It was so good to get on the bike and go. We headed off around 8am, ponchos in hand. You never know quite what the weather’s going to do here. It’s our day off. Let’s go and find out.
Over the years, and in everywhere we’ve lived, we’ve found that we share a love for exploring. Quite simply, all we do is set off with a direction not a destination. We have a look at the map, get orientated and then go. We love it. Simple discoveries that may have been taken for granted become memorable discoveries. And decisions of which turn to take at a junction become full of intrigue. We can always retrace the way we came anyway.
So we set off from the coast and headed towards the centre of the island. That was it. The whole plan. As we motored through the first set of rice fields we caught sight of our first Balinese mountains. Neatly laid out across the horizon. They looked as if they each stood alone like a monument. Llittle did we know how far we would climb through them later on.
One of the beauties of the bike is that it’s even easier to stop and check things out. Far from whizzing along we found ourselves ‘pootling’ through these fascinating new landscapes. A roadside river with a small waterfall. The back gardens of houses sprawling over a hillside. The endless roadside temples and ornate balinese family homes. It was sunday, and every village was making huge temporary statues of Ogres! Guessing this is part of the upcoming new year festivities (which includes an entire day of silence for the whole island!) Huge 20- 30 foot statues were being made of gruesome Ogres. I can’t wait to see them in procession.
A pet love (is that the opposite of a pet hate?) of mine are the words and phrases you come across when travelling. I love to roll new unfamiliar words over and over. Guessing meanings and pronounciations, and laughing at what it could possilby mean if you took it literally in english. We saw a guy at a birthday party later on in the day wearing a t shirt with a cup of coffee on it. It simply read ‘Fuck Cups’. Love it.
We carried on toward the mountains and all of a sudden there were tourist buses everywhere. And massive fruits. I mean huge. Like the size of 3 year old kids. Seriously, google ‘giant jack fruit’ and you’ll see what I mean. Literally the size of 3 year old humans. They were everywhere. Stall after stall after stall of these gargantuan beasts. Slightly intimidated we kept on rolling by. If I find out what all the buses were there for I’ll let you know.
From then on the road bent uphill. And it didn’t stop. Our little moped handled the entire trip courageously as the long straight roads started folding into excessively steep hairpins.
And then came the view. Looking southeast, a wide expanse of lowlands. Two volcanic peaks in the distance to the left and the coastal islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida straight ahead. It was hazy and the air temperature was starting to get very fresh too. Time to switch from vest to t-shirt. It wasn’t yet time to double up my layers.
Switching to downhill is always a strange experience after a consistent climb. The wheels roll freely, there is an absence of engagement in the engine and everything gets quieter. This vacuum was soon replaced with an instant heavy downpour. It was time for a break. The ponchos can wait. We saw a sign for a farm/restaurant up a track. It turned out to be incredible.
The restaurant was a wooden structure that jutted out over a playground with a wide view of a lake beneath a mountain. All around were trees, tall bamboo and small huts. It was proper junglistic.
There was even, to our amusement, a birthday party in full swing. The MC was rocking the party beats and the crowd were loving it. In a post lunch digestive haze (best chips so far in Bali!) I suddenly jogged into cognition: I know this tune! It was only one of the first keyboard pieces I learnt to play a couple of years ago. So that’s how it’s meant to sound. It’s called Sakura which means cherry blossom in Japanese. Cherry Blossom is one of Jen’s absolute favourite things…..
We wandered the orchid garden, Jen got attacked by a massive turkey, (no really, we were beating it off with our bags and we had to be rescued!) We found Buddha statues throughout the grounds and then a beautiful nest of yurts that were big enough to accomodate a lot of people. It would be an epic place to have a party. Even a wedding. We called the place Bali Matara as it struck parallels with our wedding venue back in England.
Back out onto the road and within 5 minutes another congregation of buses appears. We roll past slowly, eyes wide, what’s it all about? The flash of a sign for a water temple. Looks pretty cool. Let’s do it.
‘He’s my husband’, Jen replied. ‘Wow!’ Came the reply. We laughed as we remembered that now we too were part of the tourist attraction. By now I imagine we are all over Indo facebook 🙂
The Lake and the Temple
A badass temple sits in the lake just off the shore. It’s a beauty, with many ‘meru’s’ or layers of roofs stacked high. I think this indicates the level of spiritual importance. This is one of the lakes that drains into the irrigation channels of the island. I’d say that’s pretty sacred. The heavy black clouds that darted instantly over the adjacent mountain only added to the ambiance.
The Homeward Bungee
We decided to head back towards home. Retracing our tracks down the mountain would be fine. Still a new experience. A quick check on the map showed a possible new route that would lead us back toward a main road on the west of the island. It was 2:30pm loads of time before it gets dark. Let’s do it!
There is a completely different experience between heading away from, and heading towards home. That instant fear that the fun is coming to an end can only be played with through distractions. We took lots of little detours to delay the imminent return home. This IS our day off after all!
The change of direction was amplified by the mountains. The persistent effort of gaining height into the mountains was now completely inverted. It was like the mountains couldn’t wait to get rid of us. Now the breaks on the bike became a constant necessity as these smaller back roads warped and weaved down mega inclines. I am glad its not raining right now.
The quietude and the views all made it worth it. Breathe it in. Smile it out.
We wound down the back roads through villages of open mouthed and then spontaneously-happy-to-see-us locals.
The roads got bigger, the houses denser. We followed the main routes toward Tanah Lot, the well photographed island temple just 30 minutes north of our house.
We heard it was touristic and they were right. Maybe luckily it was cloudy and there would not be the epic sunset that this place is famous for. It was beautiful. And busy. Our second ‘tourist attraction’ of the day started to weigh heavily. After being whipped along the conveyor belt pathways, we took a back seat to gather our rapidly fraying patience and goodwill.
Spirits in tact we recalibrated our raison d’etres and were able to enjoy it more. Enjoy the crowds. Enjoy the hanging bat with his lil’ cock and balls hanging perfectly for all to see. Enjoy finding out what Luwak Coffee is. (No thanks!) Enjoy watching the big python (from a distance).
We had a quiet beer overlooking the temple as the sky darkened and the crowds dispersed. A short ride home, some local food and an epic video call to Sarah Boo. I love my adventure days.