Kuta: our last couple of days in Bali

We packed up in the morning as it was the last day in Pemuteran at the Taman Sari resort. Minggus transported us 5 hours across the island to Kuta where we stay for 2 days before we would fly back to Thailand to start our next leg of the trip.

As we drove in to Kuta we noticed how much busier things were, traffic was crazy, tourists everywhere and big franchise brands were everywhere. We had definitely left the sleepy northern part of Bali and entered a more commercial / tourist area.A

We checked into Hotel Santika, a five star luxury resort. Our room was huge and we were pretty stoked to finish our Bali adventure in style. Our first night in Kuta we were went for a fair well dinner with the Spice Roads team. Minggus fetched us in the van from Hotel Santika, then we drove about 30-40 min from Kuta to an area that I do not remember the name of.

Sam (the owner of Spice Roads Bali) was with us and he explained the area we were in for the fair well dinner is an area where a lot of Xpats live, he and his wife actually lived around there. Sam order a bunch of different things on the menu. While we waited for the food to arrive we were serinaded by a band who sang Bob Marley classics surprisingly well. When our food arrived we munched away at the many different dishes until everything was finished. What an awesome dinner! Afterwards, we watched some bad TV when we got back to our room and fell asleep.

The next day we woke up, Barbs and I went for a run along the walkway that shouldered the beach. The thing we noticed most was the disgusting state of the beaches, hotels cleaned in front of their area, but just next to that was litter galore! It’s really disturbing seeing such a potentially beautiful beach mauled by litter, we never see this sort of thing in South Africa.

After our run we had worked up an appetite, so we headed down to the breakfast room. The buffet breakfast spread was by far the best we had experienced to date. We had the choice of different cold meat, fish, fruits, pastries, juices, cappacino and lots more! It was quite a treat, both of us ate our fill and headed back our room.

We left our comfy hotel room to go out into the madness that is Kuta around 2pm. Our initial plan was to go to the spa for happy hour, buy 1 get 1 free, but they informed us we couldnt get the package we booked on that special even after I had confirmed the day before. I was not impressed, so we didn’t even go for a treatment.

Instead of going to the spa we decided to do some shopping with the last of our Rupiah. As we walked along, the local people were pushy and rude, trying to sell us crap. We were not enjoying the experience, none-the-less we had to get some gift shopping done. We decided to head back to hotel after a little bit of time on the street missioning. Neither of us were very interested in Kuta, it hadn’t “grabbed us” like the rest of Bali, more like repelled us from Kuta.

That evening we decided to pig out on Burger King fast food, so I headed out on my own to get the food. I place an order for what I wanted, paid with my credit card and got something completely different to what I ordered. I wondered why it was so expensive, it was because the person who took my order place 5 meal orders. I complained to the manager, he ended up giving me a complete refund and my dinner.

When I got back to the room I told Barbs what had happened, we ate the food and lay around bloated. I now had cash again, which I didn’t want, so I went out again to brave the madness and get a few last gifts for people back home. When that was done, I was truly done with Kuta, no more pushy sales people and rude Balinese!

We went to sleep, when we woke in the morning we headed to our favorite breakfast buffet room! Damn Hotel Santika rocks! After a phat breakfast we packed the last of our stuff and went to wait in the foyer for our airport taxi.

Minggus was supposed to pick us up at 9am, but nobody arrived, by 9:20am I called Sam and asked what was happening, we found out that Minggus wasn’t fetching, instead another person would fetch us. Now we were annoyed because we were late and didn’t know who and when we would be fetched. It ended up that the driver who was fetching us was not a regular driver for them, he didn’t bother letting them know he was stuck in traffic and only arrived at 9:50am.

We luckily got to the airport quickly, by about 10:10am. Sam had arranged an airport guide to take us through the motions at the airport, from security to checking in to paying airport taxes and then through immigration… Once we were through everything was fine and the stress of being late subsided!

The plane boarded on time and we headed to Thailand on our 4hr flight… Relief!

