Monday, July 27, 2009

It's a hard life

Yet another travel post. It's a manic Monday morning here in Indonesia, and things are hectic in Bali; can you believe that its only noon, and I've already had a swim in the pool, a laze by the beach, spent two hours reading in the shade, and have had to drink two mojitos? The afternoon's not looking any better; I have a massage at 2 pm, and will probably have to schedule another session with that damn swimming pool. Oh yeah - there's a follow up call at 5 pm to wrap up the day's events with another batch of mojitos.

Shit. This is tiring work.

Yes, I know, I'm a smug b*stard. But frankly, after the kind of hellish working hours that I've put in over the years, not to mention the stress of travelling for the past four months, I think I'm well within my rights to kick back and relax for a week.

That's the plan, anyway.

I was getting all excited by the prospect of (a) surfing, (b) diving, and (c) horse riding, but given that this is high season in Bali, everything is either booked out or freakishly expensive. So I'm resigned to vegetating by the pool, getting lots of 20 dollar massages (SOOOOO good), and the odd book as I consume novel after novel.

Getting to Bali from Yogyakarta was an adventure in itself. A normal bus ride would take 15 hours, but I decided to do Mount Bromo on the way. So the two day adventure began at 9 am in Yogyakarta, where I bundled myself into the back of a Mitsubishi min-van, which then proceeded to drive me and seven other tourists for the next 12 hours to Probolinggo. Even for me, a seasoned Asian road traveller, there were times I felt that we were done for, especially when the minibus rammed the side of a truck carrying beer. At least the impact woke up the driver, who I suspect had started to nod off. The minivan's air-con was fried though, and there's something distinctly unpleasant about slowly toasting in a car for sustained periods of time.

Made me feel like a poodle.

Getting to Probolinggo, we all transferred into another rickety bus for the ride up the volcano to Cewang Lawang, the mouth of the volcano and hellhole / tourist trap. I was supposed to be in the cheap budget hotel, but due to the mechanics of the Indonesian backpacker tourist rip off industry, I was mysteriously upgraded to the fancier, "volcano view" hotel (that was not its name - it was called Cemara Indah Hotel, and had a view of the entire Bromo caldera). Not that we knew anything about this view, mind you, as we reached the hotel around 10 pm (we had initially been promised a 7 pm arrival), and it was pitch dark. Oddly enough, after doing a slow roast to Probo, during which all I could do was fantasise about standing under a stream of cold water to cool off, the arrival to Cewang was meteorologically disorienting, as we were around 2500m up, it was raining, and average temperatures were around 12 degrees. After dinner, all I wanted was a hot shower.


Anyway. We were roused from restful slumber at 3:15 am by a persistent knock on the door; the adventurous souls that we backpackers were, we had opted for a jeep ride up a hill at 4 am to catch the sunrise (supposedly an awe-inspiring view). Sitting in the back of an old school Toyota landcruiser, being flung from side to side, with the wonderful scent of diesel fumes permeating my clothes, not to mention sleep deprivation (I'm not used to functioning with only 4 hours of sleep these days; I quit my job, remember?! :) ) we got to the observation point and I really felt like I was going to throw up.

Luckily, I didn't. Neither did any of my co-passengers, though a couple were threatening to.

Finally we get to the observation point. The locals, always keen to spot a business opportunity, had migrated from hawking Buddha souvenirs, t-shirts that said "Borobodur" and blow-tubes to renting raincoats and parkas for the poorly equipped. Given that it was around 12 degrees, I could see value in the the merchandise, but coming from London, where we laugh in the face of damp and will sit in shorts and t-shirts around our barbeques in 15 degrees, there was nothing my hoodie and jeans could not cope with. It was amusing, however, to see the serious climbers all kitted out in North Face and Berghaus - within the hour they were all turning puce from the heat inside their artic-calibre mountaineering gear.

Two hours later, with nothing to show for sunrise except some grey clouds that obscured the entire view, we drove down to the peak itself to hike up some volcanic grey sand and horse shit to the top of the caldera, again for the purported views. Again, nothing, thanks to the cloud cover. I should have stayed in bed instead. Oh well. By 8 am, I had had more exercise than I've had this entire trip, which can't be too bad a thing.

After some breakfast, and a miraculously hot shower, it was off for another 15 hour bone crunching bus ride to Denpasar, on the island of Bali. Still, the air conditioning worked this time, so there was less poodlage and more sleep happening. I was also sat next to a Swiss biochemist who was reading Dumas, so conversation wasn't too bad either. (I generally keep my Joseph Conrad well hidden when talking to other backpackers for fear of being branded a nerd, but that was a low risk here, I thought.)

Finally to Bali, at 10 pm at night. Finally to the nice hotel I'd booked, with a little private garden, a verandah, hot water, and cable tv. Finally to those damn sessions with the pool and mojitos.

Finally, time to chill and rest.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to see a mojito rather urgently.


Sunny Singh said...

Say hello to your new BF - the mojito - for me. Am on an enforced detox.

The Buddha Smiled said...

I will be sure to pass on your greetings - we're catching up again this evening.... :)