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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

9 February 2011

Wandering by car

6th February 2011

We left our hotel by 9am this morning, and didn’t get back until 6:30pm. I reckon we probably spent a total of 3.5 hours exploring a temple, having lunch and visiting a lake which means I spent about six hours driving. Given that I used less than half a tank of fuel and the furthest we got from Ubud was about 40 kms, it should be obvious that driving on Bali is not done at high speed.

Indeed, six hours of dodging motorbikes, weaving around potholes, avoiding pedestrians, getting lost and retracing, winding up (and down) intolerably steep hills and crawling through pea-soup fog and pouring rain has left me pretty much shattered. Phew. I like driving, but tomorrow is definitely going to be a day of rest.

A few particular images from this day on the road stick particularly in my weary mind…

  • Winding up through a tiny village and watching the road progress from patchy potholes to many potholes and eventually to patchy tarmac between the potholes. Just as I thought we were going to start grinding the car’s bottom on rocks and running out of traction, we turned a corner and the road returned.
  • Driving slowly through rain and thick fog up a winding mountain road with little groups of macaques huddled like old whiskery men at the roadside. Eventually the road got very broken and it seemed right to turn back.
  • Tranquil vistas of lime green paddy field terraces, and water everywhere; placid mirrors in paddies where the rice was just beginning to grow, or burbling down from one terrace to a lower field, or in ponds and irrigation canals with water lilies growing.
  • Climbing down a precipitous hill with most of the tarmac gone and rounding a corner to find naked locals bathing at the roadside.
  • Climbing up an even more precipitous hill with even less tarmac and suddenly losing both traction and forward momentum. Mercifully the brakes held us from sliding back and even more mercifully a second attempt and we managed to get going again without anyone needing to get out.
  • The startling moment when there was a crunch as a jeep passed us, and I realised that he had passed too close and smashed our wing mirror off. Neglect on both parties I suppose, as neither of us was stopping so neither realised it was too close. The jeep disappeared around the corner never to be seen again.
  • Kids on motorbikes, some seemingly not even ten years old, most of them giving lifts to friends who would sit on the back with their flip-flops dangling an inch above the tarmac. Maximum leg-count on one motorbike: eight.

Our first destination for the day were the high mountain temple of Pura Luhur Batukau, which was a magical and verdant place lost in the rainforest where we saw a white-clad throng of worshippers being invasively photographed by Germans as they performed a ceremony.

Our second destination was the mountain lake of Danau Bratan, but the weather was so poor that we lingered only to indulge in a sharply unripe bowl of strawberries in the rain. It’s the driving I’ll remember about today, though.

One Response to “Wandering by car”

  1. Jane says:

    Has seen, in Mexico, entire families (Dad, Mom & as many as 3 kids) all on a single motorcycle…

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