Wednesday
Jun182014

Aileen | The Moto Quest - Riding through the Clouds

I crossed Bali from West to East and picked up my friend Shae on the way in Ubud.  She was in Bali for a visit and excited to join me for a little adventure on two wheels. It was my official “Second Test Ride” and I was planning to visit Amed, a gorgeous fishing town on Bali’s Northeast coast. I didn’t expect it would get as adventurous as it did. 

The first bit of the ride from central Bali to the East Coast wasn’t much fun, as there was a lot of traffic and not much to see, but I got excited when I spotted the peak of Mount Agung, Bali’s highest mountain (3142 meters). Mount Agung is an active volcano with a huge spiritual significance for the island’s Hindus. Balinese legend has it that Agung was created when the Hindu God Pasupati split Mount Meru (the spiritual axis of the universe) and formed Mount Agung with a fragment. Bali is an island of temples. The Department of Religion has cataloged at least eleven thousand temples - small and large, local and regional. In every temple a shrine is dedicated to Agung. The Balinese recognize these geophysical facts of life, and the island’s many volcanoes, lakes and springs are considered by them to be sacred.

As we got closer to the foot of the mountain, the landscape changed and the roads began to wind… a dream of every biker, but at this stage a big challenge for me as I was still very unfamiliar with the bike and had to get used to it’s handling. The road got steeper and as we climbed with our small bikes through the rainforest like landscape, I found it hard to keep my eyes on the road, as the views were so spectacular. If we had stopped as often as I would have liked too, we wouldn’t have reached the coast before sunset. The one thing I always will remember Bali for is the lushest green landscape my eyes have ever seen. Leafy forests and rich rice fields as far as the land reaches to the ocean.  

As we came closer to the ocean and the sun was slowly setting, we rode past an outstanding water palace, where ponds reflected the low evening sun and created a breathtaking picture. It was too late in the day for us to stop and explore that magnificent place, as we had to find accommodation before it was dark. We decided to come back in the morning and instead ended up taking a dip in the ocean during sunset. Floating in the warm water was incredibly relaxing for the tired limbs that have spent all day in the saddle. Due to the fact that I am still pretty tense while riding and not yet as comfortable with me new bike, it literally felt like washing the stiffness of the road off. I stayed in the water until the full moon rose and slept like a baby that night.  

I started the new day with some Yoga moves and mediation by the beach and kicked my friend out of bed after that because the Water Palace was waiting!

Taman Ujung has a combination of Balinese and European architecture throughout three large ponds connected by long elegant bridges and pathways. Its foundations were first laid out in 1919, under the rule of ‘Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem’. The complex underwent a series of expansions and pool additions around a single existing pool which served not as a royal bathing place, but instead a site for punishment of accused proponents of black magic or Balinese witchcraft known as ‘pangiwa’ and ‘leyaks’. The site suffered near devastation by showers of hot ash following the eruption of nearby Mount Agung in 1963, and also weathered an earthquake in 1979. Restoration efforts throughout the decades made way to its current splendor that truly is as heavenly as it’s name “Water Place” promises. Imagine yourself wandering through a calming and elegant garden, surrounded by mirroring ponds where the smooth and relaxing sound of falling water drops truly pleases your soul like one of a king.


The peaceful silence came to an end when we started the engines of our bikes to follow the narrow coastal road towards Amed, which I experienced as the most beautiful one I had ridden. Breathtaking ocean views, small and remote villages that appear almost as if the tourism hasn’t found them yet, colourful fisher boats in tiny little bays on the bottom of the majestic cliffs of Mt Agung. With every road bend a new scene opened my heart and extended my soul. While throttling along I was thinking, how much better it could still get on my adventure and that all this was just the beginning. It was hurtful knowing that these were memories that I couldn’t capture for you, as I don’t have an action cam to film while riding. The streets were so small and steep, that it was hard to stop for photos, so it happened that I stayed just with myself in the present moment and gave myself permission to enjoy this ride without capturing it with anything else but my heart. Talking of the heart, it was touched when some local boys at the side of the road gave me high five while riding past. This was one of my best moto moments and put the biggest smile on my face. 

Past Amed we followed the road up north, which was a straight road in great condition; perfect for me to open the throttle a little and test ride my baby above the average speed of 30-40 km/h here in Bali. Instead of continuing to the most northern point of Bali, Kubutambahan, and to take the main road back down south from there, we ended up cutting through the mountains from Tedjakula… with the increase of meters above sea level, my heart rate increased too!! And our body temperature sank. That’s where our little trip turned into an adventure. The roads where narrow, steep and wet, the serpentines tight… and so it happened that one car came around one corner very fast, taking over the whole road and almost wiped me off my bike. Both of us came to a stop; but being absolutely inexperienced in these kind of riding conditions. I lost control of my bike and dropped it. Without any help, I probably wouldn’t have been able to pick it back up on such a steep road as well as getting myself back in the saddle without the motorcycle rolling down reverse… I was a little bit shaky but jumped right back on it until we found a better spot for a little break. The group of about 10 kids that gathered around our bikes as well as examinated shyly the two “Bules” (Indonesian to describe foreigners) riding through their village, put a big smile back on my face and almost made me forget the little incident form a few minutes ago. 

With every kilometer it got colder and foggier and all of a sudden we found ourselves in the middle of the clouds,a condition that didn’t allow you to see further than maybe five meters. It was mystically beautiful but didn’t make the ride any easier. Our tummies started growling but we decided to ignore them until we got out of the mountain, as it already started to get darker. This highland area is known as Kintamani*, with villages sitting on the rim of the huge Batur caldera about 1,500m above sea level. This area offers dramatic views of the active volcano Mount Batur and serene Lake Batur. Only we couldn’t see any of that! Ah well, I still loved it! It was challenging, yes, and I was glad I wasn’t alone, but this ride had been the first real taste of adventure and it made feel me so incredibly alive. Sensing my body aching and freezing, my muscles getting tired and experiencing a bit of fear trembling through my veins was something that I hadn’t felt for a while and made everything else in my life disappear in that very moment. I felt present and fulfilled; a little bit proud, too.


In a very low speed we made our way through the clouds, keeping the mind sharp to react quickly to the bad road conditions and things showing suddenly through the thick fog. Of course we totally got lost, as there was no chance to really see where we were going. We didn’t make it back to Ubud until late at night but filled our bellies at a traditional Indonesian night market before we sank into bed extremely exhausted, but with sooo many new and amazing, ever- lasting memories and more riding experience. I decided to stay for the night before I continued my ride next morning back to my recent home base Canggu; knowing I will be given sh*t by the boys from Verve Moto for the bend handlebars and broken brake leaver…

~Aileen

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