Thursday, September 10, 2009


Sat 08/08
Pemuteran is touted as the unspoiled, uncrowded bit of Bali’s north coast. We should’ve twigged that unspoiled and uncrowded in Bali would translate to exclusive and expensive, but we’re new-ish here and are usually optimistic about these sorts of things.

So after a brief pit stop, we decide to make for Lovina instead which, late in the day, when we’re both tired and need food, is a surreal experience. We see more tourists in the first half an hour than we have in the past six months. Do they really all look like that? Do we really look like that? God. We really do look like two-headed monsters from outer space.

Sun 09/08
The centre of Lovina is party town, and after a night where the clubs are pounding until 4am, a parade of marchers (the Indos have a thing for marching) taking it through to 6, we decide to find somewhere up the road where we can actually sleep.

Anturan is that place, and while its relatively peaceful with only a few hotels, they’re mostly full. Of the French. Who seem to be everywhere. In fact if you meet tourists anywhere in Indonesia, they’re bound to be French. We have no idea why. They have no idea why.

Mon 10/08
The beach at Anturan is a quieter version of all Bali’s resort beaches, which means if you’re not here to buy a sarong or get a massage you’ll need to utter one or more tidak terima kasihs before you get enough peace to actually do your own thing. The more prosperous you look, the more you’ll get hassled, so in our case only one no thank you is necessary.

Which reminds us, a great big thank you to Luis, Grant, George and James for helping us out with the credit cards and licenses. The whole experience would have been a huge logistical nightmare otherwise.

Tue 11/08
Its taken six months, but Lucas finally cracks and decides to escalate the mosquito battle to Defcon 1. The can of Baygon is Indo Baygon, but its still Baygon and gratifyingly, while the mozzies fall out of the sky almost instantly, they seem to take forever to die, writhing around in agony for nearly an hour. After stating how pleased he is with this, Ann begins to wonder whether she’s been living with an axe-murderer all these years.

Oh, and the death toll for one average sized hotel room: 25-30.

Speaking of which, driving in Bali is possibly more dangerous than the rest of Indonesia. You’ve got all the usual Indo ingredients here, plus the tourists, the twisty roads, the fact that half the locals drive like they’re on valium and the other half on speed, and more school kids riding scooters than we’ve ever seen. The more we travel Indo, the more we believe that most of these morons shouldn’t be allowed on the roads. They certainly wouldn’t pass a driving test in Oz.

Ok, forget that. Maybe its just a checks and balances thing. Something to counterbalance their breeding habits. Maybe its a good thing. For them. Come to think of it, its probably why cigarettes are so cheap here. Anyway... the fact that we have to risk our lives every time we get on the bikes really pisses us off. Talk to some of the expats living here and you’ll get a similar response.

Wed 12/08
We decide to escape the heat of the north coast today and head for the hills. In contrast, Candikuning is cool and shrouded in mist when we arrive, running the gauntlet of strawberry sellers who line the roads. The main concentration is next to the markets, which exist almost wholly for the tourists now. The sarong salesmen say Bonjour to us as we make our way down to a little warung for lunch.

The LP raves about Pura Ulun Danu Bratan which is a nearby 13th century Buddhist/Hindu temple, and it seems by the number of tourists that nearly every tour bus stops here. But to us its a little underwhelming, probably because the Indos just don’t understand how to do this stuff. In comparison the French, who seem to have adopted this place as their summer holiday house, do. Go to Paris and wander through Notre Dame or Sainte Chapel, just like millions do every year, and you’ll still be impressed. You’ll still be able to imagine what these places must’ve been like hundreds of years ago. Even if there’s a horde of Japanese tourists over your left shoulder and a bunch of Americans blathering on underneath the pulpit. The Indos on the other hand, seem to have a knack for making the whole experience tacky.

Sorry, but there’s something else we need to get off our chests. Tonight is the first hot shower we’ve had since May.


Thu 13/08
Its also refreshing to find the Candikuning Botanical Gardens are Two Week Tourist free and could almost be any gardens in any big city. We like that. It makes us feel normal for a few hours.

Lately we’ve found ourselves wanting to share our experiences with fellow long-term travellers. Ones with bikes would be good, but we’ll settle for the French couple we meet later, who are taking a break from travelling around Oz. Its funny, because we’ve been taking the piss out of the French for weeks, but can really relate to these guys.

