Bali redemption 

   
 
It took me another couple of weeks to recover from the infamous ‘Bali belly’. After a while I started to worry that a parasite might be munching its way through my stomach lining, coz every time I tried to eat I’d double up in pain, and because Google told me there was about a 3% possibility that terry the (tax-evading) tapeworm had found a safe haven inside my person. But eventually the stomach cramps started to subside and we (Google and I) determined that it must have been a reaction to the antibiotics. The silver lining of this whole sorry saga is that my metabolism appears to have been awoken from its “you’re not in your twenties anymore” slumber and I now feel a lot like my old (young) self again. For that reason Bali, I have decided to forgive you your filthy, unsanitary, non-hand-washing ways. I shall retract this forgiveness should Terry ever rear his ugly head.

Despite my ongoing suffering, we had a wonderful time on Lembongan island. We gate crashed our friends’ plush villa (and their mini bar) on New Year’s Eve and had ourselves a stunning hilltop pool party, whilst the locals fired hundreds of fireworks in our general direction. I’ve always found New Year’s Eve to be a monumental disappointment, but not this one. This one was effortlessly awesome.

    

We spent over a week on Lembongan and hired bikes to explore the island and to cross the rickety bridge over to Ceningan, a tiny island to the east of Lembongan. We ate (well everyone else did), drank, swam, played numerous games of shithead, and generally thanked our lucky stars to be alive and in good company.

  

Vroom vroom…

 

  
A curious dog watches Andy and Amy whizz past in Cennigan…  

Coconut shenanigans and me in the background worrying about the existence of ‘Terry’, as I recall…
  

New Year’s Day, not a shit way to start 2016…   

Little surfer practicing his moves amongst the mangroves…

  

The islands are surrounded by seaweed farms. Here some freshly harvested weed is left to dry under the sun…

  

White sandy beach, lovely sunset, sick Jodie…

 

Watching everyone eat delicious food. Bastards…

  

Beach posers…

 

Lovely travellers…

 

Making the most of our secret beach…    

We were very sad to leave Lembongan and sadder still to part with Andy and Amy, but we were running out of time and the Gili islands were calling so we jumped on another speedboat and headed north towards Lombok. 

We were about twenty minutes into our journey when the boat’s steering broke and the captain turned the engine off. This shouldn’t really have freaked me out too much. We’re both strong swimmers and if it came to it the nearest island was only a couple of hours swim away, at most. But we hadn’t had any rain for a while and it was about 36 degrees Celsius. Within five minutes the boat was like a floating sauna, and we’d foolishly forgotten to bring water with us. I started to feel a little anxious and contemplated licking the sweat from Rodney’s face. Then everything went eerily quiet and we realised that a large shark was circling the boat. I’ll repeat that in case you missed it (and for dramatic effect). Then everything went eerily quiet and we realised that a large shark was circling the boat. I’ll be honest, it occurred to me at this point that Bali wasn’t keen for us to make it out of there alive. 

Fortunately, before I could have a total shit fit, the crew fixed the steering and we were off again, leaving Bali and its sharky waters behind. I took a picture as we were racing off into the sunset. You can just about make out the dorsal and tale fins…

  
“Not Dolphins”, said the captain, “big f*cking Shark”!

A couple of hours later we arrived on Gili Trawangan and immediately wished we’d stayed on Lembongan. It had been 5 years since we were last on Gili T and the transformation was heart-wrenching. What a shit tip. If ever you need proof that the world is spinning out of control, just head to Gili T. The worst part about it is knowing that we’re part of the problem. Tourism tends to be a nail in the coffin for paradise islands and as much as we might think we’re considerate travelers, our mere presence has a devastating effect on nature and local resources. Tis a bitter pill to swallow, but all things considered we think this may turn out to be our last trip to SE Asia. Gulp.

We stayed one miserable day on Gili T before getting a boat to Gili Meno, the quietest of the three Gili islands. We were pleased to find it relatively unspoilt (ssshh don’t tell anybody) and even quieter than we’d been led to believe. We stayed for a week before heading back to Bali, and it was bliss…
  

  
  
  

The day before we flew out of Bali there was a terrorist attack in Jakarta. We probably wouldn’t have known about it except our taxi driver heard it on the radio and, clearly upset, translated for us. His thoughts were that it is only a matter of time before Bali suffers another terrorist attack. He’s probably right but I don’t know how anyone could bear to hurt the Balinese (or anyone else for that matter!). Non-hand-washing ways aside, the Bali folk seem to be the loveliest people on the planet. The world is indeed a f*cked up place.

