For us, Nusa Penida had always been just beyond the horizon. We’d gazed at its towering cliffs from the shores of Nusa Cennigan and we’d sailed through the clear blue waters of the Badung Strait. Yet we’d never thought to stop.
In fact, the island only really appeared on our radar after a dive trip from Nusa Lembongan. We explored the deep-lying corals clinging to a small offshore island. After surfacing from the dive, we were confronted with a wild and mostly uninhabited beach in the distance. It planted a seed of curiosity and soon after we found ourselves trawling the internet searching for blogs about this mysterious location. It was exactly what we were looking for. Quiet beaches, hikes and long stretches of coastal road to explore. Perfect for a road trip on two wheels! We didn’t need much more convincing than that. In October we arrived and stayed a night in Crystal Bay before leaving our backpack in the safe hands of our guesthouse. Before the sun had risen we’d saddled up our bikes, hoping to beat both the heat and the crowds to our first stop, Broken Beach.
It didn’t take long for one of us to fall – about 2 hours into the first morning’s ride to be precise. In fairness, the roads weren’t great. The most difficult stretch looked like a herd of tap dancing elephants had paraded along it scattering stones like confetti.
We’d taken it easy and I was actually impressed by how well we were both riding despite neither of us being on bikes for the best part of a year. But one section got us. Ironically, the last section of our morning’s ride. As we approached the end of a particularly hazardous section of track, we tackled a couple of short sharp inclines which made our wheels battle for grip on the shifting gravel. It took us up onto a raised road which overlooked a sprawling green hillside of rice fields below us. From the top, I turned to see Liska powering up behind me before starting down the other side. I fought the urge to drink in the spectacular views and focused instead on the precarious decline littered with large stones. At the bottom, I rounded a sharp bend in the road looking for a stable place to stop and wait for Liska to catch up.
Dense bushes on either side of the road meant that I couldn’t see back around to where I’d come from, and my helmet severely limited what I could hear. In the morning heat, I stood straddling my bike listening to the muffled sound of my engine as I waited for Liska to emerge – but she never came. Moments like that feel like a lifetime. I waited for a minute (but Liska would tell you it was more like five). After what we’ll call a questionable amount of time, I came to the conclusion that Liska must have fallen. I wheeled my bike in a circle, which is more difficult than you’d think on a narrow gravel road, before charging back up the hill with all the grace of a gazelle on stilts.
There she was, shrouded in dust, grey from a mixture of dirt and shock. At that moment I realised that we were quite far from anywhere, which if your partner isn’t as tough as old boots, would be a massive problem. But despite the bleeding knee’s and scuffed elbows, Liska helped me pick up her bike and wash her wounds. After a chocolate biscuit and an earful of abuse in my direction for leaving her, we were back on the road.
We were a bit more cautious after the crash and took our riding really easy as we approached the coast. Luckily it was only a short ride before we arrived at a dusty field where locals had set up a makeshift shed to leave our bikes. Judging by the obvious lack of bikes at that time, we figured we were amongst the first to arrive that morning. We could feel the welcome coastal breeze on our faces and it was almost disconcerting when we realised actually how close we were to the coast. Not ten yards from where we hopped off our bikes, the earth fell away to Broken Beach. The colossal circular crater dropped deep down to the ocean and a field of jagged rocks below. We skirted around the perimeter of the chasm, daring ourselves to get closer to the edge. It was a tantalising example of mother natures magic.
A short walk from Broken Beach, we joined a rubble-strewn coastal path heading for Angels Billabong. The recent earthquake has ripped the track apart forcing us to hop over gaping cracks in the rock as we walked steadily down to the ocean. At first, the crystal clear pool looked like a mirage, gleaming under the morning sun. In contrast to the sharp, dry rocks around it, the pool beamed with colour and light danced off the spray as huge waves crashed into the shelf which opened up to the wild ocean beyond. At the rear of the pool, all was calm and the water lured us in. Getting down to the pool was a little more difficult than we’d hoped and involved a slide and scramble over sharp barnacle covered rocks. But once down in the pool we lay back into the fresh water and cleansed the morning’s madness away.
It was hard to pull ourselves from the pool, we’d come so far to enjoy it. But as a few more people began to arrive, the initial serenity was washed away. With Liska bravely limping beside me, we clambered back to the bikes and pushed on towards Kelingking Beach. It was worth the long ride and the early start to experience these beautiful works of nature before the crowds arrived. There’s something special about having these wonders all to yourself, even if it’s only for a moment.