Friday, April 15, 2011

Bali Part 3 – Nusa Lembongan with no hot water

Leaving our best friends in Legian after a dubious breakfast, Mr J and I head to our villa as the roll-a-doors are being lifted and shops start to come to life on the main road. Stall holders sweeping dust, leaves and rubbish into the gutter, locals’ young children protesting being made to eat breakfast and behave, and that sweet smell of incense as the morning offerings are placed on the family alters. It was in these surrounds that I made my first purchase in Bali... a drink holder. ‘A What?’ you say. Not a stubby holder.... a little drink holder. It’s a woven or knitted or macramé bag-like invention that you can sling over your shoulder with a little ‘pouch’ the exact size of a 600ml drink bottle that sits at the hip. Practical and awesome. I must admit I didn’t bargain too hard. The asking price was 50, and I got it for 40.
Scoot boat includes a pick-up and drop off service and they called the day before to confirm our pick-up time of 9:45. They were prompt and we were packed and ready. Mr A & MrsM and young B arrived back at our villas in time to say ‘see you in a few days’ and we were off in the light morning traffic.
The van parked at what appeared to be a public car park near the north end of Sanur beach. A narrow side alley provided the way to the beach where our boat was waiting. The staff checked us in, giving us a little snack pack containing a croissant and a fruit bread along with a bottle of water (straight into my new holder). Our packs were carried on and we walked into ankle deep, warm water to step onto the boat. The boat was one of the small Scoots that carried 10 people. We were on our way in minutes (even 15 mins early due to the other passengers also being prompt). The trip over the straight was pretty smooth and within 30 mins we were back in ankle deep warm water to walk up the beach to the boat office on Lembongan.

Coconut beach is a long stretch of yellow/white sand to the north, with a cove to the southern end, with side-by-side resorts and villas on the side of a steep hill. Below them, a small cliff with rocky outcrops rounded out the bay. Our van (actually a mini-truck with seats installed where the tray would be) whisked us away to Mushroom Bay within minutes. The trip took maybe 10 minutes through some local jungle and a few hills. The road abruptly ended at the beach. The driver carried one bag and Mr J had to carry the other, down the beach path, over the soft sand, 100 metres to Lumbug Bali Huts.
The view was stunning: turquoise clear blue water, Mount Agung looming over the water with clouds obscuring its peak, colourful Balinese outrigger boats tied up near shore, and small overhang crags at either end of the bay. The little walk to our huts was a little strenuous in so far as the sand was really soft and deep, and the sun was blazing down. The staff at Lumbug welcomed us with cold fruit drinks and showed us to our room, which was 3 metres over the sandy path. There was one sour note, about 20 day trippers noisily drinking cocktails and Bintangs, occupying every sunlonger directly in front of our hut. It was a sign for us to drop our bags and go for a walk.

