Bali By Bike Day 4
We got up pretty early for breakfast at our ghetto fabulous guest house and we were met with a familiar sight—rain. We sat and watched the drizzle and contemplated how much time we had spent on this trip sitting around waiting for the rain to stop. We left the Bay Area during its rainiest month so we could have a nice dry tropical holiday. Now we find ourselves in Bali at the end of their rainy season that bears a striking resemblance to the Bay Area winter save for the warmer temperatures. At least there are less tourists and the prices are better because of it. The cardboard we used to steady the panniers the previous day had been torn up pretty badly so we did our best to pad the panniers and hoped it would hold. We got underway around 8:30am and the rain had pretty much stopped. We were on the road for about 10 minutes before the wet cardboard got caught on the tire and disintegrated. As soon had we stopped to remedy the problem our familiar friend the rain decided it was time to show itself again and we took refuge in a nearby shop. I was pretty frustrated at having to deal with this everyday on this trip, but without the resources of a big town I was stuck getting another box and hoping it would last this time. Briana reminded me that we threw together this bike tour in part for the adventure of it. While we were proving that a nice rack and our waterproof Ortlieb panniers weren’t entirely necessary for touring success I sure was pining for the gear we have waiting for us in Switzerland. After messing with it for a while and getting pretty soaked under the leaky roof we got the panniers and cardboard pretty well secured and chilled out for a snack and some coffee to wait out the rain. Densely populated developing countries are so convenient. Our cardboard busted and we pulled over only to find ourselves in front of a shop that had a new cardboard box for us and hot coffee and snacks. These shops are everywhere so you are never without services. It is fantastic. When we got back on the road I was in a better mood and the sky started to clear up a bit. We were on the road for about 5km when Briana said we had to stop to see a temple. I was a little reluctant to stop because I didn’t want to get stuck in the rain but she said there was a surprise for me and we had to take a break. So we parked the bikes and went in. The temple had a few people there to take you around and give you some information about what they do there. But first we had to be outfitted with some sarongs and sashes. It was kind of fun to put them on and get shown around. We were told about how during the ceremonies they dress the good spirit statues in yellow and white the the evil spirit statues in black and white. Our guide took us around the side of the temple and there was my surprise, a bas relief sculpture of a guy riding a bicycle! We were told it was WOJ Niewenkamp aka Captain Nieu and he was a Dutch artist rumored to be either the first person to bring a bike to Bali or the first to ride his bike around Bali. It was a pretty cool sculpture and worth the stop to pay homage to our predecessor. It only takes around 20 minutes to see the whole thing plus a small donation to the temple and to our guide. If you think you’d like to visit, the temple is called Pura Maduwe Karang and is in the town of Kubutambahan. If you are approaching from Air Sanih as we did the temple is on your right and is marked by a three tiers of maybe thirty stone statues lining the road. From Singaraja the temple is about 1 km past the turn off to Kintamani. The bicycle carving is on the North wall of the temple. We got back on the road and it was flat and dry the rest of the way. We got to Singaraja around 11am and decided it was time for lunch. Singaraja is the second biggest town on Bali and the traffic was a little heavy. We managed to navigate the narrow roads, traffic circles, and scooters without incident. We had a few people slow to chat about where we were from, where we were going, and if we needed a place to stay. We always indulge them until they try to get us to stay at their guest house when we lie and tell them we have something booked already. On a related note the Balinese are ridiculously good at making small talk. For them polite conversation consists of asking each other a series of questions. At first we didn’t really get it and got a little annoyed that everywhere we went everyone we met asked us where we were from, where we were going, where we had been the night before, where we were staying the night, etc., etc., etc. It felt like the third degree and to us seemed like none of their business, not to mention the fatigue from having the same conversation over and over again. Then we learned that this is just how it goes around here. They commonly greet each other and ask what the other is doing or where they are going even if it is entirely obvious. That is the nature of small talk. To be polite you should also return with more questions about them (also a great deflection) and if you ask the right question conversation opens up beyond the Q&A format and can become a great exchange. In our experience everyone has been extremely friendly. It was about a half hour or so to Lovina from Singaraja and we decided to find a nice place to stay since we would be there for a few days. After pricing out a few of the nicest (unaffordable) places in town we found an amazing place for 100,000rp ($12.50) complete with 2 floors, refrigerator, swimming pool, and view of the sunset. We settled in and did some laundry before turning to our next task of finding a more permanent solution for the panniers. We weren’t really sure how to fix the drag and keep the panniers from getting torn up, but we thought finding a bike shop and getting another rack with two stays instead of one would be a good start. We turned down the road toward Singaraja and we saw a welding shop and thought we might be able to get something made. We had seen several of these types of shops on the tour. These guys make beautiful and intricate gates and have all sorts of scraps lying around. We went in and even though they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Bahasa Indonesia we set out to solve the problem. We showed them the panniers, the bad wear, and how they hung near the tires and they immediately understood what we wanted. So we grabbed pieces of metal and held them up to the bike to see what would work best and before we knew it they grabbed us a couple chairs to sit in while they worked. Experiences like this are one of the things that makes me love traveling in the developing world. There are no rules, no regulations, no expectations. People just get things done. We could tell that these guys were excited to solve the problem for us and liked the challenge of designing the solution. Just like any job it can get boring to make the same gates over and over again and it felt good to ask them to use their expertise to help us. In a region surrounded by tourists many of the locals never see a dime of the foreign mother lode so we were also very pleased to support them in a somewhat unexpected way. We enjoyed seeing them work and they really seemed to like having us as their guests in the shop. Check out some photos of the gorgeous gates they make. The detail is done by welding on the concrete floor over a chalked image of the design. Squatting on the floor the gentleman who ran the shop and his eleven-year old son whipped out the arc welder and grinder and amidst a spray of sparks fashioned us a nice sturdy extension on the rear rack. We helped them search for the scrap materials around the shop and shared some laughs as we tried out different designs. Once they got down to work they usually just used their hands to shield their eyes from the glow of the arc welder but did in fact have a welding mask. You can see him holding it at arm’s length as he welds in this shot. The rack that they made us was perfect. It is by no means a performance oriented material—more heavy steel on the already ridiculously heavy bike—but I think it will work perfectly for what we need and provide that extra support needed for my sanity. The hour’s labor and materials ran us only 50,000rp ($6.25). We set out down the road in search of some victory chocolate. Mission accomplished!
If you use a GPS you can download a GPX file of our ride here. (right click – save target as)
Here is the elevation profile and map for our ride
View Bali by Bike day 4: Air Sanih to Lovina in a larger map