Day 2 – Mt Abang & Mt Agung

We woke up during the night and heard rain starting. When we woke up in the morning again it was raining even harder than during the night. The rain look liked it was here to stay for a while. We went to have breakfast and check email to see what the plans were. Sam (owner of Spice Roads Bali) had emailed us to say that there were floods in Kuta and the guys (Ajus and Minggus) would only arrive around 10:30am.

Minggus had gone to the airport to fetch our bags, he had to stand in a long queue to get our bags, but luckily all went to plan and they handed over our bags without much hassle. The guys arrived at 11:30am and we got going by 12pm.

We were driven up to the Abang Puru (Puru is Temple in Indonesian) above the Lake View hotel about 5-6km away on a small windy road. There we would start our day’s cycling and head off on small jeep tracks. These tracks were only used by scooters, it was amazing to me that conventional city scooters with road slicks were used on these off road muddy tracks.

We rode down through rural settlements, these huts formed part of the Abang village on slopes of Mt Abang. We got to one section where we turned off into a river bed, such sick trails, loving it! Again I was amazed to see scooters riding along this river bed, if you saw where we entered the river bed you would understand my amazement.

We stopped at the bottom of the trails as we left the mountains, there we tried some mangosteen and winko coconut snacks, the place / area name was Menange.

Ajus and Minggus suggested we get into the minivan for the next leg, i lets Barbara get transported to the next start point. I decided to ride the next 15km on my own. The guys said there were a few climbs, they were not kidding and i rode up multiple climbs pushing my limits and heart rate to the max.

Barbara and Ajus got out of the van to start the ride just before the top of a climb, I joined them and we rode the last 3km of the climb. I tested the tow rope system that I brought along to tow Barbara with, this consisted of two climbing quick draws and a bungi cord. It worked a charm and I towed Barbs about 1km.

After the climb we started the long descent (Bali consists of long ups and downs) towards the coast. We rode downhill for maybe 20km, then we hit a main road that ran along the coast. We stopped in a small town for late lunch in Tulamben on the coast, them headed out at about 5:30pm towards Amed where we would be sleeping 20km away. The coast road consisted of rolling hills and strange local sights / architecture. Most of the houses had no paint and due to the fact the cement used has volcanic sand everything was very dark grey. Can’t say it’s the prettiest scenery with grey buildings, black volcanic temples and litter EVERYWHERE!

We turned off the main road and headed towards Amed where we would be staying at the Wawa Wewe Hotel. It was dusk when we arrived, there was just enough light to see how beautiful the place was that we were staying. We checked in, booked a massage and had a shower.

The massage was down at the sea front, so while getting the massage we could here the waves breaking in front of us, so peaceful. The restaurant was closing early, so after the massage we went to have some dinner and a Bintang beer.

SIDENOTE: Bintang beer would become a theme for the holiday in Bali, in Thailand it’s Chang beer!

After dinner we went to bed and both did some reading, we both had really good books. I am reading the Secret Race by Daniel Coyier and Tyler Hamilton about cycling and doping. Our body clocks are still not synced with Asia, so we kept reading till about 11:30pm when we would usual be asleep by 10pm.

Day 1 – Batur Volcano

We woke up at about 7am with what Barbs and I call mole syndrome (sticky swollen eyes) other people might refer to this as being jet lagged. We had some breakfast and packed our bags. Minggus and Ajus who were taking us on our Spice Roads cycle tour would be fetching us by 8am to drive us to the start of our ride which was inland near Mt Batur an active volcano.

I was still quite concerned about our bags, we had received confirmation that they had been found in JHB, but we had no idea how they would get to Bali. When i checked my email, the baggage department had emailed me late the night before to confirm that our luggage was on its way to Bali and would arrive later that day!

At about 8am we started the 2,5hr to the start of our first ride,we started at Penutisan on the rim of the Batur crater. Before we started we enjoyed a cup of Balinese coffee, then gotsetup on our bikes. The first part of the trail is on broken tarmac road with spectacular views of the Batur Volcanic cone. On a clear day we would normally be able to see Mt Abang and Mt Agung in the distance, but due to it being rainy season it was a little bit cloudy and we could see a hazy view of the mountain.

