Thursday, May 10, 2012

To Besikah & Beyond!!

Since my last post about Bali was written whilst I was drunk I don’t blame you for thinking it doesn’t make sense. I have a great habit of rambling when I drink. Well actually I can ramble anyway but when I drink I’m the worst.

So where was I? Seven dives in three days our coastal adventure was coming to an end. Dominik had gotten it into his head he wanted to climb a volcano and not any volcano but Mt Agung the highest peak in Bali. Am I a mountain climber? No not really. In Canada I tended to conquer a few peaks but settling back down in my flat city of Darwin my hiking has been minimal. Still I’m easily influenced so I begrudgingly agreed. Once again we set off on the scooter of death for what was to be a longer journey of around 2.5 hours to the mountain town of Besikah.

We aimed for the city of Abang as we needed ATMs & a helmet. Only 15km from the city and safety we ran straight into a police check point. Instantly pulled over our papers and ID cards were handed over. It was then the police officer got on the subject of my lack of helmet.

“Where is your helmet this is no good your wife has no helmet”
“It was stolen” we said after decided explaining that we weren’t married was too complicated.
“You come to the station and pay 1 Million rupiah” well that wasn’t going to happen since we had less than 100,000 between us.
“We don’t have that” Dominik reached into his pocket and pulled out 10,000. “This is all we have” The cop pushed his hand away
“No no put that away, you come to the station”
“We need an ATM we don’t have any money”
“No dollars or euros? 250,000 rupiah you come now we process you” well we did have some US but we weren’t going to admit that I pulled out another 20,000. “No this is all we have we need an ATM”

Again he pushes the money away. There were about 10 police men so possibly not the best place to try and bribe them.

“Ok you go to the city and you buy helmet and get rupiah and come back” he handed us back the papers & ID. “You promise you come back or I call my friend” he walks over and looks at our registration number “I remember your number I call my friend and he pick you up”
So we jumped on the bike sans helmet and rode towards Abang.

As we entered the city we found an ATM that accepted VISA & A helmet shop. Pulling over for lunch we discussed options.
“So you think we should go back?” Dominik grins “I can’t believe he gave me back my ID”
I shrugged “I have no idea, don’t we have to go that way anyway to Besikah?”
“No I think we can go another way”
“Ok” I nodded “lets just go the other way”
So lack of money and blind judgement got us out of a $30 fine. just an info update I am back in Australia again and we never got pulled over by any extra police.

Trying to find your way around Bali without a road map is actually more difficult than it sounds. Luckily for me I had Dominik who it turns out has this innate ability to pick the right roads. Perhaps it has something to do with my double X chromosomes but everything looks the same to me and I have to take a road more than three times before I can remember it. Dominik has a quick look at his GPS and then swings down a random side road only to be going the exact direction that we want. So we headed out of the city and onto Besikah which turned out to be entertaining enough. Riding a scooter through small towns, rice fields, mountains is like a scenic roller coaster ride where you have to dodge potholes and road blocks weaving in and out of traffic. There are no speed limits or road signs overtaking happens any time anywhere no matter if it’s a blind corner or not. But it works. No matter that to my westernized eye it looked like chaos its organised chaos which somehow works possibly better than the over strict road rules of Australia. Just think in Bali your mind has to be constantly paying attention to the roads & surrounding traffic otherwise results could be catastrophic. In Darwin the roads are so empty, the rules so blatant that you don’t have to worry so much about the traffic. So people get complacent which leads to human error. Its an interesting concept that with fewer road rules there are less accidents.

As we scootered through the mountains the weather got cooler and clouds began to form. Before long thick raindrops fell on our unprotected bodies. Rain on a scooter is irritating so we decided to pull in to a little shop. It was dark in the shop I don’t know if the lights had gone out or it was closed but a little old man walked over. We were stuck for a few minutes until the rain slowed down so what better to do but have a beer! That is if there was any beer. The old man had nothing. I went over to the fridge and somehow found a premium lager but just one. How were we supposed to survive waiting out the rain with just one beer? Despite our hand signals the man failed to produce a second beer so Dominik grabbed an ice-cream, responsible driver an all that. As we sat on the little stools the man wandered over with our change and four random mints. As delicious as mints and beer sounded ?!?!!!! I gave them all to Dominik. Nice aren’t I? The rain slowed down a little after a short time and we got back on the bike.

