of your bucket list and be the envy of all your cycling buddies.

I was very apprehensive about being the only female and knowing no-one, but I need not have worried as Colin makes sure no one is left on their own unless they want some quiet time.

The Toraja region and its people are beautiful. You do have to be careful as you would in any place {even Brisbane}, but I felt safe even at night on my own, we tried haggling with a couple of trishaw drivers in the City but they were helpful and fair and ended up being heaps of fun, if anything we had trouble getting retailers to take our money.

The questions you have to ask yourself are;
1. Can I cope with squat toilets?
2. Am I fit enough or am I prepared to train? Say over and over again "I love hills and hills love me!"
3. Can I be flexible and go with the flow? Things don't always go the way they should.
4. Can I cope with a filling but restricted diet? Colin makes sure the food is well prepared and healthy and the fruit and veg. are delicious.
5. Do I have a sense of fun and adventure?

If the answer is yes, then you are the perfect candidate. Colin is a fantastic tour leader; he speaks the lingo and mentored us tourists to learn some basics and importantly knows the correct etiquette for different situations, he is also good at throwing a few surprises in the mix.
There is a support vehicle and mechanic at all times supplying tasty goodies and amusement. The scenery is stunning, houses quirky and history and traditions overwhelming.

You will get to do something different everyday, apart from cycling; bathe in thermal springs, waterfalls, white water rafting and trekking.

The many school children who rushed out to wave, and the encouragement and curiosity from the villagers, us in them and them in us was humbling and enlightening, in every place we made to feel very special. I had a challenging but great time and I'm sure you will too!

I took my Avanti Aria 4 with me. Tyre size 700x28. I even boxed it myself (another 1st). It was nice and light with loads of gears.
Feel free to give me a buzz about any part of the trip: Gill gillgoddard@hotmail.com


Remy Lenz (Manado, 65, business manager)
This cycling tour from Manado to Gorontalo has been very nice with a lot of diversities on the way : from seaside to mountains and lake, from churches to mosques, from looking at some local activities such as pottery and gold mining to visiting some interesting cultural sites.

Colin has organized the itinerary by considering the availability of accommodations, from very nice to very basic depending on the destination of each day. The countryside is magnificent with rice paddy, beautiful beaches and islands on the way. There was also opportunities to taste the local food and snacks ; I really enjoyed the "energy" cakes made of coconut and palm sugar !

A typical day starts with a short briefing of what will be on the "menu", then several stops for tea time, lunch and "regroup" breaks depending of the terrain of the stage. Depending on the distance of the day, the arrival at the next location takes place usually in the afternoon. Shower and then yoga time for those who like it. Dinner in a local restaurant and soon everybody go to rest and sleep.

Colin's team is composed of four friendly staff with two cars for opening and closing the convoy of cyclists; a mechanic is available in one car to tackle the small hiccups on the way!

All in all, a very pleasant and challenging trip which can be done by anyone who has a minimum of training to go for the distance of 700 km over a period of 10 days (including rest day). "Remy Lanz" erlance@mail.com

Michael Flynn (Systems analyst)
Colin does an excellent job of organizing trips to Indonesia. I went on two trips to Java with him 25 years ago when I was a student and Colin was a uni lecturer, and the organization with the cycle trips in Sulawesi is just as thorough as it was back in the 1980s.

The cycling that we did with Colin on the North Sulawesi trip was good and hard, with long up hills and long down hills too. There's some great swimming, and there's the opportunity of daily yoga with Colin. It is not a food tour, but the food's good; traditional food of Indonesia.

I found the ride in North Sulawesi a real challenge. It was the first organized ride that I have participated in, and I was pleased with what I achieved, the feeling of getting fitter as the days progressed. From the first two days thinking why did I sign up for this trip? Answer: 'to get healthier', I came to even like the milder gradients,'Still cursed the steeper hills.

There's regular stops where the support vehicle drivers Acok and Ucok top up your water bottle and provide bananas, sticky rice cakes or biscuits to keep up the energy levels.

There's some amazing views and there is always the chance to stop for photos. I liked watching the rice farmers riding the Japanese Cows (small motorized tractors).

There's also some good down hill runs that go for 20 or 30 kilometres.

A typical day was to rise early (5.30), eat breakfast (often fried rice), bags to the support vehicles, helmet on, team photo - bikes in line, riders left side, start riding for the day. On the North Sulawesi ride we often arrived at the destination before lunch, though there were a number of days riding after lunch.

The accommodation we experienced was varied. Some nice hotels with TV, WiFi and other mod cons, a few nights staying in family homes where hotel accommodation was not available and also a night or two in places that have seen better days; being an optimist those are the places that make you appreciate the good motels.

