Two weeks in Vietnam was just enough to get a fine taste of a spectacular country. The street food was top notch, the climate near perfect, and the local culture was great! The schedule called for a trip over to Indonesia for a training camp so the journey continued across the ocean…
Last November during a race in East Timor I met Dr. Chet Collins who is a Physio Therapist from the States, currently living in Bali and working in the Middle east. He had spent some time working on my sore shoulder which had been dislocated 4 times the previous year and was starting to tighten up and hinder my racing. After just two sessions he had the shoulder moving freely again and it hasn’t been a problem since. It was starting to tighten up a bit this spring so I was grateful when Chet said he could work on it and make sure it was in top condition for another year on the circuits!
Over-nighting at the airport in Singapore was a treat as they have everything in there including a movie theatre, outdoor courtyard for fresh air, free massage chairs, quiet zones with waterfalls, loads of good food, free internet, and the enjoyment of watching thousands of travellers transit through the area on there journeys around the World. As good as it was, hopping a flight to Bali the next morning wasn’t hard to do!
Arriving in Ubud, Chet and Trudys house was full so they had set me up with a home stay at there friend Werners, who lives along the edge of the jungle in the rice paddies. The only way to reach it is via a meandering 300 meter path through the paddies. It was a great place to get over the travel and rest up from the Vietnam Victory Challenge. After 2 days of easy riding and getting some work done on my shoulder , it was back to work on wrapping up the base training for the year. I had no idea where I was headed but had a training plan which called for some big days at Tempo so I took off up into the mountains from Werners.
Werner and Chet have been mapping out rides in Bali the past couple years and have this place pretty figured out. They sent me up a 1400 Meter climb to the town of Kintamani on the edge of the Mt Batur crater. Dropping into the crater, riding across some rough lava rocks before connecting to a small wining road going up to a little notch in the north side of the crater. The backside dropped 1600 Meters back down to the Indian ocean. It got even better traversing a small path on the edge of the Volcano for a while before dropping down through a maze of trails and small access roads back to the throng of tourists on the coastal highway below.
From here it was a flat cruise to the laid back fishing village of Amed on the Northeast side of Bali. My buddy Dave and I had spent a week here last October for a pre-Crocodile Trophy training camp and had really enjoyed the dirt cheap seafood, snorkelling and riding. It was tempting to set up base for a few days here, but the next morning I got the itch too check out the Island of Lombok so road down to the beach, hopped on a boat and floated across the Lombok straight, unloading in Bengsal at noon in the heat of the day. It was a scorching time to start a ride but I tried to look at it as “hot f’ing day training” as I’m sure it will come in handy at a race somewhere down the line. Keen to check the island out I was soon heading inland, cruising up through a jungle called the monkey forest with Monkeys running all over the place conducting monkey business with the tourists driving by.
Soon after I started winding around various trails and small roads to try and stay up on the flanks of the legendary Rinjani volcano (3700 M) and off the main roads. This was a nice way to get a glimpse of the chilled Lombok culture and the countryside full of colourful temples melting into the lush green foliage surrounding them. It was rambutan season and the locals could be seen coming back from the jungles with loads of red fruits tied to there scooters as they escorted them to the markets. These are little pearls of energy which perfectly fuel a hungry rider.
One thing with this time of year is that was the end of the rainy season and during most afternoons big thunder clouds would roll in with torrential rains. This afternoon was no exception as I hid out twice for twenty minutes to avoid the buckets of water. These hideouts were the highlight of the day as locals would come up to talk. From bike tours in Sumatra, Bali and now Lombok, I have come to discover the the Indonesian people to be both very welcoming and very curious. They’re always interested if they can help your journey and begin asking infinite questions typically starting with “Where are you going?”, “Where are you staying?”, “Where are you coming from?”, “Are you alone?” At first I found these questions a bit invasive, but soon understood its just the curiosity of the Indo culture and for them it’s odd to see someone travelling alone, yet in flashy spandex and a carbon bike. For this reason I’de generally wear baggy shorts and try to dumb down looking like a foreign alien as much as possible.
