Last Days in Bali

I wrote a very long post last time so this one will be short. Not because it needs to be short, but sometimes the best things in life come from doing one thing you enjoy. For me it was a newly found love of surfing.

After we got back to Bali from Nusa Penida we collected our scooters and tried to decide what to do next.

We were keen to explore a bit more of Bali but at the same time the thought of going back to Kuta and spending a few last days surfing was also very tempting.

We chose the latter and it was probably the best decision we could make. It was nice to go back to Kuta and see the guys from the surf shop we previously spent time with.

We previously learned how hot the sun can get in Bali so this time stocked up on very waterproof zinc sticks with SPF 50+ and for the last few days our bright blue faces could be seen in between the waves.

On our last day we said bye to the guys who almost became our family. I was sad, but at the same time happy about the experience and all the memories I made there.

In the airport, it was so tempting to jump on a random flight and head to some place I’ve never been to. However, Dubai was waiting for us and we had more adventures planned there. But that’s for the next post!

Nusa Penida

This island is located just south east of Bali and it’s a small paradise that hasn’t yet been ruined with too many tourists.

We left Amed coast relatively early, meaning we could beat most of the traffic and get to Padangbai in time for the ferry to Nusa Penida. We wanted to take our scooters to Nusa Penida since we thought it would be cheaper and safer than leaving them in Bali. I have to say I really didn’t like Padangbai, various people were pestering us all the time and when we got to the ferry terminal the guard requested a bribe since we didn’t have an international driving licence (our own fault…). However, there something good happened as well -here is where we met our best friend for the next few days – Thorsten.

We then were told that the ferry wasn’t running and that we should take a fast boat. There were quite a few foreigners at the port trying to do the same thing, so we didn’t believe the ferry wasn’t coming anytime soon. We thought it was a scam and they were just trying to charge us more money. Various guys working at the port were pointing at the poster entirely in Balinese and trying to convince us we had no other option but to take a fast boat. Someone eventually managed to confirm that the main ferry, which was taking cars and scooters, was indeed broken down and we had to think what to do next.

We had to leave the scooters in Padangbai so we found a random hostel owner who agreed to look after them. He seemed quite trustworthy so we felt much more confident in leaving our vehicles with him instead of at the port. Craig, Thorsten and I jumped on the fast boat and I tried really hard not to get seasick since I forgot to take the tablets with me.

Once we got to Nusa Penida it turned out that all the scooters rentals were struggling for vehicles since there was a massive celebration on the island. People from all over Bali mostly dressed in white were making their way to Nusa Penida. I think the celebration was called Nyepi Laut and the island really felt busy. Loads of temples had long ceremonies every evening and there people in white everywhere.

We managed to get a car to our accommodation close to Crystal Bay and the owner found a scooter for us. Our accommodation was newly built – like the majority of places on this island. Nusa Penida is only just getting ready for tourists and therefore the infrastructure is still lacking. We were quite away from the ferry area and the majority of shops and restaurants, so had to do a long(ish) trip everyday. The poor quality roads scared me a bit, especially after seeing couple of accidents.

On our first evening we explored the Crystal Bay and walked to the Pandan beach which is next to it, you just need to hike over the big rock that’s inbetween. There was nobody there, apart from huge waves and loads of beautiful shells.

We agreed to go exploring with Thorsten the next day. The lack of infrastructure I mentioned earlier showed its face around the first corner. I ended up having to walk for a bit until the guys got the scooters out on the tarmac road. The photo explains more than I ever could.

The first place we visited was Peguyangan waterfall. You have to wear a sarong to enter (there are locals renting them out) and then it’s a steep hike down on blue metal stairs. It’s extremely beautiful but need to take care not to slip especially because it’s so easy to get distracted and you’ll want to take a lot of photos. Once you head down you will reach the sacred water temple, a pilgrimage site for locals, which was busy that day because of religious celebration on the island. The views, waves hitting the rocks and locals coming to pray really created a magic atmosphere.

We also visited a really beautiful beach Atuh, which felt relaxed and a bit hidden from the rest of the world. Spent some time chilling there and decided to head back.

The ride back was really scenic and we ended up spending our evening in a nice bar on the beach.

The next day Craig decided to go scuba diving and I booked a snorkeling trip. It turned out on the boat that the company didn’t have the correct size fins for me, but I thought I probably didn’t need them anyway since I’m a decent swimmer. Oh god, I was so wrong.

