The unthinkable--motorbike in Bali
Trip Start Jan 12, 2013
42Trip End Feb 27, 2013
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First, I'm sweating like I haven't sweated in years. Not to be crude, but hey, I know all you are practical realistic folks...I'm even sweating while my legs are on the toilet seat while I sit to use the restroom! Holy sauna! There is no dry. The moment the water from the shower ceases, the water from your sweat takes over. Good thing there aren't any deer nearby because they'd attack my salt lick self.
I met an American named Henry from Los Angeles who has been traveling the better part of two years with short breaks home in between. Burned out corporately, he used his savings to finance his departure from his job. We went out this evening to investigate rumors of live music at a nearby bar he'd heard about. Of course, in these incessently winding passages they call streets here, we don't find it. Instead, we have a drink at a lovely, swanky French restaurant on the roof balcony puored into plush cushioned chairs while the waiter excitedly guesses we're American from our accent. The waiter then proceeds to tell us that he loves to hear Americans because they are fairly rare here (25% of all travellers to Bali are Australian due to their proximity). He says he knows the national anthem of the United States and loves it because it's a neat song, but his favorite rendition is by Carrie Underwood. I tell him I'm from where Carrie Underwood lives and he exclaims, "Nashville?!" Now that's a rarity...an Indonesian knowing Nashville...all Americans are either from California or New York City. haha. Henry and I leave our little French retreat and make our way back towards the hostel. On the way, we hear the sounds of that elusive live music. Turns out, it's in a bar called Cubana of all things and it pays homage to Cuba. How interesting. What is even more crazy is that my new friend Henry made a clandestine trip into Cuba himself in 2011...what are the chances??!! As an American, I finally met someone that understood the implications of travelling to Cuba. The live music was great too--it's been too long since I've heard music...although the mini-mart across from the hostel has club/discotheque music blaring inside...seriously.
Now on to the juicy bit I alluded to earlier in this post...my survival. Not to be fear-mongering or anything, but I survived the most challenging driving of my life today, hands down. Why was it so difficult you ask? Well, I invite you to read or take a look on YouTube at Bali/Kuta traffic. The island was not engineered for cars nor the huge numbers of tourists that descend on it continuously. The streets are the width of one lane plus a shoulder in the U.S. Here, that equals two lanes, plus parking for motorbikes or cars on the side of the road at random intervals. There is no where to pull over and park so people just have to 'pull over' in the road. Sidewalks only really exist in imagination in most parts of Bali. Kuta, the major tourist mecca, has some, but 2 km down the road where I am staying, the sidewalks do not exist. I had planned to rent a motorbike this afternoon, but on a walk to find a bookstore, my friend Louisa and I stopped for food. Right next door they were renting motorbikes, so I inquired as to the price. They gave my the motorbike for a good price and so I went ahead and rented it...but that created the problem of what to do with Louisa...? In full disclosure, I said that I was not good with two people on a motorbike, in fact, I've never driven with two people, and that I was not an expert at driving. She agreed to ride with me, although I kind of wish I had a way to prevent that because I didn't want to kill the both of us. But, when you are faced with a sink or swim situation, apparently I will flail around until I make some semblance of swimming, enough to keep my head above water at least. But, that doesn't mean I won't be scared, tense, and extremely paranoid as I try to navigate these ridiculously crazy roads and nutso traffic. I literally rubbed my leg against another car....that's how close everything is. There are no rules. Believe it or not, the fact that traffic operates opposite of the U.S. (on the left side) was the least of my worries and issues. That was negligible compared to the whizzing, cutting, braking, swerving of motorbikes and cars all around within a foot of me. Having someone on the back really threw off the equilibrium and control. I am sincerely surprised that we did not wreck. Honestly. Not to mention I had a skirt on, but modesty went out the window as I concentrated on not skidding across the pavement in Bali. Good times. It's amazing what you can do when you are forced to. However, when you return to your hostel and think back about the perils of the last hours, you want to curl in the fetal position and rock back and forth, back and forth. But not to worry, tomorrow, me and the motorbike are getting out of town...to a more northern town called Ubud. Should be a breeze with just myself on the bike. I figure if I can survive today, I can survive anything and it's important to get back on the 'bike-horse' so to speak after such a harrowing experience. I don't want to end of with post-traumatic stress disorder over a motorbike trip. lol I have given up hope of finding the camera repair shop here...there's no way I can take my eyes off the road enough to search for the store...even with the address as there are very few if any road signs and addresses on stores. Ahh, the luxuries we take for granted---road signs.
Anyhow, I hope I am not scaring anyone too much, but I had to tell the story because it was just nuts. Obviously, there are no pictures because my hands were white-knuckling the handles of the motorcycle. There truly is nothing like trial by fire, or in this case, 'trial by Bali traffic'. lol.