#13// Indonesia: When dos become tres, drones and projectile vomit
We have arrived in Bali! In true pathetic fallacy we leave Coolum in the middle of the night in the pouring rain. The flight is longer than I expect - I toil my way through the Shortest History of Germany for a puffy-eyed six hours (I swear the more I read the less pages I get through) and we arrive in Bali at 11am. Our last few days on the Sunshine Coast have been surprisingly chilly (I wore three layers the night before we left! Three! in Australia!) and the humid Balinese air sticks to us the moment we get off the plane. We catch a taxi straight to Uluwatu and check in to the same hostel I stayed in three years ago with my OG travelling companion Anoushka (hi Zoobster!). As we turn in, it's like nothing's changed. There's the wall I crashed into on my first (and last) motorbike trial. I fancy that I can still see the indent the wing mirror made. I tell Nat about the crash and my panic-mistaking the rev on the handlebar as a means of reverse which meant that instead of a speedy getaway, post-crash I just continued to rev aggressively into the wall. Nat makes a mental note not to allow me to drive. We hire our own bike and set off to explore.
Three years ago Uluwatu was a sleepy surfing hippy mecca of a town; now it's hectically busy and shops, warungs and restaurants line the main street. I point out little places I remember from the back of the motorbike as Nat drives past. We cruise past the beach where Anoushka and I locked our key to the motorbike inside the motorbike. Fortunately there was a Balinese man with long skinny arms nearby so he was able to slide his arm into the locked trunk of the bike to retrieve our key like Mr Elastic. Luckily he was still there five minutes later when we did the exact same thing again.
After a couple of hours Nat and I are united with small pal BIG ENERGY Elly who we have both known for a LONG TIME. My friendship with Elly stretches all the way back to drastically short haircuts (courtesy of her wonderful mum Tessie) circa 1998. We are SO excited to see her and we spend a very fun couple of days zipping around Uluwatu. We drive around on scooters terrified of bumping into the police (known to slap hefty fines (bribes) on tourists). I discover that the all-you-can-eat Indonesian warung I've been dreaming about for the last three years is shut because of Ramadan and only reopens once we've left Uluwatu. It takes a LOT of time for me to recover from that. Elly and I wet ourselves at Padang Padang beach watching Nat attempt to surf in waves 10x above his skill level. After twenty seconds he is battered by a wave and for the next five minutes we watch him unsuccessfully attempt to paddle back in - his arms move continuously whilst he stays in the same spot. Once he's finally in he has to humiliatingly (and hilariously) return the board he rented for an hour after only seven minutes. We go to Dreamland beach where the waves are anything but dreamy - they are six feet and absolutely terrifying. We embark on a bumpy journey to Sunset Point and unwittingly leave before sunset. Nat stubs his toe on a rock and declares it broken and Elly drinks a billion Bintangs.
After Uluwatu I find my true sea-sport calling. You may remember my disappointment in discovering that I wasn't a natural surfing prodigy. Late at night in Seminyak Elly and I commiserate about our inability to surf and the general exclusionary feeling of surfing. Everyone who surfs is so dang cool. So chilled out and carefree and effortless and COOL. I will never make into that club because I use words like 'dang'. We decide that if the surfing world doesn't want us, then we don't want IT. We will turn to surfing's lamer, dweebier, nerdier little cousin: BODY BOARDING. If surfing is the Drake of the music genre, then body boarding is most definitely the Fuse ODG. It's like the touch rugby of rugby. And so obviously I feel much more suited.
It's a sunny morning, cloudless blue skies, when Nat, Elly and I head out to surf and bodyboard respectively. After twenty minutes Elly and I realise body boarding is a bit harder than we thought (read: we have not successfully body boarded once, and there is an Indonesian man shouting at us from his surfboard "why you no catching wave??? Paddle faster!!! Must paddle to catch wave! You no catching any waves!!"). We are feeling extra flustered because we're the only body boarders in a crowd of about twenty-five surfers who cruise perilously close to us. Every time we move a little down the beach the surfers follow to catch the best waves. In between the Indonesian man shouting advice at us and choking on the waves we can't successfully ride, Elly and I rant about the TOTAL RUDENESS of surfers and why they just DON'T RESPECT OUR SPORT. Can't they see that some SERIOUS BODY BOARDERS are trying to catch waves too?!? What's even MORE annoying, we splutter, is that some idiot is flying a drone PERSISTENTLY overhead. Haven't they heard of INVASION OF PRIVACY we yell over a big wave. The next ten minutes pass like this: paddle furiously to catch a wave/wave moves on too quickly/Indonesian man surfs by ("You miss another wave ladies!") /pummelled and battered by large wave/emerge from water choking and clutching body board/splutter and mutter about how annoying drones are/splutter and mutter about how annoying surfers are/get pummelled and battered again.
