In the previous post I said that this was an empty day, and it’s true because it’s difficult to make plans with the tranquility that these people have (and I say tranquility as a euphemism for having ‘square balls’ and ‘instead of blood, horchata’… Translator’s Note: Spanish idioms meaning being very slow and lazy to act, with no sense of urgency). Supposedly we had to take the return boat at 10:15 so after the succulent breakfast that I already described yesterday we walked to the boat and waited. And waited. And later we waited a little more. And after that we took turns to wait with the bags next to the embarkation point while the other went for a wander so we didn’t go crazy. We continued waiting like that for a while longer as we observed the coming and going of the tourists and the movement of the locals, that unloaded the bags from the boats by placing them on their heads… the esternocleidomastoid of the Indonesians must be made of something very different than my muscles, if not, how can it be explained that these people can carry offerings, sacks and enormous baskets on their heads without holding them with anything in a display of superhuman balance.
I was lost in those thoughts when our turn finally came to embark from a mobile bridge (and I stress the mobile part, I arrived to the boat already dizzy…) from which you could see little turtles just by your side. And there we were snorkelling with some sea cucumbers… without devaluing the poor cucumbers that are what they are making do with what they have…
In the boat we got a seat that gave us a lot of air (and water) which, together with the views of Lombok first and later of Bali and its little mini-islands and volcanos, made the journey much more fun. That, and having digested our breakfast some seven times during the wait… looking on the bright side like a young Paulo Coehlo.
We arrived to a different port, Padang Bay, and from there a taxi from the ferry company Gili Gili (we used it for the return and Gili Getaway for the going) took us back to the hotel. The five minutes on foot from the boat until the door of the taxi were something of a real odyssey: millions and millions and millions of taxi drivers (no, no I don’t think that’s an exaggeration) offered to take us and shouted Gili Gili (the name of the company with which we already had our taxi hired and payed) so that we would believe it was them… but there was something more still: when we arrived to our taxi and after somebody had confirmed we were the passengers, a guy from the company helped us with the bags, asked for our information to confirm we were the passengers for Gili and Gili and explained to us that as there were several of us in the car we’d be delayed, taking around four hours to reach the hotel but if we’d like he could get us a private taxi that would take only an hour and a half. And I’m going to say it with great pride because for once and without precedent we didn’t let ourselves be swindled. The clue was on the one hand thinking that from Padang Bay to Kuta wouldn’t take four hours no matter how many passengers had to get off, that we weren’t going on a bus either, and also that the “supplement” for the private taxi was 400,000 rupees, which is almost what it would cost you to hire a car with driver for the whole day…
I noticed two things there: that despite the Spanish being famous rogues we are clearly a gullible group next to the ingenuity of these people and that my super favourite part of Gili is that cars aren’t permitted. Bikes and a few non-motorised scooters (I still wonder how they move but I swear there was no sound of a motor…) but not even a single car. That uplifiting feeling of loving the Gili streets free of motor vehicles was multiplied by 700 times during the rest of our stay in Bali, especially in Kuta, that was where we were travelling. We had plans from that but given the consecutive delays we ended up eating super late on our return to teh hotel and having to cancel the plan to go to Tirta Gangga that evening.
Once again we faced the dilemma of what to do with those hours that didn’t require crossing the dual carriageway and as the answer was nothing we decided to risk, like good brave folks, crossing the river of cars. Not without first dedicating some time to make ourselves aware and say bye to one another forever and that sort of thing, just in case. In a time and place in which the flow of the river of vehicles lessened lightly we sent ourselves forward, with the help of the sole local pedestrian extending his hand from the other pavement. He greeted us with the classic look of, “well done, poor innocent ones” (I recognised it because it happens to me often enough) and welcomed us to Bali. I know that I’ve told it as if we crossed the Amazon swimming but the comparison is valid due to the high probability of seeing your last sunset. And speaking of sunsets (what a good thread, eh?), that was our first plan since according to the guides the sunset on the beach was the only beautiful part of Kuta and it seemed to be close. But we don’t know if the guides told the truth because clearly the map lied and the evening arrived to the beach quite a while before us…
Another plan frustrated, we chose the option of going for a wander around Kuta sto see what was going on around there (Translator’s Note: The literal translation would be ‘to see what was cooking around there’). We passed a good number of typical Hindu-Balinese temples (all with offerings), they definitely seemed too many for a single neighbourhood regardless of how very religious they might be, but a driver explained to us later that they were ‘family’ temples. According to him, there exist three types of temples: the family ones (that the word temple feels a little grand for because they’re just altars in patios) where each day the families leave their offerings (cousins, uncles and aunts, grandchildren, etc), the community temples, that look to be the equivalent of your town church that gives Sunday mass, and the important temples, those for pilgrimage, that are the ones they take the tourists to see, because they’re very good for pictures for the ‘gram but that they also use as places for pilgrimage.
We also passed a Muslim temple that was in the middle of prayer and transmitted it with a super megaphone speaker like it was a rave but with the verses of the Quran pumping up the neighbourhood. And a beautiful but inaccessible statue (in the middle of a roundabout, nothing less…).
We finished the walk in a souvenir shop (Krisna) that’s considered a landmark on its own, with a Trip Advisor page and everything. To give you an idea of the importance of that establishment I’ll simply say that they had staff hired to hold their hands out and stop the traffic (which is normally done by a traffic light) so that the people could cross over to the shop still alive, and more staff at the entrance to put a sticker on you with your ‘customer number’. Inside they sell everything and the best part is that they do it at a fixed price, without haggling. Obviously there my mind started to machinate upon how to find in that infinite universe gifts for everybody. Beeeep, error. To a person whose level of indecisiveness is “having being nicknamed the girl of the don’t know” and on top of that hates to buy from the deep end of the coração (Translator’s Note: Sorry, you’re on your own with that one…) this shop wasn’t the best destination… after a little while looking at toys, clothes, shoes, accessories, decorations, soups, key-rings, food, etc, I didn’t manage to get gifts but I did leave my soul destroyed there between the coconut shell turtles and the penis-shaped coloured bottle-openers (whose relation with Balinese culture I haven’t been able to find, although a quick Google search suggests that the reason for the indiscriminate selling of bunches of penises is that it gives the Australian tourists a giggle…)
To recover our lost souls we went for the safe bet: to eat, although very much inline with Kuta this also disappointed me a little and that started to worry me. It’s one thing that running people over is a popular sport and that they sell coloured genitals and it’s quite another that in an asian restaurant they serve you chicken nuggets (I wonder if we ended up by mistake with some sort of Indonesian fast food… – Translator’s Note: Given the proximity to the souvenir shop, I’m guessing it was Australian fast food.)
To round it all off, that night was when we discovered the problem of the emptied card; besides our unintentionally suicidal route back to the hotel we were too close to having to put away the torture of these one hundred pages of travel that I’ve done and that are still to come because although you put your hands out the cars DON’T stop. It still scares me a little to think of the crossing that night… in those last steps before the hotel I only had one thing clear: I wanted to leave Kuta as soon as possible. Sooner