Sunday, August 15, 2010

Motorcycle Diaries

The days I like the most are the ones when we hop on the back of a motorcycle & set off for the open road. We leave the tourist trail in our dust & explore the journey of the unknown~this is when we get to see the true culture of the country.
We are given the chance to go off road & witness the beauty that unfolds in the most primitive villages. The other day we were cruising through the mountains of Bali, & these aren’t like any typical mountains, these were rainforest mountains coated by thick, juicy clouds that consistently spit out rain. I didn't quite realize that we were truly deep in the jungle because there were so many villages, it seemed like any other place where people created a way of life surrounded by lush crops & forests. It hit me as I sat sheltered from the pouring rain in a sari-sari twistin & lickin Oreo's when I looked up & spotted a herd of 5-7 monkeys swinging through the trees RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!! I looked around to find signs for which national park I was in but found none (you have to be in some kind of claimed land to see something so cool-right?). I turned to Matt & said "its not everywhere in the world where you can enjoy an Oreo & watch monkeys in their natural habitat," he agreed. The rain started to calm so we jumped back on our bike & about 154m up the road I saw some locals standing along the street next to two huge monkeys who were as calm as could be; there were no cameras, no awe inspired faces (except mine), the two species were coinciding-both just going about their business...
Typically, when we don’t have a destination or a plan we stumble upon the greatest things. We decided that we both enjoy the motorcycle excursions so much that we ditched our big backpacks at some hostel in Ubud, packed a day bag for the next week, found a brand new motorbike, circled some epic places in Bali we should definitely see, & hit the road leaving the rest up to fate.
We have a couple running experiments on this motorcycle escapade; one-who serves the best Gado-Gado (a typical Indonesian vegetarian mean with peanut sauce that is served throughout, but prepared completely different in every restaurant), two-who is the best masseuse in Bali, & three- which volcano serves the best sunrise.
The other day we discovered that the cops here are corrupt. As we were cruising along a quiet road, checking out the rice terraces, we ran into two cops on the side of the road who obviously pulled us over & screwed with us because of our pale-tourist looking skin. The cop who could speak English threatened us for about 20 minutes about how he was going to confiscate our bike & Matt’s license until we went to court & the bank & blah blah blah… Then had the nerve to say “or I’ll just let you go with a warning if you give my friend some money.” Luckily, Matt is good with his words & talked him out of the whole dilemma while snatching his license out of his hands. We drove off asking each other “did that really just happen???”
Learning Bahasa (Indonesian) has also been fun & advantageous along this journey. WE know all of the basics and then some. We can read the majority of the menu (which is especially helpful in the warungs-small restos) & even say things like “ini enak sekali!” (that was delicious!) to the chef. Matt also makes this learning fun & memorable, for instance, goat = kambing, he says “the goat like to go camping,” it sticks. I only hope that I am as good of a teacher as he can be. 
After a morning of climbing Mt. Batur another active volcano we were pretty exhausted as we set off for the east coast of Bali. The drive ended up being 3-4 hrs, & although it was vibrantly beautiful, we were beat by the time we arrived in Amed. A sigh of relief overwhelmed both of us when we finally spotted all the home-stays & hotels aligning the beach. We stopped in a few places to ask the price & were shocked to hear the $30-70 quotes without negotiation, & it only seemed to get more expensive as we drove. Now, $30-70 US may not seem like a lot to stay in a hotel on the beach of an Indonesian Island (its not, its an amazing price), but we’ve been spending $5-15 tops & splitting that between the two of us, so this was, how do you say~out of our budget (especially after traveling for over two months now). Just as we were about to loose hope & succumb to splurging we rolled upon a calm place with Buddha statues everywhere & the guy in charge shook our hands & introduced himself as “Smiling Buddha,” he told us “our rooms are full, but you can sleep here for free if you want.” We looked to our right & saw the wide open ocean splashing on the beach & 5-7 women in the courtyard doing yoga; on our left was a spacious & open nipa hut with huge comfy pillows for our laying upon-we both shook our heads yes. Smiling Buddha said “Ok, you sleep here, from the bottom of my heart,” & walked away. Matt & I looked at each other & both knew what the other was thinking… Score!
And this was where we met the French; a posse of 4 dudes & 1 girl who have come together over the course of their travels & created a rebel clan from France. Actually, we didn’t meet them here, the day before we climbed Mt. Batur with them at sunrise, somehow they were just as drawn to this place as us, good places have good vibes (aka vibrational frequencies). This was a lively crew & definitely had a pack leader, who was interesting in every sense of the word. After we all came to the conclusion that we were all looking to have a good time, Smiling Buddha made the suggestion that he could hire a band for us (since we were all staying there for free in his nipa hut like a big fat family). So we danced, we sang, we had great conversations, and a little bit of drama after the ring leader had too many to drink, but absolutely had a great night-one of which I will never forget..

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure- self-determined, self-motivated, often risky-forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the Earth & you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness & bottomless cruelty of humankind-and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” ~ Anatole France

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