Adam, the pilot who started the helicopter flight season at Glen Helen, lives in Alice Springs. I catch up with him as I while-away the few days before I’m due to fly to Darwin and thence to Denpasar. My flight’s at 1715. Knowing it’s never a simple task to break down a bike to fit in The Obligatory Bike Box that airlines will then carry on the plane I intend to get to Alice Spring’s airport before 1500.
Adam points out the obvious. A 12 km bike ride to the airport starting around 1400 would reduce me to a sweaty sticky horror who’ll torment whoever has the misfortune to sit next to me.
Sure enough, just the 5 km ride to Adam’s place where I shall shower, change and then be transported in an airconditioned pickup reduces me to a sweaty sticky horror.
The timing of my flights are certainly not auspicious. Leave Alice Springs at 1715. Leave Darwin at 0030. Arrive Bali 0150 Bali time. Brutal.
Fortunately I have Tex in Bali to ease the pain a 0150 arrival means especially as I’ve a bicycle that has been completely taken apart to fit in The Obligatory Bicycle Box airlines demand cyclists use. Problem is only a kid’s or a very small adult’s bike would actually fit. Dreamer may be in The Obligatory Bicycle Box but it is not in one piece. Took me and Chris, the Qantas dude in Alice Springs airport a full hour to systematically remove bits of Dreamer until it did fit.
I am, it has to be said, inordinately grateful to Chris. He was exceptionally helpful and friendly and actively played a role in getting Dreamer in The Obligatory Bicycle Box. He supplied tape, suggested options, marvelled at the Gates Belt and Rohloff hub, helped lift and lower and lift and lower again and again Dreamer as each piece came off until it fit in The Obligatory Bicycle Box. And he clearly took pity on me come weigh in time for I was substantially over The Allowance for baggage. I hadn’t realised Dreamer, stripped of all baggage, would weigh in at 25 kg when in The Obligatory Bicycle Box. Add the 9 kg of actual bags and stuff and I am pushing 35 kg. My allowance is 23 kg. Oh Boy. I also didn’t realise that ‘special’ baggage like a bike or a surfboard is counted directly towards normal ‘check-in’ baggage. I have two bags instead of the one I’m allowed. To reduce those excruciating costs of extra-baggage at check-in I should have paid for it at least three hours before my flight. Chris charged me the going online rate of the extra-baggage and nothing more. I truly am in gratitude to Chris.
That’s Qantas, a fading major global airline Big Name.
What’s coming is Jetstar. A nasty little rodent Low Cost regional airline. Actually, there is nothing wrong with Jetstar, so long as you comply with their very stringent rules especially concerning baggage.
Now I know I am at least 10 kg heavier than I thought AND one bag more. In Darwin airport five and half hours until I board Jetstar I read their fine print. I estimate that I will pay in excess of 160$AUD extra one-way for the audacity of turning up with a bike in The Obligatory Bicycle Box and another bag. Nothing for it. I go online and try to buy extra-baggage allowance. Of course the free internet in Darwin airport is not the most stable and the credit card authorisation hangs constantly. Time is ticking away. Figuring Jetstar’s helpline is likely to be open long hours even on a Sunday I try calling and speak with Orlando based in Manila.
Takes a while but bit by bit Orlando and I work it out and I pay 44$ for the extra 15 kg needed to get me safely on the aeroplane. The number of bags does not seem an issue.
To access check-in the hapless passenger needs to negotiate those cattle-races which feed a plane-load of people to a single point whereby they are quite democratically fanned out to whichever check-in counter is available. Negotiating this cattle race with a small carry-on is one thing. Negotiating it with 35 kg of baggage some 150 cm wide precariously balanced on a trolley is a totally different experience.
I check-out the race looong before any crowds are expected and realise there’s no way I’ll be able to manoeuver Dreamer in The Obligatory Bicycle Box along the cattle-race route. Instead I go right to the front to the check-in counters themselves and adroitly position my trolley where the cattle-race terminates. I place it so other passengers can get around it, relatively easily.
Come check-in time the race fills alarmingly fast. Whilst I am prepared to stand in the queue and wait until I end up at Dreamer waaay to the front I realise all the other passengers are actually waiting behind Dreamer. So I sidle up to my trolley, and with the help of the next passenger who had to move one of the race’s little posts so I could pass, am the first off the line when the check-ins open.