We had lunch at Mushroom or Lembongan beach cafe consisting of a couple of good club sandwiches with fries and Bintangs. A good sea breeze blew directly in from the sea making the temperature and humidity far more bearable. We took our time enjoying the relaxing view and watching the boats come and go. Making sure the day trippers were on their way before we went back, we took a slow stroll along the beach, through the Mushroom Beach Bungalows to the road behind, to check out the local store and dive centre. The dive instructor informed us we couldn’t dive the following day as they were booked out. That was fine for us – it was a last minute idea. Poor Mr J (again), we had walked off for lunch bare foot, not expecting to walk far. But the walk to the shops was over some pretty crumbly bitumen with lots of sharp little stones – not to mention how hot the parts of the surface were that were in the sun. Due to me being a ‘walking freak’, often walking bare foot on sand or road, the soles of my feet are like asbestos so no problems for me. Mr J hobbled along behind me, relieved once we returned back to the sandy beach. When his feet hit the water, I’m sure there was an audible ‘ssssssss’ as their surface temperature quickly reduced.
Before dinner, we took a stroll through the other resorts. Mr A & Mrs M were due to stay at Lumbug huts a week after us, and we knew they wouldn’t be happy. The huts are gorgeous looking and our bed was very comfortable. But the bathroom was below par. No hot water would be too much for Mrs M and young B, not to mention how cramped the huts are. For Mr J and I it was fine (or sort of fine – Mr J wasn’t keen on the cold showers). We particularly liked Lembongan Island resort and explored all the little paths and look-out platforms.
The evening ended with a nice dinner at Lumbug; Mr J having the special green rice with pork which was a fusion of Japanese and Indonesian flavours; me having the grilled veggie kababs on rice – both with a few more bintangs. A real blow had come on over the water and we actually were ‘cold’. The whole island lost power that evening. All the resorts have their own generators, so they were fired up quickly. Unfortunately, Lumbug’s kept cutting in and out, plunging us into darkness a number of times over dinner. We took that as a sign to have a last drink and early night.
Day 2. After a quick and simple breakfast we took a quick snorkel at the far end of Mushroom beach. There was next to no coral, but a good amount of colourful fish, including a pair of large garfish hunting amongst the seaweed. Cold shower later, we were shown to the scooter we’d hired for the day (70,000.) ‘This one go, this one stop, ignition here, have fun’. Simple yeah? Well true it was. With map in hand, I jump on behind mr J and off we went. The plan was to head to the main town for a look around (Mr J had left his cap in Made’s van when we did our day trip to Tanah Lot), so we needed to buy a replacement. Otherwise, poor Mr J would have a red scalp and be none too happy.
From what we saw on our way to Mushroom beach from town, and after consulting the map, we just road up, followed the road, and we’d be there in a few minutes. Mr J was doing great driving around and the scenery on the road looked familiar. A few more minutes down the road, I was wondering whether we had missed a turn. When we hit another small town and saw a different beach, I knew we had gone the wrong way or something. A few minutes later, the scenery was very familiar – there’s that temple on the corner, the store, the bike hire stand, and then the dive place – we were back where we started. J pulled over and we had a good laugh. The locals joined in with our giggles, though probably didn’t know exactly what was so funny. ‘Ahhhh, at that little bend after the school, make a hard left instead of following it around’.... OK. This time we were at the main time in less than 5 mins.
We parked in the shade and walked down the beach front to a small cafe (I think called coconut beach cafe). Cold drinks were gulped while we checked out the large map of Lembongan and Ceningan (wish they had this one up on line somewhere – probably the best map of hotels and resorts we saw). From here, the view up and down the beach was lovely. There were heaps of boats coming and going over the patchwork seaweed plots a few metres off shore.
There’s not much in town – a couple of small shops and no hawkers outside. J purchased a blue ‘Bali’ cap from a tiny store that had only a few items for sale. The lady promptly set about trying to sell me a sarong or tee-shirt – got to give her points for trying. Lembongan is really very quiet and I think it was still low season.
We return to our trusty little Honda scooter. Mr J inserts the key, turns it to the ‘on’ position, and hits the ignition button. Nothing. Try the other way. Nope. What does this thing do – oops locks the ignition so you can’t put the key in... J and I burst into fits of laughter. I suggest to walk to the main street to flag down a local who can show us how to turn over the scooter.... how embarrassing... J turns the key in his hand and sees the plastic hexagonal ‘unlock’ piece. That’s a start. So, we can now insert the key to try to start the scooter again. Maybe push it and hit the button while you’re turning... arrhhh. By now I’m crying from laughing and J is starting to lose it. ‘Let’s push it up to the road at least and see if we can find someone’, I suggest. J wheels the bike a little way (flicking up the kick stand in the process). Near the main road, J tries the key again and ‘shazaam’ it starts. To me, it almost sounded like the scooter was snickering at our stupidity – turns out you need to have to kick stand up before it will let you start it... Could have done with that information 20 minutes ago. I jump on behind J, still giggling like a loon, and we set off towards the mangrove.
It was a quick and relatively easy ride. Some parts of the road’s surface were a bit rough and Mr J manoeuvred to the side to avoid the worst potholes. We passed many seaweed farms along the narrow white-sand strip of beach along the north tip of the island. The view over the straight to Bali was stunning. A small strip of warangs marked the end of the road. A guys holding tickets pointed to a covered area and charged 2,000 per person to enter. Another guy sprang out of no-where and tried to herd us to the mangrove swamp for a boat ride. We were not up for paying 100,000 for a 20 minute ride in the hot midday sun on a boat without shade. ‘OK, 60,000, 50,000. How much you pay?’ The poor guy tried hard. If it wasn’t so hot we would have, but we just needed to rest and have a cool drink. The smell of cooking food was making us hungry too.
Towards the end of the line of warangs, the mangroves thin out and you can see the reef and crystal clear blue water beyond. It’s gorgeous. A small stall has snorkel gear for hire (and the masks and snorkels all looked as good as new). We should have come prepared (kicking ourselves now). Instead, we settled into a little place with cushions on the ground and low tables. The menu wasn’t huge and we just stuck to the club sandwich with chips – and those chips – yumm-ooo! They were hand cut and cooked in coconut oil. I’d go back just for those chips tomorrow. And the fresh lemon juice was one of the best we had in Bali.

