Bali by bike part three: a Slippery Slope

by Will Sanders on October 9th, 2009


We now have us a nice map, thanks be to Marcus.  Here it is:

At the bottom of Ijen Luke, Tabby and Allen and I had to part ways.  different vacations in different directions, I had to stay true onward, they were taking the same way out they had come in on.  A guy told me the road out was a better road out than the one in, and I was a fool for believing him.  It was drizzling when I left and pouring down in sheets when I got to the first evidence that the road wouldn’t be smooth.  Now the gravel was slippery and the angle of the hill was often sharper than 45 degrees.  I tried to keep the engine slow but it wanted to go faster than I was happy with, sort of felt like taking a flying leap into the abyss with no control, surely I would hurt myself, surly I would leave the skin of my arms and legs and back somewhere on this mountain.  And what was worse, if I didn’t give it any gas the engine would cut out all together, Allen (who happens to be a gear head) had explained that the little engines didn’t do well at that altitude when I asked him a few days before about why the meo seemed unable to attain any sort of speed above 40 km an hour.  This was quite a pickle.

So what do you do?  I stopped in the pouring rain and puzzled over it for a time.  Too steep to go over 20 km without feeling like I was rocketingnd sliding to my doom, unable to keep the engine going at any slower pace.  So finally it occurred to me that I could just cut the engine out all together and coast on the brakes like it was a big heavy bike the whole way, never going fast enough to spill out, which any bike with no engine will do if you let it, just enough to make it from rock to rock, inch by inch in the screaming cold cold jungle mountain rain.  After a while my hands became sore from squeezing the brakes and every turn seemed steeper, and the few times when I could see the ground leveling off ahead I would turn the motor back on and gun it.  These brief bursts of speed were short lived and infrequent but quite nice.  Each time I managed to explain to myself and the deadly little meo that this was surely the end, the bottom of the mountain only to find another drop off a few switchbacks later.  The rain was in my eyes and every inch of me was soaked, I just wanted it all to go away, no more rain, level and dry roads, maybe a nice flat rice paddy again, those are so nice.  After more than an hour of this I finally found level ground, pine forest gave way to small villiages, the rain came harder.

Now, I was far off the main road, the streets winded through villages and small towns.  At each turn the signs to Banguwangi told me to go this way and I would ask the locals and they would point a different way.  The locals knew the best ways though and in the end I stopped looking at the signs all together.

So to make a long story longer,  I got to Banguwangi soaking wet and tired and pissed the hell off.  Now I needed an ATM,

ATM check.

I needed a bathroom

Ok, there’s one, Bathroom check.

I needed a hotel,


That one proved a problem.  This happened to be Idul Fitri day, which is a huge deal around here, so the hotels I did find were all booked up.  And it took hours of driving around to find those.  For two hours my efforts were fruitless, soaked and angry, tired and hungry.  I didn’t care if the place even had a floor just so long as it had a bed and a roof to keep out this rain.  Around and around I went endlessly, it was starting to becoming the night.  I asked so many people for directions, here is how the conversation tended to go, but they don’t seem to want to give spacial clues, like kilometers or landmarks, landmarks would be helpful.

So finally I found one, the only room left was the expensive one, it had three beds.  But it did have a pool and a bathtub, the first bath tub I had seen in five months, I almost forgot all about bath tubs.

Hotel, check.

Next on the list was food, I went back out in the rain (with dry clothes this time) to a burger joint I had seen in my circling.  I found that the burger joint was making the age old Asian mistake of calling a chicken sandwich in a bun a ‘burger’.  In my tired loopiness and for the good of everyone I found myself trying to illuminate the non English speaking teenage girl behind the counter on the matter but soon her indifferent stare told me my careful efforts would in the end prove fruitless.

So I had the chicken sandwhich which turned out to be pretty good.

I got back to the front desk at the hotel and I ordered a beer for my room.  An hour later I had already given up on the beer when there was knock at the door.  The guy at the front desk didn’t know what to do about the beer request.  They had beer but this was, after all, Idul Fitri, a high holy day.  The guy at the front desk had gone to the guys in the kitchen and together they mulled over the issue.  Finally they had the front desk guy go out the side door of the kitchen with the beer, across the street, around the corner, through an alley way, across a parking lot and around my little room just so everyone could say that on Idul Fitri nobody had walked across the hotel carring beer.  I tipped him when he told me the story and apoligized for putting him in that postition.  And so I floped in that hot tub and cracked that beer and sighed.  I can’t tell you how nice it was.

Long day.

4 Responses to “Bali by bike part three: a Slippery Slope”

  1. amy bugg burke says:

    Sounds like a horrible day, although I bet you will look back on it like you have with all of your adventures and smile. That’s so nice that they went through so much trouble to bring you a beer!

  2. Marcus Rosentrater says:

    That seems like a beer commercial. In fact, if you return to the states lets pitch an idea to the suits about a serious of commercials that focus on how you travel all this way through difficult terrain just to drink a beer on Idul Fitri.

  3. Quentin Lenk says:

    When in Bali, never use your left hand when giving or receiving objects, and this is considered taboo; do not beckon people with your finger that is very rude.

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