Since I last wrote Jim and I have been sampling a lot more of the local culture. We started this journey to gain a better understanding of Balinese people and their ways, quite naturally, with a trip to the hospital.
Predictably, it was me who prompted our first experience of the medical services Bali has to offer. I took a tumble while surfing and the front of my board hit me, making a nice deep hole in the side of my head. Feeling a little dazed I made my way back to the beach, where we debated whether the cut was worth the hassle of a doctor’s appointment. At the time we were concerned about whether I would be able to surf tomorrow or not…..the answer was definitely not!
We got a taxi to drive us to the 24 hour clinic in Jimbaran. We decided against the longer journey to the BIMC hospital, which is run to international standards and often used by expats and holiday makers, as we had been told the doctors at the Jimbaran clinic would do a good job for a reasonable price.
We were seen very quickly after we arrived. Ushered straight through to the ‘emergency room’ we didn’t really have time to change our minds and go anywhere else. Before I knew it I was lying down on a leather bed staring at a gecko on the cracked, dirty, sickly green walls which were covered in very ornate but very old medical posters. These included how to read an ECG and a description of the Glasgow Coma scale which was stencilled out on yellowing paper. It was all pretty dirty looking and I felt slightly panicked, half expecting a doctor to emerge covered in blood soaked overalls, but I was already there, so we proceeded. The nurse pulled my hair to one side before gasping ‘OOOOOH NOOOOOO This is Deeeeeep, you are cut bad. This is silly’. To which I could only reply ‘yes’ and (as I am British) ‘sorry’. After the nurse determined the cut and lump on my head did indeed hurt if she pushed it repeatedly asking each time – ‘does this hurt?’ the doctor appeared and announced I would need stitches. This panicked me further but I was relieved to see the smart doctor and sterile equipment that was being produced. Jim was very supportive throughout the whole process of ‘the stitching’. He stood next to me for the entire procedure, examining and pointing to the sun burn on his back explaining how painful it was while the doctor needled the anaesthetic into my wound. My sympathy, as you can imagine, was endless. I left with 7 days of antibiotics, 3 stitches and instructions not to get wet for a week. Brilliant.
So with a week of ‘no water’, surfing was off the cards for me. Jim was secretly pleased as he thought this meant seven days of surfing my board and leaving his (girls board) behind. However, after realising seven days watching him surf would only make me more miserable, he suggested we take the opportunity to see a bit more of the island and go and do some sight-seeing.
We had planned to visit Ubud for a while and never really got round to it. Ubud is thought to be the artistic centre of Bali, known for beautiful rice paddies, traditional arts, crafts and dances and ‘spiritual tourism’ whatever that means (I guess Eat, Pray Love has a lot to answer for!).
We decided that it would be ok to drive the pink scooter the 60Km from Uluwatu to Ubud as we were pretty comfortable with the roads, we had a map and it would give us a bit more freedom to explore once we got up there.
I wouldn’t say this was a mistake, but it was definitely more of an experience than we had anticipated. So, in the interest of safety (should you ever decide to use a scooter in South East Asia) I would like to share with you some of the ‘The Highway Code’ that we learnt from the local drivers of Indonesia. It’s fun! You just have to get into the right frame of mind. (For the girls in Oxford – Do not let Juile read this. If she thinks Emmas electric blanket is dangerous, this might push her over the edge! Sorry Julie!! 🙂
- When moving off use your mirrors/signal/check your blind spot – unless of course, you beep your horn, which means nobody will hit you, so just go!
- Once you are moving, drive on the left side of the road – unless it’s a busy highway and you can’t get across or you’re only traveling a mile or so, then you can drive into oncoming traffic if you wish (remember to beep).
- Take care when overtaking and ensure that there is sufficient space to do so – or don’t. It’s up to you. Just keep beeping.
- While driving, be aware of other drivers and give space to other vehicles – This only applies if you are on a very quiet road where you see no foreign drivers. If driving on the highway where it is busy, you may need to squeeze into every gap imaginable – biggest car goes first! If you see foreign drivers, be delighted! Point and wave before driving alongside to chat at 40Mph asking ‘What your Name?!’ ‘Where you go?!’. Feel free to offer advice and engage in idle chit chat with your nation’s guests while navigating the highway. They may wish to know they are going the right way (thank you) but they probably don’t want to take your children across onto their scooter so you can take a photo while you drive. Miserable bastards.
