“Let’s go on a cross-country road trip.”
It only takes a few words to get me excited. Traversing local backroads instead of boring expressways, discovering the side of a country that normally isn’t highlighted by travel sites, and doing it all with like-minded car enthusiasts is a perfect way to escape the daily hustle. For me, road trips equal ultimate freedom.
It’s all I could think about during my near eight-hour flight from Tokyo to Jakarta recently. Here in Indonesia, I’d join the Goodrides crew on an epic cross-country journey from the nation’s capital city to the tropical island of Bali.
The roughly 1,200km (745mi) adventure would take up to two days of driving, culminating on the third with a gathering at a beach-side restaurant called EL Coca, located near the most southern part of the island on Melasti Beach Ungasan.
Getting right in behind the event was Mercedes-Benz of Jakarta, who supplied a 2019 C 300 AMG Line and 2019 GLC 200 AMG Line for the journey. I promise you, some days are harder than others.
Despite having a pair of comfortable vehicles in which to complete the road trip, a few of my local friends kept hinting – well, more like dropping bombs – that the roads in Indonesia are nothing like those in Japan, and suggesting that I lowered my expectations for the long drive ahead.
Having been to Jakarta and Yogyakarta before, I’m quite familiar with the beyond-horrendous traffic in the island nation, but this would be my first time exploring the region outside the city on highways and local backroads. It couldn’t be that bad, right?
Well, yes it could. I can confirm that the roads were in fact downright awful and borderline dangerous.
Even on the toll roads, the infrastructure was still light years behind anything I had ever driven on before; the joints where roads and small overpasses bridged were so poorly done that if you were to drive over them at any decent rate of speed you could be sent for an unexpected rollercoaster ride. That small fact doesn’t seem to worry truck drivers, though.
For cars that are lowered, driving is constant butt-puckering moment, hoping your oil pan or crossmember is still there. This E92 lost its battle with the highway and had the splash guard annihilated.
When we got off of the highways, things got even worse. On top of the actual road quality dropping, there were trucks in such a decrepit state that they could barely drive above a snail’s pace, which meant you had to work around them.
Factor in countless scooters also trying to work around the trucks – not to mention oncoming traffic dealing with the exact same problems – and driving here is definitely not for the faint-hearted. I lost count of the near misses.
Without much in the way of street lighting it’s virtually pitch black at night, and many trucks and bikes don’t have working head and taillights. I gladly refrained from driving from this point forward.
Seeing that Bali is on another island, getting there by car requires a one-hour ferry ride. After my life-altering experience bringing Project Rough from Okinawa over to the most southern part of Kyushu by ferry, I said I would never ride another one if it could be avoided. Luckily there was no drama to report on this leg of the journey.
After reaching land, we continued our way to a hotel near the venue.
The gathering itself was pretty low-key. Bali’s car scene is relatively small – check out this IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER feature for an insight – and those brave (or foolish) enough to join us for the long drive were few, understandable given this was the first time Goodrides had organized such an event. Regardless of size, the local enthusiasts were excited by the event, and that’s really what counts.
The same could be said about the road trip itself. Looking back, I honestly can’t think of one reason why anyone would want to subject themselves to this journey on their own, but with a group of friends going through the same trials and tribulations, you can find laughter and joy through all the mess.
It may not have been the ultimate drive that I thought it might be, but it was still one hell of an adventure. And really, that’s what a road trip should always be about.