With food in our belly, we headed off to drive around the mangrove forest towards the bridge over to Ceningan island. Well the map we had showed just a little ‘loop’ around the forest and it didn’t look very far to the bridge, maybe a little more than the trip we just did from Mushroom. We were wrong. This map is more accurate
The ride was long and the road was ‘interesting’. Poor Mr J hadn’t ridden many (he says any) motorbikes. Muddy ruts, gravelly crumbled bitumen, sand, with on coming mini vans and lots of other bikes. Mr J had a tough time keeping the bike upright and moving forward. In what seemed like an hour, we finally made it back to good roads and the little village beside the bridge. By now his nerves were frazzled but they were about to get worse. When I motioned for him to ride up the steep ramp up the bridge, he couldn’t believe it.
Frazzled Mr J was not keen to ride up the narrow bridge between Lembongan and Ceningan islands. ‘Up there?’, ‘Yes, up there’, ‘Are you sure you’re allowed to ride scooters over it?’, ‘Yes, I’m sure’ (as a young local whizzed past us up and over the bridge). A few locals were relaxing under a tree near the bridge, amused buy our antics. Appealing to them to say we couldn’t go, Mr J reluctantly turned the bike to face the bridge. ‘Sure?”, ‘Sure – you’ll be fine’...
Now, to be fair, the bridge is maybe a little over a metre wide, with rough palings as side guards, and looked a bit rickety. The ‘on ramp’ was quite steep and Mr J knew he’d have to get the scooter up to a good speed to make it up. ‘OK, here we go’. Revving the bike up to a blistering speed of maybe 40kms p/h, we hit the first plank of the bridge with a clunk, followed by a quick succession of clunks as the tyres passed over each board in turn. Clunka-clunka-clunka-clunka-clunka-clunka-clunka-clunka-clunka.... To me, it felt strangely like being in one of those video games, where you have to manoeuvre a space ship through a narrow canyon – the event horizon approaching rapidly with the railings forming an inverted ‘V’ coming at you. Mr J kept the bike at a steady speed all the way, without a single wobble (Ok maybe a slight correction as we were at the end) but he did so well. The bridge is maybe 60-70 metres long, but quite elevated from the water’s surface. I don’t know when it was built, but I’m guessing it wasn’t recently.