The waves at the first stop were so strong that it was hard to swim. I only spent a few minutes in the water since that was a manta ray stop, but they were nowhere to be seen. The second spot allowed to see a bit more variety, but because the waves were strong,they were pulling me from one side to the other and I ended up accidentally brushing my foot against the rock and making it to bleed. The third snorkeling site was pretty cool, we got into water and allowed to be carried by the current while exploring the amazing water life around. I really enjoyed it and it was definitely a highlight of the snorkeling trip.

The last spot made me promise to myself that I’ll never do snorkeling boat trips ever again. We stopped in deep water and there were quite a few different boats around. I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to jump in the water since I felt a bit tired, but the guide said there were loads of big fish around. I probably didn’t see a single fish because as soon as I got into water the current started carrying me away and I whatever effort I put in to swimming was useless. I started freaking out a bit since I was carried towards other ships and had no control. Really wished I had some sort of fins at that point, but I didn’t. Luckily the guide saw what was happening so he came and helped me to get back to the boat. Later when I told this to my boyfriend he said their ship picked up someone doing snorkeling since he got separated from his boat. My fear of water has always been around and this accident slightly worsened it…

The next day we went exploring with Thorsten again. The roads were quite pleasant and scenic and we got to Kelingking (also known as T-Rex) beach. It was quite crowded so after taking a few photos we decided to move on to the next place.

However, once we got back to the car park Thorsten’s scooter was missing. We were in denial for quite a while so searched the car park twice but had to admit the scooter was stollen. Thorsten then contacted his accommodation and scooter owner and explained the situation and arranged a ride back. We didn’t feel like exploring anymore so went back to our place. Later on, when we saw Thorsten, he said that the scooter was found sitting in the port. Since the main ferry wasn’t running nobody could get it out of the island.

Perhaps I’ll finish the post by saying that we got a bit paranoid about our scooters left in Bali so contacted the guest house owner to whom we left the scooters (and their keys). Obviously everything was fine and the scooters weren’t even touched when we came back from Nusa Penida. But I would probably be a bit more careful now, especially after knowing that thefts do happen.

Otherwise, Nusa Penida is an amazing island with some beautiful beaches, funky roads and sense of adventure. Go, enjoy!

Amed Coast, Bali

The ride from Mount Batur to Amed Coast was one of the most stressful I have ever done. We decided to take a shortcut instead of going on the main road and, of course, shortcuts always have their own challenges. We headed north east from Black Lava hostel near Mount Batur hoping to save some time compared to taking a longer route. At first, the road was really busy and not in a great condition, which should have been a sign we needed to turn around and go back. We carried on and soon arrived at one of the villages. As I was driving through, the local lady stepped in front of me when she decided to cross the road without looking around. I was moving relatively slow, but quick breaking resulted in an emergency stop with a skid, so I managed to scare her and to scare myself. I didn’t even touch her but she shouted at me for a bit and I shouted something back and I eventually drove off. When she was out of sight I had to stop to breathe and get myself together. My god, I was terrified.

I moved on again and I had to tackle the steepest hill ever – my (sort of) lack of confidence in driving a scooter really made me question what on earth I was doing there. The road was really winding, steep and narrow, so whenever I ran a bit wide on the corner I was hoping nobody would be coming from the other direction. I was really stressed out but had to keep moving. Craig was out of sight for a while so I knew I just had to rely on myself.

Eventually, I reached the top of the hill, which I’m guessing was about 1000m above sea level (hard to say where exactly I was even from looking at the map) and the road started turning into a sand and tarmac mix. Leftover patches of tarmac weren’t really helping and the road started getting busier, so loads of traffic was coming towards me. A complete total hell. It didn’t help that the bunch of locals on their scooters overtook me and told me to be careful. Not sure if I could be anymore careful than I was.

I finally caught up with Craig who decided to get some fuel. I have to say I was so stressed and almost shaking from thinking death might be waiting for me on every corner, although I knew it was probably not the right attitude! Anyway, when I stopped worrying for a few minutes, I looked around and I have to admit the views from the top were absolutely stunning. I have no photos from that road trip though, it was the last thing on my mind.

We then started descending. Same story – crappy, narrow and winding roads, but at least we were going down. At some point I nearly started enjoying it. And then we reached the main road… after what felt like hours of being really focused and after a sleepless night, I was exhausted and the main road was too much. There was loads of traffic and it was scorching. We had to stop to get some food and rest.

It was a good idea to get some rest and we managed to reach Amed coast. We stayed close to Jemeluk beach and it was such a relief to park a scooter and get up to our room with an amazing view and go for a swim in the pool.