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Day 8 – Snorkelling on Menjangan Island

We were staying for two days at Taman Sari resort, that meant we didn’t have to rush to pack our bags and could instead relax. We had our breakfast before we started our bike ride from the resort.

We rode along the main road towards Gilimanuk, well before that we turned off on a small dirt road towards the pier for Menjangan Island. Our snokelling guide Deeka met us at the turn off to the pier and drove along with us to the pier.

We arrived at the pier, changed into swim gear, grabbed our snorkelling gear and boarded the slow boat to the Manjangan island. The boat trip across to the island was about 30 min. The first reef we stopped at didn’t look like much until we jumped in the water, as we swam along the reef we realized how spectacular the coral and fish looked. The reef was shallow and then dropped straight down to very deep with colorful fish and coral formations.

We found out that the Bali conservation department had an initiative going that was protecting and regenerating the coral reefs in the Manjangan island and surrounding area. We could see the difference, these were by far the best reefs we had ever snorkeled on.

After about 50min of snorkeling at the first spot we decided to move on to the next snorkeling spot. We left just in time because hordes of people on other boats started arriving. The next spot we moved to was near a temple with a huge Ganisha shrine, quite an interesting figure. The boat dropped us off and we snorkeled back towards the shrine, again the coral reefs were pristine and beautiful. This time we were out snorkeling for 40min, time flies when you are having fun.

Once we were done with the snorkeling the boat headed back to the pier. I had the idea that I would run the 10 km route back to the resort, I started off hard and fast, but due to the heat started slowing down after a few kilometers. Luckily Minggus decided to follow me in the van with Barbara. At about 5km to go I decided to get in the van because the heat and humidity was so bad that I was feeling dizzy.

After getting back to the bungalow, we showered, relaxed and then about an hour later went for a lunch. The rest of the day was mostly spent relaxing and reading. We ended the day with dinner and a night cap. Another chilled day in Bali.

Day 7 – Pemuteran

Barbara and I woke up at the Prana Dewi resort in our little cottage. The sound of frogs dissipated as the sun rose, when we opened our a couple of hours after sunrise all we could hear we’re decade Beatles and insects, the frogs had quietened. We stepped out of our cottage, to walk down to breakfast, and looked around at a paradise.

During breakfast, we found out from the person who served us that the resort was used for silent yoga and meditation escapes. I can imagine that the venue was perfect for this type of activity.

After breakfast we packed up and carried our bags down to the parking area. We drove to Lake Bratan next, I started my ride and everyone else stayed in the minivan. From the lake I rode up a steep climb with monkeys lining the road almost like fans in a bike race, difference was they didn’t cheer me and often bared their teeth because I got too close… Hahaha… You can always dream…. Maybe the book I have been reading called “The Secret Race” has been on my mind too much…

At the top of the climb we stopped above the Tamblingan and Buyan lakes for some pictures. There was a local Balinese guy with a selection of animals to add to the photos we were taking – python, iguana lizard, chameleon and fruit bat – These animals were in great condition, he even had a name for the python “Lacy”. The fruit bats were huge, fury and actually quite friendly.

Barbara and Ajus joined me just after Lake Buyan. Next we rode down steep rural roads towards the Banyuatis village known for coffee and cloves. More specifically this area has a creature (maybe a rodent) called a Luwak, the locals feed coffee coffee to this animal, the animal craps out the coffee beans almost whole and then they package the ground up version of the coffee for export. The coffee shit actually smelt pretty good, but it cost 4 times what the normal coffee cost… We skipped on buying Luwak shit even though it smelt great.

Afterwards we continued our north coast descent towards our final destination Pemuteran. It was amazing, we just kept riding downhill, it must have been about 20km later when we stopped riding downhill.

We eventually hit the flats and Barbara was still happy. We had about 45 km still to ride, Barbs stuck with Ajus and I for about 20km of the 45km. Then it was just Ajus and I. We kept riding, without Barbara I was able to lift the pace somewhat, but eventually I broke Ajus our guide. Once he broke I upped the pace by about another 5-7km per hour. I pushed hard and my heart rate increased. I was damaging myself, my sugar level was dropping and eventually I broke myself.

