My life in Bali: Kitty Goes Adventuring
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
With all this covid palaver one would be forgiven for forgetting that there was a whole world outside of your four walls, your back yard and if you are lucky & your fancy dress Iso Bin Outing.
But I live on Bali the deserted topical island of your dreams, whilst our tourist attractions may not be open the roads are, albeit some of them in desperate need of an upgrade... But that is part of the Island of The Gods charm & I really don't want to experience Bali form a super highway that far removes you from the sleepy little villages & man shack kopi stops overlooking a brilliantly green jungly ravines.
Part of learning to ride the sepeda moto was to get out and experience my Indo indi (Indonesian independence), detour down rocky roads & let go of a need to be, have or do anything just to see where the roads take me, with an end destination in mind. I have made my self some low key rules i.e. wearing the clothes on my back, a cozzie, a change of undies(a pair & a spare, wash & wear)1 yoga ensemble & a sarong & my trusty flanno an Aussie staple which I bought when I was with my daughter in NY earlier this year in a bubble of pre covid happiness. I wear it nearly every day & have super fond memories of us spending way touch time in every Muji in NYC. Come to think of it my flanno prior to this one was purchased when CJ & I went on trip to Paris, not very Australian really then are they??? My trusty travel yoga mat didn't make the cut... really we can asana sans mat & it doesn't fit under the Scoopy seat
When I tell my village people that I am off to the other side of the island they tell me to "hati hati" (be careful) & to "plan plan" (go slow) Then most of them admit to never having left the village in which we live... They don't even go to the Gu.. this village, their family - its all within a five minute meander. Explaining that a 3 hour drive (which I will magically turn into 7 hours) is nothing, heck I used to drive three hours/ 270km from El Questro to Kununarra every week just for groceries... is madness they say shaking there heads. Many of them will never see the sunset from Lovina & they are fine with that. So why do some of us just have this absolute burning desire to get out, see stuff & adventure to experience worlds beyond the back yards where we grazed our knees as kids????
My first port of call is Baby Revolver for an espresso lift off, once I have imbibed my caffeine accelerator I am off & riding. I am not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination more like super granny without the grandkids.
Next stop is Pupuan, somewhere in Tabanan. I put it in google maps & select the longest journey the one that will let me see the most back roads. Its not a hard drive one off the main stretch of truck laden roadways this first stretch is the main road to Gilimanuk the port that ferries you over to Java. Out of the diesel haze it is quiet, I wind through villages & rice terraced roads with roaming chickens, barky dogs & kids with kites. There is still no school here in Bali possibly not till December. The parents of these competitive little kite flyers have probably said the Balinese equivalent of "go play on the road" or "go fly a kite" two euphemism's my mother would use when she really wanted to tell us to fuck off, when she had had just about enough of us.....these kids clearly took those instructions literally.
Its the Darrell Lea Rocky Road of roads up hill & down dale, my breath is taken away once by a large size kite being carried by a bloke at the back of another bloke on the back of a bike - I had to duck to not get decapitated by their enormous purple flapping fish kite as they whizzed by.... but thankfully mostly by the view. On more than 10 occasions I stop to deeply inhale the fresh mountainy air and admire the greener than green terraces that cover the hilly terrain some with subak that are creating large waterfalls. People are working in the fields & I am just a distant observer, these are the story book dreamy Bali views, complete with gently drifting magical smoke haze.
After a while I notice that I am not the lone observer, even at places that I don't stop. I see that locals find a shady roadside spots with a view & rest up on their bikes & sit to observe , ponder, mediate or just take in the view, maybe smoke a ciggie if you are a bloke. I think that this a version of me time or self care & I super love seeing this, it makes me smile, I feel so happy.... Its a Balinese adult time out.
