I’m writing this as I sit in my air conditioned room, unable to get rid of the vile taste of nuts in my mouth, and aching like hell. And no, that’s not what it sounds like. Let me explain. We climbed an active volcano at 2am this morning, as you do, and I just got kicked out of a street stall and had the adjacent stall warned off me because I tried on some clothes. To cure my bad mood, I bought a hugely over priced FroYo, which somehow had nuts in it (which I loathe), and now I’ve brushed my teeth ten times and I can still taste them. Well that didn’t go to plan.
Now that I’ve explained myself, let me start from the beginning. We checked out of our charming hostel yesterday and wandered down the road in the blazing heat in search of food and transport. We stumbled across a local bakery and bought several mysterious looking items, before hailing a taxi and bartering yet again. I then realised that I had I stupidly forgotten to write down the address, and so the taxi driver had to conduct a five minute conversation to determine where we were going. My friend took full advantage of the fact that we were stopped on the side of the road, and started bartering through the window of the car. She got rather confused though, and nearly bought one orange for $4, before realising he was offering $2 for five. We grabbed the oranges through the car window, before zooming off.
The journey was sticky and bumb-numbing, and the driver couldn’t even find the hostel. After a few wrong turns, we rocked up, perspiring hideously. Literally the first thing we did was rent motorbikes ($5 for a day!), but this proved far more difficult than it should have been. Firstly, they merely pointed at our allocated motorbikes, without even showing us how they worked. My friend who’d ridden dirt bikes all her life didn’t find this a problem, and luckily I was riding with her. The others didn’t fare so well. We watched in horror as they rode a few metres down the street, into oncoming traffic, and toppled over, as if in slow motion. I guess a busy Indonesian street isn’t the best place to first ride a motorbike. Once we’d checked they were okay we found the situation totally hilarious (this is becoming a recurring theme) and struggled not to laugh as they fell over again, half into a ditch and got trapped under the bike. Rather despondent that they wouldn’t be able to ride if they carried on like this, they asked me to have a try. I was rather too confident and nervous at the same time (something my driving instructor has commented on which makes no sense), and revved rather too hard, but simultaneously kept my feet on the ground.This meant that I, too, ended up in the ditch.
We were all rather shaken and bruised at this point, and several locals stopped to help and show us how easy riding the bike was. Despite this, we were still incompetent. The others promptly gave up, and took the other bike back. They managed to sweet talk their way out of getting charged for the broken wing mirror and scratched bike, even though we hadn’t even considered taking out insurance. The motorcycle people were probably too amused by the fact that they’d returned within ten minutes. Pesky tourists.
While I was sitting on the side of the road, obviously looking sorry for myself, a woman came up to me and offered me some antiseptic for my sore knee (which is actually a really old scar from the three peaks). I was touched but politely declined. How are the locals so charming, but the tourists so ghastly and assumptive? Another sad truth about the world.
We then hopped (or awkwardly clambered on my part) onto our bike, which was white with hideous garish flowers dotted all over it, and set off tentatively down the gravelly road. We soon got more confident and were over taking locals and honking to signal our presence like pros. We browsed a few shops and bought some ridiculously cheap crap before realising that we didn’t have enough space to carry it. We were then zooming down a street which was gradually getting narrower and narrower, glaring at the cars which were nearly forcing us onto the pavement, before we realised it was one way… Assumptive tourists, see? My friend then happened to glance down at the dashboard and spotted that we had less than an empty tank. Panicked, we headed where I thought the petrol station was (following my directions- always risky). For perhaps the first time in my life, my directions were correct, and we pulled up, relieved. Luckily there was a guy in control of the petrol, as we had zero clue how to fill up the tank, of course. And so, a full tank and $6 later, we had narrowly escaped a potentially awkward situation.
We then met the others for cocktails, but not before we got pizza and ice cream for only $4 each! Gotta love Ubud. I felt so much that I was having the typical ‘gap yah’ experience where you ‘truly discover yourself’ (and all that cringe stuff) that it reminded me of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Weirdly enough, we found out later that the movie was actually filmed in Ubud. It must be a sign.
We found a charming, authentic bar/restaurant, and as there were only twenty minutes left of happy hour we ordered two cocktails each. However, we didn’t realise that they were 95% alcohol… well, maybe not quite that strong, but we were more than tipsy by the end. We then proceeded to walk around the streets, and I bought two packets of crisps (best drunk food ever). Because we’re no longer freshers, we were exhausted by 8.30, and so attempted to find our way back.