Colin has a great understanding of Indonesian culture and language which improves the experience for everyone, allowing for a richer, spontaneous experience. As we traveled through a small village on a rainy day after lunch, a number of ladies sitting in a roadside shelter calling over the loud speaker. An impromptu stop, and we shuffled into a small room talking to the travelling medical team who were providing advice and medical support to expectant and new mothers, checking on the health of the village's new born babies.

If you like riding, and you like a challenge then I would recommend one of the tours as a great personal and cultural experience.
Michael Flynn mic.a.flynn@gmail.com


Jocelyn (retired teacher)
Previous cycle tours I have been undertaken were in Australia, NZ, France and Czech Republic.

The group that participated in this tour consisted of 8 riders from Australia, one from Singapore and 1 from Jakarta.

Personal highlights of the Sulawesi tour were:
- The comprehensive planning of the route, accommodation, meals, logistics
- A very comprehensive briefing by the organiser, Colin Freestone
- Friendliness of other group members
- Helpfulness and courtesy of the drivers of the support vehicles and mechanic
- Meeting many local people who were happy to answer questions about their temple, rice mill, growing cacao etc
- Scenery in the rural areas, especially Lake Poso, and quieter roads
- Interesting and relaxing rest days – two at different spots on Lake Poso which has lovely clean water for swimming and one at a Togian Island where snorkelling was possible to view multi-coloured coral and many varieties of tropical fish
- The healthy meals, lots of fruit and delicious village cakes
- Yoga sessions led by Colin to stretch out tired riding muscles
- Attention to ensure the safety of all riders.
The most challenging aspects for me were the long distances and mountain climbing that needed to be covered on some days. Riding in the continuous ribbon development of the urban areas with a lot of traffic and honking was not very relaxing. I was the slowest rider in the group. However, the use of support vehicles meant that any rider could take a break when necessary. The young mechanic was also happy to ride a tired rider's bike to allow them to gain a second wind!
Jocelyn Booth jocebooth@gmail.com

Ross Adamson (School Teacher)
This is a challenging ride, but thoroughly enjoyable. The photos and the description provided on the website do not do justice to the beauty of Central Sulawesi, the friendliness and charm of the people, and the excellent organisation provided by Colin and his team.

This was our first 'organised' ride and we enjoyed not having to make any decisions: the route was fixed, the accommodation was booked, and the meals were all organised by Colin. All we had to do was pack our gear each morning and get on our bikes. Antock, the mechanic, always checked the bikes at the end of the day and cleaned the bikes. They have never been so clean!

The road was mostly good bitumen, with the occasional pothole, and a couple of short sections on gravel or extended potholes. At times the road can get busy with motorbikes whizzing past and a few cars, buses and trucks. Once we realised that the tooting was just a courtesy, we felt very safe on the road.

There are some significant hills to climb, and you will need lots of gears. Our bikes were reasonably heavy, a Giant XTC2 MTB with 1.5 inch slick tyres and a Cannondale touring bike with 700 x 32c tyres, but we had no trouble getting to the top. It just took a while. A lighter road bike with 700 x 25 or 700 x 28 tyres would be suitable for this ride. Some of the climbs reached 16 - 18 % steepness, but the downhill runs were superb.

Colin made every effort to improve our Indonesian. We stopped at many places and spoke through him acting as our interpreter. This gave us a wonderful insight into various aspects of Indonesian life. The yoga was optional, but we thoroughly enjoyed stretching after each day of riding. We did train for this event by riding for the three weekends prior to our flight, doing at least 85 km each ride and up to 160 on one weekend. All the rides were with a few hills. Despite this preparation, the heat and humidity does take a few days to get used to, especially if as we came from Melbourne.

We rode with a lead vehicle and a lagging vehicle, both with 'Hati - Hati' signs indicating a cycle group. Both drivers were very thoughtful and provided lots of support. We enjoyed cakes and coffee for morning tea, fruit was always available, and beer was sourced and kept cool even if some areas were 'dry'. The support vehicles were always available to provide cools drinks and bananas.

The accommodation was excellent, apart from one hotel in a fairly isolated part of the country. Air conditioning was provided most of the time, and usually with showers and toilets. A few hotels had buckets for washing and/or toileting.

