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CYCLING BALI DAY 9: THE KILLER MOUNTAINS

cycling Bali- central mountains

Bali’s central mountains

Bali’s central mountains

CYCLING BALI DAY 9: THE KILLER MOUNTAINS

I’d been dreading this day since starting my circumnavigation of Bali. Today I had to cycle up into Bali’s rugged interior mountains from the south coast, grind up over Bali’s heights, and then pedal down to Bali’s distant north coast. I actually loathe uphill cycling. Two previous incidents were also haunting me about this particular mountain route.
However, one quite disturbing factor was looming: clouds. And not just light white fluffy clouds, but heavy clouds, dark clouds, even threatening looking clouds. Hmmm… Well, I had only 2 choices: twiddle my thumbs another day waiting to see if the weather cleared up or go for it. I opted to brave the elements.

cycling bali- Medewi- Bali

beautiful scenery at Medewi Beach

And so I set out quite early at Medewi surfers’ beach, on Bali’s south coast. At 7.30 am I was already  pedaling along Bali’s hilly coastal highway to the nearby town of Pekutatan, where I would turn inland and UP. At Pekutatan I stocked up on extra water and a take-out meal. And then… du du du daaaa… oh, shit, THE mountain road! With a heavy sigh and questioning glance at the cloudy sky, I set off into the killer mountains…

cycling bali - terraced fields- central Bali

peaceful terraced mountain sides

Surprisingly, some great things happened as soon as I headed up that road. The heavy roaring truck traffic of the southern coastal highway disappeared. I was suddenly pedaling up an empty, quiet peaceful country mountain road surrounded by silence and open, calming views of sky, fields, trees and mountains. The clouds held out promisingly in friendly solid white, just enough to block out tropical sun on the completely exposed road. I also noted with relief that the road grade was indeed reasonable. A steady grind, for sure, but certainly manageable.

cycling bali -Bali's steep mountain ridges

houses clinging to Bali’s steep mountain ridges

Those promising developments did not last very long, however. The gradual climb became steeper and the road began switch-backing up the mountain through small stone villages perched on steep slopes. Engine noises began assaulting my ears. Soon dozens of motorcycles were streaming by, non-ending. Local Balinese whizzed by, dressed in ceremonial clothing, heading up to some festival or other. Although I enjoyed watching their colorful lacey tops, crisp white shirts and patterned sarongs, the roar of dozens of motorbikes grinding up the mountain was deafening. So much for my peaceful mountain ride!

cycling bali - Locals- Amed- Bali

Balinese en route to ceremony

Eventually I reached the ceremony spot at a tiny cluster of stone houses where all the guests were milling around the road. A wedding? Funeral? Baby ceremony? I didn’t stop to inquire but pressed on up the grinding road. The sky held out. Thankfully, my energy did too.
I avoided my mistake of Day 2, when I’d pressed on until completely wiped out. Today I stopped while I still had some energy. In another tiny town I found a small stall selling fried foods. It was 10:30. I’d cycled 3 hours already and estimated I was at mile 19. Wow, slow going. Including 2 km on the coastal road I’d ridden 21 km in 3 hours- 7 km/ hour. SLOW! Guess it WAS a climb! Definitely time for a break.
I stopped and ate some very delicious fried bananas, fried veggies and fried tofu with hot tea. Mmmm! Then I decided to take a well-deserved nap. After all, according to my notes the road climbed for 25 km then headed downhill. That meant I had only 6 more km of climbing from here. Since it was still quite early in the day, I had plenty of time. I found a quiet spot in front of a closed town store and laid down to sleep. Little did I know that was a fateful decision.
I woke up refreshed just before noon, gathered my belongings and wandered over to my bike. Literally just as I reached it, the sky split open with big wet rain drops. Uh ohhh! In moments the village was engulfed in a torrential downpour. No! Wow. Nothing to do but wait it out. Luckily I was in a cement market plaza, complete with toilets and a small food shop. I had everything I needed. I ate again. Drank more tea. The rain pelted on… an entire hour, sometimes in torrential buckets, sometimes a bit lighter, but steadily dropping. Time ticked on. By 1:30 I realized I’d just have to pedal in rain. I needed to get going. I had a raincoat and pants, of course. However, I knew my rain coat had lost it’s water-proofness and would be drenched quickly in heavy rain, so I bought a plastic poncho to wear over my rainsuit. I pulled on my gloves, unlocked my bike, got astride and very reluctantly started up the mountain road in rain. I could not believe I was here in this same situation on this same road again. No, it couldn’t be! That kind of bad luck just doesn’t happen to me. Apparently not never.

cycling bali - Bali's central mountains

views from Bali’s central mountain roads- when I could see them

Up the mountain in rain I grinded, counting the roadside km markers… 20.. 21.. Oh, I actually reached a flat section. Yippie. Then, oh, more climbing. 22. 23.. 24..25… I hit a downhill! Wow, I’d made it. Climbing finished… So, what was that up there? Another hill? More climbing? Yes it was. Another hill. No, no, no! I was supposed to be gliding down hill now! Instead the hills went on and on. Up and down. Up and down. The rain kept pelting down too.
Man, was I pissed off! Pissed off at the rain and weather. Pissed off at the mountains. Pissed off at my stupid notes. My anger powered me on, up and down those never-ending hills, completely socked in with fog. Again. In pelting rain. Again. I grind-ed along angrily yelling and cursing at those mountains, those hills, that rain… all the way to Pupuan town at km 35. I’d cycled 16 more kilometers. It seemed like a century to reach Pupuan, but it had actually only been an hour. Oh! Well, that was ok for speed and timing.
Pupuan, the largest town up in those mountains, was what I considered my halfway point. There were several restaurants, a school, many shops, even a convenience store,. I stopped and rewarded myself with a chocolate candy bar, something I rarely eat. I took only a quick break then I was back on my bike pedaling towards the north coast.

