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Travelling 02/02/10-02/08/10 Round the world in 182 days

Bali and the Gili Islands...a lesson in automobile mechanics

INDONESIA | Thursday, 8 July 2010 | Views [736] | Comments [2]

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Dan and I started off our trip to Indonesia just under two weeks ago, when we were reunited in Kuta, after his very long trip over from Central America (via 3 flights) and my messed up flights from Australia (do not travel with Jetstar, ever).  We spent our first 2 days in Kuta, which is where a lot of people come to Bali to stay, and end up not seeing any of the rest of the island, which is a bit pointless.  It’s also the Aussie version of Magaluf, and so is a tad tacky.  But it does have a LOT of market stalls/shops, selling every possible fake designer product/souvenirs/leather goods etc etc, so I was happy.  So, we (actually just mostly I) spent a lot of time browsing the shops (which is probably the reason that my backpack now weighs over 25kg, and I have just had to take out one fifth of the contents and carry it onto my flight to Bangkok).  We were staying in a pretty decent hotel right in the centre of Kuta, so we also managed to enjoy some pool time, which allowed me to continue to work on the tan, which had somewhat faded during my time in Australia.  Other than a very disappointing evening of watching the England vs. Germany WC match, Kuta was really good.  But we were definitely ready to get out of there after a couple of days, as it’s a massive tourist trap, and I think if one more person had offered me “transport, lady?” or tried to sell me any more fake bags (which I was very restrained, and did not purchase a single one of), I might have snapped.


So, from Kuta we went to the Gili Islands for a few days in complete paradise.  We headed straight to Gili Trawangan, which is the largest and most popular of the 3 habitable Gili Islands (unless you have a lot of money to spend in one of the smart resorts on Gili Air).  We had a brilliant four days there, spending the day times on the beautiful white sand beach and in the crystal clear sea, lounging on one of the many different seating options on the beach, all of which are owned by one restaurant/bar or the other, and so you get food/drink brought directly to you.  A traveller’s dream.  Gili Trawangan is full of young travelers and holidaying Aussies, so is a really sociable place.  There is one main street which has a ton of open air bars and restaurants on it, many of which serve a fish BBQ in the evening, which were very good.  And the best thing about Indonesia in general is that everything is crazy cheap, which makes a nice change from the ridiculous cost of living in Australia.  We have been eating meals for under 2 quid sometimes, which I have obviously been loving. 


On one of the days in Gili we decided to actually be productive and went on a snorkeling trip around the different islands, which was amazing.  Having not seen too much on our first three snorkels other than fish, on our last swim of the trip we went to Turtle Point and saw loads of turtles which was really great. 


After the Gili Islands, we came back to Bali to embark on what would prove to be a very interesting (!) road trip round the island.  For the first couple of days it was just Dan and me, but then one of his friends from uni (who we will now be traveling with for the rest of the time) joined us.  The whole thing started with a bunch of people recommending to us that driving round the island is the easiest way, and having found a car for 120,000IDR rental per day (less than 10 pounds) we decided to take it on, and met what looked like a very fun, yet slightly decrepit, jeep which would be the bane of our existence for the next week.  It all started off less than smoothly as Dan had to negotiate the tiny alleys of Kuta, which somehow manage to pass for “roads” with 2-way traffic on them.  After hitting a wall within the first 5 minutes, getting wedged in a road, and causing various traffic jams (the other problem with driving around Bali is that there are hundreds of scooter/motorbike drivers everywhere, all of whom seem to have a death wish and don’t get out of the way of cars), we managed to get out of Kuta and got on our way.  Seeing the island from our own car was definitely a brilliant way of doing it.  However the problems started to emerge on the second morning, when we mysteriously couldn’t get the car started.  After help from the owner of the homestay where we were, we managed to get what seemed to be a knackered battery going with a rolling start (I think I have learnt more about the mechanics of a car in the last 6 days than I have in the entire 4 and a half years I’ve been driving).  We then thought everything was fine, until we came back to the car after going to see a temple that morning (which was beautiful – perched on a cliff overlooking the sea), and again couldn’t get it started.  And so a pattern emerged – every time we turned the car off for more than 20 minutes, the battery died and we had to do a rolling start, usually with the assistance of more than one local, who luckily were incredibly helpful.  So not only did we always have to park on a hill, with masses of space behind us (which is not always easy to find), but most of the time it was easier just to not stop the car.  Which became interesting for example when we picked up Dan’s friend from the airport, and whilst waiting for her for half an hour couldn’t turn the car off as it wouldn’t have turned back on, so we had to drive round the airport car park for half an hour solid.


We did manage to go to some great places – Uluwatu in the very south of the island, where we visited our first temple, Padang Padang, which is a very popular surf spot with a beautiful beach, an incredibly stunning lake called Batur in the north, which has two huge volcanoes next to it and so makes for incredible views.  However, when I parked up in Ubud (which is a really cool, arty part of the island where we spent 2 nights), and I was waiting in the car whilst the others went to find somewhere to stay and I suddenly saw a group of locals pointing at the bonnet of the car, from where a huge amount of smoke was emerging, and then the engine wouldn’t turn off even when the key was out of the ignition (the car had some odd capabilities), we decided that enough was enough and called the guy we’d rented it from, who brought us a replacement car straight away (also a decrepit jeep, but it turned on!).


The last couple of days were spent around Lake Batur as we loved it so much, and yesterday morning we did a sunrise hike of the volcano, which was brilliant.  Starting at 3am, we walked up for a couple of hours and then sat at the very top to watch the sun rise around 6.30am. 


I think we were just all delighted to be able to return the car to Kuta yesterday afternoon with it and us unscathed.  I also managed to negotiate Kuta’s streets without a single scrape/accident/infuriated local, which was fairly miraculous given how ridiculous the streets are.  So it all worked out for the best in the end!



Hey Em - love reading about your amazing adventures! It sounds like you have really wrung every drop out of this incredible experience. Knew you would. I've just managed a good catch-up read....because I handed my thesis to the binder this morning!! (1000's of miles away but you're the first of your family to know!) Handing it in on Friday!!!
We're off to France on Sunday, but looking forward to seeing you when you get back. LOADS of love, Mel xx

  Mel Jul 14, 2010 11:58 PM


Hi Ems, another adventure,beautifully described, one more talent to your personality. You have certainly got every bit out of your travels and stayed unscathed .I hear that you are not looking forward to coming back home, can't understand it myself. Getting up early, not to look at another sunrise,but to squash into the underground and go to work, but to earn loads of "dosh" thats what will enable you to live to experience some more travels. see you soon. Hugs & Kisses from me GMH

  GMH Jul 17, 2010 6:11 PM

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