My happiness is dulled slightly as I arrive in Pupuan... feeling a little peckish I stop in at a warung over looking a mountain village & wearing my masker, I ask in Indonesian if I could order some food, the lady looks me up & down & not so politely tells me she is not cooking for bule, taken aback I say nothing cause I am pretty much checking & re checking my translating skills confirming what I just heard & wonder over the road to a coffee shop that turns out to be a coffee wholesaler who redirects me back across the road. I kind of explain the sitch, he apologises & tells me "bigger town is not far away" I thank him & ride on. I am sooooooo grateful that she refused to serve me because I discover quite possibly my favourite snack stall in Bali (ok its true nearly all of them are my favourite) 3 mini lumpia with whole munching chillies that you bite at your own risk before you bite the spring roll, 4 bite sized donuts & some kueh, I chat with the very busy stall owner, it appears that she feeds the whole town! My tummy is very happy, I have a few roadies bagged up & I pop another mini donut behind my masker, thank her & ride on. Appreciation shout out to the universe for the grander plan that it had in gifting me with the earlier refusal of service.
Another couple of kms down the track I stop at a picturesque terrace that has a warung wedged right up along side it. I think, ok this is Bali Kopi time & I can sit on a non vibrating seat, I request my kopi & start salivating as I look at the food on display. If I hadn't just eaten my weight in donuts & spring rolls I would have eaten for sure, it looked & smelled amazing. Ibu was disappointed that I didn't order food even though she laughed as I listed for her my recently consumed snack items, I immediately began plan another road trip just to experience her cooking.
Rest stop over, misguided by Siri who loves an off map adventure we go a few wrong ways but I don't mind, I see a kid battle a kite so huge it towers over his rakey frame, he is 10 rice terraces up a hill side yelling down to his kite string winding buddies. The air is filled with the delicious scent of cloves drying on the road side, I putt past more rice terraces, chickens, villages & happiness.
Its just all bloody spectacular - no one seems sad, there are no masks & no further mention of The Rona. In fact this whole 7 hour trip I am not sanitised, stopped or sprayed or held in a 30 second hostage style scenario with temperature gun to the forehead. I feel free.
Eventually enough bumpy hills under my butt I feel the call of the hot springs thinking that this will be a lovely well earned side bar after 6 hours of bumpy bump riding... but no.... Its shut.... a single tear slides down my cheek. It's a ghost town, the hot springs a still bubbling away with out the sighs of locals & multi linguistic bule exchanges. The towns folk who are still here are disappointed & sad, they want their lives back. I don't think its just about the loss of income... its the loss of the social networking & interactions. It is just sad. With the decrease in tourism here my view is that we at least open these services up to the people that remain on the island let the locals get some revenue & a renewed sense of purpose.
Lovina. For the love of god don't go to the main tourist strip of Lovina. I don't even get off my bike before I am offered mushrooms & a beach party, dolphin tours, rooms, beers, other tours, snorkelling, jewellery and promptly informed everything shuts at 6 so eat early! Talk about intense. I leave the strip pondering the fact there are only about 5 other bar bound bule here, so I am not sure who would have been my party peeps??? I drive back down the road to a spot where I saw a couple of maybe open/ maybe not open homestays & pick a dodgy one right on the beach with a few raggedy rattan caged territorial roosters. Its delightfully shitty & has a sink that never got plumbed in, I probs won't move in... but its perfect for an over nighter and the bed was super comfy. Its 15 metres to the ocean.
Before long there is a visitor at my verandah offering me a sunrise dolphin boat trip, its not the 20 bucks I am arguing about with myself in my own head, its the 6 am start. I decide my lazy arse could do with an early morning up & at em. I immediately wonder if my verandah guest will be the purveyor of 6am caffeine? .... I think not. I agree to the 6 am start, shake hands with Jodi my morning captain & head off down the beach for sunset. I am not disappointed the sunset is nothing short of spectacular, families kids paying in the muddy volcanic sand & people wading out in the shallows further down the beach there is a group of guys who have ridden their scooters onto the beach & they are practicing wheelies. Its both impressive & dangerous.
Walking home I think that having dinner is a good idea, except it is after 6.30pm & I was warned about nothing being open. Its true, nothing is open. Bali, when it gets hot in the afternoon can be a sleepy afternoon siesta kinda island. Come 5.30pm everyone is reawakened by the promise of sun down & cooler evenings.... however The Rona has killed the evening pulse. I feel like there is an entire part of the culture that has just been given the chop, it just doesn't seem right. I wish the powers would be would stitch it back in. I really don't think that the virus can tell the difference between 7am & 7pm, can it?
