11 August 2010

CYCLING INDONESIA - Bali and Lombok



17 July - Situbondo – Gilimanuk - 90km

Ernest was still not well; I just yesterday thought he was getting better. We set off and soon encountered a rather stiff headwind, which just got worse as the day progressed. The road was not as flat as the day before but rather hilly in parts. Fortunately the hilly area was through shady forest. By the end of the day I had enough of battling into the wind.

At the dock in Ketapang we took the short ferry ride across the channel to the island of Bali. At last we arrived in Bali! I take my hat off to Ernest, who feels crap, but still manages to cycle 90km in a strong head wind (or is he just stupid??)

We were hardly off the ferry when we spotted a nice place advertising rooms, and what a delightful place it was, little bungalows in an overgrown garden, lovely!! I just hope the wind dies down during the night.


18 July - Gilimanuk – Medewi Beach - 59 km
The first part of the day we cycled through a national park and under a green canopy of trees. No wonder Bali is such a popular destination. It has more than just beaches! The Balinese Hindu culture is alive and well and I have seldom seen such a vast collection of Hindu temples and shrines. The towns and villages along the way had a strong ancient Hindu flavor reflected in the architecture and all the shrines - how fascinating!

Soon we reached the well known surfing spot of Medewi Beach. Close to the turnoff from the main road we found a good place to stay with an excellent menu! I don’t often cycle past places like this.

19-21 July - Medewei Beach – Denpasar (Capital of Bali) - 74km
Bali has everything to make it a true paradise; with its warm tropical climate and great beaches, good surf, palm trees and frangipanis. Add to that an evocative Hindu culture, green rice paddies and friendly Balinese and it is sure to be a winner. Typical island style there was plenty of fruit to be had along the way. Roadside stalls were selling bright red water melons, large yellow bananas, pineapples and mangoes.

The road down the west coast was fairly hilly and slightly windy, but we soon reached the capital where we had to stop for a day or two in order to inquire about a visa for Australia.

We did the necessary, filled in forms, made copies of what was required and handed in the forms. Then it was just a matter of waiting to see what will happen. In the meantime I was bored stiff. Time to move on and check on the progress of the visa later. There must be more to do on this holiday island than sitting in a city room staring at the ceiling.


22/28 July - Denpasar – Kuta Beach & Uluwatu - 10km/29km/28km
We saddled up and cycled the rather short distance to the famous or infamous Kuta Beach. It was a much closer than I had expected. It all came as a bit of a shock after such a long time in the rest of Indonesia. Tourists galore, narrow alleys lined with curio stalls, CD’s. T-shirts, surf shops, western restaurants, booze, tattoo shops and marijuana!! Gosh, I nearly fell over just witnessing it all!! We eventually found a reasonable room and parked off, absorbing it all.

The most wonderful thing about human beings is how quickly we can adapt to a new environment! Soon I was shopping, eating and drinking and nearly had a new tattoo!! I joined the beer swirling holidaying Auzzies and ate at Pizza Hut, swam in the ocean and spoke loads of shit with holiday makers from around the world, dogged curio sellers and anyone else trying to sell me a trip to a nearby island!

I was enthioasticaly telling someone about our trip, but he obviously did not me believe me. Definitely time to move on, I’ll say, before all my money is gone and people think we’re just making this up!

We biked down to Uluwatu Beach, one of the most famous surfing spots in Bali if not in the world. There was no accommodation at the surfing point, but most accommodation places where scattered along the hilly roads in the vicinity. We only stayed one night and decided to go back to Kuta, while still waiting to hear from the Australian Embassy.

Back in Kuta we found a better room at Sari Bali, lovely with balcony and pool. We lived in luxury, eating more pizzas and of course we also drank a few beers.

29 July - Kuta – Padang Bai - 61km
At long last we left the touristy area of Kuta and headed for Denpassar to pick up our passports at the application centre. We were eager to see if the visas had been granted and were rather relieved to see that a 3-month visa was securely pasted in our passports.

We headed off to Padang Bai to get a ferry for Lombok as we still had until 11th August left on our visas for Indonesia. We bought our flight tickets from Bali to Darwin for 10th August and could now relax and explore Lombok until it was time to leave Indonesia.

