Island Addiction, The Real Bali & Sad Farewells

27/04

Today is my last full day on Gili Air. For the last two weeks, I have lived on an island and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Living a simpler life of no roads, no cars, no shoes makes the beautiful surroundings stand out even more. And let’s not forget the beautiful people.

I wrote in my last post about how many times I’ve said “I’m not leaving this island.” Not only do I not want to leave, but it’s a strange feeling that I CAN’T leave. After speaking to a few locals, apparently this feeling is normal. It has happened to a lot of people who just came to visit and now they live here. Gili Air (Air means water) is an island with water underneath. People believe that this makes it a very spiritual island and there is some unknown force that connects you to the island, making you stay. Sound kind of creepy? Sound like a load of rubbish? If I was to be back home and I was told that, I would have thought it was a load of naff. But I genuinely feel such a strong connection to the island, and then hearing the myth, I feel it makes sense. I have been the happiest and the calmest that I have been in a long time and I’ve also had an odd feeling that I’ve been here before.

Suffering from mild anxiety, these two weeks have been bliss. We spent our last night at Bunga Bar with Eddie and Hero. After a superb Gado Gado dish, Eddie mentioned that I’m a very calm and peaceful person. I’ve never, ever been called that before! (Would usually be described as an organised stress head).

***

Stressed Liv makes a dramatic return when Eilidh still hasn’t come back to our bungalow at 2am. I start to worry.

I wake up again at 3am and she’s still not there. Again at 4.

Oh god, what’s happened!? Should I go and look for her? No, that would be dangerous to go wandering alone at this time. She’s an adult, she’ll be fine. Plus, I left her with the other girls…

What if she’s not fine? What if she’s died? I’d feel so responsible. I’d have to fly home. How would I break the news to her mum!?

She stumbles in at 5am.

“I fell asleep on the beach. I spooned Hero.”

28/04

“I’m never drinking again” over and over again from Eilidh. How predictable.

“Of course you’re not…

***

I was very sad to say goodbye to Roo, to Gili and of course my little red head – Eilidh. 100 percent friends for life now.

***

Harbour > Padang Bay > Ubud. On the shuttle bus to Ubud, I sat next to a friendly, chatty chap from the UK – Chris. A blonde guy then gets on the bus and is about to sit next to me on the other side. He stares and points at Chris, and, I quote exactly: “I played with your dick last night!”

Chris looks mortified. “What!?”

“On Gili T. The bar. In the toilets. You were out of your mind, drunk. I was stood next to you in the urinals. You asked if I wanted to touch your penis so I laughed and wiggled it up and down.” (He did a hand gesture of a floppy willy). “Good to see you again mate!”

They both burst out laughing and gave each other a brotherly handshake, stretching across me, who was sat between them both. “What the actual heck” I say, and then start laughing too. The blonde guy then looks to the back of the bus to see a family sat behind us, giving him death stares. “Oh god, I am so sorry,” he says.

He then turns to me, ready to shake my hand. “I’m Luke by the way.”

“Erm. Hi Luke…”

29/04

Safely arrived in Ubud and had a delicious Nasi Goreng last night (Indonesia’s most famous rice dish). Literally had rice every day for the past 20 days.

When visiting the coffee plantation I sampled lots of amazing, fresh Balinese coffee. I liked them all but the coconut coffee & lemongrass tea were probably my favourite two. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world (made from animal poo). Before sampling, we saw the Luwaks (they look similar to a cat). The Luwaks eat the coffee beans, then their poo is washed, then roasted. Quite interesting, but I wonder who on earth was the first person to think, “This will be a good idea.”

I also had a traditional Balinese breakfast made up fruits, banana fritters and rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves.

Today was quite a day. I feel now I have seen the real Bali. On a cycling trip, I went through rural villages where there were no tourists whatsoever (apart from me and the 2 others biking with me). We stuck out like a sore thumb. Most of the trip I was smiling thinking, YES! Finally! This is what I wanted to see – how it really is. I couldn’t believe that every tiny village must have at least 3 temples! Alongside learning more about Hinduism, I learnt a lot about the compounds (where people live). Every compound has its own temple and the oldest member of the family will sleep nearest the temple. The architecture is beautifully intricate – like a palace. However, the levels of poverty really don’t match up to the beauty. Some people look so poor, so old, so thin. Some were blind; some had a black mouth with no teeth. Some of the elderly had more wrinkles on their face than I thought was imaginable.

Needed a wee so went in a hole in the ground. That was an experience.