My sleep is filled with noises of crowing roosters. I think it is one... in my dreamless chicken invaded sleep I start to identify their different crows.... I get to 8 individual angry arse crow calls. I wake up the chook count is not 8 its actually 12 and those noisy night sleep fuckers are 5 meters form my front door. Jodi is 10 minutes early, he does not have coffee. I dig deep to find my inner nice kitty.
Remaining silent until 3 minutes after we push the boat out & the sky starts to explode through a My Little Pony inspired pastel pallet of colours. You cannot help but be happy witnessing the break of dawn, except that 18 months before my move to Bali where I used to get up to serve grumpy night shift people coffee at 4am. I would sneak out to watch the sunrise sensing its beauty was wasted on them & that I was trapped making angrychinos.... not anymore!!!!
There are other boats with peeps out enjoying the morning & praying for dolphins, iPhones on the ready. There are dolphins, we all squeal with delight & they ride the waves & glide in & out of the water. I find my self chanting (on the inside) "Sea World, Sea World, Sea World" hoping that a dolphin will leap up Sea World/ Little Mermaid style & silhouette its self against the morning sun - It never happens- as this dream fades & I do have a 3 second clip of an actual dolphin (I swear I am gonna photoshop a dophin into my sun shot - see cover shot) we head home. I need coffee & I need the bathroom my morning is so out of order lol
I find a cafe come zen art space that promises espresso coffee. Its espresso but unfortunately the precious beans have been destroyed & is not even close to drinkable, swan statues and a waterfall do not a good coffee make. I head back to my chook infested sleep spot & get my asana on. Its sweaty business at 10am, fresh salty air &ocean breeze its not hard to enjoy my outdoor seaside flow. By midday waving adios amigos to the fighting rooster breeding program, I am on the road to Singaraja... I don't remember how far it is so I grab a road side snack a yum yum nasi jinggo & its a massive 15 minutes on the road and I am in Singaraja.
Singaraja is an anomaly.... Its kind of like old school Singapore, with a bit of Kochi India & Kuala Lumpur 35 years ago all campur campur (mixed in) It doesn't feel like Bali but everything is decidedly Balinese. Its grotty & grubby. I immediately love it but don't want to live in it. I get some one to take a look at my bike & just to make sure my brakes are good after all my up & down hill adventures & I get some air in my tyers & the brakes looked at & a small part replaced & I am good to go.
Singaraja has some great pasars, they are currently in the process of building one of the biggest markets in Bali... it will be a monster market!! but I love the sprawling clusters & I don't know where I amness of the current rat infested pasar, yelling from the vendors will be the same but the dynamic will shift people will have to form new networks based on their new locations, this change will be good but the energy of the space will be lost with this progress. I how ever progressively eat to much as I meander through the stalls, eyes bigger than my belly.
Eventually I meet up with a friend who is 3 hours behind his own schedule lol.... If I ever thought I was tardy, he makes me look like an olympic time keeper. We check into our rooms, this hotel is fancy it has a pool its 20m from the beach, which we can't see for a not so tastefully painted brick wall. Its hot so we have a swim, then I do a quick load of washing in the bucket in the shower, then we are off to get some food that I will eat - but seriously don't need to. We attempt to find a warung, its like a scene from Lampoons Vacation where we end up riding through a pasar down a small laneway with me apologising for squeezing us on scooters through their outdoor lane party, they are laughing a hahah "bule gila"(crazy white folk)we eventually end up in a ladies front yard. We blame Siri but are too busy laughing with the lady & her kids to be angry or hangry, she is laughing at the crazy bule too & gives us directions we get there & the warung is closed lol. Just perfect.
We head down the pier for a roam & soon realise we are the only bule in town & have walked into and got tangled in a kids kite string in a local kite competition. Thankfully we didn't ruin his chances & there was a fair whack of showing off. If you are over 10 & don't have a kite there was a lot of sitting around with your mates.