Bali is a smaller island than expected and the roads are good and scenic. So all in all an enjoyable ride with once again plenty of Balinese Hindu temples and shrines. Padang Bai is not only a ferry port but quite an enjoyable little village, with a small touristy sea-front where there were plenty of places to stay and eat. We found ourselves a cheap room (complete with sheets which has not been changed for months) and headed out to one of the small restaurants on the “strip”.

Ernest went wild and ordered a steak, big mistake! Although the steak was ordered “rare”, it was still cremated and resembled part of an old shoe sole, just as flat and just as tough (the accompanying French fries looked and tasted exactly like rice). My veg curry was a winner. Stick to the local food, that way you avoid disaster on a plate.

LOMBOK

30 June - Padang Bai, Bali – Senggigi, Lombok - 40km
We took the 10h00 ferry from Bali to Lombok, a 4-hour voyage. From the ferry port it was only 20km to the capital which we bypassed and headed up the coast to Senggigi, famed for its lovely beaches, and the most touristy place on Lombok island. Once there we discovered that most of the accommodation on the beach was too expensive for us - so much for the lovely beach where I envisaged myself in a bamboo hut with the water lapping at my feet.

In order to get out of our dark hole of a room, we headed for a local restaurant instead of cooking for ourselves. Ernest, at long last, had his fish which was not cooked to a frazzle, and was not served with scales and bones! I had fried veg and tofu, which was absolutely delicious; I was pleased we did not cook for ourselves.

31 July - Senggigi – Senaru - 85km
Most rooms in this part of the world come with a simple breakfast and this time it was no different. We ate our banana pancake, drank our coffee and soon were on our way again.

The road was a lot more hilly than expected and we huffed and puffed up the steep little hills and then flew down the other side. The ongoing road works made it even harder and while pushing up one particularly steep gravel hill a kind local motorbike passenger decided to help - but I think he underestimated the weight and soon abandoned me to my own devices.

As often happens the last 10km of the day was straight up the mountain! We were rather happy to reach some accommodation with excellent views of Rinjani (the well known volcano on the island). I was itching to do the trek up to the crater, but we have such little time left, that I gave it a miss.

1 August - Sennaru – Lanbuhan Lombok - 68km
After our usual banana pancake (tourist breakfast) we sped down the hill at breakneck speed, but once that was over it was back to the steep ups and downs again. The scenery was absolutely stunning and friendly kids cheered us on as we battled up the vertical road. A chorus of “Turist, turist” and “hello mister” could be heard as we cycled past small villages. I must admit my greetings seem to fade a bit towards the end of the day.

Shortly after lunch we reached Lanbuhan Lambok, the ferry terminal to Sumbawa island where we had been heading. After some consultation with the locals we decided to stay the night and only cross to the Sumbawa in the morning. We found a cheap “losmen” (local hotel), bought some things at the local market, and eventually Ernest found a decent White Snapper at a good price which he filleted and fried (he managed to eat up the whole thing – for the uninformed, I’m vegetarian).

2 August - Lanbuhan Lombok – Mataram - 75km
Somehow our plans changed during the night. For a number of reasons we decided to stay in Lombok instead of crossing the short strait to Sumbawa. The main reasons being that we both hate back-tracking (which, it seems, would have been necessary), we had no decent map of that island, and we were unsure of where to go once we got there.

We headed back in the direction of the Lombok capital, Mataram. A number of locals had reliably informed us that the main road back to the West coast was flat. Unfortunately (as in many parts of the world), “flat” seems to mean “straight”. We gradually climbed for some time, then some “up and down”, and eventually we had the gradual downhill run-in to the capital. The road was dotted with small villages where the horse and buggy is still in full use and seems to be the main mode of public transport around town. Farmers still plow their rice paddies with oxen and locals are amazed that we’re cycling to the next town! It’s rather useless telling them where we come from as its way off their radar.

In Mataram we found a nice room (recommended by the guide book), where we could unsaddle our own well-used horses. Ernest did his usual pm march around the markets, and as usual he returned with a refreshing local Bintang beer. Now we have a few days left before our flight to Darwin.

