05 December, 2011

Bali 2011

It’s 5.45am early dawn high up in the central mountains of Bali and Kimie and I are off to climb an active volcano – Mt Batur.

The little red Yamaha Mio scooter is buzzing away at a heady 60kmh as we ride the empty roads through Penelokan, a mountain village with excellent views of the volcano and eponymous lake.

Penelokan is quiet at this hour, not even the dogs are stirring – or are they?

Over there on our right a mangy local hound drowsily picks itself up, shakes off the sleep and proceeds to slowly meander across the road. I slow down just to be sure, but expect that like most of the local mutts it will plonk itself down again a few steps later – most likely in the middle of the road and oblivious to passing traffic….

….. but no, he keeps coming so I slow further – down to around 30kmh now – when Fido decides to make an almighty dash to the other side and directly in our path. I hit the brakes hard but is too late and I plan for the inevitable collision and hope it is not going to be too painful – as usual, we are dressed like the natives and our shorts, teeshirt and thin rain poncho are guaranteed to shred themselves on the coarse bitumen along with the removal of several epidermal layers.

With a thud the front tyre hits Fido amidships and with a series of yelps he cartwheels into the air. My focus though is not on him, but on keeping the Mio upright. Amazingly the little Mio tracks true and wobbles to an almost stop. I ask Kimie if she is Ok, she replies YES and without stopping we continue on our way to our 6am rendezvous with the guide who will take us up the volcano. I subsequently check the Mio and it doesn’t even have a scratch – this is one of the benefits of a small bike, we hit the canine from below, rather than from above and didn’t end up bouncing over it.

Apart from this incident, the rest of our time riding in Bali was most enjoyable. We picked up the little Mio in Kuta on the morning after our arrival, and for the princely sum of $4 per day we immediately sped off for the 120km ride to Lovina on the northern coast of Bali where we planned to spend our holiday relaxing by the beach and enjoying the sights and sounds in the immediate area.

We had packed light with only two carry-on bags as our sole luggage and this allowed us to carry everything on the Mio without difficulty. With one bag upright between my legs in the step through area, and the other balanced on my thighs, the Mio was easily manoeuvrable through traffic. Once we had wended our way through the stop-go chaos around Denpasar we left the traffic behind as we started the long ascent along quiet country roads bordered by rice padis up to the cool mountain air of Bedugul before wending our way back down to the steamy coast and relative traffic congestion of Singaraja. On reaching the coast it was a quick 10km westward ride to the peaceful relaxed beach resort at Lovina.

We also enjoyed quite a few day trips along the coast and up into the hills, following 2 lane bitumen roads that slowly petered into single lane then gravel and then 1.5m wide dirt tracks whilst simultaneously getting steeper and steeper to the point where first Kimie had to hop off and walk and eventually I had to climb off and run alongside the asthmatic Mio as it struggled up the precipitous slopes and into the ever thinner air.

Riding in Bali itself is most unlike the Western experience and one has to contend with not only animals but also the regular array of vehicles - oncoming vehicles overtaking (requiring you to run off the road or stop), motorbikes in the millions zipping past you in all directions, and pedestrians oblivious to the traffic. Throw in the poor quality, potholed and bumpy roads and you have a true adventure. Despite all this, however, Kimie felt more comfortable on the little Mio than she did riding as pillion in Australia – , possibly due to the much lower traffic speeds. Most of the time she was more than happy to sit back and relax, without holding on to me or the bike, and make video recordings holding the camera as we rode along.

Overall, a very enjoyable experience for us and one we wish to repeat again soon – one tip though, avoid southern Bali! Anywhere south of Denpasar is simply traffic jam central and no fun riding at all.

Mt Terrible

Take 1.
The Mt Terrible track is an off road adventure I first heard about from a group of 4WDers around 15 years ago. I had always planned to ride up there one day but had simply forgotten about it as a possible ride venue.

Earlier this year I decided to look at Google maps and find out exactly where this terrible mountain was and at that point I decided it really couldn’t be that hard to get to after all.

