Indo Motorcycle Diaries with Tom De Souza

Indo Motorcycle Diaries with Tom De Souza

You don’t need to be a professional surfer to have an incredible adventure worth documenting. The greatest parts of exploration are the struggles, the interesting people you meet along the way, and the peak moments which make all of the hard work worth it. Having enough insight and self-awareness to honestly dig into those moments makes for utterly compelling viewing. 

West Australia’s Tom De Souza has that insight more than most. He also has the courage to do things many of us dream about but never actually do. Tom has lived a pretty wild life already too. He lost his teenage years to meth addiction and juvenile detention before turning things around to become an award-winning journalist. He’s worked for BBC Indonesia, writes regularly for the West Australian newspaper, and has had his photography featured on ABC TV and multiple advertising campaigns. 

So, when Tom approached us about jumping on board to support a solo, motorbike surf adventure through Indo, we were in immediately. 

Here’s a first look at that adventure and some background into why Tom wanted to do it.

Tom De Souza Indonesia Motorcycle Diaires

 1. WHY? Why Pick Eastern Indo? Why do it on a motorbike? And, why do a wild trip like this solo? 

It had been a long time coming, this trip.

I first travelled to Indonesia after graduating high school, aged 17, and instantly felt at home there.  I have some heritage from the region - my grandfather was born in a Portuguese colony in Malaysia - but I think many people who visit Indo have a similar feeling; the Indonesian people and climate are all so warm and friendly and welcoming.  

I travelled there frequently over the next few years, mostly on surf trips, and began to get a grasp on the language.  In 2018, I decided to take my affection for the country up a level and did an internship as a journalist with BBC Indonesia in Jakarta.  I mentioned to the editor at the time, Rebecca Henschke, that I was dreaming of riding a motorbike across Indo.  She encouraged me to film it, and that people would love little insights into the lives of the Indonesian people.  

In 2022, a lot of things changed in my life, and it just felt like the right time for this adventure.  I met Jim Banks in Bali and got talking with him about the potential for quality, uncrowded surf. He pointed me in that direction, and suggested that a trail bike would be the best way to explore.

I decided to do it solo, I dunno, maybe there was an element of selfishness there?  But also, I believed it meant I could interact on a deeper level with the Indonesian people and enrich my own relationship with the country and its people. 

2. What did you want to get physically, emotionally and spiritually out of such an adventure? 

Physically, I just wanted to surf, man.  

I didn't have too many goals going into this trip.  I just really wanted to explore, find uncrowded waves, improve my language skills and enrich my relationship with the country.  

I think travel is also an experience we tend to memorialise.  Like, if I look back at all the photos now, I'll remember all the highlights and the beautiful moments.  Truth is, it can actually be boring, mundane, alienating, lonely, and there were plenty of moments where I questioned what exactly I was doing.  

3. Tell us about a peak moment of this trip. 

 There was a wave that I had heard rumours of.  With a swell forecast I rode six hours across the island to go and have a look.  It was an hour to paddle from the beach out to it.  When I arrived, there was one guy watching it from a ski in the channel.  Turns out it was Tai Graham.  The swell was solid, almost too big for the reef, and he was pretty glad for the company.   Over the next two days we shared two epic sessions - just me and him trading tubes.  

 I mean, when I left on the trip a lot of people asked me where I was going, as if there was some kind of destination or end point of the journey.  I think any journey of this magnitude doesn't really have a final destination, more a peak.  

 For me, this was definitely it.  

Indonesia Motorcycle Diaries

4. What about a low moment? 

The most frustrating thing about Indo is the waiting.  It's almost like a national hobby.  People seem to love it, just sitting around, talking, eating, smoking.  It's funny too, like in Australia it's a pretty passive thing, waiting.  There, it's really active.  Nothing can be happening for ages, and then suddenly it's just chaos.  You can't just sit around and look at your phone, you've gotta be ready to go when things are happening.  

I found it pretty interesting at first, this different outlook, but over time it wore me down.  Ferries connect most of the islands, and the further east you go the more unreliable they become.  There is no schedule or anything, you kind of just have to go the port to find out.  I was starting to make my way back from Sumba, and the ferry back to Sumbawa broke down and was pulled out of the water.  So I had to ride all the way back across the island to a different port, take an overnight ferry up to Flores, ride two days across there, wait two days for a ferry from Labuan Bajo back to Sumbawa, ride another two days across Sumbawa, and then take two more overnight ferries from Sumbawa back to Bali.  It took two weeks.  

By that point I was tired and just ready to go home.  It's pretty exhausting, long term travel, and after three years full time on the road (two-and-a-half around Oz, six months in Indo), I was ready for a rest and a bit of stability.  

5. Tell us about three essential pieces of gear you took on the trip. How'd they make things easier/better for you?

OTIS hooked me up with a bunch of shades which were really handy on the bike, especially for keeping the sun and the bugs off.  I also had a few older pairs of sunnies which were really good for gifts.  There is a huge gift giving culture in Indo, people almost expect you to give them something.  In Sumbawa I stayed next door to a group of migrant workers from Lombok, who were sanding and painting a house with only t-shirts to wrap around their face for protection.  I hooked them up with a pair of sunnies each before I continued on my way, they were stoked.  


Other than that, a board bag was really handy.  It doubled as extra storage, a sleeping bag, a mat.

 A face mask was really good too.  It's pretty dusty and there are a lot of fumes on the road in Indo, so it was good pulling that up over my face to keep all the crap out.  And at night, on the overnight ferries, I could use it as a sleeping mask too.  

6. Finally, What's next for Tom De Souza? Do you have another adventure planned, or are you still just processing this one?

Mate, who really knows?  Does anyone really know what life has in store for us next?  I think we're all making it up as we go along, anyone who tells you they have it all mapped out is telling fibs.  

 But nah, I'm pretty keen on staying put for a bit, at least a year I would say.  I've got stuff scattered all around the place and it'll be good to pull everything back together and simplify my life a bit.   

I've just received a grant from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to make a documentary on the trip too, so keep an eye out for that… 



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