Posts Tagged With: bali

Where Everything Went Wrong: Bali Day #1

And we were off. Two mountain bikes, two Americans, and two packs weighing about 50lbs each. Again, we had read that the traffic could be tricky but we were prepared. We had plenty of crazy driving experience all over the world! We took off taking a route that would wind West and then curve North before heading West again towards our destination for the evening: Puri Dajuma, a beachside eco-resort/retreat located a little ways into West Bali [Towards Negara]. We rode down a few streets and immediately saw the Balinese culture and religion of Hinduism through the never-ending temples. Miniature temples can be found at every home and business. The vast majority of the Balinese people believe in Agama Tirta or the “holy-water religion”. It is a Shivaite sect of Hinduism.

We stopped a few miles into our ride to get some water to fill our camelbacks and bike bottles. The sun was beating down, our packs were heavy, our bike seats tiny and hard, and our helmets lacking padding and protection, but we were excited and happy. We saw rice fields and construction, amazing architecture, and roadside “warungs” or little shops selling everything from water and Sprite to fried bean paste to candies to incense to gasoline in glass bottles. We continued on our trek, shortly coming to a “secondary” road. In other words, not the main road that was our destination. We were immediately aware of the immense amount of traffic. While our back and “tertiary” roads were nice and beautiful, the majority of these roads do not run east-west in direction. There is one main road that run east-west that we had to take to our destination.

We biked along, going up and down hills and around steep curves, trying to stay away from speeding cars and motorbikes [the primary method of movement on the island]. After another good hour of riding, sweating, coughing because of the immense amount of air pollution and exhaust from the motorbikes and cars, and literally almost getting hit by cars at least 5 times each, we admitted defeat. There are close to no traffic lines or signs in Bali. In fact, almost a week of being in Bali as I write this post, I have only seen one traffic light and it was flashing yellow. Cars and motorbikes just go on their merry way and don’t take others into consideration [certainly not bicycles]. Any motor vehicle turning left, in fact, does not even look right to see if anyone is coming, they simply go without stopping trusting that if they will get slammed by a car, that car will honk first. Unfortunately, with our bicycles, we did not have horns, let alone bells, let alone some road presence other than looking extremely out of place.

When we originally headed out on our tour via bicycle, we were not doing so because of the book Eat Pray Love. , but I have read several articles in books and online stating how people show up in Bali thinking they’ll be able to bike around on desolate flat roads past rice fields in a nice cool breeze [as in the book and movie]. These articles warn you that no, that is not the case. As someone who has tried and failed, DO NOT try to ride a bicycle around Bali unless you have a death wish. We are pretty adventurous people and true, there are some areas that are less crowded and easier to go around, but honestly, we pulled over after a truck almost pummeled me and decided that we would rather live than live the “adventurous, crazy, try to bike around an island that has a population of 3 million people” life. In the end, we wanted to enjoy our trip and the sights and sounds, not constantly be worried about being hit by a car or motorbike.

Furthermore, we decided that we did not want to use a rental car for the entire trip. The majority of cars here in Bali are manual, so finding an automatic would have been impossible. Driving here also requires an international license, something that you need to apply for in your home country. So, what to do? Interestingly enough, many Indonesians [in Jakarta, for example] have their own drivers. This was also an option in Bali. We decided against that as well. Instead we thought we’d be best getting rides between our housing locations and then using our bikes when we had the opportunity or otherwise exploring via foot in towns.

So, where that found us was sitting on the side of the road by one of the many street ditches that is basically used to capture trash and runoff. Speaking of trash, when we had stopped earlier for a bottle of water [it’s not safe to drink the tap water here], the plastic wrapper flew off the table and I went running after it. The woman who sold us the water just laughed and waved her hands to tell us, “oh don’t worry about the trash, just let it go”. Very surreal. Anyway, back to our ditch. Wild chickens and dogs wandered around and motorists whizzed past. We called Puri Dajuma and asked if they had a driver available to pick us and our bikes up. They did not, so we asked them to call us a taxi. We settled in, dejected and depressed at our failed attempt at “Biking Bali”, but happy that we would live to see another day. We settled in to wait.

At one point two dogs were playing around across the street. We watched as a third came up and barked and bit one of the other two on the leg. That dog whipped around and bit the third dog who was backed and pushed into the street. Not even 2 seconds later, a van hit and rolled over the dog… and just kept on going without so much as slowing down. We literally saw the dog roll under the car. I have never seen anything so absolutely disgusting or depressing in my life. At that moment I questioned our trip to Bali. I know that wild dogs are big here and they are EVERYWHERE and there are no sidewalks and I’m sure dogs are hit about 10,000/day, I had just never seen it so close and so real. I immediately missed Franklin and wondered how he was coping with our departure [his house sitters are loving on him more than we were I think].