This is a fairly isolated part of the world, where not many tourists visit, let alone ride a bike in the heat. As we rode through many villages, past lots of schools and road stalls, we were nearly always welcomed and greeted with a 'Hello', and if we stopped, quickly sought out by kids or adults for either a photo or a closer inspection.
Ross Adamson rossadam@netspace.net.au

Rowan Legg (project manager)
I have been on two trips with Colin on Sulawesi.
Toraja (2011) and Central Sulawesi (2012)
Good rides, good company and good support team.
Which is why I plan to make a third trip soon.
Rowan Legg rowanlegg100@gmail.com


Norm Mrwood (retired engineer, Gold Coast)
I've done one of Colin's Sulawesi rides (10 days in North Sulawesi).
It was an experience that I'm glad I did not miss.
On paper it looked a bit too hard for me, having just turned 70, but I needed something to get me out of bed in the morning and train to keep fit.

The North Sulawesi trip seemed to fit the bill. My preparation training more or less worked but I actually needed more uphill work to be able to fully enjoy the ride. However the rest of the team, mostly youngsters compared to me, seemed to put up with me being down the back a lot of the time and a great spirit was developed in the group.

The trip had lots of interesting cultural aspects that one never gets on a ride in Australia. If anyone wants more info you could contact me.


Julie Fox (Company Director NZ)
Riding along with the sun on my back, enjoying the tropical scene in front of me I barely had a thought for my country folk back home experiencing freezing southerly winds and hail. Things don't get much better than this trip but it didn't start out too good. We overlooked to check our bags through customs on our arrival in Jakarta so we arrived in Sulawesi with no bags and no bikes!! Luckily Colin (trip organizer) was able to communicate with customs and airport staff and organize to get our bags and bikes to the hotel by the next morning. Phew!

Having Colin made the difference between an organized tour and a do it yourself trip so much more enriching. Colin was very knowledgeable and was frequently used as a translator to answer our many questions, one of which was the truth about the cats with half tails. Although the trip was organized there was also flexibility. On one day the plan was to circum-cycle Toraja. At the last moment Colin became aware of a big funeral that he suggested we see. We agreed to the suggestion and as it was on the planned route it was easy to drop in. Our time at the funeral cut into the day's cycle time and when it looked like we'd be pedaling back to the hotel in the dark Colin organized a truck to pick the bikes up and the hassle of riding in the dark without lights on the village road was avoided.

I would recommend this trip to anyone wanting some warmth and sunshine in the dead of winter, who is keen to learn a new culture, has a sense of adventure, loves to try new foods and cycle "off the beaten tourist trail".
Feel free to contact me. gjfox@actrix.co.nz

Phil Christophersen (retired engineer, NZ)
We went with Colin on his South Sulawesi trip July 2011. First ride from our hotel in Makassar was to a traditional fishing port, this was to be my first experience of cycling in Indonesian traffic. What am I in for? Well it was great, the drivers are very careful and polite, so good. Coming back we needed to cross 4 lanes of busy traffic to make a right turn. We signalled right and ALL lanes made a gap for us! Not really used to that.

We took mountain bikes with heavy duty road tyres, this was the way to go as the roads varied widely in condition, everything from perfect to just not there. And you never know when you want to make a spontaneous off road excursion, something not possible on a road bike.

Off to some really excellent rides up steep roads into the mountains for great views, and to meet local people, we were a novelty for lots of them and it was fun trying to make each other understood.

The little kids were funny, they would come running out calling "hey mister" even to the women. The dogs take life easy, they sleep on the road and don't chase bikes. Strange looking chooks all over the place, too. You will see many docile buffalo, some tied up right on the side of the road. However, we did come across one very angry one, lucky for us he was tied up.

We visited an animal market and had lots of laughs with the storekeepers wanting plenty of photos. Talking of photos, even the police wanted to be photographed with us. Everyone goes for photos with you.

A great experience was a day white water rafting. After travelling high into the hills we split into three groups and jumped into rafts for some fun on the river. There were lots of goannas, the young ones about 30cm long were light and fast enough to run on the surface, but the adults about a metre long needed to resort to swimming. The rapids were not too rough but good. As the rapids approached, our guide called out "boomboom" which meant pull your paddle in and hang on.

We were invited to a wedding and given a table right up front, and met everybody there was to meet. Also we got to go to a Torajan funeral with many people there. Be prepared for it to be very different, might pay for you to find out what happens before you go.

Back at Makassar, I had read something called "The Alleys Of Makassar" somewhere, so a few of us wandered round the streets not far from our hotel and found the alleys, sure enough they are really interesting to explore. And more fun kids! Then on our last day, a Sunday morning, we found that some of the roads are closed to traffic but open for bikes and pedestrians and this is a really fun thing, you will see all kinds of bicycles, all colours. Recommended, if you can fit it in.

If you have some spare time at the hotel, grab a chair and sit out front and watch the oddball traffic. You won't be bored.

