After an eight hour flight from Australia, we arrived in Denpasar with bicycles in our luggage. After a short wait for customs and immigration procedures, we were surprised to quickly find our cab driver among hundreds of drivers displaying signs for arriving passengers. He welcomed us with a smile, and we squeezed the bikes into the car for the drive to our accommodation, far away from Kuta. The driver stopped for tobacco (a normal routine in Bali), which delayed our arrival, so we had only a snack before we feel asleep on our first night in Indonesia. The next morning, after an Indonesian breakfast (Gado Gado and Nasi Pecel), we were ready to explore a new culture, change money, and learn how to cross the streets swarming with scooters and cars.
Bicycle Adventure Begins
On day 2, we loaded our bicycles and went for a ride to Ubud. I had to get used to the weight of my bags in slow traffic next to hundreds of scooters, though the ride became easier after we left the main streets and saw our first rice paddies. Sweat streamed down our faces, and the smell of incense surrounded us all day, as it did for most of our adventures in Bali.
Wedding in Indonesia
Eventually, we crossed a little side street and ended up surrounded by rice fields. A naked man took his morning shower in the fields as we passed. The path became too bumpy to ride, so we walked. After three hours, we arrived in Ubud, a city with many tourists and many monkeys. A monkey stole the sugar from my afternoon coffee. We stayed at a homestay outside the city and attended a colorful weekend wedding ceremony that included traditional foods, cooked all night. Food that is not and is not often available for tourists. A few nights before the wedding, I even heard the sounds of a sacrificed pig that was a wedding gift to the married couple.
The next destination was a Dutch-influenced mountain town: Bedugul. Thanks to the Dutch colonists who imported spices and fruits to this area, Bedugul has strawberry sellers every two meters. Close by is Ulundanu, a floating temple where we found a hidden free back entrance.
Since we were high in the mountains, the next day was an all-down hill ride. My hands started hurting after pulling the brake handles for two hours, and I was to afraid to have a look at my brake pads, which sounded worn out. People in villages we passed were amused to see us riding on bicycles. That night we stayed in Lovina. Except for a family festival on the beach, we can’t really recommend this touristy town. A smaller and way better option is Pemuteran, a small relaxing town with good restaurants (warungs) and snorkelling.
After a few days there, we continued early in the morning to avoid the heat and found the ferry to Banyuwangi, Java. Like many other tourists, we went to see the blue fire at Ijen crater. Our tour guide, Tom, was excellent and answered all our questions. He was an active sulphur miner for over 15 years and stayed with us by the sulphur lake after all the other tourists left.
For the next destination, we decided to take the 13-hour train to Yogyakarta. Eventually, we were able (through an improvised “black market”) to put the bicycles on the same train, which was impossible a day before, when we asked. In Yogyakarta, we planned to take transport to our homestay, but our bicycles didn’t fit in any cab. Finally, a friendly guy offered to lead us all the way through the city with his car while we followed on our bikes. After 20 minutes, three scooter riders followed us as well, and talked with us as we dodged the evening traffic. Our packed bicycles must have looked interesting, but I was happy when we arrived at the traditional homestay after a long ride through the city.
The next three days were filled with city adventures, food discoveries, markets, temples, dances, and good-byes to a country with culture, soul, scooters, rainforests, delicious warungs, monkeys, bananas, sarongs, coffee, chickens, and smiles!
Terima Kasih Indonesia