Day 5: Cycling from the mountains to the sea, Batur to Candidasa

Posted: June 10, 2010 in Cycle touring Mountain biking Bali, Indonesia 2006, 2008
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Thursday May 11, 2006, 70 km (43 miles) – Total so far: 130 km (81 miles)


We ride much longer distances today and some of it doesnt even involve pedalling. Today’s ride from the mountains to the sea is a mix of 10 rolling kms on a crater road, 3 kms hitching a ride out of the main crater, 20 kms downhill, 25 km cross country, another 10 km down hill to sea level and 5 kms to the beach at Candidasa.

We rode out on the 10 kms on the winding road carved out from the lava beds of Mt Batur to the next village of Kedisan. It’s here that the road starts it’s steep 3 km climb out of the main crater to Penelokan. From the crater’s rim you have a choice of cycling or rather freewheeling downhill one of 5 roads to the south of Bali. All too soon I heard a familiar voice shout out ‘Transport!’ It looked like one of Daddy’s relatives, a mechanic who got a bunch of kids to push start his pick up. After we loaded up, 3 kids jumped in. There was a 2 week school break and today’s lesson in economics is, there’s money to be made when you convince bike tourists that the road is long and steep. I know. The speedometer goes up to 60 km per hour on the longest straight here, going downhill that is. We didnt start off that early today so some cheating was in order. Besides it is not much fun cycling next to those dump trucks belching black smoke each time they change gears passing you by. For $3.50, we can get our own fresh exhaust fumes sitting in our pick up. On one nasty switchback, most vehicles will be spinning their rear wheels, crawling uphill a few feet at a time. When an engine stalls, I’ve seen some drivers hop out, large rock in hand ready to be stuffed behind a rear wheel. The process repeats itself until they reach a flat spot and gun their engines again for the final few metres. The lifespans of engines are quite short here.

This is the harbour (well they call it a harbour) where boats go to Trunyan It didnt take long before someone came by, expounding the wonders of the village and its odourless corpses. From the general state of the boats here, it looked like business was as flat as the lake’s surface. We had our clearest views of Mt Batur and its smaller cones thus far and we were glad that we did all our mountain climbing in previous years. It takes about 2 to 3 hours to reach the summit where the views are nothing short of spectacular. Guides will prepare a breakfast of boiled eggs and steamed bananas. Just find a hissing, steaming vent and put in the eggs and bananas and wait a few ninutes. The mountain does the rest. I like to climb just after daybreak as I like to see where I’m going.

Usually a few village kids will tag along and soon enough there’s a platoon of villagers ‘guiding’ two or three foreigners on an open trail where you ‘might get lost’ and all will expect something from you. Some will carry a pail full of bottled drinks and bottled water where the price at the summit reaches new heights. How do you not buy a drink from a 5 year old shoeless kid who does this every other day? Whip out your Camelbak and offer him a drink for his efforts. Opening a wallet just creates a mob scene. I usually fold some Rupiah and pass it on quietly. If you buy bottled water look closely at the seal and bottom of the bottle. Some crafty buggers are real good at quickly opening the plastic seal with a covered hand and if the clear water tastes funny, you’ve just paid $2 for water, fresh from the lake. If you need to deal with officialdom like the Association of Mt Batur Trekking Guides, a big name for the local trekking mafia, stick to your guns and bargain hard. Rates range from $30 to $200 per person! depending on how rich you look. They’ve got all the trailheads covered, scuffles have broken out and parked rental cars damaged if you decide to climb unguided. According to Daddy with all the bad press from Looney Planet guidebooks (yes I know it’s Lonely P, but Looney sounds more accurate) and the many bad experiences from climbers in the last few years, the trekking mafia have actually mellowed. No more verbal threats and rates in US dollars. Yesterday I saw camera flashes going off from the hundred or so climbers at the summit of Batur.

Leaving Penelokan we took a final look at the whole crater before turning our wheels downhill to the crossroads town of Bangli. This is quite a major road with large white tourist buses heading uphill to Batur. It was still early and we had our lane to ourselves, chatting and overtaking slower traffic at 50 kmph. Most were women on motorcycles coasting in neutral gear presumably to conserve some petrol. Never had that problem with our bicycles. Just numb sleepy legs when the odd incline appeared. We reached Bangli in about 40 minutes and were already more than halfway to the coast as the crow flies. The island’s only mental hospital is in Bangli and the people here are usually the butt many jokes, crazy or otherwise. The cool climate here is supposedly calming for frazzled minds. It was almost mid day and we stopped to get some rubbery hamburger and a hot dog from a bright orange mobile bakery. Dessert was a couple of Lemon Zest Cliff Bars from a dozen or so that I was carrying.


What lies after the road disappears into a steep ravine? It’ll cross a bridge and the climb out the other side always seem steeper. This went on for about 15 dizzying kms from Bangli to Rendang. I think our tandem (meaning I) would probably under steer into some of the 180 degree hairpin bends here.

A Kodak or rather Canon moment that shows up every time we ride this inland cross country road from Rendang to Amlapura, the district capital on Mt Agung’s southern flanks. 25 kms of the real Bali in different shades of green. This road also passes through a few sleepy villages, but mostly through shady salak (a small, scaly skin custard like fruit) plantations, going downhill with wide sweeping bends almost like a Moto GP racetrack for another 20 kms or so, but we’re turning right at Putung where a more direct and steeper backroad will bring us closer to a small beach village at Candidasa on Bali’s south eastern coast.

There was a little bit of drama when Coleen used the restroom at the Putung guesthouse, a supposedly local government run establishment. While she was in the ladies, she saw an eye peering through the door’s keyhole. Stretching out her hand to cover it and then removing it the eye was still there! She was more amused than shocked at this guys persistence or stupidity, and as I showed up I saw someone running away. Looking through the keyhole I saw nothing more than a narrow view of its rusty insides. Peeping is a minor pastime in some Indonesian hotels. If you happen to see a band aid or crumpled tissue stuck on your bedroom or bath room wall check again. It’s there for a reason! I went in next leaving the door wide open so Coleen could peep all she wanted. The gents just smelt too funky for me. I did say it was a government run/ruined place.


Tonight’s rest stop is the ages old Kelapa Mas or Golden Coconuts Homestay right on the beach or what’s left of it. Boy was it hot and humid here after leaving the cool mountains. It was also our cheapest room thus far at Rp 100,000/$9 with 2 breakfasts. We decided against the Amankila Resort just a few kms before Candidasa. Hillside villas starting at $600 a night before taxes will just get you a private plunge pool, indoor jacuzzi, rose petals on fine thread Egyptian cotton bedsheets, personal butler to polish your bicycle, a spa therapist, all sorts of pampering and ¬†definitely no peepholes.


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