So there we go, you’ve had your two posts from Japan. I’m still feeling guilty for skipping over the rest of my time in my favourite country and for dropping South Korea altogether but needs must. I’ll leave you with a few photos from S Korea to give you a taster of what it was like along with a tentative pledge that I’ll add the posts at a later date although we all know that I probably won’t.
So onwards then, onwards to Indonesia where very excitingly my baby sister and her friend Harriet were waiting for me. Having been back on the bike again for 3 months I’d planned to spend a few weeks out of the saddle in Bali with the girls partly of course so we could catch up but also to give myself a bit of a break from the biking routine. I was feeling tired both physically and mentally and I had had a few niggles and aches in my knees throughout Korea. It was time to listen to my body and give myself a bit of a break and sitting on a tropical beach drinking beer with my baby sis sounded like a pretty awesome way in which to do it.
I soon learnt however that travelling with Ami is a slightly different ball game to riding my bike around the world. She is completely uninterested in anything remotely historical or cultural and essentially just wants to sit on the beach, drink beer, flirt with Australian surfers and play monopoly deal. Within 24 hours my daily schedule had been thrown out of the window. Early nights were vetoed and replaced with beers on the balcony and dancing until the early hours and as for productive mornings? Well all I can say is God forbid anyone make even the slightest rustle of noise before noon! I wondered what was more of a strain on my body, 7 hours a day of cycling or a few weeks partying with Ami and Harriet.
It was a really fun break though and despite the fact that my little sister is such a travelling philistine I rather admire her honesty about what she wants out of her trip. Rather than traipse around the “must see” sights secretly wishing she was on the beach (as I don’t doubt many backpackers do) she openly and unashamedly doesn’t bother going at all! Her complete indifference to culture is kind of hilarious and actually the fact that she has the balls to be open and honest about it within a traveller’s community that can, at times, be both judgemental and pretentious is rather refreshing.
After nearly a week on the Gili islands Harriet and I decided it was time to head back to Bali to explore a little. Armed now with your knowledge about my baby sister’s attitude towards travel I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear that her immediate and decisive response to our suggestion was “I couldn’t care less about visiting padi fields, I think I’ll just stay here for a bit longer”! So it was minus Ami that I picked up my bike and made the short ride up to Ubud to meet Harriet. Ubud is one of those hippy traveller towns full of expats who don’t wash their hair, cook their food or wear anything other than white linen and beaded necklaces. A multitude of healers offer delights such as Craniosacral Soul Retrieval, Sacred Geometry Meditation, Akashic Release or Bowls Sound Healing, their soft calming voices promising enlightenment, higher wisdom and a chance to become just… like… them. Christ, what a load of codswallop!
However, spiritual BS aside Ubud was quite a cool little town and we stayed for a few nights to explore the local area. The padi fields that Ami had been so uninterested in did actually turn out to be rather dull although I suspect the fact that I had just spent 2 months surrounded by them in Japan may have left me a little “padi’d out” as everyone else seemed to have a good time. Either way, I don’t doubt Ami had made the right decision to stay on the Gillis with her beer. I can’t quite see my baby sister signing up to restore her peace and wholeness whilst meditating in a padi field can you!
Our next planned activity had me much more excited despite the fact it involved getting up at 1am. We had booked onto a trip to hike up Mount Batur in northern Bali. The idea was to make the hike up in the dark reaching the summit for sunrise and, as everyone raved to us, the beautiful morning view. As instructed we gathered at reception at 1am ready for our pick up. An hours drive took us to the base of the hiking trail where we joined a heck of a lot of other tour groups and snaked our way up the volcano together in the dark. The path got gradually steeper and steeper and we scrambled up the final few hundred meters just as the sky in the east was brightening. After hearing people rave about the view we excitedly huddled around our steaming cups of sweet tea and waited for the sun to burst through the morning mist. As it turned out the incredible view never materialised. In fact, instead of distant volcanos peaking out above candy floss clouds our 1am start and 2 hours of hiking were rewarded with this:
Ok so the sunrise itself may not have been worth the trouble it took to get there but we were soon to be rewarded in a rather unexpected way. Quickly resigning ourselves to the fact that the view at Mount Batur would only be known to us via photos in tourist brochures our hiking group settled into conversation and waited for full daylight to allow an easier hike back to the van. Harriet however, not one to be deterred by a little bit of cloud, spent the entire time painstakingly balancing her GoPro on the fence, ever ready for that all important break in the clouds. Finally satisfied with it’s positioning she wandered back over to us. Within a few minutes the sky began to get a little brighter and believe it or not the clouds parted for a moment – albeit a very brief one. Sadly for Harriet it was at this very second, as the sun finally revealed itself and the stunning volcanoes emerged from the mist that her GoPro toppled off it’s precarious perch right onto the head of a very cute puppy snoozing below! What a very cute puppy was doing snoozing at the top of Mount Batur at 5am I have no idea but it certainly wasn’t there to get hit on the head by falling camera equipment! It was hard to tell if it was the puppy or Harriet who was more upset but the rest of us found the whole thing extremely amusing!
