Motorbiking (and Crashing) Around Nusa Penida

“I’ve never driven a motorbike before… is it dangerous?” Hannah asked, fully trusting my response.

“Well, we’ll go really slow. It’ll be fine.”

Nusa Penida is an island off of the coastline of Bali near Nusa Lembongan. When Justine from Travel Lush wrote a post on how Nusa Penida could be considered the Bali of 50 years ago, motorbiking around the island shot to the top of my Indonesia to-do list.

Hannah and I received the keys to our motorbikes and slowly drove down the dirt path leading away from the dive resort we were staying at (yeah, the terrible one).

Paper map in hand, we weaved through tiny villages where locals gathered together on shaded bamboo platforms and raised their hands as we drove by. Chickens ran across the road in search of existential meaning. I expected to see modern resorts or spa retreats that looked like the buildings that dot the mainland of Bali, but there were none.

We made it to the top of a steep hill and followed the sign pointing to Crystal Bay, one of Nusa Penida’s top snorkeling sites. I looked back at Hannah, blissfully unaware that though I drove a motorbike in Australia, I haven’t ever ridden one on such a steep and potholed road. My stomach churned with a mix of excitement and fear as we raced down the tarmac to the bay.

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Sweating from the humidity, we parked our bikes, stripped down into our bikinis, and jumped into the sea. A strong current swirled us around the bay, making it impossible to stop and get a closer look at any marine life. A huge set of waves rolled through and smashed against a nearby cliff wall. The waves ricocheted back into the bay, scooping Hannah and I up with them.

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nusapenida4 nusapenida5 nusapenida6 nusapenida7 nusapenida9 nusapenida10Back at the beach, we dried off and hopped on our motorbikes in search of waterfalls and incredible lookouts.

Our crude map vaguely outlined where the Temeling Waterfall was, a cascade and temple cherished by Balinese Hindus. A local leading a French couple sped past us on their motorbikes, so we followed, figuring they were for sure heading to the same destination.

We made it to the entrance that led to the Temeling Waterfall, where of course — a group of local men lounged around socializing, attempting to sell cheap sodas and juices to tourists that came by.

A hen led her chicks around the stall.

One of the men pointed to the chicks and said, “They’re going to be soup someday. Very delicious.”

At least they’re free range?

The narrow path down to Temeling Waterfall took us through a lush jungle. After a few kilometers, the tiles gave way to a dirt trail. There was a cave wall on one side and a steep ravine on the other. I panicked a little about falling off the side and looked back at Hannah.

“Are you okay to go down this?”

“Yeah?” She shrugged.


On Hannah’s first day driving a motorbike, she bombed down gravel hills and teetered along cliff edges. I felt guilty because she didn’t know how insane this was (or at least she didn’t show it). It was like inviting someone over to play Socker Boppers and then throwing them into a Roman gladiator pit. She was the yin to my yang, her happy-go-lucky attitude telling me, “Hit the gas, Chantae! It’ll be fine!”

We made it to the bottom of the motorbike path. The dirt path led to a bamboo lounge structure with a panoramic viewpoint of the sea. We kept walking down a series of carved steps to an teal watering hole with a Hindu shrine beside it.

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A group of local kids took turns jumping into the water. At one point, the Frenchman tried to climb on top of a ledge to jump higher. The Indonesian kids waved their hands, signaling for the Frenchman to stop. After a few translations between the Frenchman, the kids, and their Indonesian tour guide, it was communicated that we should never climb higher than the temple shrine. The Frenchman scampered back town to a respectable level.nusapenida14 nusapenida13 nusapenida15

I was nervous about driving back up the path on our own. What if we fall off the side? How are we going to get back up?!

 

And remember Justine, the one who inspired us to go on this little adventure in the first place? Well, I must have skimmed over the part where her boyfriend crashed his motorbike at this exact spot. I only read this recently, and I’m so happy I didn’t know this fun fact before embarking on the motorbike adventure.

I tried to ask a local if he could set the pace ahead of us with his motorbike, but this was lost in translation. Fortunately, we thread through the path safely and continued exploring Nusa Penida under the bright sun.

We drove along road that was 60% gravel 40% chunks of asphalt to a lookout. The bike slipped out from under me and I dropped it. A few minutes later, I did it again. This shattered my confidence for the rest of the ride, making my hands shake and my mind uneasy.

At the Manta Point lookout, we saw the glimmering sea stretched out below us. Hannah and I walked to the edge of the point and looked down. The thrill of heights combined with the reckless sense of adventure you get when exploring an untouched island felt like pure bliss. We squinted into the water in hopes of seeing mantas but couldn’t spot them through the carpet of blue.

