Halo! Halo tourist!

 Kuta, Bali to Senaru, Lombok

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I love being immersed in a country, surrounded by its people and its culture.  The sights, the smells, the flavours, the languages, the call to prayer, everything…  By cycling I feel drawn to give myself over fully to the experience of being here.  Being on a bike, you make yourself visible and interactive in a totally different way, a way that suits Jude and I perfectly.

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Our plane touched down in Bali at 9pm last Monday.  The Green Fairy and The Dirty Salmon handled the flight well.  We wheeled our huge amount of baggage into a quiet corner of the airport and armed with a multi-tool and spanner we started to put the ladies back together.  Our quiet corner wasn’t quiet for long, as hordes of men came over to check out the action and admire our bikes.  After an hour, we were ready to ride into the night and find the hotel we were staying at.  The directions the taxi driver gave us were more useful than the directions from Google maps, and in no time we were getting bike-riding kudos from the lady who ran the place, despite waking her from her sleep.

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It is now time to do things Indo style (within reason).  Breakfast was a bag full of tasty treats we picked up from the local market.  Not sure what half of it was, but it sure was tasty!  We then joined the throngs of people in the wild and chaotic traffic that runs through Kuta and Denpasar.  Luckily they drive on the left hand side of the road here, so one less thing to think about.  We had a vague idea of where we needed to go, so we just went with it and it worked.  We picked up all the last minute stuff that we needed and shuddered at the consumerist tourist hole that is the main area of Kuta Bali.  To escape we went down to the local beach for a dip and had a beer at a beachside stall.  An afternoon nanna nap was followed by dinner at one of the local warungs (food stalls on the side of the road).

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Up early the next day, but after a month of relaxing in Darwin we had lost our packing up mojo and it took a while to get ready.  Breakfast was another bag of tasty treats from the market (including local donuts!) and then we hit the road heading for Padangbai.  The traffic was crazier than the day before and trying to merge right over three lanes of traffic for our turn-offs was hair raising.  I’ve figured out that you just need to indicate with your hand, check that there are not too many trucks and just slowly start moving to where you want to go.  Like a finely oiled machine, the traffic just moves around you and it works!  Once we were out of the city areas the cycling was enjoyable and we loved looking at the ocean, the mountains and all the fields of rice and produce.

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It had been a hot and sweaty ride and when we got to Padangbai all we wanted to do was go to the beach.  Easier said than done.  We were directed over three steep hills, down a flight of stairs and then further down a dirt path through the forest.  Yes we did get lost, but when we arrived the beach was awesome.  We spent the day swimming, lazing in the shade of a tree, reading and eating fantastic food.  The lady who ran the warung asked if we were camping there the night, and when we asked if we could, she replied – why not?

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We spent the night sleeping on the platform of a bamboo hut listening to the sound of the surf crashing and the night insects calling.  It was so awesome that we decided that one day and night was not enough, so we spent the next day doing pretty much the same thing again.  We could have spent the next month hanging out at that beach but Lombok was calling.  The next morning we bounced our way out of there, grabbed a paper packet full of some kind of spicy food, jumped on the local ferry and spent five hours cruising our way to Lembar in Lombok.

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We chugged into town and went foraging for food to fuel us for our ride.  The old lady with the big smile won us over and we feasted on the vast variety of food that she had at her stall.  We have been slowly learning Indonesian for the last week and we practiced our newly learnt skills on her and surprisingly it was a hit.  While we were talking and munching away, a goat decided that she wanted to take on the Green Fairy, and she won.  All the locals came out to look, laugh and chase the goat away.

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We were soon on the road and heading towards the capital Mattaram.  The area is a bizarre mix of everything – small towns next to rice paddies, farmland next to factories and orchards alongside petrol stations.  Throw in half acre sized housing developments, which look like Indonesia crossed with Roxborough Park, wherever rich people can buy up land.  Added to the mix, in the outskirts of Mattaram a guy decided he wanted to show us his penis.  I don’t know what reaction he wanted, but I can laugh on demand and have since learnt the word for small.  We didn’t feel like hanging out in a major city, so we headed on to the beachside town of Sengigi.

