I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bali Ha'i

Saturday 1st to Monday 3rd October

There wasn’t too much going on in Senggigi during the three days we were there. The busy season (June-Aug) had come and gone, which meant that the touts and hawkers had to focus all effort on flogging their cheap 'n' nasty goods and services to the few remaining targets, like us, who were still around. Anything and everything pushed in your face, from tee-shirts to pirated DVDs; taxi rides and tour excursions; tacky bangles & bracelets to full-on body massages – 'Yes Meestir, with full relief if you want it' ..!!.. just about all the crap you can imagine that might just possibly tempt you to open your wallet.

Even a quiet stroll across the beach was near impossible. "Tidak mau" - "No buy" - is an expression you can get tired of repeating very quickly.

We had contemplated a day or two on one of the nearby Gili Islands, but faced with the prospect of more non-stop hustling from the irrepressible touts; well, we decided to give that whole idea a BIG miss.

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The breakfasts at the Puribunga Beach Cottages, in Senggigi, were really good though; let’s take a walk through some of our mornings’ menu:

Fried breaded chicken wings (KFC style, but better), corn fritters, tasty noodles .. and summin’ else I didn’t recognise (top LH corner of pic), but were pretty good nevertheless.

As much ‘special fried’ & ‘plain boiled’ rice as you could eat.

In fact, a proper little Chinese meal .. which obviously meant you knew you’d be hungry again within a couple of hours! ..

.. which is a good enough reason to scoff some toast, with maybe some dodgy-looking fried eggs on top; or

Perhaps a cooked-to-order pineapple (or banana) pancake, with honey. They were good too.

Some fresh fruit to finish off?

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Food in General: Just like anywhere else in the world, the food in Indonesia can range from being really excellent .. to downright diabolical. It does help if you like rice and bananas, that’s for sure! Indonesians don’t understand The West’s passion for potatoes with every main course, as from their perspective, rice is the obvious cornerstone.

I’ve taken a real liking to Tom Yam Goong, which is a kind of prawn-based bisque soup, with straw mushrooms and coconut poom; heavily laced with ginger, lemon grass and quite a bit of red chili.

If you can get through the first two or three spoonfuls of Tom Yam, which will grab your epiglottis and tickle it hard; send a pungent vapour down your nose; make your eyes water ever-so slightly, and the hairs on the back of your neck go all prickly .. then you’re soon into a taste sensation that you will never forget. Guaranteed Pure Asia. And I’m making a ton of it when I get back home.

We popped into a Japanese Restaurant the other day, just for a change. This particular establishment offered free Wi-Fi, which was another reason why we called in to eat there, because it also meant that we could catch-up on all our emails and stuff at the same time.

Neither one of us was brave enough to take our chances with the Sushi board and the other unpronounceable exotic oriental fare on offer, so we opted for a couple of freshly home-made Teriyaki Hamburgers; I had a beef one and Ellen chose tuna. The twist here is that the burgers were sautéd in a slightly reduced wine jus .. with a few splashes of soy sauce for good measure. A simply delicious way to turn the humble burger into a haute cuisine delight. Again, I’ll be trying this out myself back home.

And for what it's worth .. quite frankly, I find chopsticks distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years .. haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to eat a bloody burger?!

We’ve had the odd dessert from time-to-time too. Never as good as a bowlful of rhubarb crumble & custard though!

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Tuesday, October 4th

We didn’t want to leave Lombok without making a brief visit to the Island’s southern coast. With this in mind we were determined to spend at least one night down in Kuta (Lombok); tempted by stories of the local, fun-loving Sasaks who saturate the little township’s motley assortment of barefoot bars. Mix this up with a series of crescent-shaped bays – classic turquoise in the shallows and deep blue further out to sea, licking wide sandy beaches, backed by swaying coconut palms and framed by domelike headlands patched with lush tobacco fields .. and maybe you’ll have a vague idea of why we were always going to be drawn Lombok’s south coast.

Unfortunately it will all too soon to be a thing of the past. See, a Dubai-based development firm has already started to transform Kuta’s prestine coastline. The sea change is already well under way. What a shame. Indonesian law allows government [corrupt] ministers to force owners to sell their land at will. And sold-out to Dubai it has been. I hope the Arab developers bring economic opportunities, ecological and cultural awareness to the local community, but quite honestly I doubt they will; not if Dubai itself is any sort of a blueprint to go by.

