Today is a day for irony appreciation.
I massively overslept and so had to rush to get myself sorted and packed ready to go. I could really use a chill day to catch up on my sleep and I am hoping I get that in New Zealand. I get myself sorted and head to reception to check out and have the hotel look after my stuff while I continue my exploring...
... After some breakfast that is. :) Nom!
Today I have my own driver, Weyen (or Raymond if you can't say Weyen). He will take me wherever I want to go, and today I want to go to the volcano and thermal spa underneath it. We set off in beautiful weather (remember this, it's important later on in my story) and its quite a trek across Bali to the Volcano. This means I get to sit and look at way more of the island out the window. I am seriously tired today however and am nodding throughout the drive. I take the chance to ask Weyen some questions I have about things I have seen:
"Why are the shrines sometimes wrapped in cloth Weyen?"
"The cloth is an offering to the gods. Offerings are important. We do not want a tsunami here."
He went on to say that in Bali, each house will have an indoor and outdoor shrine, each business will also have a shrine, each small collection of houses will have a temple and the whole village will have a big temple.
"These are needed for all the ceremonies!"
"How often are the ceremonies Weyen?"
( I find I have to keep using a name if I am to remember it.)
"lots! We have a daily ceremony...is quick though. Then weekly ceremonies and big ceremony on full moon. Then we can have week long ceremonies sometimes too."
"Wow, that's a lot of ceremonies!"
"Yes, it's important though."
"To stop the tsunami?"
"Yes! and for the business and health luck."
After some more questioning about their gods I fell asleep ;) luckily it takes a good while get across Bali so I had nap time. Then we arrived and I was awake again.
This is Lake Batur viewed from kateyan (sp?) village. This is the village where Weyen comes from and is filled with more people selling stuff I don't want. I say 'no thank you' to the same people a bunch of times. After I have taken photos of the Volcano obscured by cloud - Thanks weather! No offerings for you weather God! - we started the decent to the thermal spa.
I was prepared for the thermal spa. I had my costume in my bag and a lightweight towel. It also turned out I had five bottles of water in there which is why it was so heavy ;) I had a sturdy hair clip to keep my hair dry and my sunglasses so I would be able to see without squinting.
The drive to the spa is along some pretty bad roads, made worse by the continuous stream of beaten up trucks that hurtle along it. Weyen makes a lot of "urgh" and "ooo" noises as he worries about his car getting damaged, as his main means of income I'm not suprised.
We arrive at the spar and it feels quite out of context. To get here we have driven past many homes that are essentially shacks, often with plastic sheet where windows should be. I would think they were sheds if not for the signs of domestic life like lines of washing and women nipping in and out. The terrain is very hard to describe:
The land here is more naturally churned up than anywhere I have ever seen. No where looks flat. The peak-to-valley (sorry for using a science term) must be at least 3-4 meters over an area of roughly 3-4 metres.
The spa is pretty nicely laid out and clearly a tourist thing:
"Here is your voucher for your free drink!" say a short Baliense lady with a smile as wide as her face. "Follow me and I will give you a towel and key for the locker." She leads me through to where the ladies changing rooms are, which are essentially just toilets. I went in and changed into my bikini. I have lost some weight (just can't eat when I'm hot) so I'm feeling pretty good and I leave the changing room ready to strut. The lockers are too small to get my bag in without lots of pushing and thumping but I eventually I manipulated the round-ish peg into the small square hole (wondering what the crunching sound is... Finding out can wait till New Zealand.
I turn and walk out of the changing room and into the open and I feel a drip on my head... Then another... And then the heavens open and my lack of weather God offering doesn't look so clever now as it pours down. I step out into it and it's cold! I jump back; a German man sees this and laughs loudly. I wait to see if it will stop; it rains harder. The German man shouts across to me "you know you're gonna get wet in here anyway right?" My relaxing thermal spa is now complete with waterfall shower and a German comedian.
I decide to go in anyway. I always turn my showers to cold at the end (it's good for he skin) so I should cope. I was fine and I slip into the warm thermal pool. It's then that I remember I'm wearing sunglasses on top of my head. Hmm, oh well. My large hair clip isn't going to help me now with the torrent coming at me from the sky. Each rain drop seems to bounce off the warm water and rocket into my face.
Well played weather God, well played! I had an idea I would swim over to the side and take in the view. The pool overlooked a beautiful scene; only now that scene was competely obscured by fog! Damn it weather God!
Ok my turn, I think... Ah ha! I will relax at the side of the pool in the warm water with my eyes closed and I will meditate. I think I will enjoy that. :) I swim over to the side and rest my head on the edge. Ahhh! It was lovely and A feeling of achievement flickered in me, lit by my making the best of the situation! Well done me!
