"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Garuda Wisnu Kencana - Feb 2023 - Bali

In Seminyak I had a chat with Mridanga about his daily afternoon bike rides in Bali and he invited me to join him once I'd got hold of a bike. I hired one for 4 bucks a day for the duration of the stay in Nusa Dua, so that meant we were all set for some explorations of the Bukit Peninsula. Sadly I got struck down by a gastro bug of some kind when we first arrived, but after a couple of days confined to my room, and with imodium and antibiotics apparently keeping the illness under control, I agreed to jioin Mridanga and Amalendu on an easy ride out to the statue that commands the attention from all over South Bali - the mighty Garuda/Vishnu that has recently been build on the heights above Jimbaran.

Mridanga was on an e-bike, with myself and Amalendu on heavier-than-the-heaviest and slightly clunky rental-MTBs. I expected an easy ride, as Mridanga's main passion is exploring the back roads and taking video of local life, but how wrong I was!

We set out on the main drag down towards Uluwatu but soon opted to take an inland route heading direct for the statue. The GPS said 13k - not too testing, right? Then the hills began. Each one was a trial, with the hefty mountain bike sapping what energy was left in my body after it's recent ravaging by illness. The road was quintessential south Bali - busy with scooters and a few taxis and three-wheelers. We passed Warungs and schools, temples and travel agencies, as hill after hill took it out of me. Soon they had put me in front to set the pace (also that made sense for safefy as Mridanga had the high-viz gear and flashing light) but I still had to cover the distance. The mighty statue came into view over the treetops to our right, but the road headed onwards and upwards. When we came to a one-way system of sorts, we copied the locals on scooters and rode against the signs (seems they only apply to cars) which at least saved one more descent and ascent. A steep downhill led us, after what seemed an eternity, to the culture park where we stashed the bikes and bought our tickets.

Inside, I made it as far as the viewpoint for the statue, posed for a photo with Lord Rama, then left the other two to explore further while I laid down and rested under a tree. I was utterly hammered, feeling sick from the exertion. I didn't know this at the time, but my treatment regime was totally ineffective and was just masking the symptoms of a serious gastric virus I had somehow picked up. I was doing this ride in the searing heat, full sun, while in the grip of a tropical illness. This was not partiularly smart!

 Once the other guys rejoined me, I was desperately hoping we would take a different route home. I knew we had the option to ride north (downhill) then take a flat route east to Nusa Dua, but that meant much busier traffic than the route we'd taken on the way out and I knew they might not be keen. I wasn't about to ride solo in my weakened state. Fortunately we all agreed to follow google who for once came through by choosing the route I wanted.

The return journey began with a minor climb out of the culture park but I knew it would be followed by a descent and a long flat, so I breezed up it OK. Then came the long descent into Jimbaran, with all of us quickly learning the rules of the Balinese roads (or lack of them). Everyone is easy going and there is no road rage - that just wouldn't be in keeping with the mellow Balinese temperament. So through the chaos of myriad motor scooters, taxis, grab-cars and GO-JEK riders we somehow found our way down towards the intersection with the Nusa Dua road. After a few miles I had to brake suddently to avoid a scooter pulling out in front of me and I felt my back wheel lose its purchase and slide out. Fortunately it was only a brief slide and I stayed upright, but it made me cautious for the rest of the ride. In fact, it may have been real grace as later on Temple Hill we hit a really steep descent, testing my rather dubious brakes to the limit on tight bends, so without that warning slide I easily could have locked up and skidded on that treacherous section. Fortunately I stayed in control and managed the bike safely down to the junction.

Here we joined an even busier road and weaved our way through yet more amazing volumes of scooter traffic - with riders who couldn't cross the flow simply coming towards us on our side of the road to get to their turnings. I remember that phenomenon from India, so while it came as a mild surprise it didn't phase me and I was able to cope with 2-way traffic in my lane. When we finally arrived back at the security gates of Nusa Dua I felt well tested - very drained in fact - but happy to have shared the ride with 2 great guys and seen 2 sides of Balinese culture - the amazing statues of Rama and Garuda on the one hand and the unique world of Bali Traffic on the other.

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