A 500.5km ride unexpectedly ends my journey searching for home.    

For more than seven years I hopped from one country to another crossing oceans and continents. It is a long journey searching for the answers: what is home? where is home?  

A Rapha Festive 500 marks the ending of my long journey. Two days after the festival is over I decide to lay down my future ground with a down payment for a small piece of land facing a ravine of paddy fields, about 1.5 km from the East Coast of Bali Island.

I never thought a 500 km journey turned to be such as a momentous and sweet ending celebration. I share this story and happiness with many to relay a message: a longing and waiting in life eventually comes true with moving pedals.

It was my wish to stretch myself seeing the World; risk all, do what I am passionate about. I left my childhood memory in Bandung behind including a business which I could continue. I seek what is beyond. I wanted more. I travelled far while deep in my heart, I always want to feel near to people and place that shaped my upbringing.

Work and study flew me to Sao Paulo, Rotterdam where I started cycling, Norwich where I was introduced to triathlon and coast to coast cycling routes, London where I got a police ticket as a cyclist and a bustling jostling Lima before I returned back to Indonesia in 2014 together with a bike I bought from my first pay cheque in the UK.

Since my returning, people question where do I live. Tough to answer. Is that important? I responded. It is; it is not; I was unsettled. For almost a year I crashed from one hotel and B&B to another in Jakarta and moved for weekends’ to my parents house in Bandung. So tired of moving around without being able to feel where is home! I felt sick inside.    

I made my escape plan. Right after my full assignment ended, I turn to be a virtual part timer doing my work while having a few short stays hosted by my good friends who live in Bali. We did a study together in Norwich and now they settle down in Ubud. Since then juggling between short stays in Jakarta and Ubud has been going on and on.

Since my first short stay in Ubud, I have dreamt for a future home there, but it felt too distant. I was too scared to imagine settling down far from Jakarta where most of my work taking place. It is almost like starting a commitment to ride 500km. It seemed far in the beginning, but when I break the goals into daily target, they can be manageable.

Both dreams have their own difficulties, beauties along the way and a final end. A lot of asking for help and favour and a lot of uncertain time when I was not sure whether I take a wrong turn. What I am pretty sure I know now - when I keep moving my pedals and take actions in my daily life, eventually, I finished a 500km ride plus I own a perfect spot for my home a long the way.

My Rapha Festive 500 story was a coincidental cycling jamboree with a silly solo ride kick off on the Christmas day. From Christmas to New Year Eve, I had some important reports to write with no possibility of extension, so I said yes with a heavy feeling. Let’s nail this and ride in Bali I said to myself. So yes, in between writing, I’ll do morning riding routine, which makes a perfect sense plan to start fresh for the day.

On the Christmas eve, I started drawing a route plan on my cycling canvas, went to bed early, woke up at the dawn, grabbed my bike, clipped my shoes and started pedalling. A silly solo ride was set as a super duper easy ride with straight flat roads to the coast line passing by the piece of land on sale which I saw couple of times and made an offer to buy. My idea is to explore the surrounding area and to check if there are other alternatives. I went up north and down south to check. I also checked a high end surfing compound in the East Coast of Bali that day. I did 46.7km with a better sense of my future neighbourhood.

The second day I decided to check the West North of Bali. I went up to north of Ubud and return back down creating a big counter-clock loop. I did a few stops because of some wrong turns, but it was relatively easy to navigate. Just a little bit outside of Ubud, there were some vast open paddy fields, stunning view. The down side of the beautiful inward area of Bali is lack of access to open water swim. So perhaps it is not an ideal place to live if I want to keep doing triathlon.    

Not until 30km, it started to rain. Argh! The rain poured down heavily and I started getting soaked. Along the way, there was a chocolate factory with a small garden zoo where I can say Hi! to a living honey bear and a few cute animals. But I did not feel like going to be Alice in Wonderland that day with soaked jersey and damped socks. So I kept riding to keep my heart rate high and my body warm. I returned to Ubud after about 58.5km, dried myself and started writing.    

I got bored riding solo. So I called, Sha Wie, a cycling enthusiast to join my conquest to explore Bali. He instantly agreed and he was keen to show me one of the best routes in Bali. After the ride I agree that it is one of the best routes I have ever had in Bali. It is mild, stunning views of paddy fields along the way. We passed by countless small streets with lots of trees on the sides. Some balinese style houses décor our ways. Some roosters, balinese dogs were passing by. The beauty of Bali rides as I always remember, there is countless exquisite smell of flowers and incense for day pray. We were lucky that it was a sunny morning, not many cars around and only several motorcycles passing by. We returned home after 62.9km. What a fascinating ride.    

 

 

After the third day, I start to think that Rapha Festive 500 could be a good idea for me and Sha Wie to do. So we hit the road again. The fourth day was a real push. This is the first day we set the course to complete 500 km by the end of the year so that we can claim a roundel for Rapha Festive 500. Not until 5 km, coming the hardship – a heavy monsoon morning rain. L We stopped for a while in a small deli to buy a cup of hot coffee. We made a 30 min stop until we decided to jump on our saddle. It was still a drizzle but we were ready to get wet so we hit the wet road. We were looking for miles and we went down to highways. I passed again the road and my future home land. I told Sha Wie that I was in a negotiation process to buy a piece of land there but the owner does not agree to let it go partially like I want it.    