As soon as we reached the other side, Mr J had to pull over to calm his nerves. I could feel his heart pounding with adrenaline. From my new trusty little bottle holder, I pulled out some water to offer J, and told him what a good job he did. We had a chuckle about it, remarking that if another bike came the other way, we were toast.
Just then, a local guy turns up and asks if we are OK. ‘No problems – thanks’. ‘Where you staying? How long you staying? Where you going? Want to see Secret beach?’ Can you believe it, a tout. This apparent friendly local was trying to make us follow him and let him show us around. We politely answered his questions and chatted about where we were from etc. Then came the ‘no thank you’. I whispered to Mr J to let’s make like a tree and we took off, turning down the road to the right. Sure enough, he followed us, yelling from his scooter ‘I show you best place. Secret beach. Good view’. I nicely yelled back a ‘No thanks – we’re OK and will take ourselves’. He got the hint. We were not going to follow him, and he speed off.
We rode slowly along the road that starts off following the beach. There’s a couple of warangs (but Mr J didn’t want to stop) and temples, local village and jungle. It then has a few winding corners and a moderate incline. But the road was B-A-D – completely potholed and crumbling beneath our tyres. From my map, I could see the road ended at Blue Lagoon and Swallow House, with Secret Beach close by. A steep hill took us to what appeared to be the end of the road, with a few guys working on a road off to the left, and a sign pointing to Secret Bungalows to the right. Then another tout ‘You want to see Secret beach? I show you. Come’. ‘No thank you’... The guys working on the road indicated we could ride through, so we chose that to escape. Within 50 metres, another bike road up, this time with a guy and a girl, ‘yes yes – come look at new bungalows’, and they overtook us and rode a few metres in front to the end of the road. We were had. The tout couple pointed to a shady spot to park the bike and came rushing over to us.
Admittedly we could have just turned around and rode off. But we both didn’t come all this way to turn around and not look around. And the view – wow! Rugged cliff faces with Bristol blue water crashing to shore. A new set of bungalows were near completion near where we parked. A rough garden and paths were being layout out. There was a 240 degree view of the ocean with jungle landside. The guy introduced himself as Wayan, and the girl Madi (or like Made?). They shook our hands and made small talk about where we’re from etc (the standard questions – you all know them, where you from, how long you stay Bali, where you stay in Bali....). We walked towards the edge of the cliff to check out the view further. I’m not sure, but I think Wayan was talking to J as if he owned the half-dozen or so bungalows and tried to offer one to him. ‘Come up – look’ he motioned for J to go up the stairs to check them out. J politely refused and walked over quickly to join me as I took photos. Madi pointed out a spot to get a better view of the blue lagoon, and we followed her over some ragged rocks not far from the cliff face, which was really gorgeous. Then we went back the other direction to see the ‘Swallow House’, where apparently 1000’s of birds roost in a deep sea cave. It really was a stunning spot. After about 20 mins looking around, we made our way back to the bike. J and I were ready for it. As we were preparing to get on the bike, Wayan put out his hand and said, quiet demandingly, ‘Aren’t you going to give me something for showing you around?’ So we’re a long way from anywhere, and knew how many other bikes and touts were just up the road. We did not feel comfortable, but J had a 20 in his pocket and placed it in his hand. He didn’t look happy at the meagre offering. Too bad. It was lucky we gave anything at all. We easily could have shown ourselves around. Then, they were gone as fast as they appeared. J and exchanged exasperated comments, and a chuckle, and decided to get the flying-duck out of there.
Passing back where the guys were working on the road, we could see that they knew we had been done by Wayan and Madi. They exchanged knowing looks and snickers. Sorry to say, but it wasn’t a good feeling, knowing that the little town were probably all in on it. And to top it off, another bike came up offering to take us down the other road on the right to ‘Secret beach’. This time, we didn’t even bother with a polite ‘no thank you’, and simply ignored him and rode on. Not far up the road were a couple of other tourists, also being ‘chased’ by locals to go with them. We gave them smiles and advice to not follow them, and rode back to the bridge. It was a real shame. We were hoping to go down to the Secret Beach, but felt like we couldn’t without being followed. Back near the bridge, another guy offered to take us to the view point, which too would have been wonderful, but not with these unsolicited advances by so called tour guides. Enough. We rode back to the bridge, stopping not far from it to stretch our legs (and for me to take photos). The little beach and straight between to two small islands is a lovely spot. More clear blue water with a little flotilla of small local fishing boats anchored near the shore. Rough surf crashed on a reef far out to sea that was empty of any riders (but looked well doable for experienced surfers). Like I said, there are a couple of warangs overlooking this lovely view. I was keen to stop and have a drink, but J was past it – with the bad roads, daunting bridge, touts and lack of experience riding a motorbike, it was time to get back to ‘our’ beach.