I could write much more about the trip, but overall the cycling is really excellent, you are well away from the tourist areas and you are in real Indonesia. Lots speak English but not all. Go with the attitude that this is an adventure trip as much as a holiday with a difference. Some of the hills are a challenge, but 100% rideable, and you will wake up early as any local the mosque will wake you. And the food is different. The beer's very good.

Colin's preparation is perfect, his drivers are the best. All you need to carry on you bike is your drink and camera. Even though you will be very close to the equator the temperatures are fine, I remember getting hot only once.

As Nike say, "Just Do It!"


Lisa Paine (retired school teacher, Brisbane)
Our recent 2 week cycling trip in Central Sulawesi was, in a word, fantastic! It is definitely a trip for people who love to ride, with an average of 80 often hilly km per day. And its a trip for people who want to feel they they are really living the culture, not just having a look from a distance.

Sulawesi is a large, mountainous island. Right on the equator, but no, its not that hot. Maybe because of the proximity to the sea. It has the lowest population density of any Indonesian island, and virtually no tourism. Although there was sometimes a fair bit of traffic, I felt we cyclists were always treated with care and respect by drivers.

I'll try for some atmosphere: Coconut palms, rice paddies, banana trees. Forested mountains giving way to views of turquoise sea. Mosque domes alternating with church steeples, with a Balinese Hindu temple thrown in now and then. (Balinese "trans-migrants" who were moved because it was too crowded there.) Chickens; everywhere. Beautiful cows and goats (Muslim towns only) to be eaten after Ramadan, but meanwhile free ranging happily. Mangy dogs defined the Christian areas. Kids; everywhere. Smiles; everywhere! "Helllooo Mistair!!" "I love you!"

The villages lined the roads (just one building deep, generally), and then the farms were behind. Mountains rose up pretty sharply andpretty quickly. They grew lots of cocoa trees, and dried the beans along the road, along with coconut. The villages were quite neat, with pastel colours giving a sort of Caribbean look. Lots of flowers lovingly arranged in old tins.

We'd start early and ride more or less all day, but with lots of rest stops when our driver would bring us cups of tea and bananas, and the locals would come to check out the strange sight. Colin would act as our interpreter, so we were able to converse. Colin had arranged our lunch stops ahead of time. The food was great and very healthy: rice, veg, fish, chicken, tofu, sambal (chilli sauce). No fat no sweets for 2 weeks! We were able to procure beer for those who wanted it most evenings.

Our days also included swimming, either in the crystal clear sea or in a beautiful fresh water lake that it took us 3 days to circumnavigate, or in rivers/waterfalls. Oh and the yoga. Colin is a yoga nut.

Accommodation was sometimes quite limited, so Colin had arranged the best he could, keeping in mind it had to be at appropriate distances. It varied from modest to very modest, but perfectly ok, and always with plenty of character.

The whole trip had a adventurous, "seat of the pants" feel to it. This was the first time for this particular trip. Things happened during the day according to who we met, the state of the road (big landslide one day), facilities available (yoga on rickety platforms hanging out over the sea.)

I loved it, loved the other riders, loved the Indonesians, ADORED our leader/guru, and I for one am considering his trip to Toraja (another part of Sulawesi) in July.

Steve Demetriou (Communications engineer, Sydney)
The best rides (Central and Toraja) I've ever done.
I'd be happy for any potential rider to email me.

Alan Mackay – Sim (Stem cell scientist, Brisbane)
The trip was really good and it was quite different to the Central Sulawesi, which I did in 2011. I expected more hills than in Central Sulawesi and got them. From the veterans on the Central trip (who'd done Toraja) I expected an interesting culture and got that too. I was once again surprised by how safe I felt riding in Makassar (city) traffic – felt far safer than in Brisbane.

And again I was flattered by how friendly, open and welcoming the locals were.

The length of the ride suited me, the route was good and I really liked the small back roads, the hills (both up and down) and the walking and rafting, even though my first reaction was that they would cut into bicycle time. This trip is not for beginners. It's a hard trip even for experienced riders.


Eli Baron (Texas, USA)
Bapak / MisterColin,
I have done many bike rides and the one I did in Sulawesi with you was a unique and very special experience...

Sulawesi beautiful scenery and awe inspiring views were enriched by your knowle3dge of the local culture and language...

The frequent rest stops where we practiced yoga, had a cup of coffee and/or tea... pastries, bananas and other fruits provided the opportunity to stretch our body and mind... as well as as to interact with local people who were curios about our being there...

The refreshing stops to swim in rivers and streams along the way were a delight, as were the nights we stayed at the shores of Lakes and the Ocean. The bike ride had all and more of what one can expect from a bike in a far away place...