About 1.5 hours later we were still waiting and it was starting to get dark. A van seemed to slow down and waved so we figured it was the taxi driver. He pulled over and Andrew went to talk to him. A 10-minute conversation later, we were loading our bikes into the trunk of a man’s van [NOT our taxi driver, just an Indonesian who offered to give us a ride]. We loaded into the van and headed off for our next adventure. We were thankful that he stopped and picked us up and yet wondering at the same time, do Indonesians often offer to drive strangers stranded on the side of the road? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is that the man who drove us to Puri Dajuma was and is my angel and night in shining armor. Without him, who knows how long we would have sat along that side of the road. Who knows if the taxi driver would have shown up. Who knows what the night would have served to us. About another hour driver later, the van pulled down a steep incline, through a gorgeous temple-like gate, and in front of a beautiful, open-air reception area. We thanked our night in shining armor profusely, gave him a healthy tip, and dragged our dirty and abused, pollution-covered bodies onto the nice comfy-looking couches. Minutes later, we were handed large glasses of watermelon juice and welcomed with open arms.

Needless to say, we had some re-arranging and shifting of plans to do. A big shout out to all the Indonesians who were nice to us and helped us that first day. It was tough and exhausting and enlightening.








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Welcome to Bali: Enjoy Your Stay and the Traffic

Arriving into Bali was something else altogether for me. I flew from Perth, Australia on Air Asia [the plane was comfortable, the crew spoke in Indonesian and English, the flight was pretty short– about 3.5 hours]. When we landed, we disembarked on the runway itself. We then all loaded onto a bus shuttle, crammed in like sardines [but part of the fun!] and the bus drove us about 2-3 minutes to the entry way of customs/border patrol. They drove us right through what looked like doors of a temple. How cool. How different. This, my first experience in Asia, I was extremely excited to see the different architecture and design.

Anyway, on to the airport. When you arrive in the airport there are a handful of people there holding signs. If you have a person waiting for you, you wave and that person sprints to one of the lines for visa payment to make sure that you are first. I did not have such a person waiting for me, so I made my way groggily over to the lines and hopped into one– only about 2 people back! Turns out, waiting to be one of the last people off the plane has its advantages! The visa fee is $25US or the equivalent in Indonesian Rupiah [IDR]. You pay your money, show your passport, and receive a receipt. Then you move on to the customs lines. When you get called up, they look at your passport, look at you, then attach the visa to your passport [a sticker!] and sign it and let you go on your way. Next you grab your bag[s] if you checked them, place them on an x-ray belt where they are simply scanned through [I’m not sure if anyone was actually watching the scan screens to be honest]. Finally, you either walk to the “red line” where you go if you declared anything on your card or the “green line” if you didn’t declare. You hand your card to the guy standing there, or in my experience, you watch people walk by and drop their cards on the table while the guy speaks to one of his buddies and just like that, Welcome to Indonesia!

When I walked out the front doors of the airport,I noticed several things: 1) about 150 people crowded around the doors with signs with different names of people on them [hotel drivers and hired drivers] as well as a handful of people waiting for others to arrive; 2) a bunch of guys walking around offering taxis or private drivers; 3) warm and damp air; and 4) a giant billboard reading, “Welcome to Indonesia, Enjoy Your Stay.” I was actually expecting more of a push for Indonesian language, but alas, everyone in the airport spoke English and it seemed, so did the advertisements in Bali!

I found Andrew sitting under said billboard on the grass. We had actually told our hotel ahead of time our flight information, so the driver came to pick us up. Finding him was a bit complicated as there were so many people crammed around the door, but after a short search, we found him and headed off towards the car [he had parked about a 5-10 minute walk away].

This is where I’ll pause for a moment. I had heard and read about drivers in Indonesia. My understanding was that they were fast, didn’t follow traffic signs, and there were a lot of them. What I wasn’t prepared for is the crazy, chaotic patterns and ways of driving that I experienced on the way to the hotel. First, I think that perhaps there are 5 traffic lights in all of Indonesia. They just don’t exist. Second, Indonesian drivers do not stop or yield or pause when turning left. They simply go and turn and trust that if someone is coming that person will honk their horn. Which brings me to point three, horns are used a lot, but not in a mean way. They are used as a way of saying, “Hey, I’m here, just wanted to let you know”. Next, drivers have no problem swerving around each other and/or driving on the wrong side of the road [and I don’t mean wrong side of the road for US folks, I mean wrong side of the road for Indonesian folks]. Apparently, there is no wrong side of the road. Our driver literally straddled the center line of the road the entire hour-long drive to our hotel in Canggu.