We turned onto jeep tracks and easy single track towards the village of Pinggan. The jeep tracks took us through rural farming areas. It was interesting to see how the local people farmed on the slopes where we were riding, as well as seeing their houses.

After finishing the single and jeep track off road trails, we headed down a time broken tarmac road towards a bat cave where e stopped for some snacks that our drive Minggus had organised. We rode through a village that was situated next to Lake Batur. Again it was interesting to see all of the agriculture happening in the area.

We had lunch a small spot that claimed to be “Hot Springs”, but it wasn’t much of a hot springs spot, the small pool where the hot water poured into was about a meter deep and not that hot, pretty lame, but oh well. Minggus told us that was the end of our ride, Barbs climbed into the mini-bus, but I asked if I could ride the remaining distance. Minggus and Ajus didn’t really understand why I wanted to ride further, I explained I was training, they still didn’t really get why I wanted to ride the rest of the way. They kept saying there was a climb before hotel and I should get in the vehicle.

I started riding, I gunned it hard, the road was up and down. I got to the intersection where the climb started, it didn’t look to bad, but I had to wait for the guys before I could confirm which way I needed to go. They confirmed that I needed to turn right and that was the 7km climb. They drove off with Barbs and I chased, soon I realised how steep the climb was, it went straight up.

Mingus waited along the way and Ajus stood in the road, he couldn’t believe I was riding so fast up the climb. Then they drove off to the top and I continued to fight the climb. At the top of the climb was our hotel in a very small town, we stayed at the Lake View hotel. The views of the lake were exquisite.

We checked in and the guys drove back to Kuta. Minggus had taken our passports and boarding passes to be able to fetch our bags from airport. We said good bye and settled into our room. That evening we enjoyed a peaceful dinner the lovely hotel restaurant.

Our body clocks were still not used to the time zone, so when we got back to our room we were not able to sleep for a while. We watched TV, very bad TV and drank some 12 year old Glenfiddich that we bought at the duty free in Abu Dhabi. We eventually got to sleep around 11:30pm.

Intro to Spice Roads Bali

AirAsia is one of my favourite airlines, so organised, affordable and always a pleasure. Our flight landed on time in Bali, it was a 3hr flight and when we landed Bali was 1hr ahead of Thailand… All very confusing for us two sleep deprived and weary travellers. A new airport and new experiences Kay ahead.

When we arrived at Densapur, Bali airport we got our visas and went through passport control with minimal hassles, such a pleasure. Our driver Mingus from Spice Roads cycle tour company was waiting for us. He was friendly and helpful. He drove us 1,5hrs to Sanur to our hotel where we could finally chill bit. First thing I did was email the baggage department in Thailand to check on our luggage, fingers crossed, we might actually sort out getting our bags back.

After we has checked into our hotel in Sanur and settled into our room, we decided to go for a walk around the immediate Sanur area. We made it as far as the end of the road, turned around, walked back and stopped at a spa place. We opted for their 3hr package which cost 160000 Rupiah each, which was equivalent to about R150 of our own currency. We got a massage, facial and scalp treatment. Barbs and I walked out of the feeling like new people with shining skin!

Mingus had advised us that in the evening we would meet the owner of Spice Roads Bali called Sam. They picked us up at about 6:30pm and headed to a local restaurant to try our first Balinese cuisine. Interesting flavours, but way too much food for 4 people to consume.

Sam is Belgium (from the Flemish part), but has been a serial bike traveller for about a decade. We swapped travel stories. I found our that he lived in Thailand for about 5 years and worked as a bike guide there. He knows the route that I have planned for Feb/Mar 2013 from Bangkok to Phuket and back very well, so I quizzed him on routes, do’s & don’ts and whatever info I could extract.

