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CYCLING BALI DAY 11: BALI’S ARID NORTHEAST COAST
Singaraja City, smack in the middle of Bali’s stunning north coast, marks a clear dividing point in Bali’s climate, topography and scenery. West of Singaraja, all the way to Gilimanuk at Bali’s westernmost point, land is lush, fertile and bursting with vibrant green rice fields. The coast is dotted with fluffy sand beaches, all backed by the Bali Barat Mountain Range, running parallel to the calm blue Bali Sea.
In great contrast, the coastline east of Singaraja is dry, extremely rocky, full of stony ‘beaches,’ and almost entirely devoid of rice fields. Several dry river beds ‘flow’ down from the interior to the rocky coast, occassionally gushing water during the short rainy season, Dec-Feb. This arid region nestles under the volcanic peaks of Mt. Batur and Mt Agung, Bali’s sacred mountain.
Today I needed to start cycling at 6am. I had 55 km to ride, which would take 3-4 hours. I already knew that the north coast would be dangerously roasting hot by 9am. The friendly hotel owners had kindly agreed to wake up extra early to make my breakfast. They prepared my meal right on time. So at 5:59, after eating breakfast in a lush garden overlooking a blossoming lily pond, I was already on my bike a-pedaling down the highway eastwards.
Making up for my painfully early rise, I discovered that 6 am was a fantastic time to cycle. The air was much cooler, the traffic much lighter. On the other hand, the road was swamped with children and teens racing on motorbikes to school. For an entire hour I was pummeled by the insistent screaming and barking of school children competing to catch my attention. “HELLO!!!!!”
Dodging masses of unpredictable and untrained young motorbike drivers darting around the roads while getting verbally assaulted was not exactly my idea of a relaxing, peaceful ride through the countryside. However, I did survive, and by 7am the kids were all in school. The roads were finally calm and traffic-free.
As I headed further eastward, I crossed several dry rocky riverbeds. Eventually volcanic Mt. Agung arose majestically inland, showcasing herself the rest of the day. By this point the road had departed slightly from the shore. It continued inland, gradually climbing and descending, with occasional glimpses of stony beaches lining the Bali Sea. I’d expected a dead flat road, so cycling was harder than anticipated, but by 9.30 I pulled into Tulamben, my morning destination.
I returned the friendly greetings, grabbed a meal at my favorite local ‘shack,’ changed out of my stinky sweaty cycling clothes into my bikini, and happily marched out to the seaside to relax. I was tired. While fully-equiped divers descended and emerged from the sea, I promptly fell asleep to the sound of palms blowing in the breeze and waves lapping on the stony shore. When I awoke I realized that today was the absolutely calmest and clearest I’d ever experienced the ocean at Tulamben. Wow, crystal clear! The sea and reef were calling me. I slipped in for a cool dip and was astounded to see the coral reef and tropical fish clearly below me, without even a mask. Lucky day.
I spent the entire afternoon relaxing at the shore- sleeping, eating, swimming, sipping coffee and writing. I had considered spending the night in Tulamben then cycling over to Amed in the morning, but by 4 pm I was well-rested and ready to roll. I re-mounted my bike and pedaled the final hour over to Amed, my recent 5-month home, to stay with friends a few days before completing my circumnavigation of Bali.
If you’re inspired to cycle around Bali, check out my guidebook-
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE MY OTHER CYCLING BALI TALES, DAYS 1-10. cheers, Lash