Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lost in Bali

In retrospect, it was ill advised.  Since we drive in Jakarta, we rented a car and decided to drive ourselves around Bali for a week.  If we can handle the throngs of motorbikes and one-way streets and impromptu police blockades in Jakarta, we can handle the rural roads of Bali.  This was true - the driving was simple and smooth, and renting a car was a fabulous choice.

We erred when we did not ask directions.  We checked the calendar for the name of our guesthouse, plugged Lihat Sawah into Google maps, looked that it seemed generally in the right region, and took off for the small town of Sidemen.  The main part of town straddles the Sidemen Road, which has a reputation for cutting through some of the most dramatic rice terraces and mountain views of Bali.  As each road we drove became more lovely than the last, we kept assuming we were on the right track.  Ah, this one must be the Sidemen Road!

But as it turns out, none of them were.  Google maps has a great sense of direction, but a false idea of how wide the roads are.  She has gotten us into trouble in Jakarta before, driving us down roads which were clearly not meant for public use.  This time, we drove on roads which were clearly for public use.  The public just did not constitute very many people. 

I will admit.  It occurred to me that we were on the wrong track well before I admitted it to Dave.  But by the time I had this hunch, we were driving on roads where people mainly walked and passing gorgeous scenery in late afternoon's golden light.  Late afternoon's gold light ought to be a bad sign for drivers potentially lost in rural Indonesia, but it made everyone in the car sit up straight and stare out their windows instead. 

But then, the road ended.  No joke.  We drove around a bend on a road so narrow that we thought it had to be the driveway to our guesthouse.  Google maps claimed we were only a few minutes away, so we kept going.  But as we rounded the bend, the road gave out entirely and turned into a rocky walking path.  We could not drive any further.

I stepped out of the car to peek around the bend.  The drive must just be in disrepair, I thought optimistically.  The girls got caught up in the excitement of being lost and tumbled out of the car after me to search for clues.  Around the bend, the road fully became a walking path and passed nothing more substantial than a small temple.  Dave called the guesthouse, and the girls and I gave in to the temptation of the rice terraces.  They climbed and wandered through, and I pulled out my camera to learn that a person simply can not take a bad photograph in Bali.

Dave spent quite a bit of time speaking with the guest house managers, who insisted that they could not offer directions until we could tell them where we were.  He then spoke with any local person who happened by.  As luck would have it, plenty of local people happened by.  And each of them, when told where we were headed, simply pointed down the dirt path and said we were headed in the right direction.  Having answered the question succinctly, they gathered their things and continued on their way.

Having explored enough, and becoming wary of the waning light and the still missing directions, we piled into the car again and backed slowly down the road until there was space enough to turn around.  We spent an amusing thirty minutes or so driving until we reached an intersection, and then stopping to ask someone on the street for directions to Sidemen.  Everyone seemed to know, and cheerfully offered their help.  As it turned out, the road likely did go on to our destination.  But since it did not take cars, we had to drive around the mountain to reach a road that did.  It was not quite dark when we pulled into the guesthouse, and the vistas had been no less dramatic the entire ride.

We did eventually find the Sidemen Road.  It paled in comparison to our back alley wanderings.

I won't bore you with a travelogue of the entire trip.  But as Bali does not provide a bad photo, I have posted the photo journal.  Our first few days we spent with a friend who lives near Echo Beach.  It was the most luxe place we stayed the entire time, and each member of our family so dearly enjoyed her company.  Echo Beach had crashing waves and black sand, was fairly empty and was strikingly beautiful.

The next few days we spent in Sidemen and its surrounding area.  We wandered the rice terraces some more, hiked the small mountains, and explored a water temple clad in our swim suits.  This part of western Bali near the volcano were truly striking and every vista appeared oversaturated with color and light.

We finished our trip with a few days in our own private villa, just steps away from the beach of Sanur.  The villa had a pool and we relaxed.  The beach had no waves, which the kids found endlessly enjoyable.  We tried jet skiing, took a glass-bottomed boat to the reef for a bit of snorkeling, but mainly just hung out on the beach until we were tired of hanging out on the beach.  Then we hung out in the pool at home.  We ate, swam, sunblocked and slept.  It was delicious.

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