Fri 14/08

Its great also talking to people who don’t try to give us advice about driving in Indonesia. Honestly, if you don’t do it day in day out, you’ve got no idea. The adrenaline rushes you get from repeated near-misses, the mental effort needed to cut through the traffic on a long ride, or the stupid situations you get yourselves into, like today, when we’re two-up and the bike is sideways overtaking a truck down a blind hairpin, really wear you out. Some of you may not want to hear this, but we find ourselves shoving piles of donuts, fried rice, fried chicken or whatever into our mouths just to keep the weight on. Who needs the gym?

Central Bali’s all about rice terraces and temples, so while managing to survive the ride, we also manage to see plenty of both north of Tabunan.

The smell of drying cloves is everywhere as we ride through little the villages. Indonesia used to be a net clove exporter until the demand for kretek cigarettes became so high. Its torture for us, as all we can think of is the hot slice of apple pie we’re never gonna get here.

Sat 15/08
Somewhere a little more off the beaten track, past Munduk, we spend most of the day wandering through more rice fields, chatting to the farmers and stirring up the local ducks.

Mon 17/08
Its Independence Day, something for which it seems the Indos have been gearing up for for months, so we’re not sure if there are going to be parades or road blocks, or even if anyone will be at work. But we decide we don’t care and so take the scenic route to Bangli, via Gunung Batur. The road is partly steep twisty hairpins, with some dirt thrown in for good measure. Scenic though.

We finally track down what is now an Inn, but used to be the residence of the former King of Bangli and his family. It must have been grand once, but now just seems like an ordinary, large Indo family compound with a couple of basic rooms for rent. But its still run by the king’s decendants, is very secluded, and oh joy, the last tourist came through here in June.

Tue 18/08
It was sometime after June, we’re not sure when, that Indonesia really started getting under our skin, up our noses, whatever. Take the internet cafes, or warnets. You’d assume that a. they’d have a reasonable internet connection and b. maybe not be actual cafes, but at least be somewhere you could relax. In reality, nearly all of these places are cramped shit-holes, full of cigarette smoke, blaring Indo music, virus-ridden computers that almost always need a reboot, and a pipe to the internet about as wide as a drinking straw.

After trying fruitlessly for apparently an hour and five minutes to update the blog, Lucas takes it out on the unsuspecting warnet guy, over 1000 rupiah. At the current exchange rate, 1000 rupiah is about AU$0.12. This is what the Indos have reduced us to.

The fluid in the Dakar’s rear brakes has also suddenly reduced so, suckers for punishment that we are, find ourselves embarking upon a quest for DOT4 brake fluid. This is another one of those things we thought nothing of before we left. Why would you? Its brake fluid for chrissake. Um no... DOT4 is high temperature brake fluid, and since all the little Yamahas running around here weigh next to nothing, their brakes only need DOT3.

We’re spotted by a young furniture salesman of all people at a bike shop, who decides to befriend us and runs us all over Bangli looking for the stuff. Bangli’s pretty small however, so it takes a trip to an automotive supplier in the next town before we find some. Thanks Aaron.

Because Bangli is a solid Hindu town, later on for makan malam, babi isn’t too difficult to find. Its nice to get a bit pork on our forks for a change.

Wed 19/08
You won’t find much of that in Kupang, but it was there six months ago that we met the owner of a backpackers in Padang Bai, so ride down there today to say hi and see his place. Unfortunately Padang Bai is full like everywhere else, unless you want to stay in a dorm. We’re not snobs, but one of us did the dorm thing 20 years ago and is well and truly over it. So out of curiosity we ride up the road to check out Candidasa, which seems like a pointless excuse for a resort. It doesn’t even have a beach.

Later we find out that the Eastern Times in Kuching has done another article on us. It blows us away that its a two page feature with loads of our travel photos, but the last part has Lucas rolling around on the floor laughing. It seems Wil misheard the bit where Ann said she’d like to stop and do some volunteer work. The article says she’d like to volunteer in (choke) Leicester. Of course, being a good Essex girl, Leicester is somewhere she’d actually like to blow up. The quote should have read Timor Leste, but thanks for the laugh anyway Wil.