   

My next blog post will focus on our travels across the hills of Sri Lanka , which thus far have been a total f*cking disaster. A hilarious disaster, but a disaster nonetheless.

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Bali fever

You may or may not recall me mentioning my ol’ Ma’s favourite saying… ‘when life gives you lemons, go to Bali’!

At the time I think we were all in agreement that this was truly excellent advice.

Unfortunately my ol’ Ma didn’t mention anything about Bali giving us lemons. So when the unthinkable happened, when Bali gave us a truck load of rancid old maggotty lemons, we were on our own and pretty f*cking screwed.

We can however take comfort in the fact that I’m here writing this, because it means (spoiler alert) I am alive. Albeit with a slightly altered outlook on life. I shall start at the very beginning…

We landed in Bali on December 18. The flight from KL had been turbulent with the plane occasionally feeling like it was plummeting from the sky, so we were ever so pleased to make it to Bali in one piece, and immediately went out in search of celebratory party times in Legian/Kuta (the tourism cesspit of Bali). We got wasted, became best friends with all the people and Rodney sang a bit of Pearl Jam with the local cool kidz…


Mistake number one, I guess.

The next day, nursing some pretty nasty hangovers, we went in search of a hotel that didn’t smell of shit. It was 33 degrees outside so we didn’t get very far before deciding that aux de excrement was favourable to collapsing in the street. We grabbed a room at the next stinky hotel we stumbled upon and agreed that we’d buy some scented candles when we were well enough to walk to the shop.

After a couple of hours snoozing (mouth akimbo) at poolside, I felt either energised or overheated enough to slide into the pool. I’m guessing someone must have cocked up the pH balance as it instantly felt like I was getting a free chemical peel. I slid right on out again and was just turning to tell Rodney that the pool was a dud when he leapt from his lounger like a horny gazelle and launched himself over my head diving in face first. He was out again just as quickly, shaking his head like a demented macaw (animal similes are all the rage in 2016) in an attempt to get the water out of his ears, but to no avail.


Mistake number two, I guess.

That evening, quite predictably, he started complaining of ear ache so we went in search of a pharmacy to nip it in the bud pronto. After walking for a mile or so we stumbled across this gem…

We waited for a while, keen to get a glimpse of this sign hero, but he or she did not return. Our bodies gave in to hangover and defeat and we returned to the shit hotel to regroup (sleep for 16 hours).

The next day I woke up with a stinking cold and Rodney was being very dramatic about his ear, so we got our act together, booked into a nice hotel, found a chemist that wasn’t on the toilet and set to work on getting ourselves healthy in time for Christmas.

Our original plan was to spend one night in Legian and then make a speedy exit to check out some of the surf breaks along the south coast. Unfortunately our lack of energy and Rodney’s unwillingness to get his ears wet kept us in the area for almost a week. We went to the beach, once…

It was pretty grim and appeared to have raw sewage flowing directly into the sea, so we didn’t go back. Instead our time was spent sleeping, lying by the pool, and watching Star Wars on the tele…

Twice a day we nipped out to the best Warung in town for cheap eats that were worth far more than the 75 pence we were paying…


And everyday at 5ish we sipped cocktails by the pool…

It wasn’t what we were expecting from our first week in Bali but we were too wrecked for anything more exciting, and looking back it was actually quite pleasant. Certainly preferable to the week that was to come.

On Christmas Eve we took a taxi an hour or so north to Ubud where we’d booked to stay in a beautiful spot amongst the rice paddies…


We had a blissful couple of days wandering, eating and wishing strangers a very merry Christmas. It seemed to us that things were on the up.


  

Then one fateful day, let’s call it ‘Sunday 27 December’, we went to this here restaurant for a spot of lunch…

It looks pretty harmless in the photo I guess. An old friend once told me that if you eat something that tastes a bit off, you should chase it down with a can of Coke to kill any nasties- a tip that has served me very well over the past 10 years. Noticing that our table was filthy and that there were piles of vegetables covered in flies on the floor of the kitchen, we immediately ordered two Cokes. If the place hadn’t been recommended to us by our hosts there is no way we would have ordered food. But it had. And we did. And despite the fact that it came to us luke warm, we ate it all up like good little bears. Mistake number f*cking three.