The minivan was waiting at one point, I grabbed a Winko aka coconut snack and some electrolyte drink to recharge. Eventually Ajus rejoined us, he looked pretty broken… Oh well… We had another few kilometers to ride before we got to Taman Sari Hotel.

We checked into the Taman Sari Hotel, the grounds were pristine and the room super comfortable. I spent the afternoon hanging out at the restaurant catching up on some email and work. My team were rocking it back home, I was really happy with the way things were going!

That evening we had a relaxing dinner at the restaurant and then went back to our room to read like the book worms we had become! Sleepy sleep…. Zzzzzzzz……..

Day 6 – Batukaru

We had a solid breakfast at our Ubud hotel then packed our bags into the van so we could drive to the start point for the day’s ride.

On the drive up the mountain to the Baturiti fruit market the guys dropped me off so I could get some extra training in before Barbara joined. During the ride up I snapped my chain, I had been pushing the bike pretty hard for the previous 5 days. The minivan had driven on to the fruit market, so I had to run bike with the broken chain, luckily I didn’t have to run far to the top of the climb and could free wheel down to the fruit market.

As I free wheeled into the fruit market I saw the minivan with Barbara, Ajus and Minggus. I brought a tool kit along with some master chain links, I didn’t think I would actually use the tool kit, so was kinda stoked that I could use it at least once. While Ajus was fixing my chain he had about 5 okes helping him or trying to, they didn’t have a clue and Ajus did, it was kinda annoying.

While the chain fixing was going on I was being badgered by a “Rolex” watch salesman. This guy tried me and I said no, he kept trying and then popped the obligatory question “where are you from”, I said “South Africa” and he suddenly switched to Afrikaans, I was kinda impressed, he could see that….This meant he kept trying to sell me a watch, eventually he gave up and walked round the van to my wife… Barbara’s first reaction was no, but he kept going, he told her he had a selection of swatch watches too… Barbara’s response was “I already have a swatch”, she really did have a real Swatch, the guy kept trying to sell he a fake Swatch… This left an annoyed feeling… Oh well… Mini rant done!

From the fruit market we headed up into a village / area called Candi Kuning. I rode up to the top while the other drove in the minivan. We rode down through precision farm lands, I could not help but note that the rows of vegetables and herbs were perfectly laid out. I saw the following – lettuce, coriander, chillies, pumpkin, cucumber, beans, tomatoes, carrots, egg plants, even tobacco and a random greenhouse with orchids. I would go as far to say that these were the best farm lands I have seem ever.

INTERESTING FACT: The farm workers were fertilizing the rows of plants with rice husks, that was good to see because it meant that the people were reusing island resources.

After the farm lands we rode through Bedugul forest area, which consisted of a network of muddy single track trails. Lovely trails! After the forest trails we rode to Jatiluwih for lunch. The restauarant we ate lunch at overlooked the rice paddies. Afterwards i found out that this area is a Unesco protected area. They are some of the oldest terraced rice paddies in Bali.

After Jatiluwih I rode alone to Mt Batukaru village where we stayed at Prana Dewi Bungalows. This small resort was picturesce and extremely peaceful. We stayed in a cottage in amongst the rice paddies. There were small stone paths leading to each cottage. The entire resort was empty and we were the only guests staying there.

After we unpacked we decided to pour a stiff whiskey, then take a walk around the beautiful grounds. Snap, snap, snap… We took loads of pics. The pool was a natural multi-level stone pool situated in the middle of rice paddie terraces. As the sun started setting we sat in a little open bamboo hut next to our cottage and sipped on another whiskey. The frogs, secada beatles and other insects starting making a incredible amount of noise, not really noise… It’s quite relaxing listening to nature make music.

