Wednesday 24th August 2016
I was woken during the night by a torrential downpour. Been so long since I had heard the sound of rain that I momentarily wondered what the noise was. The next thought was of my lambswool seat cover till on the bike, too late now I would already have been soaked. By morning the rain had moved on. Time to get a move on. Got the message from Alice and Gregory around 6:30am to say that they were on their way and would see me at the port of Lembar to catch the 4 hour ferry ride to Padang in Bali. I caught up with them half an hour along the road and followed along like a little puppy, happy not to have to think about what turns to make and when. These ferries run every hour and were definitely of a higher standard than previous ferries, with an air-conditioned lounge featuring aircraft style seating. The vehicle bay was full of mainly large trucks, but upstairs there were very few passengers. We spent the time in more discussion and eating the raw peanuts that Gregory had supplied. It was a beautiful day to be on the high seas and the time passed quickly and in comfort. Bali loomed larger as our journey nearly its completion. It looked beautiful. I did the puppy thing again as we headed through the country towards Ubud. The polish pair had the use of a friend’s house whilst she had gone to Portugal. They would stay a month, whilst they did a bit of art and sold the car, before flying out of Jakarta back to their home in Warsaw. Upon reaching Ubud we parted company to go our separate ways, they to the house an me to a guest house above the town. I didn’t find the cheapest guest house I had found on the web. Once again the booing companies seem to be a bit slack in this regard. So after riding up and down the road in my quest I finally decided on what appeared from the road to be a small guest house invisible from the road with a rather puny sign indicating the Arya Guest House’s existence. Well you can’t judge a book by it’s cover and the same goes for guest houses. I rode up the narrow driveway through the gateway and into a beautiful courtyard surrounded by ancient bali temple buildings and a welcoming swimming pool. The place seemed deserted.
I was soon approached by a elderly lady with a big smile asking me if I had a booking. This made me think the guest house was fully booked and that I would have to start a new search. Not so. I was shown a couple of rooms and settled on one with a full kitchen, separate bathroom and bedroom. All very spacious. Even had a balcony with a pleasant view over the rice paddies. OK it was a bit more than cheap, but after 4 or 5 days of basic accommodation, I was happy to spend $28 a night on what I felt was a real sanctuary from the constant traffic I had been experiencing. I was happy again.
Thursday 25th August 2016
Time to go exploring. It was before 9am which is when things start to get busy in this part of the world, so the traffic was fairly light. I wanted to head up to the crater lake of Mount Batur. last erruption was in 2000, and amazingly I found my way. A constantly uphill run. By the time I arrived the tourists were already doing their thing. There were many groups all donned with cyclist helmets who had, it seems, hired bikes to do a downhill run back to the city, listening to the tour guide explain to them where the brakes were. So many things amuse me and annoy me about the tourists and the economy they have created. I guess I am one of them in a way but I don’t like to think of myself as one of them. Having do that I proceed on my merry way towards Karangasem on the East coast. Due to my uncanny sense of distance and direction I found myself riding along a road which just got steeper and narrower the further I went. Not knowing where I was going and too steep to stop anywhere I just kept riding onward ever upward. When I finally reached the end of the road I had com across a large flat car park with a group of men sitting on the ground playing cards and a wide flight of stairs heading up into the fog covered mountain. I had in fact come to the base of the climb to the Pura Pasar Agung Temple, Half way up the side of Mount Agung. I way shortly approached by one of the card playing men, who also acted as guides to the temple. For a fee of $10 he would accompany me up the fight of stairs. I graciously declined his offer and settled on a coffee and some cake. Balinese temples to me are all pretty much the same, except the size and the location varies. Not that I don’t find them intriguing, I am just over joining other tourists trudging over another temple, I guess. Having faltered in my navigation attempts I deduced the best idea was to lick my wounded pride and try to redeem my self esteem and find my way back to my recluse and a Bintang.
Friday 26th August 2016
Today I need to find a distributor for Garmin navigator in order to get road maps for my Garmin Zumo. I also needed a new protector for my iphone and to update the phone calling credit, which I thought I had paid for but I didn’t get. Probably a communication problem. I have a lot of that. So my goal for today was to head for Denpasar do the required shopping and head on down to Kuta. Why I wanted to go to Kuta in beyond me. After riding for what seems like hours along cluttered roads and through mega traffic, I didn’t seem to be getting any closer to my destination. I’m not sure where I ended up. I had just rounded another corner and spied a phone shop. I gingerly negotiated a u-turn, which is a bit of a trick in this traffic, parked the bike on the footpath, and headed into the shop. Luckily I was able to procure the protector screen and the phone update. Across the street I found a photo shop which sold me some rechargeable batteries for the spot tracker, as the program had told me the batteries were low. I have been looking for the recommended Lithium batteries without any luck. Shop staff just look at me in bewilderment. I now had 2 sets of rechargeable batteries with no recharger. As luck would have it, a short distance along the road I came across a camera shop and decided to give it a go. They had several, and they also accepted visa. The purchase was made. By now I had had enough of fighting my way through traffic, which as the day progressed so did the volume and ferocity of the road users. Because there is only I traffic rule in Indonesia, which is, he or she who is in front of you has the right of way, no one is content with sitting behind someone else, be it at a traffic light or just in a line of slow moving traffic, they urge through at the slightest left gap. This can be very annoying to someone like me who is used to more polite road use. Anyway with the return journey still in front of me and the majority of shopping requirement filled, I took the cowards way out and attempted the return ride to Ubud. Should have been easy. It wasn’t. The road system in Bali is mind numbing and because of the terrain generally heads up ridges with connecting roads through steep and twisting valleys. Get on the wrong road you can go for miles before you know you are not on the right one. So it was a case of one step forward two steps back. I covered a lot of distance without getting anywhere. Eventually every turn I made I would stop and check on google maps to see if I was going the right way. When I came to Ubud it all became overwhelming. The number of tourists and locals on their bikes. the roads congested because someone had decided to park their car half way across the road while they did a bit of shopping effectively bring traffic to a virtual stand still. Mental and grossly inconsiderate. I am really starting to detest the tourist boys and girls on their little rented bikes in their thongs and minimum dress who think they are superior to everyone else on the road. Really not sure how any of them survive. Pity they do really. Sorry if that upsets anyone.. After checking out an overpriced, tourist area book shop for road maps of Java and Sumatra to no avail, I completed the short ride back to my sanctuary and yet another bottle of Bintang.