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The sun neared the horizon and we made our way back. While we were driving down a steep hill, I drove into a patch of gravel and hit the brakes. By the way, never brake in gravel! The bike crashed onto the ground, throwing me into the middle of the road. The skin on my knee, palms, elbow, and chest was scraped off. I wanted to ugly cry a tiny bit but instead yelled, “I want to get off the ride!”

nusapenida25Then I asked Hannah to take a picture.

“What? You want a picture? Are you sure you’re okay?!”

Bloody and tired, the day quickly turned from I could do this forrrevvver to get me the hell home!

I led the way back to our dive resort down more gravel/tarmac roads of death. There was one stretch that made my heart race. The bottom of the hill a hole filled with deep gravel and a thin strip of road to drive through. It’d be easy to miss and terrible to fall in.

My bike made it over the patch and I kept driving.

A few seconds later, I noticed that Hannah was no longer behind me.

Damn it. 

A couple came up to me and said, “Is that your friend back there? She just took a spill. She looks just like you now!”

Hannah slowly drove up minutes later with nearly identical wounds as mine — a gashed knee, cut up hands, and a scrape along her thigh.

As I drove past the villages, locals pointed at my bleeding body and went, “Ooooooh!”

A second later, Hannah drove by. Locals pointed at her bleeding body and went, “OOOOOHHH!!!”

Two North American girls, riding around Indonesia with bleeding tourist stamps of shame.

When we got back to the resort, the local staff rushed to give us antiseptic and bandages. I’d smashed the mirror and one of the side panels of the motorbike, but they didn’t seem that concerned. Later, they’d hand me a bill of 200,000 Rp, around $20 AUD, for repairs.

“Who needs travel or friendship tattoos when you could have matching scars?” Hannah mused while picking out chunks of embedded gravel.

Freaking Hannah. Always so positive and happy when we should really be dwelling on how terrible life is. 

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I felt really guilty for convincing Hannah to join me on the joyride — but she took the fall like a champion. It ended up being both a blessing and a curse that we both fell off of the bikes and injured ourselves in the same way. For the next few days, we tended to each others wounds and spent the days lounging on the beach. If only one of us had fallen, we would have felt bad for leaving the other behind, especially for things we’d planned to do together.nusapenida24

The unfortunate fact is that many tourists who motorbike around Southeast Asia sustain serious or even life threatening injuries — not just annoying scrapes that keep you out of commission for a few days. According to Adelaide Now, 504 people died on Bali’s roads in 2015. This isn’t that surprising when you look at the road conditions and consider that many Balinese drive like they’re going to be reincarnated.

Slow down, buddy. Not all of us get multiple shots at life here!

Take the proper precautions when motorbiking around Southeast Asia. Always wear a helmet and opt for a rental car in lieu of a motorbike in crowded areas or if you don’t feel comfortable.

What's it like motorbiking around the beautiful island, Nusa Penida, off the coast of Bali?

What about you? Have you ever had a travel fiasco like this?

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24 Responses

  1. Brent Reden says:

    Another great article Chantae. This story is another example why your dad is going bald though. You are trampsing around the world and get in little mishaps like the motorcycle accident. Proud of you. Great adventures you write about.

  2. EG III says:

    That video of you guys biking around was very appropriately described. Narrow roads and cliffs all around. I’ve never really been a fan of motorbikes because it seems like I’ve nearly died every time I’ve ridden/driven one so I can definitely relate to how you felt driving with the shaky hands. At least you weren’t hurt too bad once you finally did take a spill though!

  3. I remember andamans pictures are really beautiful and breathtaking. I hadd this wonderful experience in port Blair and it looks the same to me. The water looks so clean. Great story, made the post more interesting.

  4. This sounds like a great adventure but very risky at the same time. I remember I had something of this sort in port Blair. It is a beautiful island in India. Though, in port Blair the scenario was completely different and not risky and didn’t try it out due to fear.

  5. Ami says:

    Exploring with a motorbike is so much fun. It is gives you a different high. And for places in Indonesia, Thailand and Goa, a motorbike is really a must. Glad you were able to enjoy it. I loved your pic of diving into the sea. Of course, the other pics are amazing too.
    Ami recently posted…A Guide to best places to pick Hotels in GoaMy Profile

  6. Indrani says:

    Exploring in local vehicles seems the trend these days and makes sense too. It definitely is a kind responsible tourism. Great experience for but for the little mishap. Hope all is well now.