Having collected ourselves and comforted all necessary puppies and GoPro enthusiasts we made our way down to the crater rim. Here, other than a lot of monkeys there wasn’t all that much other than a TOTALLY COOL view of the volcano spewing smoke.
I’m a bit of a geek and I thought it was really awesome. I know it might sound daft because we all know that volcanos erupt and they do so because of lots of things that Mrs Lees told me about when I was 16 that I can’t be bothered to write down now but to be stood on an active volcano watching the smoke billow out and know that all that trouble is just bubbling away underneath you is really awesome. Oh aren’t we all so small and insignificant, just drops in the ocean, specks of dust in the desert, unimportant particles in a universe so infinitely huge and complex… and all that sh*t. Eek, perhaps Ubud was rubbing off on me!
On the hike back down the volcano slopes we did finally get a nice view, it was a bit of shame that the slippery ash covering the trail required such attention that we weren’t really able to enjoy it fully but it was nice none the less. I’m starting to sound a bit like I didn’t enjoy the trip now aren’t I but I promise I did. Ok so the hike up was a little too much like a brits abroad conga line for my liking and as you’ve seen yourselves the sunrise totally sucked but our guide and the other people in our group were really quite lovely, the activity in the crater was awesome and the view once the clouds did eventually clear was beautiful.
So I’m guessing by this point in the post you are all probably losing interest and just wishing that I’d explain the title already. Well ok fair enough. I think the best way to do so is to first quickly explain that in Ubud there is a monkey forest. Here are some nice photos of the pretty monkey forest and temple within:
So in this very pretty monkey forest there are also, believe it or not, lots of monkeys and they do cute things like this:
Admittedly you have to be quite childish to find this funny but luckily for me I qualify (as does Harriet) and we found the whole thing totally hilarious. There were a number of other tourists around who were chuckling too and we caught each other’s eyes every now and again with immature “oh isn’t this funny” and “he doesn’t even know what it is!!” expressions on our faces. It felt a little like being a child at school and stifling a laugh when someone said the word “willy” or “boobie” expect that now we were all full grown adults giggling at a monkey stretching a condom!
Sadly our immaturity had to end eventually and we left the cheeky monkey to his spoils. We had a waterfall to get to don’t you know. The falls were a short ride away, a journey for which we hired mopeds (sorry Mum). Despite spending the majority of my waking hours over the last year on two wheels I wasn’t exactly a natural when it came to riding a moped and keeping it slow I lagged behind the group quite considerably. Unfortunately this meant that when everyone else turned right I continued on quite happily in a straight line. Assuming I must be quite far behind everyone I (very bravely) upped my speed and did what I now like to refer to as a “Bryce” which essentially means spending a considerable amount of time trying to catch up with people in front of me who are actually not in front of me. Eventually, poor Harriet chased me down and led me back to the turning I had missed. Ops.
The waterfall, unlike the padi fields, was well worth the effort of getting there. Not only did it look pretty cool but we also got to swim in the pool AND sit on a rubber ring to be pushed through the cascading water. Although this was undeniably fun there were a few panic fuelled seconds on my part when, upon reaching the “impact zone” on my little rubber ring, I was powerfully thrusted to the bottom of the pool and held there by the falling water for what felt like a very long time thank you very much before being unceremoniously spat out towards the rocks coughing and spluttering. I luckily held onto my bikini although I am not sure the same can be said for my dignity.
So all in all Ubud gave us a good time. We met some really lovely people in the hostel, the trips were good and perhaps most importantly… there was a frozen yogurt shop!
To wrap things up for today then (or two months ago depending on how you look at it) I have had a comment request:
“I am a bit confused as to your route throughout all of this? From Indonesia to Korea to Japan? What kind of route is that!? Could you incorporate a map somewhere? If you can’t do a fancy Google one a crudely drawn one would suffice.” Ed T
Well you guessed correctly Ed, I can’t do a fancy Google one… how’d you know! I hope the following will help: