|Pura Ulun Danu Temple at Kinatmani|
CYCLING BALI DAY 3: Cruising Down Volcanic Ridgelines
36.6 km / 20 miles entirely downhill. Not a stroke to pedal. Nothing to do but just cruise downhill, enjoying astounding views of villages perched on sheer ridges, steeply terraced rice fields, stormy clouds floating by below, vibrant roadside flowering bushes and exotic Balinese village temples.
Along the way I passed stands selling locally grown papayas and mangoes; villagers carrying grasses, bundles of wood, and machetes; cloves drying in the sun; and colorful tropical flowers. In the lower slopes, the pungent aroma of fresh cloves overwhelmed the air. The ride entailed 1 1/2 hours of sensory delights. And that about sums up my 36.6 km cruise downhill to Bali’s north coast, just east of Singaraga city.
I went outside to witness the sunrise. To my surprise, the street of Kintamani Town was already jammed with traffic. My guesthouse lay smack in the middle of the area’s main market town. People were bustling around carrying merchandise to buy and sell. But I was on a completely different mission: to find a place where it was possible to see nature, the crater and the sunrise. The town, built along Batur’s narrow ridge line, was completely jammed with shops that blocked out all views.
Once again I was astounded that local people living in beautiful natural surroundings intentionally block out the beauty around them, distinctly ignore sunrises and sunsets, and much prefer to remain immersed in humanity and their man-made environs. Too bad for them, I say. That certainly wouldn’t stop me from enjoying the sunrise (I hoped). I had to walk quite a way up the road before I found an open yard from which I could access the crater edge behind the town’s ugly cement shops. It was well worth it.
An amazing sight unfolded before me: the vast innards of Batur crater splayed below with the actual peak of Mt. Batur rising from the crater’s center. The whole scene was engulfed in mist and clouds seeping in from outside the crater rim. Colors caught in clouds as the sunrise unfolded and I saw perhaps the most bizarre cloud formations of my life. I enjoyed the ever-changing color display until the sun began peaking up over Mt. Batur.
When I reached the north coast at 9:30 am, it was quickly becoming roasting hot. I was back to tropical Bali as I knew it. I had ‘ordered’ clouds for the rest of my cycle day. I had another 32 km to ride. But clouds were nowhere to be seen. Just bright blue sky and blazing sun. Ah well, good thing I like heat.
I cycled the first 10 km / 6 miles into Singaraja city on nearly flat roads, a breeze after the morning’s hills. Unfortunately, gone was my rural ride through nature. The coast was pure city: people, noise and traffic. No photos needed there.
In Singaraja I stopped to eat and rest. I’d been on my bike 3 hours. Though mainly cruising downhill, it was still 3 hours sitting on a bicycle, including 1 1/2 hours of real pedaling. Time to rest.
Low and behold: while I was eating, down from the mountains rolled in the thick clouds I had ordered. Well, maybe they were a bit too thick. Just in time, I jumped on my bike and headed west as rain drops began falling. I managed to stay ahead of the rain as I cycled toward the small city of Seririt, 22 km further west.
Seririt was my day’s destination for two reasons: First off, I knew a hotel there. With few hotels along the north coast, that was important. Secondly, I also knew a natural hot spring nearby. I planned to end the day soaking my sore legs and body in niiiccceee hooottt spring water.
So I pedaled on. Glimpses of gorgeous rice fields and Bali’s central mountains started appearing more frequently as I road west. I also discovered the region grows grapes. I stopped at a local stand to buy some plump purple clusters. I got 1/2 kg (1 lb) for 6000rp / $0.75 US. The stop also conveniently offered me shelter from some rain that swept through briefly.
Back on my bike I soon found myself pedaling into Seririt. I checked into my hotel, took a well-deserved nap, then set out to the nearby hot springs, set in the jungly mountains.
read more: Jacuzzi in the Jungle
Reporting from paradise, Lash
If you’re inspired to cycle around Bali, check out my guidebook-