Saturday 27th August 2016
Its been a month and quite a few kilometers and four ferries since my arrival in Dili. Everything is on track. My reservations of returning to Bali after 35 years I feel were quite justified. Back then there was virtually no tourist industry. hardly any hotels. We had to convince a local to let us hire his bike. The roads were free of traffic, no tourist shops, just the locals still wearing their traditional dress and happy to include you in their local customs and ceremonies without asking for money. Things have certainly changed for the worse. I wouldn’t recommend a holiday in Bali to anybody I liked.The locals, as I have journeyed across Indonesia, have become more used to westerners and unfortunately seemingly less happy and friendly. A bit like those in Australian cities. Even other tourists do not go to the effort of saying g’day. Shame really. Today I was not about to venture forth on another motor cycle discovery ride on the delights of Bali. My enthusiasm was somewhat depleted. Today I was going to take a leisurely stroll down to the tourist hub of Ubud and do a bit of people watching. My favourite sport. I am not sure which is more hazardous, negotiating traffic on an oversized motorbike or trying to negotiate what they call a footpath in these parts. Nothing is ever fixed. The footpaths have, as in most parts of asia, been built over what once were open roadside drains. These were interspersed with square manholes, a lot of which are now broken or missing along with broken pavement and many other hazards which need to be avoided. Not much fun really. Its a “make it by don’t ever fix it” asian mentality. It made it anyway, the 1 kilometer walk without mishap. As I walked about I would from time to time sit and watch the passing parade. I was intrigued by the balinese women who would come out at this time of day to replace the offerings to the spirits of gods that they devoted to. A ritual which often took some time and done with much reverence, all while the imposed western society of tourism was going on around them. almost unbelievable, but very beautiful. I wonder how they feel about their culture being absorbed into this crazy materialistic and sordid world. I watch the never ending stream of tourists as they embarked on their day of unique adventure into the shops and cafes of Ubud. I found it sad and amusing. What I did find was to me rather special. I had been contemplating giving myself a haircut for the last few weeks. The hair was getting a bit too much. I came across a shop called Simply Haircuts at one of my stops, and wondered it I should risk it all to an unknown barber in a land where nothing seems to turn out as you would wish it. I bit the bullet and ventured forth. 45minutes later, and with the longest and most intricate haircut I have ever had in my life, by a man who performed his work like someone carving stone, I emerged a new man. I had turned into an aged hipster and it had cost me a whole $5. This man I can wholly recommend. If he were in Australia I would travel miles just to watch him perform. On my return walk I managed to picked up a pair of new thongs and some food. I had had an enjoyable walk but more time spent observing would have probably have turned into one of disgust. Of Bali, I have had enough of this part of it.
Sunday 28th August 2016
Reluctantly I leave my refuge from the hustle of the touristed town of Ubud and head up the hill away from the rice paddies of the lower slopes to the cooler heights of of Mount Batur where more citrus and vegetables are grown. This time I turned left along what was once the rim of the original crater towards the town of Singaraja on the north coast of Bali. While the road up was pretty much a straight and a continuous climb the road on the way down to the coast was very winding. It was good and the traffic had thinned down dramatically. No tourists in their thongs on little rented bikes. After reaching the coast the land was flat and the road passed through numerous small towns and villages with the usual local congestion. By and large it was a beautiful easy ride with a few stops to check I was going the right way and how far I had left to go before I reached my objective, the small seaside town of Pemuteran.
I was surprised and delighted to watch the monkeys roaming the street and especially around the temples, probably waiting for more offerings to the spirits to be left. It was notable that the shops had all erected wire cages around their establishments to keep the mischievous imps at bay.
I easily found my guest house. I was really thankful that this one had aircon, What a change this part of the world is to the more popular areas in Bali. Although promoted as a dive area with quite a profusion of expensive resorts dotted along the coast, I haven’t seen another tourist, and of the resorts, they mostly seem to be deserted. I can walk across to road without fear of being run over. Having settled in I took a walk to the beach. I guess its called a beach. The sand is black and covered in pebbles, but there was the ocean and small waves lapping the shore, and of course the usual piles of garbage. A few young boys were trying out their skills and doing wheel stands on the hard sand of low tide. I noticed that throughout Indonesia, most of the foreshore land seems to be privately owned and if not built upon by a house or resort, is still fenced off with high concrete block walls. Totally not what you can find in Australia where coastal land is mostly accessible to the public. I also have a big flat screen TV in my room, however, every channel exhibits the same messsage “tidak ada sinyal”, or no signal. Why am I not surprised. The children on this side of the island still know how to have simple joyous fun with a zest for life and the locals are back to saying Hello. I’m am so pleased that the whole island hasn’t gone to shit.