After the sun had set we went to eat dinner, lovely tasty dinner! Mmmmmmmmm….. Afterwards we went back to our cottage and I finally finished the book I had been reading about Tyler Hamilton called “The Secret Race”. Once we fell asleep, we would slip in and out of deep sleep… The sound of frogs was overwhelmingly loud, but comforting at the sound time!

Day 5 – Loop ride in Ubud

In the morning I woke up at about 4:45am for some reason…. I was wide awake after having some good dreams, I had some ideas and inspiration in me that would not let me go back to sleep, my solution for this is usually to write a couple of notes down and go back to sleep. After writing down the couple of personal ideas down, then a flood of ideas for 2013 goals and aspirations starting pouring out. In my experience the best solution is to capture all of them, review them at a later stage and then delete the crap ideas.

By the time I had captured my ideas I was too awake to go back to sleep, it was only 5:45am, so I decided to work on my blogging for the holiday. I spent the next 1,5 hrs blogging about the past few days. Very satisfying. At about 7:15am I took a 30min power nap and then our alarm went off.

We had breakfast at our hotel. We had gottem used to packing after breakfast, but due to the fact that we were staying in Ubud for 2 nights, we didn’t need to pack up to go somewhere else, kinda relieved not to have to pack again.

Ajus and Minggus met us for our day’s ride around 8:45am. We headed out for what Spice Roads calls a “Loop ride in Ubud”. Ajus first took us to a local market up the road, I spotted a spice crusher bowl that would make the perfect gift for my mom, but decided to fetch it later that day. The market was a bit to much for our liking, people were too pushy and that put us off wanting to shop.

Next Ajus took us up a road we had walked the night before, but this time we went much higher up. The busy town of Ubud was slowly becoming a more sleepy less busy area with loads of rice paddies. We turned off and headed into the rice paddies. Seeing we had ridden up quite far via tar roads, now we had the opportunity to ride down through little single track paths in between rice paddies. I really love the way the terraced rice paddies look, it’s fascinating to watch how the farmers do things in Bali.

We were told that a Spanish artist had settled in Ubud quite some time ago, as a result he encouraged or inspired many new art galleries and artists to start up in Ubud. As we rode through the rice paddies we found a few art shacks with exquisite art. One specific place stood out to me, a lady and possibly her husband had a “shack” with interesting art works. The lady had a unique style that none of the other places displayed. She combined the aboriginal dot painting style with a Balinese style. I decided to buy a small painting for my office, very chuffed with the art work!

We headed on through the rice paddies, occasionally stopping to take some pictures, eventually we hit the streets of Ubud again. While riding along a road I spotted some parachute material hammocks. I decided to stop and investigate. The hammocks were well made and looked comfy! I asked what the single hammock cost and it turned out to be 130000 Rupiah which is about R130, in South Africa I had seen similar hammocks sell for over R1000. I bought two, one for Barbs and one for me.

Ajus took us further into Ubud and again back into rice paddies. We kept snapping picture after picture of this beautiful landscape. We noticed that it was becoming extremely grey and overcast, we started riding a bit quicker. As we got back to town we stopped for some tasty snacks where Minggus was waiting for us. After we got going a massive thunderstorm broke and the heavens opened up on us. Luckily we didn’t have too far to ride still.

We were having lunch at a restauarant called “The Pond”, but neither Barbs nor I were hungry after just having snacks. We were sopping wet and arranged with Minggus to come back for lunch later. We headed back to the hotel to shower change and hibernate until the storm ended. Mostly storms last 1-2 hrs, this storm was no different.

At 2pm we headed off to The Pond for lunch, the sky was blue again with some clouds. Seeing the restaurant was around the corner we decided to walk. Our waiter asked us the customary question of “where are you from”, when we said South Africa he switched to speaking to us in Dutch for the rest of our meal, this was quite entertaining. We were served a number of small dishes including some duck, not my favourite, but we ate the duck and actually enjoyed the new flavours.