Trying to find some accommodation this night was a challenge. The idea to ride to Lombok was a last second plan, so all I had time to do was grab a sketchy map of the island from a tourist magazine in Amed. It seemed to have a camera over some of the tourist hotspots so I figured if I headed towards one of them I could find some accommodation. What I discovered was a bustling town called Magabasik, with probably close to 50 000 people, dozens of beautiful temples, but no accommodation in sight. Heading down to another town called Selong there were 4 or 5 little hotels but they were all full due to a government get together so it was looking like I was going to head to the Police station to see what they could come up with for the night. Just then a curious Lombok kid on his bike came over and offered to show me to a new hotel that no one new about yet. Following him through a maze of backroads we came to the sweet new hotel, which I met Patrick, a bike tourerer from France who informed me of his 2 hour search for a hotel and that this was all there was. At $50 for the night it was steep for Indonesia but still a bargain at Canadian standards!
The next day was a rad climb on the flanks of Rinjani up to 1600 M. The climb was on a narrow twisting road through the jungle which was very quiet, except for a group of 4 racers from Sumbawa who were training there and a bunch of Monkeys doing there thing. It was perfect for 1.5 hrs of tempo climbing, before cresting the top and dropping down into Sembalun which is home to much of Lomboks agriculture as it grows well up in the cool temps of this hanging valley at 1000 M. There was fresh veg and strawberries everywhere and loads of home stays as it is also a base camp for summiting the Rinjani Volcano. I was starting to understand that accommodation comes in the fest or famine sort in Lombok.
Dropping back down to sea level at mid day was a scorcher in the + 35 degree weather and another round of “hot f’ing training.” It was a hard hour hitting some steep punchy climbs before I came to an intersection in the road, one way heading 60 km on a flat ocean side road to the tranquil tourist haven of the Gili Islands, and the other way heading 7 km uphill straight back into the mountains to the touristy town of Senaru. I was feeling good and looking for another good tempo climb to fit into the training regime so headed upwards, past Senaru and pretty soon was on the trekking path up Rinjani. This was a steep climb but soon got too steep and muddy to continue at this time of year. During the dry season this climb could be a good one!
Heading back to Senaru there was a plethora of accommodations, I lucked out and found a bamboo hut on the edge of a giant gully overlooking the ocean far below and surrounded by a lush green jungle. Here I hired a guide to head into the jungle for a couple hours to check out some waterfalls. On the way back we hopped into an irrigation ditch which wound its way into the dark mountain with little holes for daylight every 30 meters. If they ever fixed the bottom it would be the ultimate waterside! Back at the bamboo hut we had a traditional Indonesian dinner on the floor, before the owners tried to escort me to there hotel. I asked if I could sleep on the front deck of there open Bamboo hut, they looked surprised but were happy to accommodate. The next morning was unreal waking up to the sun rising over the jungle at 6 am.
Feeling the past few days of training it was time for an easier day. First off we hiked into the jungle to shower under one of the waterfalls, and then trekked back up for a typical breakfast made with tempe, rice and eggs. Perfect fuel for the flattish ocean side ride to the Gili Islands in which they allow no motorized vehicles or loud dogs. There are 3 Gili Islands, Gili T, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Gile T is the largest, and the tourist meca. Gili Meno Air is a smaller and much quieter, while Gili Meno is super chill, and often referred to as the honeymoon island. I chose Gili T, it was a bustling little island but made for a perfect place to rest for a day with fresh seafood, nightly beach bonfires, and loads of backpackers to hang out with. I ran into a couple UK girls I had met earlier on my travels and we had a nice day together, highlighted by a 5 hour snorkel tour of the islands. We thought the $10 trip was awfully cheap, until we realized they had sold 45 tickets for the 30 passenger boat. It was ridiculous as people were hanging off the edges. Surprisingly we didn’t lose anyone and the snorkeling was out of this world with crystal clear waters and thousands of fish and even a few turtles swimming about.
