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Riding Through Bali – From Kuta to Banyumala Waterfalls (Part 1)

As we arrived in Bali after a red eye flight, we still felt lucky from skipping the 30 hours plus that many people end up doing to get to this wonderful destination from Canada or the US. We were excited about our upcoming adventure, riding a motorcycle through Bali! We planned on riding from Kuta Beach all the way up north to Banyumala Twin Waterfalls, going through the famous Ubud village, and then around Mount Batur before hitting the coast and islands. I had already arranged the motorcycle with Bali Dirt Bike Adventures that was delivering it straight to our hotel, which made it super convenient. At that time, we didn’t know what to expect from the roads, but after my experience from riding through Vietnam, I felt confident.

We started first by making our way out of Kuta Beach. It was honestly a dreadful location that got overwhelmed by tourists. The simple task of finding a Balinese restaurant was stupidly challenging. After a two days in Kuta, we packed our bags on the motorcycle, ready to run away from that location. Towering three bags in the back, two boxes on the sides and two more bags on top of the boxes, we were heavy. The motorcycle was already heavy, but with our luggage and another human, I felt not only the weight of the bike, but the responsibility that I, as the driver, was going to have throughout the travel. Nonetheless, I felt ready for this adventure.

Our first stop after Kuta Beach was a hotel near the famous Beiji Guwang Hidden Canyon, near in Sukawati. A beautiful canyon that you get to explore through a mix of crawling through the water, climbing and stretching yourself against the walls to avoid falling. It was our first adventurous destination. We even made a wonderful encounter near our hotel when I spotted people fighting in the mud. That was our introduction to Mud Kopi and real Balinese food at Mepantigan. God it felt right after Kuta Beach. Took me at least two days to get used to the weight of the motorcycle and the extra life on it, but I started being able to better understand this green little monster. 

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Following the mud fighters, we made way towards Ubud. A destination loved by many travelers. It’s a beautiful village surrounded by temples to discover and monkeys to befriend. This is where we truly discovered the number of tourists on scooters. The ongoing trend was flip flops on scooters while I was rocking my motorcycle half-boots. The sight of all those flip flops made me cringe as it’s so easy to flip a flip flop while riding, with devastating consequences. But to each their own.

As we visited the famous Monkey Forest Temple, the sight reminded me of the forest temple in The Legend of Zelda. The monkeys were lovely and always ready to steal your phone, credit card and social security number. (I’m kidding about the second part, but not about them stealing phones. They just love to chew on it!) I did end up feeling relieved when we left given the amount of tourists there. My traveling companion and girlfriend was on the same wavelength and we both enjoyed getting out of that place.

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Our next stop was the Tirta Empul. The roads had started to shift at this point as the rice valleys trails were taking over the flat surface of the coast. Through twists and turns, with no luggage, we navigated through those hills and it was quite exciting. That feeling of leaning over to take a sharp turn and accelerating out of it was just amazing.

Once we reached the Tirta Empul, also known as The Holy Springs Temple, one had to wear the traditional clothes out of respect for the place. And we came to realize soon why it was called “Holy Springs”. Turns out that there’s a pool with running spring water that many plunged into to get cleansed. While some took it to heart with a strong belief in it, many others were there for the Instagram photo of the day. Despite the numerous tourists, there were many locals as well building offering baskets that we came to see all over Bali made of flowers and incense.

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Moving on from the beautiful columns and architecture found in the temple, we made friends with the parking guy. Learning we are coffee lovers, he brought us to a Cantik Coffee, a coffee and spice plantation 5 minutes away. And what a treat it was. We were welcomed by 10 coffee and tea tasters from the local farm. From coffee roasted with ginger to lemongrass teas, it was a party of flavors. The tour guide working there felt much pride in sharing his livelihood. We left with our arms full of ginger coffee and tea on top of some local spices that I like to purchase on my travels.

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Right after the multiple coffee shots we just had, we made our way to catch the sunset on the famous Tegalalang Rice Terrace. And it was a sight to behold. With most tourists already gone, we enjoyed a very bright colored sunset that brought the rice terraces and the green pastures to life. We found ourselves surrounded by others like us, trying to catch the dying light of the day. 

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After leaving Ubud, we headed towards our first AirBnB, a rustic cabin near the Banyumala Twin Waterfalls, North of Bali. This was our first long road with over 2 and a half hour’s ride towards the mountains. And this is when we truly discovered the roads of Bali. Going through twists and turns and narrow gaps from incoming traffic. With the weight of the motorcycle, the luggage and my passenger, I was hit by the challenge I was going to face in the next couple of days. Prior to getting on the road, I had told Lida, my girlfriend: “If you are scared, just squeeze your legs.” And believe me, she just kept squeezing from one turn to another.

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Finally, getting close to our night lodge, we followed Google’s indication. “Turn right, then turn left…” Less than 5 minutes away from our destination, Google betrayed us! In the hopes of saving us a precious 30 seconds, it made us turn 2 streets before the main one. Sending us downhill through a path made of nothing but sand. As the downhill angle kept increasing, Lida got off so I could more easily manage the bike. In a mountain of dust, squeezing my legs as tight as I could, I went down until Google said once again “Turn right, then turn left.” But at this point, it was clear that Google didn’t have eyes on what was in front of us. A small road, barely 35cm wide, enough for a simple scooter or motocross to pass. 

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With a patch of earth at shoulder height on one side and an inviting ravine on the other one, three words came to mind at this point. “F*ck you Google.” It was clear that the British accent lady was trying to kill me. For a brief second, I even considered it. But I shook my head as to wake from a stupid dream. “Let’s go back” said Lida. And despite the dread of going uphill through that sand, it was still safer than taking a chance here. And so, while Lida was walking up, I hit the gas and slowly climbed the tricky road. Until the back wheel got caught in a sandpit and I ended up stuck, slowly falling. As I got up to set the bike straight and get out of that sandpit, nothing happened. I was stuck on that sandy slope with a heavy monster. Thankfully, with the help of local we pushed the bike out. I whined that engine like a roaring tiger to get all the way up, back to the road. By the time I was off the path, I was drenched in sweat, dizzy from the scorching heat and covered in dust. When we finally got to our destination, my arms were shaking from the energy it took to get out of that predicament.

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We had barely gone through 1/3 of our total road and I started to feel that riding through Bali was a mistake. Little did I know how much this feeling would follow me throughout the next couple of days as we tackled Mount Batur.

Dragos out!

GOOD READ: The Day When I Flicked a Stone by Lida Stanchenko


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Here’s the itinerary we took around Bali on a Motorcycle!