We spent the afternoon on the hunt for antibiotics for Rodney’s ear infection which was still lingering. It turns out you can buy them over the counter in Bali for a quid. By the time we found a proper pharmacy we’d been traipsing around in the intense heat for a few hours, so when I started hallucinating Rodney took me back to the room with suspected heat exhaustion and placed me under a cold shower fully clothed (at my behest!).

The four days that followed are a bit of a blur. The best way I can describe it (Harry Potter fans) is that a dementor strayed from Azkaban, flying all the way to Bali to suck the light from my life. For the first 48 hours I couldn’t stand up, my whole body hurt and I had an intense fever. At this point we thought I had dengue as I’d been bitten by a few mossies in Legian (mistake number two and three quarters) and dengue is a bit of an issue in Asia at the moment. We returned to our googling ways and Google confirmed that I certainly did have dengue and that it might take months or years for me to recover, but I’d need to survive the internal bleeding first.

***Never share your ailments with Google. Google does not know what is wrong with you***

I should mention that Rodney was also suffering, but significantly less than I was so he was in charge of hydration. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, after many hours of shaking like a leaf, my fever finally broke (hurrah!) and the toilet became the most hip happening joint in town. Though it was actually rather crappy (sorry!). Still thinking that I had dengue we started to talk about ending the trip and flying home. We were scared to go to a hospital in Bali in case they used dirty needles (we were too ill to think rationally) and because we’d have to pay the hospital upfront (around $1000 per day) and claim back on our insurance.

We were yet to make a decision when the housekeeper knocked on the door with a couple of bottles of water and the address of a local doctor. The consultation fee would be £15.

A few more hours passed before I conjured up the energy to get dressed and walk outside to get in a taxi (even though the docs was a mere 200 metres away).

The surgery was… filthy. Our hearts sank when we walked in and Rodney suggested we leave immediately. I probably would have if it hadn’t taken all my strength to get there. Because I was paying tourist prices I was rushed in to see the doctor ahead of a waiting room full of locals. They didn’t seem to mind very much, but then the Balinese really are the gentlest, kindest of folk.

When I saw the doctor all hope left my weary body. He looked about 18 years old and was stood beckoning me into an even grubbier looking room with a little stethoscope round his neck. He turned out to be very lovely. His first suggestion was that I’d eaten too much chilli but when I told him Chilli was my middle name he decided food poisoning was more likely. He then proceeded to prescribe me the same antibiotic that Rodney had been taking all along, and the penny dropped.

I didn’t have dengue. I had the same food poisoning as Rodney, from mistake number three, only his was less severe because he’d been taking antibiotics all along for mistake number two. My immune system had taken a bit of a bashing from the cold I caught after mistake number one so my suffering was extra miserable.

I immediately started taking the antibiotics and the next day (New Years eve) desperate not to spend another day in that hotel room, we tentatively climbed from our sick bed and I began to pack our bags whilst Rodney ran off to see if he could get us tickets for a boat to Lembongan. He returned with a couple of tickets for a speedboat called ‘G-force’, which didn’t sound ideal, and we made our way, slowly, down to the beach.

We were sat waiting for the boat, talking about how grateful we were not to have dengue, and that we would (once fully recovered) be sure to live life to the full, when two familiar faces appeared before us. Sometimes the universe gives us exactly what we need, and right then we could really have done with a hug from some old friends, who quite coincidentally had also made plans to ride the ‘G-force’. Against all the odds that’s exactly what we got.

It’s been 11 days since mistake number three and I’m still very tired and unable to eat without writhing around in pain. I’ve also started sleep walking which is a little peculiar. Rodney got a shock a few nights ago when he awoke to find me standing at the end of the bed swaying like a poltergeist. When he asked what I was doing I apparently replied ‘I’m looking for a wine to compliment the tuna’. Classy!

But overall I’m starting to feel a little better each day and I have every hope that I’ll soon be well enough to eat food that hasn’t been liquidised, and maybe have a nice cold Bintang to wash it down.

My advice: when Bali gives you lemons, get yourself to a f*cking doctor.

Happy new year van lovers…