The Bike’s Journal: From The Netherlands to Indonesia (Film)
“The Bike’s Journal” is a heartfelt new feature-length film that follows Diego and Marlies, a couple on a yearlong cycling trip from The Netherlands to Indonesia to see each other’s home cultures and everything in between. Watch it here, along with a gallery of photos and an interview with both of them…
Film and photos by Diego Yanuar (@diegoyanuar)
Long in the works and uniquely told from the perspective of his bicycle, The Bike’s Journal is a 55-minute documentary from Indonesian filmmaker Diego Yanuar that chronicles a transformative ride between The Netherlands and Indonesia with his partner Marlies. Between April 2018 and February 2019, the pair traveled some 12,000 kilometers (7,456 miles) through more than 20 countries together, shooting countless hours of video and around 10,000 still images to create a photobook and the film shared here. They also raised €22,000 ($26,000) to benefit several non-profit groups working on a range of causes in Indonesia, including animal rescue and permaculture.
With a refreshing blend of humor, sincerity, and humility, The Bike’s Journal beautifully captures the highs and lows of their trip, their dynamic as a couple from different cultures, and the innumerable people and experiences they were exposed to along their journey. You can watch the full film below, followed by my brief interview with Diego and Marlies and a collection of photos from their ride.
To get started, can you briefly introduce yourselves?
Marlies: We’re Diego and Marlies. We don’t really know how to introduce ourselves, but we can say the obvious things: Diego is 34 years old and born and raised in Indonesia (Jakarta mostly). He’s been living in The Netherlands for five years. I’m 28 years old, and I recently became a mother (and Diego a father!). It’s still strange to see the word “mother” so close to the word “I.” Our baby boy is called Elbe, the name of the first big river we followed on our journey. He’s half a year old now. Diego works in logistics and videography, and I’m a copywriter.
How and when did the two of you meet?
Marlies: We met in Jakarta when I was doing volunteer work around eight years ago. I wanted to join a running crew, and Diego happened to be in this crew. We joined a running race called “The Wine and Cheese Run” together in Jakarta, and I guess this race was the start of our relationship.
What motivated you to ride from the Netherlands to Indonesia together?
Diego: We had a long-distance relationship for the first couple of years. At some point, on the phone, far apart from each other, Marlies joked about cycling to Jakarta. She was basically born on a bicycle since she’s Dutch, so although it was a joke,at the same time, she wasn’t kidding. “Why not?” I answered.
Share a little about your route. How’d you plan it, and did you have notable waypoints in mind?
Diego: We rode around 15,000 kilometers, which we wanted to cycle in a year. We planned so much, and at the same time didn’t, since you really have to find out along the way. Overall, we had a rough idea about the route. “Two days east, one day south,” my father-in-law said. In the end, we spent 332 days riding through 23 countries.
What about your bikes and gear? What were you riding and what would you change if you did this trip again?
Marlies: I shouldn’t answer this kind of question… maybe Diego wants to add something later. All I know is that my bike is orange and that it’s the best bike ever, except for the tires. The coloring of those was nice, but the quality wasn’t. I had 18 flat tires, whereas Diego had only one!
Diego: So, about the tires, I knew from the very beginning that Schwalbe Marathon tires are the way to go for touring. But, Marlies preferred her good-looking gumwall tires. We were both riding a stock Salsa Marrakesh. We got support from TimTas+Rek (@tim_tas_rek) for good-quality custom bike bags and racks. The gear was pretty basic and necessary: camping gear, cooking gear, four-season clothes, and electronics (laptops, camera, power banks). Oh, and a ukulele. I wouldn’t change anything. It felt just right.
Tell us about one of the most memorable encounters or experiences you had along the way.
Marlies: Basically, people entered our path (or animals, or situations) that were memorable to us every day. All that pops up in my head now is the fact that the world is full of good, helpful people. My little diary is full of messages from all of those people. It’s a great memory for me. I just hope we also gave back some memorable moments for people we met.
Diego: The raw nature in Tajikistan is a highlight, and the everyday kind acts from people we met are certainly another.
Was there a particularly challenging moment or phase of your trip?
Diego: Yes, when Marlies was very sick. It was in Ishkashim in Tajikistan. I was quite worried because at some point, she passed out. Luckily, there happened to be a very basic hospital where they could help her with an infusion. Before that point, we were thinking of going back by helicopter simply because we thought it was the only way to get help since the area was so mountainous and remote. But, this particular helicopter flight was also one of the most deadly ones in the world. So, we decided to trust the situation, and that Marlies would get better in Ishkashim. Thankfully, she did.
If you could distill concisely, what did this trip teach you?
Marlies: Everything will be different than you expected. Also, never expect something. Instead, let yourself be surprised and learn to trust the moment. It sounds cliché, but from our experience, it’s true.
Diego: This journey expanded my vision of life. Our relationship is mixed between Western and Eastern culture. Through this journey, we connected our dots, in a way. We saw different cultures and ways of life that work for the people who live it. It makes some things make sense that didn’t before.
Lastly, any advice for other couples who are considering a big trip together?
Marlies: Don’t consider it, do it! And a trip doesn’t have to be big. Or a trip at all. It’s about the moments you share together. I believe you can create a moment anywhere if you really want it.
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