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On arrival we chugged down a couple of lime and sodas, and headed for the beach.  We frolicked and floated in the water and watched the locals paddling about on mini wooden kayaks.  Our bikes were spied by a group of cyclists who were on tour from Kalimantan.  They were so impressed by our trip, that we had our hands shaken a hundred times and our photo taken many more.  We love it when people are excited by what we are doing and the Indonesians seem to be very big fans.  We had planned on camping in Sengigi, but the sun was setting and there was nowhere in the touristy area to pitch a tent, so we found a cute homestay to relax in.  We kicked back with a few beers and then headed out for some local eats.  By the time we got back we had decided to stay for another night.

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Oh election day.  We were both nervous and started to look for coverage early.  As live reporting only started at 6:30 pm, we distracted ourselves by loosely planning our tour of Lombok and doing the food shopping that we thought we would require for our trek of Gunung Rinjani.  In the afternoon we cycled to Coco Beach where the shoreline is dotted with little beach huts serving cold drinks and sate.  After a dip in the water to cool off from the crazy heat, we took shelter in one of the huts, chilled out and tried what they had on offer.  Got to love lazy afternoons.  After sunset we pedaled back, bought some beers and braced ourselves for the election results.  As you can imagine we were horrified by the results and will definitely not be returning to Australia anytime soon.  Over dinner we did rejoice that Adam Bandt kept his seat of Melbourne and felt proud that we live in the most progressive and compassionate area of Australia.

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It was time to head off again and our plan of cycling for at least a few hours was almost thwarted by another spectacular beach 10 minutes ride away.  White sand, turquoise waters, sea cliffs and coconut grove leading to a mountainous backdrop – what more could we want?  To cycle, so we cruised along the coast for a few hours, climbing and descending sea cliffs that divided one amazing beach from the next.  We stopped at a cliff side warung, and ate lunch overlooking the three well-known Gili islands.  We continued along the coast and stopped in the late afternoon at a beach just beyond a small fishing village.  We had close to an hour of peace before “the watchers” turned up.  We are still getting used to being watched almost all of the time.  I find it fascinating that people here find watching us doing what they do everyday interesting.

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Not long before sunset, Asan a local farmer turned up and proudly told us that the land that we were next to was his.  We asked him if it was okay for us to camp there and he seemed excited that we wanted to stay on his land.  By the time we set up it was a little late for dinner in such a small village.  The only place open had one thing on the menu, some kind of delicious soup dish with tofu croutons, which cost us about $1.40 for both.  It was a magical night camped on the beachside, waves lapping and palm trees swaying in the light breeze.  It seemed as if all the fishermen from the village were out to sea, their boat lanterns bobbing as the waves rocked them gently.

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We set off early the next morning as Asan and his son turned up just after 6am to see how we had faired during the night.  Asan kindly offered for us to stay again when we returned from our trip around Lombok.  We waved goodbye and a bit further down the coast we had our daily wash in the sea and then ate breakfast at a roadside stall in the next town.  Wherever we ride people call out “Halo! Halo tourist!” whenever we pass and the children run out to wave.  It was a great day for riding and we were in high spirits.  And then the climbing began.  As you know from previous blogs I like to climb and at first there was a mild gradient with a few short bursts of steep inclines.  It was nice to use muscles I hadn’t used for a while.  And then in Bayan someone must have drugged the civil engineer.  From there it was steep climbing the whole way to Senaru.

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Villages are perched on the slopes of a valley leading to Gunung Rinjani – the second highest volcano in Indonesia.   Senaru is the last village on this road, before the track enters the rainforest and National Park begins.  The Rinjani Trekking Centre is there and we booked ourselves in for a 4 day/3 night trek of Rinjani.  We found a lovely room in a guesthouse with a tropical garden and to celebrate our ride up the mountain we knocked back an icy cold Bintang and a big bowl of Gado Gado.  Life is good!

All my love,

Astrid xx

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4 thoughts on “Halo! Halo tourist!

  1. Your trip so far sounds fantastically awesome. It’s a pleasure reading your story. I wish I had the courage and energy to do a trip like that. You ladies are my super heroes. Looking forward to your next post. Take care and enjoy the mountain.
    Ellen (you met in Timor, now in Kenya)

  2. Hi Jude and Astrid, I am sure to be one of the very few who have not ventured to Bali, however this could change after reading of your wonderful experiences out of the tourist precincts. I am loving all your blogs and photos..thanks for sharing your travels. Safe adventures, happy travels. Sue

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