Thu 20/08
Sanur is kind of a trip down memory lane for us, as we stayed here and in Ubud 15 years ago. As you’d expect, things turn out to be the same, but different. It seems like the same green garbage truck is still here, with the same guys collecting the rubbish. The shops are much more hoity toity though, and the hotel we’d stayed in back then (which at the time we thought was cheap) now costs five times what we’ve been paying in Bali this time round.

The rest are full. Bummer.

So an easy day on the bikes turns into a slog through Denpasar and up the truck-congested West Coast road. We end up finally at Medewi, supposedly a surfing mecca. Its not really our scene, but the bungalows are right on the beach, and we’re knackered anyway.

Fri 21/08
So the next morning we end up on a black sand beach in Bali’s southwest, which seems to be merely an extension of local farm land. Indonesian cows are beautiful animals, but distrustful of tourists. These ones grudgingly share their patch of sand with us, keeping a watchful eye over their calves. This isn’t Kuta. Cows are in the majority here. By the way, for our rurally challenged viewers, the one below is a buffalo.

Ohhhh yeah... By the way. Its Ramadhan (apologies to any of our Muslim friends, you might want to look away now).

We thought we’d be safe from the wailing here in Bali. Boy, were we wrong.

In fact the wailing during Ramadhan, after about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, can carry on all night. That’s right. All Fucking Night. And if you happen to be staying near one or more mosques (you could easily be surrounded by half a dozen), your earplugs will not save you. You will be going without sleep.

So lately we’ve been dreaming up ways to strike back at the mad mullahs, urban guerrilla style. Not blowing things up, fundamentalist style, but maybe something a little less destructive. Firstly, we’re thinking you’d pick a city in Java somewhere. Somewhere maybe... dunno, like Jember for instance. Then, right about say... 5 o’clock in the afternoon, cut the power to every mosque in the city. Sure, you’re still not gonna get complete silence, they’ll probably still climb the parapets and wail unamplified, but the level of noise will be bearable.

Or maybe (and this has been a dream of Ann’s better half for a while) if you were really clever with electronics you could knock together some sort of portable EMP device. Something you could just point at a piece of electrical equipment, press a button, and fry it. You’d obviously integrate it into a mobile phone like everything else, and patent it with a catchy name. Something like maybe... Directional Universal Magnetic Pulse. Or DUMP for short. So then every time someone’s pissing you off – maybe its your neighbour’s stereo at 2am, maybe its the Indo across the hall with the annoying ring tone, maybe its just your local mad mullah – you can now take matters into your own hands... and take a DUMP on `em.

Neighbours giving you the hump? Just go take a DUMP. Really, there are endless applications.

Seriously, what is it with the tannoys anyway? Its like industrial strength brain-washing. Zim zim zim zalabim zim... Or it would be if any of these people understood Arabic, because really, that’s our only saving grace.

Sat 22/08
Fireworks are also a big thing around this time of year, especially after fasting finishes for the day. There’s a child outside the warung where we’re having dinner, letting off crackers next to two 44 gallon drums of fuel. Two drunken Ozzies stagger past, prostitute in one hand, Bintang in the other. Its kind of embarrassing, and we wonder if this is really what they came all this way for.

You wouldn’t come all this way for the surf. Or the beaches. If that’s all you’re after, the only reason you’d come to Bali (or Indonesia for that matter) is the exchange rate. We love the beach, so can tell you from years of experience that there’s nothing we’ve seen in the last seven months that can hold a candle to the beaches of Qld and northern NSW. They’re in a completely different league.

The wailing continues into the wee hours...

Sun 23/08
... and blurs seamlessly into the next day.

We’re heading back to Java today, our two weeks are up. Last time the flight back on the Garuda airbus was agony, as we both had an excruciating case of Bali belly. We bypassed the duty-free at Brisbane airport and headed straight for the toilets.

This time its simply a matter of surviving Bali’s south coast road and hopping on a 45 minute ferry to Java. Hmmm... flying Garuda or... riding Bali’s south coast road. The risks are probably a toss-up.

Its a weird feeling leaving Bali behind, but hey, at least we don’t have to face the office on Monday morning...

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