3 August - Mataram, Lombok – Padang Bai, Bali - 21km
We were rather slow at packing up. Eventually we had the bikes loaded and ambled along the road to the harbour for the ferry ride back to Bali.

We were just in time for the 12h00 ferry, along with trucks, busses, curio sellers and hawkers, we boarded the ferry for another 4-hour crossing back to Bali. The swell was rather large, making it difficult to walk around so we just settled in on a mat and ate Pop-Mie and selak (snake fruit, which we’d bought earlier along the way).

By the time we were off the ferry it was 16h30 so we once again found a room at the same hotel as the one we’d stayed in before we left for Lombok. It at least appeared that they had changed the sheets, although we were definitely not the first people to sleep on them, they were rather less “used” than on our previous visit.

4 August - Padang Bai – Amed - 56km
I knew we were just passing time in Bali before our flight out, so I was rather lazy to cycle. We eventually made a move and headed east and then north around the island. So off over the hills we went and what a stunning ride it was! Lush and green with rice paddies and temples made the ride a pure pleasure and I was happy to be on the bike. There seems to be frequent celebrations or festivals complete with people all dressed up in traditional clothes, dancers and local bands. This time, however, it could have been a funeral (who knows?).

Once over the eastern hills we sped down to the coast and in no time at all found ourselves in Amed, a very touristy area on the far eastern coast. We found a rather nice room (albeit pricy) on the beach and enjoyed a swim, a beer and some of the local food. Although the beach was a black volcanic pebble beach, the water was crystal clear and lukewarm.

5 August - Amed – Lovina - 85 km
We had a good tail wind for the first part of the ride, so we sped along a fairly flat road along the coast. Ernest bought a fish for supper at the local market down the road – a rather strange looking pike-like creature which he cleaned and deboned for hours. He was quite pleased with the end result, a fine meal of game fish fillet and fried noodles. It seemed to me that so much work should have produced a lot more fish – but then again, I’m very lazy when it comes to cooking food.

6 August - Lovina – Tangarang - 83 km
We had to head over the hills back south towards Denpasar and the airport, and as we’d expected it was a decent climb across this volcanic island. Then, as usual, we flew down the other side. The scenery was however stunning, and we had to stop to photograph the neat terraced rice paddies along the hillsides. We found an affordable room in the big town of Tangarang, about 20km North of Denpasar (not a touristy place, therefore the price was reasonable).

7 August - Tangarang – Kuta - 36 km
The ride to Kuta was fairly quick – with a bit of a rain shower along the way. We cycled around Denpasar city looking for an outdoor store which I’d spotted previously, but I was now unable to find it again. On the road from there to Kuta Beach we passed a good bike shop where Ernest bought a spare rim (cheap) – he wasn’t going to cycle through the Australian Outback without the necessary backup. So we headed on to Kuta, where we found a nice room at Sari Bali where we’d stayed previously. Now it was time to sort out the bags and the bike for our flight to Darwin, trying to reduce the weight as excess baggage can be very expensive.

8/11 August - Kuta – Kuta Airport - 7km
Ernest scrubbed and cleaned the bikes; we did laundry; sorted out our gear; and lazed around before our flight to Darwin Australia. Who the heck worked out the flight time table? Out flight was at 11pm arriving in Darwin at 3am, ghosh, what a time to arrive in a place! (The actual flying time was only 2h30m, but there is a time difference).

I was, however, quite excited to go and experience Australia, a new country and a new culture, after a very long time in Asia.

At last it was “Salamat Tingel dan Tarima Kashi” Indonesia. We cycled the short distance to the airport for our flight to Darwin. Once at the airport we expected to have to box the bikes, but there were no boxes available there. However, we were lucky to meet an extremely helpful Malaysian (Tan C K), who had just bought a bike in Bali - he phoned the bike shop to bring us 2 bike boxes, which they did. They also helped pack the bikes -gosh how nice is that.

The bad part was paying for our overweight baggage which, even after a discount, was still far more than the price of the ticket. Even on board there was no service whatsoever (without paying extra), not even a glass of water of a cup of coffee. Then they still wanted you to clean up and pack the seat-pocket in front of you neatly they way they want it. Well bugger that, they can repack their own brochures. Ha, ha, I suppose, that is what you call a budget airline!

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