Does Bali have an equivalent to 911?
My morning started out normal; I packed up my motorbike with a suitcase, two tote bags, a yoga mat, and a backpack and I set GPS for an end destination of the hotel I wanted to go to in Kubu, Bali.
I had gone from never riding a motorbike before to riding from Canggu, to Medewi, to Ubud, and now I was heading to Kubu. A total of 700 km under my belt with me and good old google maps always doing its trusty thing -getting me to my destination the quickest and (semi) safest way. This day in particular started out no different.
I followed each direction and as I was making my way East, about 30 km into the ride, I started to think, “Wow, I really wish I went ahead and strapped that GoPro to my helmet,” as this drive was turning out to be beautiful! I was seeing views I had never seen before and I was getting higher and higher.
Eventually though, I knew something seemed off as it started to get colder as I continued to go up. Bali, cold? I knew this really only meant one thing… I was ascending up a mountain… but wait, what??
I saw people passing, wearing snow hats and I was starting to get jealous of those hats for how cold it was seriously getting. I should have known to check the map to see where I was actually going….but no, I trusted Google, and kept following its directions.
Google maps in Bali is something different; if you have the “motorbike” option selected, it will literally take you down a plank of wood that hovers over water to get you to your destination sooner. It’s actually incredible the weird ways it considers roads that are actually on the map. So I thought of this as no different and kept the trust and kept going.
I had heard of Mount Batur. I knew I wanted to visit it at some point maybe even do the sunrise hike from it as I did from mount Ijen in Java, but I didn’t think I would be seeing it that day! I was 100% riding my motorbike up Mount Batur, on my own.
Eventually, the views were incredible, with my phone in a crappy water case pouch, I tried to take a few pictures knowing they wouldn’t really be turning out very well but it was hard to take the phone in and out of the case. And eventually, I started to see small kiosks and tourist type stands after a long way of being on a remote road with restaurants saying Mount Batur- ok seriously, where is my go pro!? – at the bottom of my suitcase and I wasn’t about to stop and dig it out – although, I should have. I wish to this day that I would have.
The ride was beautiful. Google maps was working great, my service provider-although three days past my one month’s usage allowance – was working great and I was seeing some epic views on this motor scooter ride. Eventually, I got the top.
I came to a small town in a valley at what seemed like the end of the volcano trek. The road was very steep coming down and I had to hold the breaks the entire way down to keep me from speeding up – plus the road was a tight one with many switchbacks. Once I got down, I tried to hit those breaks one more time and low and behold, the break didn’t work on the right side. DIDN’T WORK. At all. Quite an interesting feeling. Luckily I had the left break but it was also pretty worn out and very hard to press. But hey! I was at the bottom and luckily that didn’t happen on the way down right?? Well.. semi-right.
Little did I know, that I was going to have to go back up (and down) to get out of this valley of Mount Batur. There was really no turning back at this point.
“Trusty GPS” p.s. I love how “god” is an autocorrect for GPS on my phone as I type this story… no god would have ever sent me this direction, but thanks.
I was at the “bottom” of this valley that was already at what I thought was the top of the mountain. I remember stopping the bike at the bottom, looking up at what seemed to be cliffs and thinking how steep it was and thinking how afraid of heights I was. I couldn’t believe it was my only way out. Knowing my breaks had just died on me before I was not looking forward to going up, knowing eventually I had to come back down. I had no idea how the mechanics of breaks worked and why they went out in the first place. I started to go up what was one of the steepest hills (well
volcano/mountain) so far.
There really weren’t many other people on this entire road that day and what once started as, “Oh what a beautiful remote drive this is,” ended up being a “yeah, no shit no one else is on this road.” It’s probably killed a few people! Ok maybe not. But luckily at that exact moment, randomly, there was a local on a motor scooter behind me that passed me, going quite fast, and just went up, which gave me some sort of bravery to continue going up, at least I knew it was even possible to go up since I was watching it be done. Honestly, it was that steep I didn’t know if it was possible. I thought if this was actually dangerous this local surely wouldn’t be doing it too – he also wasn’t carrying 40lbs of luggage on the back of his scooter that also had much more power than mine did, but I overlooked that at the time.
Being afraid of heights, but loving a good view, even I couldn’t dare look around me as I went up. I had recently seen a “funny” video of someone riding a lawnmower up a super steep hill and the thing ended up flipping backward on him… which naturally is all I had in my mind as I went up this near verticle mountain on my small cc motorbike.
Okay, PHEW, I made it to the top. Once at the top…I kept following google maps. I was deep into this ride that said it would take 2-3 hours, I was already 3 hours in and nowhere near my destination. I thought that the hard part had to have been done now.