We chatted to some of the locals who seem quite puzzled and bemused by it all; in a dazed state of mind. They used to play beach volleyball at the end of their gardens. Now that’s all gone! .. they’re actually banned and prohibited from using their own beach in their own back yard (literally) for such recreational purposes.

Quite clearly the incarnation of Lombok’s South Coast is on the clock. My recommendation is that if you want to catch the last throes of Kuta Naturelle and its neighbouring villages, then you’d better book right now.

I bunged a Rp 20,000 note to the poor chap who described to us what’s been happening lately. No strings attached. It was nearly a day’s wages to him.

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Wednesday, October 5th

I got up at sunrise (05:45am) and took a solo ride east down the coast for about 10-15 km. Ellen laid-in that morning. Eventually I found myself in a nearby coastal fishing village that is still untouched by the developers .. for how long remains to be seen. Hardly anyone around from the ‘developed world’ apart from me; always assuming Cornwall is now considered fully developed .. Camborne Town excepted, of course. No one except me and a few fishermen, a handful of seaweed farmers and their children.

Panorama – click for full view (or right click and 'Open Link in New Tab')

Then a young man approached me .. right out of the blue, Joseph was his name. We struck-up quite a decent conversation. He and his young wife share the same house as his parents, right down on the shoreline. Joseph showed me a picture of his new baby daughter .. and then offered me a cup of freshly ground coffee. No strings attached.

I told him he was very lucky to be living with all his family in such a beautiful part of the world. “You think I’m lucky Meestir? Ha! I never thought so before.”

What do you think?

We shook hands, for quite a long time actually .. and exchanged some warm words and smiles, before I had to leave his serene village and return back to the hotel in Kuta. We both agreed that we were glad we had met. It was a lovely way to start the day.

Good luck Joseph. Don’t let the bastards grind you down mate!

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09:00am: We had some breakfast by this time – pineapple pancakes again, with loads of pineapple; the bike was already packed, so it was off to Lembar to catch our fourth and final ferry .. this time to Bali.

Once upon a time, if you had told me that one day I would definitely arrive on the exotic Island of Bali by way of a motorcycle, all the way from New Zealand, then I would have accused you of being stark-raving bonkers! Funny how life works out.

After leaving Kuta we passed alongside fields of grazing cattle, doing it all naturally; none of your factory farming here. Calves suckling straight from the udder. Good to see.

Through villages where every day is market day.

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Cast off from Lembar at 11:45am .. and three and a half hours later our ferry had made its landfall and rounding the final headland before docking in Padangbai, East Coast Bali, where we spent the night.

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Thursday, October 6th

The regular blasts of the ferry-ships’ horns as they arrived and left Padangbai’s harbour kept us awake during the night, so it was an easy decision to leave and head further south, on the morning of our first full day in Bali.

Sanur, is described in the Lonely Planet as a ‘genteel’ alternative to nearby Kuta(Bali) and Seminyak, which is why we chose to spend a day and a night there. The 40 km [25 mi] ride down from Padangbai was the first full-on ride in the rain that we had experienced .. erm, all this year, if I think about it. Hot and sweaty, we soon discovered that Sanur is really quite over-commercialised and comparatively expensive to what we’ve been used to. It’s also a haven for expats - Brits, Aussies etc – which soon became obvious as we explored up and down the town’s high street.

Nice sandy beach though, which is sheltered by a reef ..

.. and where inside the reef sailing boats sometimes race against each other.

Ellen spotted this 1½ metre long snake slither up the shore from the sea, heading towards a pile of rocks further up the beach. We were not sure - and are still not sure - precisely what type of snake it was. Maybe it was a taipan, which is THE one to really watch out for, because the taipan is the most poisonous snake on Earth, with a lunge so swift and venom so potent that your last mortal utterance is likely to be: "Bloody Hell, is that a sn--"

Needless to say, neither one of us fancied a swim that day!

The northern end of the beach finishes at in a classic Indonesian way. Bali Perfect.

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Friday, October 7th

Another night in Sanur was quickly dismissed. If we wanted a set-up that to all intent and purposes mirrors any one of your typical Canary Island resorts, then that's where we would have gone.

Time to head east in search of the real Bali.

Mid-morning, heading back east, and we stop at Goa Lawah Temple, which is thought to be over 1,000 years old. This temple is also known as the Pura Goa Lawah (Bat Cave Temple) due to the cave containing fruit bats around which the temple developed.