My first attempt was on a Friday (7th October) and given the unknown road conditions I elected to take the Postie Bike. The total round trip was around 350knm but this was slow going on a Postie bike that had a cruising speed of around 60kmh.

To get there I followed the Maroondah Highway out through Lilydale and Healesville then through the Black Spur, turning off the highway at Narbethong to Marysville and finally hitting the dirt just past Cambarville at the Warby-Eildon (Big River) road turnoff.

This was more like as the postie came into its own on the gravel. From looking at Google maps I knew there was a turnoff along this road on my right which would take me up to the top of Mt Terrible - unfortunately what I hadn’t counted on was the lack of signposting (or more correctly meaningful signposting), as the signs simply displayed the name of the track BUT not where they lead to.

As I passed more and more turnoffs the road became more and more a track till eventually it became simply 2 wheel tracks amongst the undergrowth and the inclines became more precipitous.

Finally I arrived at Enoch’s Point by which time I realised I had missed the turnoffs so I continued along the Big River road eventually hitting the bitumen again at the Eildon – Jamieson road turnoff.

From here it was a fast (for a postie) windy run to Eildon itself where I rode across the weir wall looking at the water which was full for the first time in over 20 years. I didn’t realise at the time, but 3 days later the authorities opened the sluice gates on the wall and released water over the top – something which was sufficiently momentous for it to feature on page 1 of our local Melbourne newspapers.

From here the 150km ride back home was straightforward except for having to ride with a missing right hand footpeg rubber – something which I had lost on the gravel, probably as a result of constant vibrations from the gravel corrugations.

Take 2.
Approx 6 weeks later (22nd November ) and it was time to revisit Mt Teriible but this time there were going to be two major changes. Firstly in order to make better time on the bitumen I was going to be riding B1, and secondly, I was going to do the trip in reverse to ensure I found the right track to the top of Mt Terrible.

Following the Eildon-Jamieson road I knew the Mt Terrible turnoff was approx 700m past the Big River Rd intersection, and I found the track without too much difficulty but once again it was unsignposted so I had to trust I was heading in the right direction. As I ascended, the track became progressively steeper and rougher with sharp rocks on the inclines which whilst providing grip for 4WDs, only made B1 bounce around and lose traction whilst simultaneously making it hard to retain directional control.

There were also lots of intersecting tracks and it was difficult to know whether you should have taken a turnoff, but I finally came across a signpost pointing straight ahead to Mt Terrible just at the point where I felt sure I should turn back. I continued on only to find around 800m later I had reached the top hut and the lookout tower – now I know why it is so easy to get lost in this area.

Sidenote: I did have my Garmin GPS and mobile phone GPS with me but the actual tracks and the GPS were never 100% in alignment.

After a brief rest and walk over to the lookout tower, and inspection of the hut, I decided to continue South where I expected to eventually meet up with the Big River / Warby-Eildon Road again. The first part of the track consisted of a fairly steep downhill section on slippery terrain and this was quite a challenge as B1 freewheels downhill at anything below 24km/h. I had good reason to thank B1’s left hand operated brake lever as this allowed me to use both brakes whilst putting my feet down (when needed) and also gave me much finer braking control (compared to a foot operated brake lever) such that I never lost control even on the steepest sections.

The road continued up and down ever more steeper and rougher tracks for another 20kmh until I looked down and realised B1’s engine was overheating - I had jammed the radiator fan against the radiator when I had bashed over some of the bigger rocks.

I stopped for 15 minutes to let everything cool down and then switched the motor off on the downhill sections to prevent a recurrence.

Half an hour later I reached the main gravel road and found the track I had ridden down was called the Hope Track. From here the road surface progressively improved and I saw my first vehicle for the day since venturing off-road and ¾ hour on I hit the Reefton Spur Road. From here B1 was in its element and we enjoyed the curving road – albeit a little damp in places – down to Reefton and Warburton.

From here on it was straight home, arriving tired but satisfied, after a pleasingly long day in the saddle and fulfilment of another riding goal.