Jokes aside, it was a very special day. Apart from one moment – one moment which I wish didn’t happen. Riding along through very, very poor villages, I saw a dog. The poor creature had half of his back hanging off and half of his face too. I don’t know how it was still alive, let alone how it was still walking around. It was extremely disturbing and upsetting and I wish I hadn’t seen it. I felt choked up and nauseous the rest of the day. Although maybe I should appreciate that I did see it? That’s how it is. It is very much a wake up call that back home, we quite literally live in another world.

***

Tomorrow I fly to Singapore > Bangkok. I am, as always, both nervous and excited. Stress was running high yesterday when STA had mucked up my flight and so I couldn’t check in online. I would like to thank my Mum for being a hero and helping me sort it. It is very difficult being so far away, alone, without a phone when things go wrong.

Need I say how fabulous Indonesia has been? Filled to the brim with culture shocks, amazing food, beautiful surroundings and life long friends.

P.S. Just touched down safely in Singapore.

Mount Batur, Seventeen Taxis and an Onion

I woke up in a bit of a panic – feeling nauseous and shaky. I think it’s mainly feeling sick with worry – earlier today I made a coffee in my room with tap water. I have been so careful with the water here – saying no to ice cubes, brushing my teeth with bottled water… However, in a moment of madness, I just didn’t think. So at 2 in the morning, I’m sat bolt upright in my luxurious Queen Sized bed, googling “is it safe to drink boiled tap water in Bali…”

Of course, as when googling any illness, there will always be a ‘MrPotatoHead79’ on some forum telling you that his sister’s friend’s cousin had the same symptoms as you do, and they died a horrible death.

***

Woke up feeling fit as a fiddle. Thank goodness! I reckon it was a momentary funny turn due to my crazy, stressful day (see previous blog post on my Insane Journey to Ubud). Now time to enjoy my luxurious bungalow. It’s only £20 a night and I’m being treated like a princess. The three course breakfast may be the best I’ve ever had – including a fluorescent fruit salad, banana pancakes and Indonesian black rice pudding. Note: not black pudding like in England, thank goodness. This is a sweet dish, made with Indonesian black rice, slowly warmed through with fresh coconut milk.

I’m in a hidden paradise. The beautiful pool is surrounded by tropical trees. There is no noise whatsoever, only the sound of cockerels in the morning or the occasional soft words from the kind Balinese: “can I get you anything, Miss Olivia?”

I can’t believe I’m backpacking right now.

I met a French couple here on their honeymoon: Classic. The wonderful staff bought them out a decorative chocolate cake, with ‘Happy Honeymoon” perfectly iced in rich cocoa. I think because I was chatting to them, they felt obliged to share it with me (winning). They were lovely people – they even invited me out to dinner with them that evening. I had to politely decline as I would have been the ultimate third wheel. IT’S YOUR HONEYMOON!!!

Balinese food continues to get more beautiful and more bizarre. This afternoon I tried an iced avocado coffee. I was sceptical, but I reckon it’s now my favourite chilled beverage. Fresh and creamy from the smooth avocado with swirls of strong coffee, spiralling through the glass: a taste sensation and also a work of art.

In the cafe, a guy from Canada started speaking to me. He was a borderline hippie and spoke about trying to “find himself.” Conversation was a tad awkward. I wanted to be an idiot, get out my compact mirror and go: “there you are!”

Out of nowhere, a dramatic thunderstorm hit Ubud. The rain was hard and warm and everything still looked glorious. I admired it on my balcony, and did some yoga. The chilled vibes continued when I went out for dinner alone and I sat crossed legged on decorative cushions, surrounded by candles. Loving life.

14/04

Time to stop the princess life and find myself a hostel. I can’t complain though – the hostel is ace! It’s in the middle of a rice paddy, it had a gorgeous pool and it’s super chilled and friendly. Speaking of friendly, became instant pals with a Scottish girl, Eilidh (pronounced Ay-ley, like Hayley without the H).

When we walked back after dinner together, on one street alone we were offered 17 taxis and an onion. Oh Bali.

15/04

This morning I went on a gorgeous / humid walk through the rice paddies then came back for brekki with Eilidh. Oh my god I’ve had the best day. Ronnie and Jade are now in Ubud too so we met up with them for a girly day full of smoothie bowls and putting our bargaining skills to the test at the crazy markets. A woman tried to sell me a top for 130,000. I eventually paid 40,000 (£2).

We had some laughs when ordering food. Like in Starbucks, they asked for our names. For giggles, I told them my name was Steve.