The plan for the next few days was to chill and explore the ocean. Craig arranged some scuba diving and I decided to go for some snorkeling. The first day I just joined the scuba diving group but I soon realised it was much cheaper way to do it. I could just rent a snorkel from one of the many shops along the coast and take my time exploring.

I have to say snorkeling in Amed was an absolute treat. The variety of fish was overwhelming and I even managed to see a lionfish, enjoying its life a few meters below me. Jemeluk beach also had a small underwater temple and there were giant fish around it looking like they were guarding it. I don’t have any underwater photos but I have to say it was spectacular.

I also jumped on the scooter and traveled a bit further down the coast to see a small Japanese ship wreck. It looked pretty cool, but I preferred Jemeluk since you could observe the fish from so much closer. I also did a short ride further down the coast, which was really scenic. You could tell the tourists weren’t seen there very often and when I passed the villages the people there were keen to say hello. It was a beautiful coastal ride.

In the meantime, Craig did quite a few different dives with Amed Jepun Divers and he said it was one of the best companies he ever dived with (and he’s done a lot of diving in the past). Just a recommendation if you’re braver than me and looking to do some scuba diving.

The area we stayed in wasn’t exactly busy, only the bar with a viewpoint of Jemeluk beach was alive before sunset and the rest felt quiet after the sun was down. Perhaps, the combination of peace, colours, sense of freedom and variety of fish were the reasons why I really loved staying in Amed.

Next stop – Nusa Penida.

Mount Batur

When I heard about Mount Batur it wasn’t even a question whether we were going up there or not, I always wanted to have breakfast on an active volcano!

Let’s start from the beginning. We left Ubud in the morning and headed up north. The ride was absolutely fantastic – it wasn’t very long and mostly on quiet roads. We stopped in a random spot for a coffee with a view and met a very sweet host lady. Chatting to her was a pleasure that morning and I really wish I could remember where we found her!

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The journey was great and very scenic, so we were really disappointed to arrive at our destination so quick. We stayed in Black Lava hostel between Mount Batur and Lake Batur, which was a beautiful and relaxing spot.

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The hostel also arranged a guide for us for our hike next morning. You can’t do the sunrise hike without one and I wouldn’t recommend trying since you’ll be stopped on the way by one of the many locals hanging out on the hill at night (I know, sounds creepy!).

Anyway, we had some time to kill until our hike so decided to go to the village nearby to grab some food. We ordered a lot of fish and I had an unfortunate incident with the fish bone. I choked on one and it hurt my throat so bad that I could feel it for the next couple of days.

I was a bit traumatized so we decided to go back to Black Lava, which was a great decision.

The accommodation was superb – beautiful huts with hammocks and they also had an amazing hot spring pool. I have to say that sitting in the pool during the day was a bit too hot, but it was such a treat at night when the temperature dropped (and it dropped a lot!)’

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Oh and for the first time, I saw how pineapples grow! I spotted one on the path to our hut and I could not be more excited. All these first times!

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We tried to get a few hours of sleep before the 3am start. When the alarm rang I just wanted to stay in bed, but eventually managed to get out and I have to say it was worth it.

We met our guide (who turned out to be a good storyteller and an amazing photographer) and three of us set out in the dark. There were loads of people going up (judging from the amount of head torches) and it felt like everyone was quite excited about it. We soon were asked whether we wanted to take a hard or an easy path and of course we picked the easy one not realising that it was used by the motorbikes to get the lazy people up the hill. It was a bit of the shame that those motorbikes were allowed to go up and we later learned that the path was built for them a few months ago. Every time the bike went past, it would leave a cloud of dust for you to breathe. Not exactly an exciting experience, but the hike was over in no time and we arrived to the top just in time for a sunrise.

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It really was spectacular. The colours were changing fast and with the smoke coming out from the ground (hey it’s an active volcano!), it felt quite a surreal. It was freezing and I didn’t I have enough layers on me, so had to jump around to warm up. We then had a breakfast with a coffee while enjoying the views. Once the sun went a bit higher, it got hot pretty quick and I had start losing some layers. Loads of people started leaving and the magic was over.

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It was a nice and quick walk down and we got served some nice breakfast at Black Lava hostel. We couldn’t fall asleep after breakfast so decided to pack up and head to our next destination – Amed coast. We took a shortcut and I can say that it was the most stressful ride I ever did on the scooter and I nearly ran over a local lady! I’ll tell you more in the next post… 🙂

Ubud and Around

It was finally time to start the road trip around Bali, so we were leaving Kuta and heading up north to Ubud. Craig and I rented two scooters and I was excited to be driving one again. For the first few minutes I was feeling a bit wobbly but then the skills gained a few months ago in Thailand returned. The traffic was a total nightmare and stressed me out at first, but I felt like I was getting more and more confident in minutes.

