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Bali Road Trip part I

INDONESIA | Tuesday, 26 November 2013 | Views [1726]

Sunday arrives and we check out of Raka Homestay after ten happy days in a big airy room enjoying the daily use of their postage stamp swimming pool. Jana, who I met in Penang, has been staying and having seen the sights of Ubud, we are ready to venture further afield. Hiring a scooter is not an option for either of us, but we have found a car to hire for 150,000 per day. We are fully prepared with a road map and five decidedly dodgy CD's we have bought. Hopefully at least one of them will work! Despite reassurances that we can return them, every good road trip needs a tune and we're hoping we will find one. Alas, all five will need to be returned, although we get intermittent play from Jack Johnson, perfect music for a road trip around the coast!

Leaving Ubud we drive out towards Mengwi, following sparodic road signs, common sense and Jana's careful pre-planning, navigating the roads up to Lake Bayan stopping for mid morning coffee in a large restaurant with panoramic views of the rice terraces and later parking up for the photo opportunity that is Ulun Danu Beratan temple. The air is cool up here and heavy mists obscure parts of the surrounding volcanic mountains. We continue north, descending into Singaraja on a road reminiscent of the twists of the Pai - Chiang Mai route. The nearer to the coast we get, the hotter and more humid it becomes. The road splits and curves and it is almost impossible to know which one to follow. In Singaraja a man with his daughter pulls up beside us on his scooter and directs us at a particularly confusing junction to Lovina. A little further he again helps us out and asks if he may give us his card if we need a Homestay, (which we do) and if so, we can follow him. Gede Homestay Bungalows are, as promised, right on the black sandy beach. Our room is comfortable and we pass the evening in the little shore-front restaurant listening to the gentle lapping of mini waves. A small cold Bintang (local beer) watching the sunset fading behind the twinkling restaurant lights, a small group of people sitting beside a barbecue on the beach with the inevitable guitar and a woman going about the important business of offerings and incense. This moment, right here, embodies everything my imagination dared to hope was Asia.

It was still dark when the alarm went off at 5.15 this morning. I'm not much of a morning person but today we had good reason to be up so early. After a light breakfast of banana fritters we climbed into a narrow boat which with four passengers and its one man crew was at full capacity. About 5kms from shore we were rewarded with a glorious sunrise edging its way over the mountainous Bali skyline. Almost on queue, pods of dolphins appeared, playfully swimming alongside the numerous boats carrying hopeful tourists. The delight of seeing dolphins in their natural habitat makes me feel like a small child at Christmas again and I have the impractical urge to jump overboard and join them. All too soon we were heading back to shore, but stopping at a quiet snorkelling area. The water was incredibly opaque, and looking over the side of the boat, it was possible to clearly see the coral and fish. Even at this early hour the water was delightfully warm. It's hard to believe we are on open sea given that the surface is so calm and smooth. The coral was plentiful and there was little sign of damage, although it seemed rather drab, covered in a sort of algae. Given the now expected amount of rubbish that washes up on the beach, perhaps it is an inevitable consequence?

Checking out we head East, through Singaraja and along the coast in the direction of Amlapura. We pull off and up to a dilapidated old building formerly a hotel given the sign, but now looking very forlorn and unkempt. The owners, getting over their initial surprise, usher us to their restaurant on the other side of the pocked drive and hasten to serve us coffee as we sit overlooking the sea. Everyone, it seems, speaks some English in Bali. Feeling somewhat fortified after a cup of the Balinese kopi (think Turkish coffee) we resume our journey east. There are Polisi everywhere and it becomes clear as we are constantly pulled over that some dignitaries are passing through as convoys of estate cars with flashing lights come hurtling past us. In places there are school children waving flags. Having heard about the 'fund raising' endeavours sometimes held by the police, we are pleased not to be pulled over and our contribution sought. It is a slow journey but time is something we have plenty of.

Arriving in Amed, famed for diving in Bali, we set about finding somewhere to eat and then somewhere to stay. We settle on pizza, not a local delicacy but sometimes the Western palette craves familiarity! After several stops we find Junkung Bungalows, the perfect place. Sea view 1 bungalow is right on the beach, with a wonderful terrace surrounded by tropical shrubs for privacy and a stunning bathroom, Balinese style - part open air. Jana is a skilled negotiator and we have a good low season rate which includes breakfast, normal in Bali. The light afternoon showers have subsided and the snorkelling spot right in front of us is teeming with fish of all colours, shapes and sizes and even the coral shows promise of colour. I don't suppose it would be approved of, but I really want to gently scrub away at the outer layer of algae to reveal the colours beneath!

Conveniently Cafe Amed is only a few paces away and we celebrate our lucky find with a rather less budget-friendly meal also right on the sea front. The beach here is sand and pebble and the waves, if it is even fair to call them that, are tiny. However we are not surfers and as such, the north is proving to have been a perfect choice.


Tags: amed, bali, dolphins, lovina, road trip, snorkelling

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