Agent Orange marches forth into Bali and Lombok
16.05.2008 - 28.05.2008 33 °C
So I left Yogyakarta and headed on a 2-day bus trip across the eastern half of Java, with an overnight stay at Mount Bromo. I am sorry to say it, because Mount Merapi was an exhilarating climb and the dawn was really something to remember, but... Mount Bromo beats the pants off Merapi. There are a lot more tourists, which sucks, but the volcano is incredible. You literally get dropped off in a jeep about 500 meters away, walk up some stairs to the rim, stand and watch as the smoke billows out and then survey the plateau all about you, which is devoid of any trees (just tufts of grass) and looks really surreal. You can walk around the entire volcano rim, and just snap away at all the amazing views.
Then it was back into the bus again, and Indonesian busing is something else. Put it this way, to do about 500km's took a solid 22 hours of busing over 2 lo-o-o-ong days. I eventually arrived in Bali, and what a place.
Once again, my expectations were a little different from what I saw - this time, when I arrived in Bali. The island is massive - over 100km's long, and the surfing that it's famous for can only be found in a few spots, all in the south. I first stayed on the north west coast in the town of Pemuteran, near the diving island of Pulau Menjangan, famous for its wall dives. Little did I know, but its pretty much the most expensive town in Bali, with a few awesome resorts filling its beaches (my dive book fails to mention that the town is also unaffordable to most people on earth). They even MAKE coral there, sticking little thermometers into the water's edge to encourage reef life. I managed to find a cheapish place ($20 a night) after arriving at 9pm on a scooter for 20km's through dense national park forest. The scooter driver wasn't a big fan of using headlights, which was a bit concerning, especially since he didn't understand any English, which made it difficult to get the flashlight signal across to him! Arriving at that time left me with little option but to accept the first place I came across. Ah, long bus journeys in Indonesia, I do love them.
Although it has amazing beaches, Bali also has some massive mountains - remnants of old volcanoes. I took it upon myself to hire a scooter (at excessive Pemuteran prices) and headed into the hills. I covered 200km's of the western tip of the island, and it took all day. The weather changed dramatically as I zipped up the twisting roads, going from a humid 30-odd degrees at the beach to a heavy forest rainfall and having to seek cover for half an hour up in the mountains. Hiring a bike in Bali is dangerous! Not because of other traffic or the animals - the roads are just perfect for rally cars!! You cant help but take the roads at pace, either up or down. It's an awesome day trip, and the locals up there don't regularly see foreigners, or Bule, as we're called, so they wave and greet you, and want to talk at any opportunity. The Balinese are good and easy-going people, they're rarely interested in you just for the money - they enjoying chatting to foreigners. Sometimes though, you get those trying to sell something. In those cases, the conversation is as follows:
Balinese: Salamat Pagi (Hello) / Hello Mister! (if 15 years or younger)
B: What your name?
M: David (pronounced Daafid) [No Stuart, not Daffyd]
B: Where you from?
M: South Africa.
B: Ohhhh... (Nodding a lot, yet complete confusion).... But you WHITE!
M: Yes I know.
B: Ohhhh......(still the confusion).
B: Got wife?
B: How old you?
M: 20- something...
B: Oh. Want girlfriend?
B: Want cooldrink? Want bir? What can I do for you?
M: No, nothing. Thanks bud, cheers.
The Balinese also enjoy playing guitar and music all the time. You'll often be at a restaurant and the guy across the road will come out of his shop and start plugging away at some old tunes. Next thing you know, his neighbor is sitting down next to him with a drum and they're playing away. Awesome! They are very musical people.
Lombok is famous for the three Gili islands on the north-west corner. I went there and once again found myself sweating like Dingaan's armpits after 4 midday stick-fights. Luckily the water was a cool 29 degrees and the beers weren't too expensive, so I managed to find some respite from the heat. I hooked up a few dives and saw the best visibility i have ever seen. Perhaps 45-50 meters. It was incredible! Swam with a number of white-tip reef sharks, countless large hawksbill turtles, some huge bumperhead parrotfish, and many other smaller fish. It was great diving. The island has probably changed a bit over the years - I compare it quite a bit to Ko Tau in Thailand, just smaller. So its quite developed now. Most of the younger tourists seem to spend their time either flexing their guns on the main beach or doing some serious bikini tanning. I guess its a good way to take a break for a while, but the place does have a bit of The O.C. feel to it I think. Actually met some awesome Californians/West Coast and German people while there and we had quite a few good nights out.
On the half-hour boat ride back to Lombok, not a word was said amongst the dozen people leaving Trawangan. Everyone was just staring back at the islands getting smaller, wishing they didn't have to go. It is a lovely island, I'll be back for more I'm sure. I'll always remember it for the song "Welcome to my Paradise" - all the bars play it, all the time. Perfect place for it.
Got to the port at Lombok and we were completely surrounded by ferry ticket touts...! Paradise was definitely behind us now! I was left shouting at some tout "I don't trust you! I don't trust you! I wouldn't give you one cent of my money!" The guy was the dodgiest b@stard I have ever come across. In the end though I had to buy as there was no government office around to sell decently-priced tickets. That's traveling - the good unfortunately comes with the bad.
So now I'm back in Bali and going to KL tomorrow to stay with Dr. Dup du Plessis. He isn't coming to Kota Kinabalu anymore, cos he says he has some international charity gala against Michael Phelps or something. Nice story Dup...
Finally, I have decided to introduce my travel tip section with each new entry from now on:
Travel tips for this entry:
Don't ride buses in Indonesia. Walk if you must.
Learn to accept roosters - they will cockodoodaldoo at midnight, or whenever they damn-well please.
Learn to love scruffy, scrawny, mangy Indonesian dogs - they will bark whenever there is a cockodoodaldoo and they don't know what you're shouting at them cos they don't speak English. Accept them.
Final Note: The Beautiful Beard
There have been some unnecessary comments of late about my immaculate and well-groomed beard that I have carefully grown over the last few months. These have not been taken very well. Gowar, Whitfield, Waterman... I have your numbers. In fact, I was considering grooming it, or, dare I say it, taken it all off, because during the last few dives I kept getting water in my mask and couldn't see anything. Hopefully my mask and 'rooibaard' can learn to live with one another.
PICTURES: Will update as soon as I can... sorry, I just cant find internet cafe's that allow me to either downsize the photos or read my portable hard-drive.