We enjoyed mountains, lakes, the ocean and a very special and interesting immersion into local culture...

The bike ride you led in Sulawesi was a truly life enriching experience...

Thank you very much.... Terima Kasih Banyak...


Philippa (Sydney, Occupational therapist)
I did the South South Sulawesi tour in July 2010 and highly recommend this trip if you are an active person, into adventures and are bike confident and (reasonably) bike fit. Colin is a well-organised guide who is very knowledgeable about the culture and the language and injects a lot of energy into the tour. There's something really invigorating about a long day riding, mixed in with waterfall-swimming, interacting with the locals, going to markets, eating great food, learning about the local produce and, of course, the evening yoga sessions. Philippa.mcrae@yahoo.com.au

Marty Nieuwenhoven (Adelaide, retired fire officer)
This was by far the best adventure of my life. I have done several cycling tours in Australia but the SSS tour was the best. The tour was very well organised from the start - everything was catered for. Not everything went to plan but issues were resolved quickly. I loved the friendliness of the locals. They were always engaging and eager to share their experiences and lifestyles, as they were to find out about ours. I recommend this tour to anyone willing to broaden their horizons and experience a truly amazing journey and life experience.

Neil (teacher) & Sonia (nurse) Hegarty (Toowoomba, Qld)
In January 2010, we contacted Colin to make some tentative enquiries regarding his Cycle Sulawesi tours. At that stage, we were only doing some regular 10-20km recreational rides through our local parks but, with Colin's encouragement, we gradually built this up over a six month period to complete some 60-80km weekend rides around the Toowoomba range escarpment in the hope that we would be suitably prepared for the July South South Sulawesi tour.

The preparation proved to be totally appropriate as we were able to complete and thoroughly enjoy the trip. Colin's depth of understanding on all matters Indonesian, his language skills and his sense of fun and adventure made the trip an experience that we will never forget. With some very good-natured and supportive fellow cyclists, we put in some big cycle days in a wide variety of conditions to fully immerse ourselves in the culture of South South Sulawesi.

Particular highlights included;
the frequent and detailed conversations with local people going about their daily routines, eating high quality and thoughtfully organised local foods
the friendliness and warmth of the people
learning a variety of day-to-day Indonesian etiquette and basic language skills
completing daily yoga sessions
shopping for basic provisions in local markets
the well organised daily structure that included a variety of non-cycling activities
the excellent support of the Indonesian drivers and mechanics who accompanied us and contributed much to the group dynamic

This trip was an excellent experience and we would highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to meet some physical challenges to gain an incredible insight into a different culture. Being on a bicycle enabled levels of contact with the local people that other forms of transport simply do not allow. Colin's commitment to our complete enjoyment of the experience was amazing.
Neil Hegarty cornelius.hegarty@gmail.com

Biking Sulawesi, Indonesia: Into the Mountains of Toraja

Hallo Meester!! Hallo Meeses!! Paggi!! Paggi!! We heard this throughout the day as we rode in the countryside and when passing through the villages. Our intrepid leader, Colin Freestone, told us we were biking in some areas where foreigners (""surglans???") rarely if ever ventured. The people were friendly, the scenery beautiful, and the riding ranged from leisurely to difficult and challenging. In fact, our group elected to label the experience: "Bootcamp with beauty".

Our group of 13 included 8 Aussies, 2 Americans (my wife Laura and me) and 3 Indonesians who were our guides, drivers, and helpers. There was a lead van and a sweeper van; both had ample supplies of water, snack and tea and coffee. There were one or two breaks each morning and afternoon --- very civilized.

The location was the island of Sulawesi, described as spider-shaped. We cycled a loop that included the southwest peninsula, starting and ending in Makassar. The terrain varied from coastal plain to mountains, sea level to 5500 feet (1700 meters).

Indonesia a wonderful, diverse country. It is the 4th largest in the world in population, fist in the number of Muslims, but with many other religions, including Christianity, and Buddhism. There are 17,000 islands and 700 different languages spoken with one official national language of Bahasa Indonesia.

The owner of the tour company, cycle Indonesia, was the above-mentioned Colin Freestone. Colin was the perfect leader. He is married to an Indonesian lady and has developed an obvious love and appreciation for the country, the people and the culture. His fluency in the language was invaluable. But most of all, Colin shared all with the riders, teaching us rudiments of the language and imparted many insights to the people, culture, history, and the geography.

