Bali By Bike Day 5
On our last day of the tour we set out to make it back to Ubud. Feeling like veterans with the bulk of the tour under our belts we were unaware that our bikes were also feeling like veterans—old, injured ones. We started the morning riding out of Lovina and back towards Singaraja. About half-way to town Kyle noticed that his headset locknut was a bit loose. As he pulls off the road to tell me I look over to see that we have stopped right in front of a motorcycle service shop. Not really all that lucky of an occurrence, they are everywhere on Bali. We run across the road and they use their wrench to tighten it. Unfortunately as they do the nut actually snaps. It was made of some sort of metal too soft to actually be tightened. Thanks Yokota! Now locknut-less we decide the best thing to do is make it into town where we had seen some bike shops. Luckily the rest of the ride to Singaraja was made without incident. At the bike shop it only took about 2 minutes and $1.25 for us to get a replacement locknut put on. The road to Bedugul rises steeply out of Singaraja. Between Singaraja and Bedugul there is a 1400 meter elevation gain over 20 kilometers. While I’d like to say we were up for the challenge, after our 4 nights in Lovina we were feeling lazy and decided to catch a bemo up the mountain and coast down to Ubud. The Sukasada terminal is located on the main road to Bedugul up the hill a decent distance from town. Riding up the road we were sure we’d missed it, but I kept asking people and they kept saying it was further. We eventually found it and it was clearly marked. I estimate it was about 5 km from town. At the bemo station we set to work bargaining our way into a motorized vehicle and up the hill. Having the bikes with us was no problem as these guys are accustomed to bringing mattresses, farm animals (dead or alive), families of 12, you name it. The only challenge was getting to our destination with only a respectable amount of extortion. A little give and take and we agreed to be taken up the hill with our bikes on a public minibus for 100,000Rp ($12) total for the two of us. Not so cheap, but much preferred to slogging it up a high traffic snake of a road. As we cruised up the hill the driver picked up a few more passengers and even a letter someone wanted delivered to Denpasar. The minibus seems to be a one stop service connecting north and south. We tried to tell the driver that we wanted to be dropped off in Bedugul at the road that would take us to a village called Pelaga. We had read that the road from here to Ubud was low traffic and very scenic and we were eager to get off the main road. We were pretty confident that we had communicated and been understood, he even made a hand gesture showing a fork in the road. Happy to know we’d be taken to the right spot we sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the ride. The road is its highest just before Bedugul then starts winding its way down to Denpasar. We drove through Bedugul admiring the lakes and the countryside sure that he would stop and have us get off any moment. A half an hour later it became obvious that he hadn’t understood us and we were way further than we wanted to be. At the next crossroads we asked to get off and tried to figure out where we were and how to get to Ubud. We had taken the minibus all the way to Baturiti and were a good 10 km from where we thought the turn-off should have been. There was a road that headed east, straight down the river valley, so we decided to go for it. On the elevation map below you can see our first descent around km 45. We cruised down an extremely steep road as more and more potholes started to appear. I was feeling pretty comfortable dodging them until all of a sudden the whole road turned into one huge pothole with softball size chunks of concrete littered about. Next thing I know I’m flying over my handlebars and onto the dirt. Luckily I caught myself with my hands and didn’t get hurt badly (pretty sore the next day though). Unluckily that fall happened right at the bottom of an unbikeable grade. Kyle and I tried but we had to dismount and start pushing the bikes up the hill. In about 15 minutes we crested and rode back down the next river valley enjoying the amazing rice terrace views. Then we came to the next hill which was much bigger. We dismounted again and started slogging up. I was pushing the bike with the panniers and at a few points the combination of steepness, gravel on the road and flip flops reduced me to baby steps. At the top of the hill we reached another crossroads with one road continuing east and the other turning south. We waited for someone to drive by so that we could ask them which way to Petang (a larger town on the road we were aiming for). The first guy to drive by said that both roads would take us there and the second lady seemed pretty confident that the southern road was the way to go. Since our ultimate destination was south we thought we’d give it a try and we started sailing down the ridge of the hill we had just climbed. Before we knew it we were back on track, enjoying the views, decently paved road and the cloud cover. Predictably it started to rain on us and we decided to stop for a cup of coffee. We waited out the storm while studying the map. The area around Ubud is pretty densely populated and there are a lot of different roads. In an effort to help us find the turns we wanted I resorted to drawing a little map on my hand with the village names we expected to pass by. The map totally failed and we missed all of our turns. Every day of this tour I have been shocked at how small Bali is. We sailed right by every turn of the day’s ride and eventually surrendered ourselves to asking people which way to Ubud and gaining confidence from the occasional sign. At one point we stopped to take some pictures and as we returned to the bikes Kyle noticed that his front tire was flat. When we started the tour, Made had given us a wrench we could use for taking off the wheels but it wasn’t exactly the right size. It was also made of some soft material so when we tried to loosen the nut we would simultaneously strip the wrench and the nut. I am not sure how that is even possible but Bali tends to defy logic at times. So there we were with a flat and no way to take off the wheel. Kyle asked some guys who were pulled over nearby and they had a sparkplug wrench that was perfect. As Kyle got to work he became quite a popular spectacle. Everyone around came over to see the white guy fix his flat and before we knew it he had 5 fans squatting on the ground and giving him advice. Tube replaced, he tried pumping it up only to break our junky Indonesian mini pump (which it turns out actually ruptured the rubber on the valve and was the cause of the flat in the first place). He tried putting it back together and pumping some more but eventually gave up. The super fans told us that there was a moto shop not too far away so I took Kyle’s wheel and rode off on my bike to get it pumped up. Sure enough the shop was not more than a kilometer back up the road and they had an air compressor. I got the tire filled and Kyle put it back on and we were on our way back to Ubud. The outskirts of Ubud are very very dense. I have no idea which roads we were actually on but at any intersection where it wasn’t obvious which way to go we would ask people. This was when we discovered the Balinese proclivity for being agreeable. We pull up to a 4-way intersection and Kyle points left and asks “This way to Ubud?” he then points straight ahead and says “This way to Ubud?” To which the woman replies “Ubud, yes!” To clarify he tries pointing left again. The answer is yes. Straight, the answer is also yes. At every intersection we came to every direction apparently would lead us to our destination. While this is probably true given the number of roads in the area we were looking for more reasoned advice. We eventually had to just follow our noses and luckily we made it back to town. The whole day’s ride from Baturiti was 40 km and we arrived back in Ubud to stay with some friends and spent the afternoon swimming in the pool, celebrating our trip. Here we are wet, dirty and ready for a swim.
If you use a GPS you can download a GPX file of our ride here. (right click – save target as)
View Bali by Bike day 5: Lovina to Ubud in a larger map