After reaching Amlapura, along some superb roads, we turned southeast and passed by the Taman Ujung water palace complex of the last king of the Karangasem kingdom. The building was completed in 1921, but was extensively damaged by the big earthquake in 1979.

Beautiful views across Lombok Strait, as we then twisted and turned up and around the undulating coastal road to Amed. This is the Bali we had come all this way to see.
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We arrived in Amed during the late afternoon and started to hunt down some lodgings for the night.

Now then, I'm always a bit suspicious nowadays when total strangers approach me and start asking questions; the usual stuff like, 'Where do you come from?' .. 'Where are you going?' .. 'Where are you staying?' .. because quite often this sort of intrusion can be followed by a sales pitch for summin' you usually don't want, let alone need.

But young Johnny (below) asked those same questions, followed by 'Okay, you follow me .. I take you to nice place to sleep'. And blow me down he did.

Costing just Rp 200,000 [GB£14.50], Johnny Schwarzenegger here took us to the best value-for-money lodgings - which included a decent breakfast the following morning - that we've had on this trip since our stopover at the Susters' Convent in Ruteng, Flores Island.
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Saturday, October 8th

Into the Central Mountains ..

.. through hectares of stepped rice fields, eventually to finish at Toya Bungkah along the western bank of Lake Batur.

The road down into the caldera lake from Kintamani, where we literally had our head in the clouds, thus it was quite cool and misty (raining even) to Toya Bungkah; the road meandered across an unreal landscape of overgrown old lava flows.

I wish I could say that we enjoyed our stay at Toyah Bungkah .. but the fact is we didn't. Nothing worked in and around our grubby little hotel - the 'pick of the bunch' according to Lonely Planet - except the wretched flies, who were all working overtime!
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Sunday, October 9th

The next morning's sunrise was the best part of the whole flooded crater experience.

Local fishermen at work catching the day's family meal.

Surreal.

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We had to head back up the crater rim to Kintamani in order to progress to our next destination, Lovina Beach, on the north coast of Bali. The road down the mountain range is much steeper than the inward road up (from the south) because the northern coast is only about 10 km away from the crater rim at its closest point. As we twisted and turned down the rapid decent we could feel the heat and humidity incrementally build-up almost after rounding each hairpin bend. I’ll bet the temperature increased a good 15° - 20°C in the space of 30 minutes.

And then it happened again ..

There we were, minding our own business, keeping an eye out for some lodgings, knowing full well we had plenty of time to sort this as it was barely lunchtime; when along pops Danni and persuades us to follow him to a ‘Plenty good hotel’.

“Is it near the beach?” we yell back (suspiciously). ‘Yes Boss’ was the reply .. Hey! surely that’s a promotion from ‘Meestir’? I thought to myself. So we followed him for a couple of kilometres or so ..
  .. which eventually brought us to this outlook, from the chalet that we booked into for two nights at SRI Homestay. Good ol’ Danni had turned-up trumps, just like Johnny-the-Poseur did back in Amed.

Two fantastic places to stay, coming to us right out of the blue. I put the Good Karma down to the Rp 20,000 that I gave away back in Kuta, South Lombok. We shall definitely be going back to this one at Lovina Beach for sure next year; owned by an English bloke, Colin, and his young Balinese wife, Sari. For the price – of around GB£20 /night – it really doesn’t get much better than the SRI Homestay.
  And we also befriended young Bobby, the receptionist's brother .. a committed Hindu, who invited us to attend his Temple’s celebration. Held just once a year, at approximately the same time, but must coincide with a full moon, we had a smashing time at the Vishnu (Protection) Ceremony – and yes, both of us were obliged to wear wrap-around sarongs throughout the evening.

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There were hundreds and hundreds attending the festivities at the beachside Hindu Temple. All the ladies were carrying offerings on their heads, (of typically fruit and other foodstuffs), to their God.

And gambling down on the beach. Kids less than 10 years of age chipping-in with their wagers .. no problem whatsoever.

Up-tempo Hindu Music banging out all the while. A lot of drum rhythm with xylophone-type instruments pitching the tune. It was really good too. I shot some movie footage, but overlooked to ensure the sound recording was switched on (which is wasn’t) – doh!

Ellen actually went into the Temple Sanctum Sanatorium to take part in the group prayer ceremony. I declined the invitation, being the committed heathen, like what I am.
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Tuesday, October 11th

With just three full days remaining before we must leave this fascinating tropical island, on the morning of Tuesday 11th we thought it best to get ourselves back down to the capital region of Denpasar.