***

Time for an evening yoga class. It was all very stereotypical (in a good way). It was in a room that looked like a palace and the class was taken by a very spiritual, very bendy man. The class was 2 hours and I was definitely the worst, least flexible one there. Curse you, ‘running’ for giving me tight hamstrings! I LOVED the meditation bit at the end. The Master adjusted my posture by pulling my head and neck and I felt my spine grow about 6 inches.

Rushing into the class and then leaving in such a chilled, ‘spaced out’ state, I can’t believe it but I realised when back at the hostel that I didn’t pay. I ACCIDENTALLY STOLE YOGA. I hope I don’t get bad karma. I will have to go back for another class and pay double. I feel so bad.

16/04

Alarm went off at 2.30am. Today is the day I climb Mount Batur Volcano to watch the sunrise. I went with Ronnie, Jade and our new friend Arne. We had a lovely driver and a very sweet guide.

You get a bit warm walking up but you really feel the chill at the top. This, however, was the first time in my life I have been the one to deal with the cold the best – this was due to the fact that I didn’t really sweat – everyone else was dripping. In all honesty, I found the climb quite easy. Jade and Ronnie, however, had a bit of a sense of humour failure going up: “I’m never hiking again!!!” But like all hikers, once seeing the sunrise and the views at the top, they were proud and said it was well worth it. I was probably really irritating to them, being too upbeat on the way up at 4 in the morning.

It was a strange experience hiking up in the dark. Seeing nothing but your feet with your torch light. Then looking up and seeing a stream of torches leading up to the summit – they looked like a trail of stars – quite magical.

As the orange sun rose, I tried to capture its beauty with a photo. Then I took a few moments just to stare and admire it.

Our guide prepared breakfast for us at the top: banana sandwiches and a boiled egg. Not quite the exotic luxury I’ve been having the last few days, but who can complain when you’ve got a view of the Indonesian tangerine sun, creeping over volcanoes.

The Insane Journey to Ubud

12/04

There’s a note in the room about how to protect yourself from crime (thieves, rape etc). Pretty serious stuff. It’s a long list of suggestions about how to stay safe, and then at the end, in capitals it says: ‘HAVE A NICE STAY.’ Quite amusing.

I’m trying to be more positive today. My headache has cleared up. On my hunt for breakfast I tried to absorb the crazy culture. The noise, the hustle and bustle and strong smell of incense. The banana milkshake with my fruit, yogurt and cereals went down a treat. One fruit was the brightest purple that my eyes have ever seen – literally glowing. It was a pitaya fruit – something I have never tried before.

If you read my last blog post, you’ll be up to date with my sketchy transport booking to Ubud. My bus is supposed to arrive at 1pm (I think it’s a bus?). At 12.45 I was waiting at the lobby entrance.

1pm: I start pacing around a bit.

1.10: I ask reception if they know what the deal is. Lovely man gives the phone number a call. “This is not valid number” he says. Oh dear…

1.20: He tries to call again. No answer. Ah man, I’ve been scammed! Knew I shouldn’t have paid yesterday. What a tit.

The nice man at reception suggests that I walk down the dodgy street to where I made the booking and ask them what the deal is. He said he would look after my luggage and ask the bus to wait if it arrives.

I found the little lady that sold me the ticket yesterday. She becomes angry when I ask her where the bus is, aggressively shooing me away. “Back to hotel! Back to hotel!” She shouts.

I’m frustrated at my vulnerability. I know it’s not the end of the world – I’ll just book an overpriced taxi. But it felt a bit upsetting that I had been scammed. The kind man at reception sees that I look upset and worried. He takes the ticket from me and vanishes around the corner. Aw, my little hero, I think to myself. Then, out of nowhere, another man comes up to me and says “Ubud? One person?” YES! My bus! But shit! Where did the receptionist go with that darn ticket!?

What a nightmare. We eventually find him. All good. I follow transport man around the corner, expecting to see a bus for my 1hour 30 ride to Ubud.

It is not a bus.

It is a sketchy little scooter.

Oh hell no.

He throws my backpack over the handlebars, and taps the seat behind him. “Quick, quick. We go now.”

It all happened so fast. I should not be doing this. This is not ok. Mum would be fuming. Does my travel insurance even cover this if I fall!? A thousand thoughts whizz through my mind…

Oops. I’m on. No helmet and I’m wearing flip flops. This is not ok. I cling on for dear life as we go through the chaotic dodgy street, where people drive like they are playing a video game.

“I thought it was a bus!” I call over his shoulder.

“We go find bus now. Bus on main road.”

“Did it forget me?” I ask.

He laughs. “Yes, yes. Bus forget you! We try find it now.”

