15,706 km so far.
Maybe it was the terrible sleep we both had last night, with wild dreams caused by overly rich food too close to bedtime. Maybe it was the exhaustion from one too many tough rides in a row. Maybe it was the heightened aggression of the traffic. Maybe some planet was in retrograde or Mercury was rising or something.
Whatever it was, it was bloody hard to enjoy our last real day on the road.
Don’t Fear The Repair
Maybe it was because today started in repair mode.
After my tire blew out last night, we’d managed to find a replacement tire in a little general store we rode past. We bought it even though we both acknowledged that it looked a little big.
This morning, when I went to put it on my bike, it did indeed turn out to be too big even though it said 26 on the side. It must be some other kind of 26, because it didn’t work on my rim.
It was easy enough finding the nearest bike shop, since it was less than 50 m from our hotel, but, as with all the best bike shops in the world, it wasn’t open at 8am when we wanted it to be. So we hung around until 9, when the guys finally showed up to start pulling bike after bike out of their space to put on display in front of the shop.
Finally they could help us.
We actually managed to get a tire that wasn’t nearly as knobbly as the last one I’d been forced to buy, meaning it should be a little faster on the road. When it came to tubes though, they only had ones with Schrader valves, which are too wide to fit through the holes in our rims.
Back at the hotel, I opened our last brand new tube only to discover it also has a Schrader valve, even though the guy we bought it from in Cambodia had said it was a Presta.
So I had to re-insert the tube I’d been using last night, hoping against hope that it wasn’t completely trashed from the sidewall blowout.
All this is a long way to say that it was 9:30am before we even got on the road.
The Bali Vibe
Our goal was to get to Ubud during business hours so that we could give our passports to the visa service tonight, instead of having to rush into town tomorrow to do it. With almost 100 km to go, significant elevation change, and a late start, that was going to be a tall order.
Travellers’ tip: You need at least a week left on your Indonesian visa in order to apply for the extension, but 10 days is better.
The first 50 km were all on Highway 1. It is in much better repair than its namesake on Java, but other than that, we didn’t really notice much difference between the two highways. There may have been a tiny bit less traffic, but what it lacked in volume it made up for in aggression.
There are a lot of private cars on the road here, in a big hurry to get to their relaxing holiday destinations, and there were plenty of huge trucks forcing us off the road and then blasting a fart of black smoke into our faces as they passed.
Bali has such a reputation for being a mellow, paradisiacal, zen kind of place, that every time this happened today, we would shout to each other over the traffic din, “Can’t you just feel the Bali vibe? Isn’t it so relaxed and chilled out here?”
At least it kept us amused.
The first 50 km were also what I like to call Car Commercial Roads. That is, they were winding and hilly, with some stunning views of the ocean and rice paddies.
Perfect for showing off how well your new SUV will handle on the curves, and the enormous power it will have on the uphills. For us, it was just a grind. Down and up and down and up and down and up the road went. There always seemed to be a big slow truck at the bottom of each downhill, so we’d have to brake, losing all momentum for the uphill on the other side.
There might have been a time in our trip when this kind of thing was fun. Not today though.
We’ll Have Fun Fun Fun
Eventually, after another stellar lunch at Indomaret, I managed to snap out of my funk by sheer force of will.
C’mon, I told myself, this is your last day, you need to enjoy it!
Stephen’s note: I was chanting the same mantra to myself.
And I started to. I was singing along to my music, enjoying the burn in my muscles and the feeling of getting somewhere, albeit rather slowly, as the hills got progressively longer and steeper, mostly in the up direction.
We came to a bridge where the road narrowed slightly, taking away the little bit of shoulder we’d been riding in for a while. All was fine, until a police car not far behind us switched on its sirens and started pushing its way through the right lane of traffic. Some genius in an SUV decided to get out of the police car’s way by driving straight at me. They forced me off the edge of the road, but since this was a bridge there was no edge of the road.
No, I didn’t go into the water, but I did catch my front pannier on the high curb at the side of the road. This bounced me back into the lane, my bike wobbling and swerving so badly it almost came out from under me. I managed to wrestle it upright and keep going, but not before cutting Stephen off behind me.
He braked hard and was rear-ended, at very slow speed, by another set of geniuses following too closely behind him. We both lost panniers in the road, which were luckily not run over. The only thing broken was my fender. I am typing this on a computer that was in a pannier hit by a car today. Good thing it was well packed. The screen is fine and the computer shows no indication of the trauma it went through today.
In 15 months, we’ve only had a few close calls, with none nearly so close as this.
It’s our LAST DAY, goddammit.
Any joy I had been feeling from the ride quickly disappeared after that and I just wanted to be finished.
Just after they sped past me, I looked up to see the grins of the passengers leering from the back of the SUV that almost killed me, as they sped off along the road.
There’s a cultural quirk in Indonesia that has been very hard for a couple of Canadians to accept. Here, there doesn’t seem to be any expression of remorse or apology. For people that say “sorry” every five seconds, this freaks us out a lot.
Did you waste an hour of my time with your incompetence? Don’t say sorry, just laugh as if it’s the funniest joke you’ve ever heard. Did you send us 7 km across the city to a coffee shop you knew would be closed? Hilarious. Did you almost end my life with your terrible driving skills? By all means, laugh it up, and make sure your pals are all laughing too.
I know, however, my natural response, which involved the middle finger and some choice words at volume, seems as inappropriate to the locals as their lack of concern over my safety seems to me.
The end of this long story is a good one.
We got to Ubud (which is filled to the brim with foreigners, by the way) in time to file our applications for visa extensions tonight. Exactly 1.2 M Rp lighter, we headed to a vegetarian restaurant where they had lots of California-style veggie food, like chickpea burgers and quinoa. Stephen also got some fancy coffee beans at F.R.E.A.K. Coffee.
Three wins in a row.
And then we pedalled a few more kilometres to our friend Amy’s stunningly beautiful jungle retreat, where we’ll be staying on and off for the next month. But more on that tomorrow…
Soundtrack: Calexico, Hot Rail | Irving, Death In The Valley, Blood On The Flowers | Local Natives, Gorilla Manor | Adam F, Kaos: The Anti-Acoustic Warfare | Chris T-T, London Is Sinking | Gorillaz, Plastic Beach | Arcade Fire, Neon Bible | The Magnetic Fields, I ♥