Oh wait…. I nearly crashed! Someone pulled out in front of me the second I thought that I started having fun and I had to do an emergency stop. I didn’t get too upset and told myself to focus. It was clear that the traffic wouldn’t be like on those beautiful roads in the northern Thailand, so I was ready to be the best new scooter driver I could be.

The journey turned out to be alright and we were fast approaching Ubud. We got into a traffic jam just before Ubud and Craig randomly started chatting to a motorcycle driver. The driver recommended us to visit this beautiful tea place that served a variety of teas for free and you had an option to buy something if you liked it. It was such a beautiful location with a great guy explaining us about the teas and how they work in your body. He said we were lucky to show up late in the afternoon since all the tours were long gone. I have no idea how the place was called since that random motorcycle driver showed it to us, but it was definitely a highlight of Ubud.

We ended up booking accommodation where Craig stayed before since the rooms there had a beautiful view from the balcony. Ubud felt so relaxing after the hustle of Kuta.

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The next day we decided to do a Campuhan ridge walk. It’s easily accessible and not too demanding. We didn’t go for a sunrise or a sunset so it was relatively quiet, but really hot. We walked along rice fields, stopped in a cafe to get a drink and then eventually decided to go back to our accommodation and chill.

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We also arranged to see a cultural show that night, which turned out to be a great fun although a bit confusing!

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The next day we jumped on a scooter and headed to Tirta Empul (Holy Water) temple. It is said that the springs there have curative properties. No wonder so many people bathe in the water and complete a purification ritual. It’s probably one of my favourite temples ever visited. It had such a beautiful atmosphere mostly because of the springs and the live gamelan music that so hypnotic.

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From my camera photos it looks like we stopped to check out another temple nearby, but I have no idea what it was. Going to share couple of photos anyway in case somebody knows it.

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We then headed to check out the Tegalalang rice terraces. It’s definitely a nice place, but if you’ve seen some rice terraces somewhere else, it might not surprise you too much. It’s quite touristy as well, but the ride to/from there was scenic so made it worth in the end.

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Back to Ubud, we found this amazing food place called Warung Pondok Madu, that did the tastiest ribs. Here is a photo to tease you 🙂

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I’ll finish my post here and next time I’ll tell you all about my experience of hiking Mount Batur.

Starting My Bali Trip With Some Surfing

I really couldn’t wait to start writing about Bali so here it it, my first post on this beautiful island.

Craig kept saying that he would go back to Bali anytime and he really intrigued me with this statement, so it was inevitable we would go there sooner or later.

I’m so glad we did, it turned out that Bali had everything you could ever imagine and the holiday there was an absolute treat.

We first started in Kuta, since it was where Craig spent quite a lot of time surfing and he was keen to see his old friend running a local surf shop. It didn’t take him long to grab a board and jump into water and it was awesome to see him being so excited about it.

The next day I decided to give it a go and booked a lesson. This is super easy to arrange it as every shop on the beach will approach you and ask you if you want to surf, which can be annoying if you have no intention of doing it.

When the lesson started I was so terrified! I don’t like water too much and my biggest fear is of drowning. After a numerous falls off the board I found surfing to be quite fun and at the end of the day was enjoying it. I could even stand on the board and jump off it without losing my pride. Success!

However, that day my bum got so extremely sunburnt that I can still see the tan lines today! It’s been a year since I came back…

Craig got badly sunburnt as well and we knew we had to do something else the next day. We decided to rent a scooter and visit Tanah Lot temple.

I have to say that sitting on a scooter with a bad sunburn on your bum is an extreme torture. The traffic was awful and it took us a while to drive a relatively short distance.

When we finally got there I forgot all my pain as soon as I saw a real Luwak. Until then Luwak was just this mysterious almost imaginary animal who produced the most expensive coffee in the world but it finally came to be a real breathing animal. We then decided to taste the coffee, which I really enjoyed.

The water temple was cool and it was a really nice atmosphere in the whole area, so we strolled around for a while.

On the way back we decided to stop in Canggu to get some food, watch the sunset and check out the surf.

The next day was time for some surfing in Kuta again (couldn’t be bothered with the traffic for anything else) and I was quite frustrated with the intensity of the pain caused by the sunburn. Also my palms started hurting from the board and at the end of the day they were bleeding so I felt like I had enough of surfing and I was ready to do something else.

Luckily the next day we were about to start our road trip around the island and I’ll continue with it in the next post.