We keep roaming right up to a motor bike that has live pet fish in plastic bags on display, on racking, on the bike which is dual purpose & selling ice cream an interesting combo you might say I think its a cooling system for the fish. He plays music way way worse than Mr Whippies Greesleeves as it interrupts you peaceful Sunday morning suburban sleep in. I take a video so that I can annoy people with a future social media post. Eventually we pick a dodgy stall that is busy serving amazing tipit cantok - cold pressed rice with vegetables & peanut sauce its an awesome vegetarian snack, I mentally create a version with hot crispy tempe goreng. did I mention how much I love food?
The next morning I ride my scooter to the beach not knowing that it was on 20 metres away This is so Balinese of me- why walk when you can ride? I swear the shape of my arse has changed & I have put on weight since getting the scooter. I walk along the beach & pick up an actual pumice stone from actual nature & an old coin that has washed up & revealed itself to me in the smoky quartz sparkling sand, these will be going straight to my alter at home. I walk a little further & see some one has randomly built a sunset/ fishing deck- natch. I walk a little further & I see some one has built a larger deck with swing over the ocean!!! A moment of childlike bliss as I realise it is free, I hop on & enjoy a swing over the ocean. I take time here to swing in the breeze & think appreciation thoughts, for this adventure and the risk that I supposedly took staying in Bali during covid. I feel blessed not stressed.
I am actually for once feeling hungry, but I wish to placate my hunger with coffee first.... not risking sad expresso we opt for morning man shack kopi Bali in the pasar. Its the best... its where all the gossip is, you can ask & have answered all manner of questions its almost like nothing is off the table, you also meet & observe interesting people. The coffee was strong & good we tasted local kueh, watched a man down a raw whole duck egg, because it was going to make him more strong- these words came with a cursory nod & wink towards his below waist pants covered region. There was also a man rocking a weird trend wearing his glasses upside down... I tried it .. its not really me. We sat here for the best part of 2 hours & I wouldn't have swapped it for any espresso, this is the heart of the morning's where the action is & the answers to many of life questions are.
Sunday mid morning & I knew that I had the drive back & it should be about 3 hours nanna time is at least 4 hours plus all my stops make it 5 hours... and I wanted to make it home before dark. By this stage we were actually hungry like for real. A couple of distraction stops like one for onde onde that were pink fried and delicious... honestly I think I need to be trained like a race horse & get some blinkers... but I would genuinely hate to miss a tasty new treat & interesting accompanying story on the side of the road.
Eventually we find a veg food stall not an easy task, when Balinese eat out they want to eat meat, its a display of prosperity. We order our veggies, which I now do not need to eat after the 2 onde onde.
Lunch done, my friend & I part ways, I head up into the mountain this route will take me home via Kintamani & Ubud. Its a pretty quick & steep ascent quite literally into the clouds. Within 45 mins of starting home I was felt like I was in another country... but I just had a swim, I was sweating how high up am I?? I was freezing had buttoned up my flanno & was looking for the beanie & glove stalls. I stopped mid cloud for a kopi Bali break just to sit & be 'in the cloud' at a roadside shack with a view currently obscured by clouds down a mountain side. The drive home was busier easier & not as pretty than my drive to Lovina, I just wanted out of the cold & back to the warmth of rice paddy paradise. Eventually I wind my way into the busyness of the boud hood (Ubud) and straight back out again, Seminyak is only 45 minutes away & I will be home before sunset.
I promised a friend in Sweden that I would stop & buy a crazy face, face mask. I haven't seen a masker stall since I drove through Kerobokan two days prior. Back in the big smoke there are plenty on offer I buy myself what I can only describe as an Italian pirate looking half a mans face on a mask & giggle at the fun I will have singing my daughter happy birthday in Italian wearing the mask, I made the video when I got home & sent it to her she thought it was hilarious.
I am already planning my next adventure
I would love to hear some of your fav adventure stories or maybe you have a top tip or secret lokasi for me to visit in Bali!!
You can check out all the snaps from my trips on the gram @adventuresofkitcat