Today I am making it up quite a bit. My attempts to find new friends just out and about was foiled by the shyness that only seems to effect me when I go to actually try (when I don't try I think talking to people will be super easy). So I took to google and the Internet to solve all my troubles and before long I was chatting to Antony who has just upped sticks from the USA and moved to beautiful Bali. He has a scooter and said he was heading to Uluwatu and that I was welcome to join him. I suggested he join me for breakfast first (so I could assess the stabiness level ;) and after he arrived I offered him some toast, had a quick chat and found him to be a really pleasant Texan with all the manners and politeness associate with that area and so I agree to tag along on his adventure.
I had never been to Uluwatu or on any less than four-wheeled motorised vehicle before. Needless to say I was nervous ;) I have read that most of the serious tourist injuries in Bali are from scooter accidents and the scars are called Bali kisses. Now I was happily climbing on the back of a scooter for a 50minutes drive to see a temple and some really pissed off monkeys.
This is Antony. I asked if it was Ant or Tony and was told "It's Antony!" ;)
Here I am with my rucksack and helmet ready for my imminent transformation into a Hell's Angel. ;) Now, make no mistake I am wearing way more clothes than I want to be in this hot weather and I am hot! This choice is not because I am a terrible judge of suitable climate attire (although I am, but that is a side issue) but because I have read that at the Bali temples you should have your arms and legs covered to be respectful. My second reason for maximum skin encasement is skin protection. If I'm going to get on this scooter I want some protection in case I do come off. I have stopped short of full leathers but there was no way I was wearing shorts ;)
Once on the bike I was instructed how to sit; I should keep my centre of mass centred... Ok, check! My meditation practice has me way more centred than I used to be but I think this is more of a physics thing ;)
Then we're off and I go from polite but cool as a cucumber English chick happily holding the back of the bike ready to rock to a fraidycat clutching Antony's shoulder and rigidly gripping the back of the bike as if trying to fuse myself to the metalwork.
Antony tries to reassure me with a pat on the knee while saying "I'll drive nicely :) I last rode a scooter when I was a kid but it's the best way of getting around the island with the traffic."
Ok so I was hoping he would have said "Don't worry, I won the worlds safest scooter driver competition 2015!". Still, it was actually fine and after 5-10minutes I felt myself relaxing, trusting Antonys scooter judgement, and my grib on the seat back reduced to more vice like than cold welding.
Travelling by scooter in Bali is about 2-3 times as fast as by car. It is also really fun once you forget the fact that most of the tourists that die in Bali, find the reaper chillaxing by their fallen scooter. We weave in and out though the bustling traffic, with all the periodic horn beeping and bbq smells, until we get onto quieter roads. We pause briefly so sun lotion can be applied. My factor 30 looks pretty puny against the factor 110 I am shown. Then once again we're off and I am really starting to enjoy the breeze against my hot, over-dressed bod. The ride is 45minutes and takes us through little villages and many long sections that follow a semi-regular pattern:
Palms, temple, palms, shrine, house, temple, temple, shop, shrine, palm, scrub land, palm, temple, little shop, palms, shrine etc etc. I can not under exaggerate how many temples and shrines are here in Bali. Imagine if every second house in the UK were a temple or a shrine to Hindu gods. Now imagine that with lots of palms, hot and humid... That's Bali! :)
I wanted to get my camera out and take photos but I don't mess about on bike ;)
We arrive in Uluwatu hot but intact... Woohoo! I really enjoyed the ride and now Uluwatu is really beautiful so today is going well. :) We take a short sit down for a guava juice and a Coke and I find myself confused by the money. As a physicist I find myself expecting to not to have moments like this when I have a mental wipe-out but sometimes we all get a bit mind fogged don't we? No? Yeah me neither, it's the jetlag! ;)
Uluwatu has a temple that is one of the six really important temples in Bali. It consists of a small temple at the end of a long paved cliff edge path. The views from the path are simply spectacular! The temple itself is kinda meh! I have seen a lot of temples in my time though. It seems temples in Bali can be special because of where they are rather than being very impressive in their decoration etc. Nature for me never ever stops being stunning and impressive!
To see this awesome view however you must get past the possessed monkeys of doom!!! The monkeys will go for you if you're a tourist so the locals mark you out as you enter by giving you a purple or yellow sash when you pay for your entry (~£1). ;)
As we approached the monkeys we were walking behind another tourist who kept turning to tell us how bad the monkeys were, only to then antagonise them by jumping up and down and shouting at them. Antony and I shared a look that expressed our unspoken agreement that this man was an imbecile and we calmly but quickly walked past the monkeys.
Anything easily removable should definitely be packed away if you want to keep it, these are actually creatures that will go for you. A pretty young Chinese woman squealed as something was pulled from her hair but a particularly confident monkey. They had my water bottle out of a pouch on the side of my rucksack while I wasn't looking. Luckily I bought three bottles with me because I'm prepared like that. ;) The theiving cheeky monkey then trivially unscrewed the bottle cap and drank the drink. Credit to the little chap, he knows his way around a bottle. He then peeled the label off, clearly his lady monkey isn't booking him up ;)
Aww the travellers adorned with monkey targeting clothing ;)
After such a busy, sunny and dusty morning and afternoon, having a hotel with a pool and a beautiful place to chill around it was a real blessing. The heavens then opened so having food and sweet treats available at the hotel was also fab! I said goodbye to the lovely Antony as he left to go and continue his day and I thanked him for letting me adventure with him and for driving nicely :)
Bali is home to more butterflies than I have seen outside of my best mates daughters drawings. These orange flowers are unbelievable magnets to them and these butterflies were big and stunning. I always feel grounded in the presence of something so delicate. :)
After a cracking bit of time spent in a beauty spot we started the journey back. We needed fuel however and so we stopped. I was at first very confused as we appeared to stop where there was only a small snack shack, however it turned out to also be the petrol station. The grey cap here is where the magic scooter juice goes in...
... and this is where we got the scooter juice from. Old bottles of Absolute vodka filled with petrol and distributed by the side of the road haha! Check out this funky green Bali funnel! I fricking love high-tec shizzle. ;)
The journey back was really fun as I was now more relaxed on the scooter. It was so nice to watch the roadside life of Bali whoosh by close enough to reach out and touch: The people sweeping their spaces with brushes make from twigs; the shops that looked like they moved in immediately after a building fire; other scooters moving in and out of the traffic with us as if we were a flocks of birds among slow moving animals; local women without helmets and their little kids on their scooter, clearly the main family vehicle; people putting out their new offerings to their gods with the small whisps of smoke emanating from the incense sticks.
Now back in bustling Kuta, the scooters become even more weaving and determined and we stopped to see the Beachwalk shopping centre. Wow this shopping centre is super super beautiful. Three levels of ultra clean and cool shops among set out around a special centre where outside and inside meet above a white walled water stream and larger pool for little fish on the bottom level with a boarder of vines spilling over from the balcony of the second level and on the top level a beautiful open air garden where you can sit in the sun and relax. The shops on this top level are the restaurants and, as the sun in the early afternoon is so intense, we went into a sushi restaurant for some aircon and food :)
Gluten-free in Bali is better than I expected but still kinda challenging. Sushi, simple raw fish, is clearly ok (no soy sauce though) :) Many restaurants in Bali also have huge lists of cocktails and mocktails using the many many juices at their disposal :) Here are the strawberry juice and dragon fruit tea that we ordered! Delicious! 😀
Then I really needed a nap! ;) Jetlag effects me most of the time in some way at the moment and I find a short nap is a great way to counter it. After a short nap I found that I had been invited out for dinner with another lovely person... Whoop! Things are going very well!