Let me take you to back to Bali where I last left off. Last I wrote, Amaury and I had just been dropped off at the wrong island after a bumpy ride across the Bali Sea.
Overcome by fatigue, lingering seasickness, unfulfilled caffeine addiction, and frustration, I promptly burst into tears while Amaury tried to figure out what to do next. As we sat there, another large boat arrived dropping off a huge Chinese tour group. Now look, we love living in Guangzhou, we like learning Chinese, we enjoy making Chinese friends, etcetera, etcetera, but when you have left China to enjoy a relaxing honeymoon in a tropical paradise, the last thing you want is to be surrounded by a 100 of China’s denizens while all you really want is a Western-style coffee, a romantic setting, and to be on a different island entirely, is that so much to ask?!
Fortunately, I married a miracle man who located a wifi connection, brought up Tripadvisor, located a well-rated coffee shop, and found directions to said café in under 10 minutes. We left the hustle of the dock behind and started out along a somewhat rough road lined with jungle, small houses, and many chicken coops. Out of this unlikely landscape rose a small modern cafe complete with iced lattes and croissants. Caffeinated and fed, we were able to more rationally plan our next move, which was to retrace our steps back to the dock area and get a ride over to another harbor where we could hire a small boat to get over to Lembongan.
Returning to the dock, we were surprised to find all the loud drivers gone, probably because no other boats were scheduled to land for a while. After some focused haggling, we convinced a security guard to drive us over. He and his friend walked us over to two motorbikes, which we got on with a sense- I’ve often felt while traveling- of Adventure. That feeling seems to push out other feelings like trepidation, apprehension, rational fear, and consternation but not motion sickness.
We set off, rushing down the small road past chickens, trees, and glancing views of brilliant ocean and wild coastline. Occasionally we would pass through small villages smelling of incense from local temples, past women carrying fruit and schoolchildren running along the road. We whizzed past slower bikes some driven by children sitting three to a bike. Eventually, the security guard pulled over and waved to my driver to stop. His tire was flat and he needed to turn back. Naturally, Amaury squeezed onto our bike and we carried on, slightly slower, towards the harbor, which was fortunately not too far away.
The harbor was more like a small beach area with little boats bobbing on the water and groups of men lazing in the shade. As we arrived, one of the men walked quickly up to us and offered to take us to Lembongan for 200,000 rupiah total, or $14 a person. We knew that was far too expensive, but we after trying to negotiate with another guy, we realized that we had no bargaining power, since we obviously wanted to go to Lembongan and they obviously had the only boats. We caved and after just a 15-minute jaunt across the ocean were finally at Nusa Lembongan.
Note our happy boat driver
Don’t worry, be Adventure!
As we had less time than we anticipated, we decided to rent scooters to get around the island and see more of it. Luckily, a small shop was set up right next to where we landed, so we quickly rented two bikes for 150,000 rupiah total. A quick moment to familiarize ourselves with the specific bikes and we were off (note: I do not advise so cavalierly grabbing motorbikes, if you’ve never ridden them before. We both had some experience with riding and felt comfortable on the bumpy Lembongan roads, but it wouldn’t be a great choice for everyone).
Lembongan was a little more developed compared to Penida and had several small towns with temples along with decently-paved main roads. After winding through a small town we turned onto a dusty, unpaved track and slowly made our way down, stopping for large tourist buses and occasional pedestrians. Eventually, we got to Dream Beach, aptly named to lure tourists there. It was also pretty dreamy.
We wandered around for a bit and then decided we were tired out with Adventuring and would like some lunch, preferably in a relaxing location in the shade. Back on our bikes we went, and after escaping the dusty road, we whizzed along beautiful jungle-lined streets for a while until finally arriving at a laidback beach area with accommodations ranging from backpacker huts to large resorts cut into sweeping cliffs. These high-up resorts looked out over a gleaming, deep-blue ocean dotted with small boats and rocky outcrops. Parking the bikes, we walked up winding steps towards a café called The Deck that had caught our eye. There we feasted on huge fish tacos, smoothies, and iced lattes while lounging on a deck area with magnificent views of the coast. Finally, we had made it to the Lembongan we had hoped for.
