To hitchhike or not to hitchhike? (When alone)

Hitchhiking as a woman in a different country is a pretty nerve-racking experience.

My knees were bleeding. My elbow and hands were bruised. My hair was matted and dreadlocked from the wind. I was a mess.

Shaking a little, ready to raise my right arm and stick out my thumb to oncoming traffic on the 395 highway, I did nothing but think of my worried Mother and hope for the best…

Now before I give away the story, let me tell you how I got here.

I’m on a blissful mountain holiday in Mammoth Lakes, California (a town tucked away in the Eastern Sierras. A town that boasts serene lakes, snow peaked mountains and Ansel Adams worthy photography). It’s a snowboarders / bikers / runners’ paradise. One might say it’s, ‘gnarly, dude.’

I’m training for my first triathlon coming up end of June. How blessed am I to do the final few weeks of training in such a place! The views, the altitude, and some great tips from professional athletes who live and train here.

My trickiest element of the triathlon is the bike. Now I’m no dolphin, but so far in training, I have felt more at ease in the water than on two wheels. You see, with running and swimming, it’s just you. All you. In my opinion the bike just gets in my way.

Having said that, the breathtaking rides I’ve had out here on my trusty ‘rental roadie’ with new friends have been nothing but exhilarating fun. It’s clicked, I thought. This is why middle aged men in Lycra are out and about on their bikes so much… it’s bloody fantastic!!!

So, with my new found biking confidence, I’m on a euphoric high after biking the hilly backroads…. after parting ways with my new American pals, I have about an 18 mile ride back to where I’m staying.

(this is how we get to being alone on the 395….)

Cue gale force winds.

Zooming traffic to my left. Open meadows to my right. My knuckles are white and I’m clenching my teeth trying to fight the wind. I take a tiny breather as it softens and finally, my cadence can pick up a bit as the wind basically disappears.

Then out of nowhere a HUGE gust shoves me from the side and whips me right off the bike without even a millisecond to try fight it.

I’M OK – were my first thoughts. Bleeding and scraped but OK.

Thoughts quickly go downhill. Stupid bike. Stupid wind.

Shaking a little, I get up, try to compose myself, but even this is impossible. The wind is now so strong I can’t even stand and hold my bike. I’m not strong or heavy enough and before I even attempt to get back on, I get knocked over again.

Cue sense of humour failure. F***ing bike! F***ing wind!!!

A car pulls over.

A man is driving and the woman to his left says “hey sweetie. You ok? You came down pretty hard there. D’ya need a ride?”

(Think fast, think fast, make good choices, make good choices).

“I’ll be fine. Thank you though. That’s really kind. I’m absolutely fine though.”

The car pulls away.

The wind howls, my body throbs, and I look into the distance at the never ending rolling hills ahead. Bad. Bad. Bad decision. Bad choice.

I knew I didn’t want to get back on the bike. I couldn’t even stand up let alone balance on two wheels. I didn’t want to hitchhike either. I wish I didn’t care, but the fact is if you’re a young woman in a different country, you’ve got to have your wits about you. Make that a young woman who looks about 15. EVEN WORSE.

My thoughts race as blood starts to congeal and I look onto the mountains….

A car pulls over about 50 yards ahead. It then creepily reverses towards me.

The man in the passenger seat gets out first. Then the other man.

My initial thoughts were: This is dodgy. Not ok. Nicht good!

“Need a ride?” Said the older man in a well spoken English accent .

“You having trouble with your bike?” said the other. He was a couple of decades younger, perhaps in his 40s, he had dark skin and an accent I couldn’t make out.

“It’s so windy.” I replied. (Think fast, think fast, make good choices, make good choices). “Where are you heading?” I asked.

“Just up to Mammoth Lakes,” said the older guy. (Good answer).

“Me too….”

He opened the back of the car to see if my bike would fit in. My eyes violently scanned what was in the vehicle. I saw tools and rope. (WEAPONS!?) (probably just hiking equipment… we’re in the mountains). I sneakily took a photo of their number plate. (What good is that going to do? You’ve got no signal, you tit).

I wearily got in the back of the car.

“I’ll just text my friend to let them know I’m getting a ride back.” (Lie).

Thoughts turn to my parents. They would be having such a wobbly right now.

^^^ looking back on all of this now I’m a little ashamed to have so little faith. Turns out these two men were nothing but kind, generous people, wanting to help someone. However, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself as we all know, bad things do happen. Horrible things. On this occasion, I’m very lucky to have met the good sort.

We exchanged emails as I wanted to thank them properly and articulate how much it meant to me to have the help and to encounter such kindness. Then after a quick google search I find out they live in Hollywood and he’s a world famous neuroscientist!

I BLOOMING LOVE TRAVEL

Now to spend the rest of the afternoon sourcing anti-sceptic wipes and band-aids…

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.