Think of Bali and you’ll instantly visualise sunny beaches populated by tourists, and vacation villas surrounded by lush scenery. It’s a dream Asian destination for people seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
But a driving holiday in Bali? It’s not an activity that comes to mind immediately, given Bali’s reputation as a place for rest and relaxation
If you’re up for it though, Bali offers some pretty fascinating sights and intriguing roads. And MINI Adventure 2016 opened my eyes (behind sunglasses, of course) to what Bali has to offer should any traveller decide to take the island holiday route less travelled.
The itinerary was simple enough. The journos would touch down at Ngurah Rai International Airport and be ferried to lunch and a pre-event briefing. Following that, we would move off in a convoy of MINI’s latest models, including the comfy Clubman and the cool Convertible, clearly the ideal choices for this trip.
To help us navigate the rougher parts of Bali’s urban traffic without wasting too much time, our group had a polisi escort to clear the way for us.
I opted to be a passenger for the first leg of our driving activity, a 48km jaunt to a place dubbed the Secret Garden. Other than having to manoeuvre through masses of motorcycles in the busier areas, this part of the journey wasn’t particularly adventurous. The sprightly MINI Cooper Convertible that we were in proved adept at handling anything that Bali’s roads could throw at it.
After we enjoyed our tasty coffee at the Secret Garden, it was my turn to take the wheel. The weather at the point was turning pleasant, so we put the roof down and started our 74km drive north towards our next stop, Krisna Beach Street, a scenic seaside restaurant where we would stop for our afternoon tea break.
This particular section of the journey would see us traversing some of the island’s more challenging mountain roads. They were made even narrower by all the motorbikes, trucks, cars, and folks on foot.
Thank goodness for our police outriders. And because the mountains were incredibly steep, some of the road gradients looked almost impossible to tackle.
The MINIs, with their energetic turbocharged engines and lively performance, tackled those roads without any trouble. But the same couldn’t be said of my co-driver.
The poor chap, as I pulled into the carpark of Krisna Beach Street, puked out the contents of his lunch, soiling parts of the door sill and footwell. The “roller-coaster” mountainside ride was just a bit too much for him.
Thankfully, the final leg of the day was an undemanding drive to our hotel for the night, Naya Gawana Resort, located on the far west side of the island.
The second day saw us take the reverse route, with a lunch detour into Ubud, Bali’s cultural centre known for its ancient religious architecture, arts and crafts.
Knowing that we would have to tackle the vicious mountain roads once again, my co-driver and I arranged it such that he would be driving during that section, and I had to try my best not to do a Merlion. It was easy enough, because we were in the plush and composed Clubman.
At the end of our second day’s drive, we had clocked over 143 kilometres. Our group arrived at Seminyak’s posh Katamama Hotel just in time to catch the sunset by the beach. Best of all, we felt as fresh as daisies when checking in, because the Clubman transported its two men in comfort and style.
This unique road trip revealed a side of Bali I’ve never experienced, or imagined, before. From the spectacular scenery in far-out spots seldom on the radar of vacationers, to the insane mountain roads that could throw off even the most experienced drivers, Bali was a treat. And it was made even sweeter by our caravan of peppy MINIs.