Over the next few months, I was riding the streets like a pro. I did maintain excessively safe speeds, much to the chagrin of my expert friends who rode like the wind. Despite my best efforts, I soon received my very own ‘Bali Kiss’ – an affectionate local term for the ubiquitous, mandatory motorbike accident. Time and sunshine heals all wounds, however – and the lure of the unexplored took me back to the roads.
I have maintained to everyone that the biggest distraction on the roads of Bali is the view. I cannot count the number of times I have slowed down to stare at the dazzling view and (rightfully) received exasperated honks from less distracted folk. Even getting lost is mostly a pleasant experience here. I’ve made my way to secret beaches, waterfalls and yummy homemade ice-cream shops entirely by accident. Keep an eye out for the Bali dogs when you stray off the main roads – they are really smart and loyal watchdogs that protect traditional family compounds. Although friendly, they don’t take kindly to strangers.
If you are an experienced rider and have an international driving license, there is really no better way to experience the island of the gods. Even if the trucks, cars and general disorder on the roads seem intimidating, rest assured that Bali just makes it all work. It’s common practice to honk at someone you know when you pass them on the streets, and I definitely felt the love when started receiving honks from my Indonesian neighbors, friends and neighbourhood kids. Even when I’ve unwittingly made some mistakes on the road that inconvenienced others, a heartfelt ‘maaf’ (or sorry in Indonesian) was always received kindly and usually with a smile.
Connecting with Bali and her people away from the tourist traps is an exceptional experience. The Balinese way of life is strongly rooted in trihitakarana, a philosophy maintaining the connections between man, nature and the universe. This respect and love for fellow human beings and nature is what makes Bali so special to people from all around the world who, like me, call it home. So, take the plunge! If you have some time off, make your way around Bali off the beaten path and you will be surprised at all the things you discover.