We spent a few days in Darwin, in probably the worst hostel in town. The only things it had going for it were: location (away from the main noisy tourist street) and it was cheap. But you get what you pay for and we got cockroaches running around the filthy disgusting kitchen, seriously uncomfortable beds and the drink-until-you-throw-up type of backpacker.
Our time mostly involved things to do with the bike. Simon and Dominik were so great with helping me, because I really wouldn’t have had a clue what I was doing. Had they not been there I would have probably Googled it and cobbled something together, but as it was I didn’t have to and they taught me everything I need to know. I have beefed up my tool kit and spares so hopefully I will be able to get myself out of any tricky situations. You can read about what I am carrying here.
I packed my bike ready for the flight which took a couple of hours and if you’re interested in that kind of thing you can read about it here.
Other than bike related things we didn’t do too much. We wondered about, but unless you’re a World War II enthusiast then there isn’t much to do in Darwin. It is more of a gateway to Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks. It was seriously hot out and when we found a wave pool we knew that was where we wanted to be.
I had a bit of a random encounter when I was staring in the window of a closed flag shop. I was thinking that I would have liked to have had a flag on my bike, like the Korean man we met. I also noticed that there were a whole bunch of embroidered patches and I was squashing my nose against the window, straining to see them.
Then a man comes along and asks me if I would like to look inside. Yes! So he opens the place up and let’s me have a look around. I explain to him that I like patches and he picked up a load and gave them to me, not necessarily the ones I wanted, but it was a very nice gesture nonetheless. We spoke for ages and he sort of offered me a job redesigning his website and basically told me he could get me a job with the National Flag magazine! I love random exchanges like that, and I wonder what makes some people so compelled to help out a stranger so much.
I was a bit nervous about going to the airport because I had overstayed my visa by 8 days. At least I think I had. I didn’t speak to a human when I arrived in Australia, nor did I get any stamp or anything to indicate my length of stay in my passport so I wasn’t really sure. If I got stopped I had a plan which involved acting dumb. Technically you get a 90 day tourist visa, but many people assume that’s 3 months. So I arrived on the 28th May and my flight was for the 28th August (but 90 days took me to August 20th).
After doing some research online I found out that my worst case scenario was not being allowed back into Australia for 3 years, so I took my chances. As it turned out I had nothing to worry about, I again didn’t have any contact with a human (other than x-ray) and everything was automated. I put my passport in the scanner, held my breath and prepared for red flashing lights and sirens, but it turned green and I just walked straight through.
I like to think that immigration have bigger issues to deal with that a British girl who has overstayed by 8 days and is already leaving to country.
Ugh. So arriving in Indonesia on 3 hours sleep and then having to understand the visa process is not an ideal situation.
You get a free 30 day visa which cannot be extended. Then it gets complicated. If you want to extend your visa by another 30 days you have to pay US$35 (you can pay in all sorts of currencies) for a voucher. But it doesn’t end there, you then have to find an immigration office within 7 days of your 30 day visa expiring, make 3 separate visits, with lots of paperwork, over a 5 day period and pay another ~US$25. So, we’ll see how that goes when the time comes.
Rebuilding the bike
I had never travelled with oversized baggage before and after asking a few people I found out I had to go to baggage services to collect my bike. I hung around there for a while and I was looking up stuff about visas on my phone and when I looked up the bike box was right there in front of me, in the middle of the baggage hall.
I had a little moment where I considered getting a taxi, but then I thought don’t be ridiculous, you have a bike, ride it! It was only about 10k to the hostel and it was 8:30am, plenty of time. When I left the airport around 500 people asked me if I wanted a taxi.
I found a quiet place to reassemble Priscilla, which I was part dreading and part ok about. The people still found me, and they still asked if I wanted a taxi, but mostly people were just intrigued by what I was doing. It took me 1 sweaty hour and 40 sweaty minutes to finish putting her back together, and I was pretty pleased with myself for managing it without much trouble. I put the front wheel on the wrong way round but at least I noticed it was the wrong way!