As for problems at check-in? None. Thanks be to Orlando, and Chris. And me reading the fine print.
Asia is a unique place. The rules are different. Applying a strict-Euro-Anglo-Saxon interpretation to say time, arrangements, obligations and so on can get the hapless traveller in many a right pickle. When I lived in Asia a lifetime ago I’d always arrange to meet anyone where I’d be comfortable to hang around for an hour or two. If they did not show up I’d leave, non-pulsed. It happens. Thai-time, Philippines-Time. Later, a day a week, when I’d meet my intended social comrade they would not offer an apology or anything. Thai-Time, Philippines-Time. That’s just how it is.
Now I’m flying into Bali and a friend I’ve known for 24 years but with whom I do not have frequent contact is going to meet me at 0200 in the morning. Hmmm … I’d better have Plan-B, coz you just never know.
Last time I was in Bali Tex had a scooter. I cannot imagine Tex not having a scooter this time. No way to fit a bike on a scooter. I am not sure what to expect. Should I expect to re-build Dreamer in the airport and ride it to Tex’s place at something like 0300? Does he really understand that I am coming with a bike? To reassure myself I email him in Darwin airport. This is his reply:
Max.. I have monumentally fucked up! Even though i confirmed the date with you, i had it in my mind it was tmrw!! I am currently halfway up the volcano staying in a hotel for the night with some Balinese friends and only one car between us so no means of getting back tonight!! I’ve been really sick the past two days and my head is all over the place!! What a fuckwit.. My suggestion is this.. There are several hotels very near the airport on the left 5 min cab ride.. Harris hotel is one of them.. Stay there tonight and i’ll pick you up around midday.. Shit i’m so sorry bro! My local no is +62 *** *** *** **. Call me in the morning and i’ll make a plan to pick u up asap.. I will be back home as soon as i can get there!
Hmmm … Bali Time. Time to implement Plan B.
By the time I get on the flight to Bali Tex has recovered somewhat and I’ve a free shuttle waiting to take me to Harris Hotel near the airport where I have a room booked.
It all worked out well. Welcome back to Asia.
Since arriving Tex has been instrumental in helping me get the few things I need before I ride off. Which is most likely tomorrow.
So I thought.
Redgum summed up Bali pretty good in their 1984 hit “I’ve been to Bali too”. It’s Youtubable: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9toD_R6t1pI. In all the years since that song Bali hasn’t become gentrified and sophisticated. It is still largely a cheap getaway for those Australians who covet cheap getaways. Europeans have Malaga, Costa del Sol, Santorini and countless other Mediterranean haunts. Australians have Bali.
It remains a surf-Mecca. There are plenty of non-surf options but the default is surf. I’m with Charlie, I don’t surf.
As the number of items I need for my trip dwindle to nothing, and since each item takes about four hours to source (it is Bali), it has taken me several days. Perhaps if I’d taken the plunge and devolved to Kuta, the main tourist ghetto on Bali, I may have gotten them at a relatively faster rate of hours per item. Getting to Kuta from The Bukit, where Tex stays is an ordeal. Add then unquantifiable stress levels and a Tex who’d be happy to never set foot in Kuta again means we whiz around looking for my bits in the spaces between the Bukit the edge of Kuta all the while keeping well away from Denpasar, and bit by bit get them.
Time for something other than shopping. Head to Jimbaran Beach where Gina, long time friend of Tex, runs the Rip-Curl surf school franchise within the grounds of the rather salubrious Intercontinental Hotel. Nice to tour around the Intercontinental’s impressive garden and see how the upper percentile while away their hours whilst in Bali. I did ask for a room price, since Ram is coming at the end of April. Reception wouldn’t tell me. Perhaps I resemble them Ozzy Bogans just a bit too much.
Surf-Mecca Bali may be but today the surf at Jimbaran is about the same as in a bathtub. Unperturbed I take a boogy-board and hit the water. Win, the surf-instructor, with whom you can never Lose, enjoys some pretty-mild surfing whilst giving me some tips on the use of the boogy-board. A lot of fun.