After lunch we headed back to our hotel the long way. Barbs went straight back, while I headed off to run some errands like post a postcard, buy the spice crusher we had seen that morning and fetch the laundry. It was a long mission for me, the post office proved somewhat illusive and afterwards I made some poor choices on routes back to the hotel. All good, made for an interesting explorative mission.

Barbs and I decided to take a swim in the pool, I did a bunch of lengths to get a swim work out, but wasn’t feeling super strong. When I was done swimming Barbs and I went off to the monkey sanctuary to feed the monkeys. We bought our tickets and some bananas. Barbs was holding two of the bananas, we were strolling along, next thing she had a monkey trying to climb up her jump suit to get to the bananas…. The monkey nearly pull her jump suit down (she had not bra on), luckily Barbs reacted by throwing the bananas away and managed not to flash the people in the sanctuary!

As we strolled through the sanctuary we fed various monkeys, but out banana currency soon ran out and the monkeys lost interest in us. We snapped some pretty cool pictures of the bearded critters, so cute. I picked up some sweet potato that was put down for the monkeys and tried to feed one, but the monkey was dissatisfied with my offer and start to chase me baring his teeth… By this stage we had enough of the furry critters.

We relaxed back at the hotel while we waited to head off to our dinner at the Padi Prada restaurant. We had a similar dinner to our lunch, but instead of duck we got chicken fillet! Devine and scrumptious din-dins!

We decided to walk off dinner before bedtime, we went to sleep with full tummies and tired legs from walking and cycling all over Ubud for 2 days straight. Ubud was our favourite place and in the morning we were heading to another destination.

Day 4 – Arrival in Ubud

We left the hotel in Candidasa around 9am, drove about 40km first along the coast and then inland towards a town called Bangli. I have to comment on this… We saw one of our first traffic lights in Bangli, it’s strange to me that there are no traffic lights in sight, traffic somehow just flows!

Just outside Bangli town Minggus dropped me off along the side of the road. He said that there was a 15km climb ahead. I got started with the ride up the climb, within about 10 min it started raining, 10 min after that it was pouring harder than I have seen rain anywhere in a long time. The weather was still quite warm despite the rain and there was plenty of thunder and lightening. The climb was relentless, not a single downhill, it just went up and up, it got steeper as the road progressed.

Barbara was in the car behind me and she said that she was watching people as I rode past them in the rain, most people looked at me like I was a maniac, it is kinda crazy riding a bike in just my cycling pants while there is rain, thunder and lightening… One little boy looked at me from the side of the road, he had a look of understanding that only a child would have, I guess when we grow up we stop doing crazy things like riding around in the rain and that’s why people stared at me funny.

At the top of the climb i was quite thankful that the climbing had ended, it had been 1 hr of riding and my legs were feeling the pace I was pushing. Minggus and Ajus were waiting at the top, a place called Sakardadi. Ajus was going to join me, but only a bit later, so I rode alone for another 5 or 10 km, not sure of distance, was on a roll and riding hard.

Eventually the car turned off into a small tar road amongst farm lands. Ajus joined me and took me offroad, due to the rain Barbs decided to skip riding for the day. We rode through some farmlands, then had snacks, when we stopped Ajus said that we had set a new record, usually he rode that stretch in 1 hour, but we had taken 20min. The place we stopped somewhere near a village called Tano.

After snacks we hit the next stretch of offroad riding, awesome single track through forest, rice paddies and rural settlements. We stopped for lunch just outside of Ubud, Ajus said usually that stretch took 1,5 hours, we rode it in 30min, he looked exhausted. The place we had lunch was exquisite, we sat in little huts built over fish ponds that overlooked beautiful terraced rice paddies, idealic way to have lunch.

The last stretch after lunch was a short ride through the ride paddies into Ubud via back roads and small paths. Ajus and I arrived at the hotel much quick that Minggus and Barbara could drive.

Arrival at our Ubud hotel:

We checked into the Champlung Sari hotel where we would stay for 2 nights. The hotel looked pretty fancy with 2 pools, lovely gardens and interesting old & new architecture. We settled into room and I left Barbara to relax while I went out for a short 30min run. During my run I did a little bit of scouting to see what was where in the surrounding area.

