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.

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…

Eggs, Sticks and Crazy Hat Lady

2nd March

Rotorua smells of eggs. Not the “Mmmm eggs & bacon & buttery toast” kind of smell, but the rotten eggs kind of smell. This sulphur city is pretty stinky due to all the hot mud pools and thermal activity.

Today is a big day. It’s the Maori experience. We learnt lots, ate lots and then we ate some more. Before we entered the village, we had to elect a chief. We voted old Paul. Old Paul and the Maori chief greeted in the traditional way: touching noses twice, saying “Kia Ora” and then giving a short speech about why we are here. Old Paul almost went in for a third nose touch. Damn it Paul, making us look bad. Keep focused! Our feet walking on their land was a big moment. Women had to walk behind the men, and when we entered the sleeping rooms, no shoes were allowed.

These people take tradition very seriously. You can’t laugh. But with man-boobs jiggling and their eyes bulging, I had to bite my tongue a little.

We learnt about the carvings on the walls – the different Gods, influences and morals.

“Does anyone have any questions?”

Crazy hat lady raises her hand. “Can you remind me where the bathroom is?”

Crazy hat lady always asks irrelevant questions.

Time for cake. Unlimited cake. The banana bread was unreal. Deep fried scones with jam and cream was then followed by leaning Maori songs and dances and playing traditional games with sticks. The sticks were big – human height.

Crazy hat lady did not listen to the rules and threw her stick at the wrong time and almost took Jess’ eye out.

After more playful activities and learning about tattoos, carvings, fitness and fighting, it was time for the feast. Our little backpacker bellies were over the moon to digest mountains of roasted veggies, salads, fillets of fish, every meat you can imagine and the biggest, juiciest mussels on the planet. All meats are cooked underground for hours on end, to ensure tasty, tender goodness. Dessert didn’t disappoint either. Toffee sponge, custards, fruits and passion fruit pavlovas.

Our bloated bellies then got semi naked in bikinis and we got in the hot tubs and hit the bar. Then around midnight we gathered around a ginormous fire, roasted marshmallows and listened to Maori stories.

We stumbled into our beautiful tent room that might as well be a hotel and, quote Matt: “I think this was the best day of my life.”

***

Crazy hat lady wakes up before 5am, waking up innocent fellow travellers (ME).

Crazy hat lady unpacks her backpack and viciously rustles plastic bags.

Crazy hat lady gives a loud, running commentary: “I’m opening up my bag now…”

“I’m folding my clothes now…”

“I’m putting on my socks now…”

Crazy hat lady then irons every item of clothing with her hair straighteners.

What is life.

***

Breakfast was fit for a king.

Apart from my disturbed sleep, the Maori experience has been amazing. I’m relaxed, well fed, but most of all, I now have SO much respect for their culture and history.