We’re firmly entrenched in the rainy season here in Bali and over these past couple of weeks, it often feels like it’s coming down by the truckload. Everyone’s fingers were more than tightly crossed that we were going to get a nice patch of sun for our trip up the coast. The alarm had been set for four and sitting there in the pre-dawn darkness drinking coffee, flashes of lightning ripped through my lounge room, momentarily freezing everything into a BW photo, before letting it go and descending back to darkness. This didn’t forebode well. No rain, at least not yet but things weren’t looking great. Then again, I am an optimist.
We met up at the Deus Temple of Enthusiasm at five with the early electrical storm retreating off into the distance. For what must be the first and only time ever in my life, everyone else had managed to get there before me. Not only that, they were ready to roll.
All up we were ten, Deus surfers Deni, Dean and Ayok had been enlisted to ride our vintage trail bikes. Didit, Mario, Ryandi and Nanda were all manning the lenses to capture the images you see here as well as a little surprise video coming soon. Arwin and Kokoh were our indispensable wrench wielders and the designated drivers. Lastly, but never least, there was the full service tour guide, me.
I threw my board up with the rest on top of the van and strapped them down. The first light of dawn split the horizon as we jumped astride our bikes and pulled out onto the road. At the Tabanan fork in the road we split up with the van, it went on straight ahead along the main road with its load of two strokes and surfboards while the rest of us on bikes took the left and the scenic route out across the fields. The electrical storm was nowhere to be seen by this point
We tore our way up the coast, the roads were empty other than the scarce of Bali dogs and a few Ibu’s on their way to market. We took all the back roads, chicken tracks and short cuts we could find and still made damn good time. The houses dropped away and the track danced off through nothing but rice paddies as the sun made its way over the coconut palms. Our mechanics, Arwin and Kokoh, were manning the van and must have done their best impression of a rally driving team, because as we pulled into the little Balinese village we’d agreed to meet, they pulled in.
Time for a change. The van was opened and the two strokes bikes were unloaded. We primed them and kicked them over and then before you could say Ketut’s your uncle we were back off into the rice paddies taking advantage of the perfect morning light and shooting. We backtracked and raced around for a few hours. Over here and down there until the sun was high, hot and we were exhausted, covered in sweat but most of all hungry.
While the lads rested I took off to have a gander for somewhere we could all have brunch. My expectations were set to village level, expecting nothing more than a roadside Nasi Bungkus or some Pop Mie. Instant coffee and sweet tea. But I couldn’t even find that, we’d drifted off the well-trodden path into an old part of traditional Bali.
But these pockets are small and wasn’t long before I rounded a corner, and into a little side street and found what I had been searching for, a smiling Balinese man, drinking a roadside coffee, in front of a little cafe.
Took me a total of forty minutes to go and get back to our gaggle. The cafe was built along the street side of the family’s home and they ushered us through the dim room and out through the back and into their sunny garden. Tables were pulled out, chairs were found and we ordered, the entire extended Balinese family were enlisted and bustled away in the kitchen. Plate after plate came out and our tiredness and grumpiness were drowned and smothered by the delicious food. That was a damn fine meal we ate in their yard under the trees. Last coffees were sorted while the owner gave us directions to a red suspension bridge. We collected our discarded clothes and dragged our food drunk bodies back onto the bikes and took off to find it.
Which we did. We even managed to get one or two runs across this wonderful single laned big red bridge that cut over a tropical paradise before a local happened by and asked us to stop shooting. The bridge he explained was right next to their main temple, burial ground and cremation spot. The local was pleasant enough but made it abundantly clear that we needed permission from the Banjar to be shooting there. So that was a wrap.
We headed back to the van, packed the two strokes back in and headed to the highway. The road to the port at Gilimanuk is a deathtrap. On a bike, it’s a speed run westward, dancing in between overladen trucks driven by underslept drivers. Not for the faint of heart.
For the afternoon we’d arranged to meet a guy who would take us riding out in the rubber forests below the hills behind the highway. But pulling into the hotel carpark the place was deserted, we had a couple of hours to burn before he’d be here. The hot gear was stripped off and we ordered some drinks. A few of us wandered to the beach and swam off the dirt crusted on from earlier in the day. A couple of the others had a laydown, recharging. Cameras were prepped, memory cards emptied and batteries charged. All the while the clouds were closing in and the thunder was getting louder.