This is when things got tricky. We didn’t need to be back by any specific time (despite the fact we were getting up at 1.45am to climb Mount Batur) so we thought it’d be a good idea to drive in any direction in the hope we’d find the hostel. In hindsight, this perhaps wasn’t particularly sensible. We headed off in what we thought was the right direction, and soon the busy street gave way to pitch black nothingness, surrounded by paddy fields and Palm trees. Perhaps this wasn’t the right way after all. We carried on for a while and ended up at a crossroads we vaguely recognised. We had three options, because it definitely wasn’t the way we’d just come: right, left, or straight on. We tried the first two with no luck. Using our skilled powers of deduction, we thought it had to be the third one. How wrong we were. In a cruel twist of fate, this crossroads that was miles away from the bar we were in turned out to be about 100 yards to the right of the bar… I didn’t realise that my sense of direction was so totally awful. We’d been driving in circles for over an hour now, so we decided to knock some sense into ourselves and get some wifi and not drive completely blind. So we didn’t have to buy drinks, we loitered in the toilets. We thought both cubicles were in use, so we stood outside wondering what was taking the people in there so long. It wasn’t until a man went into one of the cubicles that we realised they’d both been empty. Someone else then came in and informed us that we were in the men’s toilets…so we’d hung around suspiciously in toilets for the opposite sex for fifteen minutes. Cue hysterics again. My abs actually hurt once my laughing fit died down.
Once we’d consulted google maps we realised we’d been going in totally the wrong direction, predictably, and the hostel was about a five minute drive up the road. We’d actually passed the turn when we’d been driving in circles. We continued past the hostel for a few minutes to explore, but my friend got scared by a dog and so we turned back.
At the uncivilised hour of 1.45am the alarm went off, but I’d barely slept as they’d only given us a flimsy sarong thing to sleep under. The air conditioning was also fully turned up, and the remote was nowhere to be seen. I wouldn’t have surprised me if that was a cruel joke played by them to get revenge for the damaged motorbike. We hopped in murder wagon no. 2, and I stuffed my face with brioche.
Forty vomit-inducing minutes later, we pulled up at a coffee plantation café thing, stomachs churning. For some reason (I think it was lack of sleep), we found the whole situation priceless, even though banana pancakes with chocolate sauce at 3am are delicious and most definitely not hilarious. Stomachs satisfied, we then embarked down an even bumpier road to the base of the volcano.
I got conned into paying $5 to rent a jacket because I stupidly hadn’t bought mine (I did try and fail to steal it later cause I’m an awful person) and then we set off. The first was dead easy- flat, level road. Then the terrain got slightly more difficult, but I was still not out of breath- something rather surprising considering I haven’t done any exercise in six weeks. An hour and a half later, our tour announced that the terrain was turning into sand, and my friends breathed a sigh of relief. It would be a nice change from huge boulders and grit. I, forever sceptical, was not so overjoyed by this thought. And for the second time I was right- the sand was awful. You took one step forward, and ended up two paces behind where you’d begun. The situation was worsened by the fact your shoes were completely filled with sand, so every step was accompanied by a “crunch”. My solution to both these problems was to run with my feet out like a duck at full speed up the volcano. Although there was considerable comic value attached to this decision, it was certainly effective. My heart was beating at about the twice the speed when I’d finished, though.
The view at the top made the slog worthwhile, and we sat freezing on a log and watched the sun rise. It was actually stunning, and rather surreal being above the clouds. I was amazed at the number of people on the mountain next to us, before I realised they weren’t moving and they were actually trees. Once the sun had risen, and we’d taken a million photos of the same thing, insisting that we’d captured the sun at a different position in the sky, our tour guide made us breakfast. It was supposed to be eggs cooked from the heat of the volcano and banana sandwiches, but my egg was completely raw and the banana was cooked? Very confusing. It took all my will power not to chuck my egg at the annoying man in front of us blocking the view. We managed to get some priceless selfies, though.
Going down the volcano was actually worse than going up, and we made slow progress. We stopped by the crater and a Hindu place of worship (a cave in the volcano!) and spotted some monkeys. One was drinking from a bottle upside down, and one jumped on my terrified friends shoulder. They were actually adorable until two scary looking males got in a fight. Once we’d got to the bottom, or what was ostensibly the bottom, we then walked ever so slightly downhill for an hour. This was frustrating- I’d’ve preferred a really steep slope- as you couldn’t walk normally as it wasn’t flat but momentum kept you going at a speed slightly beyond comfortable.
We all fell asleep in the car, and arrived back the hotel and had a good tanning session- or burning, in my case. I’d got a bit cocky, claiming that my stomach tanned easily and didn’t burn. I spent two hours lying half in the pool reading contentedly, but by the time I stood up, I had a ridiculous bikini line and a red stomach. Ah well, it’ll turn to tan soon, right?
The taxi ride back was hot and sticky, and we got to our fancy, air conditioned hotel with utmost relief. We went up to chill by the pool but the music was so deafening and the place was filled with heavily tattooed people reading Fifty Shades of Grey that we decided against it. I think I’d be happier staying in a hostel next time. So here I am at 8pm, having blogged out my bad mood, and just about to head to sleep. What a wild life I lead!