Published: August 31st 2011August 31st 2011
cycling in the paddy fields
or rather the jungle by this point!
Wow its been a while and things have been busy so this may be quite long!!! I’m currently sat in a small ferry port on Bali which I have so far visited 3 times already, heading back to Lombok tomorrow in an attempt to cross 2 islands in the shortest time possible to reach Flores but more of that later. So Bali is interesting, very busy and full of traffic and tourists (it being peak season). But the people are lovely, the temples very sweet and religion very strong here.
After Luke left me in Kula Lumpar my whole plan for Bali (having done no research) was get on the plane, read the lonely planet whilst on the plane, find someone else at Bali airport on their own and do whatever they were doing. Well this actually worked quite well, her name was Vicky, she had flown from England to meet a friend who was travelling for 6 months and she was heading to Kuta. Kuta is the capital of costa del drunk aussie and so this is where I spent my first night in Bali. I joined Vicky, her friend and 2 other girls they had met in the hotel
just for a change!
and we headed out to explore the nightlife!!! Having come from Borneo where there are not that many tourists and not a crazy nightlife I suddenly found myself in the equivalent of Ibiza, Costa del sol or Tenerife. I saw hardly any Indonesians (except the waiters all night!!). I have never seen so many drunk, singlet (vest) wearing beefed up aussies in my life, all downing free cocktails and shots!! It was an interesting and fun night but one night was enough and through the hangover of the next morning me and one of the girls I had met the night before managed to head north to the centre of Bali and the supposed cultural capital of Ubud. This became famous from ‘Eat, Pray, love’ people tell me (i’ve never seen it) and I would say its better than the south but is still packed with tourists, restaurants and shops. Cultural capital?? I’m not sure – Cafe capital yes probably!
We did of course indulge in the odd cafe but generally spent more time out of Ubud than in it. We hired push bikes (obviously not of the tourist variety, we ended up with proper Balinese bikes – I had
a basket and everything but sadly no suspension – everyone just laughed at us!) and took on the horrendous traffic of Ubud to go temple spotting and peddled into the rice fields as far as we could. Then we hired a scooter and with me in charge – set off straight into the main street of Ubud and then up into the hills in search of more temples and some nice scenery. I have to honestly say I have never driven in a more crazy place – there just seems to be no rules when it comes to scooters in Bali. There are minimal signs (so literally at every junction Joke (pronounced Yoka – the belguim girl) was off asking the way), there are no road markings and I still have no idea who has right of way at junctions!!!! At times if the lights are red and your going left you can go, othertimes not – I really don’t understand! However we made it and survived the day only missing our final turn off back to Ubud which sadly meant I had to ride through the centre of Denpasar (the capital) in rush hour which was more than a
Feeling a bit of flu coming on, the next day we swapped the scooter for a little Suzuki jeep thing and headed off via some scenic roads to the east coast. We spent 3 days driving around on some beautiful coastal roads and staying in some little fishing villages before heading back via Mount Batur (one of Bali’s volcanos). It was nice to finally find some countryside in Bali and I especially liked the north but sitting on a beach with flu I can officially tell you is not fun!
After this roadtrip Joke was off to Austrailia so I headed to one of the smaller islands off the southeast coast for a few days. It was nice, quieter and more local and i had a great few days just getting myself better, doing some yoga and a bit of work on the book as well as hiring another scooter and riding all over the horrendous roads of the island.
Whilst I had been in Ubud they were preparing for a royal cremation. It was planned to be a huge thing, as all cremations are in Bali. Unlike in Europe they are a time of celebration and they
had been preparing for this one for 3 months! I decided as royal cremations rarely happen, to pop back to join in. Well it was interesting!!! I have never seen anything so different from a funeral procession in Europe! They had built a 24m high tower out of bamboo and wood and on this the body was placed. This tower weighs 10 tons and it is carried, yes carried from the palace to the cremation temple along with a giant bull (which also weighs a lot!!). Both of them are carried by teams of 400m men from different villages who carry it for 200m and then swap with the next team! They do this for the whole 900m. As you can imagine it takes a while!! To add to the weight 5 men stand on the tower to co-ordinate lifting etc but generally it all seems a bit haphazard. There were bands, people being randomly carried on chairs, processions and then these 2 giant obstacles. The towers weigh so much that literally when they are lifted up the men then charge as fast as they can maybe 150m before they have a rest and then repeat it all again. If
imagine riding this road!!
