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CYCLING BALI DAY 12: LAST PUSH THROUGH RURAL BALI

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cycling bali- Mt Agung from Amed beach- Bali

magnificent Mt Agung from Amed beach

CYCLING BALI DAY 12: LAST PUSH THROUGH RURAL BALI

 

Yesterday I had bid a piercing, bittersweet farewell to my glorious summer romance, not even knowing it was the last time we’d ever see each other again. We planned to reunite soon in the USA but, alas, that was never to happen. No doubt it was a good thing I didn’t know that on this day. I was able to set out on the final two sections of my circumnavigation of Bali hopeful, with a singing heart, and my usual early morning cycling energy, rarin’ to go.

 

I said goodbye to friends we’d been staying with in Amed and hit the coastal road by 7 am. I’d already braced myself for today’s tough ride. The first hour or so I’d have to climb steep steep mountain roads, winding up from Bali’s far northeast coast into Bali’s jungle-clad mountains and interior terraced rice fields: steep but not too terribly far. Then I’d be gliding across fairly flat roads westward along the southern flank of sacred Mt. Agung, as far as I could take myself for the day. I had two stopping points in mind, depending on my stamina.

 

Mt Agung from Amed road- Bali

Mt Agung from Amed road

 

The very first 3 km from Amed’s coast inland to the tiny regional town of Culik, I’d always considered completely flat. I’d always traveled it by car or motorbike. But I’d recently discovered pedaling my bicycle that the road is, in fact, an indiscernibly steeper grade than I’d known. This morning, pedaling through Amed’s gorgeous bright green rice fields flanked by mountains, I found myself already shifting down into my lowest gears. And that, I knew, was the flattest road for the morning. Uh-oh. Good thing I was full of optimism, energy and heart song!

 

At Culik I stopped at my favorite babi guling shop (suckling pig) for the last time, then strapped on my bike helmet (I neglected to use it en route to Culik on Amed’s empty rural roads), turned left, and hit the main highway towards Amlapura City. Turning the bend at the far end of Culik, I braced myself for the increasingly steep road I knew lay before me. Sure enough, the grade continued to incline upward to the top of that valley, where one of my favorite views awaited: sweeping vistas over vibrant terraced rice fields down to the Amed Coast and the vast Bali Sea. “Farewell, until who knows when, Amed.” I’d be leaving Bali soon after completing my cycle around the island.

 

terraced rice fields- Amed- Bali

terraced rice fields- Amed- Bali

 

The climbing began. I set to switch-backing up through dense wet forest along the narrow shady mountain road. The temperature dropped immediately. I had to stop to pull on pants and long sleeves. Then it was back to grinding and winding up the twisting road. Luckily at that hour of the morning the usually heavy truck traffic had not yet begun. I stopped often, huffing and puffing. At least I could gaze at some of Bali’s most beautiful terraced rice fields, peeking between the trees.

 

terraced rice fields- central Bali

terraced rice fields- central Bali

 

I’d estimated it would take me about 45 minutes to reach the first mountain town of Abang, just 5 km from Culik. It took 1 hour. Slow going, indeed. Along the way I admired Abang’s freshly made temples at the plentiful temple making shops. At Abang the road flattened out and then soon began winding down the south side of the mountains towards Bali’s south coast. Drudgery over, it was time to glide and enjoy the day’s ride. Or so I thought…

 

temple making factory- Amed- Bali

temple making factory- Amed- Bali

 

Halfway down the mountain I reached my turn off for central Bali’s east-west countryside route along Mt. Agung’s southern flanks and turned westward. I’d tested out this road by motorbike a week earlier, so knew it was mostly flat for at least 10 km. Relieved that the day’s climbing was over, I happily pedaled west through vast sweeping rice fields and tiny Balinese villages.

 

 gamelan orchestra at a funeral in central Bali

funeral- gamelan orchestra- central Bali

 

Not far along I came upon a lively Balinese ceremony, so I stopped to take a look. Stepping inside to watch the live gamelan orchestra, I was stopped dead in my tracks. “Hello Lash!” someone barked out. What? I couldn’t believe my ears. Way out there, in the middle of nowhere, where I’d never set foot before, someone knew me by name? Wow. I smiled and waved hello, wondering who the heck he was. I stayed to listen to the lively tinkling gamelan percussion, then set out westward again.