Our bicycle types were varied. Four of us were BIKE FRIDAY riders. Another couple rode the German folding BIRDYs (18" wheels). The other were two hybrids and two road bikes. All brought bicycles from home as there were no rentals available in that region. As with all other adventure trips, our BIKE FRIDAYS survived the perils of travel and were assembled quickly and made ready to ride; always amazing!! Laura and I love our Crusoes.

Bicycling conditions were as varied as the terrain. Our FRIDAYs handled all conditions with ease. Roads were generally surfaced, but varied from awful to very good. Traffic was steady on the major roads, but minimal in remote areas. Drivers were invariably courteous and careful; there were no reported problems with dangerous brush-bys. The predominate vehicle was motorscooters. Suprisingly, we saw relatively few locals on bicycles.

Accommodations were as mixed as the bicycling. We stayed in a range of overnight places, ranging from a 4-star resort to a small mountain village home where most of our group slept on mats on the floor, dormitory style.

Each day was very different as to roads, terrain, weather, and countryside or villages. However, the one constant was the beauty. Our primary destination was the mountain region of Toraja, which was arguably one of the most stunning areas I have traveled. Terraced, al???? rice fields climb into the clouds. Rugged mountains surround deep green valleys. Toraja is very unique and geographically isolated. The regions has its own language, culture and is predominantly Christian.

One day we did not bike, but hiked all day to a tiny and remote mountain village. There was a steady rain all that afternoon. We arrived soaked but were greeted warmly by the villagers and were ????? in family dwellings. That evening we enjoyed our most memorable meal: local I??, delicious food, followed by Indonesians, Americans, and Australians in a circle in a small, dim room, eating and each singing some of their national songs and universal favorites. The following day we hikes out of the area down to a river where we rafted a few hours followed by a 25 or so miles of biking to our next destination.

In sum, the trip was an amazing experience. Our leader, Colin, the support staff, our fellow riders-now friends, the varied activities, and the wonders and challenges of this region of Indonesia made this a complete bicycling adventure.


Charlie Farren (retired teacher)
How fortunate I was to have heard about this amazing trip to Indonesia. It was an opportunity to visit and explore a fascinating country which would not have been possible without the support and organisation of Cycle Indonesia. We regularly travel as independent cycle tourists but it was obvious that to enjoy Sulawesi and begin to have an understanding of the people, language and culture would have been impossible without the in depth knowledge provided by Colin Freestone and his crew.

It was an extraordinary experience - lots of cycling, eating and sightseeing in a little known part of the world which for Australians is virtually on our doorstep.

Scott Main (bike shop owner, Canberra)
I did Colin's South South Sulawesi and after it wrote that it was 'awesome'. This Toraja trip was double awesome. I used to be a professional cyclist so look at cycle trips with a critical eye. For me this trip had everything. There was more than enough cycle challenge. The scenery was fantastic with lots of variety. And Torajan culture is just so different to ours. The trip was really well planned with one day rolling easily into the next. Each day too was planned and they too evolved naturally. Our group had a range of cycling strength and experience but Colin kept us all together so that our spirits were always high. A terrific cycling, cultural and social experience.

Lesley Hale (active retiree, Melbourne)
If you have reached this website then you are attracted by travel to unusual places, an authentic cultural experience, supported challenging cycling, and the company of like-minded riders. Your next step is to clarify any uncertainties about the itinerary, resolve any concerns about the route or terrain or climate, and basically ensure that it is a trip that is right for you. The best way to do this is to email Colin with a few easy questions to establish a dialogue; then answer the phone when he calls... and you will work it all out in no time.

Colin has a long association with Indonesia and is strongly motivated to share his love of the country and its people with groups of fellow cyclists. The trip was truly remarkable, taking us through the coastal Buginese (muslim) region to the cooler forested highlands where Torajan (Christian and animist) communities are recognizable by their stunning architecture. Mid-way we took a break from cycling to trek through forests and steeply terraced paddy fields to stay with a village clan in their homes, and completed the circuit next day by trekking two hours to reach the river for a thrilling white-water rafting ride through gorges and past tall waterfalls. A favourite memory from the trip was an unscheduled visit to an impressively joyful orphanage outside the main town where children who had been at school for the morning shift treated us to an afternoon concert of music and dancing with their bamboo orchestra.

The ride was fully supported with front and rear vehicles announcing "cyclists ahead", and it was a delight to be cheered on by other road users and school-kids along the way. Rest stops were planned to suit the terrain, weather, time of day, length of ride, and condition of the riders, sometimes after 30km, sometimes every 5 km. Colin's attitude was "it's not a race, go at your own pace, and my aim is to get us all there". The leading van-driver would pull over at each stop and flag down the riders; sometimes riders might have a quick nap in a bamboo shelter or a tea/coffee while water bottles were filled and fruit/cakes distributed. As Colin was keen for us to interact with the local people, he put some effort into Bahasa language sessions. When it was time to get on our bikes after a stop, he would trigger a Bahasa numbering-off around the group, much to the delight of onlookers.