Our guide rocked up, prompting us to get our gear back on and wake the others up. We took off for the curvaceous yet short drive inland to the rubber forest. The two-strokes were spat out the back of the van and after firing them up, we zipped off into the forest to find some fun. It took us less than five minutes to come upon a muddy hill climb. It took less than a minute more for the heavens to open up and for the rain to come tumbling down. Far from being deterred the boys kept tearing around and testing themselves and the bikes on the slippery hill. Everyone had a good whack at the hill but Dean was the only one who managed to mount it. Eventually, though, the rain became too much for the camera gear and we retreated to the open back door of the van.
It only took about 10 minutes of sitting around before Deni decided he’d had enough and with a “Pak, I keep riding yeah” yelled over his retreating shoulder at me, he straddled the DT kicked it to life and was off ripping around the field, bundling through every puddle and mud bog he could find. Ayok and Dean weren’t going to be left out, and with the three of them whizzing about the crew decided the only option was shooting out of the back of the van or from under some super dodgy makeshift plastic bag umbrellas.
The rain eased off and for some deranged reason, we decided to push on deeper into the rubber forests. We were wet, so not getting wetter. Man, it was a sodden, squishy, muddy saturated day! Tearing up and down the water filled, tire wide bush tracks, attempting the slippery dip hill climbs, and seeking out the biggest little jumps our two strokes could hurl us over. We were braaaping around on bikes, a couple of DT100’s and a YT115, that were all built before most of us were even born, with not a pro rider amongst us, the afternoon ran on and the rain never ceased, but one thing remained constant, it was unequivocally incredible!
Three things, in no particular order, put a stop to the days play, sunset, cold and the deteriorating condition of the bikes. After we loaded everything back into the van, we then had to push it out of the bog it was settled in, along the muddy goat track we’d come in on and once we made tarmac, made our way to the coast and our beachside hotel.
Showers were had in full kit, boots and all. The layers of mud needed shifting first and foremost. Gear was wrung out and hung up to dry. As more people went through the shower the more the hotel resembled a Chinese laundry with clothes, boots, helmets and gear hanging everywhere to dry out. But the warm water was an exceptionally appreciated finish to an unquestionably brilliant day.
Dinner was a sombre and quiet affair, everyone was just totally worn out. A quiet meal with a beer, or two at the most, was all people needed to head off to bed and pass out cold.
Sunrise saw me up and at ‘em. The first chore was getting everyone else out of bed and down to the beach. Seems I was one of the only ones to bounce into action. The local lads move slowly at that hour and for more than a moment there, while I hustled between rooms banging on doors and shaking bodies, I thought I’d become a tour guide.
Eventually, I got them up and half a dozen or so crusty eyed and sore bodied gents made their way to the water’s edge and out into the lineup. The surf was on the wrong side of great, but it was the perfect way to start the day and we, for the moment at least, had the entire beach all to ourselves.
The surf season didn’t last long and hunger sent first one, then the rest of us shoreward. Breakfast was, to say the very least, a rather large affair. We grazed for over an hour and can safely say everyone managed quite nicely at stuffing their faces before most slunk off to settle into a vacant bed or couch all on their private food fueled comas.
Arwin, Kokoh and I took the opportunity to wash the bikes and do some running repairs on the two strokes. With everything as clean as we could get and patched up as best we might, we loaded the van back up again. People were slowly coming back to reality. We rounded them up, not to mention all our gear from wherever they’d laid in out drying and with everyone and everything accounted for, we tore back down the highway, direction homewards.
After just twenty minutes of the death trap highway dance, we swung off right, taking a cow path towards the beach. We tore around the old coconut plantation that lined the shore and out along the empty beaches black sand beaches. Speed runs, bike surfing, wheelies, doughnuts and plenty of spills. None of us especially knew what we were doing, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time. Our hoonigans holiday went on until the sun was low and all the 2 strokes had coughed their last cough and we’d scared off every cow around.
With the afternoon waning and our homes calling we packed up the van one last time, mounted the highway, whipping right and tore our way back from whence we came. Back over the bridges and through the rice paddy single tracks until we came upon our last pitstop, Ayok’s favourite Babi Guling joint. Nothing like local knowledge.
A plate full of warm food tempered by a nice cold drink and marinated with the enthusiastic chatter recapturing the past couple of days. While the weather hadn’t played nice, it hadn’t put a dampener on anything either. All up it had been a marvellous weekend away, trouble-free unless you countered a couple of slightly broken bikes, safe from injury and spent with great friends, both old and new. For one last time, I fired up my bike, looked around at my band of compatriots, smiled to myself in the full-face helmet I was wearing before throttling hard out of the restaurants parking lot. Next stop, home.
CAST & CREW
Full service tour guide – Dylan Kaczmarek @dkaczmarek