A cacophony of horns was the perfect soundtrack to what could only be described as exhaust sputtering road rage and chaos.
Trucks overloaded three times over with dirty cargo had clogged the narrow intersection and motorcycles were buzzing in a swarm through every possible opening (including the sidewalks).
It wasn’t even rush hour, this was a normal intersection in Indonesia at a normal hour on a normal day. Even more interesting, I was sitting on one of those motorcycles sweating as the equatorial sun rose in waves off the asphalt.
You can jump from a perfectly good airplane, try any extreme sport that you want to, but you haven’t truly tasted fear until you find yourself driving a motorcycle in Southeast Asia!
I decided that there had to be more to Bali than Ubud, so I got up and hired a scooter today for around US $4.50. Not wanting to repeat my gas-nowhere-to-be-found scenario in northern Thailand, I filled up on petrol right away (which cost me $1) and cautiously hit the road. They drive crazier here than Thailand even, so I happily strapped my helmet onto my sweating head.
I put a compass on my wrist and drove north until road chaos gave way to green bamboo forests and jungle on both sides of the road. I rode until I found the Bali I was looking for. As I passed through village after village that barely merited a spot on a map, farmers would look up in surprise and
kids would wave hello and chase me in a fit of giggles.
My scooter probably saw its peak in the 80’s and sputtered along the main road which eventually deteriorated in places to no wider than a gravel driveway. I dodged dogs, chickens, and everything else the island could
throw into the middle of the road, stopping to clean the insects off of my sunglasses every 30 minutes.
On both sides of the dusty road, men and women worked the rice fields. Most people on the road were friendly,
which is a good thing because lots of them were armed with machetes or long knives! I returned their
toothless smiles and buzzed on towards the volcano that helped form Bali.
Along the way I stopped at Pura Penataran Sasih and went inside my first Hindu temple ever. To go inside I had to put a dirty sarong around my waist which the gatekeeper gave me for a “donation”. Inside the temple I saw the world’s largest brass drum (it was about as exciting as it sounds). Unlike the well funded Thai temples, this one was littered with construction and half restored areas. There was one small statue of Ganesh sitting under an umbrella, but altogether it doesn’t excite me as much as the Buddhist
The dress code at temples here is strictly enforced (unlike Thailand) and even women have to sign a different book and are denied entry for menstruating. It says so clearly on the sign!
After about 2 hours of driving, I arrived in the village of Peneloken. They charged me $1 to drive in, but its hard to argue with a guy holding a machine gun so I paid up. It was worth it, as I rounded the next bend I was given some incredible views of the largest lake in Bali as well as the volcano and mountains. (Pictures to come, I promise!)
The vendors in Peneloken were desperate, and I was pretty popular. Prices were unreal, one guy tried to sell me a giant (and beautiful) hand carved wooden chess set for $1! After sitting by the lake for a short while and seeing rain clouds move in from the mountains, I jumped back in the saddle and sped home to Ubud.
The air was actually cool enough to be uncomfortable and it was well after dark by time I parked my bike, stretched my sore butt, and scraped the road grime off of my face.
Despite giving my guardian angel a few minor heart attacks and myself a few more wrinkles, there is no better feeling in the world than speeding through a foreign countryside with no idea of where you are going.
As Che would say…..Viva la Revolution!