The equator goes through Sulawesi, so it is always hot; but the wet season rains can make it marginally less hot than the mid-year dry season. Setting out early means you can do much of the riding in the cooler part of the day, have lunch out of the sun, then complete the distance with lots of drink stops. We had minor showers a couple of times while riding in February, and one downpour while in a restaurant at lunchtime; the real rain seemed to come at the end of a day's ride, or overnight. If swimming was possible - in the sea, a river, hot spring, or hotel pool - we did.

While cycling happily in this foreign land, I often found myself musing about how privileged I felt to be sharing Colin's meticulously orchestrated journey with his charmingly attentive support crew and a cohesive group of companions, several of whom had done "a Colin trip" six months earlier. Colin is an excellent group manager who aims to get everyone to the finish, smiling; and that is how it unfolded for our group of strong and not so strong, older and younger riders. Managing a group adventure like this is a gargantuan task, and Colin coped with all eventualities expertly and sensitively; somehow, everyone's preferences seemed to be accommodated throughout. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself on the 2011 (Central Sulawesi) trip with others from this one.
lesley hale halelesley@gmail.com

Ibi Losoncz (PhD student)
I've done two of Colin's Sulawesi trips. I did South South Sulawesi in 2009 and six months later did the Toraja trip. They were both fantastic; filled with well organized, different and exciting activities. The cycling was excellent with some great hills and challenges. I'm not one to get excited about hills, but when the scenery is as beautiful as that in Sulawesi, even the hills look good!!! Torajan culture and architecture is nothing I've seen before.

Every day was a new experience and a new discovery. The only thing that was constant is the friendliness of the local people, who always had time for chat. I highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a stress-free, well o rganized, fun cycling holiday with some adventures (for good measure).

Paul Doyle
Six years ago I cycled my first multi day tour.
I spotted an advert for Cycle Sulawesi in a bike magazine. The ride I did was a 14 day tour to Toraja land.
Being relatively new to cycling I found the tour pushed me to my limits. Since then, and inspired by it, I have cycled across Australia, the UK end to end, New Zealand and other rides.

The ride to Toraja land with Cycle Sulawesi stands out as the most interesting and enjoyable tour so far. The organization and staff were excellent,the food delicious,accommodation comfortable.

The strange culture in Toraja land and the people of Sulawesi will be something I will never forget.
It wasn't an easy ride for the novice rider I was then but it was so rewarding!!


Paul Nicol (retired accountant, Canberra)
I did the South South Sulawesi trip in August 2009. The heat and hills nearly killed me but the support of the group and the friendliness of the Indonesian people – especially the kids – helped make up my mind to sign up for the February 2010 Toraja trip. Cycle wise the second trip was better 'cause I prepared myself better. Culture wise this Toraja trip has a lot going for it. Torajan life with its focus on water buffalo commerce and rituals associated with 'the dead' is a far cry from my life.

Scenery wise Toraja's fantastic, with terraced hillsides, boat shaped houses with the spires of European styled churches reaching for low lying clouds. I'm really glad I did both these trips. I made new friends and felt that I achieved something. if you want a trip that really tests you , this is the one.

Jennie Attrill (nurse, 27, Darwin)
For me, this was really a fantastic experience and I am very glad to have done it.
The descents, the delicious food, the breaks, beautiful and in some parts shabby scenery, snorkelling, karaoke, accommodation, even toilet breaks and most memorably the curiosity, warmth and energy of the locals really made up for these challenges. Colin was professional, enthusiastic, knowledgeable which made it a HELL of a lot easier to interact with people of Salawesi and gain a feeling of the life on the island. Oops nearly forgot, yes, the tour was well organised. I'll be sure to sign up again for another trip... Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss my experience about this tour.
Jennie Attrill jennie_attrill@hotmail.com

Scott Main (bike engineer, 42, Canberra)
I took this trip in August 2009. It was AWESOME. I'd be happy to talk to anyone about it. Just phone me on +61 2 6260 4200 or email me.

Paul Nicol (retired accountant 65, Canberra)
I paid dearly for my lack of preparation. But, the scenery, support from the other riders, the daily ride planning and the incredible warmth and friendliness of the Indonesian people offset my aching limbs and over-worked perspiration glands. I enjoyed myself so much so that I've decided to do another Sulawesi adventure... to Toraja.

Rob Wildman (Human resource manager, 54, Sydney)
Colin, whose long experience in this part of the world, is very comfortable with the local customs and language, and in putting together this trip, has got it 'just right'.

