Motorbike Mayhem in Bali
I have never been one for transport. In fact, I hate it. I have an innate fear of flying and get motion sickness on a mountain bike, which is kind of ironic really as the majority of my life so far has been spent backpacking around the world. I have learnt to control my phobia by sucking it up and just getting on with it, but you can imagine my reaction when my TB (Tortured Boyfriend), wanted to hire a dilapidated motorbike and cruise the day away from Lovina to Singaraja.
We had been in Bali for about three weeks which had all so far been spent in the “Ibiza for Australians”, Kuta. It had taken us that long to decide that we really were not suited to Kuta as neither of us could surf and we didn’t have a penchant for walking around all day shirtless covered from head to toe in bad henna tattoos.
It was around the time that the elections were on and although Bali was reasonably safe, other areas around Indonesia were becoming increasingly violent. Flags representing the opposing political parties were strewn everywhere and it seemed that if the resounding favourite, Megawati did not win all hell would break loose. After three days of cowering behind the postcard rack in the local shop as processions of army vehicles sped past carrying soldiers with rifles we thought it was time to leave Kuta and head to a more serene part of the island.
Lovina was described in the guidebook as an “un-discovered jewel of the north, with friendly people, lovely beaches and fantastic dolphin watching opportunities”. We were kidnapped upon arrival by a young, enthusiastic local who insisted his name was Fred, he used to live in Guernsey and he knew Mick Jagger. It was plainly obvious that none of this was true but you had to give the poor boy some points for imagination.
We managed to find ourselves a really great, cheap hotel to stay at which for once had a swimming pool, a luxury not normally found in the kind of accommodation we frequented. There were only a few guests, as all the troubles in Indonesia seemed to be keeping the tourists away. Despite this our fellow brave guests were a strange bunch. There was a family of five Germans who, in true stereotypical fashion, managed to spread themselves wildly around the whole pool area taking up the majority of the sunloungers. Then there were two Danish girls who wore bikini’s so tiny, even the most seasoned of porn stars would blush. They spent their days frolicking around the pool area shouting about the virtues of Copenhagen to anyone who would listen. Then there was me and the TB, the pale ones, holed up in the corner under a multitude of hats, glasses and factor 30.
After about a week of doing not too much we decided that we had seen enough of “ze Germans” and the Danish girls with their wobbly bottoms and bouncing bits, so we decided to rent a motorbike and go to the old capital and next main town, Singaraja.
The shop we got our motorbike from could not really be described as a shop, more of a large doorway. The guy in the shop was snoozing away and seemed most disgruntled when we woke him up. On first look at the bike that he had picked out for us I could not believe that we were actually going to hand over our hard earned money for this death trap. Before this moment I had this rather romantic illusion in my head; me and my lover cruising through beautiful rice fields with the wind in our hair as I perched seductively on the back, sarong bellowing gently in the breeze. I was hurtled back in to reality as we wobbled our way up the cobbled path towards the main road leading to Singaraja. As we got up a bit of speed my sarong did not flap gently in the breeze but got blown like a hurricane over my head, giving the locals a long flash of western girl thigh. My knuckles were white as I clung on tightly to the TB’s waist almost cutting off the blood supply to his legs. As I peered out through the material of my sarong which was now well and truly covering my face I could just make out the buses of school children going past all laughing and pointing at the “silly tourists”.
After 20 minutes we got to Singaraja and were waiting at a big intersection for the lights to change. They did, and it was then that we realised that we were facing the wrong way on a one way street with a wall of traffic headed straight for us. Lightening reactions saved us as we careered, out of control down a side street.
The main reason we were in Singaraja was to get some money, as there were no places in Lovina where you could a money advance on your credit card. Luckily there was a huge bank across the road from where we were. I did not particularly want to go in there by myself as I was not in the mood to deal with people pointing and staring at the pale, blonde haired alien that had besieged their town. TB insisted that he had to guard the bike and used the old guilt trip on me, “I have just risked my life driving us all the way here.” Unfortunately this was true so to keep the peace I re-arranged my sarong, grabbed my passport and strided confidently towards the bank, credit card in hand.