 

Ida Bagus Mantra Highway, Bali

 

We passed, Ida Bagus Mantra, the longest highway in Bali with an expectation, we earned miles quickly. Yes we earned the miles but we also get soaked badly when the rain started to pour down like a water splash from a bucket challenge. Rain water hit my eyes. It was a tough ride. I went back to Ubud totally soaked and damp again. I opened my laptop and started to think, perhaps I should not join Rapha Festive 500!    

It is still a long way to go to reach 500km. I was about 332 km behind and I was also behind in term of my writing. On the fourth day, I could not ride in the morning. Sha Wie and I planned to ride in the afternoon and end it with a big dinner. We hit the road at 4pm. Riding in the afternoon in Bali was a bit odd and not recommended. There were too many cars and motorbikes. We finally were out of Ubud. Not long after, about 10km outside of Ubud, another monsoon rain. Yikes! This time were heavier than yesterday. Sha Wie and I picked up Sha Wie’s wive on the way.    

 

 

Three of us were like drench socks on the saddle. We only did about 15 km and we stopped at a deli for dinner. The deli sells all kind of meals made from mushroom: mushroom meat balls, mushroom noodles, mushroom sate, mushroom fried rice, mushroom juice, mushroom fruity ice. Sounds funny but actually they taste nice! A few minutes after we sit in the Deli and trying to dry a bit our clothes, the rain stopped. What a great timing! We lost a little bit our hope to complete a 500km ride and start saying, let’s see the weather tomorrow if we still can ride.    

The next day turns be sunny. Yay! It was Friday and there was a big group ride planned by Road Bike Bali. The course is from Sanur to Kintamani climbing about 1500 meters elevation gain via Hanging Gardens with two very steep  slopes for about 23% grade and 250m long after sharp turns. Half of us ended with a hall of shame pushing our bike including my self in the last 10 meters. Sad! But I tried my best. The route after the hall of shame is just a continuous rolling pathway with a steady climb with 5-12% grade until the top of Kintamani.    

 

Hanging Gardens, Ubud: 20+% grade

 

It was a bloody hot that day and I finished my water couple of times. That day was a tough day for me especially after several days of riding under monsoon rain and no time for recovery. I returned back from Kintamani while most of people continue to the West North and make the opposite loop. I did 89km and I said to myself, I am enough for today. I still have a very big challenge tomorrow, to complete Rapha Festive 500. I have to ride 154.2km.    

I was so lucky that I do not have to ride 154.2km by myself. The last day of the challenge was combined with a day ride plan of Women Cycling Community in Bali. We are 10 people come together split into two groups. The first group aimed to complete a 2017 meter elevation gain ride to welcome 1st January 2017. The first group where I belong to took the clockwise of yesterday’s route. We start from the west side of Ubud and went up to the North until we reach ‘Penulisan’, the high mountain top, and went down to Kintamani for a buffet lunch. We took some silly pictures along the way. I am the slowest among the group, but it was so much fun. Two of us are athletes from Singapore and two good friends of mine: super strong cyclists, Corry and Luwung. Another group did an easier ride and we met in Kintamani at 12.30 noon for lunch. It was a hard ride but I finally reached the top and had a feast buffet lunch.    

 

 

The last stretch until Penulisan Mountain Top

Luwung was trying to take our pic with a go pro and Sebastian kiddin her around 

 

 WCC group on the top of Kintamani

 

We hit the road to go back and we were unlucky that we need to ride under another monsoon rain. At that point, I was at the stage of getting used to being wet, but this time is a steep downward slope for about 30km in a chill weather. This is the moment I said to myself, Aidy you need a bike with a disc break. Because of the heavy rain, five of us split and I ride slower with a good friend of mine until we reached Ubud. The temperature there is higher. Hah! There was no sign of rain at all and it was still full of sunshine. What an extreme.    

Our Strava said it is only 1750 meters elevation gain so far. One of us insisted to climb until we reach 2017. I was quite happy back then that I would have some companies to ride 35km more to complete 500km. So I climbed again with them. We passed a village in Ubud where a typical of bird come to nest and lay down their eggs all over the place on top of tree branches there. It is quite a funny place with full of bird shits and smell like fish.    

After 20 minutes of 10km ride uphill my friends stopped and said we reach 2018 elevation gain. Hooray, finally we did it although we passed 2017. At that point, my watch said that I need around 30km more. I told my friends that I would continue riding before my watch battery died. It would be painful for not having it recorded. A friend joined me and she recommended to go back down since climbing uphill takes longer time. We turned back our bike sliding down like a flash. When I arrived at Ubud, I said that I still need 18 km more to end Rapha Festive 500.    

Why don’t we hunt for Gelato. So after taking a power bank, we did a hunt for the best gelato in town. Gelato hunting began! We did an 18km for super nice Gelato to close Rapha Festive 500.    

 

Gaya Gelato: the best gelato in Ubud Town

 

Things come to me when I picture them in my mind. I finally reached the end. After all, my rides, conquest and journey in life make things much clearer. Home is where natural beauty, laughters, sweet little things in life, and friendships blend together magnificently in my daily life and ride. I am so lucky to finally see all that is coming together.