 

As I pedaled further west, winding through little villages and across open fields, I couldn’t help but notice mountains gradually looming up ahead. Hmm. As I continued, the mountains grew larger and larger, eventually forming a clear U, which I seemed to be heading directly into. Hmm… “I wonder how and where I get around those mountains?”

 

rice fields- central Bali

rice fields- central Bali

 

Another curious phenomenon happened. After passing through the larger village of B…, the country lane was suddenly full of traffic, particularly heavy dump trucks and small public van ‘buses’. My formerly peaceful county lane turned into an inexplicable, roaring rural highway. So much for my relaxing ride.

 

As for the mountains: eventually they lay right smack in front of me. It was clear the only way ‘around’ them was up and over. Dagnabit. I did not want to climb again today, and certainly not with masses of giant trucks and public vans on narrow winding roads.

 

temples- central Bali

temples in central Bali

 

I did get one break: a charming town full of rather elaborate Balinese temples sat at the foot of the mountains. I found a roadside stall where I stopped to eat, rest, and contemplate the mountain road staring back at me. After a thirty-minute break there was nothing left to do but tackle the mountains. I mounted my bike and immediately began switch-backing up and up and up that twisting forested, mountain road. I was climbing forever, it seemed, but I finally reached the crest and checked my watch. Just 45 minutes of grinding. That wasn’t so bad. Even better: from the crest I proceeded into a steep fast-paced, twisting joy ride down the west side of the mountains. Then I suddenly rolled out into bright sunshine in open fields once again and continued my westward journey gliding along more flats country roads.

 

jungle-central Bali

jungle-central Bali

 

Soon I reached my first potential destination, Selat. It was only 10 am. Despite that unexpected extra mountain, I was still full of energy. I vaguely remembered from my bicycle tour on this road 10 years earlier that the road west of Selat might be the one that had nearly killed me with a series of super steep ravines dipping in and out of vibrant terraced rice fields. I hesitated to tackle even more stiff climbing that day, but Selat offered nothing to entertain me for an entire day, so I took my chances and pressed on to Klung Kung city.

 

Heavy dump trucks were still roaring past on the tight country lanes, for some inexplicable reason. Soon after Selat truck traffic doubled. Where the heck were they coming from? And where were they going to way out here? It was a complete mystery. Too bad they had to ruin the beautiful peaceful countryside by dominating the lanes with their massive bodies, roaring engines and puffing gear changes.

 

terraced rice fields- central Bali

terraced rice fields in central Bali

 

I pressed on amidst trucks. About 10 km later, sure enough, I came upon the steeply dipping ravines: gorgeous but tortuous. I dipped down into the first ravine, wound around its tight corner, and ground up the far side, gazing at nearly neon fields while trying to ignore the belching trucks surrounding me. On to the next ravine. At the bottom, the road crossed a raging river on a high, old fashioned wooden bridge. The river and ravine were so gorgeous that I stopped in the middle of the bridge for a while just to gaze at the slathering white foamy water and the shockingly green vegetation. Trucks roared by.

 

white water rafting- central Bali

white water rafting- central Bali

 

Eventually recognizing that I was getting hungry, I pressed on: up out of the ravine and down into the next valley. High above that valley I found a nicely designed wood building over-looking a second raging river. I stopped to eat, only to discover it was a white-water rafting center. No food. They pointed to a local warung just back along the road, so I walked up there, got a take-out meal, and returned to the rafting center to eat while gazing at the valley and river. A beautiful wide steel bridge forded the river in the bottom of the valley. I finished lunch then took a nap at the rafting center, waiting for the midday sun to fall away.

 

white water rafting- central Bali

white water rafting- central Bali

 

A couple hours later I awoke, stretched, remounted my bike, and glided down to the bridge. I paused again, taking photos of a rafting trip getting started just below me. From there I had one final steep climb: out of the valley. After that I would soon hit the road bound southward to Klung Kung and glide downhill on Mt. Agung’s southern flanks all the way to the city. Luckily, my last climb was not nearly as steep nor as long as I’d feared. 15 minutes later I was cruising on a flat road to the intersection of KK road.

 

From there I glided downhill for nearly an hour through tiny villages and vast rice fields. Oddly, the truck traffic had disappeared, left back in the ravines and country lanes of central Bali. The road down to KK passed through a much steeper section of switch backs. Happily, I was finally heading down switch backs instead of grinding up them. Just below the switch backs I came upon a scenic outlook with sweeping views to Bali’s south coast. I suddenly realized I’d stopped there with friends several years earlier, though I couldn’t recall who, when or why. Just knew I’d been there already.