Our journey to Ubud was eventful and we made many friends along the way. Some people were keen to offer us advice on our direction of travel (whether they knew where we were going or not) but most just wanted to know our names and offer encouragement, which was always welcome. I think they were just genuinely pleased to see us. ‘You drive in Bali!’ *big smile* was the most common statement we encountered. The journey was littered with beautiful scenery and the traffic thinned out as we made our way into the countryside. We made it! Getting there felt like an achievement in itself. Well done Jim. I would like to add that he has become scarily comfortable with the ‘local’ approach to driving and so I would recommend nobody lends him their car when we return home. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Ubud itself, I have to say, was a little disappointing. My expectation of cute craft stalls in a quaint Balinese village was a long way from the busy tourist resort with lines of organic cafes and shops we encountered. However, we were glad of the bike and took ourselves off into the mountains to explore. We found the quieter local lifestyle we were looking for was not too far away. There were other people who had done this too, on push-bike tours mostly. These people didn’t look like they were having as much fun, red faced and panting as they walked their bikes up massive hills. I can’t say I didn’t feel a little smug as we shot past them on our pink mean machine!
We spent one night there before heading back to the sea where Jim finally got his wish to surf with my board. We decided because the surf was small at our local beach, we would head half an hour down the road to Balangan beach. It is a bit off the beaten track but totally worth it as it is a gorgeous long beach with lots of little local ‘warungs’ (cafes) and being a bit out of the way it’s never that busy.
It was on this trip that Jim encountered a terrible beast. THE PUPPY. Some of you may know that there is still Rabies in Bali. You may also know that while Jim has no problem hurling himself into big waves in shallow waters, or driving a motorbike around crazy streets with no fear for his safety, he is scared s**tless of horrible diseases which may result in death but that you are very unlikely to catch. Obviously, the sensible tourist takes precautions, such as avoiding stroking or feeding local animals, using mosquito repellent etc. Jims approach is a little more extreme. He avoids being within a 3 meter radius of all animals and is VERY vigilant about this. He has an excellent system to keep me informed of any lurking danger and it is not uncommon for ‘dog updates’ to occur on a regular basis. It’s a little like the behaviour I adopted for avoiding seals in Scotland. So I understand his reasoning. The puppy struck without warning. As Jim strode off down the beach – leaving me behind (as usual) the leash on his surfboard came undone.
On this occasion as I walked 10ft behind watching his trailing leash, I couldn’t have known that he was only moments from danger. A tiny puppy, that was playing with a group of children, spotted the leash and galloped towards him. He caught up with Jim and trotted along behind him, tail wagging and playfully pawing at the dragging leash that was waving in the sand. To the amusement of me and all the other people on the beach who were watching the event unfold, Jim suddenly became aware of the terrible danger he was in. He spun around, saw the puppy and looked completely horrified. In an attempt to get rid of his attacker, he started to run away. This apparently, just made the game more interesting and the tiny dog became more animated as he ran and rolled and bumped into Jims legs as he sprinted up the beach. Eventually the puppy was called off by a young girl who owned the dog. However, the image of a grown man running away from a tiny puppy had the whole beach in stitches. I so wish I had a video camera at that moment. Later, I think Jim thought I had tempted the puppy back to mock him when he came back from surfing and found him asleep under his sun lounger. I swear I didn’t honey!!
Since I last wrote the Riddle’s and Hewawitharanas have arrived, children in tow! It has been great to see some good friends and we have had a few days down the beach surfing with them, learnt a lot about Venezuelan politics and most importantly got to see how the other half live by hanging out with them at their 5 star villa. My first hot shower in 7 weeks was AMAZING! Thanks guys!!
The surf has got a little bigger over the past few days and with that our accident level has obviously increased proportionality. I am about to talk about surfing and this may be very boring to some people, so feel free to stop reading now (if you haven’t already!). We bought quite big boards when we arrived here, the idea being that they are easier to catch waves on, so would be better for practicing as we haven’t surfed for a while. The downside of this is that they aren’t very easy to duck-dive under the waves, making things tricky when the surf gets quite big. I had a lovely experience yesterday when my leash (that attaches my board to my ankle) snapped as I tried to navigate the first of five big set waves, leaving me board-less in what is quite rightly known as the ‘impact zone’. After the 5 set waves had landed on my head, I managed to retrieve my board from a generous surfer who had grabbed it as it passed him nearer to shore. I then had to paddle back 20 minutes to our beach from the next surf break down, where I had been swept during my ordeal. Excellent work out, I tell you. Just as arrived back to shore to tell everyone about my tribulations, Jim pops up on the beach not far behind with his surf board snapped in two! He had fallen when catching one of the waves and his leash had also snapped. Unfortunately his board hit the reef and was not as lucky as mine! So it’s smaller boards when we get back!
Two days to go until we fly back to the UK for my baby brothers’ wedding! SO excited to see everyone…..I am hoping that my tan won’t ruin the wedding photos!
See you soon!
Helen x (& Jim!)