Then the thunder started... Ok that's just mean weather God! I mean really, come on! I look around, no one is changing their plans. No one is saying to get out. So I stayed. It's just thunder anyway, no lightening! I'm ok, I tell myself... Just relax, that's why I'm here. I take a deep breath and focus on a mantra. Ok, I can do this! My breathing calms and I feel at ease among the thunderous claps. Then there is a flash of light and I'm out of the pool!
Weather God... you sir are an ass! Please find some fricking flower petals and some chewie gluten free snacks in some sort of leaf thing I can knock up before I get on the plane! You win!
I get showered next to the largest beetle I have ever seen. He creeps me out so I name him Sir Scuttle to try and take the edge off. I'm pretty sure I come out of the interaction better off as I am now clean and fresh and he looks soapy and confused.
I get my stuff together after a few attempts (i managed to forget something twice) and meet up with Weyen who rushed through a rolly cigarette, of the kind left at the temples. I tell him not to rush and he say "ok, it's ok!" and continues to inhale his cigarette as though he'd just come up for air during waterboarding.
It's now three and I had planned to be back for six and we are still a long way away so we get back in the car and head back. The journey back is even more treturous due to the rain. I imagine Weyen is wondering who'd wound up his gods. My bad Weyen!
"Do you want to see anything on the way back?" Weyen asks kindly.
"erm, I don't know... Is there anything on route?" I'm tired and really just want to nap in the back seat but I'm about to get on a plane so I think I should save sleep till then.
"Want to try Luwak coffee?" Weyen suggests "we will go past."
"Yep! Sounds good Weyen!" Trying coffee that has come out of an animals butt isn't likely to be a bucket-list item anytime soon but it's coffee and it might wake me up! ;)
We arrive at what looks like a hedge with a tiny gap and a sign. A man with way less than a full complement of front teeth greets me at the car and opens up an umbrella. The lack of teeth does not hold back his smile which conveys a youthfulness that the rest of him does not.
"Want me to come in with you or not?" Weyen asks. "I'm good thanks". I can tell he wants another cigarette. :) I follow the umbrella man until he does a handover with a gentleman who speaks English pretty well. "Welcome! Where are you from?", "I'm from the UK." I reply. I notice that when I say this it's always with a sense of pride, I wonder if that's common or just me? "I don't know that place" my guide replies. I feel a bit deflated as I ask hopefully "England?".... "Ahh England! Yes!" phwww ok the empire still has some presence ;)
He leads me past banana plants, cocoa plants, pineapples, vanilla and local fruits and flowers whose names I can't remember. Then we get to the Luwak's. They look very tired considering they eat caffeine for a living ;)
Whether the beans have been picked by human or Luwak here they get processed by a small grumpy looking guy constantly roasting beans in a pan. He didn't even flinch when we came near. I'm not sure he likes tourists ;)
At this coffee place they make and sell a bunch of different coffees and teas and I get to try them all and the Luwak one for 50 000 rupies (~ £3.30).
They arrive and are placed by their corresponding pictures.
I try each one as the guide gives me a little snippet of pre-prepared extra information that begins when I touch the small glass cup. I move my hand slowly towards a glass and then switch direction to see if he springs into sound prematurely. He doesn't; he knows my game ;) I ask to try the Luwak coffee and this contraption arrives to brew it in front of me.
After only a short time the bottom beaker is filled with coffee and is poured into the little cup below.
It tastes smooth but kinda crap. I don't think coffee is really my thing anyway. ;)
We leave the place and I chat to Weyen on the way home. He starts quizzing me about the English systems for things once he realises I'm not American. I did wonder why he kept asking me questions about America ;) We chat about education, pay and house prices and I learn about his family and his fear of flying. His friend said he'd buy him a ticket to Austalia but the 5hr journey freaks him out. He giggles embarrassed by this admission. He talks about the job situation in Bali and how the Muslims keep trying to make trouble. I can understand that the 5% component of Muslims resident in Bali are causing the 95% of Hindus there problems, but sometime about this turn in the conversation bothers me a little. Am I nieve to think that tolerance can fix things?
Weyen drops me off back at the hotel and I flake on a sofa. I feel like with an hour left to go till I need to leave for the airport I should do something so I went to get food. It was delicious and cheap (£4) and then I got a taxis to the airport.
Bali airport is nicer coming in than leaving. On leaving I think about the poverty in Bali as I am forced to walk past Guchi, Prada, Clarins etc etc
...and now I am sitting here at my gate all caught up on my travel blog ready for the next section of the adventure to begin.