I have always thought that people with invasive drones are, to be frank, twats, but this guy is really taking the biscuit. The drone has been lingering over our little patch of sea for about fifteen minutes filming everybody super intrusively. I'm pretty sure no one knows the owner of the drone because everyone's minding their own business trying to surf. That's IT, I tell Elly, I'm off to tell this man where to put his drone. I storm into shore and march up the beach, scanning furiously for anyone with a remote control. GOTCHA. Slumped in a plastic chair quite a way back is a man holding a large controller. I stride over, the lumps of sand inside my swimsuit from my most recent wipe-out jiggling with a sense of purpose. I reach the chair, put my hands on my hips and say (in what I hope to be a very authoritative voice) "Excuse me sir, if you want to fly your drone you mustn't fly it so close to our heads and for such a long time. A quick fly-by is fine, but your drone is affecting our enjoyment of the beach. Please can you fly it away from where all of the people are?" There's a bit of a pause. The man smiles at me gormlessly. I'm pretty sure he hasn't understood a word. I point at his controller "your DRONE (flaps hands) Too CLOSE (mimes) to PEOPLE (point at myself and man). Need to fly drone AWAY (gestures far down beach). Not OK (shakes head vigorously). NO DRONE NEAR PEOPLE!" I round up with an emphatic cross mime of the hands for good measure. That should do it. The man looks a bit confused. Then he smiles at me sweetly and says "you want me... film you?". This really hasn't gone to plan. "No!" I do the cross mime again. "NO DRONE! NOT NEAR ME. NOT NEAR PEOPLE!" He nods. Not sure he's got this. He smiles. "OK" he says. "Thank you! Terimah Kasih!" I smile and put my hands together and head back.
I can't spot the drone anywhere and I'm just starting to think that maybe that actually went alright when the drone drops out of nowhere and hovers a few centimetres from my face. It's so close I can see my own reflection in the bug eye lens. Right. He didn't get the message. The whole way back to the beach I am accompanied by the drone hovering next to my head. Feels like I'm in some surreal TV show where the cameraman only takes facial close-ups and I'm not sure whether to smile directly at the lens or go for a fixed focused look ahead. I see a few people on the beach look quizzically at me and the floating drone. As I'm walking back into the sea to meet Elly and Nat the drone zooms away in a big loop, arriving back just as I finish explaining that the owner now thinks I want to be exclusively filmed.
All I can say is that in the next hour that man must have got some golden footage. At one point I am flipped and somersaulted by a wave so forcefully that when I pop back up out of the water, my swimsuit is tucked firmly under my boobs. Luckily the drone is right there on hand to capture the bare-chested moment of horror before another wave takes me under. I do actually manage to body board four full waves in the total of two hours which feels like a blazing success after my Byron Bay surf lesson. Near the end Nat exchanges his surfboard for a body board and disgusts me and Elly by cruising in on more waves in ten minutes than we've both been able to catch put together.
Next we all head to Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali, for five days. We share the cutest triple room (Nat's allocated the single bed in the corner), enjoy latino music, explore the rice fields, go to a spa, listen to Mongolian throat singing, discover the joys of deep fried banana and visit some beautiful waterfalls. On the third day in Nat goes to an ATM after Elly and comes straight back looking smug -"Elly you idiot, you literally left your card in the ATM". Laughing at her stupidity and heading back to the cash machine Nat opens his wallet to get his own card out and realises he himself has left his card in the ATM. In Kuta. Three days ago. We are now one card down.
On our last full day together in Ubud we (joined by Elly's chum/paramour Luke) head on motorbikes to the north of Bali for a day trip. We leave at a painful 5.15am to catch sunrise at Ulun Danu Beratan temple. Just our luck it's one of those days where there IS no 'sunrise' - the sky just gets brighter and whiter without any distinguishing source of light, so we're hanging around at a temple at 6.30 AM for no good reason. We move on to Handura Gate and Wanagiri Hills. I turn into a picture-obsessed demon/diva and insist on a ridiculous photoshoot which I think brought Nat close to breaking up with me. (Photos below for your amusement).
If you zoom in close, I'm pretty sure you can see Nat's broken spirit leaving his body.
Elly and Luke, I am eternally sorry that you had to endure this
Luke and Elly head back to Ubud and Nat and I search for lunch with a view. We cruise along looking at the limited selection of warungs: "Nope ... Looks a bit dodgy ... Definitely not THERE ... Nah, not that one ... Hmm, not convinced ... No way pally ... OK WHATEVER, I'M SO HUNGRY, it's probably fine, let's just stop here". Lunch is 80p ("too good to be true!" Nat and I snicker gleefully). We head on to Pura Tirta Empul temple and then to Tegallalang rice terraces. That's where I start to feel a bit iffy. The whole journey back to Ubud on the back of the motorbike I am gritting my teeth concentrating on keeping Nat's shoulder chunk-free (I'm good like that).
Thankfully we make it back successfully. I am tottering down the small alleyway which leads to our quaint homestay when, to my surprise, I projectile vomit all up the side of the wall with such force that it comes back at me. I'm busy retching when a concerned Balinese man and his wife squeeze past the narrow confines of the alleyway on a motorbike and ask "are you OK lady?". I signal a 'belissimo' with my fingers as I continue splattering my sandalled feet. I throw up another six times over the course of the evening and even though this is definitely an aggressive Bali Belly, prolonged moments spent hanging over the toilet bowl gives me time to overthink. A product of this overthinking: I muse aloud that perhaps this is it - I've contracted rabies, and all of those times spent playing with kittens and puppies on the street has caught up with me. Elly reassures me I haven't by reading out a list of symptoms I would have if I had rabies. Hang on. Did she just say hallucinations??? I swear I just had a really weird vision of a skeletal cat wearing a bow tie. HANG ON. Elly mentioned cramps??!? - MY CALF IS CRAMPING!!! I spend the night miserably pondering whether I should have "death by rabies" inscribed on my headstone and am surprised by the morning that a.) I'm still alive and b.) I last threw up four hours ago which is my latest PB.
(17) PICTURED - The culprit fried rice
Last pic - Not the ideal spot for a projectile vomit
We say goodbye to Elly later that afternoon (sad face) and hop on a plane ourselves early the following day to Labuan Bajo, where we begin our quest to find a dragon...