Indonesia: An Island Paradise but Not as You Know It

Cocktails at the beach, world-renowned surf, and luscious ride patty fields. Great food, friendly people and a getaway from the hustle and bustle that is ‘Western Life.’ Sounds like a dream right? Well, it is…BUT, what if there was more? If I was to tell you that in addition to the above, this same destination was home to some of the most beautiful climbs on the face of the planet? What if there were wild monkeys swinging from above as you rode beneath the forest canopy on roads so perfect in places, that even the best roads of the first world would be put to shame. To be honest, even in writing this I excite my own senses from within. Sami Sauri and I have just spent 10 days exploring the islands of Bali and East Java on bike and can confirm that the above oasis does in-fact exists. It’s not a magical place from our dreams, but rather a short 2.5hr flight from Perth Western Australia. Paradise does exist, but not as you know it…

Our journey started on Bali’s mainland. We flew into Denpasar airport and spent 24hours acclimatizing to the heat. Having come from Spain and the midst of the European winter, the heat and humidity required some quick adjustment. Departing from Canggu, the modern hub of Bali and home to hundreds of amazing cafes and restaurants, we set off on an anti-clockwise loop of Bali itself. Admittedly, Day 1 was predominantly completed on busy urban roads, such should be expected when you depart from a major city in the hub of one of the world’s biggest tourism hot spots.

We were immediately thrown into the deep end with respect to heat and humidity and were forced to drink and drink and drink, so as to ensure we remained well hydrated in the heat. Close to our first destination of Amlapura, I misjudged a corner and found myself off the edge of the road, over the handlebars laying in a ditch. My second crash for the year and luckily unscathed, I dusted off my bike, made sure there was no damage and proceeded carefully to the finish point. A little shaken, but very much awake, we enjoyed the first of our many first-class nights at very affordable, top-end accommodation.

At this point, it’s worth noting that when compared to prices of that in Europe, Australia or the USA, travel in Indonesia is seriously cheap. As an example, for Sami and I to eat out for dinner and enjoy a three-course meal, and one alcoholic beverage each would cost approximately 10 Euro Total, and this is at one of the higher-end restaurants. For those looking to spend even less, the local ‘Warungs’ offer ridiculously priced eats that make traveling for days on end outrageously affordable. Wary that we didn’t want to risk any small stomach bugs, Sami and I chose to eat at the slightly higher end of the food offering spectrum to ensure that we remained in top shape for the days of riding ahead.

As we made our way North and up towards the North Eastern port of Gilimanuk, we noticed a considerable drop in tourism and begun to experience what we now refer to as ’the real Bali.’ Beautiful white beaches, crystal clear waters, smiling children and minimal traffic. It was during day 3 of our adventure that we both realized how much Bali actually has to offer. Forget the cocktails, the massages, and cheap clothing. The North of Bali offers world-class cycling, quiet roads, and amazing vistas. We were in our element and truly felt at home as we ascended the many volcanic peaks that make up the incredible landscape.

A quick Ferry trip North West to Eastern Java saw us in Banyuangi and at the base of Mount Ijen. Ijen, one of Indonesia’s famous Volcanos plays host to ‘The Tour of Ijen’ a multi-day bike race held each year. An amazing climb with ramps upwards of 25%, Ijen is one seriously tough berg to summit!! However, the reward at the top is breathtaking. For those feeling adventurous, a 1-2hr hike from the top of the climb puts you at the volcanic crater, looking down into the beautiful blue sulfur mine below. A must visit in our opinion, Ijen really struck a chord. With most visitors choosing to ascend the peak of Ijen at night so as to enjoy the famous ‘blue flames,’ we climbed the peak during the day and found that we were the only two tourists on the mountain. Aside from the Indonesian Sulphur miners themselves, the mountain was empty and we were able to snap some amazing images.

Onwards towards our final destination of Surabaya, we climbed the Summit of Mount Bromo and traversed the Bromo Sand Sea. Again, highly recommended, the Bromo Sand Sea is like nothing we’ve witnessed before. Feeling as though we were on the moon, we rode for some 10km across the sand, surrounded by nothing but mountain peaks and the many 70’s series land cruisers that transport guests across this magical expanse. Of course, what goes up must come down and from the peak at 2,200m, we descended towards the city of Malang, Batu and finally Surabaya many kilometers below.

Sitting back in Bali reminiscing on what was an amazing 10 days of exploration on the bike, we can’t help but wonder why more tourists don’t visit Indonesia with the intention of cycling. Perhaps its the fact that Indonesia is associated with rest and relaxation? Or perhaps the better part of Indonesia hasn’t actually been explored before by bike? What we can tell you having completed our journey is that Indonesia is amazing. The people are friendly, the food is great, it’s cheap to travel and did we mention that the cycling is world-class? We enjoyed some rest and the best of the festive season from Canggu following our adventure, but are both already looking at where our next exploration project will be in Indonesia.

What’s exciting is that in 2020, we’ll be giving the opportunity to join us on your very own Adventure through the Indonesian Jungle. Stay tuned for dates and details.

See our full eight-day ride at Komoot!