The adventure was so far from “done.” The fastest route it had me on, took me to a dead-end road…what?? Nooo! why!! I drove down the road it told me to until the map started going in and out of service but then it randomly told me to make a u-turn. Even the map now had no clue what to do with me.
There was another couple that flew past me as I made the u-turn and as I went up, got service again, GPS was like “no you were going the right way, go back that way”… so I did. I turned around again and started heading back down. Within a few minutes, the couple had come back up and stopped me saying there was a dead-end road there. They were out looking for a waterfall which… didn’t sound easy to find either lol. I kind of had to go see this dead end for myself of course, especially since my GPS was telling me to keep going, so I kept going.
I parked the bike and walked a little way down and yeah, a dirt road led ahead that didn’t look very promising for me to continue on. I sat there thinking what the hell do I actually do right now??? One local on a scooter came past but they just kept driving down and continued down the dirt road that honestly, I knew wasn’t an option for me.
I was just parked there sort of given up as I had no clue what to do. I was stuck. I was on empty for gas, my cell phone was in and out of service at this point, the only thing I had was a decent amount of cell battery keeping me going. Another scooter came past and with no English told me with very prominent hand signals, “don’t keep going this way your scooter will tip over.” So I stayed put again. I was there for at least 20-30 minutes in the heat having not a damn idea what I needed to do. Turning back around and starting over just wasn’t an option. Basically, all I did know, was that I didn’t want to go back down the way I came up. Nope. I’d rather live in that small village forever than go down that steep ass cliff hill that got me into this mess.
Then a younger adult with some sort of English passed and asked where I was going. He offered to drive me to a place to get me some service and some more gas. And to get me on the right road, for 100,000 rupiahs. I gladly accepted as that is a whopping $7 USD I would have paid him $50 at that point. I followed him for about 15 minutes. There were some beautiful views! I beeped at him from my bike to stop and did a charade hand gesture to take a picture – since I now had a paid private guide through a volcano the least he can do is take my photo haha. He gladly did it. We even took one together. He took me to the top of a road that went around the dead-end dirt path and then said to get my GPS ready, pointed for me to keep going and he let me go on my way. I was sad to part with him! I thought he was going to take me all the way there.
Remember the part where my breaks stopped working?? Yeah, that was still on my mind as I had an entire mountain to get down now, and on my own. The views were incredible though. I mean I was high in the sky, riding around my first, and hopefully last, volcano.
Going down was still a bit dodgy with the break situation that I knew nothing about. I’ve never felt anything like the breaks just going out, but now that I knew it was an option, I was pretty scared to go down any hills. I got lucky the first time that they went out when I was in a more flat area allowing them to cool down again to be able to work. Funny as I was just thinking a few moments before they went out about how good my scooter was and how I can say when I came to sell it, it that I’ve never had any issues with it. I think I’ll just get the breaks checked and fixed and still leave this part out.
I know I’ve already said it several times, but this was one of those moments you wish you wore your GoPro on your helmet because I’m not going to do that again ever again lol but what an experience to feel so free, like I was going to die, and like I was stranded and then so free again all in one scooter ride. GPS told me that should have taken me two hours…it took me over 5 hours when everything was said and done to get to the bottom. I was ready to ask a local to sleep on their floor that night. When I was in that giving-up stage, it was about 2:30 pm, and even though mid-day… I was afraid it was going to get dark soon. The whole experience was quite a rush.
I love me a remote area drive but that took it to the next level. Next time I see a crater looking thing on the map in the path of my motor scooter drive, I will 1000% know, hey, that looks like a large mountain, volcano, or a no no place to go and kindly ask GPS to find me an alternative route.
Do I regret my naiveness and climbing Mount Batur with a scooter full of luggage, minimal scooter skills, without a jacket lol and a fear of heights? At the time, HELL YES. I would have done anything to not have had to experience that. But when I look back, there are a few times in your life that really push you, get you out of your comfort zone and force you to learn the hard way and to grow and see what you would do in certain situations. This was one of those moments. Did I cry? Not a full face of tears but I did at one point for sure think I would be sleeping on that mountain in a stranger’s home on the floor not being able to speak much English in hopes they could take me off the mountain the next day when it was light again.
I don’t know how my breaks didn’t go out on me until I didn’t need them anymore, that is somehow shy of a miracle and even though it makes the story less exciting, I am so so so thankful they came back for me. When I took the bike to the shop to get them checked out, I ended up getting a new tire, new brake pads, an oil change, and a fill-up on gas for $11 USD. and then the bike was fine again. I also just didn’t know that you simply can’t ride on your breaks going down steep hills because it well, overheats them and makes them stop working!
Lesson learned? I sure hope so 🙂