On the insistence of the Infinity Mountain Biking Company that we had been in discussion with prior to our trip, we had chosen a hotel they recommended out in Canggu; a little further away from the Bali Airport because of the traffic. Our plan was to spend our time in Bali biking from place to place [making a loop around the island and also into the middle/central portions of the island where the volcanos are]. The hotel they recommended was the Legong Keraton Beach Hotel. Here, they would deliver our mountain bikes in the morning.

Because of airline delays, we didn’t end up getting into the hotel until around 2:00AM, but from what I saw that late/early, it was beautiful. Situated right on the beach, Legong Keraton features spacious rooms with connected balconies that overlook tropical vegetation and trees. We quickly settled in and caught some rest. In the morning, around 7:00AM, we received a call stating that our bikes were there. We headed downstairs and met with a group of about three guys from Infinity Mountain Biking. The bikes were really nice: One Giant and One Polygon. We were handed two sets of bike gloves, two helmets [not sure they had quite the same padding amount as in the states, but they would serve their purpose], one bike lock [we were a little leery of that], two water bottles, a bike multi-tool, two extra bike tubes, a patch kit, and we were offered but declined a backpack. There was also supposed to be a pump, but I guess they forgot it. Andrew asked if it would be easy to find a pump if we needed one. After some talking back and forth, they agreed that they would return with a bike pump in about an hour. We handed over $600US [well, the equivalent in Rupiah] as a bike deposit. The total for all of the gear and the bikes for 12 days [including delivery today and pick-up at a hotel in Ubud 12 days from now] was $240US. So, when they come to pick up our bikes in Ubud, they’ll return the deposit minus the $240US. Not too bad for a week of traveling.

When they headed out to get the pump, we headed to breakfast. There is a restaurant at the hotel and breakfast was included in our stay. We entered the open-air dining area and were instantly greeted by a woman who offered to cook us eggs. Andrew ordered ham and cheese eggs and I ordered mixed eggs, no meat. My eggs turned out to be: cheese, mushrooms, peppers, and onions. Yum. In addition, there was a buffet style set-up with strawberry juice, water, coffee, tea, cereals, fresh fruit [pineapple, yellow watermelon, and papaya], beef sausage, and nasi goreng [nasi = rice, goring = fried]. The breakfast nasi goreng was vegetarian and had egg, onion, and some chilies in it. Yum!

We dined on a patio overlooking the manicured lawns, palm trees, and beach. While the lawns looked fake, they were still nice and it was very obvious how much time and care was put into keeping them looking perfect. About half-way through our breakfast, infinity mountain bikes returned with our pump and after a handshake and a wave, they were off. We headed back to our room and set about discarding things we didn’t need from our bags and repacking them in an effort to minimize the weight of our packs. At the end of the day, we had about 50lb packs. They were too heavy.

Andrew had also asked if we could store an extra bag at the hotel for about a week [stuff leftover from working in Jakarta for the past 3 weeks]. The hotel said sure no problem and didn’t even charge us! With a few more checks of our gear, we double-checked our maps and headed off down the road to begin our cycling adventure!

Pictures to be added: poor internet connection here!!

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Vacation for a Good Cause: Arthritis

Hello Friends:

Well, we’re about a month and a week away from a super crazy vacation for a good cause: arthritis. September 28th October 5th, Andrew and I will be biking 525 miles from San Francisco to Santa Monica, CA in the name of arthritis. We’ll be heading off with Andrew’s brother, Austin, and their cousin, Alex, along with a bunch of other folks from around the country.

This event is very personal to me, as I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), a form of arthritis of the spine and back, less than 5 years ago. Injectors and ice in toe, we’ll be biking and camping along the Pacific Coast Highway and trying to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation and Arthritis Research.

We’re planning on getting some posts up here on the blog and also on twitter. Our twitter handles are @leachleachleac and @klasicm. Hope to see you there!

If you’re interested in donating (any amount is great), here’s the link to my page:
If you’re interested in reading about why we’re riding, here’s the link:

In the meantime, we’re getting ready for our next adventure: training for the California bike ride by biking in Bali, Indonesia for 10 days in early September!

See you around!


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