cycling bali- Bali's central mountains

more mountains, more trees

The rain had lightened up but was still falling steadily. On the encouraging side, I’d summit-ed the mountains and was now heading downhill towards Bali’s north coast. That lasted about 10 minutes until I hit the next hill. What? I remembered from my motorbike trip that several hills awaited me beyond Pupuan before I could start gliding down the mountain. But, wow, I didn’t realize they were such big hills. So I found myself, yet again, expecting a rewarding down hill glide but instead getting slammed with more and more hills. In rain. So I grind-ed on, angrily yelling, cursing and swearing again at those hills and rain. Another hour. 10 km. Pretty tough hills. But, at long last, I did eventually complete the very last uphill climb. Now I had to make a decision…

cycling bali - Bali's central mountains

just more trees and mountains…

Today’s ride presented two destination options. I was hoping to reach Munduk, a small mountain town  perched high on a narrow ridge, with stunning views and several guest houses for western tourists. I suspected I might not be physically capable of climbing another 12 km of steep hills, but hoped I could toss my bike on public transport. My alternate plan, was to cycle all the way down to Bali’s north coast city of Seririt, where I’d stayed 6 days earlier.

cycling bali - Munduk, Bali

Stunning views around Munduk, Bali

At the junction to Munduk I asked some locals about public transport. Nope, none. I wasn’t surprised. It was 4 pm and buses usually stop running in early afternoon. I further inquired about hiring someone with a pick up to drive me. Strangely, nobody in the village seemed to have a truck. Or perhaps they just didn’t want to drive up the mountain? In any event, I was out of luck. I was also completely out of energy. I managed to find one tiny food shop open, though with little food left. Happily, the cheerful owner cooked me eggs and veggies with rice. Her husband tried contacting a Munduk guest house to come pick me up. Also no luck. So I ate my meager meal and accepted my destiny to cycle down to Seririt city. Perhaps tomorrow morning I could catch a bus up to Munduk?

cycling bali - terraced rice fields- central Bali

terraced rice fields of Bali’s central mountains

terraced rice fields of Bali’s central mountains
I remounted my bike and this time actually did get to glide down the mountain. The rain had finally stopped and gorgeous wet terraced rice fields popped out of the steamy hillsides. Amidst beautiful scenery I glided the final 10 km to Seririt. I checked into the city’s only hotel, flopped down on the bed until my body stopped zizzing, then took a shower and went out to eat.

cycling Bali -Lash on bike

during my circumnavigation of Bali

It had been a long hard day: 5 ½ hours of cycling on steep grades, in cold rain, on more hills than I wanted to remember. Whereas I’d optimistically hoped to finish by 2 pm and spend the afternoon lazily gazing at gorgeous mountain views in Munduk, instead I hadn’t finished until 5 pm, completely wiped out, and gazing at dull hotel walls. But I did have the satisfaction of completing the entire route  by bicycle, every pump of the way. Best of all, my dreaded day in the Killer Mountains was behind me. Glorious flat coastal roads beside the Bali Sea awaited me tomorrow…
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Cycling Bali Guidebook - Lash - LashWorldTour - travel book

my Cycling Bali Guidebook

If you’re inspired to cycle around Bali, check out my guidebook-

Cycling Bali: Guide to Circumnavigating Bali by Bicycle

You might also like these stories:

Cycling Day 8: Rice Fields and Mountains and Sea. Oh My!
Cycling Day 10: Retracing Bali’s Central North Coast

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5 comments

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  1. Nancy @family on bikes

    HA! I had to laugh at that one! That reminds me that someday I'll have to write up the story about my monster hill – the hill that out to slay me. It's a long story, but suffice it to say that I made it to the top and learned a lot about myself that day. I also learned that things are rarely as hard as we make them out to be in our minds.

    One pedal stroke at a time…
    Nancy
    familyonbikes.org

  2. LASH

    Hi Nancy! Hey, thanks for braving the text on black background which I know makes your eyes sizzle! Yes, I'm sure you can relate to bad cycling days… and I'm quite sure your hellacious winds in S.America are worse than any I've faced… though had some ferocious wind days in Hokkaido, Japan. Nice to see you here. cheers, Lash

  3. Suzy

    That is pretty impressive you stuck with it. I know I couldn't do that, especially in the rain. I bet your legs were burning!

  4. LASH

    HI Suzy. Well,I really had no choice- once I got up there i had to continue to get down! Happily, no burning legs- if you cycle everyday- and eat bananas for potassium – your muscles are used to it. But I was pissed off about the rain… Never mind, I didnt melt. thanks for stopping by! Lash

    1. Nadine

      Hello,My name is Julie Paige. I will be visiting Bali in July and would love to come visit the cihdlren. I am the owner and teacher of a performing arts studio for cihdlren and teenagers in the United States. I would love to come teach a class with the cihdlren. I can teach them DANCE (ballet or jazz or hip-hop) or Broadway MUSICAL THEATRE (singing and dancing together). Please let me know if this would be possible and how to set up a specific date & time. I would need to know the ages of the cihdlren (or which age group you might like me to work with) and what you would like me to teach. And do the cihdlren speak any English? I would also like to bring or mail any items that you might be in need of. I’m sure my students could donate a lot of clothing if needed. I would need to know the sizes or ages of the cihdlren. If clothing is not needed right now, please let me know what might be needed the most and how many cihdlren you currently have. Thank you kindly,Julie Paige

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