Once i got back to the hotel from my run, i had a quick shower, then headed out again to drop off our laundry and buy some beer / snacks from the Cirlce K shop near by. We relaxed in our room and drank a phat G&T.

That evening had a free dinner night, which meant we had to buy our own dinner. During my run I had scouted out where we could go that evening. Ubud was a lot more commercial and tourist focused that the previous few days, but still had an interesting charm despite the tourist focus.

Barbara and I headed out from our hotel and walked up a busy road, our first stop would be to change some money at the “Money Changer”. We were keen on a beef burger with chips, so thats what we deced would be our new mission. Finding a place we liked proved to be harder than we thought, after walking around for over an hour looking at what Ubud had to offer we found a place Oops Bar. They had a cheese burger on the menu, mmmm,…. They also claimed to have the best mojito’s in Ubud and it was happy hour buy two for the price of one. Our meal was delicious and i must say they made pretty damn good mojito drinks too!

Barbs was stuffed, but I still wanted to find desert. On our walk around we had seen a Gelato Ice Cream shop, I was sold, I wanted two scoops In a cone. I choose blueberry and chocolate, what a perfect mix of flavours.

On the way back to our hotel I suggested to Barbs that we pop by a “spa” place we had liked earlier that evening. It’s was a humble little place, not too fancy, but we got a good feeling about it. We choose their Trinity package for 150000 Rupiah each equivalent to R150 back home. We got 2 hours with a Balinese massage, a facial and special head massage to end off the session. After that we headed off to bed around 11 pm.

Day 3 – Candidasa

During the Spice Roads Bali trip Ajus and Minggus will mostly return home to Kuta every day, but Amed is a little too far for them to drive home so they stayed the night in Amed. We woke up fairly early 7:30am and had breakfast next to the sea. It’s so peaceful listening to the waves break while you drink your morning coffee and eat breakfast.

The start of the ride would be about 20-25km away, but I opted to cycle to the start instead of drive, Barbara was in car while I rode the route from Amed to Ababi. We started the ride on a small tar road with our guide Ajus. After a bit of riding we hit a climb. I connected Barbs up to the tow rope anid towed her up a 7km climb.

On the way up the climb in they Sibetan village area we had a break. This area is known for a fruit called Salak aka snake skin fruit, the fruit only grows in this area.

When we got to the top of the climb we turned off onto a little road that was used by locals to access their houses by scooter, the area / village was called Putung. We got to the top of climb and met up with Minggus who had to drive around a different route.

We got to ride down from Putung area (this village area is just in front of Mt Agung) on a seriously steep and narrow little tar road. I flew down the hill at top speed, almost colliding with a few scooters along the way and literally scaring the crap out of the scooter drivers… Whoops, that’s the crazy person in me. We headed towards a major road that ran along the coast towards a place called Candidasa pronounced Chandidasa.

We had a light lunch just outside the town Candidasa next to the sea. We only had a couple more kilometres to ride into the town where we checked into the Natia Seaside hotel for the night. The hotel room was pleasant, we settled in, relaxed a little and then I put on my running gear.

I went for a run to a local traditional village called Tenganan about 7km from Candidasa. This village was interesting, the guide book suggested that I should visit to see a version of traditional tribal way of life. It was kind of traditional with elements of modern influence. Water buffalo were free to walk within the walls of the village. Villagers made traditional goods for sale to tourists, I bought a map of Bali made on bamboo, the person who made it explained that he used a blade to carve in the pattern and burnt macadamia nut to colour in the design. He wrote Barbara and Ashley in English as well as Indonesian.

I realised that the sun was going to set soon and I still had to run 7km back to our hotel. That evening we had an amazing sunset from our hotel sitting at the pool area. After the sun had set and we had taken a ridiculous number of photos, we went for dinner and then headed to bed fairly early. Slowly our body clocks were adjusting to the time zone.