It was downhill from Malang, I followed the Northern coast passing funny sounding places like ‘Probolingo’ and ‘Bondowoso’. Easy going, flat and friendly. The kind of place where you stop for a coffee and people refuse to accept your money when you try to pay…
The coffee is alright, not as good as I would expect being on Java. In the middle of coffee plantations.
I noticed this hill on my map, a volcano with a crater lake. It seemed like a beautiful place, so instead of following the coast road I went straight across up the hills. A very big long climb, I’d asked around and was told its 30km uphill. Turned out to be 70. Lucky a ‘bemo’ passed. A small van, with an even smaller driver, I doubt he was 18 yet.
Full of people, groceries, animals and other things. It seemed stuffed, but somehow I managed to chuck the bike up the roof and squeeze in the front seat with a bunch of school girls.
I got dropped off in the middle of a coffee plantation with a guesthouse and a pool! All day free coffee. I cycled around to find the nearby hot spring/waterfall before retreating to my private coffee/pool party.
I started cycling at 4 the next morning. And made it to the start of the hike, 14km further, 3 hours later… And that was without luggage! A friendly group of tourists offered to carry that up in their rented jeep… When I made it up the crater I was stunned. It was definitely well worth the climb. A turquoise lake surrounded by the steep crater walls. With a slippery path down to a Sulphur vent at the lake. Going up and down the mountain are hundreds of workers, sometimes barefoot, carrying lots of yellow smelly sulphur up to 90kg a load. On the way they offer you to buy some of the stuff. Or ask for biscuits, cigarettes or money. Later I realized why.
It was only 8am but clouds were rolling in so I couldn’t see much of the view, but still enjoyed the scenery. I tried walking around the edge, but when it sort of ended in a sharp ridge and rocks falling down on both sides into depths I couldn’t see, I turned around. Down the mountain. Only to climb up again the next morning at 4am, to see the sunrise. I didn’t see it since it was behind a 2800m mountain. Still, it was fairly clear and absolutely beautiful!
And the downhill ride to the eastern edge of Java was some experience as well. To get down I had to actually get of my bike at times to hold both brakes and slowly walk down. That has never happened before! A sign tried telling me it was a 45% descent. Not sure I believe that, but steep it sure was.
And so I got to the ferry that took me across the 1 km of water that separates Java from Bali. It’s the same country but you’ll never guess. First thing I noticed were the dogs, and there’s roadside restaurant with complete roasted pigs, you wouldn’t see that on Java much. My road, that turned north of the main road, was nice and quiet. I cycled through lovely forest and along the coast till I was tired and stopped to ask two Dutch girls, Marlies & Anna, if they knew a good place to stay.
Turned out to be a whole lot of good places to stay because this is Bali. The standard of accommodation is high. The ‘breakfast included’ on the other hand.
Just about everywhere I’ve been so far I get Nasi or Mie Goreng (fried rice or noodles) for breakfast. Usually with an egg and some veggies thrown in. Good food. In Bali, for some reason unknown to me, they decide what I want is a ‘western breakfast’. So in the morning, hungry and ready to get going I get a plate with two pathetic slices of white bread, butter and jam.
There is this temple in the North of Bali. O, actually… there is a whole lot of temples, it seemed like there is more temples on Bali then in India. And ceremonies going on everywhere at all times. I’ve been stuck behind funeral processions a view times. And every time of day people walk around with plates full of little leaf-baskets with flowers and incense that they set on the road in front of the house/shop/hotel or at statues and temples everywhere. I’ve been told that the main income on Bali is from religious ceremonies… I would’ve sworn its tourism. But this one temple in the north called Pura Meduwe Karang is interesting because it has got a 1904 carving of a bicycle.
I stayed two nights on the north coast at Lavina Beaches, but never actually made it to the beach. I had this whole great route planned out on minor roads over mountains, through forests, passed lakes and rice fields. But it rained.
I set off from Lovina in the morning, cloudy and cool. Soon the road started climbing and the rain started falling. It didn’t matter that much because I was soaking wet already. That road really climbs. I was promised great views. I saw nothing. Just the road turning into one huge waterfall and a lot of startled faces behind the windows of cars trucks and busses. It seriously poured down so hard it was funny. Except when I started on the downhill and got a bit chilly.
So I promised to treat myself on a hotel with hot shower. I found a lovely spot near to Lake Bratan, famous for a temple (another one) set on little islands in the lake. I walked out there for sunrise with a young Kiwi girl who I convinced cycling is the way to go. Last thing I heard, she bought a bike in Lovina and has made it to Java. Ha! Converted another soul 🙂
It was an easy ride down to Ubud (I had abandoned the overactive minor-roads-in-the-rain idea) Ubud is famous for the cultural stuff. It’s full of art-shops and every night there are traditional dance performances.
I did meet up with Marlies and Anna again, we enjoyed a bottle of Balinese rose together. And I found this brilliant little restaurant. French. Where, with my new French friend, I enjoyed dinner and wine and talk and laughter. All good.
We spend days chatting over coffee and every now and again wandering on to look at, for example, a monkey forest. Full of spoiled monkeys who not even bother doing anything ‘cause they get fed bananas and peanuts all day by passing people who are sometimes even funnier to watch then the monkeys themselves.
One morning we figured it would be a good day for the beach so we got on a motorbike, checked the map (not necessary because whatever direction you take, you’ll get to a beach… I assumed). And set off. When we finally made it, my first Bali-beach experience was slightly disappointing. It was all black sand that we reached by wading through a muddy field. It was FULL of rubbish. Big pieces of wood, plastic, old shoes… the lot. But we were there now, so we put our towels down and sat on them for about 10 minutes. Going in the water wasn’t an option, that seemed yuk too… so we headed back to our delightful little French restaurant. Where I had Tartare (raw meat). And coffee, wine & chocolate.
It was only 20km down to Denpasar, where I was gonna stay in Sanur with George and his wife. In their garden they have a guest room with a brilliant outside bathroom, where it’s glorious to have a hot bath while the rain is pouring down around you. In the meantime Marlies & Anna had found themselves a hotel (with pool) in Kuta. Kuta is something different. Nothing like Bali and nothing at all like Indonesia. It’s a bit rude, even I was shocked… and that takes something.
You can buy t-shirts and stickers with slogans I couldn’t write here. My grand parents read this as well (hoi Oma, hoi Opa!
But it has a nice bike route along the beach (this beach looks better than the black one… It’s busier as well) but where ever you go people want you to get a massage, a manicure, buy a painting or come and eat at their restaurant. It’s mad! And expensive…
I left my bike there to get back to Malang by bus to pick up some random bits and pieces and extent my visa… again…
Before I leave I want to send an enormous hug through cyberspace for Esther, my sister who turns 28 today 🙂