As we neared Besikah the traffic increased. There was a huge ceremony on at the Temple of Agung which meant tourists couldn’t enter the temple as normal and we were told there were 4000-5000 locals visiting every day for the ceremonies. We weaved in and out before getting stopped at the gate to pay our tourist fee.

It was then we met Wayan. He walked over to us and immediately tried to sell us a temple tour despite that we couldn’t access the temple. Then he started talking about finding a guide for the hike to the top of Mt Agung. Now that is what we were “apparently” interested in. The dilemma of course was that we had all our gear and were hardly going to lug it all up the mountain with us. Wayan offered us to homestay in his house until midnight and we could leave everything there in the interim. The price was a hefty 1,000,000RP. Yea, no. I had done my research via couchsurfing and knew we were looking at around 450,000. We bartered unconvincingly for a few minutes to get him down to 500,000 but we decided to head back down to Selat and find another guide not quite trusting the sneaky man.

1 hour later we were back as the trip down to the tiny little non touristic town of selat proved to be fruitless. Excluding of course the venture into a small localised internet café where you sat on the ground and speeds barely got above 56k. Wayan must have been waiting in a dark corner he appeared out of nowhere on his bike, the price had now gone up to 600,000RP but we were tired and it was still cheaper than $100 so we nodded and accepted our fates. I was at this point completely uninterested in visiting the temple or climbing the mountain but Dominik was adamant so I reluctantly conceded without a fight.

Wayan took us down the streets to his house where we met his son & daughter. We were then introduced to our room promptly hitting our heads on the doorway. I’m not a tall person about 168cm but I had to stoop to get through the door. He apologised profusely about the size but we were just happy to have somewhere to keep our stuff after our hectic scooter ride. After getting settled he took us down to the temple entrance to take a gander, dressing ourselves in beautiful sarongs we walked around the areas we could visit. I am so sure I visited the temple with my father years ago and I don’t even really like temples. Especially temples where the people seem to show their respect by throwing all their garbage on the ground. Dominik was impressed and snapped plenty of photos.

Once again Dominik being a vegetarian thwarted us as we tried to get him dinner. Trying to explain he didn’t eat meat was almost impossible but in the end I think he ended up with rice & tofu. Of which he kindly informed me tasted disgusting. Meanwhile my spicy chicken which had probably been sitting out amongst the flies for several days was delicious! This is why I don’t understand vegetarians :D Wayan tried to get me to buy some weird shaped stuff he said was from a pig but wouldn’t tell me what part…anyway over inflated tourist price put me off… judging by the grin on his face as he pushed it upon me there is a good chance I didn’t want to know what part of the pig they were. Would that have stopped me eating them? No…probably not but the price however did.

We returned back to the house and crashed out, the bed was actually really comfortable. It was only 8pm but since we had an all-nighter from midnight we attempted to sleep. There was singing outside so I had to wear my ear plugs but I actually slept really well until Wayan banged on the door. Outside it was cold & I was packed only with tropical clothing. I borrowed a jacket from Dominik Wayan takes one look at my sandals and bare legs and asked me if I had any long pants. I shrugged there was a pair in my backpack just in case. But I was tough… I think. So 1am we are riding through the dark streets of Bali on the scooter following Wayan to our guides place. Our guide didn’t speak English except for where are you from and hello my name is but I believe he didn’t even understand our answers. The scooter had gone from a half tank to almost empty. It was the little engine that barely could struggling like crazy to reach the end. But we made it to the base of the temple where we would hike up Mt Agung. The adventure would soon begin.

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