Me, my luggage and my little scooter man weave in and out of the traffic, on the race to catch my bus. Eventually, we find it. I’m alive!

There is one seat left. It’s jam-packed and people have to get out and move around luggage so that me and my bags can fit too. Squeezed in tightly, we’re off to Ubud! Hurrah!

***

When we got to Ubud, the smart thing would have been to get a taxi to my hotel. Easy peasy. No dramas. Instead, foolish, cocky Liv decides to walk. I’m confident I know the way and that it won’t take that long.

Rooky error. It was so far. But you know when you start something, you think: oh well I might as well finish it… I’ve got this far. I was also thinking, I’m already dripping with sweat, might as well continue. I know I’ve said in my past blog posts “this is the sweatiest I’ve ever been.” WRONG. I was young and naive. THIS, without a doubt is the sweatiest I’ve ever been. My back was like a waterfall and my face – it was like someone was constantly pouring a bottle of water above my head. I was soaked. I’d walked for ages and my back and calves were killing. I must have gone the wrong way. I asked a security guard and he pointed me in the other direction. For goodness sake. Another 20 mins or so, I couldn’t take anymore. The road I was on was very quiet and it was an extremely poor neighbourhood – many stray dogs and chickens running free. Looking very out of place, a nice looking gym appeared on the corner. I went in to get help.

The man at the gym was CONFIDENT I had gone the wrong way and I needed to be back where that security guard told me the wrong information. Feeling truly defeated, I was about to ask the desk to get me a taxi. Then, in my dizzy state, I did something pretty risky. A young-ish British looking guy was exiting the gym, getting on his scooter.

“Excuse me!” I called. “Could you please give me a lift!?” (What am I doing!?)

He was lovely and all was well. Felt like a scooter pro. He kindly dropped me at the hotel.

Oh my god it’s the wrong hotel.

“Don’t worry, I drive you” said the man at reception. Exhausted, I clamber onto the back of my THIRD scooter of the day. Hilarious.

Finally, I arrive at the correct destination. It’s paradise here. The exhausting / scary / stressful commute was worth it. Looking back on it now, I’ve already forgotten the sweat and pain. It’s just a funny memory. And now I’m chilling in my spa robe and being treated like a princess. LIFE IS GOOD.

Hello Bali, Hello Culture Shock, Hello Caitlin

10/04

My flight out of Cairns was at 11pm. I was a little worried to be arriving in Bali at 2 in the morning, but I had informed my hotel and had researched the legit taxi company (Bluebird – blue cars with bird logo). Apparently many blue cars pretend to be taxis, so you must be sure they have the logo and polo shirts too.

The experience was less stressful because a couple of friends that I had made from the East Coast (Ronnie & Jade) were on my flight too. I also met a gem of a girl on the bus to the airport – Monica from New York.

The flight was bloody freezing! I asked one of the air stewards if my air con was playing up because I was so cold. He furrowed his eyebrows and looked at me like I was insane. “Mam, it’s 24 degrees.”

He lies.

Touched down safely. Wooooo Bali!

The baggage claim from Cairns was shoulder to shoulder jam-packed by a massive group of Asians. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man shouted something and then about 300+ Asians scuttled to a different belt. Too funny. How had all 300 misread ‘Cairns?’

Declaration and security was so relaxed. I had declared drugs (prescriptions) and the man didn’t even look at it.

Found an ATM and drew out 600,000. That sounds mad doesn’t it? But that’s only 60 Australian dollars therefore that’s only 30 British pounds. My taxi was 100,000 to Legian, so $10, so £5. It’s hilarious to check your bank balance and see you’re a multi-millionaire.

I’m staying the first two nights in Legian (just north of Kuta). I’d been advised by loads of people not to stay in Kuta. It has very little culture and is basically full of Australian holiday-makers or people wanting a boozy holiday on the cheap (basically the Indonesian version of Magaluf).

Arrived safely in Legian at 3am.

11/04

Lovely to wake up in my own room. The bed is HUGE and so comfy. Unfortunately the street I’m on is a little dodgy. I’m also in an area that’s much busier than I’d like. It’s a one lane street but with traffic coming both ways. SO MUCH traffic! SO many scooters. When two cars come head to head, the continuous stream of motorbikes and scooters continue to weave in and out. Beep beep!

Everywhere you go in Bali you can find women sitting around chatting while mechanically putting together quite artistic small baskets/ trays made from palm leaves then filling them with either rice, flowers or fruits. I’ve even seen some with an Oreo biscuit in! You’ll find these small offerings laying around- on pavements, roads, in front of shops, restaurants and houses. It’s sometimes actually rather difficult just to walk without accidentally stepping on them! But these little baskets of flowers and incense sticks are also what make Bali so wonderfully unique and fragrant. I asked one woman if she could explain to me herself what they are for. “It is for the spirits. It is to keep shop safe, peaceful and happy.”

