24 year ago I arrived here in Bali after a 3 month backpacking trip across South East Asia. I was tired and a little bit frustrated because I depended so much on busses and could never stop where I wanted to. In Ubud I hired a bicycle and rode around the island. I instantly loved my new freedom and knew the this was how I wanted to travel. Ubud is Km 0, where it all started.
Now, after 24 year I return, having meanwhile cycled 175,000 km. I think that calls for a little celebration.
There is probably no other place with such a temple density than Bali. Every house hat at least a shrine where every morning some rice, fruits and incense is offered to the gods. People are just celebrating Galungan when I arrive. In front of every house there is a huge and beautifully decorated bamboo pole.
While I ride from the airport to Ubud, people are all dressed in their best cloth on the way to all the temples. Accompanied by Gamelan music and the smell of incense I make my first kilometers in Bali.
The raining season is already in full swing which mean that on most days here is at least a short rainfall. In the center of the island where the high volcanos are, that often turn into real heavy rainfall and streets turn into rivers within minutes. Usually I simply keep on cycling. No matter if rain or not, I am anyway constantly soaking wet.
I feared that now around Christmas there would be quite some tourists. But as soon as I have left southern Bali there are very few and it is really quiet. On the road on the other hand is is really busy. The motorcycle density is almost at Vietnamese levels. As soon as have reached the northern coast the roads become quit too.
In the center of the island there are up to 3000m high volcanos and at their feet some beautiful lakes. The road up to those mountains are great, passing next to lots of rice terraces. Every now and then those roads are also quite tough with short but super steep sections. But up here the air is nice and cool, much better for cycling.
After Bali I take the ferry to its neighbor island. Going back to a place where you have already been a long time ago is often tricky. Unfortunately Lombok is such a place. To see what the once beautiful places of Senggigi and the Gilli islands have become is simply sad.
But not everything is bad here of course. The ride around the island is truly spectacular. The highlight is the climb across the mountains next to 3700m high volcano Rinjani. A tiny road with hardly any traffic winds its way first around beautiful rice paddies and the goes right through the jungle on the way to the top.
On paper the 1600m climb looks rather harmless. But the ride turns out to be one of the tougher ones I have done in quite a while. The grade constantly alternates between 5 and 20% never allowing me to find a rhythm because a every other bend I have to climb up a short but super steep ramp.
The fact that all this is all taking place in the tropics with a humidity of currently over 90% is not really making in a lot easier. But the spectacular view of the volcano Rinjani make it certainly worth the effort.
For a couple of days I enjoy the beaches at the south coast, then I pack up my stuff and get ready to say goodbye to Asia.