The bridge on-ramp from this side was nowhere near as steep as the other side and J took the little scooter over with confidence (well a lot better than was on the other side). We rode a little way along and stopped at a few lookouts and photos. Consulting the map, I asked J if he wanted to look at Dream beach, which wasn’t far from Mushroom. He agreed (though I’m sure he really could have done without it), and we set off. Before we knew it, we were back on that familiar road that terminated at Mushroom. I then realised we’d missed the turn to Dream beach and told J over his shoulder. ‘Oh well’, he said and just kept heading along. Though he didn’t deliberately not take the turn (which I didn’t see until it was too late too), he wasn’t about to go back. Well, there was nothing else to do but let poor Mr J hop off and me hop into the driver’s seat. Look out Lembongan here I come!
In my teenage years, I rode dirt bikes with my friends a lot around the paddocks of my home town suburb in south-east Melbourne, before they were built up and turned to housing estates. As I got older, I rode a couple of street bikes that scared the be-jeezus out of me, so stopped in fear of killing myself. I had a bit of a reckless attitude and a lead hand on the throttle. This was the first time on a motor bike of any description for maybe 20 years. But the attitude was still there – but maybe a little bit tamed down. Checking the grip on first the rear then front brake, easing the throttle I took off, leaving J shaking his head calling after me to be careful – and I was – mostly. There were a couple of places where I maybe went over a pot hole too fast so I bounced off the seat and swerved a little. And a tight bend that I took a little too fast, so I ended up wide on the other side of the road as I exited the corner (with a couple of local women nearby laughing as I gasped expletives to myself), and a spot where I veered to the left side of the road to avoid the rough road surface and had to put my foot down to not end up in the undergrowth. It was a pretty funny sight I’m sure and I had fun. But bear in mind, I’m talking top speed of say 35kms p/h.
I made it to Dream beach and walked through the resort there (totally where I’d stay if I go back). The Anzac day AFL game was on the TV near the bar and I watched a few minutes, contemplating grabbing a Bintang and watching with the other revellers. But J would die worrying that I’d come off, and I don’t drink and drive at home – I’m not about to start here. I checked out the resort and walked down to the beach. It was a stunning little place. But I didn’t stay long (it was a fair little ride down a narrow and bad road to get to it from Mushroom). I return to the bike and go to start it. Guess what? Yeap. I can’t get it to start. I flick up the stand – still no. What the? After a few attempts, I told myself to stop being so silly. Just roll the bike forward a little and try again. It came spluttering into life. Away I go again, laughing to (and at) myself.
Back at our huts, I hand the key back to the staff and Mr J lets out a sigh of relief (not because I was back, but because I wasn’t going to get him to ride more). Time to jump in the water and cool off. The only bad part about this was that there are many boats tied up along the beach and the only place to swim is in the narrow corridor of water between them, or walk a way up the other end of the beach. It didn’t matter mush and we just enjoyed floating around and rinsing the dust from our faces. A cold shower later (poor J) and there were bintangs in our hands.
We decided to have dinner elsewhere and tired Hai Tide. When we arrived, the waiters were setting up the ‘dining’ tables with tablecloths, but the tables near the bars were empty and we chose to sit there – for another great reason too – they had cushions and the other tables didn’t. That brings me to a point I need to explore – what is it about (not just in Bali) much of Asia and their hard wood seats? We’d be in lush surroundings in all ways, but no cushions on seats. I’m talking in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand – all over... Usually this doesn’t warrant such a big comment or problem, but after the day on the bike and all those pot holes, a cushion was mandatory.

Dinner was preceded with more bintangs and snacks of garlic bread and fries (both hit the spot perfectly). By now, I was getting a bit bintang’ed out. I’m usually a white wine type of girl. So with trepidation, I ordered a local white wine. After reading many non-favourable comments on them on TA, I was braced for the worst. And it was only $6 (I pay more at my local for a glass of house white). The smell wasn’t good, but taste was ‘OK’. Kindof reminded me of a colombard chardonnay you’d get in those big nasty 5 litre casks... but doable. Lucky Mr J (not poor this time) had the best meal of the trip to date – fish steamed in banana leaves with herbs etc. I had some veggie noodles with local pickles. For those that don’t know, local pickles are another name for ‘out of control, mega hot, super spicy, pickled chillies’. They were little stinkers! Mr J and I aren’t scared of a little spice and they were good – but only in small doses admittedly.
We could see poor Lumbug Huts were having issues with their power. A massive electrical storm was coming in from behind the beach, flashing lightning every few seconds with only the occasional boom of rolling thunder. Mr J and I enjoyed sitting in the still evening air, chatting with the scent of citronella candles in the air, while Mushroom bay was illuminated by the strobe lightning. It was really nice.
Oh, now to end this chapter, a funny last incident about the language barrier... We go back to our hut for the last night. I wanted some water and J thought he’d like a cold lemon juice. He asked the bar for the same and they said they’d bring it to us. We sat on our little porch and the lovely girl came over with a bottle of water, and a plate of sliced lemons. It was priceless! Mr J didn’t have the heart (or energy) to get her to bring him the lemon juice he asked for. - k

No comments:

Post a Comment