After a nice long rest, we headed back towards the harbor just as a light rain started to fall. Having spent most of the day in sweltering hot sun, the sudden shower felt amazing. Soon it was a full tropical downpour, and I had to resist turning my head up to the sky to soak in its radiance. I contented myself with whizzing along the empty roads, dodging rapidly forming puddles and marveling at the clean, green island, its dusty, loud demeanor washed away to reveal a shimmering quiet forest punctuated by crackling raindrops. And like the ground whizzing by beneath, I also felt washed new and found all my aches, pains, and complaints about our day melting away.
At the dock, we joined a slightly bedraggled group of tourists also looking to get to Penida, so got a slightly discounted rate back across the sea. At the small harbor, we found a couple guys to take us back to our original dock where our return boat would be waiting. It seemed that everything annoying and difficult about our outward trip had been softened for our way back simply by us knowing what to expect. The men driving us set off at a breakneck speed, whipping around oncoming trucks and honking madly at pedestrians. The ocean sped past, and I felt a sudden peacefulness travel out from my chest and envelope my whole body. I clutched onto the fast-moving bike, confident for a brief moment that I was fully present and fully alive.
Since we arrived about half an hour early to get our boat back, we wandered down the empty narrow beach to sit and watch the waves. Finding some beanbag chairs with umbrellas, we sat down and waited to see if anyone would come haggle with us on how much they cost to use. A few minutes after sitting down, two small boys yelled down to us from a deck area and informed us that the chairs were… pause… muffled whispering… pause… 250,000 rupiah (about $17). Amaury and I laughed and told them we’d give them 2,000. After lots of muffled whispering and laughter, they eventually took Amaury’s money and we relaxed for about 10 minutes until we saw the boat preparing to leave.
The boat ride back was extremely bumpy. Each wave rose up beneath us and sent us crashing down with violent, loud thumps. I looked around and made my exit strategy in case the boat capsized, planning to push Amaury through a nearby window and sizing up the captain to see if he looked nervous. He was hunched over the wheel, gripping it tightly and focusing intently on Bali in the distance. I couldn’t tell if that should reassure or unnerve me.
Back on dry land, our driver came up to meet us, looking a bit apprehensive and contrite since he and Mr. N had sent us to the wrong boat. We assured him that it all worked out, not wanting to admit anything less than a stellar day in front of the nice Kiwi ladies who had spent the day snorkeling with manta ray and turtles on some expensive tour.
Dusty, hot, and thoroughly done with adventuring, we jumped straight into the pool when we got back to the villa. Mr. N came by and we expressed some disappointment to him about Lembongan and wrong boats and extra costs. He then offered us a “special price” of around 1.5 million rupiah to take us to various tourist sights (monkey forest, local dancing, silver markets, coffee tour) the next day on our drive up to Ubud. We told him we’d think about it and later determined that some of the sights he wanted to take us to were free (markets, coffee tour) or we didn’t want to go to them anyway (I have quite fixed opinions about monkeys, which I consider to be dangerous, potentially rabid, sunglass-stealing little demons that are too smart for their and my own good).
Mr. N kindly agreed to stick to the normal price to get to Ubud (300,000) with a stop on the way to the free coffee tour. We also convinced him to not make us leave at 6:30am, but at the more respectable time of 8am… He still arrived at 7 the next morning. My theory is that Bali drivers like to leave as early as possible to fit in a lot of rides, but given that he had over-charged us the previous day to go to the wrong place, I didn’t feel understanding about that.
Having fixed our plans for the next day, we spent our last evening in Seminyak eating delicious food at the renowned Merah Putih restaurant, which is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Bali. It definitely didn’t disappoint.
Ignoring Mr. N’s insistent text messages, we packed at a reasonable pace the next day and set off for Ubud at 8am. It’s such a wonderful paradise that it merits its own letter.
TO BE CONTINUED (again)
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