Malaria, unpotable water, and obscure diseases are some of our bigger concerns for this trip. When the State Department put out a Travel Advisory on Avian Flu, we decide to contact our travel doctor to see if we should avoid the region. He responded, “Avian Flu is the least of your worries, it’s really the motorbikes and cars you need to worry about.” We chuckled at the sage advice as we’d already begun to experience motorized transport in Bali.
Driving in Bali seems to be void of rules. While there is a designated side for each driver, it is not uncommon for people to drive on the other side. Or, in the middle. Motorbikes, the preferred method of travel for the locals, seem to pass on either side of the car and whenever they want. Often we would see a family of four traveling to temple on one motorbike. And a car, well it can carry the whole village. At one point we counted 40 children riding in the back of a pickup truck. Forty. If renting a car didn’t kill you, it would surely end a relationship with everyone screaming, so we chose to have a driver. Since we are now traveling with my parents and two other friends, we needed a car that could hold 6 people, a driver and all our luggage which for the Balinese is
anything larger than a Yugo.
En route to our next destination and driving down off the crater of a volcano, we stopped our minivan to avoid running over a cat. Four seconds later, a loud bang and sudden surge whipped our heads forward then back. For the three of us in the rear, we delicately brushed glass from our neck and shoulders and checked for injuries. No blood.
Shocked, I turned around and looked through our now windowless van to see a large dump truck, shattered rear window and a suitcase in the middle of the road. As six stunned passengers sat in the van, the two drivers began
“discussing” the incident. None of us know the language so couldn’t understand their words but could clearly discern their disagreement as to who was at fault. Tone of voice crosses all languages. Fortunately, the police arrived to sort out the melee.
We then spent then next three hours in the police station while the accident was sorted out. As most of the action took place in another building, we hung out with a police officer whose sole responsibility appeared to be to protect the stations television set. We watched TV and hung out with him even though neither of us spoke the other’s language. I never expected to be watching Oprah with Indonesian subtitles while stuck in the police station. All part of the adventure.
We then all jumped into the equivalent of an Isuzu Trooper (6 people, 1 driver, 8 suitcases, and many day packs) and continued three hours to our destination. A vehicle much too small for us. Fortunately, headaches were healed with Ibuprofen and sore necks were soothed with $5 dollar, hour-long massages.
Late last year I took an advanced driving course at the Sheriff’s Academy and remember their sage advice, “never stop for cats.” If only our driver had learned that lesson.
After a cramped drive, we squeezed out of the car at one of the world’s premier diving locales – Tulamben. Sitting at the base of a 10,500-foot volcano, Tulamben is known for the sunken USS Liberty which was torpedo by the Japanese in WW II. Torpedoed in Java, it was then towed to Tulamben and run aground for future repair. Before any repair took place, an eruption two decades later dislodged the ship causing it to slip into the sea. It now acts as a coral encrusted reef providing an exquisite array of sea life and underwater playground for divers.
Several people commented that this was one of their best dives and I was not disappointed as we dropped to 72 feet and floated through the drowned boat spanning over a football fields length. It took us two dives to explore this wreck which was like swimming through a life-size aquarium. I was awestruck as we exited the engine room to look up to see our bubbles ascending through millions of fish and my parents floating overhead. Surreal.
Several days later we dove again. To reach our destination, we took a “boat” which was not much more than a dugout canoe with bamboo outriggers on either side held together with twine. It was propelled by, what Audrey referred to as a, “lawnmower engine with a weed whacker for a propeller.” We moved slowly through the four foot waves and was surprised it didn’t fall apart before reaching land.
Bali proved to be a worthwhile stop on our round-the-world journey. The people are amazingly friendly and happy to have tourists visit their impoverished island. For only a few dollars you can easily buy a beer and lunch and for $11 Audrey got a 17th century, Javanese treatment consisting of an hour-long massage, exfoliation, and fragrant water-filled tub filled with colorful flowers. I don’t know what an exfoliation is but it made her happy, so it must be good. An equivalent back home would have set you back about two hundred
After spending a relaxing two weeks with my parents and friends, we will miss them as we venture on through SE Asia.
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Bryan and Audrey