you get in the way- well its tough luck! I saw statues knocked over and smashed and several people trampled as the tower past – it was crazy – why they don’t just put in on wheels I don’t know! Anyway once they had reached the temple there was then a lot of waiting and sitting and general handing around (I went for as long lunch!) before, as the sun was about to set they brought the coffin down off the tower walked 3 times round the giant bull with it and then put in into the top of the bull. Once positioned the bull was then set on fire!
All this would of been fine (miss this paragraph if your squeamish!) except the bull burnt really well and the body evidently didn’t! I know this because all of a sudden it fell half suspended out the bottom of the bull and hung there! At this point a man arrived with the equivalent of a giant blow torch and torched it! Horrified at this point I left leaving the thousands of other tourists all lining up to get closer to take a picture!!! What can I say? It was different!!!
Having been on Bali 2 weeks and not really finding the tropical paradise it is supposed to be I decided to head east and got a ferry to Lombok. I hired another scooter and rode up to the north to the volcano up there. The ride was stunning, along coastal roads with deserted white sand beaches and inland green rice paddies leading to volcanic hills – this was the Bali I was looking for. Up north, I spent 3 days climbing the volcano and wondering whether it was equal or tougher than Mount Kinabalu? The first and last day were not too bad but the second day involved a 2.30am start and powered only by a snack of tea and crackers a 3 hour ascent to 3700m by torch light up a moveable scree slope on a very narrow ridge (literally one step forward, slide three back – it was like swimming very ineffectively up a river of rock!) to watch the sun rise before a 2 hour decent and all this before breakfast! The views from the top were amazing through and worth every bit of horrendous effort to get up there. The peak overlooks the north coast, a beautiful volcanic crater lake and inland over Lombok – it was stunning!
I fell over 5 times by the time I returned to breakfast and had added loads of cuts and bruises to my arms and hands and 8 new blisters to my feet! After breakfast it was a further 700m descent to the crater lake (for lunch and a dip in the hot springs) before we climbed the 700m again back up to the crater ridge and then decended 300m to our campsite for the night! We started walking at 3am and didn’t finish that day till 6pm!! By the time I had descended the summit my thighs were shot to pieces and I spent the rest of the day walking on jelly legs (I had no control over them!). It was an amazing trek but hard and for 3 days afterwards I was still coming sideways down the stairs!!!
From the north I returned my scooter and hearing good things about the south coast headed there to a little surfing spot called Kuta. In comparison to Kuta Bali, Kuta Lombok is a chilled out one road town which is has tourists but maybe only about 200 of them. The coastline around it is stunning and it seemed like the perfect spot to chill and let my legs and feet recover. I hired a scooter for a day and rode out to some of the nearby stunning beaches and prepared myself to stay for a little while. Sadly 2 men had different ideas. I was walking home with 2 friends one night from a restaurant 40m from my hotel when literally 15m away from my homestay 2 guys on a motorcycle rode past, snatched my bag and rode off with it. There was nothing i could do and they got everything – camera, phone, passport, money, MP3 literally everything!
It was after this Kuta turned nasty! I honestly did not meet one nice local person whilst I was there. I cried for a whole day – I’d lost everything and yet people just tried to take advantage of this and me. I filed a police report but the police weren’t really that interested and so I’ve had to return to Bali to start all over again. I’ve applied for an emergency travelling document (which still takes 10 days!), got a new phone and camera and am heading back across Lombok, Sumbawa and heading to Flores! These things happen and having travelled now for over 5 years i guess i’m lucky that this is the first real problem I have had. So tomorrow I’m setting off at 6am on a ferry in an attempt to cross Lombok in one day! Internet off Bali is not that common but i’ll try and give you one more update before I head home. Hopefully no more problems although I have turned into a slightly paranoid tourist!
Can’t wait to see you all soon
Loads of love