  7. Joanna says:

    You were so lucky to have fallen at the end and not on that narrow road taking you to the waterfall. I have watched the video and I don’t think I would have had the courage to drive a motorbike through there, especially that I didn’t drove one on gravel before.

  8. Wow! Must be an amazing experience exploring the rural side of Bali with no traces of commercialization. To ride all the way on your own and stopping by to immerse yourself in awe-inspiring nature and a scar to remember all the fun. You just want me hop onto a motorbike and go for a ride.
    Rashmi and Chalukya recently posted…Bishnoi Village Safari – A Glimpse into the Rural Communities of RajasthanMy Profile

  9. Shane says:

    I’ve always been hesitant to motorbike in a new destination after all the horror stories but it surely is the best way to see the most of a place!

  10. Miriam Ernst says:

    Wow! You had an amazing experience there (even if it seems it was a little risky). Very beautiful photos!
    Miriam Ernst recently posted…About MeMy Profile

  11. Chantal says:

    This post made me laugh so hard and cry at the same time. Your adventure reminds me of so many times where, at the end of the day, I just sat somewhere licking my wounds and wondering how on earth I was still alive. And you’re travel buddy is awesome! Everyone needs a ying to their yang 🙂

  12. Carmy says:

    How was the water temperature? It looks so lovely – making me want to dive right in with you! What an amazing experience you had.
    Carmy recently posted…Last Minute Gift Guide: Local EditionMy Profile

  13. Colby says:

    Kudos to you ladies for even having the courage to brave those Balinese roads. Every time I thought I just maybe, just might attempt it, I was like NOPE! I felt my life was in danger just by simply walking lol. Glad you ladies are ok and it makes for one great story!

  14. blair villanueva says:

    In spite of what happen crashing and bleeding still you ladies know how to turn unfortunate events to fun times! Everyone will be so lucky to be your travel buddy ☺

  15. Anju says:

    Such an adventure you guys have had! And a story to tell in the end! Bike riding sounds exciting, I’m always up for some adrenaline adventures. The shot of you jumping into the water is wonderful, all the pictures capture such beauty and energy. thanks for sharing! 🙂
    Anju recently posted…Grand Canyon, ArizonaMy Profile

  16. So much fun, exploring a place with motorbike and without a guide, you can stop wherever you like and stay how much time you want!! Nice article and you have got a perfect video that describe perfectly how was the road there! Thanks for sharing, I am keep following you around the world, keep going 😀

  17. Ana says:

    Loved your video and hats off to you gals riding your bikes into such a narrow lane. I’m sure it would have been an exhilarating experience!
    Ana recently posted…WWT Collection: Perfect Gift For TravelersMy Profile

  18. markandkate says:

    oh no! please be careful the next time. you guys are having so much fun

  19. You got me at “Chickens ran across the road in search of existential meaning,” Chantae! I love your storytelling! From someone who doesn’t know how to drive a scooter at all, I find you two very brave!!! Enjoyed reading it through.
    JONA | BACKPACKING WITH A BOOK recently posted…TEDxUSanCarlos Talk | How Traveling Shapes Me as a Woman and a WriterMy Profile

  20. markandkate says:

    My sister says that she has best diving experience ever there. oh no! please be careful the next time. you guys are having so much fun
    markandkate recently posted…The Best of Both Worlds on Italy’s Ligurian Coast.My Profile

  21. Justine says:

    Now I feel really badly! Ugh, that road down to Temeling is so sketchy. After my boyfriend crashed his bike we both learned a valuable lesson that if we don’t feel comfortable riding a steep or sketchy looking road then we just stop and turn around. We were both foolish for going as far down that road as we did and luckily he walked away with nothing more than a tiny scratch and broken mirror. Honestly I don’t know how on earth we got our bikes back up that road! But yeah, Nusa Penida is definitely not the place to learn to ride. I’m glad you guys didn’t get too hurt 🙁 As you know I also crashed (twice) on our second trip to NP. The roads to Broken Beach and Atuh Beach were so intense. It’s brutal but man it is an amazing island!!

  1. January 10, 2017

    […] I bought a sim card as soon as I arrived, and although it didn’t cost me much I was disappointed to find out that service was verging on non-existent most places I went. While nothing happened in the end that required me needing one, it easily could have, especially when I met up with Chantae and we both crashed our motorbikes.  […]

  2. April 18, 2017

    […] supposed to learn in Bali from my friend Chantae in September of 2016. But of course we had that unfortunate accident of crashing our motorbikes and ripping apart out knees so badly that we were told we needed to stay out of the ocean for risk […]

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