Biking my way through Bali’s terraced rice paddies, lush jungles and waterfalls

On Nyepi Day or Silence Day (28 March this year), all Bali goes into lethargy. Locals and tourists alike are not allowed to roam the streets, to take a car or bike, to use a stove or oven, to work and to make noise. It is a day for meditation and contemplation, but originally it was designed to trick the demons into thinking Bali was inhabited so they wouldn’t come and annoy the people on the island for the rest of the year. Cunning!

As suggested, on Nyepi Day I did nothing, I lazily hang around by the pool and ate only one banana and a cracker. So the day after I really felt like I needed to stretch those legs and to go as far as I could with the bike.

Jatiluwih rice terraces, a UNESCO world heritage

At 7am I rode off, driving through villages barely awaking from Nyepi lethargy, along small roads which offered great views over the various volcanoes of the island, towards the famed Jatiluwih rice terraces.

This ensemble of terraced rice paddies is on the UNESCO World Heritage List so I was really curious to see how they staged it for the benefit of tourism, and also how they were preserving it, in particular in terms of ecological sustainability – the researcher in me woke up!  

After 1h30 min of driving, I arrived at the rice terraces and was a bit disappointed. It was certainly beautiful, and void of any tourists at this early hour, but there was nothing apart from lovely walks in the rice fields to give tourists a better understanding of the rice field ecosystem over there. Worse, there was not even a sign mentioning the World Heritage status of the area.

So I didn’t stay as long as I expected and instead, wandered through the region, visiting a couple of temples lost in the middle of the jungle close to Mount Bratan (in particular Pura Luhur Batukau which was nice), before I decided to head back to the main road to go further north, crossing the mountain range that cuts Bali in two horizontally.

Bali’s volcano range

Driving through the mountains was more fun than I expected. The roads are good, definitely better than 6 years ago. The traffic in the morning on a week day is still pretty decent, and Balinese are rather good drivers, even if there is absolutely no respect for any rules on the road apart from whoever goes first is right.

As the humidity in the mountains is even higher than in the rest of Bali, there are always a couple of clouds clinging to the mountain tops, which added to the different vegetation up there, give a completely different picture of Bali. The coffee and strawberry plantations, the rubber trees, the lush jungle and steep flanks made me think of Colombia – don’t ask why as I’ve never visited Colombia – and of Sri Lanka. And it’s cooler here, the perfect weather if the air wasn’t so humid!

The 7 waterfalls of Sekumpul

Two mountain lakes later, my bike takes me to a tiny road that leads to a jungle area that contains 7 waterfalls, the Sekumpul waterfalls. I follow a dirt track with my bike into the mountain, just like the locals, although I had seen that most people park on the side of the road. Heck, if they can do it, I can do it! I arrive at a little hut and parking, before a steep walk down a slippery path that takes you all the way to the base of the mightier double waterfall which most of the tourists stop at. There are only a couple around, and the weather is still beautiful, although a bit misty. I decide to hike all the way down and visit the most famous waterfalls first. The steps are really steep and scary, but the views are amazing. I’m dreading the walk back up though… I spend two hours wandering from one waterfall to the next.

The scenery is wonderful and there are only 3 other people around. Quite different from the Git Git waterfalls! As I visit the last couple of waterfalls, it starts raining. Huh, that’s not good, never stay close to a mountain river when it starts raining. So I head back up as quickly as I can, and am completely soaked by the time I reach the top of the stairs, not just because of the rain, but also because of the sweat. My bag is wet too and I’m fearing for my camera. 

I wait in the little hut for the rain to stop and look at my poor phone who didn’t appreciate the wet hike at all. OK, now that’s going to be easy, alone in Bali without a working phone! As the rain doesn’t seem to stop, I decide to follow the locals and ride my bike through the muddy flooded path. Again, if they can do, why couldn’t I? Easier said than done though, as I really thought I wouldn’t make it a couple of times… But here I am again, riding my bike through the mountains towards the main road, and it’s still raining after 2 hours, just when I reach the flatlands and Ubud is in view. Lucky I always carry my fantastic Chinese bike raincoat with me. I need the same for my bag now 🙂

After 9 hours of traveling across the country, 6 hours of which on a bike, I need a good shower, and I join my new Balinese friends at a great place, the Onion Co. Delicious food, a pool to relax, great company, fast wifi, the perfect ending to an almost perfect day.

Tomorrow I’ll check if my phone is definitely dead or if I can revive it. Who needs a phone anyway?

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