A traveling companion, and a week of settling in

by measuringcoastlines
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Penjor poles in Ubud, Bali

It’s almost the end of my third week in Bali, and there’s been lots of odds and ends to report.

One was an inevitability: I got pretty sick last weekend, as one does in tropical places, the night after my horseback ride. I don’t really know exactly what it was I ate and can wave vaguely at a few possible suspects. My digestive system was in full revolt on Saturday night, and I spent all of Sunday weak and exhausted and mostly sleeping, but then Monday I was surprisingly chipper and back to normal, just being super, super cautious with anything I ate.

And fortunately I was no longer a nauseated zombie by the time Matthew arrived from the airport that evening, jetlagged and zombified himself. He’s getting into the swing of things around here quickly, though. So now I have company, and finally got to share places with him that I’ve been and enjoyed.

A black sand beach in Bali

Not only do I have my traveling companion back, but we’re mobile, because he’s capable of driving a scooter around here. It does add a whole new dimension to be able to just zip off to whatever destination and zip back again, and it feels so good on a hot day to feel the breeze instead of tromping around on foot with my backpack. (Yes, Mom, I’m wearing a helmet.) I’ve still been working away at Hubud during the weekdays, and he’s been exploring new areas and showing me what he’s found.

Saturday was an intense day. We took the scooter a bit over half an hour to some black sand beaches on the east coast, Pantai Manyar and Pantai Pabean Ketewel. There was almost no one at Pantai Manyar; there’s no shade structures or anyone renting umbrellas, just a long winding stretch of beach peppered with driftwood and some garbage, with majestically crashing waves far too strong to swim in. At Pantai Ketewel, there were some basic shade huts with locals napping, and we settled in there for a while before grabbing some lunch at a local warung.

Somehow I had the clever idea that I wanted to go to Denpasar. I’ve been very much enjoying taking photos on my iPhone so far, and it’s damn good for a camera phone, but I’m still finding myself frustrated; its night photography abilities are limited to “abstract art” and there’s just so many moments where I know I should be able to get better light or focus out of a scene. So I got it into my head that since we’re traveling, since the opportunity is here and I want to make the most of it, it was time to get a “real” camera again. I couldn’t find anything secondhand on the Ubud forums, and the only store I could find people recommending was in Denpasar, so I thought, hey, why not?

Matthew agreed to drive us there on the scooter, and we knew it wouldn’t really be a fun ride because Denpasar is a busy city. But neither of us really grasped the implications of what that would actually FEEL like. A large part of the drive from the beach was basically on highway. We formed part of a cluster of scooters zooming along like bees. I had an earphone in with Google Maps feeding me directions, and would tell Matthew when the next turn was coming up – and on the way back, it felt like we were just going to zig-zag forever across the city. It wasn’t that it was terrifying (Indonesian traffic does feel more orderly than India), it was just intense concentration; there’s really no moment that you can just kick back and relax. Even just being a passenger on a scooter for an hour in traffic is tiring. It felt like I’d done a workout by the time I got home – and Matthew was the one actually having to do the zig-zagging and maneuvering and revving and braking, so he had it many times as rough. We were both exhausted zombies by the time we got home.

I'm a work of art.

Matthew H. ChristFortunately, we were going to a Halloween party at Hubud, so being zombies helped us fit right in. Neither of us actually had any Halloween costumes along on our travels, of course, but I got my face painted at the event. I didn’t feel like being a ghoul or demon, and asked to be colourful; the face painter had fun turning me into a piece of abstract art. Matthew wore his white ashram clothes and people assumed he was either an angel, a cult leader, or, eventually, Jesus (so he accessorized with some stigmata and a halo for the evening). So that worked out nicely, and we were somehow able to stay awake and enjoy ourselves at the party.

Halloween isn’t a thing in Bali, but right now we’re in the middle of a big festival here, Galungan and Kuningan. The streets are lined with decorated bamboo poles, and groups of boys roam the streets with barong costumes, gongs and drums. The temples are busy and families gather. Tourists and ex-pats have to settle for pizza for a day or two, because the Indonesian cooks go home for the holidays.

So from this post on, I have a new digital mirrorless camera to play with, which I’m excited to learn about and explore. Naturally, today it was pouring rain and overcast most of the day, so I didn’t get to really go nuts with it. But there’ll be plenty of time for that, and you’ll be seeing my experiments on here soon enough!

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