Trying to leave the island the next day back to Bali was a bit of a game as most boats wouldn’t take my bike, or if they did they wanted to charge me double price. This was silly as I had no luggage other than my bike, so I opted to head down to the beach to negotiate there and had some better luck and was soon napping on the roof of the boat as it raced back to Bali. In Bali it was a nice 2 hour cruise up to Ubud to spend my last night around there with Chet, Trudy and there visitor from India, Kannan. Kannan was an unassuming figure, a quiet 30 year old who had grown up learning about yoga and meditation practices since the age of 2. It was a treat getting to spend some time with him as he seemed to have that part of life mastered and was in a clear state of peace with himself and the world. I later found out he is a Yogi King in India which is the highest state you can apparently reach!
On April 1st I was set to fly back to Canada. I woke up early for one last ride up to Kintamani at the top of the crater. Once up there I began to realize I was still full of energy and not quite ready to head home so opted to see if I could change my flight. Calling EVA airlines from a locals cellphone, I found out it was just $25 to bump the ticket back to the 5th. I hummed and hawed for 3 seconds, committed to changing the ticket, and then proceeded to drop into the large crater for an epic 6 hour training ride.
The next 4 days were stellar, between checking out Ubud and training on the flanks of Mount Batur behind town. I would often head up to Kintamani for a 1.5- 2 hours of climbing followed with either some exploring through the crater or winding back down the mountain on various other roads, often getting right into the middle of the Balinese culture and experiencing there unique way of living out in the countryside where they tend to the rice paddies and plan there next big ceremony. A couple of times I was invited into there homes for a tea when I stopped to buy some water. These always made for a nice break in the training and some very interesting conversations.
One night Chet and I headed up to the agriculture heart of Bali in the small town of Bedugul. From here I continued on for 6 hour ride, dropping down into the jungles of North Bali before climbing back up past a sweet waterfall near Munduk, along a gorgeous ridge overlooking the sea below, through a crater and back up to meat Chet at Bedugul. After a night of gorging on fresh veggies and strawberry juices it was off to bed for a sound sleep, before getting up, drinking more strawberry juice and heading back down to Ubud through a maze of trails and rice paddies which Chet and Werner had mapped out over the past few years. It was an unreal ride, which I would’ve never found by myself, as we cruised from 1200 Meters back down to near sea level at Ubud.
In Ubud there was a hippie get together called the Bali Spirit festival going on in which hippies and yogis from around the World were converging for a weekend of hugging and making peace signs. It was a crazy experience heading out to the night festival and taking in the festivities. My Indian friend Kannan refused to go to the hippy commune, which I later understood as there was a lot of artificial happiness occurring there with magical mushrooms and other happy drugs. It was a little hippy overboard for even me coming from a tree planting background, but was certainly an educational way to finish off what had been a very busy and successful Indonesian training camp!
Heading back to Canada is always exciting and after a 2 day visit up in Kelowna with my friend Luke and Stacey to get some fitness testing done at the Balance Point Racing headquarters, it was back to base camp on the Island to prep up for the next adventure. My Dad joined me for the drive and we had a nice few days on the Island together with my brother. It’s crazy how little time we get to spend together as a family anymore as we are all busy getting our lives on in various parts of the World. Every time we do get together it’s a blast though and the older I get the more I really treasure these times!
After a week of rest my cousin Tasha joined me for an Island Cup up in Cumberland. These races are always a blast as we get to race on great singeltrack courses, followed up with a BBQ with a bunch of laid back Island bikers. This one was no exception with a record turnout of nearly 200 racers, my cousin managed the feed zone and kept me fueled to take the victory.
It was a busy next couple days, getting my new roommate Clinton settled in, trying to keep life organized, training and then packing and heading off to California for Sea Otter. It was a sweet flight down, sleeping most the way, then waking up to the view of the Golden Gate bridge below under a nice sunset. Reuniting with my Kona Teammates Kris, Spencer, Barry and his wife Sarah was awesome as I haven’t had a chance to spend a lot of time with them lately with my Asian racing campaigns. It’s going to be a great week hanging out with the Crew down here!