I’m walking through the busy, smoky market streets, trying to get my bearings, looking for somewhere for breakfast. I guess I’m not as tanned as I thought I was… I’m constantly being pestered – many asking for photos with me and my white skin. No babe, not today.

One man grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. That was not ideal.

You walk two steps and then someone will jump in front of you.

“Transport?”

“Sunglasses for pretty lady?”

“Very nice clothes.”

“Transport? Transport? I give transport for you. Special price.”

Ah, get me to Ubud. I just wanna do yoga & chill & eat good food.

The buzz of it all and the lack of sleep and food gave me a killer headache. Dizzy, and ignoring the pesting, I walk into a girl.

IT’S CAITLIN (a friend I met in New Zealand whilst doing Kiwi Experience). This is too weird. What makes it more bizarre is that we have already bumped into each other at Melbourne train station. Did somebody say small world?

Had a gorgeous breakfast with Caitlin, and later on we walked along Legian beach, before my headache couldn’t take much more and I had to have a lie down.

Chilled in my Queen-sized bed with a take out Indonesian rice dish.

I can’t wait to venture to Ubud tomorrow! Wifi was touch and go but I managed to book a couple of nights there. I also booked my transport from a pretty sketchy stall on my dodgy street. The woman barely spoke English. Looking back on it, I probably shouldn’t have paid there and then. But I have some make-shift receipt that doesn’t quite make sense so let’s hope that works…

Cassowary Spotting, Park Run and Farewell Australia

08/04

Before Australia, I’d never heard of a cassowary. They’re a very rare bird, almost extinct, and the few left will be found in the Daintree rainforest. They’re quite something – jet black, 6ft tall with bright blue heads. It would be quite cool to see one, right? But according to the bus driver, “we’ve got about the same chance of winning the lottery as we do seeing a cassowary.”

Me and the girls had been keeping our eyes out the whole time we were at Cape Tribulation, but no luck. Then, on 8th April, 2016, the bus driver was blabbing on about something or other, and then mid sentence he stops, swerves the bus and shouts: “OH MY GOD IT’S A CASSOWARY!!!!”

We all leap to the left side of the bus, noses pressed up against the glass. There he is. He’s huge. I tried to take a photo but the picture quality is rubbish. Grace (Vet and true animal/nature lover) sheds a few tears. The bus driver says, “wow, this is a pretty special moment for you all.”

***

09/04

Back safe and sound in Cairns. Head to toe with mosquito bites but I survived the rainforest!

I got up at 6am to go for a run before it got hideously hot. About 4K in I came across the Cairns Park Run start line. Why not! I thought to myself. You’ll never believe it but I ended up coming first female and third overall! What a lovely start to the day. When one little boy finished he burst into tears. “It’s so hot!” He wailed. Bless him. I did a very slow jog back to the hostel and couldn’t wait to tell my Dad.

***

The rest of the day has been very stressful – trying to change flights, book accommodation but feeling like I’m getting nowhere with it! Annoyingly, when I want to change a flight, I may not hear back from them for up to 48 hours… To make my anxiety a tad worse, Santander Online banking is down. This is not ideal. I need to sort out my money before heading to Bali tomorrow.

10/04

The stress carried on into the morning of the 10th but by lunch time, I think I had sorted as much as I can. The thing about travelling is those at home merely see beautiful photographs – mountains, breath taking beaches, palm trees… They don’t see the organisation and stress behind it. They don’t see the mosquito bites, greasy hair and pot noodles. However, the stinkyness and simpler things are all part of it. You’ve got to embrace the shitty times too. It’s all part of the experience.

I’m excited for Bali. I’m scared for Bali. I’m not too sure what to expect from Bali. But I know I’m uber excited to have a bit of a yoga retreat when I reach Ubud!

I can’t believe Australia has come to an end. It has been better than I thought it would be. Although I preferred New Zealand as a country, Australia has given me life-long, heart-stopping moments that I will treasure forever. I was worried that the East Coast was just going to be a load of 18year old lads getting smashed every night. Politely dodging that particular species, I’ve made tonnes of friends, I’ve worked on a stud farm, seen the sites of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, seen kangaroos, fed wallabies, embraced the paradise that is Fraser Island and Magnetic island, seen Nemo in the Great Barrier Reef and stayed overnight in the oldest rainforest in the world. Thank you, Australia.