The crazy streets of Bali
I was pleased to find out that my phone works over here as well so I can continuing roaming at no extra cost (seriously, Three are such a great network, I have had free data roaming for over a year now!). And thank the lord for Google maps and maps.me, they lead me safely to my hostel, in bit of a roundabout way, but they got me there.
I had forgotten to put the mirror back on my handlebars and it was horrible. I pulled over at the first opportunity so I could put it back. I have no idea how I made it all the way from Sydney to Adelaide without one.
Bali is intense and confusing, but the good thing is that nothing is moving at any great speed. And a white-girl-on-a-bike is treated with a modicum of care. I was going super slow because I was trying to take in everything around me as well as trying not to die. The pictures don’t show the madness because at those times I was busy trying to stay alive.
There are so many scooters on the roads and they seem to have all the same rights as pedestrians, including riding on the pavements. There seem to be very few rules and later on, when I spoke to the owner of my hostel, he said I could go basically wherever I liked with my bike, no one would stop me. You hear a toot of a horn every couple of seconds, and it is either a taxi touting for business or it is someone letting someone else know they are overtaking / crossing a junction / turning / basically any chance to toot the horn.
This is where I made my first mistake. There were signs for money changing everywhere. They all looked pretty unofficial but I needed some money to pay for the hostel so I stopped in at one that looked like it was offering a good rate. When you change 100s you get millions in return and when you’re not used to such big numbers it can get very confusing (only having 3 hours sleep the night before didn’t help either). I was getting one million, seven hundred thousand for the Australian dollars I was changing, and he was talking to me, asking me all sorts of questions to confuse me and he was putting to money in piles and getting me to count. Well, it turns out that most of these money changing people are crooks, well trained in slight of hand.
I took my money, went to the hostel and paid and when I counted what was left I was short by 300,000 (~£20). My first thought was that I had learnt my lesson and to write it off, but after doing some research online I found that people get conned exactly as I had described above and if you go back the next day with the threat of the police they may give you back the money they stole.
Well, I wasn’t sure if I could even find the place again but I gave it a go. When I found it the man I dealt with yesterday wasn’t there but when I explained the other man just handed over 300,000 to me. I didn’t even have to threaten the police. Unfortunately most people are out to scam you here.
I wont be making that mistake again, although I have no money left to change, from now on I will have to use an ATM. Probably the only time I will be able to withdraw 2,000,000 from my account.
I am in the super touristy area of Seminyak. Bali gets described as the Ibiza for Australians and Seminyak is where everyone goes to party, (but it is close to the airport and I thought it was the best place to get everything done before going to the more remote areas).
The food varies wildly in price. In the restaurants that are full of white people you can expect to spend anywhere between £5-10 for the traditional dish of Nasi Goreng (fried rice), but if you find where the locals eat and you are the only white person, then you can pay 70 pence for the same thing, and when you eat at the local places they don’t add mysterious taxes and services charges.
The food is nice, and what’s even nicer is that I never have to cook for myself. I’ve been having a banana pancake every morning for breakfast, and so many fresh juices. I lived on the national dish of Nasi Goreng for a few days, but I found I was permanently hungry. Rice just doesn’t seem to fill you up!
I am also actively trying to eat a bit less. You may think after a year of intense activity I would be I finely tuned athlete by now, but I’m really not. You do lose weight when you’re hiking, you definitely don’t when you’re biking! My legs look, as the kids would say, banging. But seriously, my bum and thighs and calfs probably look the best they have ever looked – aside from the dodgy tan lines. But the rest of me just feels like a blob. I haven’t used my upper body for over a year (I really ached after swimming in the wave pool), and I have a little ring of jelly snakes around my middle.
But the good news is that I am getting my sugar fix from all these fresh juices now rather than sweets and chocolate!
I am so woefully unprepared for this climate. The clothes I have are:
- a puffy coat
- a puffy vest
- merino layers
- possum down socks
- waterproof coat
- waterproof trousers
- woolly hat
- black compression tights
- 3 pairs of knickers
- padded cycle shorts
- short sleeve and long sleeve cycling tops (which are permanently filthy)
- black hiking shorts (which are now a bit on the tight side, because of my bulging muscles of course)
- a white cotton t-shirt donated to me by a charity shop in New Zealand, which is now more of a grey brown colour with patches of bicycle grease
- a sports bra
So all I can wear now is my hiking shorts and the dirty white t-shirt or blue t-shirt. And it is super hot and sweaty so those three things are now all really gross, and I can’t do laundry because then I would be naked.
