Denpasar is humid, fumy and drowning in scooters – not at all what I imagined Bali to be! Where were the temples? The monkeys? The rolling rice paddy fields and landscapes about which the guide book had so enthusiastically boasted? As it happens, these all revealed themselves over the coming days and my initial sunken heart soon lifted.
Our whistle stop tour of Ubud found us 30 feet up in a bamboo tree house, a mile along an uneven dirt track, flanked either side by banana trees and surrounded by the very rice fields about which I had read so much. A precarious “ladder” lead the way to a mattress and mosquito net, a basic room (if that’s the right word to describe it) although nonetheless still equipped with lighting, sockets, WiFi and an ant troupe! The following day we were mugged by monkeys at the temple a mile down the road, and left the next morning – although not, I hasten to add, because of the monkeys!
Waking at 01:30 we silently packed and made our way back along the track to our awaiting driver. From here he took us to the bottom of Mt Batur – an hour and a quarter later we were watching lightning bolts fork across the distant darkness. A little further, dripping in sweat but refreshed by a Snickers, we reached the summit. Sat huddled with a hot chocolate we watched as the mist swooped silently throughout the valley below, parting only briefly to reveal the sunrise over Bali.
On the route to our next accommodation – in Jimberan – we refreshed at the natural hot spring spa. A well-earned soak eased the sore legs!
The family at our next accommodation were the perfect hosts! Their help and advice was greatly appreciated on where to eat and sights not to miss. Cocktails on the beach lead to terrible sunburn, and a lavish seafood dinner resulted in a sleepless night from food poisoning, but even these couldn’t dampen our spirits. The days were hot and the nights thunderous – a pattern we’d learn to expect – waking at 06:00 each day to find brilliant sunlight and a freshness one only experiences after a storm.
An hour and half on a fast boat across to the Lombok Islands and we arrived at Gili T. As we filed off the boat onto the sand I struggled to decide which was more stunningly clear – the water or the sky, as each were without a blemish. Later that afternoon whilst swimming among schools of black and yellow angelfish a turtle floated past, silently and gracefully. We followed him for a couple of minutes until he went deep and left us, snorkel tube in mouth, but still speechless nonetheless. We were up and in the sea early next morning in the hope of seeing more, as locals had advised this is the best time to catch them feeding – but we left only with the previous day’s memory.
The still peeling sunburn on my back serves as a final reminder of a trip full of (corny) “once in a lifetime” experiences. Go to Gili T, hire a bike, cycle round the island, swim with turtles, drink cocktails on the beach, watch the sunset and, most of all, don’t listen when Google says November is rainy season.