And what a ride the main North<~~>South road through Bali is! Up-and-over the Central Mountain Range. Brilliant fun. I did shoot some video footage, which I might turn into a short movie when I get back home. It’ll need some music added though, as my camera’s sound recording facility was still turned to ‘off’ .. [doh!] again.

Our six day ride around the Island of Bali.

Kuta-Legian Beach, near Denpasar. The locality of the 2002 Bali bombings.

Just how many pictures can you take of a sunrise or sunset? I think it’s definitely time for us to return home.

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CONCLUSION

This chapter of my blog is about to close. My first venture outside the recognised 'fully developed' world has been a resounding success, completed yet again without any mishaps whatsoever, thank goodness. I really do think I'm starting to get the hang of the motorcycling malarkey!

Some old friendships have been renewed and strengthened; some new ones forged.
And now it's definitely time to return home to my country, Great Britain.

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STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP PRESS. STOP ...
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As I type the last few words of this post on Thursday afternoon, October-13th, you should know that around mid-morning today, here in southern Bali, we felt the effects of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. JEEEZUS! .. WTF WOZ THAT?!

.. or words to that effect, were heard all around hereabouts, as people (me included) rushed from every building out into the streets.

'Must be jelly .. cuz jam don’t shake like dat!' .. was my answer

You may hear about it on the news. LINKY

A couple of weaker aftershocks have occurred this afternoon. We're all fine here .. BUT not sure how soundly we will sleep tonight?

I mean, let's face it, it really really is time to come home, eh?!

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link Lombok to Bali

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Yunno, whenever I go abroad and see how others live, it always brings home to me what a wondrous place I live in – crazy as fuck, of course, but totally adorable to the tiniest degree. Built on stable ground too!

What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec, Farleigh Wallop and Water-Ma-Trout? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? ['Please Hardy, full on the lips, with just a bit of tongue. There’s a good chap.']

There is no other nation on the planet that could possibly have given the world William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, Isaac Newton, The Beatles, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, the Open University, Stephen Hawking, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Gardners' Question Time, the chocolate digestive biscuit, and Bond

.. James Bond

.. except my country of course, Great Britain.

It's a privilege to be part of a fair and tolerant nation of people who voluntarily dismantled their own mighty empire, upon which the sun never set, in a generally benign and enlightened way. A free market economy country that has a social conscience. A country that during the middle of the 20th Century created a far-seeing all-embracing welfare state that was way ahead of its time .. and to this day still remains the best in the world. In short, a people that did, and still does, nearly everything right, which is the reason why everyone in the world wants to come and live in, or at least visit, my green and pleasant land.

How easily we Brits lose sight of all this. Our nation, this tiny Atlantic archipelago sitting just offshore from the coast of Europe, which has always punched far far above its weight .. that fought and won a just and noble war .. when it stood alone – completely alone for quite some time, mind you – against the full might of the Nazi killing machine, with no-one else to defend its shores except Dad’s Army, a handful of brave young fighter pilots, and more than a little Bulldog Spirit. Our finest hour.

Travelling overseas for these extended periods reminds me just how much I love and miss my country; every last bit of it, good and bad. I am so looking forward to returning home, where I can once again rest my head on that old familiar pillow.

I really do miss my family and workmates; I miss the Cornish coastline, country lanes, village cricket, people saying 'mustn't grumble' and 'I'm terribly sorry but'. I miss proper Marmite, BBC Breakfast TV and Carol Kirkwood. I miss PG Tips, Coleman’s English Mustard, Marks & Spencer, bite-size Shredded Wheat, Ordnance Survey maps, baked beans on toast, stinging nettles, bacon sandwiches with HP sauce, hot-water bottles, crumpets and butter, drizzly Sundays, and rhubarb crumble with custard. I miss them all.

The fact is that my Britain is still the best place in the world for most things: to post a letter, go for a walk, watch some decent television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, visit a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek a little help when times get tough, or stand on a cliff top or a hillside and take in a view.

I have said it before and I'll say it again. I love my country. I love it more than I can tell you.

And to think that I am, by birthright, one of just 65 million Britons – barely one per cent of the world’s population – it was always going to be a 100-1 shot that I would be born British. And yet it really happened. What a stroke of luck!

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Thank you for reading my blog and sharing some of my private thoughts.

Until next time.

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Post Script

And here's that video, with a little 'dramatic tone' added:



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