 

KK was only a short distance beyond the vista. I soon found myself gliding into a red brick town full of large provincial buildings, shops, and urban traffic. That was weird after pedaling through rural Bali for nearly 2 weeks. I knew KK from my first cycle around Bali, 10 years earlier. I’d spent the night in KK’s only budget guesthouse, which was an over-priced hole in the wall. I stopped by there today and reached the same conclusion: yuk. I searched KK for other options, but to no avail. Just as I’d feared.

 

terraced rice fields overlooking South Bali coast

terraced rice fields overlooking South Bali coast

 

So I stopped for a delicious Javanese meal and another rest. Then I pressed on to Gianyar, another 10 km towards Sanur, my final destination. It was 5 pm. I’d been on the road for 10 hours, with plentiful breaks, but still 10 hours. I figured that pressing on to Gianyar was a bit much for me, but I still felt energized, and refused to stay in KK’s crappy guesthouse. 10 km wasn’t much: 30 minutes, 45 max.
Little did I know how hilly the road between KK and Gianyar is, else I would’ve reconsidered. I ended up cussing and yelling up and down every hill all the way to Gianyar. In rain. It took me an entire hour. But I made it.

 

Gianyar Losman- guest house-Gianyar- Bali

view from roof of Gianyar Losman- guest house

 

Then I encountered my biggest problem of the day. Gianyar has no guest houses! Gianyar is one of the few towns in Bali that I’ve never stayed in and had no lodging information about. Although the city is only 25 km from Sanur and 20 km from Ubud, two of Bali’s biggest tourist destinations, Gianyar has virtually no tourism. It’s purely a Balinese city, through and through. There are no souvenir shops, no touts, no ‘transport’ offers, no tour offices or massage parlors. Even more amazingly, nobody speaks English, including the shop owners, police and military. Lucky for me, I speak a bit of Indonesian, otherwise I’d have been stuck.

 

Gianyar Losman- guest house-Gianyar- Bali

Gianyar Losman- guest house-Gianyar- Bali

 

I stopped at Gianyar’s military base and asked the personnel about small hotels, guesthouses or homestays. They kept trying to send me off to Ubud or Sanur or expensive hotels. I kept saying no, explaining that I had already cycled from Bali’s north coast and could ride no further. Finally I asked for a losman- local style guesthouse. That, Gianyar did have, and only a few blocks away. I got detailed instructions, then wound my way through the city to find it. I had trouble locating the place, but it was worth the search. Losman Gianyar was a beautifully designed, spotlessly clean, new guesthouse, built around a central garden.

 

I was utterly exhausted. I plopped down on my nice thick double bed, panting, until I had enough energy to stand up and shower. Then I wandered out to find a meal. I’d seen several local warungs nearby. I stufffed my face. Then I fell into bed for the night. By 8 or 9 pm I was laid out in bed, dreamy with romance, and thankful that tomorrow’s final ride to Sanur was only 25 km, mostly downhill.

 

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

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4 comments

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  1. Michael

    Can you believe the coincidence. I have been looking at your photo in the Tripping contest recently and now I just stumbled across your blog AND your post is on Bali.
    My pic is also in the comp (Im the one djing) and we just recently moved to San Francisco but went through Bali on the way here.
    You should check out some of our recent posts as they are all based on our time in Bali.
    Wishing you all the best of luck in the comp :)

  2. LASH

    HEy Michael.. welcome!
    WEll, if you like coincidences, how about this: the top post on your blog at the moment: Waterbomb park? Believe it or not, I was teh very first person to officially ride down their highest water slide, while working for a performance company in Bali, that was hired to do the opening!
    On the TRipping photo contest, may the best man win~! I'll go check out more of your Bali posts. I've got LOADS more posts on Bali here, too. nice to meet you, cheers, Lash

  3. Suzy

    What a ride! Those terraced rice fields look magical. It must have been a nice sight to see in between all of the huffing and puffing uphill.

  4. LASH

    Hi Suzy,
    Yeah, Bali's scenery and topography is just stunning. Can't wait to go back again!
    Lash

  1. NEWS: My Story Selected by Barbara Weibel of Hole in the Donut as 'Best Weekly Narrative Travel Article' | LashWorldTour

    […] in the Donut Cultural Travel Blog as ‘Best Weekly Narrative Travel Article’. In Cycling Bali Day 12: Last Push Through Rural Bali, I recount my adventures pedaling from Bali’s far northeast coast at Amed across the […]

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