We got a full briefing of our Bali MTB tour, it got the two of us thorough excited. We have 10 days of cycling around the island lined up. We will be covering a lot of the lesser populated areas, most of which will have very few other foreigners / tourists lurking. The Sanur and Kuta areas looked like a dog show of cars, scooters, taxis, buildings and Aussies… Not our idea of fun.

After dinner we headed for bed, so we could wake up nice and early for first day of riding. Zzzzzzzz…..

Start of our Bali & Thailand Holiday

We have been planning this trip since about April and we bought all our plane tickets in May. I have been reading about a system called TripIt.com, this website / allows you to log every bit of your itinery with the option to share it publicly or privately. Barbara and I pumped in all the holiday data meticulously, it helped to hype us up and get us ready for our adventure.

For the past few years consecutively we have been to Thailand, so this time we thought we would try something new. We are starting off this trip in Bali with 10 day mountain bike trip that will take us around the Bali island. After Bali we will be heading back to Thailand for a Xmas trance party on a lake in Kanchaburi, then head to Koh Tao for a New Years trance party called the Experience and finally we will finish the trip on Koh Phangan.

Barbara had to train for the mountain bike tour, she prepared for a few months before to make sure she would be fit for the tour. I am extremely happy that she agreed to do the tour, not many couples I know do sports activities together and I believe its a great bonding experience.

Due to the fact that we are travelling in peak season we have had to plan every bit of accommodation before leaving, most places are fully booked leading up to Xmas and New Years, so you don’t want to take a chance.

We flew out of Cape Town on the 10th December 2012 from CT to JHB via SAA. When we checked in for our flight to JHB we were given the option to book our baggage all the way through to Bangkok, our gut feeling said don’t do it, but we decided it was convenient and went ahead anyways.

We landed in JHB domestic and went over to the international terminal to catch our Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. It was bliss, no need to worry about our bags as SAA had assured us that they would sort our luggage out. We landed in Abu Dhabi after a 7 hour flight and very little sleep. We had a 3,5 hr overlay before we could the next Etihad flight to Bangkok.

Whenever we are at duty free we make a point of shopping for perfume, whiskey and gin! It’s tradition! So this was no different. We had time to kill so we shopped… Our flight to Bangkok was on time and we boarded for our next leg which was a 5hr flight. So far so good, no hiccups, no fuss and Etihad was an amazing airline!

When we arrived in Bangkok it was a welcome site to see our favourite airport. We knew exactly what to do, where passport control and then where luggage collection was. Unfortunately there was no luggage to collect as SAA had fucked us with a sandy dick, thanks SAA you are a bunch of useless twats! We should have listened to our instincts and picked up our luggage in JHB and checked it in ourselves.

Thank goodness Thailand is organised and the airport staff are super helpful. I doubt the South African airport would have been as helpful and effective. I went to the lost luggage people and
logged a case, they said to me to contact them again in 30min.

We were not happy campers, but there was nothing we could do but wait for assistance. We went to get Dunkin Donut and Chang beer, another tradition whenever we arrive in Thailand. This allowed us to kill 30min. I went back to luggage control and the lady who had helped us had managed to track down our bags, they were still sitting in JHB, as I said SAA are useless.

I was issued an incident report and 2500 baht compensation for our troubles. Thailand you beauty! We arranged for our bags to be sent to Bali. There was nothing further we could do about our bags, so we decided to head to our hotel which was called the Amari Don Meuang Airport Hotel next the Don Meuang airport where we would be flying out of to Bali at 6am the next morning. Outside the airport we landed at there was a free shuttle bus to Don Meuang, public transport in Thailand is so organised!

Our hotel room was pretty comfi, we showered and headed down for some Thai food. After that we hit the sack and tried to sleep… Unfortunately our body clocks were not working properly and we had to get up at 3:30am to get ready to head to our next flight to Bali was with AirAsia.

It was our first experience at the Don Meuang airport, we crossed a walkway that connected the Amari hotel with the airport. Once we got through flight checkin and passport control, we went through to wait for our flight to Bali where we would kick off our holiday properly. Exciting adventurous times lay ahead!