Days rapidly pass. Tex is relentless in his hospitality and he’s a L O T of very close Balinese friends with whom to be social. The 1 litre bottle of gin I brought from Australia disappears in one such night. E V E R Y O N E, but Tex, smokes. I end up getting a pack. More chill afternoons at one spot or another. The days rapidly pass. I H A V E to leave at some point.
Bali is the first rest time I’ve had since starting at Glen Helen waaay back in February. It goes some way to explaining my lassitude and pleasure in not being active doing things, doing Bali. I’m really quite content to chill, relax and recuperate. In but a few short days I will be in full ride mode.
The few short rides I’ve managed indicate riding is going to be a very sweaty occasion.
I choose tomorrow. Only Tex and Gina have hatched the plan to go out in the boat and have a look around. I do not leave tomorrow.
Back to Jimbaran Beach and a small rubber dingy. Win the Skipper, Gina, Tex and I passengers.
A collection of colourful Indonesian fishing boats bob lazily on the easy swell near the airport.
We chug around the west-coast of the Bukit and there in all its glory is the chaos of rampant development lacking any Master or Detailed Plan to guide it.
Cliffs hacked away, vast garish concrete hotels, the odd Balinese-styled ‘eco’ lodge, countless small to medium homestays, bungalows and hotels. But one beach, Padang Padang remains unspoiled. A green oasis showing how Bali looked like when Tex and Gina first made it their home two decades ago.
The social and environmental consequences of what’s happening are nearly catastrophic and I’ve no doubt there will be a lot of regret in the decades to come.
The God of Surf has shone on us today for the swell is very mild. We can check-out iconic surf zones without the drama of them massive Indian Ocean swells rich with ill intent attempt to coax us ever closer to the coral and limestone shredder which is most the Bukit’s coastline.
We pass Balangan Beach, Pandang-Pandang before reaching the infamous Uluwatu Beach, where, to enjoy the risk of being ground to blood and bone on coral and limestone teeth, the hapless surfer climbs down the cliff until he/she reaches The Portal, a small arch through which the massive swells eventually terminate. To reach the surf our Hapless Surfer must time the surge of the swells, jumping in to allow the backwash to carry them out through The Portal to the reef and the surf on the other side. Urban Myth? No idea, I’ve not dared go and check it out, but it is what Master Long Term Surfer Tex told me and neither Gina nor Win contradicted him.
Our little rubber dingy already has a leak. It needs a quick dose of Win pumping air into it every now and then to keep it comfortably afloat. The outboard-engine is water cooled, only there is no water circulating through it. I alternate between watching Gina and Win attempt to work out why with a certain degree of concern and the that coral and limestone shredder which is not that far away, mild swell or not, with a certain degree of concern.
Cooling issue understood, if not exactly sorted, engine back on, and awaaay we go. Albeit keeping a close eye on the water outlet to make sure the water-cooled engine is being water cooled. No one wants to deal with navigating these waters using the single paddle that’s on the dingy.
I’m not a surfer. Listening to Gina, Tex and Win talk waves is like listening to a foreign language, one which shares a common root to my language but one that has clearly evolved in a distinct and alien direction. Funny.
At one end of Jimbaran Beach a whole industry has become established to cater for a ‘Must Do’ in Bali: seafood dinner, romantic or otherwise, whilst enjoying the sunset. At Jimberan Beach. Vast numbers of tables and chairs spawn from a dozen or more restaurants spread out over hundreds of meters. A proverbial melting pot of the various types, classes, and nationalities of tourists: surfing bogans, mostly Occidental, in their flip-flops, shorts and singlets mix with exquisitely attired urban sophisticates, mostly Oriental. Thousands of them.
The sunset? Magnifique!
Tex is in transition. Bali is no longer what it was. As it is now he would not have stayed nor enjoyed it quite the way he did when he first arrived. Surfing is no longer what it was. Age has caught up with him. Unlike many long-term stayers in Bali, such as Gina, Tex never established a business. When his contract in Singapore finally ends he’ll have no means by which to continue to fund his Balinese lifestyle. Bit by bit he’s planning a relocation back to the UK. The end of an era.
Finally, packed and organised, ready. Tomorrow is inevitable. Either that, or don’t go at all.
Bali Bukit, 02 April 2016