The queues at each teller were very long. I noticed there was a sign above one queue that said “Foreigners”, I took this to mean me so I joined the back of the line behind about 20 other people who looked suspiciously like locals trying to get served quicker by joining the shorter line. All of a sudden there was a big commotion behind the desk of the queue I was in, lots of movement and pointing to the back of the line. I had an eerie feeling that I was causing this uproar, little me, hot, sweaty and chewing nervously on my fingernail. Before I knew it another desk was opened and I was escorted by the bank’s security guard to my own private clerk…score! A lot of sideways glances and tuts were exchanged by everyone else waiting in line as I shimmied my way through the crowds to the desk.
The guy behind the counter seemed very happy to see me and greeted me with a smile longer than an upside down banana. He was obviously the designated English speaker for the bank and it didn’t seem like he got many tall, blonde haired western women in his bank often. I slapped my passport on the counter.
“Aaahhhh…En-ger-land,” said the clerk.
I smiled and nodded my head.
“Da-veed Beck-ham, very good footballer,” said the clerk, his smile wider than ever.
I’m sure David Beckham would be thrilled to know that he is helping poor backpackers find common ground with locals in small South East Asian towns. The clerk flipped to the photo at the back of my passport and I began to wince. It was not the most flattering of shots. It was taken very early one morning at the Peterborough Passport Office about two years previous, after I had just been discharged from hospital following a nasty bought of concussion sustained from a freak accident with a Budweiser bottle at our leaving party in London. I had one of those mid-90’s Jennifer Aniston do’s, three layers of foundation and eye make-up so scary it made Barbara Cartland look subtle.
“Very beautiful,” said the clerk with a sly wink.
I wanted to burst out in fits of laughter but contained it and instead gave him my best bashful Princess Di glance. He filled out his forms and handed me my money before wishing me a pleasant stay. I sashayed out of the bank full of love for the human race as I felt his eyes burning in to the back of my head.
We managed to have a smooth journey back to the hotel and I can actually say I enjoyed it. We got back to the hotel and parked the bike in the driveway. If our adventures for the day had ended here it would have been great, but no, TB had to ruin it.
“Why don’t you have a quick ride down the driveway and back?” he said in eager anticipation.
“Aaah no, I don’t think so,” was my adamant reply.
After five minutes of badgering I gave in and mounted the metal beast ready to prove my worth on this mean machine. TB, to his credit, got on the back. I pulled the throttle way back hard and the bike backarooed into the air at breakneck speed. TB slid off the back and landed on the ground with a thud. I however, sped off down the driveway, my instinct went in to over drive and in my frenzy of trying to stop I just pulled the throttle back more. The bike crashed into the hotel wall, knocking out numerous bricks and I was thrown to the ground with the bike on top of me. TB raced over thinking I was dead as I kind of layed there like an unconscious stunned mullet.
For the second time that day I was peering at the world through my sarong. All I could hear was the pitter-patter of feet coming towards me as the three young reception girls came running down the driveway. To their credit they were more concerned about me rather than the fact that I had just knocked a bloody great hole in their wall. I sat up rather achey with cuts in my elbows and knees and a suspected sprained wrist as I blubbered to TB, “it’s all your fault, I didn’t even want to ride the stupid thing.”
The pedal of the bike was completely mangled and so when we shamefully returned it to the sleepy shop owner we knew what to expect as this was the perfect opportunity for him to take advantage.
“200 US dollar,” he said with a hopeful look on his face.
“No way,” we said, sticking to our guns.
Yes, we had mangled his bike but we were sure that as soon as we were gone he would just get a hammer and bang the pedal back into place. It certainly was not $200 worth of damage.
After much negotiation we settled on 20 US dollars and skulked back to the hotel feeling a little embarrassed and a bit ripped off.
I spent the rest of the evening lying on my bed, wrist bandaged up, feeling pathetic, reminiscing about the cute clerk at the bank with the upside down banana smile.