Shopping in Bali is stressful. There is a giant shopping mall with all the usual shops you find in most places, H&M, Topshop, Zara and heaps of other stores. The prices are exactly the same as you would pay in the UK, maybe even a little bit more with the shoddy state of the pound.
And then there are loads of markets and local shops which all sell exactly the same things, for wildly varying prices, and they will all try and rip you off. You have to barter which I hate doing, and some of the people are so so rude. One guy tried to suggest a tiny pair of cotton shorts, the type of thing that would cost ~£4.99 in England, were worth 350,000INR (which is about £21!!). And when I said no he just walked away, maybe some people are stupid enough to pay that.
I went out a couple of times and came back with nothing, I went out again and in sweaty desperation bought some things for much more than they were worth, but I had had enough of wandering around by this point and I just wanted something different to wear.
The people in the market shops are so pushy and I ended up buying stuff that I didn’t really even like! So that was a total waste of money.
Come in darling. Just looking?
*touch one thing*
You want this darling? how much you pay? I give you good price.
I’m just looking at the moment, thank you.
You want this darling?
*The item is thrust into your hands*
How many you want? You want 2? I give you good price for 2.
Um, I’m not sure, can I try it on?
Yes darling. It looks good on you. Good colour. You take 2 I give you good price.
*It is poorly made and it looks dreadful*
500,000 for 2 darling (~£32)
What’s your best price darling? I give you 400,000 for 2, best price.
*I don’t even want them*
100,000 for 2
*what am I doing?!*
Oh no darling, 300,000…
*and so it continues*
I end up buying them for 160,000 (~£10), and later on in a different area I see the same things being advertised for 40,000 each. Ugh. In the end you just have to suck it up and think yourself grateful that you don’t have to make your living this way, by hawking your goods all day to annoying tourists.
I soon realised that all the tat on the markets isn’t good for making an outfit so I resorted to going to H&M and buying some denim shorts and a couple of t-shirts. I found out that the best place for market purchases are the streets surrounding the big shopping centre, and I actually managed to get a couple of things at decent prices. Also the best time to shop is around 4pm because if they have had a bad day they go lower with their prices just so they can sell something. Now I need to stop buying things because I have to carry them on the bike
At first it appears there are lots of things to buy, but unless you really want a bottle opener with an oversized penis shaped handle, most of it is crap.
A week off
So I’ve taken a week off from cycling. For a couple of days I felt completely exhausted, dog tired. With an infected insect bite, which has been oozing gunk for a week, and conjunctivitis in both eyes, one worse than the other, I was feeling really run down. For the whole time I’ve been away I’ve not had anything worse than an upset stomach, so I have been pretty lucky so far.
I figured out that the longest I have spent in one place in the last 420 days is 10 days at the Feijoa farm. I think that at least three quarters of the time had been in a different place every night. And you still never really feel like it’s your own space, this hostel is great because I have a curtain across my bed so at least I can get a bit of privacy, and I can shut myself away when I want to and not talk to anyone.
I have been strolling along the beach, shopping, eating, writing, relaxing, sweating a lot, swimming…but I have been starting to get itchy feet and I’m actually looking forward to getting back on the bike, getting out of the tourist traps and seeing what else Bali and Indonesia have to offer.
When you walk down the street in Seminyak you get yelled at every 10 seconds. TAXI? TRANSPORT? BIKE? I’ve come to really hate those 3 words. It feels really rude but you just have to ignore them. Maybe when I’m back on my bike they will stop asking me, but I seriously doubt it!
With the help of Hans, the owner of my hostel, I have set out a vague plan for the next couple of months, including: exploring the less touristy island of Lombok, relaxing on the Gili Islands where there are no cars allowed, climbing Mt Rinjani, cycling up a volcano (?!) and attempting to cycle across Java…
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