The organisation of the journey is unseen and everything just happens, seemingly without being arranged.

The trip simply puts you in a position where you can feel you have done it on your own and this is where it is very different from other trips.

Ibi Losoncz (PhD student, Canberra)
What better way to discover this beautiful island and its culture than by cycling your way from one village to the next? The organisation of the trip was excellent. It was well planned, but with room for spontaneous activities. The group was well supported in every aspect; bike mechanics, refreshments including fresh local snacks at the stops, yoga classes, fantastic dinners, and accommodation.


Sally Goodspeed (health researcher)
Spending nearly a month on Colin's inaugural ride through South Sulawesi in early 2009 was a great introduction to this part of Indonesia. And I was not disappointed when I completed a second ride in Northern Sulawesi in 2012. The cultural diversity and differences in geography were striking.

With Cycle Indonesia you will climb mountains and see views you've never imagined. Fully supported by Colin and his Cycle Indonesia crew, you will enjoy meeting friendly Indonesians in their communities, live like the locals, and sometimes like royalty, with delicious food and incredible experiences. Turn corners on these rural roads and be surprised again and again.

Years after the two trips I did with Colin I still look at my photos with joy and wonder, and think about planning another trip - for the friendship of like-minded cyclists, the chance to build on your fitness and to see places that are still undiscovered to many. I can strongly recommend these cycle trips. They really are an adventure of a lifetime.


Sandra Warmth (The Netherlands)
I planned to do a solo bike trip on Sulawesi in September 2015. It was difficult to find information for hiring a bike in Sulawesi till I found the website Cycle Indonesia from Colin Freestone.

We started a long and pleasant email and skype contact because I just want to hire a bike from his organization ... because i wanted to do it on my own. Unfortunately I needed a surgical operation on my hand so i had to postpone my trip. No problem for Colin!!

Well... Colin and his staff delivered a very good bike at the place I wanted to start and during the trip I get all kinds of possibilities to stay or where the nice views or roads were. So I want to thank Colin and Ucok Musa for the nice trip in South and Central Sulawesi.

So if anyone want to hire just the bike and get some good information about Sulawesi contact Cycle Indonesia!!

Sandra Warmth sanniepannie7@hotmail.com

Maureen 2014 (Canada)
My friend and I did a 2 week self-supported cycle trip in South Sulawesi and Tana Toraja in Spring 2014 and we hired bikes through Colin. The bikes were perfect and the service and assistance by Ucok (Colin's rep in Sulawesi) was amazing! Right from the first email, Colin was a great source of information and prompt at replying. He then connected us with Ucok who lives in Rantapeo (by email). Ucok met us as planned with a choice of bikes (we brought our own racks and panniers), and went above and beyond in providing valuable route information, as well as ensuring we had any spare parts/tools we may need. We had a stunning ride from Makassar to Rantapeo and not a single issue with either bike. When we arrived in Rantapeo, Ucok met us and again helped us with local route information. He then spent a day as guide, showing us around Toraja. His excellent English and local knowledge was so valuable, and he's just such a kind, nice guy!

This was my second cycle trip to this fantastic (and mostly undiscovered) cycling destination of Sulawesi, and the friendly people, stunning beauty, great roads and polite drivers make this Island my favourite place to ride in the world!
Maureen maureen.s.stone@gmail.com

Harry (Holland)
The trip was great! Thanks for being a link in makin' it possible. In the end we only cycled for 3 days but is was worth the effort to get the bikes out there. We made it to Wuasa, that's about 110 km from Palu and back, in the Napu Valley.

Out there the locals told us the 'dirt-roads' were too muddy to get a good trip and our legs were tired so we turned back. Up until there the roads were pretty good, actually near perfect. Almost no holes or bad sections we only had to pay a little attention around some bridges. Only problem we encountered were the steep sections on the climbs. My mate Tijmen wasn't always up to both the heat and the parts up unto and a little over 20%. Especially the road down to Napu Valley is new (i think only a year old), but very steep. On our way back we even decided to hitch ont on the back of a car. Looked like 4 km at 20-25% or something, but on spotless new tarmac. I'd never seen anything like it:-)

The bike hire went good. Both the drop, the pickup and communication with Ucok was smooth. And the bikes did what they were supposed to do, roll.

Attached there some pics. One of them is the route back from the highest point when i decided i could finally spend my phone battery on a GPS record. And in the end we had a wonderful Torajan wedding from our friend.

Thanks again. We will be back, some were in time to discover more of Indonesia on a bike.

© Cycle Indonesia 2016.