One recent experience was a group ride from Balikpapan’s Kampung Baru (also known as “Water Village”) to Penajam, a village across the Balikpapan Bay, where back roads lead through idyllic little plantations of tapioca, water farms filled with fish, crab and shrimp, and ultimately a wide, sandy beach where tourists haven’t yet caught on to what’s on offer.
Catching a boat from Kampung Baru:
Getting a boat from Kampung Baru is easy: the terminal is a little north of the Kebun Sayur/Pasar Impress market. Just show up at the pier, purchase a ticket at the wooden ticket office off to the side (make sure you specify Penajam as there are other destinations as well), load your bike and self onto the boat assigned (they are all numbered, so it’s easy) and … off you go!
The boat ride itself is great fun; so much so that I forgot to time it, but I’d hazard a guess it lasted about thirty minutes. Fare for the regular boats to Penajam totals 15,000 IDR per person (no extra for the bike), but if you want to use a speedboat, the price is higher.
An unexpected bonus for the regular ferry ticket purchase? It comes with life insurance! Perhaps not the most reassuring of facts, but to us, it was at least amusing.
Directions from Penajam Wharf:
Once you’re in Penajam, just follow the main road (“Jalan Penajam Kuaro” a/k/a “Jalan Propinsi”) out of town for a little over seven kilometers, then hang a left as shown in the map above. This side road will then take you down to a bizarrely well-developed wide, two-way asphalt highway that no one uses as it is apparently built to lead to a bridge that will cross the bay to Balikpapan, but completion of said project looks dubious.
Take a right on the highway-to-nowhere and continue south, then veer left just before the river. You’ll cross a bridge that appears still somewhat under construction, then through water farms until you veer right down a dirt road that parallels the beach.
Just follow that until you can’t go any further without crossing a rather sewage-looking creek and you’ve cycled about 24 kilometers and reached the turnaround point! Several stalls along the beach sell snacks, instant coffee, bottled water and sodas if you feel like taking a little coffee break.
For return, you can reverse your path (we did) or head right up one of the side roads to reach the main road once more, Jalan Penajam Kuaro. But if you stick to the coast like we did, most of the ride is fairly flat. The nice thing is that, due to the small size of the town and the fact that the main road parallels the entire ride, it is quite difficult to get lost! Once at the Penajam Wharf, just buy your return ticket to Kampung Baru for the same amount (15,000 IDR) and you’re headed home with the wind in your hair and some pretty cool views.
Tip: If you’re in the mood for lunch before heading back on the boat, there is a great Indonesian seafood restaurant on the right, just a little after turning back onto the main road, called Pondok Ikan Bakar Asian. Fresh squeezed lime juice, grilled fish, steamed rice, sauteed water spinach, barbecue kampung chicken, freshly made sambal served on a sizzling plate…. Mmm, mmm!